Just Another Night at the Ranch… Starring Shirley Jones and the Cassidy Brothers

How often do you have in your living room an Academy Award-winning actress, a Tony Award-winning costume designer, an Emmy-winning composer, and a Grammy-nominated bona-fide teen idol?

We did a few weeks ago when we hosted a sing-along with Shirley Jones and Shaun Cassidy and made an evening of it. Rancho La Zaca was filled with music, laughter, and a tear or two.

We were lucky to catch her just before the launch of her new, much talked about autobiography Shirley Jones – A Memoir. The words “sizzling” and “hot” are bandied about.

And speaking of heat waves–ba-doom-boom–the Valley was in the middle of one at the time, but the good news is we can have dinner outside in the olive trees without those clunky heaters. It really is a magical setting, and it set the tone for the evening.

Dinner in the Olive Grove - RLZ Sing-along Dinner. Flowers on the table are blush dahlias and chocolate geraniums, which hold up pretty well in the heat but are as relieved as all of us when the sun sets.

Shaun and his cool, beautiful wife Tracey and family moved to the Valley a few years ago from the wilds of Los Angeles, where Shaun continues to work as a successful television writer and producer.  I met them at church. Yes really.

You never know who you’ll run into at St. Mark’s. We’ve also met the Emmy-winning composer Carl Johnson and his wife there and had them to the sing-along, too.

Our evening began with a rousing chorus of OKLAHOMA! … before Shirley and Shaun got there.

When they did arrive, we watched a reel of Shirley’s amazing career, from The Music Man to The Partridge Family and beyond. If you have a minute it is sooo worth watching. Here it is on Vimeo. Then she talked a bit about her life, about kissing all those handsome leading men. (Burt Lancaster was the best, btw)  and sang a few songs. At 79 she looks and sounds great.

With Shaun she sang “People Will Say We’re in Love.” We could all tell how much they enjoyed singing together, and what it meant to them. Shaun told me later they don’t often get the chance, and they were glad when one came along.

RLZ Singalong Dinner With Shirley Jones and Patrick Cassidy
Shirley Jones and Shaun Cassidy, with accompanist Sarah Broomell.

Shaun’s brother Patrick Cassidy also came. He, like his mother and brother(s) has a beautiful voice. Patrick and Shirley performed together in the 2004 Broadway revival of 42nd Street, if you’ll recall, and again last year in The Music Man for the Sacramento Music Circus.

Patrick Cassidy at RLZ Sing-along
Patrick Cassidy dazzles at RLZ Sing-along

As he was visiting the Cassidys, the preeminent costume designer  William Ivey Long came too. William is also godfather to one of the Cassidy chillens, and a fellow North Carolinian. Meeting him was like greeting an old friend.

Even though my hair looked like a chicken’s behind, partly because it was 200 degrees outside.

William Ivey Long and moi. I am doing something funny with my mouth, like I just bit something unexpected, like a 2-inch nail.

Shirley’s husband the comic actor Marty Ingels came, too. He is very funny and gave HG a fit.

Marty Ingels
Marty Ingels

So many special elements to this night, but the best was having friends there to share it with us.

RLZ Singalong Dinner With Shirley Jones and Patrick Cassidy
Mason Farrell and Kate Firestone
RLZ Singalong dinner with Shirley Jones and Patrck Cassidy
Molly Ballantine (left) and food writer Maili Halme chat up William Ivey Long. Winemaker Andrew Murray in foreground.
Shaun Cassidy and Kate Firestone
Shaun and Kate

Time for dinner. We had fried chicken, considered exotic in southern California.

RLZ Singalong Dinner With Shirley Jones and Patrick Cassidy
His Grace escorting Shirley to dinner. Following along is papparazzi wanna-be Ike, the Bishon of Preacher & Partner.

Just before dessert HG and I traded places and I sat next to Shirley. One of the things we talked about was, surprise, men. We agreed that having a partner who makes you laugh is about the best thing there is.

RLZ Singalong Dinner With Shirley Jones and Patrick Cassidy
Even the simplest table becomes elegant with lots of candlelight.

After dinner, more singing! Billy, aka Partner of Preacher & Partner and a singer, put me up to a duet. Belted it out, we did. There is a reason I am not a singer, and if you needed reminding this was your chance.

RLZ Singalong dinner with Shirley Jones and Patrck Cassidy
Bill Donald O'Connor Hurbaugh and Frances Ethel Merman Schultz. He made me do it...

Billy’s inspiration was Donald O’Connor and Ethel Merman singing “You’re Just in Love” in Call Me Madam. Funnily enough we used to sing that song on car trips when we were little. I think my mother knew the words to every song Ethel Merman ever sang.

I wonder if Ethel and Shirley ever sang together. I’ll have to ask, or better still see if it’s in her “racy!” new memoir. Here’s a link to buy her book on Barnes & Noble and on Amazon.com. I bet HG is halfway through it already…

Shirley Jones - A Memoir
Shirley Jones - A Memoir

Many thanks to Julie Farrell and Bill Hurbaugh for their photos, and to Bill for his voice coaching, even though it didn’t help much.


