Last Sunday, I was thrilled to be asked by Musto to attend a party and screening at Kimpton's Eventi hotel to celebrate the "Mommie" episode of "Cocktails & Classics," and learned a few interesting details that I'd be surprised if they didn't come up on the actual show. Alda, whose "Mommie Dearest Diaries" didn't come out until 30 years after the film debuted, claimed she had NO IDEA people would be interested in the making of the film, to which I indignantly asked: "How did you go 30 years NOT knowing this?" (Alda says Dunaway recently asked her for help with her own "Mommie" memoir ... for free. She told Faye to just buy her book instead -- snap!) We also learned that while Alda was aged appropriately for the role by her makeup artist, Faye Dunaway must have put the brakes on Father Time, showing up to the set looking exactly the same as she did during scenes from decades before! In person, however, we learned Alda's makeup artist was partially to blame for completely missing the boat on how she would age -- the woman still looks incredible 30-some real years later! (Video of chat HERE.)
While the audience all agreed "Mommie Dearest" is a cult classic for the ages, it was also unanimous that people believe Christina Crawford, whom many thought grossly exaggerated or flat-out lied about her childhood when her memoir came out in 1978. It didn't take long before some attendees started to recall that Bette Davis' daughter tried to capitalize on the book's success by writing her own tell-all a few years later, "My Mother's Keeper." The crux of her abuse is best encapsulated in this scene -- that I have since referred to as "The Macaroni and Cheese Incident" -- that makes being beaten with a wire hanger seem like a day on your backyard merry-go-round.
B.D. Hyman writes:
Watching Mother work was more tiring by far than doing the work oneself, particularly if it happened to be cooking. When Mother cooked in her own house, one didn't see the production she made out of the simplest things (largely because no on was ever allowed in her kitchen), but now she was in my kitchen, and pure nervousness forced me to watch her every move. Rather than try to describe her technique in general terms, I'll detail in full her preparation of lunch on the first day.
Stouffer's frozen Macaroni and Cheese -- the directions on the box read "Place in oven, uncovered and still frozen, for 35 minutes at 375 degrees and serve." Here are Mother's directions, based on the way she did it that morning:
Cover a counter with several layers of paper towels and place frozen casseroles thereon; remove covers and allow to thaw.
Cover another counter with several layers of paper towels, slice a large tomato and leave slices on towels.
Sit on stool, smoke nervously and sip from drink hidden behind flour canister while you watch casserole thaw. WARNING -- do no take eyes off casseroles or they will fail to thaw properly.
When casseroles are fully thawed, get large casserole dish and tip thawed casseroles into it. Thoroughly mush around with forefinger until satisfied.
Sprinkle with bread crumbs and arrange tomato slices around edge.
Hold lengthy debate with interested parties as to exact time dish is to be served.
WARNING -- Macaroni and cheese is very tricky and must be done just right.
Preheat over for 45 minutes at 375 degrees, meanwhile moving casserole dish around counter and to different counters to facilitate blending.
Place casserole dish in over for 35 minutes. Announce lunch loudly and serve, chewing bottom lip in concentration.
Fidget until praised for efforts, then remind diners that macaroni and cheese is tricky and requires some little work.So it went for three days. I did the cleaning, with some help from Ashely, now eight, since Mother never had time to leave the kitchen.
How this poor woman even lived to tell of this harrowing event is anyone's guess, but I'm certain the book was never made into a major film because no producer in Hollywood would have dared to sully a film legend like Bette Davis' reputation with such horror!