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LISTEN: Interview with Frank DeCaro, author of "The Dead Celebrity Cookbook"

 
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National News / Books

Saturday, 31 December, 2011 10:05 AM

Journalist Frank DeCaro releases his third book, 'The Dead Celebrity Cookbook'

Book cover: HCI

"The Dead Celebrity Cookbook" was released on Oct. 3, 2011.

 

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

|

NEW YORK -- Frank DeCaro was born on Nov. 6, 1962 in New York. He grew up in Little Falls, N.J. and graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 1984. Shortly after, he worked as a media critic for The Detroit Free Press. DeCaro did movie reviews for The Daily Show from 1996 to 2003. Currently, he is the host of his own live daily radio show on Sirius XM.

“Yeah, I was a writer at The Detroit Free Press first for years,” DeCaro recalled in an exclusive phone interview. “I wrote about fashion and pop culture. Then, I switched over to The Detroit News and I covered media and pop culture and anything I was kind of interested in. It was a good gig.”

The journalist released “A Boy Named Phyllis: A Suburban Memoir“ in 1996 and “Unmistakably Mackie: The Fashion and Fantasy of Bob Mackie” in 1999. His new book, a collection of recipes known as “The Dead Celebrity Cookbook,” was published on Oct. 3, 2011.

“'The Dead Celebrity Cookbook' is more than 145 recipes from dearly departed celebrities of whom I adore,” he added. “It’s organized in chapters in a pop cultural, historical kind of way. There’s a chapter on the great villains of the Batman TV series in the ‘60s. There’s a chapter on The Golden Girls and their favorite recipes. There’s a whole chapter on Lucille Ball on what would have been the 100th anniversary of her birth and the 60th anniversary of I Love Lucy. There’s a music chapter. Everything from Michael Jackson’s sweet potato pie to Liberache’s sticky buns to Farrah Fawcett’s sausage and peppers.”

Many people at home are probably wondering, how did you obtain these recipes?

“I am one step away from being on that show Hoarders,” DeCaro explained. “I am someone who collects obsessively. I started collecting anything, I mean anything that had a celebrity recipe in it. I was collecting out-of-print cookbooks, flyers from supermarkets, manuals from microwave ovens. You name it, I collected it if it had a celebrity recipe in it. The celebrities were kind enough to die. So I had a dead celebrity cookbook on my hands. That was sort of how it happened. Even though I like to joke about it, I am really fond of these performers and wanting to make sure that people remember them and know who these stars were.”

What was the hardest recipe to get your hands on and what was the easiest?

“Every time there is a celebrity recipe book of any sort, Katharine Hepburn’s brownies show up,” the author said. “You can always find that recipe. Mostly, it’s because they are so good. I’ve seen other celebrity cookbooks giving you Katharine Hepburn’s brownie recipes. As for the hardest one for me to get, I was working on the cookbook last Christmas and a friend of mine sent me a recipe for one of my favorite movie stars of all time, Yvonne De Carlo. It was Yvonne De Carlo’s exotic chicken ecstasy. I never thought I’d see a Yvonne De Carlo recipe. I was quite excited about that. She was my TV mom. I was raised on The Munsters and loved it completely.”

Why did you decide to focus on dead celebrities instead of living ones?

“I think enough people have done celebrity cookbooks,” he added. “But I thought one that focused on dead celebrities was the right thing to do. Even though it is a cookbook, it is more of a pop culture book. My mission was to keep these names alive. The food was sort of the bait to get people interested in it. But it was more that I was concerned the pop culture legacy of these performers was diminishing over time. That upsets me. I don’t like to see terrific performers upon whose shoulders today’s performers stand not get the credit that they’re due. I’m crazy about all of the celebrities in the book. I had something to say about these performers. That was the goal of the book.”

How would you say this cookbook is different from similar ones offered by Martha Stewart or Rachael Ray?

“Martha Stewart’s recipes are I think in the finest of taste,” DeCaro explained. “I think some of these, they taste good, but I don’t think they’re done in good taste necessarily. Some of them rely on such exotic ingredients as cream of mushroom soup in a can or crescent rolls popped right out of the dairy case. They are not exactly the chicest of recipes necessarily, but they are certainly delicious comfort food.”

The author said a second edition is already in the works.

"I'm hoping to do a Dead Celebrity Christmas Cookbook in time for next Christmas," the author said. "It will focus on stars connection to pop culture very often has to do with holidays. That's my next project. I'll be working on that in 2012."

Since I've got you on the line, can you tell me about your role in the upcoming movie Bear City 2?

"If you've seen the trailer for Bear City 2, you've seen my appearance in the film," he explained. "I have a walk-on and I say a line or two to the lead actor and then I'm gone. I play myself and that's it. It's not the starring role I might have hoped to. It's certainly fun to be asked to be in a movie. People are excited about the sequel. I hope that my 10 seconds of air time hopefully will be in there."

Can you tell me more about the film? I'm not very familiar with it.

"I haven't seen the movie either, I've only seen the trailer," DeCaro added. "They said, 'We're making a sequel to Bear City, which is about a group of friends who were gay and are bears. It's a contemporary love story. So I just kind of play myself. I do something I love to do a lot. I asked for free tickets to something."

You've been in the journalism and broadcasting business for quite some time. What is your advice to students who are looking to break in?

"Take writing classes, major in journalism and learn how to be a fantastic writer," the author said. "Then, write all of the time. Write on deadline, write constantly. The more you do it, the better you get at it. That sounds like a bad answer, but it's really true. But I can't tell you how important it is that I went to a journalism school and a good one at that. It really helped me a lot."

I know you also have a daily radio show on Sirius XM. What's next for you?

"That's pretty much keeping me busy," he explained. "I really haven't lined up a TV gig yet. I'm hoping to get back on TV in 2012. We'll keep our fingers crossed and work toward that. The book is my first in about 13 years. It's really fun to have a book again. I'm not doing what I did last time and let it go cold. I'm starting work on another one right away. That will keep me off the streets for a while."

Look for "The Dead Celebrity Cookbook" in bookstores everywhere and on Amazon.com.

"I just hope that people will not only use the cookbook as a source of fun recipes, but really use the viewing guides and get out there and learn about these fantastic performers and really learn something," DeCaro added. "I get upset when people don't know who older performers are, but don't even care. That bugs me. I was watching Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and the answers were Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Marilyn Monroe and Katharine Hepburn. The question was 'Which of these actresses appeared in two Billy Wilder movies?' The guy said, 'Well, I've never seen a movie with any of these women in it.' I was just going to kill myself. Anything can be called up with a few keystrokes. It was so frustrating. Hopefully, you'll read my book and you'll learn something."

For more information about Frank DeCaro, visit www.frankdecaro.com.

 

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