‘Tis the Season: Bake a Fruitcake 2

Jay Leno bestowed Marie Rudisill with the name “The Fruitcake Lady,” when she appeared with him on The Tonight Show.

Having just published her latest cookbook, Fruitcake: Memories of Truman Capote and Sook, Marie was sick and tired of Leno denigrating fruitcakes. His jokes went from bad to worse.

Photo by: sarsmis

Photo by: sarsmis

Q. What do you do with a Christmas fruitcake?

A. Try eating it! Hey! It’s one way to get rid of it!

Then, there was this one:

Q. How many fruitcakes are there in the world?

A. Just one, and it keeps being passed around and around from person to person.

All fired up, like a wood-burning oven on a cold winter morning, Marie wrote Leno a letter. “You’ve got a hell of a nerve,” she lectured. “A good fruitcake is a labor of love, a work of art. You don’t have any idea how good a fruitcake can be.” Well, she caught someone’s attention, and the next thing she knew she was mixing nuts and sifting flour on the fruit in front of a live studio audience.

As funny as the Fruitcake Lady is, she’s serious about fruitcakes, calling them “true ambrosia – the queen of cakes.” In her cookbook, she includes over twenty recipes. Can’t wait to get started? Here’s one Martha Washington is said to have used.

Cream together a 1/2 pound butter and 1-1/2 pounds sugar. Gradually add six beaten egg yolks until creamy; then dissolve one teaspoon of soda in one pint of sour cream and add, alternating with 1-1/2 pounds of flour. Next, add the whites of the six eggs, beaten stiff.

For the final steps, add one pound of raisins, one pound of currants, a 1/2 pound citron dredged with a 1/4 pound of flour. Add the juice of one lemon and the rind of two lemons, one grated nutmeg, and a sprinkling of mace.

Bake in a greased ten-inch tube pan for five hours at a slow, steady heat. Cover with buttered paper while baking.

A fruitcake makes a nice addition to your Christmas table. Or you can always pass it along to a neighbor or friend who’ll pass it along to a neighbor or friend who’ll pass it along to a neighbor or friend…

If you don’t have neighbors or friends who are keen on fruitcakes (I know, it’s hard to believe, but not everyone is), they might enjoy the Fruitcake Lady’s memoir, Ask Me Anything. It’s a special treat.

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


Kindle Countdown for “Ask Me Anything: A Memoir”

  • Marie Book CoverAsk Me Anything, the memoir I wrote with Marie Rudisill, is available as an ebook. A Kindle Countdown is underway, starting at $.99 today. Then the price goes up each day. On Wednesday, it will be $8.99, its list price.

Why wait? See what Marie has to say – about her upbringing in Monroeville, Alabama, her nephew Truman Capote,  taking on the Big Apple, giving the Big Orange a squeeze when she appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” Well into her nineties she became a television celebrity, going mouth to mouth with anyone who asked her a question or sought help with a problem. She always had an answer on the tip of her tongue.

Here are a few of Marie’s many bon mots about the places she’s been and the people she’s met:

“I was certainly never one to play it safe. If I had wanted to play it safe, I would have stayed in Alabama.”

“In New York City where are the flowers? Where are the trees? If you open the window to get some fresh air, your apartment is filled with soot. You think you don’t have soot? Well, just run your finger over the windowsill and see what happens. That grimy, black stuff is soot.”

“I have met the most wonderful people in the world in the [publishing] business. Some of them have even lived in New York City.”

“I never got to experience the traffic for which Los Angeles is so famous. It was just as well, as I have a feeling that the stop and go pace would have driven me right up the wall.”

“Celebrities are people, too. They might live in big houses by the ocean and have more money than God, but they don’t deserve special attention in my book.”

“Florida is not a Southern state, not to me. It has no history, no civility, no gentility. It’s all flip flops, short shorts, and hairy legs.”

Ask “The Fruitcake Lady,” and get ready. You never know what she’ll say next.

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


It Could Be You


Elizabeth Lawrence is Betty Jo Tucker!

