Poor Man's Butler

with-tony-and-bob-2-231x300I 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.

Duke, my dad, had a way of getting his friends, in between wives and with no place to stay, to move in and help take care of him.  (If you’re new to my blog, he was handicapped as a result of childhood polio.)  Mostly, they were friends with lives and jobs and it would only last for a short period. 

And then one day Tony moved in.  Was Tony my dad’s WITH?  Maybe.  Although I’m not sure it counts if you’re not with someone famous.  And Duke was not famous.  His friend Mickey Hayes had a “WITH” and he wasn’t famous, so yes you can have one regardless.  But Mickey had a ton of money.  Duke was neither famous nor rich.  Being my dad’s with was more like being butler to a poor man.

tonys-driving-300x205Tony drove from the day he moved into the Churchill (on Wilshire) with my dad.  Drove him everywhere.  To breakfast at Nate’s each morning, then down the street to his office on South Beverly Drive.  Then home and out to dinner later with a group.  My dad always had an entourage.  His group of friends were very successful; the president of CBS, producers, writers and top PR agents.  And Tony.

On nights that my dad wasn’t meeting his posse, Tony would cook up a storm.  And he wasn’t bad.  When the group caught wind that Tony could cook, they would all show up for a free meal.  Very Sopranos.  Tony was significantly younger than Duke, but suffered from diabetes.  One day he got on some new health kick and bought himself a very expensive juicer.  He was juicing it up all the time, to the exclusion of any real food.  One morning, my dad woke up like any other day and yelled to the other room for Tony to come help him with his brace.  No answer.  My dad called out relentlessly and finally got himself out into the other room, on crutches.  Tony was sitting upright on the couch.  Dead.  My dad yelled at him.  “What the fuck were you doing drinking those cockamamie drinks?”

It was hard after Tony, we all really missed him.  He was a member of our family.  There was one great perk to hanging out with my dad for Tony: he was included in the credits as Associate Producer on anything my dad produced.  Not that you necessarily wanted to associate with anything my dad produced.

A few months ago, my sister-in-law Kris told me she had just found Tony’s recipe that my dad and the whole group of friends and family loved.  I’m sharing it with you.


1 chicken cut up
1 pkg. hot Italian Sausages
1 (lb.) can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1 handful fresh crushed basil (He used to get this from his mother’s garden)
1/4 tsp. hot red pepper flakes
4 – 5 green and red bell peppers
salt and pepper

Saute chicken and sausages in olive oil until browned. Set aside.  Saute onions and garlic in oil, add tomato  paste, tomatoes, basil, hot pepper flakes, salt and pepper.  Add chicken and sausages.  On a low flame simmer (covered) for 1 1/2 hours.  Last 15 minutes add Bell peppers which have been sauteed in a little olive oil.  Serve over rice or noodles.  DELICIOUS!


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.