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Old snapshots provide a time to reflect, laugh

By Staff | Dec 10, 2010

Recently my mother has been giving me things.

She has decided that her overstuffed Florida condo needs editing and is going through cabinets and boxes, finding old documents and photos and forwarding them to me. Not long ago, she provided a full afternoon’s hilarity for me and my sister, as we each poured ourselves a glass of wine and went through a double garbage bag of snapshots. A few we kept. Many, including those of us with bad haircuts and ’70s fashions, went into the never-to-be-seen-again pile.

At Thanksgiving, Mom arrived with a true gem. A publication, bought on the street in California, some time in the early 1960s. Marked with a sale price of $2, it is the “Guide and Map to the Fabulous Homes of Movie and TV Stars.”

I guess she bought it while on a fancy vacation with my dad when my sister and I were too young to tote along. I guess we stayed home with Grandma while Mom and Dad glitzed it up in California. I guess my mom was just starstruck enough to buy the book from a street vendor, then try to spy a star or two at home.

On the cover is a photo, slightly green with age, of the Hollywood Bowl, next to which is noted that “Glamorous Hollywood [is the] Entertainment Capital of the World.” Open the cover and there is Paul Newman, in all his blue-eyed perfection, followed a few pages later by a cheesecake shot of Raquel Welch in satin-trimmed bikini underwear and a shot of a scruffy Clint Eastwood in his Spaghetti Western garb as “The Man With No Name.”

Then comes listings of the homes of the stars, which at the time included Pat Boone, Robert Mitchum, Doris Day, Agnes Moorehead and Zsa Zsa Gabor. For a look backward at the last days of glittering Hollywood, this book is a perfect window.

Some of it is just too campy to be believed. Included at the back of the book, nine to a page, are reproductions of autographed photos, from a time when a starstruck kid had no Internet to consult to find the latest images and could spend hours poring over a book like this. Here’s Bobby Rydell! Here’s Bobby Sherman! Look, it’s Donny Osmond! And against a groovy Op-Art background, wearing a tuxedo, it’s Tom Jones.

A listing at the back names all the hotspots in town, including the Brown Derby, Chasen’s and Trader Vic’s, as well as nightclubs. One, called the Point After, is listed as “mod sounds for the in crowd.”

But enough of this. I, too, could page through this book all day.

The point is, it was Thanksgiving, and the family was all around. I hosted 16 this year, which for me is a modest number. My husband was relieved because a smaller group means a smaller turkey for him to fry. He used to complain about this chore until I reminded him that while he prepared a single item for the table, I cooked all the others.

Which for us, includes mashed and sweet potatoes (spiced and roasted), cornbread stuffing (cooked in the crockpot – try it; you’ll never go back to the oven), collard greens (these take two days on the stove, low and slow), rolls (okay, I cheat and buy these), two kinds of cranberries (my dad has to have the jellied kind that slides out of the can, and the rest of us eat my sister’s fresh cranberry-orange relish), green bean casserole (the kind with the cream of mushroom soup and the canned onions; I don’t touch it, but some folks love it) and desserts. This year, in addition to pies, I made from-scratch ginger bonbons.

The food was fabulous. We all ate too much. What took two weeks to plan and stock and two days to prep and cook, took 20 minutes to eat. By the time the meal was on the table, I had chopped and stirred so much that I couldn’t taste it. But it all went over well.

In the end, it’s more about the memories than what’s on the plate. At least three cameras were employed by various family members, capturing snapshots as glasses were raised and side dishes cooked. The photos we took this year will be the ones to someday make our children laugh ’til they cry.