I’ve Got a Brand New Pair of Roller Skates

I heard from Ruth, my erstwhile boyfriend’s mother (and my surrogate mother and neighbor), that she was expecting a young guest. Rumor had it the girl was my age. I got the feeling Ruth wanted me available, though she never framed it that way. But she knew how friendly I was and probably assumed I’d show the “British” girl around.

I was an out-of-work actress with no life whatsoever. The day she arrived, I threw on my new 70’s roller-boogie-disco skates and headed down to introduce myself. “Hi,” I said in my overly friendly, Welcome-to California, not-really laid-back at all kind of way. Hard to ignore my neon blue and yellow roller skates in place of proper shoes, the different colored bobby socks, clashing with all the other colors adorning me, namely the electric-blue-shimmer-spandex pants. Think Olivia Newton-John in Xanadu. Lisa, the girl from London, must have thought central casting had put out a call for a quintessential Hollywood actress type. Welcome to L.A. Let me show you around!!!!

And I did. We missed nothing. Went with my dad to Nate n’ Al’s for deli and wonderful old Jews coming onto her. Day trips to Malibu beach. She looked like me, or rather had very similar taste. We bonded over many like-minded things. Lisa had fantastic style, gorgeous with her naturally dark, curly, perfectly ringleted hair. I’ve paid fortunes for perms that failed to make me look like Lisa. The most beautiful blue eyes. A Jacqueline Bisset type. Lisa wore sleeveless shirts sporting some serious-looking, mysterious scars at her shoulder down to her elbow. And I was so impressed with how she rocked those scars, never covering them and comfortably exposing them. Made them sexy, like maybe I wanted some groovy scars like that. The story was she got them in a gnarly car accident. Pins, rods and all.

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It was a very long visit, a few weeks. Long enough to become new best friends. She didn’t know it at the time, but I would be showing up at her doorstep as an invited or uninvited guest for years to come. I loved having my good friend in London and using my commercial residuals to pay for a quick round trip visit.

There is something very freeing about traveling to another country. You can just sort of be another person, do things you would never do in your homeland. Reinvent yourself. And I would. My dad’s friend owned Tramp, the private ritzy club and I would go there. I am and always was such a homebody; I barely leave my house. Never went clubbing. But, there, in swingin’ London, I’m sure Lisa’s friends thought I was quite the partier. I would invariably meet famous British actors, writers and producers, making plans to go out and hang with them. I always had great stories to tell about my London adventures.

One night when I was leaving Tramp, a man stops me on the stairs and says, “Aren’t you the girl in TV commercials in the states?” I was flabbergasted to be recognized and nodded. He introduced himself as Victor Lownes, a Playboy executive, and invited me to his country estate called Stocks House, which he said was like the London version of Hef’s mansion. In fact, he and his girlfriend had purchased the 18th Century Georgian mansion, installed a huge Jacuzzi and used the place as a training camp for Playboy bunnies and site for A-list parties. When I told him I was heading back to L.A. the following day, he scribbled his phone number and said I was to call him next time I’m in town and come spend a weekend in the country.

My next trip there was for some kind of “deal.” I would be traveling with a friend of my dad’s, Ayn Robbins. Her sister worked for the airlines and we got a twofer. My end of it was to provide the place to stay in London — Lisa’s flat.

I called my new “friend” Victor with the house in the country. I said that I would love to come but I have two girlfriends with me, which of course was just a little too great with him. Then I panicked. If it’s anything like Hef’s mansion here, they might expect us to be loose girls. Ha, loose girls, so retro. Victor gave me the list of people who would be there, and though they might have been household names, they weren’t in my household. Sure, I knew who John Cleese was but he also mentioned Peter Cook and Ian La Frenais. Lisa reminded me that Peter was comedian Dudley Moore’s performing partner, and she informed me that Ian was the successful writer with Dick Clement of the British hits “The Likely Lads” and “Porridge.”

Now I was nervous, and on the long ride to Hertfordshire I grilled the girls. “No one put out, I’m serious. There’s probably lots of really slutty girls and they think we’ll be like that.” I was expecting a house filled with predatory men, but it turned out to be the most wholesome family weekend. John Cleese was there with his very young daughter and her best buddy. There were very civilized meals and even a fox hunt. Late Sunday morning everyone sat around reading the newspaper gossip pages in the atrium. It was a truly enchanting weekend in the country. Ian spent the whole weekend trying to figure out why he knew my face so well. It turns out he had lived at director Dick Donner’s house in the Hollywood Hills when he first came to Los Angeles and my composite picture was attached to the refrigerator door. So, each morning as he shuffled to make himself coffee, my big smiling face was staring back at him. I had been friendly with Dick years before and my girlfriends and I used to hang out at his house. I must have left my headshot there in hopes of him hiring me. I never realized it had become a refrigerator magnet. For years thereafter, I would stay in touch with some of my new country house friends.

picture of me that was on Dick Donner's refrigerator

Many of those country-house guests I would call brilliant, and you would probably agree. But one thing I love about my friend Lisa is her liberal use of the word “brilliant” in that casual, very British way. “Lisa, why don’t we take the subway?” “Brilliant!” “Want to stop for lunch?” “Brilliant!” “Let’s watch ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians.’” Brilliant!! Well, you get the idea. Each time I see her, I feel that my IQ goes up because she always tells me how brill-i-ant I am. And I like to believe her.

