Archive for March, 2013

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…)

All Things Jewish

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

duschinsky clan

As a half-and-halfer who leaned too much to the gentile side, I might have secretly liked one Jewish holiday — Passover.  To be honest, it’s the only one I knew.  Barely.  “We’re going to Seder dinner at Celie’s,” my dad would announce each year.   Celie was my dad’s younger sister who treated him like the baby of the family.  My dad, known as Duke, and stricken with polio as a child, walked his whole life with a brace & cane.  It was Celie, till she died, who hand made for him the flesh-colored, stretchy compression socks that improved his circulation.  Chappy, my aunt Celie’s husband — okay, my uncle — would conduct a pretty serious, religious event.  He was sanctimonious, no-nonsense, and an easy foil for my fun-loving dad.  I always came starved, but ate very little.

This was a rowdy, boisterous group — a ton of aunts, uncles and cousins that all knew each other well and lived in the VALLEY.  They seemed to include my brother in their group.  Me, not so much.  So, I clung to my dad for comfort, laughing at and enjoying everything he said, hanging on like it was his last day on earth.  That’s how it was with us all my life.  He was an older dad.  Magical.  My hero.  And out there in the Valley I was often petrified.  I secretly longed for that other soon-to-be-celebrated holiday, Easter — with the gentiles. (more…)

Circle of Celebrities

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

barnaby with a gang in preschool

I’m bold sometimes.  Shameless really.  I had moved with my kids to Santa Monica, just a few blocks from a coveted, very hard-to-get-into nursery school.  Circle of Children.   I knew someone (hadn’t seen him in years) that was famous, actually, his wife was the famous one, and I read somewhere that their kid went to this school.     I totally used the connection, dropping the name at my interview — without permission — and got myself, or rather my son Barnaby, in.  I said I was shameless.  A mother’s gotta do what a mother’s gotta do.  Not only did I use that connection but I revealed to close friends my secret entree into this “private club” of a preschool, and they got their kids in too.

This place totally catered to celebrities, so much so, that when I met a big-name actress at a party, she told me she pulled her son from the school because of the obsequious manner in which famous parents there, including herself, were treated.   And she is really famous, but it sickened her.   And there was a hierarchy; we, the not-remotely-famous, were put in the lower, B group, and not with the A-listers.    The parents of Barnaby’s group were television actors, or people who created TV shows, and losers like me.  Barnaby was an outside kid.  Literally, kept outside.   Inside, with a roof over their heads, were the name kids.   Each morning, I threw on my sweats (confession: I didn’t throw them on, I slept in them), pinned up my hair, applied no makeup and dropped my kid off, having to pass Spielberg, Rob Reiner, Tom Hanks and sometimes Schwarzenegger.   Daily.   Oy, it was annoying.  Your kid is only three or four years old, you can’t just drop him on the corner and say good-bye.  You had to park and walk in each day, passing these people like you were on a studio lot.  Preschool is not AA, I can break anonymity here.  At a certain point each day, the B group got to mix it up with celeb kids, and on one particular day when I went to fetch Barnaby, a teacher pulled me aside.  Apparently Barnaby hit the Hanks kid.  The teacher had both kids in tow.  I looked down at my son and said, “Say you’re sorry to Chester, Barnaby.”  “I’m sowwy, Chester.”  “Great, let’s go.”  I always wanted to get out of there fast.  I felt like we were imposters. (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…)

Red Leather Booths

Friday, March 1st, 2013


There was one prerequisite for our birthday dinner for Robin.  A red leather booth.  Where to find one?  So few places left with that old Rat Pack-era feel.  I still miss them.  One of my all-time favorites was Sneaky Pete’s.  On the Sunset Strip.  It was next door to Whisky A Go-Go, where Duke’s Coffee Shop was until recently.  Waitresses were dressed in really short-skirt barmaid outfits.   A place where Johnny Carson sometimes sat in on drums with the musicians.   How great was that?  Good that it’s been closed for a hundred years, or it might make me miss my father too much.  I went there with him all the time for steak and a baked potato with tons of butter, sour cream & chives.

Peggy had gone last week to Dan Tana’s, the dimly lit, checkered-tablecloth, celeb- oriented Italian in West Hollywood.  Libbie thought it was perfect for the Robin dinner.   Since I never went to Dan Tana’s much back in the day, it would be a nostalgia-free zone – no memories with my dad to weigh me down.  Still, I spent the rest of the week toying with the idea of changing restaurants.  Many texts and phone calls back and forth between the girls.  Robin said she would be just fine if we all met at Nate n’ Al’s, the Beverly Hills deli we all grew up in, but some of us just couldn’t envision a birthday celebration there.  So, I never cancelled the reservation — and here is how retro Dan Tana’s is: they never called “to confirm.” (more…)