Stretching: Past my Comfort Zone (Part Two)


For Valentines Day I submitted a story about my wacky parents’ two marriages (both to each other) to the Huffington Post.  It was posted, and for a few days hundreds of people clicked the ‘like’ button and wrote comments.  It was really fun and rewarding.  I was once an actress — we love applause.  And the likes are like applause.

A few weeks later I get a call from someone with a familiar voice.  The guy asks if I’m Fredrica Duke and he says he is calling from The Ricki Lake Show.  I think it’s my friend Desi playing a prank on me, so I keep saying “Yes, Desi.”   He stays with it asking if I am the Fredrica Duke who wrote the piece in the Huffington Post.  I say “Yes, Desi,” in a more sarcastic, I-know-who-you-are kind of voice.  The man stays calm and says his producer loved my story and would like to have me on the show.  I say, “Uh-huh, sure.” Now the guy senses I’m not buying this at all because I clearly think I’m being punked.  He offers to have me call him back.  I say, “No, go on, tell me more.”  He tells me that the story is very compelling and the show would like to have me on as a guest the following week.  Would I consider it?

It finally occurs to me that this is legit.  I immediately throw on my producer-manager hat and ask, “Does it pay?”  “No, our show doesn’t pay guests.”  “Oh, then forget it.  I would want scale or half scale.  I’m in SAG,” I inform him.  Like that means anything.  And by the way, that’s a lie, because I suspended my membership a year ago.  I would have to go through a whole friggin’ rigamarole to get reinstated.  And the few hundred dollars I would earn wouldn’t even cover the dues.  But, oh, well, I made my demand and I was going to stick with it.  The dude, so lovely — we are now sort of best friends on the phone — says he will talk to his producer.  But now I’m telling him I’m lame in front of an audience because I will be way too nervous, so I need to think about it anyway.  We get off the phone.  And in less than an hour I get an e-mail offering me AFTRA pay ($500) — and they will plug my blog.  I’m in.  “YES,” I answer, “I will do it!!”

Panic sets in.  I tell very few people.  But I do tell Libbie, one of my BFF’s, and she is SO excited and starts to call me” star”, and offers to drive me to the studio for the taping.  A day or so later, I get an e-mail from my dude — Bradford, is his name — and he says they are pulling the plug on that particular show and it’s off.   I write, “In truth?” kind of relieved.  “Well, if you ever do a show about skin cancer, I’m your girl.  Since age 29 my brother and I have so much skin cancer, we should be in a medical journal.  Was that just too much information?”  I’m SO relieved.  All good.  Couldn’t be happier because now I have my story to tell about how I ALMOST was on The New Ricki Lake Show.

Now, I’m walking around and this is my new hilarious story: The Ricki Lake Show called but I thought it was someone playing a joke on me, blah blah blah.  I had my friends laughing and then a week or more later another e-mail from Bradford pops up.  “Hi, Fredde, we might be revisiting a show about unconventional marriage, and I would love to have you share your parents’ story.  Would you be available Tuesday, March 19th?”  No mention of money.    Sure, I answered, this time without any demands because I thought this is never going to happen.   I waited to be bumped again.  As the days went by, panic set in.  I was maybe going to be on live television.  I started to snoop on the Ricki Lake show website, and then I REALLY became nervous and sleepless.   This could be real.

I had sent plenty of photographs weeks before when they thought I would be on the show.  All pics of me were fabulous, like professional head shots.  I got an e-mail from my new best friend Bradford asking for some more candid shots, not posed.  Then it started to get even more real, with a call from a producer for a pre-show interview by phone.  I was overly eager and animated, suddenly sharing stories of my own unconventional marriage; me being me, f-bombs and all.   They were all assuming this would be my on-camera personality.  Little did they know how terrified I was becoming by the day, and then the day of, by the hour.  Libbie picked me up.   I brought tons of possible clothes.  I had a chopped salad for us to share, but wasn’t sure if I was too hungry.  We left, found our way, and I instantly fell in love with the studio because it reminded me of visiting my dad on lots.  I love everything about a studio, the big numbers on the Stages, the commissary, all of it.

The stage!!

The stage!!

We find our way with my massive amounts of wardrobe to where an audience for the next taping is waiting.  Now, I’m hyperventilating, not sure I can breathe, let alone speak.  The day before, suddenly, they told me that I would have to pre-tape a voice-over for a photo montage they made of my parents.  I think I will be reading from my Huff-Po piece but it’s something they wrote.  I do my voice-over.  No camera, so easy breezy for me.  Libbie tells me I’m going to be fine because she is in the room when I do the voice over.  I convince her it was easy because there wasn’t a camera.  She keeps calming me down.  She takes over, asking if we can just go hang out in the commissary for a while, because another show is taping first.  We do.  We polish off the La Scala chopped salad.  Then we find our way to my dressing room and spend the next few hours with me turning into a mess of nerves.  On the way to the dressing room, I poke my head into makeup and ask the woman if she will apply false eyelashes on me.  For days, I have been obsessed with false eyelashes because I know they make me look better.  Libbie doesn’t understand why I didn’t got get them applied somewhere earlier.  But finally in makeup, the chick spends so much time with me, applying the lashes and then eye shadow.  I love what she’s done so much that I now want to leave and go be seen by people, not people in an audience with cameras, but friends and my husband.



