Food You Can Eat: Celebrity Sunday Matinee: Sally Field’s Cheesecake

It is rumored that this is the version of cheesecake the Golden Girls ate night after night

I'd go anywhere for Sally Field's cheesecake.

The holidays will be upon us before you know it (my local CVS has been promoting Christmas since last April, it seems) so why not plan on inviting Sally Field via her cheesecake recipe? After all, it is her birthday today.

Ah, Sally Field, the first crush that many of the first Baby Boomer men had. She was born in Pasadena and while still a very small child her parents divorced and her mother remarried, to a guy who, Sal revealed in her 2018 memoir In Pieces, repeatedly sexually abused her. A grim start but thing started looking up. She went to high school in Van Nuys and in her class were Michael Milken, Mike Ovitz, and Cindy Williams. One of those things is not like the other.

Right after graduation Sal landed the lead in the TV show Gidget. It was very much of its time, dealing as it did with youth, Southern California, surfing, beaches. But maybe by 1965 America was a little super-saturated and it was canceled after only one season. There had already been three Gidget movies, starring Sandra Dee, Deborah Walley, and Cindy Carol respectively. In the first (Sandra Dee) movie, we’re introduced to Yvonne Craig, who went on to play Batgirl/Barbara Gordon on Batman, and Tom Laughlin, who went on to become Billy Jack in the movie of that name. Deborah Walley and Yvonne Craig were rounded up to appear in the best Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello beach movie that didn’t take place on a beach, Ski Party, which also featured Dwayne Hickman (Dobie Gillis) and includes a stunning, in every sense of the word, performance by James Brown singing “I Feel Good” and Lesley Gore singing “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows.”

But back to Gidget. If you’ve ever seen one of the 32 episodes you have no doubt thought to yourself, “Who is that guy playing Gidget’s father? He seems so familiar…” That was notable character actor Don Porter, who played uptight Claude Upson, one of the “Aryans from Darien,” in the Lucille Ball/Bea Arthur version of Mame, and made guest appearances on everything from Green Acres to The Rookies to Hawaii 5-0 to McMillan & Wife to The Love Boat and Fantasy Island (natch) and Dallas and Matlock. Another actor who showed up on Gidget was Barbara Hershey. She appeared in three episodes as two different characters, and since she’s only a couple of years younger than Sal she probably appeared as her friend(s).

ABC loved Sally Field and thought Gidget got a raw deal (it went up against The Beverly Hillbillies, a big reason for its low ratings) so they whipped up The Flying Nun just for her. We really need to reflect for a moment on how wacky network TV was in the 60s (The Munsters, Gilligan’s Island, Bewitched, My Favorite Martian, a hundred other fantasy shows, not to mention the boozy variety shows) but perhaps we’ll do that individually in private. There’s a theory that with the Pentagon perhaps unwisely allowing the Vietnam War to be filmed and televised on the nightly news the American public wanted to get as far away from reality as possible, and the three networks met this need and then some. The Pentagon has since learned its lesson, which is why for the 20 years that were in Afghanistan you could fit the combined TV footage into a medium-length YouTube video.

But back to The Flying Nun, which was set in San Juan, Puerto Rico for reason. You know who one of the other nuns was? Shelley Morrison, whom you might recognize as Rosario the maid on Will & Grace.

In 1976 Field, fresh off a stint studying under Lee Strasberg (who became her mentor) she appeared in the title character of Sybil in the 1976 TV-movie, for which she won a well-deserved Emmy.

The small screen now proved too limiting so off to the big screen Sal went, starting with the wildly popular Smokey and the Bandit and then winning an Academy Award for her role in Norma Rae, followed by a second for 1984’s Places in the Heart. Accepting this Oscar was when she gave her Oscar-worthy acceptance speech, which contained the oft-misquoted line “And I can’t deny the fact that you like me…right now…you like me! (applause) Thank you!”

She went on to make a number of really great movies, like Steel Magnolias, Mrs. Doubtfire, Soap Dish, and Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde. Famously, in 1988 she played Tom Hanks’s (unwilling) love interest in Punchline; six years later she showed up as Hanks’s Mom in Forrest Gump. She’s ten years older than Hanks. That hackneyed cliché that “men are from Mars and women are from Venus” is not true in Hollywood. In Hollywood, men are from Earth and women are from Mercury, whose year lasts only 88 Earth days.

Field was married twice to men who don’t their own wikipedia page so they hardly concern us. From 1976 until 1980 she “was in a relationship” with costar Burt Reynolds, finally breaking off completely in 1982. Burt Reynolds in his prime. I’ll direct your attention to Burt Reynolds’s nude centerfold from a 1972 issue of Cosmopolitan and then you can decide if Fields did the rational thing.

