Meet the author Frank DeCaro at Babette Schwartz in Hillcrest on Saturday
SAN DIEGO – If you are a child of the '60s or better yet, a dye-in-the-wool baby boomer, you are about to get a huge helping of your upbringing, served up with a little celebrity couture on the side. Dead celebrities, that is.
This weekend, Sirius XM's Out-Q radio host, “flamboyant” movie critic, pop culture columnist and author Frank DeCaro will be sashaying into Babette Schwartz’s to serve up his latest book, "The Dead Celebrity Cookbook."
DeCaro will be meeting, greeting and signing books on Saturday, Jan. 14, from 2 to 4 pm at the popular gift emporium in the heart of Hillcrest.
Subtitled "A Resurrection of Recipies from More than 145 Stars of Stage and Screen," the cookbook amasses the favorite foods and recipies of stars from your favorite childhood television shows and brings them right to your kitchen.
There are surprises and even standards, at every turn, and names that will surely bring a rush of memories to your countertop.
The book was born not only out of DeCaro’s admitted obsession with food and the famous, but the idea came to him after a "dead celebrity" costume party he attended in the early 1980s during college.
Although that party was filled with lasting memories, DeCaro said it was missing culinary options from those same dead celebrities he and his friends came dressed up as. Soon after, he began saving recipes and sought them out wherever he could.
A Gay Old Time
You can’t help but notice that the 370-page book is chock full of not only gay and lesbian icons, but a healthy serving of gay and lesbian celebrities, too.
The chapter titled "A Gay Bash" has plenty of nelly dishes from big names like Wayland Flowers, Truman Capote, Peter Allen and Andy Warhol, but there are plenty more where that came from sprinkled throughout the book. Who knew those 1960s and 1970s television shows were so gay?
Childhood staples like Dick Sargent, Robert Reed, Paul Lynde and Merv Griffin, and memorable movie stars like Rock Hudson and Roddy McDowell.
There are even more gay icons included than you can shake a cinammon stick at, including, Joan Crawford, Edith Head, Elizabeth Taylor, Peggy Lee and so many more.
Lesbians will be happy to see recipes from Mae West, Katherine Hepburn, Greta Garbo, Fanny Brice, Dusty Springfield and Bea Arthur. See how many more you can find.
All that gay wasn't intentional according to DeCaro ( ... or was it?).
"I chose the celebrities that influenced me the most,” DeCaro told San Diego Gay & Lesbian News. "It is the most 'mainstream' thing I've ever done, although I am certain [the gay community] will get all the 'in' jokes. It is a serious book, but fun, gifty and kitchy.
"My goal was to make a book I might see on a shelf and want to buy," he continued. "It's hefty, funny, nicely designed and it's only twenty bucks. I achieved my goal and I am very proud of it."
I miss those days when celebrities still had mystery about them, and a glimpse inside their ranges seemed for any fan, like a window into a world of glamour and excitement, which is why I put together this book.
I've wanted others to share my fantasy of feating on Frank Sinatra's Barbecued Lamb, lunching on Lucille Ball's Chinese-y Thing, diving ever-so-neatly into Joan Crawford's Poached Salmon, and wrapping my lips around Rock Hudson's Cannoli. Really, who hasn't fantasized about that? -- from The Dead Celebrity Cookbook
After 15 years of collecting the recipes, DeCaro admits he only tried about half of those in the book, although there is still plenty of time to do so.
One perusing the book will notice that fresh vegetables and a hankering for "healthy food" was apparently not generally considered in the kitchens of yesterday. DeCaro puts that fact into perspective.
"I had to remind myself that using something frozen or out of a can was a modern thing to do then, there was no guilt at all in doing so," he said.
As for the recipes he did have time to vet, DeCaro often took the time to add some flair of his own to the dishes, offering ideas on how to bring them up to date, spice them up, or even drop the pound of butter to something more reasonable, whenever prudent.
In addition to the kitchy recipes, the book is filled with lots of savory tidbits about each celebrity, background information on the genre they made it big in or the groups he has assembled them into, details regarding how you can catch up with them today (throw on one of their CDs or DVDs while whipping up their favorite night-time meal) and more ingredients than a corner store in the days before summer break.
He doesn't cut these stars much slack, adding spice to every tale. Even John Wayne can't escape, but he certainly makes cooking more fun when dishing the gays.
He was known as "the boy from Oz," and for a time, "Mr. Liza Minnelli," because yes, Australian singer/songwriter Peter Allen actually did have Judy Garland for a mother-in-law. But the tireless entertainer was too flamboyant even for that family. Allen sang about being "Bicoastal" at a time when that innuendo was actually provocative ... His snapper isn't so bad, either. -- from "The Dead Celebrity Cookbook"
DeCaro has classified the recipies into 25 chapters and serves them up with the proper amount of snark and plenty of double-entendre.
"I made the book I wanted to see. I organized it by feel, looking at the recipes pop-culturally. Like the food issues with Batman, for instance," he said, referring to the writers of the 1960s Batman series who often focused their plot lines around food.
With chapter titles such as "An All-Night Oscar Buffet," "Supper Under The Stars," "A Psycho Shower," "TV Twosomes At The Table," "Pool Party on Sunset Boulevard," "Delicious Dames" and "Hungry Men Dinners," among others, it's not hard to determine what big names could possibly have been included in this cookbook.
The celebrity recipes are grouped together in their relative groups, with the exception of comedic goddess, Lucille Ball, who stands alone. "Any woman who's been attacked by a 12’ loaf of bread, deserves her own chapter," DeCaro said with a laugh. "And ending the book with the Golden Girls just felt like the right thing to do."
For Lucille Ball, the preparation of food and drink was an endless font of side-splitting physical shtick. Whatever series she was doing, "I Love Lucy," "The Lucy Show" or "Here's Lucy," Ball found herself in the kitchen making a hilarious mess.
She and food just didn't get along. -- from "The Dead Celebrity Cookbook"
With a whole chapter dedicated to just her, DeCaro hopes you'll get along just fine with her favorite dishes, especially if you add a few twists of your own.
DeCaro loves to cook, himself, but it is his love for the celebrities of his childhood and his encyclopedia-like grasp of their lives that makes this book so entertaining, overall.
The native New Yorker is no stranger to San Diego. He’s thrilled to be coming back to Babette Schwartz and is not only a fan of our gayborhood but of a popular breakfast joint, Brian’s American Eatery.
"I love San Diego," DeCaro gushed. "There are certain stores that I feel are ‘Frank’ stores, where your sensibilities are actually played out in the store, and Babette Schwartz is one of them.
"Then I’ll be-bop around Hillcrest and definitely be going to Brian’s. They have a Frankie Burger, and although I know it wasn’t made with me in mind, it’s gonna be mine this weekend.
Radio is Sirius business
DeCaro and Doria Biddle, the co-host who helps him dish up queer radio's daily dose of pop culture on “The Frank DeCaro Show," can be found on channel 109 of the "Out Q" network on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, Monday through Friday from 11am - 2pm (East) / 8am - 11am (West).
The show, according to the Frank DeCaro Show website, is the must-see TV of radio, or must hear radio.
"It's bi-coastal brunch-time fun every weekday when pop culture funnyman Frank DeCaro, a dyed-in-the-salon New Yorker, and Doria Biddle, the Kevin Bacon of lesbian Los Angeles, mix showbiz dirt with silly blather."
Even Dinah Shore has a recipe in the book, nestled between a half-dozen other classic talk show hosts in the very first chapter, "Talk Chow."
She may be rolling over in her grave but as DeCaro points out, her name is now synonomous with an all-girl weekend in Palm Springs, a desert oasis that DeCaro is looking forward to visiting in the not-so-distant future, for a couple of reasons.
First, he and Biddle will be broadcasting their radio show there, during -- you guessed it -- The Dinah, the largest lesbian party in the world. The kooky duo will be streaming live from the lobby of the annual event's host hotel, The Riviera, on Friday, March 30, and Saturday, March 31.
Also on Saturday, the duo will be sponsoring the third annual Celebrity Dodgeball Match, also at the Riviera, with live celebrities battling it out in the flesh for dodgeball victory.
With the real Dinah Shore figured prominently in the Dead Celebrity Cookbook, DeCaro will surely have copies on hand for those who are either dying to give her recipe a go, or eager to prove to other party attendees that Dinah Shore was, in fact, an actual person. The Dinah runs from March 29 to April 1.
Once The Dinah gig is up, DeCaro will scuttle across town to meet up with the college friend who threw the "dead celebrity costume party" and inspired him to write the cookbook. DeCaro hasn't seen him in decades and can't wait to show him the book.
Will they break bread over Lucy's virtual head and knock out a few recipies together?
DeCaro has spent his career honing his skills as a pop-culture jack-of-all trades, and in recent years he's had to conquer the ups and downs of social media. He wrote a memoir called, A Boy Named Phyllis about his childhood growing up in New York, and cwrites an Icons column for CBS Watch! magazine, but he is probably best known for his six-year stint as the movie critic on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."
He still loves to nosh about celebrities and often hosts them on his radio show.
He recently had Lucy Arnaz, the famous daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, on to promote her new cabaret show that is a tribute to her big band Latin-musician father. Remember Lucy's mom has an entire chapter dedicated to her food favorites in the cookbook.
Although writing is a must in the world of radio, DeCaro was happy to be back focusing on a book.
"I'd gotten away from writing for a while," he said. "It felt really good to get back to the keyboard and produce something very tangible."
Aside from Biddle, DeCaro has another sidekick at home: Comedy and entertainment writer, Jim Colucci.
Colucci has his own affinity for Hollywood legends, having written two television companion books of his own, “The Q Guide to the Golden Girls" and "Will & Grace: Fabulously Uncensored."
After years of collaboration in both life and career, including Comedy Central, CBS Watch!, "The Jon Stewart Show" and the Frank DeCaro show, the two men have officially decided to ride off into the sunset together.
"Last August, after 15 years together, he made an honest woman out of me," DeCaro said. The couple were married "on air" during Frank's show, just weeks after same-sex marriage became legal in the state of New York.
Come meet the pop culture guru this Saturday at Babette Schwartz, located at 421 University Ave (between 4th and 5th) under the Hillcrest sign. For more information, call (619) 220-7048.
You can follow Frank DeCaro through social media in a number of ways.
Morgan M. Hurley is the Assistant Editor for SDGLN. She can be reached at (877) 727-5446, x710 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.