When was the last time you heard of a pie-throwing battle in Pittsburgh? We remember not. How about a pie in the face story? Hmmm… well, there was Russell Martin’s shaving-cream pie last year but that was expected: when you hit a 14th-inning walk-off for the team with the best MLB record, you get pied by A.J.Burnett — it only makes sense. Right?
Pittsburgh is not that much into pieing. Days when pieing was big in the Steel City are gone. These days we prefer to eat pies, not throw them around.
The non-traditional tradition of perusing pies, that is smashing them in someone else’s face, used to be quite popular in Pittsburgh. Pieing was common at fundraisers, at corporate events, at schools, especially among fans of the Three Stooges, the true fathers of pie-throwing.
Pittsburgh even used to have its own professional pie-thrower. His name was Ross Thorn — the ‘hit man,’ who was never known to miss but always did a ‘sloppy job.’ A talented musician with a degree from CMU, he took up pie-throwing for a defiant cause, as The Pittsburgh Press explained in the 1975 profile of Mr. Thorn.
“Music is always a shaky business, and I started tossing pies to go along with the act,” he explained. For many years, Mr. Thorn adorned faces with pies three nights a week at Bimbo’s, a family-type sing-along pace on Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon. He delivered more than 10,000 pies… in the face. He pioneered a home deliver pie-in-the-face service for special occasions.
Mr. Thorn was the first person to throw a pie on a scheduled airline in November 1963.
Once, he even suggested pie-throwing as a method to break up street riots, which was timely advice for the 1960s and long before pie-throwing could result in charges of assault and battery in this country.
Pittsburgh’s crusty ‘hit man’ had a lot of great stories. At a banquet one night he was ‘contracted’ to splatter the top executive of a steel firm. He did the job, not knowing what the reaction would be.
According to Mr. Thorn, “The fellow just leaned back, roaring with laughter and, with pie dripping from his face, he lit up a cigar.”