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Thursday, March 31, 2016

RIP, Patty

Patty Duke died Tuesday. For the first two hours after I heard the news, I thought I was the only one who had a crush on her in 1963-65. Not so! I've lost count of the number of Facebook and Twitter posts from guys my age about her.

What made her so attractive to my cohort? First, she had a smile that radiated warmth and acceptance. Second, her role on The Patty Duke Show was a simple teenager, not someone pretending or aspiring to act like an adult. Third, she was funny. Fourth, her character was mostly happy and upbeat. And fifth, she was stunningly pretty even though production norms of the day avoided any display of her physique. (This was still conservative, black-and-white TV before I Dream of Jeannie or Batgirl and Catwoman on Batman changed the rules about tight-fitting costumes.) All these things made Patty Duke non-threatening and seemingly accessible to younger boys.

I had not been old enough to fall for Annette Funicello on The Mickey Mouse Club, and by the time Gilligan's Island converted to color and I began to lust for Mary Ann — played by Dawn Wells, a much older actress — I was beginning to understand more about passion and had left behind the simple adoration that I had for Patty Duke.

She went on to play a very different character in Valley of the Dolls, a film which of course I did not see at the time. Later she revealed that her years of acting on TV were a grim experience for her and that she suffered from bipolar disorder as well. I was naturally oblivious.

So, like my cohort, I am particularly sad to hear of her death because I still feel a connection. And if you feel the same way, I have one final question: Cathy or Patty? For me it was Cathy.