I was in my early 20’s. I had been invited to Dean Martin’s daughter’s Halloween party. Yes, at her father’s house. A big ass Beverly Hills home. I planned to be Elton John. The girls — Gina and Donna — who had invited me to the party were very close with Shaun Cassidy, and I was told Shaun owned Ziggy Stardust-style silver lame’ rock & roll boots. I didn’t know him or what size shoe he wore, but I boldly called and asked to borrow them: “Hi, I’m Fredde Duke, you don’t know me but….”
I picked up the rock & roll boots at his mother’s house on North Oakhurst. Found it on my Map to the Stars’ Homes. Kidding. I enlisted the wardrobe department where my dad had a studio deal to write “Elton John” in a sequined signature on the back of my satin, emerald-green man’s coat. A friend worked for Bernie Taupin and Elton at Rocket Records, and he gave me a stack of unsigned Elton John headshots. At the toy store on Beverly Drive, I bought a child’s baby grand piano. By now I’m realizing it would have been a lot easier to go as Pat Boone. Then I scored a man’s wig in Hollywood, but cut it at the crown to make me look like I was balding. The piece de resistance was the blacked out Elton gap tooth. Voila, I was suddenly a gay rock star!!!
I couldn’t drive with those silver lame’ boots, so I asked my brother to chauffeur me to the party in costume. The piano weighed a ton, was I kidding? I played for people all night and gave out fake autographs. Later that same Halloween night, I found myself in the back of a taxi with a guy I met at the party dressed as a sheik. He would become my next boyfriend. In Beverly Hills today, you’re more apt to meet a real one.
Very recently I saw Shaun Cassidy and his wife interviewed on some show. It was filmed at their house. In the interview, his wife talked about the silver lame’ boots that he still owns. The camera took a peek in into the closet where he keeps them. And I thought, hey, I wore those once. And how sweet and trusting was he to do that for me when he had no idea who I even was. Oh, and how ballsy was it of me to call him and ask!
Flashback to several years after the Halloween party. By now, Shaun and I are kind of friends. He briefly dated my girlfriend. The sheik and I set them up, we all went to each others parties. And now I hear that he and his wife are going through a divorce. At the time, I lived in an apartment in Beverly Hills and there was a single girl named Edie who lived in the same building. She had a remarkable personality. So special. She reminded me of a young Julia Roberts. The Julia Roberts from “Mystic Pizza,” with a slight Southern twang. I barely knew her but I really thought this could be a match. (Years earlier, I had introduced his brother Patrick to his high school sweetheart, the girl who later became his first wife.) I heard Shaun was staying at his mom’s on Oakhurst, so I got her number from a mutual friend.
A man answered the phone and I asked for Shaun. Right off the bat, he started screaming at me, accusing me of being a fan. I tried to object as he grilled me, never listening to my answers, about whether I was or wasn’t a “real” friend of Shaun’s. When I say this guy was mean, it’s not even close. He was wicked, possibly psychotic, and totally out of control. The details of his cruel and hostile diatribe I have selectively, and thankfully, forgotten. I was shaking and crying. I called our mutual friend back and he said, “Oops, forgot to warn you about nasty stepdad.” He assured me that this is the way “dad” always answers the phone, he does it to everyone. “Are you kidding???!!!!!” A former smalltime comic and bully, he was so clearly envious of his stepson’s fame. Had I known, I doubt I would have made that call. And, I never called back. Shaun, who is handsome, smart, funny and successful, has never had a problem meeting women. He would have to do without Edie.
Time cut, now to a few years ago. I went to my friend’s dad’s memorial. Tons of celebs got up to speak about the deceased. One person that spoke was Shaun’s lovely mother. Her husband, Mr. Warmth, sat in the audience and heckled people, every bit as nasty as he was years earlier on the phone. Somehow there was a moment afterwards where I was introduced to Shaun’s mom and I said, “I’m so happy to meet you … and I want you to know you did such a great job raising those boys … I know and love them all.” She smiled, proud. I went on. “But, your husband? BIG PRICK!!!.” Then I fled quickly, not waiting for a reaction.
Around the time that the step-dad was a prick to me, I heard that he bought one of my favorite chocolate candy stores in Beverly Hills, Edelweiss. I’ve gone there for years but during his reign, I boycotted the store. Doubt they noticed but as soon as I heard another person took ownership, I was back. I love the milk chocolate covered honeycomb, both the thin and that thicker ones. I also always have to get some light chocolate covered turtles. Everything there is great and now they are also in the Brentwood Mart.
The sheik and I would often eat at Musso and Franks in Hollywood and I already put the recipe for the flannel cakes on my blog but here it is again. They are well worth a trip there but go before 3:00, that is when they stop serving them.
Musso and Franks Flannel Cakes
Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 20 Minutes
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon oil
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup pastry flour
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sugar
* Beat eggs, milk, oil and pinch of salt in bowl. Add all-purpose flour and pastry flour and mix well. Add vanilla and sugar and mix well.
* Pour 1/3 cup batter per cake onto greased skillet and cook over medium heat until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn and cook until golden brown on other side, 2 to 3 minutes.
Fredrica Duke shares how she discovered her love of food while growing up in Los Angeles on her blog Channeling the Food Critic in Me.