Tuesday, October 21, 2008


To understand this entry, in case you don't know, Tippi Hedren is an beautiful actress who has had a long movie career but whose claim to fame was mostly as the star of Alfred Hitchcock's famous movie, "The Birds." In later years she also became a protector of aging wild animals such as lions, tigers and elephants, and she has a large preserve, Shambala, in the little town of Acton in the high-desert area of California. She also for a time was married to my husband Jerry’s boss.

Shortly after Tippi and Lou were married, Jerry asked me to give a dinner party for a few of the company execs and their wives as a way to introduce Tippi into the distaff side of the company. I planned the dinner as he asked, and in spite of the fact that I was a good cook and we had a nice house, I still was very nervous about entertaining a movie star. Eleven people were scheduled to attend. We were not sure if there was going to be a twelfth person but as it turned out, that was ok.

Two days before the party, Jerry's boss told him that Tippi would be bringing a baby tiger with her, as she was in the process of socializing it and needed to have it with her all the time. When Jerry laid this bit of news on me I just about had a stroke, but we discussed it and decided that we could put our dog outside for the evening and shut the baby tiger (it was actually a liger - a cross between a lion and a tiger) on the back porch during dinner. I also quickly called my cousin Shirlee, a veterinarian and real animal lover, and asked her to be my twelfth guest for dinner. I enticed her by saying there would not only be a movie star but a baby liger at my house. Needless to say, she quickly accepted.

Now you have to understand that I am actually more on the order of a farm wife than an entertainer of movie stars, but I was hopeful that something would occur that would take the onus off me and would help make the evening memorable in spite of me.

When the night of the party - and the guests - arrived and I began telling Tippi the arrangements I'd made for the cat, she informed me that the cat could not be left on the back porch, that he would be just fine in the house and that she herself would keep an eye on him (and ostensibly clean up after him, though she didn't say that in so many words).

Needless to say, this was definitely the most bizarre meal I ever served. Tippi was beautiful, gracious and very attentive to the cat. For the most part, he would sleep about 20 minutes and then wake up. Tippi would feed him a tiny bit of food, he'd roam around a bit and then go back to sleep for another 20 minutes. It was hard to focus on the food or the conversation what with the guest of honor "doing her thing," although I have to admit that my cousin was very helpful in keeping Tippi engaged in talking "shop."

But the meal came to a conclusion that I could never have foreseen. Just as I put the dessert on the table - fresh raspberries drenched in Chambord and topped with cream - the little liger, who was now sitting on the terrazzo tile in my entryway at the end of the dining room and just behind my back, let out a very tiny roar. Tippi flew out of her chair and threw herself down on the tile floor next to the liger, with my cousin hard on her heels and taking the other side of the liger.

I turned around to see what everyone else could already see -- and I couldn't believe my eyes. A lion/tiger, a movie star and a veterinarian all rolling around in my entryway, playing rub the belly or some other such thing that people deeply in love with animals do. The wonderful dessert that I paid an arm and a leg to be able to present sat untouched on the table.

How could this be? I thought. Who would believe?

After everyone went home from the unusual but apparently successful meal, I did a fairly extensive search of the rugs to see if any "accidents" had happened. The next day I called my cousin to ask if she had seen the animal going potty anywhere and she said no, but that Jerry's boss had asked her once where the papers towels were kept. I never found any trace of a misbehavior. And I never had to pull off such a dinner party again. Thank goodness.

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