Tuesday, March 29, 2016
RIP Patty Duke
And now comes word that Patty Duke died early this morning. She was only 69. Not only were these icons cherished by baby boomers, they WERE baby boomers.
Patty Duke won an Oscar when she was 16 (for THE MIRACLE WORKER). She then went on to star in a popular sitcom, THE PATTY DUKE SHOW in the mid ‘60s. In that show she played two identical cousins – Patty (who was a kooky US teenager) and Cathy (who was a proper British girl). I used to watch it all the time. Looking back, it was not very funny. But then, how brilliant was the writing on SAVED BY THE BELL? Still, THE PATTY DUKE SHOW ran over 100 episodes.
I watched primarily because I had a big crush on Patty Duke. I remember an issue of TV GUIDE from that era that did a story on her and featured a smiling photo of her in a red dress that absolutely melted my teenage hormone-challenged heart.
Anyone from my generation can pretty much sing THE PATTY DUKE theme song by heart. That said, a couple of years ago my writing partner David Isaacs and I wrote a pilot for USA about two sisters. We named them Patty and Cathy and no one at the studio or network picked up on the reference.
I never met her. I did work with her ex-husband, John Astin, who was a sweetheart. I always admired her acting and her courage. She did not have an easy life. A sad childhood, forced into adulthood way too early (as are all childhood stars), and then bi-polar. She went public with her mental issues, which was very brave at the time. Helping others by example was more important than “managing her image.” She was also the president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1985-1988, again dedicating her time and efforts to elevating others.
From what I understand she was a lovely person. One story sticks in my mind. Back in the early ‘70s when I and a number of college buddies were trying to break into radio, one of them got a job doing weekends at the Top 40 station in Palm Springs. He was on the air one Sunday afternoon and got a call from Patty Duke. She was in town, listening, and bored. He invited her down to the station. (She must’ve been really bored). But she came down, (she was eight months pregnant so it’s not what you were thinking), and just hung out talking with him for a few hours. How cool is that?
I wish she had a happier life. I wish she won her Oscar in 2030. RIP Patty. And Cathy.