Duggan Sisters’ EXPOsé: Part One – Hollywood Journal


Mary Duggan

By Mary Duggan

This blog is dedicated to everyone who has ever said, “All the crazy people and ideas come from California.”

I am writing this from my home in Chicago, on March 20th, and it is 27 degrees outside with a wind chill of 9 degrees and it is almost Easter.

I am frugal and minimalist by nature, but I own: tall Dutch recycled boots, medium boots with a fur lining for trudging in snow, UGGs for light weight wear, low boots for warmth but no snow, 2 pairs of spring rain boots, one fancy, one more garden style, a stylish designer light-weight down jacket, an ugly red LL Bean super heavy weight down jacket for big storms, a middle weight down jacket with a fur trimmed collar for dashing from the mall to the car when I am out shopping for sweaters and long underwear and a simple black wool coat. My long underwear collection fills half a drawer. My collection of hats, scarves, and gloves fills an entire dresser drawer and then some.

Last night the dog was edgy and upset at 5:30 AM, so I volunteered to take him out for a walk to give Clare a rare break from dog responsibilities. When I got home she was on the front porch in her robe throwing salt down the stairwell so the Pomeranian and I could get back in the house as an ice storm had blown up in the half hour we were out dealing with Chester’s loose bowels and the front porch and steps had become a sheet of ice.

I repeat, “All the crazy people live in California???”


hollywood journal



Leaving home to attend our first Natural Products EXPO West involved pulling an all-nighter and then arriving at the airport at 5 am where the TSA agent promptly seized the 3 containers of homemade raw hummous I had prepared for our healthy travels. Okay so now we were contending with hunger and fatigue, but we still had our chopped veggies and gluten-free pita chips. But nothing was going to dampen the spirits of the Duggan Sisters. Farewell Chicago and 10 inches of snow. Hello California!


Chicago was hit by a 10" blizzard the day before we left

Casa Duggan the morning of our departure: and the crazy people live in California?


Part One: Who Puts the Fun in Fundraising?

I expected all the palm trees. But the majestic height and repetition still delighted and impressed. What I did not expect was the constant and comforting swirl and swoop of hawks. I have hawks in my own backyard in Chicago, but they are somewhat rare and a sighting is always filled with wonder and importance. I mentioned all the California hawks to my doctor in Chicago and he said, “Lots of hawks mean lots of rodents.” So sometimes Chicagoans can be real poops. Nevertheless the hawks in California were an ever-present delight.

I also did not expect to love Hollywood, the land of sleaze and broken dreams. But, I did; in great measure due to the amazing and accomplished lifestyle of our hostess, my high school friend, Maripat Donovan, the acclaimed author and star of the international sensation Late Nite Catechism and other one woman show marvels.

Late Night Catechism

I have seen Maripat a handful of times since our time together at the Academy of Our Lady. Each time has created a wonderful memory; perhaps my favorite being dinner decades ago in a Bucktown restaurant that was clearly considering booting us to the curb because of the screeching, snorting, nose running laughter that accompanied our otherwise not memorable meal. Maripat and laughter just go together, and funny and smart as well.

once in a blue moon - light

Even if it’s just once in a blue moon, it’s great to see an old friend.


Maripat was always a visionary, and she identified the Bucktown area, long before it was chic, for some of her earliest rehabbing and urban pioneering. As she walked me through one of her recent re-dos I could hardly hear a word she was saying; all I could think about was someone vandalizing my car at the curb.  Mary, this place is going to be hot.  Mark my word. And all Chicagoans know how that real estate story ended. Hot, hot, hot, indeed.

But Maripat’s true calling in theatre soon eclipsed her amazing career in construction and rehab and real estate development. Late Nite Catechism placed her among the theatrical elite and fueled her move to Hollywood. While performing at the Henry Fonda Theatre, she discovered the home of Bela Lugosi in tatters in the heart of old Hollywood and her twin skills of restoration and entertainment merged in the creation of the amazing compound of delights that welcomed the weary Duggan Sisters at the beginning of our LA excursion. Maripat is still the visionary.

Maripat's Hollywood Home

FuFu the African White Spurred TortoiseWe pulled up our rented van in front of Maripat’s “House of Hijinks and Hospitality” and stood stripping off Chicago layers as we marveled at her lovely little bungalow in the heart of old Hollywood. Towering Italian cypress fills the front yard while enormous agave cactus stud the parkways. The white picket fence is tall and real and as the security coded gate to the compound opens you know you are in pure Maripat-Land when you are greeted by FuFu the African White Spurred Tortoise who will one day be the size of a coffee table and is well on the way, Mary and Blackus the cats, so many Chihuahuas that it’s easy to lose count and bath-robed writers scooting from skinny dips in the secluded pool and hot tub areas to the tiny guest rooms that border this not anything like Hyannis Port working community of creativity and hospitality.

The Duggan Sisters were quickly unpacked in the crown jewel of the attached cottages where Maripat’s background in set design and construction marries delightfully with her sister Cathy’s career as an interior designer. As pale as mozzarella cheese and beyond tired from the effort involved in leaving Chicago, the abundant sunshine was instantly energizing for the Sisters. Once we’d completed our tour of the compound, and made ourselves scarce while Maripat took a conference call, our hummous-free tummies began to growl. So, Yelp assisted and starving, we were off to the Larchmont Bungalow for a gluten-free breakfast.

Or is it the House of Hilarity?

Or is it the House of Hilarity?


