I saw the black shiny car in its perfectly renovated state driving down San Vicente in Brentwood. That car is an old friend, I thought for a second. This new tricked-out version brought me straight back to the late 1950’s when I was first introduced to it.

I was driving and it was hard to concentrate on both the road and the flood of memories at the same time. I was holding back tears when I lowered my window to yell to the new owner, “Hey, that’s my car!” Well, not technically mine anymore, but it was my mother’s, we had it my ENTIRE life. I miss that car and I’m sorry I never drove it. The new owner convinced me he is taking very good care of it and loves it. For years, I kept harboring that sedan in various garages where I lived.

Most people get to inherit small, valuable items, like rings. Not me. I got the beloved, vintage Mercedes. It had only one owner and that was my mother.
I was still a child when our Mercedes Benz came from the dealership to our parking spot; a day I will never forget. It was 1959. I was six years old. That vehicle holds more sentimental value to me than any ring.

The car represented freedom and independence for my mother. She was out there, struggling on her own and it would be the first and maybe last big purchase of her life. A huge, in-the-tabloids battle raged over a red Cadillac convertible during my parents’ divorce. The newspapers claimed that Evelyn Duke, divorcing producer Maurice Duke, had received the car as a gift to match her red hair. She didn’t get it in the settlement.

Though both my parents weren’t the flashy Beverly Hills types, this new big shiny black Mercedes transformed my mother at a time when she was at her most down-and-out in Beverly Hills. We were broke and living in a dump of an apartment on Olympic Blvd. In order to live and pay bills, she rented out our house on Roxbury, only steps away from our new digs. I think the car represented owning something. The house being financially out of reach made the car a much bigger deal. Much more tangible, you could touch it, sit in it, drive it and be noticed in it. And she was. My mother was a beauty not to be believed. Maybe everyone thinks of their own mothers in that way, but in my case every day was proof. Heads would turn. Red headed Evelyn Duke rocked driving that car!

When my mother was dying, (age 65, way too young) I knew I wanted to inherit her car. Maybe by owning it, I could gain some of her fierce independence and freedom.

Eventually, owning the car became too much of a burden since I didn’t drive a stick shift and I sold it for next to nothing. I sold it to some dude named Sam who promised to fix it up and then sell it. The license plate, however, is forever burned in my memory. JTC 066, it was nice knowing you. I can see you’re in good hands — have a great rest of your life.

I stored it in this garage for years

When my mother first married my father, she wasn’t much of a cook. In fact in the first few weeks of their marriage, she cooked eggs that he complained about and she threw the whole pan of food at him. She became quite an amazing cook and this is one of the dishes she served us on school nights.
Shrimp Creole recipe

* 2/3 cup vegetable oil
* 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
* 2 cups finely chopped onion
* 6 cloves garlic, diced
* 1 cup finely chopped celery
* 1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
* 2 bay leaves
* 1 lemon, juiced
* 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
* 1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chile peppers
* 3 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
* 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
* ground black pepper to taste
* salt to taste
* chili powder to taste
* hot sauce to taste


1. In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, pour in oil and flour to make a roux. Cook together until smooth, stirring constantly, but do not brown.
2. Stir in onions and saute for 2 minutes. Stir in garlic, celery, bell pepper, bay leaves, lemon juice, tomato paste, tomatoes and shrimp. Add enough water just to cover.
3. Cook slowly until shrimp are pink and tender; stirring occasionally. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder and hot sauce to taste

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13 Responses to “JTC066”

  1. Ellen B. says:

    I remember your Mom in that car!!! We lived on So. Bedford, near the Park. Evelyn was certainly a beauty. I can see your face and Alan’s in her face.

  2. Augie Duke says:

    yes i concur she was a beauty, lovely story mommy….

  3. Karen G says:

    Fredde, loved loved loved your article. I would have recongnized your mother in a heart beat. Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. Kim says:

    Loved it!

  5. What a wonderful story. Your mother was indeed a beauty! Sometimes it’s necessary to let things go that hold great sentimental value, but no one can ever take your memories away. I love your old photos. My own mother drove a shiny black Impala briefly after her divorce (her dream had always been to own a Mercedes) my sister and I convinced her to buy it. Shortly after she made the purchase she sold it, as it was such a gas guzzler…and that was back when gas was 35cents a gallon!

  6. Cindy Lou Carlson says:


    Remember our blue one parked right next to your mom’s? I think ours was a ’61. I never thought about it, but I bet my mom bought it because your mom had one! They were pretty amazing automobiles. Those were not cars, they were definitely automobiles. Ours had red leather interior. Was yours beige? You’re right, we lived in a funky apartment. But, we had really cool automobiles.



  7. jennifer dudley arbaugh says:

    I did not know your mother had redhair, for that matter I did not have the pleasure of knowing her or her beauty. I “get” your car emotion.
    Do not know if you remember “the Duke mobile” his last before untimetly death at 62 or was it 63? A red Audi, four door with liscense plate DUKE. Oh how he loved it and as always screamed at me “Jennifer you are never allowed to drive my car.” Well with his extensive travels I had an extra set of keys and drove it ad nauseum. One eve, after extensive white wine, I slammed it into a parked car in West Hollywood. Totalled the passenger side. Hans Orr to the rescue. Fixed. Better than new. He returned a week later, walked outside 526 Rodeo, began to get in and looked at the drivers side.”the car looks different” he bellowed.
    “JENNIFER DID YOU DRIVE MY CAR??” “of course not” whew, a fiasco thwarted. The day of his funeral I drove HIS Audi to the funeral in Ventura. I did not miss him very much that day but was sure as hell happy to have gotten something in the invisible will.

  8. Carol says:

    I have photos of the Duke Mobile – most of us were supposedly forbidden to drive any of the “good cars” that is until he was on his way to the airport and Mother could be talked into anything. Didn’t know that Jenfen wrecked the car
    but I was living in NYC and it was hard to keep up with all the Dudley girl activities. He did have “his” parking space – and, once my husband and his friend Read Morgan parked there – he came in and totally chewed them out. When I was born, my grandfather gave my parents a truly beautiful cadillac – which would be a collectors item today – he wasn’t making enough at MGM to fill up the tank. They kept it until around 1949 and traded it in for the most butt ugly black ford ever made. Funny how memories of cars are somewhat seared in our memories. Must find out what bicycle man Hans Ort had to do with fixing the car.

  9. Doug says:

    You should have just learned to drive a stick. It really isn’t that hard. Please take this as a compliment; with your looks guys would have lined up to teach you!

  10. Madeleine Gallay says:

    love the story …

  11. Julie says:

    Great well written story.

  12. Malcolm says:

    What a beautiful and sweet story, Fredde…such generous, moving, uplifting, and memorable insights into people in all your stories. Lucky those who are remembered by you. And it is so nice getting to know your folks.

  13. Laura Plotkin says:

    My mother used to make that dish for us too-not sure about her recipe. I loved this story Fredde. It has always been tricky to be a newly divorced woman. It seems like she handled it style and grace!

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