My friend, radio talk show hostess and award-winning author, Betty Jo Tucker has recently relaunched her book “It Had to be Us.” It’s a romantic memoir, sure to tickle the fancy of young-at-heart lovers. It’s available on Kindle for $5.99. Royalties are donated to THE IMAGINATION LIBRARY, a children’s literary project sponsored by the Dollywood Foundation.

Betty Jo is offering lots of bonuses, including a copy of her book “Confessions of a Movie Addict,” which I enthusiastically recommend, especially if you love movies as I do. For more details, check it out here.


Sign Up on Goodreads!

Marie Book CoverAre you a Goodreads member?


I’m offering a Goodreads giveaway.


Ten lucky readers will receive a copy of Ask Me Anything: A Memoir.


You need to enter the drawing by September 21, 2014.


Ask Me Anything is available on Amazon and as an ebook.


Five Stars for Ask Me Anything

Marie Book CoverThe first review for Ask Me Anything, the memoir I co-wrote with Marie Rudisill, best known as “The Fruitcake Lady” from her appearances on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,”  is below. I’m pleased to say that the reviewer awarded it five out of five stars.

Ask Me Anything is available from Amazon. The print book has a  discount from its list price of $14.95, and the ebook is $8.99, unless you have signed up for Kindle Unlimited. Then it’s FREE.

Word-of-mouth is crucial for any author to succeed. If you enjoy the book, please leave a review. Even if it’s just a sentence or two. It would make all the difference and would be very much appreciated. 


And now, a 5 star review by Jack Magnus from Readers Favorites:

Ask Me Anything is a memoir written by Marie Rudisill with Susan Marg. Marie Rudisill is known to late night television watchers as the Fruitcake Lady. Her letter, written in 2000 to Jay Leno, defending the honor of the fruitcake, prompted his invitation to her to appear on “The Tonight Show.” She was 89 years old at the time. Her appearance was such a success that she was invited back again and again. She taught celebrities how to make fruitcakes and would answer just about any question posed by members of the audience. When the trip out to the West Coast became too difficult for Rudisill, Leno would send out a crew to do her segments at her home. Rudisill was a product of the old South, and this memoir is filled with stories of her life as a child in Monroeville, Alabama. When her father died after an accident, her cousin Jenny took in the widow and her five children. Rudisill’s mother also died several years after, and Jenny raised the three older sisters as her own. Jenny was a self-made woman who built a small millinery business into a thriving department store, and built the rambling house with extensive gardens where she, her siblings and their young cousins lived. Co-author Marg worked extensively with Rudisill on this memoir until Rudisill’s death in 2006.

Marie Rudisill’s memoir, Ask Me Anything, is blunt, outspoken and charming, all at once. I immediately felt at home reading her story, even if I did cringe sometimes at some of her statements. Her stories of her childhood in the big house with the flamboyant, and rather alarming, Jenny and her other cousins are marvelous, especially the kitchen wars and the legendary bullwhip Jenny carried around. Rudisill was also Truman Capote’s aunt and she considered him her favorite nephew. Her stories of their friendship and later falling out were parts of Ask Me Anything that I particularly enjoyed. Rudisill and co-author, Marg, are a wonderful writing team. The memoir reads beautifully, with Rudisill’s voice coming forth loudly and clearly, even if she was in her mid-nineties as they worked together. While she’s no longer with us, she’s still very much here in spirit as evinced in Ask Me Anything. I very much enjoyed getting to know Marie Rudisill through her memoir and highly recommend it.


Windmills of Her Mind

Marie Book CoverI recently published Marie Rudisill’s memoir, Ask Me Anything, which I wrote with her in the last year of her life. It’s been on my mind, so I hope you’ll forgive me as a move away from my usual blog themes to blog about this book.

