FEUDS AND FEASTS

Vintage view of the Warner Brothers sound stages

More than 5.17 million people tuned in to watch the premiere of Feud: Bette and Joan.  I’m one of them (although NOT in the 18-49 year old demographic that anyone cares about)!  So of course I had to do a posting about it. 

If you’re reading this, you’re probably watching too.  If you’re not watching, Feud  chronicles the famous rivalry of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford during the shooting of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?   (1962, the year I was born). 

The imagery within the series is rich with vintage costumes, recreated WB studio soundstages and backlots, cameos and name dropping of all our favorite stars, interiors of Joan and Bette’s houses, classic cars, and old LA.  Right up my alley!

Doris Day and Ava Marie Saint grace the covers of these March 1955 issues (Dean fans note the article on Pier Angeli and Vic Damone on the Modern Screen cover)

Although the series takes place nearly 10 years after James Dean’s Hollywood heyday…the story is much the same.  Hedda Hopper, who features prominently in Feud: Bette and Joan, had her own bitter ongoing rivalry with fellow Hollywood gossip columnist Louella Parsons.  In episode 2, Joan calls Louella to counter the vicious gossip that appeared in Hedda’s column…playing the 2 off each other.  Hedda was furious.

Louella Parsons was the first US Hollywood/movie gossip columnist.  Her column was picked up and syndicated by William Randolph Hearst, eventually peaking at 20 million weekly readers in over 600 newspapers worldwide.  She was also the first to write about James Dean.  In Cosmopolitan magazine, March 1955 she wrote, “James Dean: New Face with Future.”  That same month in Modern Screen magazine she wrote, “I nominate for Stardom: James Dean.”

.

.

.

“What I remember most about him was the little boy quality, shining forth at you from behind those thick glasses of his, tearing at your heart. he had that extreme and touching idealism of youth which made you wish that he would never be disillusioned. Now he won’t be. He leaves behind 2 films in which he proved this distinctive magical performance in East of Eden was not merely a flash. In both Rebel Without a Cause and Giants I understand he far surpasses his first movie performance which made him an overnight star. In fact, it isn’t so hard to find many people in Hollywood who feel, given the years, Jimmy would have surpassed Marlon Brando, with whom he was so often compared.”

Louella Parsons' Oct 3rd, 1955 column, following Dean's fatal accident

.

Louella Parsons at The Brown Derby (far left)

In 1936, Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM studios recruited Hedda Hopper to break Louella’s powerful influence over the film industry.  The FEUD ignited between Hedda and Louella. Their combined readership was more than 75 million in the US alone.  They had power to make or break careers, influence studio heads, and deeply affect box office results.  Mayer soon realized that he hadn’t destroyed Louella’s monopoly, “…but instead, I’ve created 2 monsters!”  (For more about Hedda, check out this blog I did on her about a year ago…)

Hedda hated James Dean when he first arrived in Hollywood, but quickly came under his spell…eventually championing the campaign for his posthumous Oscar nomination.

Caricatures of Joan and Bette that once graced the walls of The Brown Derby

Whether real or largely publicity hype, the feud between Hedda and Louella was even bigger and even nastier than that of Bette and Joan.  That brings us to the recipe featured in this months blog… Louella Parson’s Grapefruit Cake!  Louella was a regular at the famous Brown Derby

Bette and Joan dining at The Brown Derby (separately)

restaurant…the place for Hollywood’s Who’s Who to see and be seen.  Even though he HAD dined there, it was NOT a favorite place of James Dean’s (as he told girlfriend Barbara Glenn in a letter), living only a couple of blocks away at one time.   It could be a pretentious place at times, filled with pretentious people, but a place that definitely left it’s mark on Hollywood and the world of food.

