Posts Tagged ‘fredrica duke’

What’s in a Name?

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

me and Harry Morton

I LOVE my name. I love Fredrica. I love Fredde Duke. I just love my name. A lot of people call me by my first AND last name, so they must love it too. Sometimes friends call me Duke or Dukie. I love that. My dad was Duke and sometimes Dukie.

But here is what I hate. Frankie. Hate it. Because clearly you were not listening. And the other reason is that there was this wicked little girl who was walking with her posse in my alley when I was also little — I was OLDER than her — and she looked at me and called me Frankie in this nasty voice that was unforgettable.

I shouldn’t take it personally because no one is saying Frankie instead of Fredde to be wicked. However, it still gets me edgy.

There is a girl that works at the market in town that has taken to calling me Frankie. At first I corrected her but it didn’t work, so now I have given up and respond to Frankie. She says, “Hi, Frankie,” and I say Hi back, usually whispering to myself as I walk away, “Oy, Frankie.”

I have a lot of old people that I like to call to check in on. I love almost all old people. But when I call — and sometimes months can go by — I say “Hi, it’s Fredde.” And they often respond, Hi, Betty.” Here is an actual conversation that took place with a friend of my dad’s named Harry Morton. It was months after my father died. I dial the number in Florida. Phone rings and Harry picks up. “Hi Harry, it’s Fredde.”

“Hi, Betty.”
I say louder this time, “No Harry, it’s FREDDE.”
He says, “Hi, BETTY.”
Again I go, “It’s FREDDE!” now screaming it.
He says, “Oh, hi, Fredde, how are you?”
I say, “Sad, Harry.”
He says, “Why are you fat?”
I say, “Harry, I’m SAD”.
Again, Harry says, “Why are you fat, Fredde?”
This time I yell, “I’m not FAT, Harry, I’m SAD!!!!!”

We try it one more time and then he says to me, “Talk to my wife Billie about being fat,” and he hands the phone to his wife.
I then went into great detail about how fat I was. Kidding. I said, “Billie, I’m not FAT, I’m sad because I miss my father.” And Billie says, “I’m sorry you’re sad, Frankie.”

Today, I had a whole different name given to me. I called a mother of a friend of mine. We talked for twenty minutes and at one point she called me Patty. I corrected her only once. But she continued calling me Patty for the rest of our conversation. So, now I guess I’m Patty Duke!” (more…)

15 Minutes

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

I’m famous for much longer than 15 minutes. And, I admit, a bit proud of my fame. What, you might ask am I famous for? For calling the principal a cunt!
Uh huh. It’s a story with legs. Why it was at least fourteen years ago that the incident happened. People are still talking about it today. Gotta love that.

I was taught, by example NOT to fear authority. Taught to stand up for myself. When in life I needed to exercise this skill, I did. When it comes to standing up for my kids? Watch fuckin’ out for me. Seriously, don’t mess with my kids, ever! I will go ghetto on you so fast.

My older son had a run in with the principal from our local grammar school that I barely remember. But he might have been in the wrong. He was pretty out there and I didn’t come to his defense.

My daughter Augie was a different story. The principal was totally in the wrong. There had been these elaborate and sexually explicit drawings on a note to some boy. He was Augie’s “boyfriend” at the time. Augie’s name was signed to the note. But, it was NOT penned by Augie. She is incapable to this day (twenty-five years old) of drawing even a stick figure. I too, cannot draw a thing. The family of the boy were alarmed enough to turn this note into the principal. The principal called Augie in to her office to ask her about it. Augie said she didn’t write it, but the principal insisted she did. So I showed up in the principal’s office when I heard about it to confront her. I yelled at her but not in some ghetto way. I was just forthcoming and standing up for my daughter. Augie was being held accountable for something she didn’t do. Augie didn’t have a big enough voice to fully express how wronged she was, but I do. When I went into the principal’s office that day, she put up her hand in my face and snarled through those braces on her teeth “NOT NOW FREDDE!” then she walked away. Very provocative response. Of course it achieved what she wanted. It silenced me. (more…)

Fear of Bees

Friday, May 13th, 2011

It’s a lifelong fear. If a therapist were to ask what is my level of discomfort when near a bee, I might have to say a hundred, or a gazillion- whatever the highest level might be.

It started when I was less then two, could have even been one and totally pre-verbal. But, I do remember being a witness to the moment. If not the exact moment, then the repurcussions. I was living with my mom and dad in this very glamorous place called the Garden of Allah. It was famous for housing the most intellectual, interesting avant -garde people of the day. People like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker and Greta Garbo. It was a hotel with bungalows that some people took permanent residence in. The social center was the pool. The pool where my mother got stung on her back as she swam in it. It’s sort of contradictory that what I love so much, pools….is where the danger often lies.

Bees. I have been known to stay under the water for unsafe periods of time when I see a bee flying overhead. I even switched my swimming time to night to avoid the stress. (more…)

Dina and Me, a Relationship in Spanglish

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

me and Dina, on our way to Catalina Island

She read Kierkegaard and Proust while I read People magazine. I realize opposites attract, but we really weren’t all that opposite … although she was definitely more sophisticated than me. Dina Mendosa, who I have now known for 25 years, is from a third world country, Mexico. I am not.

