Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

For Oliver on his Birthday

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

favorite picture of oliver in moma


First of all, you were born on Mother’s Day and I cannot think of a better gift.  Ten days late with full chubby cheeks, you could lift your head up, which would blow the nurses away.  You never stopped blowing me away.

By four months old, your dad and I were walking you in and out of New York museums.  You also inexplicably turned orange which alarmed your parents so much that I made an unwell baby visit to the pediatrician.  He looked at you and asked right away if we were feeding you a lot of carrots.  Oops my bad.  Yes, WAY too many jars of strained carrots, your favorite.   By age one, I knew you already appreciated art.  You could also finish sentences in your baby books.  Well, to be fair, one-word sentences.  This was very impressive to the other mother’s in Washington Square Park where we played every day.

Turning you orange, one bite of carrots at a time!!

Turning you orange, one bite of carrots at a time!!


Happy Hour

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

paparazzi photo from rivabella


What the hell is Happy Hour and why is everyone talking about it?  The happiest hour for me is when I eat.  But if it means standing around with drinks in your hand, eating from some communal barrel of glop, count me out.  I don’t think Happy Hour would have appeal for me even if it were at a restaurant I wanted to go to.  It just sounds awful.  Or am I a snob?

The other day, I was recommending my new favorite restaurant in L.A., Tar and Roses, to someone who then asked, “Do they have a Happy Hour?”  I was baffled by the question.  It’s so foreign to me.

And then I got an invitation to join my daughter and her best friend Cody and a bunch of their hot 27-year-old friends for what I thought was dinner.  But it wasn’t.  It was Happy Hour at some Mexican restaurant’s bar (Marix Tex Mex).  And while I think it’s brilliant for young people not yet making big money to be able to eat like that, I just couldn’t do it.  I asked for a proper menu. (more…)

Letter to a Big Brother

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Alan and I_2


Thank you for everything.  Let me start at the beginning.  When I was just a wee thing (well, maybe I’m still a wee thing), at a barely verbal age, you taught me, your puppet, this trick and we took the act on the road, performing it for any visitor.

Alan: What’s 2 + 2? 

Fredde: 4.  

Alan: What’s 4+4? 

Fredde: 8. 

Alan: 8+8?

Fredde: 16.

Alan: 16+16? 

Fredde:  32. 

Alan: 32+32? 

Fredde:  64. 

And magically Alan, you made me appear to be a genius.  Which was a far stretch — because genius, I would never be.  You were my very smart older brother and I was your academically-challenged little sister.  You carried the heavy burden very early in life of having to take care of me.  And, look at the job you did! (more…)

Skin Cancer Queen

Sunday, March 31st, 2013


I didn’t elect myself to be the poster person for skin cancer but that is who I am.  It’s not a title I’m proud of, though I do share that challenged DNA with my brother.  It’s our fate.   Let me warn you ahead of time that I might get way too graphic here, so stop reading if you can’t stomach it.

At just 29 years old, living in New York, I felt a zit on the back of my neck.  When it didn’t seem to go away for months and months, I went to a family friend and doctor in Beverly Hills, a plastic surgeon I had once worked for and asked him to shoot it up with whatever it is that makes pimples disappear.  He took one look at the back of my neck and said skin cancer.  I emphatically told him it couldn’t be, that it definitely wasn’t and that he should get that needle out and just make it go away.  Reluctantly, he did but not without a lecture on my family history.  Being a family friend for years, he had removed many skin cancers from both of my afflicted, white, sensitive-skinned parents.  And now, my brother was starting to deal with basal cell skin cancer.  “Not me!!!  Just shoot that mother-fucker of a zit up and I’ll be fine.”  And yes, those were my exact words.

