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Beloved 'Fruitcake Lady' dies in Hudson

Marie Rudisill, 95, won over audiences on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

By ERIN SULLIVAN
Published November 14, 2006


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Marie Rudisill, better known as the Fruitcake Lady on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, died in Hudson on Nov. 3, 2006. She was 95 years old. Her only child, James, said that she died from old age.

"She was fine up until the day she died," he said.

Rudisill was an aunt of Truman Capote and helped raise him in his early childhood. She also wrote several books, including The Southern Haunting of Truman Capote and Ask the Fruitcake Lady: Everything You Would Already Know If You Had Any Sense.

Rudisill began her career on Leno at the age of 89, after she published Fruitcake, a witty cookbook on the cakes she'd been making since she was a child, according to the tribute page to her on NBC.com.

She did fruitcake baking segments with Hollywood royalty - Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., Hugh Grant - and gave all of them liberal doses of her sharp tongue and wit, treating them like naughty boys who were messing up her kitchen. During her segment with Gibson, she didn't know who he was. Leno told her he was a harmonica player and he was making his first appearance.

Rudisill had Leno on one side and Gibson on the other - allegedly the boys were going to make their own fruitcakes. Leno surveyed the bowls of dried fruit.

"Dump it all in?" he asked.

"Yes," she said. "Do that quick."

"Are you a bossy lady?" Leno asked her.

"Well, a little bit," Rudisill said. "When you're as old as I am, hell, you have to be bossy. C'mon, get your nuts there."

She wanted them to take a little bit of flour and dust the fruit with it.

"C'mon, Mel, dust yours," she said. "But don't put so much on."

"Too much?" he asked.

She peered into his bowl.

"Oh, my Lord," she said. "You've made a mess."

Though her cooking spots were popular, she might have been better known for her "Ask the Fruitcake Lady" segments. Viewers asked the tiny, white-haired woman questions, and she responded with more than a smattering of honesty in her profanity-peppered Southern drawl.

During a Christmas spot, one guy asked her if she had been naughty or nice.

"What kind of a damn fool question is that?" she said. "How can a 94-year-old woman be naughty? My days of being naughty are gone forever."

A woman asked: "Do you think Santa will bring me a rich man who loves to cook and clean around the house?"

"No," Rudisill said, without hesitation. "Of course not because there is no such man on this earth. No such man."

Another woman said her husband wanted a tool set for Christmas, but she didn't want to spend the money because she knew he would never use it. What did the Fruitcake Lady suggest doing?

"Well, I should say it would be in your benefit to give him sex," Rudisill said.

"It'd be a lot cheaper for you to do that. I mean, why not? I would."

There was no funeral for Rudisill, who was born Edna Marie Faulk in 1911 in Monroeville, Ala. Her son said she didn't want a fuss.

But the family, which includes three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, is going to have a private memorial service in Monroeville at a later date.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or 813 909-4609.

[Last modified November 14, 2006, 08:29:22]


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