Here is where our relationship started. I received a thousand dollars as a gift from my ex-husband’s rich aunt and was instructed to use it for “help” after giving birth to my second child. I made it last a very long time and ended up moving Dina in to live with us for a few years, but I’m getting ahead of the story.

When I interviewed people for the live-in nanny/housekeeper job, she was not the one I hired first. Dina was far too beautiful and it appeared that there might even be a hickey on her neck. So, I nixed her and hired another person. That person was a no-show and so I called Hickey Girl back and told her the truth. We hired someone else, they flaked — do you still want the job? She did. She came that very day. Good sign. Good start. And the “hickey” turned out to be a birthmark. She wasn’t the slut that I had judged her to be. Not in the least. (more…)


Monday, March 14th, 2011

I saw the black shiny car in its perfectly renovated state driving down San Vicente in Brentwood. That car is an old friend, I thought for a second. This new tricked-out version brought me straight back to the late 1950’s when I was first introduced to it.

I was driving and it was hard to concentrate on both the road and the flood of memories at the same time. I was holding back tears when I lowered my window to yell to the new owner, “Hey, that’s my car!” Well, not technically mine anymore, but it was my mother’s, we had it my ENTIRE life. I miss that car and I’m sorry I never drove it. The new owner convinced me he is taking very good care of it and loves it. For years, I kept harboring that sedan in various garages where I lived.

Most people get to inherit small, valuable items, like rings. Not me. I got the beloved, vintage Mercedes. It had only one owner and that was my mother.
I was still a child when our Mercedes Benz came from the dealership to our parking spot; a day I will never forget. It was 1959. I was six years old. That vehicle holds more sentimental value to me than any ring.

The car represented freedom and independence for my mother. She was out there, struggling on her own and it would be the first and maybe last big purchase of her life. A huge, in-the-tabloids battle raged over a red Cadillac convertible during my parents’ divorce. The newspapers claimed that Evelyn Duke, divorcing producer Maurice Duke, had received the car as a gift to match her red hair. She didn’t get it in the settlement. (more…)

Where the Boys Are

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

from left, me, Bettsie, me with Diana, right, me thinking about Sol

What a motley group of misfits we were. Putzing around, morning till night, each new day a Groundhog Day repeat of the one before. There was Sol, my soul mate, though he didn’t know it. Skinny kid, a year older than me; a little boy who wouldn’t reach puberty till late, like me. Tons of freckles, also like me. A bit of a trouble maker (me? not so much). There was Doug, way into puberty, hairy and all, and at a young age. Man-like, deep voice, with a bark bigger than his bite. Other kids feared him. Danny, very scary, very hairy, already a bit of a perv at 11 or 12. Dave and Bill were older, or seemed so much older that I didn’t really know why they were hanging around with us. And they sure didn’t seem like they were from Beverly Hills — but I’m not sure any of us did. Many of us were from the “the slums of Beverly Hills,” where our parents moved us for a better education. Some education: playing poker in Roxbury Park.

Most of us were free floaters; lost kids. Kids with parents who didn’t know or didn’t care where their children were. And if they cared, they thought we were at the Teen Center and under some sort of supervision. That could not be farther from the truth. There was gambling, sex and eventually drugs. Again, not me. Not me… yet.

It was an alpha male group and we girls were mainly considered a nuisance. The boys played cards all day, placing big, Vegas-style bets in public. This was a serious pastime and girls were not really allowed. We would foist ourselves on them, standing behind one or another and praying for our guy to win. That’s when we would momentarily be noticed and the boy might say, “Stay there Fredde, you’re good luck for me today.” Ah, the power of that. I was needed and important. I was 12 years old. Stolen moments in the Boys Club.

my brother Alan in hat, Sol looking at camera, Doug to right

My best friend Susie had a pool table so I spent hours practicing my game. Then, I would show up at the Teen Center and strut my new shots. In order to play with the boys, you needed the skill and I was beginning to hold my own. This is also where I became fiercely competitive and not bad at all at ping-pong. The boys were sometimes brutal on Diana, a devoted friend since age 5. She wasn’t quite as skillful at dodging their abuse as I was. And she taunted them more than I did. We were both teased mercilessly for being flat-chested.

Susie was the eternal tomboy, who didn’t quite “get” my fascination with the boys. She had some great toys in her house. Besides the pool table, there were also slot machines. Her dad was friends with all the famous race car drivers because he made parts for their cars. I used these masculine toys as bait to get the gang over to Susie’s house. That was always a real accomplishment, one that went totally unnoticed by Susie, who often feigned disinterest. And to be truthful, the boys weren’t there for me either. They came just to play with the toys. But, the excitement of it all made me dream of more boy-filled nights. (more…)

Real & Imaginary Friends

Monday, February 14th, 2011

when I met Cindy Lou

We lived in a depressing apartment on Olympic Boulevard; a recent divorce put us there. I hated every second of it and longed to be back in “the house.” Soon, the house became a long-ago memory. I might walk by the backyard while playing in the alley and knew it was “technically” ours, but eventually I stopped looking in and convinced myself I no longer pined for it.

