Ally Sheedy was an original “brat-packer” and starred in the wildly influential and successful mid-1980s films, “The Breakfast Club,” “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “War Games.”  By 1989, her career had taken a nosedive. She made a slight comeback in 1998, when she starred in the Lisa Cholodenko film, “High Art,” playing a lesbian photographer to critical acclaim.

Ally Sheedy today

I met Ally at a birthday party in Central Park for my daughter Ruby’s friend Lucy in June of 2000. Ally also had a six-year-old daughter and lived on the Upper West Side, where she grew up. It was a beautiful June morning when Ruby and I arrived. Ally was already there, drinking wine and smoking.  I’m not quite sure if she thought I was a “cool mom” like her or if there was just no one else to talk to, but she focused all her attention on me and didn’t let up.  I was flattered, since I was a fan of hers ever since the publication of her book, She Was Nice To Mice, when she was 13 and I was 10 (I had read an excerpt in Seventeen Magazine and was jealous that this teenager had already published a book.)  Ally wasn’t the type to make small talk.  She shared provocative stories with me right from the start. When more guests arrived, she suggested we take our daughters to a nearby playground (it was obvious she wanted me to keep my attention focused on her.) She continued to smoke, and a concerned dad politely asked her not to smoke around the children. She overreacted to his request, cursing and screaming at him in front of a playground full of kids: “This is fucking New York and I can do whatever the fuck I want!” She caused a tremendous scene, then grabbed my hand and said, “Let’s get out of here.” Ruby was in shock, and so was I, but her daughter didn’t flinch.

[Read the rest of Elisa's one-day friendship with Ally, after the jump.] (more…)

Jerry Springer

To those who feel it’s not possible to take Jerry Springer seriously, I usually reply, “But have you tasted his crabmeat cocktail dip?”  While I personally  have nothing but disdain for the man and his long-running TV show which exploits the misery of America’s most troubled individuals, I do like the sound of “Jerry Springer’s Crabmeat Cocktail Dip.”  In fact, this appetizer may be the most appetizing thing about the guy, so why not have a little fun at his expense and dine out on Jerry for a change?

Jerry Springer’s Crabmeat Cocktail Dip


1 lb. fresh lump crabmeat

1/8 cup caraway seeds

8 oz. whipped cream cheese

2 oz. vodka

fresh parsley, washed and finely chopped

rye toast or rye crackers



Mix crabmeat, caraway seeds, cream cheese, and vodka in medium-size bowl.  Cover and let chill for one hour.  Transfer dip to serving dish; garnish with parsley.  Serve with rye toast points or rye crackers.  Yields 2 1/2 cups.

In Gloria Swanson’s most engaging autobiography Swanson on Swanson (1980), she describes—in typically grand Swanson style—the industry response to the first big screening of Billy Wilder’s Sunset Blvd.  In this case, judging by the quality and enduring power of the film, one imagines her recollections may actually have been more factual than hyperbolic. Indeed, in the pantheon of Hollywood films about Hollywood, there are very few as trenchantly observed and emotionally lacerating as Sunset Blvd.  There is no question that taking the now-iconic role of Norma Desmond was a brave move for the silent screen star who hadn’t had much cultural presence since the beginning of the sound era twenty years before.  Here is what the star had to say about that screening, probably the moment she realized that the personal and professional risks she’d taken were about to pay exceedingly high dividends:

Norma Desmond staircase

The evening of the first big screening in Hollywood, Louis B. Mayer had a dinner party for about twenty people.  From there we went to the Paramount screening room, where the audience of three hundred people seemed to include everyone in motion pictures.  I caught a glimpse of Mickey Neilan as we walked to our seats, and someone told me Mary Pickford was there.  These affairs are known for being morbidly restrained, devoid of the slightest overt reaction, but that night the whole audience stood up an cheered.  People clustered around me, and I had trouble moving up the aisle.  Barbara Stanwyck fell on her knees and kissed the hem of my skirt.  I could read in all their eyes a single message of elation: If she can do it, why should we be terrified?  She’s shown us that it can be done!

“Where’s Mary?” I asked.

“She can’t show herself, Gloria,” someone said.  “She’s overcome.  We all are.”

Silent Screen group, old

Silent Screen royalty, circa 1955, back row, left to right: Richard Barthelmess, Maurice Chevalier, Ramon Novarro. Front row, left to right: Lillian Gish, Gloria Swanson, Mary Pickford, Janet Gaynor

More Gloria Swanson:

Gloria Swanson Standing in the Rubble—“that’s what’s playin’ at the Roxy!”

Eating With the Stars: Gloria Swanson’s Potassium Broth

After Gloria Swanson by Edward Steichen, 1925

You may also enjoy:

10 Forgotten Stars of The Hollywood Walk of Fame

Behind the Scenes at MGM’s 1974 Premiere of  That’s Entertainment!

The Truth Comes Out! The Sexual Secrets of the Golden Age of Hollywood’s “Gentleman Hustler” Revealed!