Some months passed and now it looked really freaky, though I couldn’t see the back of my neck, I could tell by feeling that it wasn’t right.  My fault for not listening.  I went back to the doctor, Kurt Wagner, and he did a biopsy.  After he called me with the report, I went in for my first of many years of surgeries to remove a lifetime of sun damage. (more…)

Girls Gone Wild

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

me up for princess and queen

Not sure how I got roped into it, but it would be Easter vacation, and I was game to head with a group of friends to a hotel I knew and loved — The Riviera in Palm Springs.  My friend Libbie and I hitched a ride.  Not really hitched, but, you know, found someone driving there, and asked if they wouldn’t mind dropping us off.  I didn’t do freeways, hated driving in general.  So there we were.  No car.  But, at a great hotel with a pool, and that’s all I needed.  Well, that and a good turkey sandwich.  Or turkey club.

One of the girls’ dads had made all the arrangements and what Libbie and I paid was very low.  Oh, by the way, this was a one-bedroom suite with way too many of us.

We parked ourselves on the couches and the rest took the bedroom.  All good. We would wake up, drink our Cokes (at least that’s what I drank) and head to the pool.  That pool area was a club scene.  We girls were hot enough but there were hot girls and guys everywhere.  Each lounge chair was taken.  We all cared way too much about our tans.  Baby oil, often mixed with iodine, and tanning cream was abundant.  A sea of aluminum reflectors held under chins nearly blinded you in the already too-bright desert sun.  The smell of Coppertone permeated the air.   I put in record-breaking hours lying in that hot desert sun.  (I now put in record-breaking hours at the dermatologist.) (more…)


Friday, January 11th, 2013
Mary Lou Rutenberg painting of my stunning mother, Evelyn Duke, 1960's

Mary Lou Rutenberg painting of my stunning mother, Evelyn Duke, 1960’s

I posed nude, you know.  Several times.  Me and my two good buddies.  All three chicks, totally naked.  In a bathtub.  It was for an artist who thought this would make a great painting.  Or, perhaps, it was a commissioned painting.  Either way, I was asked, and I was in.  It got cold because we sat in that water for hours.  Or did it only seem like hours?  The two friends of mine were sisters, Lori and Lesly.  I slept at their house a lot.  We were kind of inseparable.  Only, secretly, it was Lesly, the younger one, who I was closest to; she looked up to me because I was older.  Lesly rocked herself to sleep in this crazy, enviably violent manner that totally intrigued me.   I guess I should reveal that I was nine years old, though I was trying to figure out a way to tell the whole story without saying how old I was, to make it funnier.  However, it’s probably not all that funny to imagine an adult woman after you hear the tale.

 Here is what happened, one fateful day, in that water-filled tub.  I farted.  Yep.  As a kid, I was pretty much constantly constipated.  Truly, I spent my whole childhood blocked up, because I ate no fiber and consumed mostly mayonnaise sandwiches on white bread (which you would know, if you’re following my blog), so it’s not a surprise, really.  There we three girls were that day, and when their mother, the artist, told us to get out of the bath, I looked back at the water and saw a turd floating about.  A little rabbit sized pellet of a thing, just like the one that I was used to expelling — to use a polite word.   I’m trying very hard to keep this polite and not say shit.


Two Words: Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

best picture of me and michael, younger

One of the most memorable calls of my life was one that I picked up from my answering machine twenty-one years ago, Christmas Day.

It was my first Christmas alone after my husband had left me for another woman (READ THAT STORY HERE).  I was still reeling from that hit — and not because we had some loving marriage, but because of the betrayal.

I had gone on two very casual dates with a new man.  Didn’t know if there would be a third.  First date was for lunch at the Broadway Deli in Santa Monica, the second was dinner at Remi, a great Italian restaurant.  Both were on the Third Street Promenade, and are now gone.  It was followed by a game of pool in a sports bar across the way.  Throughout both dates, I kept the conversation going, filling in the empty spaces with my unique backstory – growing up in the slums of Beverly Hills, my one-of-a-kind, loudmouth producer dad, my quirky, Texas-born, goyishe mom.  Yakety yakety yak.  Was he even listening?   Who knows?  The first date was October 24th and the next was a few weeks later, in November.  And that could have been that; it wasn’t exactly a relationship moving quickly or even a relationship at all.  But, for some reason, I really liked those two dates, as they may have been the first dates in my whole life.  When I was younger, you met someone — there were no dates – and just sort of moving in right away was the norm. (more…)