One day, a little girl, a year younger than me, moved into the apartment directly across from ours. Not even three steps away was the front door of the girl who became my new best friend. Her name was Cindy Lou Carlson. Not Jewish. Not Jewish was always a comfortable fit for me because I was half-and-half, as we used to say. I knocked on the door and offered up my friendship … and some Oreos.

depressing Olympic apt. my window, Cindy's window where bike is

To date, my most important friendships had been with imaginary friends — an elephant named Carfia, and Sherry, a “good, nice” red-headed mother. (My real mother was a redhead too.) They lived in trees near Roxbury Park, which unfortunately placed them across the huge, though not-so-busy in those days, Olympic Boulevard. There were a few times at age three — and younger — that my mother couldn’t find me, because I was across that big road talking to my friends in the tree. Once, I was spotted by a neighbor and when my mother retrieved me, she slapped some sense into me (a real hard slap, very scary). She insisted my friends were imaginary and didn’t live in that tree. I knew better. But I moved them into a safer spot, my bathtub. I loved them, but Cindy Lou was real, and Cindy Lou looked up to me and followed everything I did. And Cindy could accompany me to Roxbury Park where I would tell her in a forest of bushes and trees that we were being held hostage by savage Indians. My new best friend “saw” all that I could see in my imagination. This was a win-win relationship. Follow the leader (me) was the game we eternally played. (more…)

Chasen’s, Forever Missed

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Chasens's book cover

If you grew up in Hollywood in the 1950’s to 70’s you remember Chasen’s, the famous restaurant. For me, it was the first real celebrity hangout where you were almost guaranteed to spot the biggest names in show business. I have many great memories of going there with my dad. Later, I went with my husband.

Once, when I was out of town, my husband asked me if he could maybe take my dad out to dinner without his entourage. I said, I don’t know, he really likes his entourage and besides, they are very helpful with his wheelchair … and trust me, the logistics aren’t easy. Navigating around places, getting my dad in and out with the wheelchair was tricky. My husband was determined to spend some quality time with Duke. They did end up going to Chasen’s together, no posse, but marriage was not discussed, I’m sorry to say.

My father wouldn’t live to see us married. I was probably fantasizing that Michael was asking for my hand, knowing me.

For some reason I have never outgrown the love of food overly saturated in butter. Most people I know have given it up, but not me. So, in honor of my love for this kind of food (which is too much work for me to make), I’ll share with you the recipe for my favorite Chasens meal, the Hobo steak.

and enjoy my favorite toast they served at Chasen’s (I ate far too many pieces)


Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Village Books, Pacific Palisades

I’m feeling pretty good at this moment – probably because I just finished baking a cake. Baking for me is something almost primal; it is so satisfying — well, satisfying afterwards — rewarding might be the better word. If someone had told me in my twenties that I would be a baking freak by the time I was in my mid-thirties, I would not have believed such a wild fantasy.
Recently, high cholesterol got in the way and I have been doing less baking and feeling more stress. Baking is my salvation, my joy, my de-stressor. When my kids were little and I was baking up a storm in that tiny oven of ours, all those famous chocolate chip cookies daily, my kids called it my “bakenalysis.” Oliver, my oldest, coined the term. Do I love what I make? You bet I do. Today, I went back to this piece that I started to write about my baking (or lately, lack there-of) and wasn’t sure where I was going with it. What recipe was I going to share on my blog? Nope, just didn’t have one in mind. That’s when serendipity did its serendipitous thing. (more…)

That’s me, the Underdog Lover

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

From the earliest possible memory, and I do mean earliest, my mother role-modeled the love of the underdog.   Why, she married my father, a polio survivor, who sported a cane and brace and walked tilted from side to side.  Think Danny DeVito, only slightly taller.  My dad was all of 5 feet, one inch.

My mother took in strays, both people and animals.  A famous gay makeup artist with a serious drug problem moved in for nearly a year.  Each day that I left for high school, he asked me to score him some good dope.  I always smiled and said “sure,” but never copped, not for him at least.

In retrospect, I’m thinking that I was an underdog.   I was extremely tiny, with crossed eyes, so I had to wear those horrific cat glasses of the 1950’s.   But I didn’t feel like any underdog.   One day in grammar school, I watched, horrified, as all these nasty students surrounded the mentally-retarded girl and poked fun at her.  I came home and related to my thin-skinned mother what had happened, and she lectured me, warning that it will never be me joining in.   And it never was.  I was almost always fighting for the underdog.  Put up with no shit, that’s what I learned from both parents.  That new show, “What Would You Do?” resonates with me because I’m the one who gets indignant in the face of injustice, and says something.   It’s not always pretty either.

Some years ago, I kept noticing this homeless woman in my hood.  I feared where my heart would lead me, so I looked away.  I mean, for a few years I saw her out of the corner of my eye and knew that she tore at me, called to me, if you will…. But I wouldn’t touch it (or her). (more…)