  1. That is what I call one MAGICAL MOMENT…beauty surrounds so much of what you do!
    And the inside story just as entertaining as the “picture perfect”
    Snapshots of life….can’t wait to get her book.luann

    1. Thank you, Luann. At the risk of sounding corny, it really was a magical evening. Thanks so much for writing – it is wonderful to hear from you. xo Frances

  2. What a wonderful evening that must have been – great food, friends and a lovely venue.
    I really enjoy your blog and look forward to each new post.
    Also, great interview with Mary Douglas Drysdale in HOUSE BEAUTIFUL.

  3. Frances
    Looks like so much fun. I’m a huge fan of Shirley. But…HG looks like the ultimate movie star in that picture ! Jk

  4. What fun! I have always loved Shirley Jones!! Down here on holiday in Florida and downloaded her memoir to my Kindle last week. It was very revealing….an interesting read.

    Love reading your blog, Frances!! Keep up the fabulous work!


  5. Not sure I would have survived a heat wave AND Shaun Cassidy at the same time…he was my teen idol, I was totally in love with him! What a fun night you had 🙂

  6. Wow Frances! This entire entry made me smile. His Grace does look like a movie star and so do you inspite of biting a nail……also, i was a little bummed that Shaun no longer has “wings” (ie his hairstyle). They all look fabulous and what a memorable night! xx

  7. what a fabulous evening it must have been..have spent many years singing Shirleys songs(mostly in the shower)
    maybe you need to have a western version of our PE art classes…it all looks so beautiful..!!

  8. WOW-that must have been one of the most wonderful nights ever! Watching that video brought smiles and tears to me as well!1 You could have used an old Cold Cut with her crazy stick to play along, I’ll bet! That insrument just made people sing better!! Can you believe what Shirley Jones has done throughout her life? I cannot wait to get her book.
    thank you for sharing the wonderful evening. I was singing right along with ya’ll

    1. Hi Croft, and yes I DO wish we’d had a crazy stick and the entire St Mary’s singing Cold Cuts along with it! xo Frances

  9. So love your blog. What an exciting life you have….while those of us living in the South have nothing to talk about but the rain ! I hope that HG does not go broke buying linens.

  10. Wow– what a fun- filled evening you must have experienced!! I love sing-alongs and with your cast, it must have been magical. William Ivey Long has roots in Northampton County, NC, as do I. He was a great friend to my uncle, Sonny Joyner, and many times I accompanied my uncle to William Ivey’s Fourth of July gathering in Seaboard. He has long been a friend and benefactor to one of my favorite things, The Lost Colony. North Carolina has many memorable people including you– and we are proud of all of them!

  11. What fun! I love reading whatever you write, especially if it is about a great dinner, and about singing. And I completely understand how cool it is to meet people at church. Love and Blessings to you!

    1. Dear Sam, Fun as ours was, nothing rivals a Candler family sing-along with you at the keys! And I am glad you understand how cool it is to meet people at church since you, you know, kind of spend a lot of time there. 😉 Love and blessings back!

  12. Oh Frances,
    Sounds like an incredible evening! I watched the VIMEO and it brought back so many childhood memories of those songs playing on our “stereo” at home. When no one was home I would actually fancy myself a broadway star and belt out “Oklahoma” and “If I Loved You” (I did have the good sense to close the windows first though). This will be a memory you will cherish forever. Hope all is well– it sure seems so!. Love, Jackie PS. I love your recipes– and so do my kids!

    1. Thank you Jackie, and I am tuning in a mental picture of your solo recital and sorta wishing you hadn’t closed those windows. I bet you were great! xo F

  13. What a fabulous evening you all had! Felt like I was there with you after reading this! The ranch is such a magical place !

  14. So exciting to see Wm Ivey Long. I was a friend and fellow teacher with his Mom in Rock Hill SC. His Dad was Drama Head at Winthrop University. They spent summers at The Lost Colony. I remember him as a small child. I always thought he looked like Disney created him. So enjoyed the current pix of William. He, now, looks like a computer-generated blend of his Mom and Dad. They created a star, didn’t they?

    1. Hi Carolyn! Yes WIL is a star and has what I can only call a happy face. I believe he is still very much involved with The Lost Colony, too. Thank you so much for writing, F

  15. Loved this posting and loved that magical evening as well! It will go down in my memory bank as one of the most “pinch me” worthy evenings ever! Thank you, dear Frances and HG for providing.
    PS I’m fixen’ to make that NC Lemon Pie for supper tonight!

    1. Thank you dear Ellen. I had to tell them it was all right to each the chicken with their fingers. They were skeptical…

  16. There is nothing better than people who like to sing–instant friends. What a gathering–met William Ivey Long when he was in Atlanta for a friend’s wedding. At the time he was working on a play–when I asked him what it was he replied that I would not know it. I pestered and he told me “Grey Gardens” and I of course could tell him all about it. I must have looked like I was from Arkansas–which I am!

