Love pie? Who doesn’t? Then you might want to head out to the Laemmle NoHo in North Hollywood where the documentary short “Pie Lady of Pie Town” will be playing through Aug. 7. I wonder whether our own pie lady, Evan Kleiman of KCRW’s “Good Food,” will be there?
Check out the trailer at the “Pie Lady of Pie Town” website. The film is the story of Kathy Knapp, a Dallas advertising executive driving down New Mexico’s Highway 60 on a family trip in the mid-1990s when she spotted a sign for “Pie Town.”
She had to pull over.
Despite its name, though, Pie Town didn’t have any pies for hungry travelers. A sign on the defunct trading post read: “There used to be pie, but there ain’t no more. For sale.” As they drove away, disappointed, Knapp’s mother, Mary Mundan, kept repeating: “It should have pie. It’s just not right.”
And that’s how Knapp came to buy the old trading post and cafe for her mother to bake pies. Some time after, her mother got sick and had to go back to Chicago. Knapp stepped in to run the cafe and found a whole new life in Pie Town as chief pie maker (with much advice from her mother via phone).
“Pie is something you put together with a few ingredients and a desire to please,” Knapp says, “and when you set it down in front of people and they enjoy it, you’ve given them something. You’ve given them part of yourself.”
When Santa Fe filmmaker Jane Rosemont happened to wander into Knapp’s pie shop, Pie-O-Neer, on a road trip in 2006, she was struck by how the place had given life back to the town and what it meant to everybody who lived in this sparsely populated part of the desert. The shop in a minuscule town of 180 inhabitants 100 miles southwest of Albuquerque has become a destination for anybody driving Highway 60. The Pie Lady would be the perfect subject for a short film.
I happened to meet Knapp in Santa Fe last fall and tasted her pies. She’s the real deal. She makes everything by hand, uses only the best ingredients and has become a sort of pie missionary, espousing the virtues of making and eating pie. She’s extravagant, charismatic and with just enough whimsy to keep it fun. Skinny as a coyote and given to wearing big floppy chef’s hats and dangly earrings, she’s a live wire.
In the film, she dances around the kitchen, sings, plays the violin, and says: “I think I’ll probably bake pie until I feel I’ve baked enough pies for one lifetime and I don’t know how long that will take. I’m just now starting to hit my stride.”
“Pie Lady of Pie Town” plays at the Laemmle NoHo, 5240 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, Aug. 1 to 7; at 12:45 p.m. The film will also play at the Burbank International Film Festival on Sept. 7, at the AMC Burbank Town Center 6 Theaters, 770 N. 1st St. Burbank, at 12:30 p.m.
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