Marie had been called many things: irreverent, sassy, brash, even rude, and, certainly, too old to be crude. You get the idea, if you didn’t know her as “The Fruitcake Lady” from The Tonight Show. With host Jay Leno and special guests including Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson, she made fruitcakes, mixing up the batter with plenty of fast talk and worldly advice. Well into her nineties, she became a television celebrity, going mouth to mouth with anyone who asked her a question or sought help with a problem. She always had an answer on the tip of her tongue.

But Marie was more than a pop culture phenomenon. She had seen a lot and accomplished even more when she passed away at 95 years old. She was Southern to the core, yet she took on the Big Apple. When she settled in the Carolinas, she undertook one venture after another – writing cookbooks, selling antiques, and operating a restaurant or two.

Family, too, was a big part of Marie’s life. She was close to her nephew Truman Capote, and their falling out over some paperweights hurt her deeply. She retired to Florida with her husband to be near their son, yet yearned to return to her sweet Alabama hometown.

Ask Me Anything covers a lot of ground, telling Marie’s story from the beginning to the end. She also had much to say about various topics – talking to teenagers, surviving a hurricane, and, of course, baking a perfect fruitcake, and I was only too happy to go along with whatever was on her mind. Here’s how we got started.


How I Hooked Up with “The Fruitcake Lady.”

From the Introduction to Ask Me Anything.

Marie always made me laugh. She was feisty and funny, and like her television character, “The Fruitcake Lady” from The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, she gave as good as she got. For an old lady, and at ninety-five years of age she was getting up there, she never took guff from anyone, always speaking her mind, telling it like it is.

I only got to know Marie the last year of her life although my husband, Jim Simmons, had known her for over twenty-five years. He was her collaborator on the two books she had written on the background and upbringing of her nephew, Truman Capote. In late fall of 2005 she asked him if he would be interested in working with her on another book, possibly about her sister Lillie Mae, who was Truman’s mother. Jim was in the middle of a couple of projects and didn’t think he had the time to devote to something new. Besides, she had always given him a difficult time when they were working together. Who needs that? But he didn’t say “no,” it was hard to say “no” to Marie, and they stayed in touch.

In December of that same year we were watching Marie on what would be her last appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. We were laughing along with everyone else as she did her “Ask the Fruitcake Lady” shtick, bullying and berating members of the audience for their silly questions and ridiculous complaints. Suddenly it occurred to me that Marie herself would be a terrific subject for a book. Jim thought I was onto something, as long as it was my undertaking, not his, which I must confess was not my original intent. Still, I agreed. When Jim broached the subject with Marie, she didn’t think twice about it. Just like that, I had a new book in the works.


Ask Me Anything, ISBN 978-0-578-14318-7, is a 195-page quality paperback book consisting of nine chapters.  Topics cover growing up, family ties, and family feuds, as well as becoming a celebrity on The Tonight Show. An ebook is also available.


© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


Never a Wasted Moment

I’ve been a big fan of Sue Grafton’s since Kinsey Millhone, the thirty-year old private investigator at the center of Grafton’s series, solved her first case and shot a murderer dead in “A is for Alibi” in 1982.

Photo by:

Photo by:

Life moves slowly in Santa Teresa, the fictional California town that Kinsey calls home.  In the latest entry, “W is for Wasted,” it’s only 1988, when “it looked like things were as bad as they were going to get.  On the national front, congressional spending was a whopping $1,064.14 billion and the federal debt was topping out at $2,601.3 billion.  Unemployment hovered at 5.5 percent and the price of a first-class postage stamp had jumped from twenty-two cents to twenty-five.”

Makes you long for decades past, doesn’t it?

Kinsey, now thirty-seven, is as feisty as ever, as independent as ever, still living in her studio apartment where her elderly landlord, Henry, keeps a watchful eye on her.  When she takes a road trip to Bakersfield, he gives her a map, so she can get where she’s going.  Yep, there’s no GPS.  When she checks into a motel, she calls him with her phone number, just in case he needs to get in touch with her. Nope, she doesn’t have a cell phone.  No one does.

