Daddy’s Little Girl

People would stare as we walked down the street. Not because he was famous but because he was different. He walked with a cane and a brace, tilting from side to side with each stride. Somehow he stayed upright. If someone stared too long, he might yell, “Whad’ya lookin’ at? It’s nothin’, it’s polio, I got it when it first came out!” Anyone else yelling at a stranger might come off as aggressive — he had a REALLY loud mouth — but Duke said it with a twinkle in his eye that set the person instantly at ease. It might even turn into a too-long stop-and-chat, but I was used to those.

I’d look up at him with pride and ownership. He was my daddy. Mine being the operative word. My mother told me the story many times. As a tiny preverbal baby, I had my arms thrown around my father’s neck, holding him as tight as I could, looking back at her with eyes that said, “He’s MINE.” As in, not hers. Her interpretation. Well, it was true.

Sometimes in late August or early September we’d go shopping for back-to-school clothes at Hank DeGoniff’s house. Hank’s “house” was a warehouse in seedy Hollywood. And unbeknownst to me at the time, DeGoniff wasn’t his family name. I wasn’t sure why Hank had clothes and winter coats for me along with lots of electronic equipment. But cash was handed over and I’d walk away with some new clothes. There wasn’t even a lot to choose from, but I wasn’t an overindulged child, so I was happy with what I got. I was in my twenties (maybe thirties) before I learned that Hank’s merchandise “fell of the back of a truck,” and goniff was Yiddish for thief.

I’m saying sorry right here and now to my dad (no longer with us), for the moment when, as a three-year old, I nearly had him arrested. We had gone to a movie and it was already quite late at night and I was tired. My mother went to fetch the car and my dad said, stay here with me — but I threw a bratty fit because I had wanted to go with my mom. I started to pout and walk away from him. He kept inching closer and insisting I stand near him. Remember, he was handicapped, not so easy to chase after a kid. And I’m in full brat mode, now not speaking to my father. A crowd began to form thinking he was a stranger trying to kidnap me. He was a LOT older and didn’t look like your regular 1950’s dad. He leaned on his cane to support himself and said to the people, “Don’t worry, this is my daughter, right?” as he looked to me for the confirmation he needed. When I didn’t respond they asked, “Is this your father?” and I said, folding my arms across my chest and facing away in emphatic defiance, “No!” More people gathered and someone urged that the police be called. At that moment, my mother drove up and my father said, “That’s her mother, my wife, she’s here to pick us up.” He pulled me in and we sped off. Not for one moment did he hold that against me. I think he secretly liked and identified with the part of me that was strong, insisting on getting my way.

In the third grade, we had this favorite teacher. For several weeks each year we would practice for our big May Day parade/party where all the parents sat outside in chairs watching the festivities. This was quite a big day at my grammar school. As my teacher, with perfect posture, pranced across the playground with his jutting derriere to start our dance, my dad yelled loudly — and I mean VERY loudly: “Her teacher’s a faygeleh!” My dad was so not politically correct. He was no Archie Bunker either, he had tons of homosexual friends, that wasn’t a problem. He just blurted it out as he saw it and maybe for the laugh.

One-of-a-kind is what many people say when trying to describe my dad. They-broke-the-mold is another. But any way you put it, he was unique and unforgettable.

At ten years old, while on a trip to visit the Duke (my dad) where he’d been producing a play for several months, I was with him in an elevator, excuse me, lift, at the Hilton Hotel in London. A terribly elegant Indian woman entered. On that short ride, my father sneezed quite loudly and punctuated the end of the sneeze – as he often did — with the word Charlie. Don’t ask. The bit would never lose its humor all my life. But in that elevator, this quiet, stunning, demure woman, was sent into such uncontrollable laughter that the red dot (bindi) popped off her forehead.

Most kids were raised on fairy tales like Brothers Grimm and Old Mother Hubbard. I grew up with stories of whose cock in Hollywood was bigger. Mostly it was Berle, but Huntz Hall was up there, as was Gary Morton, a one-time comic married to Lucille Ball.

