My Oscar Night

by Fredrica Duke
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84th_oscars_awards.jpgOscar night approaches and something is missing. My kids. The nest is empty, and 364 days a year I’m fine with that. But not on Oscar night. Let me tell you why. Growing up, kids are like natural hostages. Until they get their driver’s license, they’re pretty much always there. And the night of the Academy Awards was no different. On that night in March (now February) my children, the two cats and I would gather in front of our living room or sometimes bedroom TV and take it all in. This was before we all had wide screens that now make the event seem like a private Oscar party. It was just a modest little TV. We’d sit in rapt attention and watch what to me was the most exciting part. Everyone’s magical entrance. The Red Carpet.

hilaryswankredcarpet.jpgAs each stunning actress made her way through the gauntlet of tedious interviews, I would ooh and aah at how beautiful she was. That’s when my kids would turn to me, me sitting there in my dirty sweats, my unkempt hair tied above in a twisted knot, no makeup, and assure me that I was even prettier!!! I’m not kidding. No matter who the actress was or how young and beautiful, my kids would yell, in unison, that I was MUCH prettier. “You’re MUCH prettier than her, mom!!” Don’t get me wrong, I know they were humoring me, I’m not delusional, but I bought it. And, I looked forward to it every year.

I grew up in Beverly Hills, but on the wrong side of the tracks, south of Wilshire. It wasn’t where the stars lived, even though our house was located only a half mile from the Hilton, the current site of the Oscar Nominees Luncheon and the Governor’s Ball. My father was a B-movie producer, but most people might grade his movies with a D. He was a joyful, glass-completely-full kind of guy, who was thankful for everyday of his life on this planet.

fredparents2.jpgSo, in 1980, when the day came that he was finally recognized for his cinematic achievement, you would have thought he won Best Picture. On the contrary, his 1951 production, “Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla” received the Golden Turkey award for Worst Movie of All Time. He beamed at this late recognition. Although he’d often said, “I made 104 movies, all of them shit,” he never dreamed that any were award worthy.

My mother assisted the famous makeup artist, George Masters, and together they worked on some of Hollywood’s most beautiful actresses. But talk about movie star looks. I stare at my mom’s photo now and ask myself, how could I have not told her, even once, that she was more beautiful than any of those red carpet starlets. Unlike me, she, in fact, was. Coulda-woulda-shoulda may also be the reason why the Oscars resonate for all of us – the secret fantasy that that gold statuette coulda-woulda-shoulda been ours. Which is such a stretch for me since I only acted in some commercials in the 70’s. But, hey, why not? Dream on.

My real dream is that my kids find their way to reading this piece and show up at my door Sunday night. The big night. Oscar night. I can almost hear them as the A-list nominees strut their stuff down the red carpet: “Mom, you’re MUCH prettier!!!”.


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.  


#14 Linda 2016-02-27 23:50
So true about the magic of Oscar night ... and another great story about your kids, your mom, and the Duke.
#13 cecily stranahan 2015-05-04 10:13
I loved your piece. There were some years when I went to the Oscars with my brother, Brandon Stoddard. My Midwestern jaw would be hanging open and I clutched him as we walked along the red carpet: me an absolute nobody and my brother an unrecognizable Hollywood somebody. I couldn't look around fast enough and my brother would whisper, harshly, "Look straight ahead. We are going directly to our table." My response? "Are you CRAZY???"
#12 Erin 2015-02-22 20:44
I so love this!
#11 Keefe Ferrandini 2013-02-22 09:41
Fredde - I loved your piece! You are such a talented writer and wonderful person. I too love the Oscars and always did. Hope all is well.
#10 Ken Shore 2013-02-21 23:10
Read this article last week when first posted. I love it. I have always (esp. in my youth) been a celebrity watcher, but never saw too many in person. I envy your rubbing shoulders with a few. I still watch the Oscars and my wife (pretty newly married) loves them too. Not a requirement of mine to get married, but makes things happy.

Your article is very sweet and really a special way to spend time with your kids. Very cool. I'd invite you to watch with us, but we are in Seattle...oops. You will be in our thoughts. Enjoy! as we will.
#9 Hoov 2013-02-17 21:32
You rock Wakko.. You just rock!! As all have said above, " You have the gift for the word!" aloha :::) Hoov .
+1 #8 Barbara Dudley 2012-02-28 19:43
Ditto on the "much prettier" and on...Did they show???
You have such a gift Fredde, in painting w/ words what we can all see so clearly and smile...I love how you write, what you write and that each vision touches so many of us in a completely memorable way...You don't leave anyone out and remind me so often from where we came...We had a great time growing up as we did, didn't we! Thanks for all your memories... xo
+1 #7 Carol Dudley 2012-02-28 17:14
Now that its over - I wish I had been home. xxooc
+1 #6 Carol Dudley 2012-02-26 11:32
I'm with your kids too - much much prettier. I recently found out that our father was nominated twice in the 40's - he never ever told us - wierd. Off to NY Academy party at "21" - cannot wait to see if Joan Rivers asks Rev. Mother Dolores Hart - "Who made your gown, dear". Her docu. may win. Only voting Nun. Wish I could be with you. xxxoooc
+1 #5 jennifer dudley 2012-02-26 11:24
Oh Fred. I cherish the memories of sitting at our dining table on Rodeo Drive NORTH OF WILSHIRE and pleading with Duke to show me his Academy ballot. NEVER DID. Perhaps because he was the only Republican in our house! I sit on my own sans kids or husband (thinks the Awards are a piece of shit) and watch from beginning to end. No one can take the Bev Hills out of the girl. My son Dudley always tells me "WHEN I receive my Oscar I will thank you mama." And so it goes..

Jenn alone in Cincinnati

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