Thursday, October 21, 2010

Kathy Garver is Cooking up a Family Affair

Photo by Pop Culture Passionistas

While some little girls were dreaming of being Marcia Brady or Laurie Partridge, we had more cosmopolitan tastes. We wanted to be Cissy from Family Affair. After all she lived in a high-rise apartment in New York City, with a gruff but lovable uncle, and a butler. That beats the heck out of sharing a bathroom with five siblings, if you ask us.

So meeting Kathy Garver, who played Cissy on the show’s run from 1966 to 1971, was a real treat. Kathy was at Larry Edmunds Bookshop in Los Angeles recently for a signing of her book The Family Affair Cookbook.

There, she was joined by two more Hollywood TV legends—Dawn Wells aka Mary Anne from Gilligan’s Island and Alison Argnrim, Little House on the Prairie’s Nellie Oleson. Garver had met Arngrim at a TV Land convention and has known Wells for a long time, reuniting with her on a Still Hip Chicks from the ‘60s special that also included Barbara Eden from I Dream of Jeannie and Barbara Feldon from Get Smart.

The women have an understandable bond, which Garver described, “We shared that common experience of doing a television series… during a time where there was a kind of a goodness about the shows that were on.”

And like her friends and fellow authors, Garver went to her TV roots when it came time to write her first book. She explained how the idea came about, “I had been cooking for a while and I had been gathering recipes. I was going to write a biography type of thing—All that Glitters or Surviving Cissy—but I wanted to cook. So I got all my recipes together and was starting to do it."

But Kathy had a few obstacles to overcome first, “ My house burned down in 2003… So I lost a lot of recipes, a lot to water damage. And then my computer crashed. And so then I had to regroup.”

But the optimistic actress, who frequently gives a speech called the Power of Preserverance found a silver lining, telling us, “The timing actually happened to be very good because they were coming out with the [Family Affair] DVDs.”

And the book is well worth the wait for fans of Family Affair and food. Kathy discussed how the two are married together, “The beginning of the book, it’s all whenever a food was mentioned on Family Affair there’s a corresponding recipe. So when there were grape leaves, it says what episode it was in and who mentioned it.”

And each of Cissy’s family members are represented. Obviously Mr. French gets a chapter, which Kathy defined as “much more sophisticated, very gourmet. It was back in the time of the rich and famous where they had pheasant under glass.”

While she personally enjoys Uncle Bill’s chapter, which she called “potent potables—martinis shaken and stirred and Manhattans.”

There are a few culinary goodies that were mentioned on Family Affair that didn’t make it into the book, she confessed, “There was some maple fudge that was mentioned and not in there and chicken marengo.”

But she has a solution to address the omissions—a second book, “Yes, the biggest oversight was the fudge. And [the next book] will be Surviving Cissy, with a couple added recipes.”

Beyond the recipes, Kathy includes some behind the scenes stories for Family Affair fans, she revealed, “There’s also anecdotes and how the show got started and what’s happening to the characters and the people now.”

We were happy to see that Kathy still has a deep affection for the show that made her a household name. When we asked her about her favorite episode, she quickly replied, “I think maybe ‘Waltz from Vienna.’ I am a quarter Austrian and I had a wonderful grandmother who lived to 1-0-1… So this took place in Vienna and I got to wear a beautiful gown. And one Christmas... I learned... on the piano ‘The Waltz from Blue Danube.’ Da-da-da-da-duh da-duh da-duh. So they played it in the episode. It was really very much of a Family Affair episode and I got to wear the pretty dress and my hair all up and it was about me marrying a prince. It was very kind of a lovely episode. That’s my favorite.”

And as for her time off-screen on the series, she has many fond memories of that as well. She shared this story with us about her downtime on the set, “The kids were young, I was 18 by this time, and they would have their little schoolroom set up. So I would go with Mrs. Deeny and the two little kids. And I’d say, ‘Oh, what are you guys doing?’ And they’d say, ‘Oh, we’re making potpourris and sticking cloves into an orange.’ [And I would say], ‘I’ll do that.’ A little bored hanging out so I did needlepoint and went into the classroom to make little cloves.”

In addition to the second book, Kathy has several other projects in the works. She records audio books including her most recent, Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Book of Miracles. She’s going to star as Sister Augustus in the upcoming film Santa’s Dog. She conducts voiceover classes at the Voice One Studio and has a talk show called BACKSTAGE! with Barry and Kathy along with her partner Barry Barsamian in San Francisco. And she still does those inspiring speeches.

So to what does she attribute her continued success in the dog eat dog world of Hollywood. She summed it up for us,I’ve been in this business for over 50 years and I’m still here. Power of perseverance, my dears.”

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