I’m back now; had to take a brief break JUST KIDDING so let’s direct our attention away from the beefcake and move along to the cheesecake. 

Warning: Read through this recipe at least twice. The ingredients are listed in a very quirky way, as befits perky and quirky Sal.

FILLING:

2 lb Cream cheese
3 tbsp Flour, sifted
6 tbsp Butter, melted
1 tsp Lemon rind, grated
1 tsp Vanilla
4 Egg yolks, beaten

CRUST AND TOPPINGS:

1 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 c Whipping cream
1 c Confectioner’s Sugar
1 1/2 c Graham cracker, crushed
4 Egg whites

Preheat oven to 350° F. Mix together graham crackers, confectioner’s sugar, melted butter and cinnamon. Put aside about 1/3 of the mixture. Line a deep 9″ pie plate with rest of mixture, pressing crust lightly onto the bottom and against the sides. Chill thoroughly. Dissolve sugar in whipping cream. Add cream cheese, beaten egg yolks, flour, vanilla, lemon rind. In a separate bowl, whip egg whites until they’re stiff but not dry. Fold into cheese mixture. Fill pie shell and sprinkle reserved graham cracker mixture over top. Bake about 1 hour at 350° F. Garnish with lemon slices. Serve 12.

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13 Comments

  1. Amy Schumer isn’t consistently funny, but she has some good ones. The best one I’ve seen was the “last fuckable day” skit where she stumbles across several Tina Fey, Patricia Arquette, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus celebrating Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s last fuckable day – aka the day that Hollywood decides she’s now old and gross. They reference the Sally Field movies you mentioned above. Pretty sure the reason it was so damn funny is that Patricia Arquette, Tina Fey, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus just made shit up for their lines.

  2. For whatever reason, I find the premise of The Flying Nun crazier than Munsters, Addams Family, Bewitched, and the rest.

    I think part of it is that there was nothing supernatural about her, she was just skinny and her hat acted like wings. It’s easier for me to accept a swinging bachelor finding a genie’s bottle. It’s also so much easier for me to see a successful pitch to a TV exec for a suburban witch than a nun show, let alone one who flies.

    • I think nuns had a bit of a moment in the mid-to-late-60s. Catholic church attendance was still at historic peaks, and 1966’s coming-of-age comedy The Trouble With Angels (about a convent school, or at least a girls’ school run by nuns) did huge box office. Not as huge as 1965’s Sound of Music, of course, whose main character is a former Austrian nun shipped off to manage the household of a widower with seven unruly children during the lead-up to the Anschluss.

      If you haven’t seen it already, you really should watch 1970’s Change of Habit, where nun Mary Tyler Moore is sent to work in an East Harlem clinic with Dr. Elvis Presley, with predictable results. It’s where the song In The Ghetto comes from. In fact, in the movie Dr. Presley gathers some East Harlem children around him and sings this song to them, residents of the ghetto themselves, and Sister Mary falls in love with him.

      • Cousin Matty, in the mid/late 60’s, there *also* may have been a little bit of influence of The Marian Year–and the resulting hoardes of young Catholic girls whose full legal name includes either a “Mary” or “Marie” being in their tweenaged/teenaged years, at the height of that timeframe!😉💖

      • There was some singing, guitar playing nun who had a hit or two around then too, I think.

        What’s really weird to me is the flying bit. It’s sort of like someone saw how popular Friends was, and decided to do a similar show about yuppies hanging out and falling love in some trendy city, except they were all 85 pounds and could fly!

        • Product differentiation. ABC exec: “There are more nuns around than you can shake a crucifix at in the visual arts. We need a hook. How about she tends to poor Puerto Ricans? And what if she flies every so often, unexpectedly?” And then, while The Flying Nun is still on (and in) the air, a studio exec says, “How about a nun who cares for poor Puerto Ricans, but in New York, so we can raise awareness of inner city issues? The inner city is all anyone talks about nowadays. But let’s not have her fly. Don’t we still have Elvis under contract for a picture or two?”

          Hollywood magic.

    • These are always enjoyable to research but laborious to write. When I got to the Field-Reynolds relationship, completely forgotten by me, I took a little detour to try and find the 1972 Cosmopolitan spread, and was surprised to learn that Cosmo has done a good amount of centerfolds over the years since Reynolds, their first one. Tasteful ones, you don’t really see anything. There is an issue from 1974 that has two: Jim Brown, their first black centerfold, who was a running back for the Cleveland Browns (Brown of the Browns, you might say) and peppy boy next door John Davidson. Both are still alive: Brown is 86 and Davidson is 80. I don’t think I’ve ever read a copy of Cosmo so this came as news to me, but I had heard about the Reynolds one and also the Schwarzenegger one.

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