Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Two Of A Kind

In the SJG's tender little girl keppy, there was nothing better than “The Patty Duke Show.” I wanted to be Patty. I wanted to be Cathy. I adored them both because they represented two sides of my personality.  Patty Lane was my favorite.  She was perky and upbeat, a fun-loving, trend-conscious teenager who “loves to rock and roll.” And, as everyone knows, “a hot dog makes her lose control.” Patty was so me! I was tiny for my age like her, and perky comes with the territory. I'd just discovered the Beatles. And what kid didn't go crazy over a hot dog?
Cathy, her identical cousin from Scotland (who knows why) showed a more reserved and sensitive side. She was into “the minuet, the Ballet Russes and crepe suzette.” I certainly related to her serious, perceptive nature. Even then, I was way too tuned into the universe for my own good. I experienced Cathy’s confusing adjustment to America as if it were my own. Like all little girls, I loved to dance (still do). I fully planned to join the Royal Ballet as soon as the invitation arrived. We shared culinary similarities, as well. I worshipped pancakes, the kissing cousin of the crepe suzette. Sure, these girls may have been “different as night and day,” but the three of us had a lot in common. Patty and Cathy were the sisters I would never get to sit across from at breakfast. I could live with that, as long as I got to watch them on TV every week. In my mind, it was a fair trade-off.

Then one day, something happened, something so unexpected, it made me question everything. There I was in Beverly Hills, walking with my mom when we bumped into her dear friend Pat Harris, a well-known casting director. Pat stood next to an attractive young woman in her late teens. She had a troubled, far-off expression. I was only six or seven at the time, but right away, I realized that Patty Duke on TV and Patty Duke in person came from different planets. They didn’t laugh alike, walk alike or even talk alike.
As Pat introduced us, Patty Duke barely nodded. She didn’t make eye contact; she just stared off into space. I smiled shyly and inspected her many freckles. Here was a young woman caught up in some private battle;  it was all right there on her face. Later, I asked my mother, "What's wrong with Patty Duke?" "I'm not sure, sweetie," she said.  Many years later, when Patty Duke went public with her struggles, I still felt a bond.  I was relieved that she was okay.  Back there on the sidewalk, I'd had a tiny glimpse into her complex life, but it stayed with me. TV can give you that sort of connection, one that doesn't fade, no matter how many years have gone by.
RIP, Anna. You were the best of the best. 

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