Food You Can Eat: Celebrity Sunday Matinee: Hope Lange’s Party Sandwiches

These are a cure for the summertime blues

Hope Lange models a proto-Walkman, 1949: the Man From Mars Radio Hat

I wish I were better at formating images in WordPress. Here’s what the original looked like: https://www.eeweb.com/can-you-guess-who-owns-a-man-from-mars-radio-hat/

Hope Lange deserves a special award for having one of the most interesting of celebrity lives, even though she never achieved the superstardom she so richly deserved.

Lange was born in 1933 to John George Lange, who was the music arranger for master showman Florenz Ziegfeld. He moved the family to Greenwhich Village when it was a louche, Bohemian enclave filled to the brim with all sorts of artsy folks. John died fairly young leaving a widow and four children, and the widow opened an eponymous restaurant, Minette’s of Washington Square, where the whole clan worked. I have an aching desire to wander into Minette’s of Washington Square sometime soon after V-E Day and be waited on by a young teen Hope Lange.

When Hope wasn’t slinging hash at Minette’s she was a child Broadway actor and soon enough a model. Her appearance on the cover of “Radio – Electronics” magazine in 1949 (she was 15) sparked a nationwide craze for the “Man From Mars Radio Hat.” I am not making this up. My header image is proof of that. At 17 she was famous enough to achieve one of humankind’s most admirable achievements, a celebrity recipe syndicated newspaper feature, which is where today’s entry comes from. Today’s social media “influencers” and TikTok “stars” are just sad compared to what Lange did.

But that was just the beginning. She didn’t flame out like some Disney kid from the late 20th century, oh no. At the age of 23 she appeared in her first film, which happened to be “Bus Stop,” alongside the Marilyn Monroe and Don Murray, whom she married. Don Murray, like Hope Lange herself, is not nearly as well remembered as he should be and maybe I’ll find a celebrity recipe from him.

In 1957 Lange appeared in one of the greatest movies ever made, “Peyton Place.” In 1959 she starred in “The Best of Everything,” a Hollywood classic right up there with “Citizen Kane,” about the cutthroat world of Manhattan book publishing, alongside Suzy Parker and FYCE favorite Miss Joan Crawford. Could it get any better? Yes. In the late 60s she was the Mrs. Muir of “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,” and then in 1974 was Charles Bronson’s ill-fated wife in “Death Wish.” In the meantime, she left Murray, entered a “relationship” with director Glenn Ford, married director Alan J. Pakula (while keeping Glenn as a side piece for a little while), divorced Pakula, dated Frank Sinatra, and had an affair with, improbably, John Cheever. I say this was improbable because 1. Cheever was married to long-suffering Mary, and they stayed married for pretty much his entire adult life; 2. Cheever slept with men, many men; and 3. John Cheever was so drunk for so many decades it was a literary miracle that he could peck out coherent sentences on his manual typewriter, let alone pursue all these dalliances.

But then she settled down. In 1986 she married theatrical producer Charles Hollerith, who does not have his own wikipedia page, so that tells you something, and stayed with him until her death in 2003. Before she said her final goodbyes, though, she was in “Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge” and “Blue Velvet.” She also took a shot at a Danielle Steele TV movie and I can’t say I wouldn’t do the same. Regrettably she was in “Clear and Present Danger.” Mystifyingly there is no record of her ever appearing on “Love Boat,” Fantasy Island,” or “Murder, She Wrote.”

Hope Lange’s Party Sandwiches

This is allegedly what 17-year-old Greenwich Village-dwelling Broadway actor/model Lange liked to serve her chums. I’ll just bet. For one thing you’re to serve these with “Teen-age highballs.” It’s telling that highballs were so ubiquitous that there were even “teen-age” (non-alcoholic) versions of them. Coke with lime or ginger ale with lime juice. Also you make our own popcorn, “home-salted” nuts, and home-baked cookies or cake. Ever discreet, Lange makes no mention of which cigarette brand you’re supposed to lay in for your guests, and whether you’ll be providing the whiskey to spice up the “teen-age highballs” or whether it’s BYOB.

(Note: The prep descriptions are my paraphrase. The vague ingredient measurements are hers.)

Sardine Strips

1 stalk celery

1 slice pimiento [presumably loaf, which used to be a deli favorite]

1 can boneless sardines

1 tsp. prepared horseradish

1/4 tsp. curry powder

1 tsp. lemon juice

salt

1/2 cup whipped cream

2 tbsp. mayonnaise

Take some butter out of the fridge and let it soften. Stack a few thin slices of white or rye bread and trim the crusts off (trimming in a stack like this gives you equal-size slices to work with.) Butter one side of all the slices. 

Chop the celery and pimiento as small as you can. Drain the sardines, mash them with a fork, add the horseradish, curry powder, lemon juice, salt, whipped cream, mayo, and the veg. Stir so it combines.

Spread this mixture on half the buttered slices and top with the other halves. Wrap in waxed paper and put them in the fridge to chill. “When it’s party time” (wink, wink) take them out and cut them into thin slices.

I would make these but I’d use rye, eliminate the whipped cream (why, Hope, why?) and maybe cut down on the mayo depending on how big my celery stalk and pimiento slice were. I’d also butter either none of the slices or maybe lightly butter one half of them. 

Cheese Ribbon Sandwich  

Mix “quite a lot” of chopped black olives (so, to taste) with soft cheddar cheese. She must mean “cheese,” like what comes in tubs. I wonder if they still make Wispride? Could she mean Cheez-Whiz? Spread this over a slice of whole wheat bread. Cover with a slice of buttered white bread. Spread another slice of wheat bread with a mixture of cream cheese, sour cream, and thin red radish slices. Put this on the white bread spread side down. Refrigerate, cut off the crusts, and again slice into strips.

I love triple-decker sandwiches like this but—OK, don’t butter the middle slice, don’t use sour cream, and use lots of radish in the cream cheese mix. And why was Lange only providing one of these sandwiches while loading up her guests with the sardines? 

Cousin Mattie’s “Chock Full o’ Nuts” Ribbon Sandwich (Bonus Contribution from the Author)

Around the time that teen Lange was whipping up these sandwiches there was a chain of restaurants, maybe they were even automats, run by the Chock Full o’ Nuts coffee folks. They made a brief revival in Manhattan around 1993 or so, lasted maybe six months, and they served what was their most popular working girl lunch sandwich: Two slices of date nut bread with a liberal smear of cream cheese. I cannot tell you how delicious this is. So do that and cut into strips.

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6 Comments

      • I remember reading about Minetta’s from Joseph Mitchell. I guess it was a shaggier place back then — the owner would let Joe Gould sit there and get a free meal because he thought having Bohemian types would help draw in tourists looking for the Greenwich Village experience. It looks like it’s the kind of place that sells $28 hamburgers now.

  1. Over a decade ago I drove by a big suburban neighborhood (midcentury brick ranches) with a wrought iron sign calling the neighborhood Peyton Place.

    All I could think of was had they seen that movie and if so, why still go with that name???

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