Posts Tagged ‘Maurice Duke’

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…)

We Celebrate You with Cubans, Dad

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Duke's grandkids, Erica Duke( left), Augie Duke( right)

When I think of my dad — and if you know me, you know I always do think of him – it’s often Saturday morning and Duke is surrounded by his “crew” in his regular booth at Nate n’ Al’s.  But next Sunday, Father’s Day, I’ll think of Duke as he was most Sundays – in his other regular booth at Matteo’s.  What can I say, he liked to eat and he loved to schmooze.

I realize I write WAY too much about my dad.  But, here is a story you haven’t heard. One night at Matty’s, as we called this trapped-in-a-time-warp, Rat Pack era, Italian bistro on Westwood Boulevard, my dad was eating in his regular red leather booth; first to the right as you walked into the “correct” (celebrity-filled) room.  I should mention that Sunday nights at Matteo’s was tradition among a certain show business crowd.  It wasn’t unusual to see Sinatra dining with Steve & Eydie, or the Reagans, Lucille Ball or even Clint Eastwood… but to me, Sunday at Matteo’s was mostly about the comedians.  On this night, Red Buttons walked in.  My dad was always the first person anyone greeted.  He was hard to miss.  Short of stature, but big of mouth, and loudly holding court at a spot you had to pass to enter.  Except for Shecky, my father called all comics he knew by their last name.  It was just Dangerfield.  Or Youngman.  You get it.  So, Buttons walks in and turns to our table, kibitzes with my dad a moment, then in a big, showy gesture, hands him a long, fat cigar.  He proudly points out it’s an expensive Cuban then moves on to his own table.  My dad stuck it where he put all his cigars — including his own cheap ones — in the top jacket pocket he sometimes called a “pockcoat.”  Don’t ask. (more…)

June is Busting Out All Over!!!

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Disclaimer:  As a society, we put way too much emphasis on the size of a woman’s breasts when it’s the size of her brain and heart that matters.  End of disclaimer.  You’re now going to read a tale of Big Tits.

I grew up in a near circus environment of comics, entertainers, bohemians and one stunning Playboy Playmate.  She was also an alluring actress on the big screen — she had co-starred with Louis Prima in my father’s 1961 movie “Twist All Night” –- and she was gorgeous beyond belief — and to add insult to injury—NICE. I loved everything about her, especially the big breasts and British accent.  I’m kidding, the accent was fine, but it was those tits that I looked up to!  Literally.  I looked up to them.  My dad talked about them so frequently and openly that I started to think of them as not an appendage but as another whole personality. “Her tits have got tits,” he would say.  My own mother didn’t have tits that had tits.  She barely had them at all.  And, unfortunately, I would never end up that endowed myself, but dream on as a child I would.  (Again, not important.  See disclaimer above.)  People would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up, Fredde?”  And I would answer proudly (as if this were a normal, Leave-it-to-Beaver fantasy): “I want to be a Playboy bunny, just like June (not Cleaver)!!!”

My idol, June lying by my father’s pool, 60’s


Ruth Ross and the Polio’s

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

No, it’s not a band.  But, it is a group.  They call themselves THE POLIO’S.  Here is how my not-so-unlikely friendship with them began.

Here I go again.  Another story that starts with my dad.  After he died and I just wasn’t coping that well with the loss, I found an article in the L.A. Times about post-polio syndrome.  It talked about this painful late-in-life condition of those who’d been afflicted with infantile paralysis, and how some of them formed a group that would meet at UCLA.  My dad did not suffer from this syndrome, at least not that I was aware of.  Still, I found the phone number, left a message and received a call back.

Friendliest, loveliest voice on the other end.  Ruth Ross introduced herself.  She asked me why I called and what could she do for me.  I told her about my dad, that he had polio and recently died — and how much I missed him.  Told her we did everything for him all the time.  Duke always had someone helping him, and my brother and I were very good at fetching him things.  We were trained early.  He would point at something, let’s say a box of Kleenex, and without any words exchanged, we would stand and bring it to him.  Now on the phone, Ruth, a stranger, was a therapist hearing me out about the love I had for my dad.  When the conversation was about to end, I remembered why I called.  “Listen,” I said, “anytime you need something, groceries, whatever, please call me and I will run errands for you.” (more…)

The Mother of All Waitresses

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

I once went to the most spectacular Hollywood funeral ever.  And the love that poured out was well deserved.  We knew her by one name, kind of like Cher or Madonna.  Kaye.  Do you all know whom I’m talking about?  You do if you were lucky enough to grow up in Beverly Hills at that time.  It’s Kaye Coleman, beloved Nate n’ Al’s waitress and star of our collective childhoods.

Although Kaye had her own daughter and son (and grandchildren), she was the unofficial surrogate mother to some of the biggest mothers in Hollywood.  And her “sons” looked after her well.  I’d run into Kaye at the priciest restaurants, dining with her posse of waitress friends, the tab picked up by Lew Wasserman or Bernie Brillstein.  Those two moguls would also send her on European vacations and ocean cruises.  At times, Kaye lived a fancier life than many of her Beverly Hills customers.

Larry King was the emcee of Kaye’s funeral, the only funeral I can think of that had one.  His two Nate n’ Al’s buddies, the ones he eats with everyday, Sid and Bob, gave their own hilarious eulogies.   So funny, that I overheard Suzanne Pleshette — with that happy newlywed look on her face after her surprise marriage to Tom Poston — leaving the funeral saying, “Who knew?  Guess we have to get those two to speak at my funeral.”  Sadly, that day would come too soon (not fair). (more…)

Missing My Dad

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Some days are just harder than others.

Today I’m listening to my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs.

