Poor Man’s Butler

I don’t want to sound mean.  Because I’m not.  That said, I would sometimes ask my dad who this guy was or that guy.  It would be a random dude that let’s say was always hanging around Jan Murray or Red Buttons.  Sorry I’m not coming up with bigger names, but these were big names in my world.  I guess I could say Frank.  We’ll get back to Frank.

My dad would answer, “He’s a WITH.”  And I will now explain what he explained to me because by this time in life, I knew what a “WITH” was.  It’s a full-time, unpaid career of being best friends with someone famous. The prerequisite is that you usually did not have a real job and you just sort of hung around with someone.  If you’ve seen “Entourage,” it’s sort of the modern day version.  Okay, getting back to Frank, I have one name.  Jilly.  I’ll say no more.

Duke, my dad, had a way of getting his friends, in between wives and with no place to stay, to move in and help take care of him.  (If you’re new to my blog, he was handicapped as a result of childhood polio.)  Mostly, they were friends with lives and jobs and it would only last for a short period.  And then one day Tony moved in.  Was Tony my dad’s WITH?  Maybe.  Although I’m not sure it counts if you’re not with someone famous.  And Duke was not famous.  His friend Mickey Hayes had a “WITH” and he wasn’t famous, so yes you can have one regardless.  But Mickey had a ton of money.  Duke was neither famous nor rich.  Being my dad’s with was more like being butler to a poor man.

Tony drove from the day he moved into the Churchill (on Wilshire) with my dad.  Drove him everywhere.  To breakfast at Nate’s each morning, then down the street to his office on South Beverly Drive.  Then home and out to dinner later with a group.  My dad always had an entourage.  His group of friends were very successful; the president of CBS, producers, writers and top PR agents.  And Tony.

On nights that my dad wasn’t meeting his posse, Tony would cook up a storm.  And he wasn’t bad.  When the group caught wind that Tony could cook, they would all show up for a free meal.  Very Sopranos.  Tony was significantly younger than Duke, but suffered from diabetes.  One day he got on some new health kick and bought himself a very expensive juicer.  He was juicing it up all the time, to the exclusion of any real food.  One morning, my dad woke up like any other day and yelled to the other room for Tony to come help him with his brace.  No answer.  My dad called out relentlessly and finally got himself out into the other room, on crutches.  Tony was sitting upright on the couch.  Dead.  My dad yelled at him.  “What the fuck were you doing drinking those cockamamie drinks?”

It was hard after Tony, we all really missed him.  He was a member of our family.  There was one great perk to hanging out with my dad for Tony: he was included in the credits as Associate Producer on anything my dad produced.  Not that you necessarily wanted to associate with anything my dad produced.

Tony driving my dad around town

A few months ago, my sister-in-law Kris told me she had just found Tony’s recipe that my dad and the whole group of friends and family loved.  I’m sharing it with you.

1 chicken cut up
1 pkg. hot Italian Sausages
1 (lb.) can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1 handful fresh crushed basil (He used to get this from his mother’s garden)
1/4 tsp. hot red pepper flakes
4 – 5 green and red bell peppers
salt and pepper

Saute chicken and sausages in olive oil until browned. Set aside.  Saute onions and garlic in oil, add tomato  paste, tomatoes, basil, hot pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Add chicken and sausages.  On a low flame simmer (covered) for 1 1/2 hours.  Last 15 minutes add Bell peppers which have been sauteed in a little olive oil.  Serve over rice or noodles.  DELICIOUS!

my dad and Tony at Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach

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15 Responses to “Poor Man’s Butler”

  1. simon says:

    I need a with. Any suggestions?

  2. Kris Duke says:

    Loved the trip down memory lane! The first time I met your parents was at the Balboa Bay Club WITH Tony (32 years ago!) He was an easy going guy who just went with the flow. Tony was a fabulous cook. I have some nice memories of dinners at the Churchill……………remember the garlic bread OMG??

  3. Ellen Bloom says:

    I remember Tony very well. When Alan and I worked for Bud, Duke and Tony used to come by our offices at KTLA ALL the time. Tony was a very nice guy….always ready with a smile!

  4. david n says:

    A few more stories and you’ve got a book. Do I hear bestseller? Film rights?

  5. Pauli says:

    What a great story Fredde! You covered so many themes in so little time.

  6. Julie Phalen says:

    Another great story, I am going to make this chicken recipie.
    I know the Hayes’s I wonder it it’s the same family.

  7. Jennifer Dudley Arbaugh says:

    Ms. Fred… My Erin snarks about my “chicken rotation” as if I have no haute cuisine imagination. Au Contraire. I switch it up all the time. Tony’s recipe will be amongst the other poultry delights but do you think he will forgive the hot pepper flakes for a viable substitute?! Oh,do u think i was a WITH or a groupie?


  8. Alan says:

    “Hot, hot, hot…” said Lee Solters, quoting Tony ordering soup.

  9. J Rae Niles says:

    Beautiful and heart warming. I love your writing.

  10. Fredde,

  11. Janet Petkin says:

    This story is PRICELESS. Please explain Frank and Jilly ?

  12. Carol Wicklund says:

    I LOVE your blogs! Now I know…I was a “WITH”… except I had a job. Wish someone had told me the rules. darn.
    PS: I hope you get a auto-blog-notifier! I hope I remember to keep checking back–you are a stich!

  13. […] Some nights I might call and ask my dad what he was doing. Okay, most nights I made that call.   I often crashed, the only chick allowed in an almost exclusively male-dominated club. The group consisted of ex-CBS president Bud Grant, a bigwig ornery PR guy (Sinatra’s and Michael Jackson’s) named Lee Solters, Screwdriver, my dad, his current “with,” and a few other hanger-ons. Did I hear you ask what a “with” is? Read here. […]

  14. Kelly Bryan says:

    Great stories! I totally got the “with” guys thing. When in my elementary school years I was friends with Ricci Martin (Dean’s youngest son). I spent many a days and sleep-overs at the Martin house. There would be hanging out, funny, generous but never understood who they were or why there there. Remember an “uncle” Mickey maybe associated with the “mob or mafia” my father guessed. Interesting era in those days.

    There was a Jilly’s restaurant in Palm Springs with phones at ever table, a Sinatra haunt but who was “Jilly”?

  15. Linda says:

    Not just a great story … a tasty recipe, too.

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