Posts Tagged ‘the Duke’

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…)

No Complaints

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

I’m Maurice Duke’s daughter, remember me? I said that a lot growing up. Still do. Just said it a lot at a memorial I crashed for one of my dad’s friends. The only time in my entire life that I asked someone if he knew my father and he said no was when I was a teenager eating lunch at Nate n’ Al’s deli in Beverly Hills. The person who said no was Johnny Carson. And I spent the rest of that lunch not believing his answer. Because my dad knew so many people, there was an illusion that he was much more famous than he really was. I actually didn’t and don’t care if he was famous; he was my idol just based on how wildly unique he was.

I can never celebrate my father enough. In our family, my dad’s birthday is a national holiday. We tend to celebrate him every day, so on his birthday, we step it up a notch. Last year, October 27’th, would have been his 100th birthday. I invited a lot of my friends — and what friends of his were still alive — and I screened a movie I made about him.

I should be ashamed to say, greatest night of my life!!! I gave birth three times. What gets me off the hook here is that the births were during the operative word, day. Technically, I might have been married in the early evening, but let’s just say late afternoon so I can keep saying the screening was the greatest night of my life. You know, without hurting anyone’s feelings.

My father never hurt anyone’s feelings on purpose. He was, however, blunt and outspoken to the point of being shocking. He used the C-word as if it were a term of endearment. When he used the word cooze, that’s when we knew the person he was talking about was a real c-u-n-t. A bathroom he always called a terlet. He moved to California from New York in the 40’s, yet a toilet was a terlet until the day he died in 1996.

Speaking of terlets, he often didn’t get up to use one. I cringe when I think of it, I didn’t speak of it in the movie I made, though others I interviewed did (I cut it) — but my dad used what he called a pish bottle. Shamelessly. He kept it sitting right there next to him all day long. Oy. And my brother and I had the nasty job of emptying the pish bottle. You see, my dad was handicapped, in case you haven’t been following my blog. He had polio and throughout his life he was saddled with a leg brace and a cane. It wasn’t always easy for him to get around so he ordered us around instead. We would bring him, fetch him, do for him. And we loved every second of it.

My dad woke up every morning of his life singing. He was happy to be here, always. We all strive to maintain being grateful. Everyone is always reminding themselves and others, be grateful. This was his natural state. Eternal gratefulness. Happy to have been given a blessed life. But we were the blessed ones. The ones who got to be around him and loved by him. (more…)

Daddy’s Little Girl

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

People would stare as we walked down the street. Not because he was famous but because he was different. He walked with a cane and a brace, tilting from side to side with each stride. Somehow he stayed upright. If someone stared too long, he might yell, “Whad’ya lookin’ at? It’s nothin’, it’s polio, I got it when it first came out!” Anyone else yelling at a stranger might come off as aggressive — he had a REALLY loud mouth — but Duke said it with a twinkle in his eye that set the person instantly at ease. It might even turn into a too-long stop-and-chat, but I was used to those.

I’d look up at him with pride and ownership. He was my daddy. Mine being the operative word. My mother told me the story many times. As a tiny preverbal baby, I had my arms thrown around my father’s neck, holding him as tight as I could, looking back at her with eyes that said, “He’s MINE.” As in, not hers. Her interpretation. Well, it was true.

Sometimes in late August or early September we’d go shopping for back-to-school clothes at Hank DeGoniff’s house. Hank’s “house” was a warehouse in seedy Hollywood. And unbeknownst to me at the time, DeGoniff wasn’t his family name. I wasn’t sure why Hank had clothes and winter coats for me along with lots of electronic equipment. But cash was handed over and I’d walk away with some new clothes. There wasn’t even a lot to choose from, but I wasn’t an overindulged child, so I was happy with what I got. I was in my twenties (maybe thirties) before I learned that Hank’s merchandise “fell of the back of a truck,” and goniff was Yiddish for thief.

I’m saying sorry right here and now to my dad (no longer with us), for the moment when, as a three-year old, I nearly had him arrested. We had gone to a movie and it was already quite late at night and I was tired. My mother went to fetch the car and my dad said, stay here with me — but I threw a bratty fit because I had wanted to go with my mom. I started to pout and walk away from him. He kept inching closer and insisting I stand near him. Remember, he was handicapped, not so easy to chase after a kid. And I’m in full brat mode, now not speaking to my father. A crowd began to form thinking he was a stranger trying to kidnap me. He was a LOT older and didn’t look like your regular 1950’s dad. He leaned on his cane to support himself and said to the people, “Don’t worry, this is my daughter, right?” as he looked to me for the confirmation he needed. When I didn’t respond they asked, “Is this your father?” and I said, folding my arms across my chest and facing away in emphatic defiance, “No!” More people gathered and someone urged that the police be called. At that moment, my mother drove up and my father said, “That’s her mother, my wife, she’s here to pick us up.” He pulled me in and we sped off. Not for one moment did he hold that against me. I think he secretly liked and identified with the part of me that was strong, insisting on getting my way. (more…)

I’m Growing Up, I’m 57!!! (said with a kick like Molly Shannon on SNL)

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

me with my dad, "Duke" at the beach house in 1992

My husband has heard my stories so many times he’s given each a number.   There’s the hilarious # 12, the poignant # 8B, and the surefire crowd-pleasers #2 and #33.  Rather than hear them again, at this point in our marriage he prefers I just call out the number.  This one I’m going to tell you is kind of a celebrity-sighting story – it doesn’t have a number yet, but here goes.

Eighteen summers ago when the show my husband had worked on was ending — well, not so much ending as the host was retiring —  he treated himself to a summer in the “bu.”  (Malibu, for those not in the know).   After all the years of experience with my dad blowing big wads of cash on summer rentals, I decided to help with the negotiations.  My dad would always start his rental on Memorial Day and end at Labor Day.  So, I suggested the same and we got the real estate agent to agree on a lower price for the longer term.  My husband moved into a wonderful home on Old Malibu Road the very night of the show’s last taping.

The summer of ‘92 on Old Malibu Road could have been its own book or at the very least a good short story.   Suffice it to say, it was a grand summer.