Twenty years ago, on a first date with my future husband, he had me at, “Your dad is Maurice Duke? Sure I know who he is.” He told me he had worked with Alan King who often told Duke stories. Like this one. My dad was traveling by car to California with his best buddy, songwriter and prankster Henry Nemo. Every night, when Duke went to sleep, Nemo would remove the rubber tip from my father’s cane and shave it down a bit. By the time they got to L.A. a week later, my dad said, “You know what, Neem? I think I’m growing!”

Maurice Duke might have only grown to be five feet, one-inch, but to me, and to everyone who knew him, he was larger than life.

One of my favorite things to do with my father was to share him. I shared him with girlfriends who didn’t have fathers and I even brought him to school like he was my own special show-and-tell toy. I was in a cinema class at SMC and brought him into class to talk about the movie biz. He proudly announced that he had produced “104 pieces of shit.” He was right, mostly they were bad. A student raised his hand and asked my dad how to break into the business. He said, “Lie!” It got quite a big laugh, but he was serious. When I was an actress, he often told me, “If they ask you if you can ride a horse, the answer is yes. If they ask you if you can sky dive, the answer is yes.” And though I never jumped out of a plane, I did land a national commercial in which I rode a horse.


I had forty-two amazing years of love poured into me. Every single day my father told me how pretty, funny and smart I was. And when he was gone, several friends promised to keep telling me that — and for a few days they even tried. I’m not that pretty, not that funny and certainly not that smart — but when my dad told me I was, I believed him. I miss him. I miss his words. I miss his outrageousness. He was the best father in the world. Happy Father’s Day, dad.

Speaking of things that fell off of a truck…here are some good food trucks you might want to follow. I don’t really follow the trucks and I’ve tried the Korean BBQ Kogi one, didn’t do it for me. But my friend Andrea and her son Danny do love the Kogi truck. What they like are the tofu taco’s and short rib taco’s. I don’t like standing up to eat, I mean I don’t even like the places where you order and they put a number on your table and bring you your food. My dad hated that too. We like to sit down, order food and be served. But, I did get the Border Grill truck for a party and it was a HUGE hit. So, if I saw a Border Grill truck, I might be tempted. I would get fish taco’s. Andrea is very keen on the grilled cheese truck. I do think that the truffle fries at the Komodo truck are very good. For me though, the best truck is one in New York and I am not even that crazy about ice cream but it’s truly the best and the truck is sort of magical. It’s the Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream Truck. The color of the truck is this vintage inviting pale yellow. They use hormone free milk from happy grazing cows. Besides vanilla and chocolate they have delicious flavors like Pistachio, Hazelnut, Ginger, Coffee, Giandujia (my favorite), Red Currant, Strawberry and Peppermint & Chips. for Kogi, for grilled cheese, put in an internet search for Komodo and Border Grill and it will let you know places and times to find them.

with my dad


a plaque I once made for my dad


Henry Nemo on left, dad on right on the set of a movie

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16 Responses to “Daddy’s Little Girl”

  1. Caryn Speizer says:

    Mr. Jacobsen! We ran into him at the beach in ’65. He was wearing Speedo’s and was with another man in the same attire.

  2. Great Father’s Day tribute! You are very lucky to have been so close to your father. I missed out on all those memories with my own. I didn’t reconnect with my dad until much later in life. Have a great weekend!

  3. gabri ferrer says:

    great stories… what you don’t say but is quite obvious is that your dad also had forty two amazing years of love poured into him.

    lucky father.
    lucky girl.


  4. Janet Petkin says:

    Actually Fredrica you are that pretty, that smart,and that funny. More than your father could have imagined.
    Our Dad’s may turn out to be the greatest generation of men this country has had since the founding fathers.
    They broke the mold.

  5. Jennifer Dudley arbaugh says:

    Fred, how I envy you. I would have given the world for one big hug . Instead I found Ed and he gave his to our children. They say dads are their daughters first heroes. Your dad and my Erin’s daddio created fearless women. Imagine that. X. Jenn

  6. Emanuel says:

    I’ve always thought that you were the essence of cute and pretty! May I now add “sexy”.
    we’re looking forward to 70 minutes of your dad and to future beautifully written blogs. Please keep me on your list.

