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Open House With Shirley Jones And Jack Cassidy

Shirley and Jack Cassidy had only been in their California home two months, when one night, over supper, Jack suggested, “Let’s have an open house! None of our friends have even had a chance to see the place.”

Shirley stopped and thought a minute. Jack was right. First it was the moving in; then they’d both been terribly busy on location, and then there had been decorating and furniture-buying to think about—

“It’s a wonderful idea,” she agreed. Both were proud of their first home—they’d looked so long and hard to find just the right one. “But our furniture has hardly begun to arrive yet! Where would everyone sit?” she said on second thought.

“We’ll just use one room,” answered Jack, the more practical one of the family, “and put the buffet table in the dining room—”

“—And tell everyone not to dress up!” finished Shirley. “And we’ll stagger the guest list.”

“We’ll what?”

“Invite them to come at different times. That way we won’t be over-crowded, and we’ll get to visit with everyone.

Jack smiled his approval as Shirley grabbed a pad and pencil and started jotting errands and ideas down fast and furiously. “I have a hundred things to do—just look at the house—before Sunday!”

“You’ll have more lists than food and decorations at this rate!” Jack teased.

“It’s the only way I can avoid panic,” countered Shirley. “Besides, I don’t just write things down. I do them—ahead of time—not like some people I know,” she winked.

Together Shirley and Jack made a list of their friends and neighbors for the open house – house warming party, and decided to try limiting the list to twenty-five. (“The place is small.”)

The next day Shirley started telephoning, and called her good friend Dina Merrill, who was out on the Coast from New York for a screen test. “We’re having a holiday open house next Sunday, Dina. Please come—and don’t dress up too much. It’s informal.”

Shirley decided to telephone the rest of the guests, too, since it was a short-notice affair. And during the week, she and Jack bought food and shopped the five-and-ten for their party decorations. Shirley spotted some multi-colored Christmas balls that she liked, and Jack picked out red and white striped candy canes to brighten the living room and dining room.

By Saturday afternoon, all the shopping was done, Shirley popped her fifteen-pound turkey into the oven (“Allow approximately a half-pound ready-to-cook turkey per serving,” said her cookbook, but Shirley allowed for a few extra-hungry guests), and she and Jack decorated for the party. Red and green paper streamers hung from the ceiling in the dining room, where the buffet table was set with a bright green cloth, crisscrossed with gold ric-rac that Shirley had sewn on herself. (She did the same with red napkins to make a colorful matching set.)

Later, while taking a coffee break, Shirley basted her turkey. Jack knew better than to assist, for he understood Shirley’s love of cooking—and cooking alone. (“Men don’t belong in kitchens,” she maintains.) In New York, she would dabble for hours in the Cassidy’s big apartment kitchen, and loved the solitude she found there. Giving up that kitchen had been the hardest part of leaving New York, but she and Jack had dreamed of a home of their own for so long, that the thought of moving to California and looking for one at last had been wonderful. With both their work centered primarily on the West Coast, and most of their friends there, it seemed the only place to settle.

By now, Shirley was ready to work on her pineapple table centerpiece. She had bought the largest and best-shaped pineapple the super market had, a set of long, tapered candles in red, white and pink, and some holiday sparkle dust. She set the pineapple into a large, white compote bowl. Then, poking small holes into it, she inserted the candles in various spots.

Jack gathered greens from outdoors (“Evergreens are ideal, if you live in the proper climate,” suggests Shirley), and Shirley surrounded the pineapple with them. As a final touch, she sprinkled sparkle dust liberally over candles, pineapple, greens and bowl.

“It’s beautiful!” she proclaimed proudly, hugging Jack. “It really is.”

Shirley Jones Cassidy was delighted that being “between pictures” gave her time for being at home. All during filming of 20th’s “April Love,” which she’d made in Kentucky, and then during “Never Steal Anything Small,” for Universal, she had looked forward to these days of moving into their new home, entertaining, experimenting with the recipes she’s been diligently clipping and collecting for so long—and just being Mrs. Cassidy.

Shirley took her borrowed silver punch bowl carefully off the shelf, polished it until it shone, and set it in the middle of a low, round coffee table in the living room. Then she collapsed happily in a butterfly chair. The rest of the work would have to be done tomorrow. Jack would slice down the turkey, she would prepare her avocado dip and cranberry punch, heat the rolls at the last minute, and that would be it!

Sunday morning was beautifully bright and sunny—their first holiday Sunday away from New York. After church, and lunch, Shirley and Jack finished the last-minute decorating and hung a holly wreath on the front door. Jack carved the turkey while Shirley arranged the slices on a large platter, and garnished it with cranberry sauce which she had cut into Christmas shapes with cookie cutters. Finally, she added stalks of crisp celery, as Jack smacked his lips and evoked a long low whistle at the finished effect.

“My Christmas avocado dip is scrumptious on crisp crackers,” says Shirley, and here is how she made it:


Mix well:

1 three-ounce package cream cheese

3 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 teaspoons lemon juice (“You can also use vinegar,” suggests Shirley.)

¼ teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

Next, peel, pit and mash I ripe avocado, blend well into cheese mixture, and chill.

After dressing, and shortly before the guests arrived, Shirley mixed the cranberry punch. And you can make it, too. The basic recipe makes about twenty-five servings:


Combine over ice in a punch bowl:

2 cups cranberry juice

1½ cups lemon juice, bottled or fresh

1 cup orange juice

1½ cups unsweetened pineapple juice

2 cups light corn syrup

When ready to serve, add a 28-ounce bottle of pale dry ginger ale. Shirley garnished the punch with whole, cooked cranberries, but you can also use maraschino cherries, or chunks of pineapple, or both.

Just before the guests arrived, Jack put some of his favorite party records on the high-fi set—some soft Latin guitar music and some vocals by Gerry Mulligan. When the guests arrived, Jack and Shirley gave each a grand tour of the house—“even the undecorated parts.” For Bob Evans’ benefit, Shirley played a record of bullfight music, and before long, Bob and Dina were engrossed in a discussion on bullfighting, with Bob explaining how he learned the art for “The Sun Also Rises.”

“The nicest thing about an open house is that the guests entertain themselves!” Jack whispered to Shirley, observing that everyone was mixing effortlessly—even the guests who had not known each other before.

“I told you we didn’t have to be nervous,” Shirley reassured him, as if she threw house-warmings every day. Presiding at the punch bowl, she was dressed in a smart looking black torreador outfit, with contrasting gay crazy-quilt patchwork apron of velvet. (“The outfit’s by my favorite designer, Jeanne Campbell of Sportwhirl,” Shirley told Dina.)

Some guests came bearing gifts, others didn’t. (“It certainly wasn’t necessary at an open house,” agreed the Cassidys.)

“The nicest thing about the party,” commented one star, “is that it’s so cozy, and not too crowded to chat with everyone.”

“Of course,” said Jack Cassidy, winking slyly at Shirley. “That’s because Shirl and I staggered our guest list!”




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