Sadly, like many famous landmarks in LA, the original Brown Derby (with it’s iconic 17 1/2′ high and 30′ diameter dome-shaped building, opened in 1926) and their Hollywood and Vine location, a Spanish mission-styled building (opened in 1929 and the one famous for it’s Hollywood clientele), are long gone.  There were 4 Brown Derby restaurants at one point (and a spin-off chain of several in Ohio…3 of which still remain).  The original, popular with patrons of The Coconut Grove Nightclub and Ambassador Hotel across the street, was sold in 1975 and closed in 1980.  The other locations in Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and Los Feliz closed in the 80s and 90s.  The only remnants remaining; recreated, fully-functioning restaurants at Disneyland, Disney World, Disneyland Paris, and Tokyo Disney, and old clips of it’s caricature-lined walls, red leather booths, and telephones delivered to the tables in I Love Lucy  reruns.  In the film Mildred Pierce (1945) we get to see Joan Crawford bar tending at the Wilshire Blvd location, exclaiming “Why should anyone come to eat and go someplace else to drink?”   The Brown Derby offered “continental” cuisine (many of the menu inspirations came from it’s famous clientele and their worldly travels) at moderate prices.  (Christmas dinner at the Beverly Hills Brown Derby in 1958, cost $3.85…$33 in todays money.)  Thursday night was the busiest of the week because it was (traditionally) “maid’s night off” with no cook in the kitchen at home.  They were the originator of the Cobb Salad, Chiffon Cake, and THIS  cake.

Gloria Swanson in front of The Brown Derby

The Wilshire Blvd and the Hollywood and Vine locations

Louella complained to Brown Derby owner Robert Cobb that all his desserts were “too fattening” and she requested he come up with something healthier.  Cobb went back to the kitchen and told his chef, “…to put grapefruit on something, because everyone knows it’s slimming.”  This was the cake they created for her.  It remained a popular menu item until their closing.  Healthier…slimming…or not…this is a great treat to whip up for your next Feud: Bette and Joan viewing party!  Maybe pair this up with a pink grapefruit vodka martini?  Just think…you can watch your current favorite show, get sloshed and get slim, all at the same time! Life is good. LOL

.

Louella Parson’s Grapefruit Cake

.

(Click to view larger)

WARNING: This cake is WONDERFUL!

I have an affinity for this cake…I think it dates back to early childhood and my unnatural attraction to a grapefruit-flavored soda called Squirt. The cake is sweet (but not overly) with a touch of tart.  Light and fluffy, scented with citrus, and filled with a satisfying cream cheese frosting and segments from the fruit.

Alex LOVED this cake!  “You wanna know why?” he asked, “Because I’m almost 60 years old and I’ve had lemon cake, and orange chiffon cake, but never this—and it’s lovely!”  He went on about it for 3 or 4 days.  Our neighbor Trudy gave it high rankings too.

.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe

Here’s a few notes on making it:

 

 

 

 

 

 

HERE’S THE VIDEO!

.

What’s the next dish we’re cooking in the Recipe4Rebels kitchen?  Be the FIRST to know by signing up for free email notifications here:

Leave me a comment below about the post…about Feud: Bette and Joan…about the Grapefruit Cake…about your cat…doesn’t matter ’cause I just LOVE getting messages!

.

Louella Parsons and the CBS Radio Studios in Hollywood

If you enjoyed this post or have a friend who would too, please make liberal usage of the social media sharing buttons…Sharing is caring!

 

 

6 Comments

  1. I like your method of getting the pith off fruit much better than the industrial way! I always learn so much from your posts and I LOVE THE VIDEOS.

    That cake looks bloody lovely, and I adored the shot of you picking a grapefruit off the tree! We urbanites forget that is where they come from!

    Thanks for this brilliant post – Jenny in London x

    • This cake WAS “bloody lovely”! And how lucky that the grocery here doesn’t sell canned fruit segments…I never would have wandered down that rabbit hole to find out just what exactly “canned fruit segments” really are all about! What the video doesn’t show is that someone came and picked all the low hanging fruit off the tree and how all 6’3″ of me was on my tip toes and stretching to get that grapefruit while filming with the other hand…i was balanced on the edge of an embarrassing situation…oh the lengths we go to for our blogs! Lol. And of course the day after I finished the video, we passed by a friend’s house that had a LOADED grapefruit tree. C’est la vie! Such nerds we can be when it comes to food topics…so easily entertained 🙂

  2. It sounds and looks delicious. A perfect Spring-time cake. And your videos can’t be beat for brilliance and entertainment!

    • It was REALLY yummy! Yes, that’s what I was thinking too when I picked this recipe…these flavors are great for Spring. So happy you enjoy the videos…that makes it all worth while to me 🙂

  3. Blimey! It actually makes me fancy eating grapefruit when I’m not on a diet.

    • Ha, ha…thinking back, now that you said that, it’s probably been a couple of years since I last ate a grapefruit. I always enjoyed grapefruit, even unrelated to a diet. This cake was soooo good! Next time I have a plain grapefruit, I’m sure I won’t be able to help thinking about eating cake…that’s a strange mental correlation.

Leave a Reply

Select a Language...