Bon Appetit
December 1998

You starred in one of the most famous holiday movies ever, White Christmas, with Bing Crosby. What are some of your own Christmas memories from childhood?
My paternal grandmother was German, and we celebrated Christmas with her on Christmas Eve. There were always the same ornaments; I loved that. For a while, though, I lived with my maternal grandmother, and we celebrated on Christmas morning. Things weren't too wonderful then, but there is a part that I remember vividly: Each child got a dish that had one banana, one orange, one apple and some candy. That was something that was very special at the time.

Now you have five children and nine grandchildren. Things must be pretty hectic around your house at Christmas.
It's wonderful. We have three Christmas trees; the big one is in the living room where the presents are stacked. Everybody has their own pile.

What about the food?
We have a big open house on Christmas Eve, and we do baked potatoes with caviar and creme fraiche and some wonderful corn blini. Quite a few friends come with their children, and all my children come. Then my family comes back on Christmas Day for the same dinner we have had all our lives--turkey dressing and corn pudding and mashed potatoes and just about everything in the immediate world. We have a table that seats fourteen, but there are so many people that we have to have two smaller tables to go with it.

We hear that your wedding to Dante DiPaolo last year was quite a celebration, too.
It was a fantastic event. My borther invited the whole town of August, Kentucky, where he lives, and then as a really big surprise, three jets came in with guests, including friends from New York--and Bob Hope. The reception was in a tent. We had all the things we love: Graeter's ice cream from Cincinnati; Bob Hope loves Montgomery Inn ribs, so we got those. We had White Castle hamburgers for hors d'oeuvres and loads of Champagne and some good music.

Sounds pretty memorable. But are there any other memorable meals that come to mind?
I was married to Jose Ferrer, and it was my first time in Paris. We had lunch with John Huston. I had never had eau-devie, so John found seven kinds in the restaurant and put some in seven large snifters. I tasted each one, went back to my hotel, and I slept right through dinner, right through the night, and right through until dinner the next night. It was my most memorable meal. Thank you, John Huston. I slept for twenty-four hours!

Let's pretend that you and Irving Berlin were going to host a White Christmas holiday party. Who are three singers you would invite?
Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore--because Dinah could do the singing and the cooking. We always talked about cooking.