But not before we’d met the team from Maripat’s catering and food truck enterprise – Jose O’Malley’s – where mashed potatoes and Chicago hot dogs share stomach space with tacos, rice and beans. In the face of the entrepreneurial genius of Maripat Donovan the Duggan Sisters are neophytes at best and wanna-bees, for sure. Maripat’s food truck meets the needs of film studios for a concept known as second meal and once again her multi-tiered talents prevail.

Jose O'Malley

Part Two: If You Think It’s Brad Pitt, It Probably Is.

Before we headed out on our own, Maripat gave us a brief primer on Hollywood. It went something like this. The house across the street is fake, Mary, it’s not real, it’s just used in films. Yes, that is the real Paramount Studios just around the corner. It’s A Wonderful Life was filmed across the street and yes Mr. Gower, the pharmacist’s name, came from Gower Studios across the street and if you think you see Brad Pitt at CVS, it probably is Brad Pitt. Now remember girls, Ellen DeGeneres lives in Larchmont so keep your eyes open. Remember, if you think it’s…

Maripat is a caterer extraordinaire yet she is not a foodie and she is most certainly not a health foodie ‘ala the Duggan Sisters. She loves and celebrates not the Chicago of Grant Achatz and Alinea but the real food for regular people reality of Italian Beef Sandwiches and Polish Dogs available and affordable at all hours. It inspires the catering business she runs and the diet she maintains. So she sent us off to lunch with a reminder that Denny’s was just around the corner. We ignored her.

The Larchmont area was just a few minutes away and proved to be lovely. We settled on huevos rancheros at the Larchmont Bungalow and they were insanely delicious. The highlight of the stop was meeting the hostess Lorrena who put pen to paper and quickly created a list for us of her favorite eating spots in Hollywood, all gluten-free or at least sensitive and adaptive to the needs of gluten-free folks like us. She was determined that we would have the most wonderful food before we moved to our EXPO digs behind what she referred to as the Orange Curtain, aka Anaheim and Yorba Linda.

If It Looks Like Boo

We did not encounter Ellen or Gwyneth at lunch but we did have a totally Hollywood moment when we looked out the window to a diner in the outdoor café. You would think our eyes would have gone to the baby in the stroller beside her; but no, it went to the Pomeranian with the Mohawk haircut in the lower level of the stroller. As we swooned over the dog, named Valentino, I asked the Mommy if she thought her daughter would grow up needing therapy because of all the folks cooing over Valentino (a Pomeranian even cuter than the famous Boo) instead of over darling daughter. Again, I can only call the baby “Her” because I did not get her name. But, the Pomeranian was named Valentino. Hollywood.

BTW: Lorrena was such a honey that we caught her on the flip side as well, picking the Larchmont Bungalow for our all-important final meal, squeezing in one more round of huevos rancheros and a good-bye squeeze for Lorrena, as well. We LOVE Hollywood! Thanks to Maripat, Lorrena, and Valentino for the warm and enthusiastic welcome. And for the record, even behind the Orange Curtain, we found lots of wonderful gluten-free options; but that did not diminish our instantaneous love affair with the delightful Lorrena. More on the GF delights later.Lorrena at Larchmont Bungalow

Our Welcome to Hollywood afternoon concluded with a quick drive to get our bearings and then it was take out dinner and lots of laughs getting caught up at Maripat’s and meeting some of the members of her warm and welcoming entourage. I have a big hole in my heart in relation to friendships. I have not been good about keeping in touch and have sustained a fair number of betrayals, as well. So Maripat being so instantaneous with her generosity when we called at the very last minute about heading to California was so healing for me.


There was a brief time just following high school when Maripat actually lived in the Duggan household and it generated stories and smiles that have endured for decades. Her extraordinary success did not surprise our mother at all. When I asked her to reflect on the youthful Maripat, my Mom said without hesitating, “I did not know what she would do with her life. I just knew she would be a huge success at whatever she did.” Mom – right again.

The nuns used to say Maripat would either end up famous or in prison. In a gorgeous twist of karma and fate Maripat would end up quite famous for a theatrical piece she wrote, produced, directed, starred in and franchised world-wide that is a loving and hysterical tribute to those very nuns. Maripat has generously donated to the retirement funds of those same nuns, for many years now, clearly earning her a place in heaven way more fun than any convent.Contrary to the nuns’ predictions and unlike so many famous Illinoisans she has yet to be imprisoned. Quite the opposite, she bears the incredible distinction of an honorary degree from Loyola University, the only time in their history that they have awarded an Honorary Undergraduate Degree at a very moving and celebratory event. 


In a house replete with the accolades and memories of a now decades long career in professional theatre, Maripat’s honorary degree hanging on the wall of her office caught my eye immediately. Wouldn’t my Mom and the nuns be proud? I sure am.

FuFu enjoys her own Green Smoothie delights for breakfast!

FuFu is our kind of gal. Check out her Green Smoothie breakfast! Someone get this tortoise a Vitamix!

Departure for Anaheim and booth set-up at EXPO set the morning’s pace; but not before an early am hot tub and swim in the pool Maripat designed and built. Annie checked in at the local grocery store (who seized our hummous?) while Clare borrowed a blender and some counter space in Maripat’s catering facility to prep enough green smoothies to carry us through the rigors of EXPO. I don’t know if it was exhilarating or somewhat disconcerting to realize that Maripat’s turtle was having an almost identical breakfast to our own. What I do know is it was very California! And then it was Adios, Maripat, we’ll catch you on the flip side as we headed off to Anaheim.

disney to be continued

 Click to read EXPOsé: Part Two – 5 Years In

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