Lisa, the friend I met while doing a drive-by on roller skates in the 70’s has lived for the past nearly 30 years in New York City. When I see her in New York, a few times a year, we usually like to eat at a neighborhood restaurant of hers, Pepolino. It is about a block from SOHO, but I guess you would call it Tribeca. It’s below Canal. The restaurant has the authentic look and feel of Italy with some serious charm and absolutely superb food, and I mean everything. The last time we went, Lisa ordered Le Tre Zuppe, a taste of three soups. Pretty sure she used the word divine (or maybe brilliant!) to describe how good the soups were. Lisa’s daughter Chloe (now one of my best friends) ordered Carpaccio Del Bosco, a warm beef carpaccio with porcini and crispy garlic and rosemary. She gave me a bite and I will be ordering it for myself next time. I usually order a special ravioli and I often don’t offer to share. Kidding, I do share and I’m very happy if it’s a pumpkin-stuffed ravioli with a butter and sage sauce. Every pasta on the menu is great and the steak is also something wonderful to order. I send a lot of people here when they ask where to go when in New York… and they always report back to say how happy they were at Pepolino.

Lisa, me and Ayn, Stocks

me next to Peter Cook, reading gossip


me, Lisa

me with Ian

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11 Responses to “I’ve Got a Brand New Pair of Roller Skates”

  1. Janet Petkin says:

    I leave a comment every blog! Because every one of them is good. It is is an easy read that DRAWS the reader in . The reader feels like they are experiencing YOUR LIFE up close and personal and admittedly I get a little wistful because I can’t yet recall my life and pair it with something like food. I would pair my stories with something else: what I am not sure. I don’t even have stories…

    Your blog is a foodie “Sex and the city”: life story with food. A monthly or bi monthly episode that the reader can’t wait for. A COMPLETE WINNING FORMAT
    Your recollection of each experience is amazing and admirable. The way you share your life is endearing and I believe you could build a BIG audience..
    Your friend is correct : there is some brilliance there.

  2. Yes, brilliant…great word. I agree with everything Janet Petkin says and I couldn’t have said it better. I am amazed at how many details you remember because my memory is a complete goner! I sincerely look forward to all of your posts.

  3. TMiller says:

    WRITE A BOOK!!!!! It would be brilliant!!!!! JUST DO IT!!!!! We will all buy it and make everyone we know buy it and it will be a best seller and you can go back to all your old haunts but this time on a book tour!!!!! I will be your personal assistant of course!

  4. Augie Duke says:

    kinda jelous, i want to have really hip friends with a mansion In London… Nice Read.. Love lisa….

  5. Jennifer Dudley Arbaugh says:


  6. You are super adorable and I love the unpretentiousness (it’s a word, I looked it up) of your writing. I always prefer one who errs to the self-deprecating rather than the alternative. Duh. You are so accessible and real, even though you were sort of famous. Very famous. Recognizable lets say. Once again you have proven to be worthy. And I think your friend is hot.

  7. Melody Mel says:

    YES! we love it! totally the L.A./BH-hip-cool-chic-casual gucci loafer, or better, theodore t-shirt, fred segal jeans-daughter of-best friend- style of under the radar, jet-set wealth from white bread mayo sandwiches to caviar, truffle treats ~ vibrant happenstance unpretentiously charming! ; )

  8. Melody Mel says:

    and here, with a soundtrack! : )

  9. Mitch says:

    Great story, Fredde. I know a few hospitable Brits. Not too many, but a few.

  10. Ayn Robbins says:

    Fredde: Absolutely accurate after all these years. What a blast that was. Maybe you can recount The Hunt the day after that dreadful play Victor intentionally tortured us with. I think the animal I was given to ride was named “War Horse!” After my nasty 50 mph fall, I was pretty sure I was dead. When I caught my breath, I was pretty sure I was a quadropelegic. One thing I can say for sure is that I have never been on a horse since then — not even a Merry-Go-Round. Do you remember the monkey that sat on Victor’s head and ate grapes after each formal dinner?

    You have always been able to make people smile. BTW, I had the same disco-skating outfit. Love, Ayni

  11. Christel Chesney says:

    Yep, write a book. This stuff is so damn good.

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