The Hat that Launched a Short-lived Career

On my son Oliver’s 21st birthday, he reluctantly gave in and let me invite a few of his friends over to celebrate – just a handful, the ones who adore him.  We were living on the beach in Malibu and I was so excited to share the house with him and his crew.  One close friend, Lily, had the foresight to buy him a porkpie hat.  They were not in style yet, as they have been now for years.  And Oliver rocked that hat.  He wore it every single day.

He was attending Santa Monica College, and one day on campus he was approached by talent scouts.  They said they were casting a national Coca-Cola commercial.  They told Oliver they liked his style.  (That hat!)  Oliver is shy or at least sort of camera shy.  Though at times he can be outrageous, like a performance artist — but only in the company of very close friends and family.

He showed up for the casting call.  Why not?  And he phoned me every step of the way.  The first call was “Should I go?”  He went.  Then again to say that if he gets a callback, they will fly him to San Francisco for that audition. “That’s great,” I said, never thinking it would go much further.   Next I know, he’s at the airport waiting for his flight.  I’m thinking it will be fun for my son to get a free trip.  First class treatment all the way, he reports from the groovy hotel they put all the potential actors in.

Flashback.  A few weeks before Oliver was discovered on his college campus, he began dating a new girl.  He told me how taken he was with her.  He brought flowers to her at work to woo her.  It succeeded.  He told me she was a very talented filmmaker, a student in the film department at SMC.

Now, he was calling her from the hotel in San Francisco to tell her the news.  He said he felt like he was in some dream; this could not be real.  He told the girl that if he lands this job he must stay for another week to shoot.  But, if he doesn’t, he’ll be home the next day.  For some unknown reason, she said, “You will never call me again, I feel it.”  He told her that’s just crazy.  He promised to call the minute he comes home.

He landed the job.  He never called the girl again.

For the week of shooting, Oliver was treated like a king.  I once did commercials, so I know how intoxicating that can be.  He was telling me that assistants would ask if he wanted something to drink.  He had no problem requesting hot tea.  What else do you want?  Let’s get you some expensive vintage clothes from a high-end store.  Oh, you can keep those shirts.  People were anticipating his every need.  On location in San Francisco Oliver had the time of his life.

Then he was home, and not only didn’t he call the girl again, he also never returned to school.  He sat back, rolling in dough.  If a homeless person needed something, however expensive, Oliver bought it for him.  He picked up the check at restaurants with friends.  And girls he dated received the most expensive boots and were taken to the best hotels.

Meanwhile, that Coke commercial aired nationally on TV every night, and could be seen in movie theaters around the country.

As for that girl, I never got to meet her.  I would encourage Oliver to call her and apologize.  One day, a year or so later, he did agree to meet her for coffee — and she was still angry, not ready to forgive.  I thought it was good that he tried at least to explain himself.  Not that I knew what the explanation was.

Flash forward.  A year or so later, I’m thinking of making a documentary about my dad and needed someone to help.  I hadn’t forgotten that Oliver told me the girl was a filmmaker.  I asked him for her phone number.  He said he didn’t have it, and furthermore, “She hates me.”  But I was adamant.   He left her a private MySpace message (this was BF, Before Facebook): “My mom wants you to call her.”

I pick up the phone and a young woman says, “I hear you want to talk to me.”  Yes, I respond, way too excited.  I need a person with a camera.  Do you own a video camera?  “Yes.”  Can you help me go around and get interviews?  I have to make a documentary about my dad and I don’t know where to start.  Are you available?  “Yes.”  Lets start next week… OH, WAIT…I hear you’re Mormon, do you have a problem with swear words?  The name of the movie is Fuck ‘em and you will be hearing a lot of bad words, is that okay?  “Yes, it’s fine.”  Great!!!

We went to work immediately making my movie.  And we loved each other from the start.  Rachel is teeny-tiny like me.  She looks like she could be my daughter.  And she’s FUN.  And funny.  And has a great sense of humor.  I was always so comfortable with her when she pointed her camera at me.  And so were the people we interviewed.  All the old Jews that were friends with my father fell a little in love with her.  She’s irresistible.  I also realized she was too wholesome/Marie Osmond for Oliver’s taste which is more edgy/tatted.

She was now at UCLA film school.  Not too shabby.  And she confided this to me: When she was asked to write an essay for her application she wrote this story –the story in this story.  That she had met a boy.  That he ran off one day for an audition, promising to return.  That she sensed he might not.  And then he didn’t.  And then, for a full year of her life, everywhere she went, she could not avoid seeing Oliver’s face on the big and small screen because they played the shit out of that Coke commercial.  The essay, the story of her recent life, got her accepted to one of America’s top film schools.  Way to go Rachel.  Turning a bad into a good.  And look how well it turned out for me.  I don’t know that I could have pulled off my film without her.

Oliver never acted again, though he did do a little modeling.  He now lives in San Francisco publishing an arts & culture magazine called Autre, a spinoff of his online magazine Pas Un Autre.  He still enjoys a nice Coca-Cola.

Oliver drinking coke!!!

I wasn’t even sure I would add a recipe to this piece. Most of my life I was addicted to coca cola. My dad arranged to have free cases delivered to our house monthly for many years. Some freebie deal he arranged because he had a coke machine in his office on a studio lot. My mother blamed my dad for our childhood cavities. Oh well. I was a happy camper. Drank them for breakfast until into my 50’s really. And all day long. Here is a recipe that I just found online.

Coca Cola Cake (sounds really great and southern, in honor of my mom)
2 c. unsifted flour
2 sticks butter
1 c. Coca Cola
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. miniature marshmallows
2 c. sugar
3 tbsp. cocoa
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. baking soda
Combine flour and sugar in mixing bowl. Heat butter, cocoa, and Coca Cola to boiling, and pour over flour/sugar mixture, mixing thoroughly. Add buttermilk, eggs, soda, vanilla, and marshmallows. Mix well. Will be a thin batter with marshmallows floating on top.
Bake in a 9×13 inch cake pan in a preheated 350°F oven for 30 to 35 minutes.

Ice while hot with the recipe following:

1/2 c. butter
3 tbsp. cocoa
6 tbsp. Coca Cola
1 (1 lb.) box confectioners’ sugar
1 c. chopped pecans
Combine butter, cocoa, and Coca Cola. Heat to boiling point, pour over confectioners’ sugar. Beat well, then add pecans and spread over cake while still hot.

Oliver modeling in a magazine

the party that launched the hat that launched the career!!!

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6 Responses to “The Hat that Launched a Short-lived Career”

  1. I love this post Fredde. I should have known any child of yours would be persuing creative endeavors. I had neighbors on Young Drive across from BHHS who didn’t own a stove but they did have a fridge that never had anything but coke in it. I just bought a new cake plate today so I might just have to try out your recipe.

  2. This is fantastic! Thanks for another great story with all the right layers of story telling. Thanks for being so generous with your life. It ripples everywhere.

  3. Joyce Hyser Robinson says:

    Always love reading your blog, Fredde!!!

  4. Nice Story Fredde. couple of poems for you and a couple of songs.
    from one writer to another! check out my site, the poems and the songs, more songs to come. Got a boat load. xox

  5. Rachel says:

    I love you Fredde. You’re an awesome writer! I think you tell this story much better than I did;)

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