What’s Real

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

My husband and I waited all day for the arrival of our imaginary grandchild.  It’s a boy.  His name is Jackson.  He’s quite real.  What’s imaginary is the idea that we are his grandparents.  Jackson was already nine months old and we had yet to meet him.  That’s because our surrogate child lives in Northern California and we haven’t been up there since the birth, and she hasn’t been here.  A brief explanation of Jackson’s mom, Tory.  When my daughter Augie started second grade, I spotted this tiny, adorable student in her class.  She looked dazed and confused, kind of lost.  I asked Augie about her and she told me that Tory was new at school.  I said, “Let’s bring her home.”  So, we did.  And she stayed, occasionally for months at a time.  The chaos in her own home made it appear that our family was functional.  Everything’s relative.  Secretly, I liked that she thought we were “normal.”  We got so much more out of the deal.  Tory was a real find.

Now, many years later, I texted Tory, though I was concerned she was on the road and might glance at her phone while driving.  But it’s Tory, more adult than any of us, even at thirteen.  She had to be.  I get texted right back.  Oh, did you think it was today I was coming down?  It’s tomorrow, and then I have to leave the following day.  I walked into my husband’s home office.  “I got the day wrong.  There’s a movie in Santa Monica, want to see it?” (more…)

When the Circus Came to Town

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

My agents called to check my availability for a few days in November.  Shouldn’t they know?  Yes, I was available.  Apparently, a director I had once worked for, Walter Topel, was shooting a Hallmark commercial in Chicago.  That’s where he lived and worked.  No auditions necessary.  He knew he wanted me.

First call I made was to my friend Paul who was in college at Northwestern.  This will be fun, I thought — Paul and I can hang out in Chicago.   He said he wasn’t going to be in town but that I should call his roommates.  He said he knew we would all like each other.

As soon as I got to the hotel, I called Paul’s friends.  They invited me over.  But once I was there, I got the sense that they were judging me and decided they wanted nothing to do with me.  They had already written the story.  To them, I was a spoiled rich Beverly Hills brat who now had a commercial acting career.  They thought they were better.  But they were truly wicked.  Fucking with me.  I left there bewildered.  I had never been treated like that because I’m so friendly, I can disarm anyone.  I’m a really regular person.  I was never some spoiled kid from Beverly Hills.   Didn’t they know I lived south of Wilshire, the wrong side of the tracks? (more…)

Mom and Pop Grocery

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012


One night in July, my friend Gabri started waxing poetic about summer fruit.  It’s sweetness, color, all of it.  I chimed in, even though he hadn’t directed the conversation towards me:  “I know, isn’t it great?  My favorite thing is walking into Gelson’s and–”  He finished my sentence.  The gist of which is that we both go into our own Gelson’s (we live in different parts of town) produce section, ask what the freshest fruit is, and the guy there will grab an amazing fuzzy peach, slice it just so, and offer you more than a fair sample to taste.  Oh, my God, some of us will gather around, sampling our quarter-to-half peach, then grab a paper bag to stock up.  Is that why we love this neighborhood market so much?  Or is it because it harkens back to a simpler, smaller, safer, slower, time?  Probably.

I love old-fashioned, small markets.  I was about to leave for my two-week holiday in August to a small town in Quebec when my friend Lynne asked me if there’s a small market there.  I thought I was the only one obsessed with them.  I love to photograph small markets or drive by slowly just to take them in.

I miss the one I grew up a block from in Beverly Hills – Haig’s Market — at the corner of Bedford & Olympic.  Owned by Eddie and Bea.  Each day after school I would stop there, right after dropping my books off at home.  Ha, drop off my books!  I barely went to school. I went to Haig’s market much more.  (Later on, when I moved out of my mother’s house — the second I turned 18 — Bea and Eddie kept a signed headshot of me on their wall of fame, with other locals like Michael Lembeck.)  During that period of time I had an addiction to their fresh Kaiser rolls.  I would bring one home every single day and glob butter onto it.  I’m not even sure why it was so compelling since Kaiser rolls are rather dry, but it was my of-the-moment-heroin. (more…)