    1. LOL and I agree, Elizabeth, and what fun it is to hear from all the Southerners who know and love WIL.

    2. Hi Elizabeth! I love this story! I so remember those fab costumes from GG. I don’t know if he won the Tony for that, but he did win this year for Cinderella. Arkansas is lucky to have you, btw!

  17. What a wonderful night you had In our special part of CA! We were just up and had a fabulous few days, with crisp mornings and magical starry nights! Love your blog! It always makes me smile (or laugh out loud)! A sense of humor is one of the best traits you can have!

    1. Dear Judy, thank you so so much. Such a compliment coming from you. Hope we will see you in August or Sept in Calif! Love, Frances

  18. Frances, what a wonderfully exciting and interesting life you live and I do mean LIVE!! It is an “Auntie Mame” life and I can’t think of a more fun one!! Thank you for letting us share it vicariously. I ALWAYS love your blogs….and I always learn something new.
    Yes It is raining here, but goodness is it ever HOT,too!

    1. Dear Gayle, You are the sweetest thing. My nieces and nephew think I am nuts, I am sure, but we do have fun. Cannot get over the rain in the Southeast… Lordy Lord, try to stay dry. And thank you so so much for reading, and for taking the time to write. Love to you, Frances

  19. Hi Frances – what a totally outrageous evening! As we say in the south “your Mama would have been proud”. Cheers, Betty Lyn

  20. That chicken may be a little upset that you thought your hair looked like his behind…just sayin! Love you!!

    1. Gosh Sis you probably have a point there. My apologies to chickens everywhere. His Grace allowed as he thought the resemblance was more to a dead ground squirrel. Now I will have offended the squirrels as well.

    1. Thank you, Lynn, it was fun. But you know it occurs to me you don’t need to have Shirley Jones at your house to have a sing-along! Maybe we should make it a regular thing. I wish I could play the piano…

  21. Blush dahlias and chocolate geraniums! What a totally inspired combination. I Just caught a rerun of the Partridge Family on Friday so they are all fresh in my mind. Your blog makes me feel like I was there and I had fun.
    The hair was a great look for a sing a long. You have to mix it all up or whats the fun? Thank you for your blog!

    1. Thank you Miss Sally! Have to say the geraniums were a new one on me for arrangements, and the foliage was great. Appreciate your charitable hair comment. Obviously my sister has a different opinion! Ha!

  22. I am in love with your olive grove. It looks like a wonderful setting for your birthday parties, wedding and famous guests. This party looks to have had it all! Even a cute dog. Shirley Jones is beautiful. Buying the book for a vacation read.

    1. Thank you dear Becky! Yes that olive grove is magical. We were married there, too…. I’ll be reading Shirley’s book with you. Let’s compare notes. xox Frances

  23. Well,Frances,I loved it all,D and I played bridge today and giggled so much and sung your praises and your writing ability to make us feel right there,but my very favorite was your mouth, even more than the hair,I zeroed in the minute I saw it and wondered what you were saying or doing .Love your ability to laugh at yourself,cause I can laugh at me too.Love about your Liberty puzzles, can’t wait to get one for PV.Love to you and HG,MW

    1. M-DUB, am missing thinking about you and D playing bridge and giggling — and yes at ourselves! Always! Blog post coming up about the puzzles! My new obsession. Love to you and Bill, F

  24. Your ranch looks amazin’ as does Shirley-she looks flipping amazing!! I would love to have heard about Burt’s kiss.
    SIGH. As if it wasn’t hot enough at the soiree already…

    1. Slim, seriously! If you watch her reel, she kissed everybody! And I’m pretty sure she enjoyed it, too. Hot is right, hun.

  25. WILLIAM IVEY LONG designed the costumes for Shaun’ s show Dangerous Music, which he performed in at the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theater.

    1. That’s right! And they became fast friends then, from what WIL told me. He is now godfather to their youngest child. Thanks so much for writing Clcorwin!

  26. What a treat to read! I cut my vocal chords on Shirley Jones’ music. As a vocalist, she was my complete package, and I have always been amazed at her ability to fall off the notes the way that she does. It’s amazing. It’s because of Shirley, that I found Shaun, and I’ve been a lifelong fan ever since. Only my closest friends know what a treat it would be for me to sing with either of them. Love your blog, Frances! It’s always a very interesting read.

    1. Thank you Leigh Anne! It is great to witness this resurgence in awareness of Shirley’s remarkable career and to hear from so many who are inspired by her.

  27. Is there a link so we can possibly hear their duet? Would love to hear it. What a wonderful and special night.

    1. Dear Sally, if you mean the duets of Shaun-Shirley and Patrick-Shirley, there is no recording, alas. One of the guests made a snippet of video, and if I can figure out how to post it on vimeo or u-tube, I will. Thanks so much for writing and feelin’ the love!

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