A tribute: to a stranger who helped raise me

Harry Lewis died last week and I want to note it.  He created a successful string of restaurants called Hamburger Hamlet in Los Angeles. I wrote about the closing of the final Hamlet a while back.  I wanted to note his passing because without knowing it he helped raise me.  

Growing up in LA Hamburger Hamlet, or “Hamlets”, as we called them for short, loomed large. They were a great medium restaurant.  Not fast food, but not fancy.  You could dress casual, or a great to place to go after you’d been to a movie.  I am a child of the ’70’s.  The political aware, ERA T-shirt wearing kids, mom wearing Dr Scholls with her long straight hair, dad with side burns with big lapels. When I was 8 my mom started her business.  An alternative school.   She was busy and my dad was not Mr. Co-parent.  Domestic duties still fell on to my mother totally.

It was around this time that my mom announced she was not cooking anymore. Once in a while?  No, Thanksgiving was pretty much it.  She meant it. She had her own health food, but if I didn’t want salt less turkey soup,( and who does?) lentils, rice cakes  we were on our own.   My sisters and I would cobble something together.  Our go toos: Fettucine Alfredo, fried Chicken, quiche makes me wonder why we weren’t obese.  
The other way I ate was when my sister Carole got her drivers license my mom would hand her $20 and say “Take Daphne to the Hamlet”.  We would sit in the red vinyl booths on National Blvd, or Westwood or for the fancy Hamlet on Sunset Blvd where it was usual to see Dean Martin at the bar. There were many things we loved on the menu:  the French Onion soup, “Those Potatoes” , which was hash browns with sour cream ( what’s NOT to like about that!).  But, the dish that really took root in my heart, mind and soul was the #11 hamburger.  This burger had crisp bacon, and Russian dressing.  The ratio of meat to bread, to yummy extras was all perfect.  

Harry Lewis started out as an actor.

young Harry Lewis with Claire Trevor in "Key Largo". "Let me go, Claire, I got a burger to make!"

He had a vision of an upscale hamburger place that was still easy, accesible. He and his wife Marilyn sold the collection of restaurants in the ’80’s for $30 million and it was never the same.

Cut to 2000, I was guest on a show in SF and waiting in the green room with me was Marilyn and her son, who was running their remaining restaurant.  She was delightful and gave me her memoir which I read dreaming of a #11.  It had great stories like Sammy Davis Jr. and Jeff Chandler filling in for the Lewis’s so they could elope.

My other mother

Years later I’m very pregnant with Vivien and my doctor was in Westwood near Hamlet Gardens.  One of the few places they still ran.  You know how as the pregnancy wears on the doctors visits become more frequent.  Mark often came with me.  Since I was pregnant I was alway hungry.  Mark knew not to come between a snarling pregnant woman and her appetite so he always let me pick.  More often than not I’d say “Hamlet Gardens”.  Was it as good as the old Hamlet, no.  Partly because it seemed more fancy, ladies who lunch.  Even though I was a lady lunching I longed for the straight ahead wonder that was red vinyl and perfectly proportioned cooked meat.  Nevertheless, during this pregnancy I had little interest in spice, veggies, off beat.  I wanted WHAT I KNEW and hearty.

The Hamlet Garden’s had a hamburger, but not the #11.  I would ask the waiter if they could make it.  They would say, “Let me check.  Sometimes some of the old timers are in the kitchen and they can make it for you.”  One day I noticed that Harry Lewis was there.

he was older than this, but same twinkle in the eye

He was still a handsome man, lined, grey, but distinguished and well dressed.  He was looking over the dining room still very interested in the running of his business and that people were being taken care of.  We caught eyes and smiled.  He said,

“Did I hear you ask for a #11?” said the man who helped raise me, but I had never met. Did I!   So I gushed about how I grew up in the Hamlet’s  and how much I loved them and my baby ( gesturing to large belly) NEEDED a #11 to insure her strength and vitality.  Well, Mr. Lewis was charmed and charming and I GOT MY #11.  I got quite a few during my last trimester.  When he walked away from our table I sat back relieved.  “Mark, our baby is going to be ok.”

“Of course she is” Mark said.

