Dress Up


“I’ll buy you a new outfit if you stop biting your nails,” my dad told me on quite a regular basis.  Like most chicks, I love new clothes.  We were not the richest family, so a new outfit was something to look forward to.  Who was he kidding?    I was not about to stop my nail biting.  But sometimes I got the new outfit anyway.  And, mind you, I never had to do anything for it but be adored by — and adore back — my father.  Secret?  I didn’t only bite my nails, I bit my toenails, but hey, I might post another piece with that story.

I was never the biggest fashion princess of Beverly Hills because we weren’t the wealthy ones who could afford Saks, Bonwit Teller, or other fancy stores.  My mother made me some amazing clothes, sewed by hand, and I wore them to death, long past their fashion shelf life date.  I’m talking mostly about my life before high school, because by the time I was fifteen, I was designing my own clothes and using my babysitting money to shop at vintage stores.  This was up until the 8th grade.  And in my school, there were already some real fashion plates.  But I just wasn’t noticing and didn’t care.  Then suddenly there was a shift.  Mod was in, and I wanted everything pale pink and white – everything Yardley, Courreges, and Twiggy.  I started with the haircut.  And boy, did I think I was the real “Twiggy” deal when I had that cut.  My mother gave it to me, as she had gone to beauty school, and was now a makeup artist and hairstylist.

There was a physical problem with me, however, in that my size never meshed with current fashion.  I wore a size 6x until, huh, forever?  High school, maybe.  So, as each school year started again in September, the other girls had shot up a foot, and I barely inched up at a snail’s pace.  I was truly half the size of, I don’t know, Debi Genson or Anita Bourne, two of my taller classmates.  Forget about Ivy Macia, a giant compared to me, or Karen Graham, forever the Jeff to my Mutt.

There was only one magical year that stood out.  My dad must have been in the money, because one day, as we passed this terribly expensive French clothing store on North Beverly Drive and I stared at the window longingly, my dad suggested we walk in.  Do you know that feeling?  When you realize your parent is about to purchase something you really crave?  I still get that hit of a feeling when my husband is in that buying-his-wife-a-coat mood (see previous post here).  It’s a high really.  I am forever grateful for any clothes I can purchase, but when it’s from the dad you love, and it’s something so out of reach, there is no drug to compare.  It’s the fastest working antidepressant.  I tried on a navy matte jersey dress with three-quarter length sleeves that had a slight bell at the bottom.  It was perfect.  I paraded happily around the store for my parents.  Then another mini, micro-mini, made of seersucker.  Then I tried on culottes, orange and yellow, those colors of the late 60’s.  We left carrying a bag with not one, but three new dresses that would rock my Cinderella world.

Thanks Dad.  As long as I live, I will never forget that day.

me in Courreges boots on my grammar school playground



My parents were always worried that I hadn’t eaten.  “Have you had lunch, Fredde?”  My answer was “YES, of course, I made myself a mayonnaise sandwich!!!” And James Beard is famous for his well, okay, maybe his is called an onion sandwich, but it’s pretty much the sandwich I made as a kid.

James Beard Onion Sandwich AKA Fredde Duke’s  Mayonnaise Sandwich

8 slices firm-textured white bread, cut into quarters
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 large sweet onion, peeled and sliced into paper-thin slices*
Fleur de sel, coarse salt, or sea salt
2 tablespoons Mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
4 tablespoons of finely minced parsley

* Choose from Vidalia, Walla Walla, Maui, Imperial, Carzalia, or Texas Spring sweet onions.


Arrange the quartered bread slices next to one another on a flat work surface. Using a glass or an 1-inch round cookie cutter, cut out two (2) small rounds from each sandwich; discard trimmings.

Spread each bread circle with 1 tablespoon butter. Place a thin layer of sliced onions over the butter. Lightly season the onions with salt. This is a great place to use your Fleur de sel.

Assemble the sandwiches with remaining bread slices, pressing lightly to make them adhere.

Spread some of the mayonnaise around the outside rim of each sandwich round. Roll the rim of each sandwich in the minced parsley to coat completely.

Serve immediately or cover and refrigerator for a few hours.

