One day, a man named Doug Whitley finished reading an article about Asheville Bee Charmer in Our State Magazine and called our shop. He wanted to know if we named our honey store after a scene from the movie Fried Green Tomatoes.

The truth is–we did.

Our name, Asheville Bee Charmer, was inspired by a line in the novel that the movie was based on, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg. The fictional book and film tell the story of the relationship between two women, Idgie Threadgoode and Ruth Jamison in Whistle Stop, Alabama, in the 1920s and ’30s.

In one of our favorite scenes, Idgie reaches her bare hand into a swarm of wild bees that have built a hive in an old oak tree. She plucks out a piece of honeycomb and carries it to Ruth, to share with her as part of their picnic lunch. Ruth looks at the dripping comb and says, “You’re just a bee charmer, Idgie Threadgoode. That’s what you are, a bee charmer.”

So Doug was right on the nose about our name! But, we wanted to know, why was he interested? Doug explained he has a special place in his heart for that film because he was part of the location team that helped make it.

The experience of making Fried Green Tomatoes was fresh on Doug’s mind when he read about Asheville Bee Charmer. It just so happened that when he found that article about us, he was in the process of moving and had been going through his movie memorabilia as he packed. Doug felt so fortunate to have worked on that film and thought how wonderful it would be to gift us a few things from the movie. So he called us up to make us a sweet deal we couldn’t
refuse. He had some memories and a few photos from the set to share with us!

Director Jon Avnet next to the tree from the picnic scene. Photo Courtesy of Doug Whitley

Doug’s Movie Memories and that Awesome Bee Charming Scene

Just recently we were able to drive and meet up with Doug and talk to him about his experiences making this wonderful film. Part of Doug’s job had been to look for locations. He was on the team that found the spot in Georgia where the famous bee scene would be filmed. The site had the large leafy tree you see in the film’s picnic scene starring “Stu” and “Lou.” (Doug told us the the director, Jon Avnet, had nicknames for both of the lead actresses. He called Mary Stuart Masterson, who played Idgie, Stu, and Mary Louise Parker who played Ruth, Lou.)

The movie production company made a replica of the tree that housed all the bees in the film. Norman Gary was the beekeeper who helped with the stunt (he goes by the nickname The Bee Wrangler). The back of the tree was hollowed out so that Norman could be there to help get the honeycomb into Idgie’s hands. Mary Stuart Masterson’s stunt double actually quit the film when she heard she would be covered in bees, and the actress decided to do the scene herself. So that is actually Masterson reaching into that swarm of bees! Doug doesn’t remember her getting stung but couldn’t confirm it. He said it was an amazing scene to watch being filmed.

Doug was pleased by how well the site he helped find captured the scene from the book. After all these years he still feels so glad and grateful to have been part of such a wonderful, iconic movie. He recalled that the actors and everyone else he worked with on the film were very kind. Along with these reminiscences, Doug also gave us some of the photographs he took of the set as they were filming. We’ll be displaying a few of these in the shop, so be sure to come by to see them in person if you can.

We are so happy and grateful that Doug reached out to us and generously shared his memories of a film that has meant so much to us over the years. While we were there, we shared with him our story about how that book and movie helped inspire us to begin beekeeping and eventually to opening Asheville Bee Charmer.

We secretly left Doug a jar of honey in his kitchen to say how much we appreciated him. It reminded us of that last scene in the movie with the notecard that says “I’ll always love you. The bee charmer.”

Fried Green Tomatoes star Jessica Tandy on set. Photo courtesy of Doug Whitley.
Fannie Flagg, author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe on set of the film. Photo courtesy of Doug Whitley.