Posts Tagged ‘Maurice Duke’

The Eulogy I Never Wanted To Write

Monday, April 8th, 2019


First the joke I wrote while waiting behind the gauze curtains at a Jewish funeral.  The first joke I would ever write.

Let me set the scene:  Forest Lawn in Burbank, California.  The year 1996.  The chapel – is it called a chapel?  Is spilling over.  There are well over 200 guests and not enough seats so some people will be outside.

“I think I might need my dad’s cane here today and maybe his brace.  God knows I have his balls.”

I looked straight into the audience and saw Red Buttons and Shecky Greene laughing.  That’s when I knew I had this.  Though I’m not great at public speaking.  It’s my biggest fear – among so many fears.  Maybe I didn’t inherit the large balls after all.  My father was fearless.  Oh, did I mention this is my dad’s funeral?  Now you know.

The beauty of my father was – well – so many things I’ll try and share with you.  But one of them being that he would grade you.  He’d give everyone an A or 100%.  But, it was always a perfect score.  So, first off, I’d like to give my dad 100 for being the best dad a little girl could ever have. (more…)


Saturday, August 15th, 2015

me in red mini van with augie and oliver

When new electronics fell off a truck and into my father’s apartment (don’t ask) he would place a call. “Screwdriver, come over and set this shit up.”

I don’t know how Kevin, AKA Screwdriver — so named by my dad for his skills at setting up sound systems and things — found his way into Duke’s posse, but this young hip black dude became a full-fledged member of the team.

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.

Everything in my life was freebie style. Free tickets to Disneyland. Comp’d seats at Broadway plays. Freebies to shows and hotels in Vegas.

And on one memorable night, Screwdriver hooked us up with the Greatest – and Hippest — Show on Earth: The Black Circus in South Central. This was not your Ringling Brothers, it was your Ringling Brotha. (more…)

Our House

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

that's no lady, that's my mother

I was driving past my childhood home, my architectural symbol of security.

At the time, I didn’t own a house and had only purchased my first condo a year or so before. It was dark and depressing. Living in it was like living in Portland or Seattle – one of those places where it rains too much. I not only was sad, I had SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s a condition that puts you in a bleak mood during the winter months when there isn’t enough sunlight. Only mine wasn’t seasonal. In this apartment, I had it all the time.

I’d just lost both my parents, a year apart. I shed so many tears while living in this condo I should have had flood insurance. But I really wanted to enjoy my first place with my first mortgage, even though the word mortgage was still so grown up and confusing. I hired the tile guy all my friends were using to hip the place up. Saltillo tiles. Trying to make it Spanish because this is the style I knew and loved, the style I grew up with. (more…)

Every Picture Tells a Story – Don’t it

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

my mother with a former lover

A few months ago I unearthed an incredible photograph. I was searching through my mother’s one small album of photos and mementos, hunting for a letter I wrote as a kid that I thought she might have saved. I never found it, but hidden under a newspaper clipping was a picture I had never seen.

In it, my mother appears so happy, looking adoringly into the eyes of an unknown man. It was clear she had hidden the photo. A mystery. And I would never know the answer to it, had it not been for a chance encounter I had with a man 22 years ago. (more…)

The Dukes’ European Vacation

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

IMGmy family in the south of france

My mother showed up on the playground at school to deliver some of the best news in all of my ten years.   We would be visiting my dad, her ex-husband, and we’d be traveling as a family on a six -week, four-country tour of Europe.

Her enthusiasm was infectious and I was jumping up and down for joy. Or, was I just relieved that my brother and I wouldn’t have to attend the dreaded summer school we were registered for? I kept jumping.

Enter an up-until-then-offstage character: Granny. Before this moment in time, I have no recollection of my mother’s mother, Granny. Suddenly, she was needed for some long overdue babysitting — only this would be for our three cats. I would understand when I became an adult the need to drop off my animals at my own mother’s house when I went off to Europe, but that isn’t part of this story.

My mother went straight to the fabric store and set to work sewing our summer European wardrobe.   She made two stunning chocolate brown lace dresses lined in silk of the same color. One for her, one for me.   A white eyelet dress for me. A few other matching dresses for both of us. A gold brocade jacket for herself.   Evelyn Duke, more excited than I had ever witnessed her, meticulously packed us up for the adventure of our – and especially her — lifetime. I had been missing my dad and it was the most devastating loss of my then short life. He went off to London to produce a play. I’d stare longingly at his framed photo over my bed in our ghetto apartment on Olympic in Beverly Hills. The slums. I stared into his dancing green eyes and cried. Finally, I would be reunited with the love of my life. (more…)

Birth, Death & Mother’s Day

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

dad and his mom

Mother’s Day was always a meaningful day in my life, but not because of my own mother.  Because of my father’s mother.  She was born on a day in May that fell on or near Mother’s Day.   Each year her family celebrated her birthday on Mother’s Day, no matter what the date of her actual birthday.   Her large clan would all come to her little house, deep in the Valley, to honor her.  Most of them lived nearby, but not us.