  7. jennifer green says:

    Cute Funny and Smart are the way I start every sentence about you and have added sexy as Emanuel say you are very sexy, and I quite agree! I miss our visits to your dad’s place, just messing around in the closets filled with your clothes/costumes! Listening to him in the background laughing and shouting into the phone like the person on the other end couldn’t hear from that far away!!!!!
    Makes me laugh out loud! I love you more than words can say!

  8. Reading this made me cry that deep way that makes you sort of happy too. You blow me away. I miss your Dad too now. I love you Fredde.

  9. Beautiful tribute, Fredde! I finally just got around to reading it! I hope to read future blogs of yours. It’s lovingly crafted, and I can feel the love between you and your father, strongly. Thank you.
    I cannot believe that I did not even SEE you at the reunion. My sons, however, reported about this woman who yelled, “Shut the fuck up!” to the assembled classmates! LMAO I was in the Norman Newreel room and never heard you!!!! Classic!
    BTW, my dad was the Unit Manager on The Show of Shows in NY when I was a toddler, before they moved West and he became a 1st cameraman in Hollywood- did 7 years on Sea Hunt- so aspects of your dad’s personality, and the whole shtick and attitude are reminiscent for me….

  10. P.S. My dad was only five years younger than yours, by the way.

  11. Laura Plotkin says:

    Just reading this one for the first time–Happy Birthday to your amazing dad. You do it every time–get me to laugh and cry at the same time! Such a loving tribute to your papa. I wish I had known him; I know I would have liked him so much. My dad’s style was different, but his essence was the same–loved his kids, loved his life and knew how to pass it on. You do him proud.

  12. Hoov says:

    Two (y), (y) up…. Great story Fredde… I love the 5 finger discount store… He is totally correct about that wonderful word in the world , if you do not know, BS or as he stated, “LIE!” Well written.. Aloha Hoov…

  13. Adrienne. Radovich Becker says:

    October.27.2012. My dearest beautiful and classey. friend. who i have meet years and years and years and years ago.i just watched the vedio of your amazing and very handsome daddy.and his beautiful and classey daughter freddie .wow i am.just honestly and truely speachless ..and u and your daddy were so so blessed and so great being togather all the time.and i did .read what u wrote .it made me cry.but it eas a.happy cry.and one last thing to tell u how i was honestly and blessed how i meet u and your family.i love.u very much.and rember u will.always be your daddys little girl .god.bless u always and a beautiful day always oxox

  14. Fredde, WHO KNEW? We had the same love of our Daddy’s and sounds like the same Daddy. Mine was a tall fellow: about 5’5″. He was the tallest of his three brothers, Lou, Abe and Sol and never let us forget they wore “Cadettes” and he was a “Short.”
    He knew everyone on Broadway, started as I said as a hoofer in Vaudeville, one half of the act “Benson and Fields.” He was Benson (for Phil Birnbaum) and when I cast the TV show of the same name, he qvuelled not to mention he was a WW2 Veteran who had been “on board ship” during the war…you guessed it, aboard the USS BENSON!
    He was a life long New Yorker but did a major geographic at 80 when he moved out to Hollywood and became a fixture at “The Chimney Sweep” in Sherman Oaks where he spent almost every night telling the “youngsters” of his days in NY, his famous friends and family (Carl Sagan was his first cousin Sam’s Son); how he crossed the Atlantic as a six year old boy coming from Odessa and remembers his parents pointing out a neighboring ship, “The Titanic, ” and then some.
    I loved your piece on “The Duke” and can’t wait to share more with you about “P.B.155” – the first person I ever knew to have personalized license plates (starting in ’50) on 10th Street and University Place where we lived til I was three.
    I haven’t even scratched the surface, but this is YOUR blog, not mine!
    Love you…Harriet

  15. Pauli says:

    Wow. I’m sure I read this before but today it hit me so hard. I was my grandfathers little girl (dad died 3 days after I was born). So I totally relate to absofuckinglutely everything you said. I know they are still watching us from somewhere and sending hugs because once you love like that it just doesn’t ‘end’. Love your spunk! Xoxo

  16. Linda says:

    Another oh so enjoyable blog … and this one about the Duke. LOVE IT! You really neeed to do one about “Charlie” and other Dukeisms. I, too, am a daddy’s girl, but we went to Robinson’s for clothes 😉 …

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