Kinsey conducts her interviews face-to-face.  She takes notes on index cards and types her reports on a Smith-Corona. After filling out a legal document, she makes copies on a Xerox machine and personally drops the original off at the courthouse.

Before falling asleep at night, Kinsey curls up with a Dick Francis novel.  Waiting for an appointment, she picks up a copy of People to learn that Bruce Springsteen is dumping his wife actress Julianne Phillips and hooking up with Jersey Girl Patti Scialfa.

It feels so right to relive the eighties through Kinsey’s eyes.  It makes me want to put on my jogging shoes and go for a run first thing in the morning, just like she does. I think the next book in the series should be “X is for Xhilerating.” Or, for this aging reader, make that “xhausting.”

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Deja vu all over again?  Watch Bruce Springsteen and Jimmy Fallon spoof Chris Christie’s Bridgegate to “Born to Run.”


Growing Old and Getting On With It

It’s a new year. Let’s try something new.


Joan and me circa 1974. Still laughing now.

My good friend Joan in Cleveland (via Brooklyn by way of Ithaca and the Twin Cities, with close ties to Chicago and formerly St. Louis, but now Houston) recently sent me an email in which she related a new HBO comedy, very black comedy, Getting On, which takes place in a nursing home.

In an interview on NPR,  “the series creators [Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer who brought us HBO’s Big Love] spoke of the amazing elderly actresses who have roles in the series,” Joan wrote me, “and who still possess beauty and great skills.”  She continued, “This may be something for your blog – strong, gorgeous and talented geriatric actresses.  Just an idea I’d love to read about.”

Oh, okay.  I’ve never honored any blog requests.  Actually, I’ve never had any blog requests, but I thought that this sounded intriguing. Let’s give it a go.

When checking out Getting On, based on a BBC program of the same name, I found out that Laurie Metcalf is one of the stars of the American version of the show.  Laurie Metcalf!  She might be over fifty (she’s fifty-eight, but doesn’t look it) and qualifies for AARP, but I’d hardly call her geriatric. I realize it was decades ago, but I still think of her as Roseanne’s kid sister Jackie.

Metcalf plays Dr. Jenna James. Her character has been described as a frazzled physician more involved with her fetid feces-related research than she is with her befuddled patients. She co-stars with Niecy Nash and Alex Borstein, both playing nurses in the extended care facility and both barely into their forties, and Borstein is only five feet tall.  What am I missing?

Oh, yes, the patients.

I don’t know how old Betty Murphy is, but she played a middle-aged woman on Jag in 1995 and  an elderly woman on Monk in 2002.  She’s getting up there!  She also played the cat lady on Desperate Housewives and appeared on The Practice and The Office.  Here she is Fiona Sullivan.

Gitta Hall plays Ingrid Larsen.  The actress, born in 1933, was Miss Stockholm of 1952, so she’s been around. “LA is great if you’re an orange,” she once proclaimed. I bet she now considers LA great if you’re an aging actress.  Who would have thought it?

Ann Morgan Guilbert, 85 years old, might be the oldest of the bunch, as well as the liveliest.  In an early episode, her character is caught having sex with her boyfriend (Harry Dean Stanton, no spring pea himself) in the reception area.

Some of us know Guilbert as neighbor Millie Helper on The Dick Van Dyke Show.  Another generation is familiar with her as Yetta Rosenberg from The Nanny with Fran Drescher.  And yet another generation will forever remember her here as Birdy Lamb.

Can’t wait to view Getting On?  Unfortunately, the six-episode series started at the end of November – last year, and it has completed its run.  Maybe it will be back for a second season.  If not, there’s always YouTube.

This blogger’s desk is now open.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved


Mickey’s Best Friend

Annette Funicello passed away on April 8 from complications from multiple sclerosis.  She announced she was suffering from the disease in 1992 and spent the last fifteen years of her life out of the public eye.  But, oh, what a life.450px-Annette_Funicello_Former_Mouseketeer_1975

Those who are old enough, remember Annette as one of the original Mouseketeers on the Mickey Mouse Club.  Those soft eyes, that sweet smile, those big ears.  She was the last of the cast chosen for the popular children’s television show, handpicked by Walt Disney himself.  She became the one we remember best.

