The Dead Celebrity Cookbook, By Frank DeCaro (Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, Florida, 2011, 370 pages.)
Book Review by Dennis Moore
January 15, 2012 (San Diego’s East County)--Best known for his years as the flamboyant movie critic on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Frank DeCaro has written a book with wit and humor – packed with celebrity profiles and pop-culture ponderings, party menus, and more – The Dead Celebrity Cookbook pays homage to the departed stars of television, film, radio, and Broadway.
If you’ve ever fantasized about feasting on Frank Sinatra’s Barbecued Lamb – taking a stab at Anthony Perkins’ Tuna Salad, or wrapping your lips around Rock Hudson’s Cannoli – and really, who hasn’t? – hold on to your mitts! The Dead Celebrity Cookbook puts the kitsch back into the kitchen with: Michael Jackson’s Sweet Potato Pie; Patrick Swayze’s Chicken Pot Pie; Mae West’s Fruit Compote; Katherine Hepburn’s Brownies; Yvonne DeCarlo’s Exotic Chicken Ecstasy; Sammy Davis Jr.’s Salad and Elizabeth Taylor’s Chicken with Avocados and Mushrooms. Just reading the book makes me hungry!
Filled with many anecdotes and background information on the stars themselves, DeCaro takes us on a humanistic trip with some of our long departed stars, breathing life back into treasured memories that we had of them.
DeCaro speaks of Michael Jackson in his book: “BEFORE HE WAS WEIRD, HE WAS ADORABLE. But even at his strangest – dangling his baby off a balcony, sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber, befriending a chimp – Michael Jackson was one of the most talented performers who ever graced a stage. He had thirteen Grammys and twenty-six American Music Awards to prove he was a ‘Thriller’ and then some. One just had to watch him glide through his signature ‘moonwalk’ or hear him sing anything from ‘Ben’ to ‘Billie Jean’ to know Jackson was a one-of-a-kind cultural presence, the likes of which we’ll never see again…He deservedly was called the King of Pop, but was he the King of Pie?”
In a “post mortem” note, DeCaro concludes, “As it turns out, Michael Jackson WAS the King of Pie. Even using canned sweet potatoes and omitting the pecans, his Sweet Potato Pie is a “Thriller.” Cover the crust with aluminum foil if it gets too brown before the filling is set. Although it’s not that “Bad” even if it does. Warm from the oven, you can’t “Beat it.” Okay, I’m done now. Oh, one more: “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough.”
Michael Jackson’s Sweet Potato Pie
Beat eggs and sugar. Add melted butter, salt, milk, vanilla, and spices. Blend egg mixture with mashed sweet potatoes and lemon or orange juice. Pour into an unbaked pie shell. Garnish with pecan halves. Bake 10 minutes in a preheated 400° oven. Reduce oven temperature to 375° and bake 40 minutes longer or until golden.
½ cup sugar
¼ cup butter, melted
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground
2 tablespoons fresh lemon or orange juice
2½ cups mashed sweet
potatoes (canned or freshly cooked)
potatoes (canned or freshly cooked)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup pecan halves
1 unbaked pie shell
DeCaro says of Rock Hudson: “IF ROD HUDSON HAD BEEN ANY MORE HANDSOME, you’d go blind looking at him. He was six-foot-five and so gorgeous that even Doris Day, the original 40-year-old virgin, wanted him…bad. He starred with Day in such delicious romantic comedies as Pillow Talk, Lover Come Back, and Send me No Flowers. Because of Hudson, the original gay BFF, no one could say they didn’t know someone with AIDS, and the fight against the pandemic began.”
The author says in his book of Fanny Brice: “FANNY BRICE STARTED IN BURLESQUE and found huge success in the Ziegfeld Follies, introducing such songs as Second Hand Rose and My Man! She did plenty of Broadway, but Brice was best known for her toddler character Baby Snooks, a devilish role she played for decades. Brice was the funny girl upon which the Broadway musical Funny Girl, the subsequent film version, and its less adored sequel Funny Lady are based. Brice herself appears in a handful of movies including The Great Ziegfeld, Ziegfeld Follies, and Everybody Sing. Her Super Chocolate Cake will become a star in your kitchen.” Again, DeCaro is making me hungry!
The most interesting anecdote and characterization in this wonderful book, revolves around the late comedian Redd Foxx, as the author states: “In the season-five episode of Sanford and Son, called Can You Chop This?, Fred (Redd Foxx) is watching The Cavorting Connoisseur (Cesare Danova) when he stumbles upon a get-rich-quick scheme: selling hand-cranked food processors called Whopper Choppers. He uses Lamont’s savings as seed money, buys 100 of the cheap devices, but can’t unload even one. That is, until he crashes the cooking program and shows the studio audience (and the cameras) just how awful the Whopper Choppers are. The manufacturer agrees to buy them all back on one condition: Fred can never try to sell a Whopper Chopper again.” (For me personally, and I am a big Sanford and Son fan, DeCaro brought back a lot of memories.)
I am sure everyone’s favorite Dead Celebrity, along with their menus, can be found in this fascinating book – a book that I highly recommend.
Dennis Moore is a member of the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild and the book review editor for SDWriteway, an online newsletter for writers in San Diego. He is also the author of a book about Chicago politics; The City That Works: Power, Politics and Corruption in Chicago. Mr. Moore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.