“No, now she has been blessed.”  Because in my agnostic, alternative, always searching for our next meal upbringing the creator of the Hamlet was  the equivalent of a patron saint and he had just laid on hands.( so to speak)

It worked. Look at Vivien! She was a big, healthy baby.

built by love and #11's

I know what it is like to be the loyal customer who misses their favorite restaurant and to be part of the favorite restaurant who closes and misses its loyal customers.  It is a strangely superficial, yet enduring relationship.

My gratitude to Harry and Marilyn Lewis and their restaurants.  Without them I might have starved.

 

 

 

GIVEAWAY: Bikini Thief

Put down the sunscreen, get your flip flops on and fire up the margarita machine! We are doing a swimsuit giveaway! Not one, but two!!  Watch the vid and comment below to win.

The suits are fab and provided by Bikini Thief. My stylist friend Jess Zaino hooked us up. She thought (correctly) that I would love them since they have a vast maternity line. She gave me the red “St. Bart’s” suit last year. So cute and comfy. You don’t have to be pregnant to wear them; maybe just not wanting to display your less than stellar abs poolside.

Happy Summer!

**For official rules, click here.

Cord Blood

Every time I would go to a prenatal checkup I saw the brochure to bank cord blood. Mark and I talked about it and read about it. But ultimately we didn’t think it made sense. If your cells had gone haywire, why would you need your own same haywire cells? You would want someone else’s.  So, why pay for it for years and years? read once where it said that we should all just collectively bank our cord blood for whoever would need it.  Then I did what I so often do. Forgot about it.

Now, a friend just sent me to Be the Match and there was a whole thing about donating your baby’s cord blood in order to save lives. In light of Hunter’s death, I’m more aware of the need for this. Hunter did get a bone marrow transplant, but maybe some other child could be saved by cord blood. If you are expecting, check it out. I wish I had.

Mother Inferiority Complex

Okay, now I don’t often feel in competition with moms. If I see a mom more patient than me, I give her credit for it. If I see a mom more crafty than me I say, “Gosh, I wish I did more art projects with my daughter.” But recently one mom really made me gulp. It’s my new friend Ellen who has FREAKISH AMOUNT OF MILK PRODUCTION.

This photo doesn’t do her milk supply justice. I was at her house, and she was about to move. She said, “I don’t know what we are going to do about my breast milk.” I was confused. She was moving very close by, and I thought, “Well, you throw it in a Coleman cooler with square of dry ice, and you are done.” Then she opened her freezer, and it was about 8 feet tall tower o’ milk. My eyes were saucers. Then she said:

“We have  a freezer in the garage that has the same amount.” What? She works all day 5 days a week and can pump at work. And boy does she pump. She has a lovely big and plump little 7 month old. His nanny says he takes in about 6 oz in a feeding. Woof. “I’m just finishing the December milk”

Now, I am no slacker in the breast feeding department. I nursed Viv for over two years. I have no problem getting milk for Rex, but I have maybe 4 to 12 bags of pumped in milk in the fridge AND the freezer at a given time. I suddenly felt about 2 inches tall in the mom department. I suddenly got how my friends who for one reason or another were not able to nurse their kids. Their milk didn’t come in; they had had breast reductions, whatever. I really think there is an innate confidence that comes with having milk for your baby. Like, yeah, I’m doing my job!

That night I dreamed of her milk. The next few days I practically was walking up to stranger, “You will not believe this woman’s milk supply.”  It’s a good thing she is a nice, modest person, or it could be annoying. You know, like your friend who always got A’s but didn’t brag about them?

Ellen said she was looking into donating the milk. Wonder if there is a tax deduction for that? ‘Cause for a mom who wants to get out of the house for a few hours, it’s as good as gold.

Post-Pregnancy Weight Loss

Argh, I know! It’s only been 7 weeks, but I’m feeling impatient to not have what looks like a small butt on my lower belly. I know it took 6 months to lose weight with Viv, but I’m worried. And it doesn’t help that I have recently done a red-carpet event staring up close at Anne Hathaway, Nicky Hilton, and the like, and that I just did a shoot with Kim Kardashian (she is selling shoes now at Shoedazzle.com). I feel big and old.

[Sidebar: you can be thin, pretty, and rich, but the humor and charisma meter pin won’t budge. The worst offender recently was Nicky Hilton. Honey, don’t act all shy and meek; you are at a public event for Pete’s sake.]