Makes 16 sandwich rounds.

culottes from the three-dresses-that-rocked-my-world day

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14 Responses to “Dress Up”

  1. hoov says:

    It was for me in Pebble Beach and the year was 1977…. My rents went back to PB after a long time in BH…. I arrived in the Carmel Airport and was pick up by my dad… He was driving the company station wagon ( a story for another time)… I had not seen the new 20,000 sq.ft home behind the Beach Club and Del Monte Lodge…. My mom took me to this neat fish restaurant and she got the bucket of Claims and I got a fish sandwich… She look at my faded 501 Levi jeans and they were perfect… She had a fit and took me shopping and after 2 hours in this neat little shops in Carmel and I came back to Vail with three new jeans and many new shirt…. I loved shopping with the rents… Fredde ; your stories always take me( am sure others) to a past.. Aloha Wakko… Hoov

  2. janet graham says:

    how long has it been since you’ve made those sandwiches? still part of your repertoire? love this story. your mom was so talented and your dad…forget about it.

  3. Julie Phalen says:

    LOL I remember buying those bat sleeved empire wasted dresses.

  4. David Miller-Engel says:

    Fredde..I had the reverse one morning the Friday after Thanksgiving about 10 yrs ago..I had to deliver a chandelier to SOHo and brought my daughter…we delivered the chandelier and then picked up some fresh french bread from the bakery and hot chocolate and walked the streets window shopping…one store finally caught her eye with something she would wear and we went in and I sat in a comfy chair while she modeled and we left after I ended up spending more than I could imagine I would ever spend ion clothes of any kind….but my daughter’s smile and the shared experience was worth it…food and clothes and shared memories..thanks again..Love David

  5. Carol Ward Dudley says:

    Am sure you have heard the story of GK buyiing me the entire windows of the French Corner on Rodeo – everything – 14 gift boxes full – of course, I wasn’t there but he and Read Morgan came tearing up Rodeo. I was in total shock – its still told – “Remember the guy who bought his girl friend the window.” The owner stopped me the next day “Carol – what does this man mean to you” – Why says I – “Well, if you are not interested, I am.” Am quite sure he would have loved the sandwiches. xxooc

  6. Janet Petkin says:

    Somebody needs to do a full feature film interview or a book or just download your brain on a dvd and syndicate it globally or DIRECT STREAM ( which is where it is all going): ” The Freddy Show” starring Fredrica Duke and her memories……Why are you not on TV? and you could do guest star interviews from old Hollywood and contemporary Hollywood and the music world: ie Carol Burnett and Johnny Depp on the first show. Ellen Degeneres could be your second show with Phil Spector who murdered my girlfriend Lana. Terry Castle could be on with her late father Bill Castle. With your personality there needs to be a syndicated global talk show as I see it. Allan could produce this right? I am creatively eccentric but serious. Steve Tolkien could be on with his brother Michael who makes an appearance for no one ( my first high school crush)…And please put me on the executive producing team…. I could use the break of a life time. With your humor and connections it WILL NOT FAIL….All of my creative ideas end up in parallel lives..and not my life but I keep trying…

  7. Laura Plotkin says:

    Another great one, Fredde. I remember that when my dad took me shopping (which he liked to do but didn’t do very often), if something looked good, he would ask what other colors it came in and buy them all! My mother was generous too, though more restrained! That mix of love and shopping (with lunch thrown in afterward) was always a thrill! It isn’t nearly as much fun to go by myself now, and I always think of them when I do, occasionally reliving the the joy of it with my children.

  8. pauli says:

    What Janet Petkin said. In BOLD. Love the whole story which produced such fascinating comments.

  9. gari says:

    loved this~thank you again for a wonderful story~

  10. Janet Petkin says:

    Pauli you are correct : and sometimes I am
    Too bold . And not a politician , writer or diplomat.
    It was meant as a compliment not
    Sensationalism. Her take on her life experience
    Her father , the entertainment biz is really
    Something. Sometimes I throw ideas
    Out like a bowl of spaghetti because when you
    See a touch of genius manifesting
    You want to push it forward into its full
    Glory. Her talent is huge. I am not trying
    To jump on any bandwagon. I have my life .
    Sometimes I will show great appreciation from my inner
    World Rather Than the external norm . It is Risky.
    But her writing evokes this : and that is
    A tribute to this genius that is emerging.
    I should edit more strongly before I write
    And your point is well taken. But hey I am not the gifted
    One : she is …..

  11. Alan says:

    hmmm? I got Sears or Akron’s once a year.

  12. Diana says:

    The peeks of “chickhhood” Alan 🙂

  13. Diana says:

    I meant perks lol

  14. Augie Duke says:

    I adore you Mommy

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