The wait seems very long, but we turn on our set in the room to see the first guests.  Oh, I should mention The New Ricki Lake Show has been cancelled and I am to be on the last show ever — the last segment ever.  It should be somber but everyone just goes about his business.  This is routine for them, but I keep telling anyone that will listen how nervous I am.  They all tell me I will be fine.  I’m not fine.  I’m melting down.  I’m sweating and not breathing.  I feel I will choke and not be able to say a word. I have a wardrobe malfunction.  My black satin shirt has jagged unsewn edges on the sleeves, it’s extra hip, but the strings coming out make it appear as if I have hairy arms.  Very long black hairs on the top part of my arms.   Wardrobe keeps cutting them off but offers a sweater to cover it.  I wear it, but then toss it off because it’s not me.  Someone gets me to take me down an elevator to the set.  They find me in the bathroom, my umpteenth trip to pee.  I hate elevators, yet I’m more scared of a live audience and the camera.  I’m so close to the set.  Quickly, someone is up in my clothes attaching the mic.  I look at this person and tell him?  her?  can’t remember, it’s all a blur, how absolutely terrified I am.  Anyone who glances my way backstage, I tell them how nervous I am.  No one cares and next thing I know I’m sitting on the stage.  Ricki Lake sits down and introduces herself and I get so friggin’ close to her face and with total panic I scream into her face “I’M SO NERVOUS!!!!!!!” (and I might have spit just a little in her face even though my mouth was so dry there was barely any saliva).   Suddenly she pulls back away, frightened herself but says, “You’ll be fine.”  Though that’s not what her face reveals.  She is now thinking, why is this frightened chick the last guest on my show?  One second later they announce: 5, 4, 3, 2 and live in 1.  Oy.  This is it.

But first — they show the reel they made about my parents.  I turn away from the audience to watch it and get completely absorbed in the lives of these people.  I forget for those seconds that they are my family.  I’m so involved in the story that I almost cry.  When the montage with my voice over is done, I turn around and I’m holding back tears.  And now I feel I need to cover for that and for my nerves and I jump in.  I just fucking jump in with a big resounding YES.  I kept thinking how many people on this staff told me not to swear.  “Don’t swear, Fredde,” seemed to be the main focus of everyone on staff.  I do swear a lot.  Not-swearing is something I need to be aware of.  So, in trying to hold back the fucks and cunts, I nearly let go with a “blow job,” but changed it on the way out of my brain to “oral sex.”  I get an A for that.  But, I made no sense, and I never said I write a blog, and they never mentioned my blog or the Huffington Post, so I just seem like some random freak they brought on the show.  Just another Jerry Springer-type guest.  Also, in telling the story of my own marriage, I pointed at this Hassidic Jewish couple that were featured in the show and said I met my husband in a deli.  Pointing right at them, underlining JEWISH, JEWISH, JEWISH.  They never smiled.  And, okay, it was probably inappropriate of me, but I was just trying my hardest not to swear.  In less then three minutes my moment, not even 15 minutes of fame, had ended.  Fame is fleeting.  I remember nothing from those three minutes but what I just told you.  It will air Friday June 7th 3:00 P.M channel 11 in Los Angeles.  Stay tuned for that and the third installment of me stretching out of my comfort zone.

Me with Ricki Lake during the interview!!

Me with Ricki Lake during the interview!!

Food that I barely remember:  Libbie and I drove out of the studio and headed to a place I wanted to try called AFrame on Washington Blvd. in Culver City.  Pretty sure everything was great.  I was in an altered state so I need to go back and try it again.
Below is the five minute clip of me on the new Ricki Lake show. They FUCKING (going to swear now) cut my line about meeting my husband in a deli. Guess it was just too offensive. AND, they cut my line about my parents having oral sex which happened to have made the audience laugh very hard….which was wildly rewarding. I’m sorry they cut it. Enjoy the clip anyway.


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13 Responses to “Stretching: Past my Comfort Zone (Part Two)”

  1. Alan says:

    You should have given them some F-bombs. Setting the DVR now.

  2. libbie aroff-lane says:

    Part Two, Great day , Great story xxx can’t wait for Part Three!

  3. Pauli says:

    Wow Fredde – now I am so nervous from reading how nervous you were. What a great story (in a story). I think you should really be on Kimmel or Chelsea anyway. They just bleep out the f-bombs. Loved every word.

  4. Mitch says:

    We’re running the show on my station. We have a big monitor up in the hallway. I’m glad you posted this, because I can just imagine myself walking down the hall, glancing at the monitor, seeing you on it and wondering, “HUH?” Now, I’ll be sure to catch it. Looks like it’ll be fun.

  5. Zach says:

    So funny!

  6. Debbie Schellenberg says:

    Hysterical!!!!! OMG…so funny!

  7. Doreen Ringer Ross says:

    I started flop sweating and stopped breathing just reading that!! LOL Great writing. How great that this happened Fredde!! I know you did great in spite of your internal circus. Can’t wait to see the show. Applause!!!!!

  8. Fucking Hilarious!!! I burst out laughing several times and I don’t usually have that experience while reading. You’re so much Fredde Duke!!! As i’ve said too many times, you are best most distilled version of the deeply flavor filled You!!!!

  9. kimberly clark says:

    That was great Fred! I am so excited to see you on TV tomorrow. But what I love about the whole thing is that you are being recognized for your wonderful and poignant stories, your honesty and good heart always come shinning through. Obviously you have touched many and I can’t wait to read the next “Tales of Fredde”.

  10. Lynne DeWitt says:


    Biggest question: Did THEY tell you what to wear, or did you have to come up with something on your own?? Telling the tales is easy, but picking out the wardrobe?? THAT’s the hard part! LOVE!

  11. Mumy says:

    Loved this, Ms. Duke! I can relate to being nervous on talk shows, (but not turbo nutso Fredde nervous). Reminded me of a heroin joke I babbled on the Pat Sajak show that went over like a poisonous turd… Oy…Anyway, LOVE that photo of you!

  12. cristi ulrich says:


  13. Linda says:

    Great story … fabulous clip! And I, too, love studios … even the smell of the old soundstages.

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