But I digress. I started trying to do a decent walk everyday. And some mornings I say I will go to an exercise class, but by the time I feed Viv and nurse Rex, class has begun, and I stay seated in my milk-soaked gown. Maybe I’ll just play a lot of hide and seek with Viv.

Breast Diapers

Top of my list of “things people never told me about motherhood:” right after shaky nervous behavior, greater annoyance with spouse, and excitement when “The View” comes on is the nipple pads. I invariably forget them at some point. and poof there is the wet spot on another ruined blouse. Oh, that’s why new moms look a mess. You don’t want to wear nice clothes at this juncture.

And the pads are not well engineered. The always bunch up under my now 38 D’s! (Was a 34 B). And my big beef with the two different brands is WHY, OH WHY, ARE THEY INDIVIDUALLY WRAPPED? It’s right to keep you virtual spoon-clean for baby, but at 2 in the morning when I’m out-of-my-head tired, and my nightgown is drenched with mother’s milk, I just want to shove the pads in and go back to bed. What is it? Children’s Tylenol? Tamper-proof titty pads are a big problem.
Oh, I need more sleep

He’s Almost Here!!

Yes, I do look slightly deranged here.  My son is being delivered this Sunday the 15th at 10 a.m.  Wish us well! I am getting very excited. Also, excited not to be so gassy.

This week I’m trying to get it all done. From taxes to highlights, from nails to food schedule. What’s a food schedule? Well, the joy of a scheduled C section is I have the next two weeks scheduled to the hour. As in, who is spending the night with Viv, who is picking her up from school, who is helping me when I get home. My husband goes back to work pretty fast, so I am signing up my girlfriends for lunch time help. The idea is they bring me a sandwich and hang out for a bit while I take a shower or what have you. I’m trying to be realistic about the start of this caring for a life thing.

So far, my friends have liked having a day picked for them. Instead of the general, “Call if you need help,” I say, “Okay, the 27th good for you?” I can’t pick up a phone once I’m in the trenches; I will just whimper.

So, I taped vlogs a head of time. So you will probably see me pregnant after I have delivered. I am going to post a picture of my boy and me from the hospital if i can get someone to upload it. I will show the world what a real new mom looks like. LIKE HELL!

Pregnancy Arm Rash… Again

Hmm… yum, yep, that’s my wonderful pregnancy arm rash rearing its pretty head.

Or as I like to call it, Arm Acne. Not as bad as with Vivien, but lately it’s been driving me nuts. This hot itchy feeling wakes me up at 2 a.m., and I am ripping into my arm. I sleep with the window open for maximum cool ’cause as a Chinese doctor told me when I was carrying Vivien, “You have too much heat.” (It’s much worse to have this in the summer.)

But even when the itching stops when Junior Fab is born, I will have more scars on my already scarred up arms. I know, not the worst thing that can happen to your body… not like a wicked tear… ouch. But I sure would like something that would take these scars off. Gosh, if I was a teen I wouldn’t leave the house… no wonder I’m such a fan of sleeves and spray tans.
On the other spectrum of body art is this Obama nail.

I got it done for my show. It’s a cool method called Minx. It’s like a piece of foil with a picture on it. It doesn’t stink like acrylics and lasts a fair bit. The Obama nails were very popular around the 20th. It’s cool, but isn’t it still nail art??

Snooze Time

Wow, I’m in a new final stretch of this pregnancy. I’ve been hit by the tired stick. I usually wake up with energy early and get stuff done before work or before my family wakes up. Now I reluctantly wake up. And by 1pm, I can barely keep my eyes open. If I eat some protein, I can last another hour or two, but if I haven’t slept by 4 I think I will collapse.  For a while, an hour nap would set me; now an hour feels like a tease. I’ve been having a babysitter come in the afternoon so I can nap.  Sometimes, I feel like I’m neglecting my daughter, but it’s probably no good if I fell asleep under the swing set.

Oh, and they are back!  My pregnancy arm rash or as I call it, arm acne. Not as bad as with Vivien, but not great. Itchy arms… I have to sleep in a cold room, or I will rip my skin off.

Other than that, I feel fine.