I had the Born to Run and Darkness on the Edge of Town album’s in the 70’s and I would play them over and over in my dad’s apartment.  I would watch his foot, the one that was attached to his brace start to move to the beat of the music.  One day, he said “Who is this guy, he’s very talented”.  “Bruce Springsteen Dad, isn’t he great?”

Some days are just harder for me.

I miss sharing the love of music.  I miss sharing the love of food.  I miss sharing the love of people.  I miss my dad! (more…)

Poor Man’s Butler

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

I don’t want to sound mean.  Because I’m not.  That said, I would sometimes ask my dad who this guy was or that guy.  It would be a random dude that let’s say was always hanging around Jan Murray or Red Buttons.  Sorry I’m not coming up with bigger names, but these were big names in my world.  I guess I could say Frank.  We’ll get back to Frank.

My dad would answer, “He’s a WITH.”  And I will now explain what he explained to me because by this time in life, I knew what a “WITH” was.  It’s a full-time, unpaid career of being best friends with someone famous. The prerequisite is that you usually did not have a real job and you just sort of hung around with someone.  If you’ve seen “Entourage,” it’s sort of the modern day version.  Okay, getting back to Frank, I have one name.  Jilly.  I’ll say no more. (more…)

The Hat that Launched a Short-lived Career

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

On my son Oliver’s 21st birthday, he reluctantly gave in and let me invite a few of his friends over to celebrate – just a handful, the ones who adore him.  We were living on the beach in Malibu and I was so excited to share the house with him and his crew.  One close friend, Lily, had the foresight to buy him a porkpie hat.  They were not in style yet, as they have been now for years.  And Oliver rocked that hat.  He wore it every single day.

He was attending Santa Monica College, and one day on campus he was approached by talent scouts.  They said they were casting a national Coca-Cola commercial.  They told Oliver they liked his style.  (That hat!)  Oliver is shy or at least sort of camera shy.  Though at times he can be outrageous, like a performance artist — but only in the company of very close friends and family.

He showed up for the casting call.  Why not?  And he phoned me every step of the way.  The first call was “Should I go?”  He went.  Then again to say that if he gets a callback, they will fly him to San Francisco for that audition. “That’s great,” I said, never thinking it would go much further.   Next I know, he’s at the airport waiting for his flight.  I’m thinking it will be fun for my son to get a free trip.  First class treatment all the way, he reports from the groovy hotel they put all the potential actors in.

Flashback.  A few weeks before Oliver was discovered on his college campus, he began dating a new girl.  He told me how taken he was with her.  He brought flowers to her at work to woo her.  It succeeded.  He told me she was a very talented filmmaker, a student in the film department at SMC.

Now, he was calling her from the hotel in San Francisco to tell her the news.  He said he felt like he was in some dream; this could not be real.  He told the girl that if he lands this job he must stay for another week to shoot.  But, if he doesn’t, he’ll be home the next day.  For some unknown reason, she said, “You will never call me again, I feel it.”  He told her that’s just crazy.  He promised to call the minute he comes home.

He landed the job.  He never called the girl again.

For the week of shooting, Oliver was treated like a king.  I once did commercials, so I know how intoxicating that can be.  He was telling me that assistants would ask if he wanted something to drink.  He had no problem requesting hot tea.  What else do you want?  Let’s get you some expensive vintage clothes from a high-end store.  Oh, you can keep those shirts.  People were anticipating his every need.  On location in San Francisco Oliver had the time of his life.

Then he was home, and not only didn’t he call the girl again, he also never returned to school.  He sat back, rolling in dough.  If a homeless person needed something, however expensive, Oliver bought it for him.  He picked up the check at restaurants with friends.  And girls he dated received the most expensive boots and were taken to the best hotels.

Meanwhile, that Coke commercial aired nationally on TV every night, and could be seen in movie theaters around the country. (more…)

340 South Roxbury Drive

Saturday, February 11th, 2012


me and my mom at our beach house

In our family, life is six degrees of feline separation.

I often tell people I was meant to grow up in Malibu.  That is where we lived — right on the beach – but my mom’s cat Jezebel was killed by a car, and that incident turned my life around.

My mother decided it wasn’t safe on the highway (PCH) and we moved to the house on Roxbury Drive, Beverly Hills.  The year was 1955.   The former owners sold it to us with one perfect provision: the cat comes with the house.  What are the chances of this?  We move because a cat gets killed and instantly we have this new one.  Hangover, who came with his name, was a rather large, slightly feral black & white street boy.  The name, in the lore of our family (and from what the previous owners told us), came from this big-ass cat’s habit of hanging over the sides of trees that he climbed.  He was not a drunk.  He was really frisky, almost unsafe for a small child.

Hangover the cat!!!

On days when I was sick at home, Sheriff John would be playing on the TV, but I wouldn’t be watching — because I was too busy forcing Hangover’s paws to crayon  pictures with me getting scratched by the real leader of our family.  He kept me/us in line.  He was also the first creature I would love. (more…)

I’m Not Ready For My Close Up!

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

signed Buddy Bregman picture, for sale on Ebay

Live in 5-4-3-2-1, Fredrica

To hear this story, please view the clip that goes with it.


And now I will tell you my behind the scenes story.

My dad produced a live rock and roll television show on Sunday nights on NBC in the late 50’s called Music Shop. My brother and I did get to hula hoop in the pilot for this show.  But, I was a nudge.  Ha, like was a nudge, past tense.   I think my first words were, “Daddy, I want to be an actress, let me star in something”.  If my dad had something going, he would often humor me and give me a small role.  But, this was my first role.  Not much of one, really.  James Darren sang his hit song Gidget to me.    Oh, just watch the clip and let me finish with the other part of this story. (more…)