When caterer to the stars Mary Giuliani was little, she didn't plan on throwing buzzy Hamptons parties for A-list actors and actresses—she wanted to be one. What was supposed to be a temporary gig, however, ended up in a wildly successful career, and a lesson in “being happy with where you are and seeing what you can do with it,” the author of catering tell-all “Tiny Hot Dogs” says.

Giuliani spoke on Milk Street Radio last week about what it's like to cater parties where every big name you can think of is in the next room, about chasing dreams—and life's curveballs—and about one particularly shocking pet turtle. See below for excerpts from her interview, and listen to the full discussion here.

On her childhood

We couldn’t have been more Italian if we tried. We were the kind of Italians that cooked all day on Saturday for Sunday dinner. But I grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, so all I really wanted to be was like my friends. I wanted to be Jewish. So I went to Hebrew school actively, I gave myself my very own Bat Mitzvah in my house, by myself, and I applied to the Shabbos goy program to push the elevators for the orthodox Jews at the hospital on Saturdays.

On her mother’s marriage advice

It was the night before my wedding, she was actually ironing my veil in the kitchen, and I said, “So Mom, you’ve been with Dad 40 something years. Any advice for me the night before I get married?” She put the iron down, came in front of the ironing board and said, “Always be a lady in public, but a girlfriend in the bedroom.” And she started to sing Tina Turner’s “Private Dancer” for me, grabbed her knees in a little choreographed routine and then said, “I sometimes do this for your dad.” I don’t know if I needed to know that.

On her murderous pet turtle

My husband and I, when we first moved to New York, took a walk down to a street fair and they were selling little tiny turtles. So we bought them and brought them home, and put them in this little fish bowl. We named them the Captain and Tennille for Toni Tennille and Captain Daryl Dragon. And we came up with this whole life of who they were: ‘70s stars, they ate fondue and drank Dubonnet and Tennille drank too much Chardonnay... My husband and I would leave each other notes. I would be Tennille leaving the Captain notes and vice versa. Then one day, 10 years later, Captain ate Tennille!

On her one-sided love affair with Alec Baldwin

I was doing a party in the Hamptons and Alec Baldwin was there. (This was fat Alec Baldwin. I liked fat Alec Baldwin who was a little messy and a little crazy, and this was that time.) He came into the kitchen and there he was, my crush. I felt like we were sort of hitting it off and then he left, then he came back in again and by the third time he came in, I had convinced myself that we had this romance going on and I was going to leave my worldly life behind, my wonderful husband and my dog, Stanley, and I was going to run off with Alec Baldwin. Then he said, “Can I ask you a question?” I was ready. He said, “Can you get me a diet Coke?”

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