We would hop in the back of my dad’s convertible car and head over Coldwater Canyon.  He drove with only one hand on the wheel.   My dad was handicapped and needed his other hand for the controls that were attached to the steering wheel, both the gas and brake in one.  It was very unsteady.  Add to that the sharp curves going over the mountain, his cigar smoke filling my lungs, and his spit flying back into our faces that we tried dodging — well, it was quite the E ticket ride.  (For those born after they were discontinued in 1982, E tickets were for Disneyland’s most thrilling attractions.) (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…)

Arranged Marriages

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013


You’ve heard it, opposites attract.  My parents were just about the most opposite you could find.  And, I never even thought about that until just now, while sitting down to write about their relationship.  Your parents are the only parents you have, so you don’t stop to think, “What did they see in each other?”

My mother was quiet, elegant and intelligent.  My father was loud, lovable and crass.   Taste was not exactly his strong suit except, of course, his great taste in women.

They met at a party.  He saw this stunning, very young, exotic looking woman modern-dancing.  Alone.  Seductively.   Twenty years older, he was intrigued.

Cliff Notes to get you up to speed:  They dated.  He knocked her up.  He said he didn’t want kids.  She was set to have an abortion.  Her family strong-armed him or he had a change of heart.  Or both.  She had their first child, my brother Alan but first they had a quickie wedding.  In Vegas, where else?  First meal in their home together, my mother cooked.  My father complained about the way she made the eggs.  She threw the whole pan of eggs at him.  Two years after the first child, she was pregnant with me.  I was a teeny tiny thing.  Still am.  She had taken the drug DES which would later be known to cause cervical cancer in the daughters of women who took it to prevent miscarriage. (more…)

Jews on Motorcycles

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

My dad, the over-protective Jew, had a couple of mantras.  One was never ride on the back of a motorcycle.  Another, never go for a ride in a small plane.

Uh-oh.  I did both.  Behind his back.

By the way, I can say Jew, because I am one.  You can’t.  I mean, if you’re not.  Just saying.

The girlfriends I made growing up were the ones who went to school on Jewish holidays, along with the other six kids in Beverly Hills who weren’t Jewish.   I don’t know why, but I was drawn to gentiles.  I’ll be making a point in a second.  I often went with these friends and their families to church, and never once, including with my own family, did I enter a temple. I wasn’t a religious churchgoer; I just sort of tagged along on a Sunday morning if it followed a sleepover the night before.  Trust me; even then, I never wanted to wake up before noon.

On many weekends, I was the guest of my best friend Susie at the Gun Club.  Yeah, that’s right, Gun Club.  A Jew at a gun club is an oxymoron.  Susie and I made an odd couple – she, the athletic tomboy, and me, the undersized neurotic Jew.  Here’s how different we were.  For her 13th birthday, Susie’s parents gave her a rifle, a Browning 22, along with deodorant, an ironing board and an iron.  She remembers walking to Kerr’s Sporting Goods, at the corner of Peck & Wilshire, across from Saks Fifth Avenue, with her rifle wrapped in brown paper, so that she could get it fitted to her size.   On my thirteenth birthday, the doorbell rang and a bouquet of red roses was delivered with a note from my dad telling me how beautiful I was.  If you want to see just how beautiful, check out the photo below! (more…)

Dress Up

Friday, November 2nd, 2012


“I’ll buy you a new outfit if you stop biting your nails,” my dad told me on quite a regular basis.  Like most chicks, I love new clothes.  We were not the richest family, so a new outfit was something to look forward to.  Who was he kidding?    I was not about to stop my nail biting.  But sometimes I got the new outfit anyway.  And, mind you, I never had to do anything for it but be adored by — and adore back — my father.  Secret?  I didn’t only bite my nails, I bit my toenails, but hey, I might post another piece with that story.

I was never the biggest fashion princess of Beverly Hills because we weren’t the wealthy ones who could afford Saks, Bonwit Teller, or other fancy stores.  My mother made me some amazing clothes, sewed by hand, and I wore them to death, long past their fashion shelf life date.  I’m talking mostly about my life before high school, because by the time I was fifteen, I was designing my own clothes and using my babysitting money to shop at vintage stores.  This was up until the 8th grade.  And in my school, there were already some real fashion plates.  But I just wasn’t noticing and didn’t care.  Then suddenly there was a shift.  Mod was in, and I wanted everything pale pink and white – everything Yardley, Courreges, and Twiggy.  I started with the haircut.  And boy, did I think I was the real “Twiggy” deal when I had that cut.  My mother gave it to me, as she had gone to beauty school, and was now a makeup artist and hairstylist. (more…)