She could sing.  She could dance.  She did both in the beach movies in the sixties pairing up with Frankie Avalon.  There was Beach Party, Muscle Beach Party, Bikini Beach, Beach Blanket Bingo, and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.  And, yes, although she promised Uncle Walt to dress modestly, Annette showed off her navel in a pink two-piece from the get-go. That’s what teen idols do.

Annette had a crush on Fabian, but fell in love with Paul Anka.  The feeling was mutual.  When Disney, acting as a father figure broke them up, Anka wrote “Puppy Love,” singing rather melodramatically, but with true feeling, for millions of young people:

Someone help me, help me please

Is the answer up above

How can I ever tell them

This is not a puppy love.

Whatever fortune brought Annette, she never forgot whence she came.  Of her relationship with the world’s most famous rodent, she once proclaimed, “Mickey is more than a mouse to me.  I am honored to call him a friend.”

Annette married at 23 and had three children, occasionally appearing in commercials and making movies, including the 1987 spoof “Back to the Beach”. She divorced and remarried, settling down just north of Bakersfield, California, in a modest ranch.  She was survived by her caring husband, her adoring children, four stepchildren, twelve grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Annette led the good life, inspiring millions to do the same.  “Whatever dreams I have wished have come true,” she once declared.* May she rest in peace.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

* As quoted in Hollywood or Bust: Movie Stars Dish on Following their Dreams, Making it Big, and Surviving in Tinseltown.

Summer’s coming.  Let’s bring back the Jamaica Ska – for Annette:




Betty Boop, oh, what a doll - 2012.  Photo by: Susan Marg

Betty Boop, oh, what a doll – 2012. Photo by: Susan Marg

Betty Boop had her comeback twenty-five years ago in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the Oscar-winning live-action and animation comedy in which humans and toons mix it up.

Betty’s role was small, but effective.  She runs into Eddie Valiant, a private eye she knows, played by Bob Hoskins, in a Cotton Club-like nightclub where she’s working as a cigarette girl.

“Long time no see,” she says to him.

“What are you doing here?” he wants to know.

“Works been kinda slow since cartoons went to color,” she replies with a wiggle, “But I still got it, Eddie, boop-boop-e-doop.”

“Yeah. You still got it,” he says with a wistful smile.

Yeah, she’s still got it.  She’s in black and white, just “pen and ink / she can win you with a wink,” as in her cartoons from the thirties.

She’s wearing a strapless, backless dress that exaggerates her hourglass figure.  It’s two inches shorter than her garter belt that sits high on her thigh. Her long eyelashes frame her large expressive eyes, which she uses to great effect.

Everyone loved Betty, sometimes a little too much.  But no worries. The “Poleece” rescued her when her boss made unwarranted advances. The Seven Dwarfs saved her when the Evil Queen tried to destroy her. The animals circled around to protect her when the old man in the mountain chased her up a tree.

Regardless of the situation there was always humor.  One late night her friend Bimbo came calling.

I can’t open the door now,” Betty informed him.  “I’m in my nightie.”

All right,” he replied, “I’ll wait ’til you take it off.”

In 1934 the Production Code Administration was established with authority to enforce the “Don’ts and Be Careful” guidelines prohibiting licentious or suggestive behavior.  This was a game-changer, and Betty was forced to dress as a conservative housewife.  But the music played on.

Such greats as Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Don Redman, and Rubinoff and their orchestras recorded the sound tracks for the cartoons, making an appearance with their orchestras during the opening credits.  No matter where Betty was – at home, down the block, or around the world  – or whom she was with, she sang and danced.

Betty Boop’s popularity declined through the decade, and she retired in 1939.  Jessica Rabbit, voiced by Kathleen Turner, became the sexiest animated film star on the big screen. As for her character, she proclaimed, “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.”

The same could be said of Betty.

© 2013 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved