Stars malcolm forbes' faberge egg cake stars
eggstatic
malcolm forbes and elizabeth taylor

An excerpt from
"They Ate My Cake"
© Cliff Simon


For info on the book,
© Cliff Simon


Cast of Characters:
Moi . . . cakebaker to the stars
Lisa . . . my partner in batter
Ruth Schwartz . . . public relations queen
Malcolm Forbes . . . famed rich partygiver
Elizabeth Taylor . . . friend of National Velvet
Unnamed Airlines . . . you don't want to know

Locations:
New York City, San Diego, Bel Air 9021?


is how connections are made: In 1974 I was living in Flushing, New York. I answered an ad in the New York Times shortly after graduating from Queens College. I got the job and made good friends with an artist there who convinced me to move into Manhattan, which I did. I left Flushing forever. I have never rued that day.

Living in the East Village, one night I went to a talk group where I met someone with whom I became good friends. Twelve years went by, and he was no longer my friend, but his nephew was. He worked in the advertising department of Macy's, and one day, needed something really special to bring to his boss who was recuperating in the hospital . . . like a Cake by Cliff. He bought it, and brought it and she loved it. So much so, in fact, that when she got out of the hospital, she ordered a cake from me herself, and decided to help my career by contacting a close friend of hers who was the Publicity Agent for Malcolm Forbes, named Ruth Schwarz, who, when she saw pictures of my Faberge Egg Cake, set up an appointment for me to meet Mr. Forbes, who was arranging his really grand 70th birthday party in Morocco. Which all goes to prove that if I never moved out of Flushing, I would still be living in Flushing.

I was instructed to make a proposal cake for Mr. F. to give him an idea of my talents. My partner, Lisa, and I made a beautiful replica-like cake of one of his actual Faberge Eggs, and met with him at his very mahogany and art-filled digs on Fifth Avenue.

Please picture: Lisa and I, Ruth Schwartz, Mr. Forbes, actual Faberge chatzcahs on his desk (which was as large as a dance floor), enough wood paneling to heat Upper and Lower Slovobia for two winters, and Andrew Wyeths, Picassos and Warhols. . . and my little cake.

He loved the cake. We told him the price. He hated the price. He thanked us a lot. We said goodbye. He kept the cake. I was confused. I mean, wasn't this the man who was going to have camels at his birthday, and fly people to his castle in Morocco from all over the world. Only the rich can afford to be wealthy, isn't that true? So what was the problem. Ruth Schwartz told us he was a 'thrifty' kind of guy.

I returned home, dejected, realizing this was just another situation where I had put all of my Faberge eggs into one basket. But time heals all wounds. In a week I felt better. Then I got a call telling me to get People Magazine, ASAP, which I did. Elvis Presley's daughter was on the cover (did she eat my cake?). I leafed through it, and there was my Faberge Egg Cake at the end of Elizabeth Taylor's pointing finger. I usually restrict my magazine participation to looking at pictures, but I was forced, by curiosity, to read. It said, "Liz, who took the cake, loves eggs-Faberge ones." Mr. Forbes had presented Ms. Taylor with a bunch of baubles, and my cake. And he said, the cake, based on a Faberge Egg in his collection, "cost almost as much as the real thing."

Okay. I can see it was a good photo op. I like Elizabeth Taylor. She deserves cake as good as mine. I understand. Really I do. But Lisa didn't. She dialed 1-800-PEOPLE.

Cut to following week. I got another call prompting me to buy People Magazine (I was considering getting a subscription). I open it to see a cake-exposŽ. Lisa spilled the beans, accused Mr. Forbes of dishonesty, and worse, of being a schnorrer (Yiddish: really cheap).

And then, one week later, I receive 7 color photos of Mr. Forbes, Elizabeth Taylor and mon gateau. And a personal letter, signed by him, with much thanks, many kudos, and a promise to order a really big cake for the San Diego Museum of Art Faberge Egg Exhibition (My mother hung a copy of the letter on her wall. If you visit her, she will usher you to it like a tour guide). Do you think he saw the article in People?

And indeed, in the fall, Mr. Forbes did call and ordered a three foot high, totally 3-dimensional Faberge Egg cake. And I was told I was to deliver it. To San Diego. He got a seat on the plane for me, and one for my cake (business class). I did sketches, plans, baking, forming, covering, layering, painting and presto, it was done. I made a three foot tall, edible chocolate replica of his lovely Lilies of the Valley Faberge Egg (which actually is only 8"). Mine, like the original, separated into three pieces, for which I had constructed three boxes for the trip. The night before departure I had my tickets, I had my cake and I had cramps. There is a long standing tradition in my family, which is if you have something important to do tomorrow, don't sleep tonight. Lay in bed for many, many hours, worrying about all of the things that can go wrong. So being true to family tradition, I stayed up nightmaring (Elm Street 36: Freddie Cuts the Cake).

But everything went perfectly smoothly.

That is a lie. It should read: Everything went perfectly smoothly until I was ready to board the plane. The staff of Unnamed Airlines were, I am sorry to say, not helpful.

#1: I asked for, and was not given preboarding (they do it for invalids and children, why not cakes).

#2: I had to load the three boxes onto the plane, and when I had gotten two on, they began to seal the cabin. How would you like to get a Faberge cake delivered to you without the legs. Not a pretty picture.

#3: Though Mr. Forbes had paid $947.00 for the seat for my cake, the stew crew told me it was not safe enough on the seat. They took out seat belt extenders (left over from when Orson Welles had flown Unnamed) and strapped my egg in so tightly, I was afraid it might get scrambled.

#4: Still not satisfied, three stewardess and one steward stewed over the problem until the plane was almost 10 minutes late (Headline: CAKE HOLDS UP PLANE). Finally, the pilot came back, surveyed the situation, and told them all to get a grip, that he thought the cake was fine. Phew! We flew.

#5: Concerned that Mr. Forbes' chauffeur wouldn't be able to get to the gate to help me with the cake, I had reserved a wheelchair to meet me at the plane, to move it. Placing my boxes on the chair, a flight attendant admonished my actions, informing me that wheelchairs are just for passengers, not cakes (Doesn't he know my cake has feelings too?). I tried explaining that my cake really was a passenger, but he was unmoved. I pleaded. I yelled. I invoked the name of Malcolm Forbes. Finally, pointing to a wheelchair from another airline, he said, with a little disdain, "There. Use that one. It's not an Unnamed one." So, moments later, there went I rolling my Egg through the San Diego Airport. I was whisked off to the museum, where, before a newspaper reporter, I assembled my big edible Faberge Egg for the presentation that evening, which hosted hundreds of luminaries, including Mr. Forbes and Ms. Taylor.

Several days later, back in New York, daydreaming, I thought, "I make these really odd cakes for all kinds of people and celebrities. I am flown to Europe, to California . . . I have even been chauffeured to Long Island. I travel with airplanes, limousines and wheelchairs." Sitting there, that day, staring out the window, I thought, "Cliff Simon, this is your life."

Go figure.


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For info on the book,
© Cliff Simon