Posts Tagged ‘Beverly Hills high school’

Eulogy for Laurie Susan White

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

This is the eulogy that I wrote for my friend Laurie.    I don’t love public speaking and in the end, I chickened out.  At the time, I did send it to Laurie’s parents.  I am sharing it here on my blog with you in honor of my old friend’s birthday, April 4’th.  And because I know Laurie Susan would have really enjoyed and been supportive of my blog.

Hello, I’m Fredde Duke.  Laurie called me her B.F.  Best Friend.  I first laid eyes on Laurie in High School, the year was 1970 and she and her then B.F., Carrie Fisher had just gotten these disastrous haircuts.  They were profoundly ashamed, and actually spent some days not even bothering to come to school to save face.  Those haircuts were in fact, probably the very first shags.  Since both Carrie and Laurie couldn’t bear to be “seen”, they went out and bought these very sort of Ali MacGraw-Love Story knit hats to cover their heads and I thought they were just the most stunning, stylish girls, so I just had to get to know them.

the infamous shag

I went out to breakfast with them one school morning at Nibblers.  They were only 14 years old and already ditching school.  I was impressed.  I myself hadn’t starting doing this until at least 15.  I was a senior and our paths didn’t cross again for some years.

I had the “happening” pad on the beach.  Laurie Sue (what she liked to be called) would often come to visit.  Sometimes she would be gone for hours, she had wondered down the road to Ricci’s (Martin) and she would usually reappear.  But, not always. (more…)

Little Mermaid

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

me, always swimming

As a little girl, I loved to swim, still do. Just about any chance I got to go swimming, I would. I dreamed of having my own pool. My bigger dreams were to be an Olympian swimmer and also to swim the English Channel.

Pools and water became an obsession as well as a love. I would look into my backyard and fantasize a swimming pool. It never appeared. My dad always lived in an apartment building with a pool so there was usually a place for me to swim. When I was older and using his for exercise, I would have to share it with his elderly neighbors. They could get nasty and it was tricky navigating around their crankiness. Some of them became my new best friends in life … as long as we stayed in our own lanes.

When I saw the David Hockney series of pools, I totally understood how the swimming pool was his muse.

David Hockney's A Bigger Splash, 1967

When I was a freshman in high school and was forced to swim, I often lied and said I had my period, which in fact I really didn’t get until my sophomore year. I felt more comfortable and relaxed holding my breath under water than just about anywhere else. I wasn’t really aware of how therapeutic it was, but swimming under water there put me in a serene state, one I have never found again.

I went to a high school that housed one of the most famous pools in the world. Beverly Hills High School has an Olympic-size swimming pool with a hardwood floor that closes over it to become a basketball court. Mesmerizing. You’ve probably seen it in Frank Capra’s Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which was filmed on location there. Remember James Stewart & Donna Reed falling into the pool in their dance clothes? Well, I won swim contests in that pool during lazy summers. And not just won, but set some serious records. (more…)


Friday, December 17th, 2010

my idol and surrogate mother, Ruth Conte (google her as Ruth Storey)

That’s what most of her friends called her. Our relationship took a few years to really take off. The night we met, she had already been informed that I was her son’s new girlfriend, not sure if he mentioned that we were madly and newly in love. In the creative and interesting environment that was her living room, I felt inspired to perform the Israeli dances I had learned recently in a high school Middle Eastern dance class. Ruth and her friends seemed taken with me (enchanting was the word they used) and they got up to join me in the spirit of spontaneity. We were off to a great start. It would soon crash and burn and I will admit that it was all my fault.

Ruth’s son Mark and I slept in his mom’s apartment for days on end. We, or rather I, woke up late, very late, and sometimes cranky. I would walk into the kitchen, make myself some cereal, then walk away from the table, having not cleaned up. I also never really pitched in if there was a dinner party. I guess I came off as a bit of a princess. I guess maybe I was. My history is that I was enabled by my own mother, father too, and never asked to help around the house in any way. Never made to clean up, never told to pitch in with the dishes, nothing. In my home, dirty plates & silverware were miraculously cleaned and put away. It was a nearly perfect arrangement for me, except in the real world where I was to become less than an ideal houseguest. Of course, now, in my own home, I love and admire a good guest who enlists in helping out. But I never really was that person.

Mark Conte, on the lawn of Beverly High, very near Ruth's house

For a period of time we slept in Mark’s van in the driveway, using the bathroom and yes, not cleaning up. Finally, Ruth had had enough. She kicked us out. For good. The lesson may have taken me nearly a lifetime to learn, but Ruth did the right thing.

Forced to live together, Mark and I found a bungalow in what was then virtually an art colony on Santa Monica beach, close to the pier. In a row of bungalows stretching north, there lived artists, actors and musicians. Spawned from our group of friends here were Bob Englund (later to become Freddie Kruger), David Hasseloff and Ed Carter, who was then with the Beach Boys, and might have been the only one of us making an actual living. I came home from work one day to find Mark had redecorated our home with not just a “splash” of, but all red, including a red wall-to-wall Persian carpet and a small red picnic table. It was so charming and oh, so small. Ruth didn’t visit much and my relationship with her remained strained.

I was getting acting jobs and the more money I made, the more I thought we deserved a bigger, better ocean view. So, we moved up to Malibu, and now the waves splashed at our balcony. When Ruth came to visit I spent the time hiding in my bedroom. Silly me. But I was young and stubborn and didn’t realize what I was missing.
Ruth’s dinner parties were filled with the most interesting group of intellectuals and film makers: Walter and Carol Mathau, Jack and Felicia Lemmon, British directors Jack Clayton with his wife Haya, and Karel Reisz and his wife, the actress Betsy Blair (formerly married to Gene Kelly, himself a sometime guest). Ruth herself had been an extremely successful stage and screen actress under the name Ruth Storey. Her best friend, a psychiatrist from New York named Janet Kennedy, often came to stay for periods of time. (more…)

Dancing Bears

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Fredde and Doreen

Doreen and I have known each other since high school but it took years until we found each other again.  And we have REALLY reconnected.   A lot of us on the “other side of the tracks” in Beverly Hills  (south of Wilshire) gravitated to each other.

Most kids I knew then had the perfect, or seemingly perfect nuclear family; a mother, usually stay-at-home, a father, and 2.5 children.  (Why they never had a complete third child, I don’t know.)  Doreen, though, was being raised by a working, single mother. No father in the picture at all.  She was a latchkey kid before there was a term for it, a girl who cooked her own dinner at a very early age, and who often called her mother when it was getting very late, well past dinnertime, to ask when she was coming home.  She had made a meal and wanted her mommy there to share it with her. (more…)