Jeff Suna
  Seeing Anna on "Midday Live" 1973...

 

"Anna and Jeff backstage at the Gershwin Theatre on January 5, 2003"

 

Way back in September of 1963 when I was a mere 8 years old a TV show premiered on ABC aptly titled "The Patty Duke Show".

I began watching the show and became more and more infatuated with it's star each passing week. Just the fact that she played

2 characters that were so totally different just amazed me. Even more amazing was the fact that everyone my age thought she was

really 2 different people. Even many adults thought she was 2 people. Duh... didn't anybody read the credits? Anyway, I became a huge fan of the actress known as Patty Duke and ever since then I have remained a loyal fan.

Flash forward 10 years. It was mid summer 1973. At the time I religiously read TV Guide from cover to cover looking for any movie or

TV shows she might be on. Finally there it was "Midday Live", guests: Patty Duke and John Astin. They were listed for the following Thursday at 12:00 PM. Now was my chance to meet her. The show was broadcast live from New York on channel 5 (then WNEW TV). I called the network to see if there were tickets available for the show and much to my amazement there were. They would hold 2 tickets in my name at the studio which was located at 205 East 67th Street. Oh my God... this was really going to happen.

I could barely contain my excitement. I rounded up my friend Vinny. He and I had gone to see "Valley of the Dolls" together about 25 times. We took the subway from Brooklyn to Manhattan on that hot, humid, rainy day. The weather did nothing to deter our enthusiasm. We got there early and were the first on line. Since seating was first come first served we headed straight for the front row. As it turns out the front row was saved for the shows guests. The theater was so small there was virtually no backstage to put the guests before they came on. So we sat in the second row right in the center. I then realized that she might be sitting right in front of me any minute. Oh my G--!  I thought I was going to pass out. Prior to the start of the show we asked the announcer if we could ask for autographs. He told us "No, don't bother the guests." He then told us there would be a segment with audience questions & if we wanted to ask anything they would pre-screen our questions. We both raised our hands. When they picked on Vinny he got tongue-tied & they never gave him a second chance. Now it was my turn. I just wanted to tell Patty that she was my favorite & wanted to wish them both a happy anniversary, which was just a few days away. They said OK. If there was time I would be on. The show, which was hosted by Lee Leonard began. One problem - there was no sign of The Astins. Keep in mind this was before cell phones so if they were stuck somewhere they couldn't even call. At 12:10 PM the first guest came on (don't ask me who it was because I was in total shock.) During the second break we could see everyone was becoming frantic. What if they didn't show up? I heard some woman say "I hear she does this all the time." I wanted to tell her to shut up, but I didn't. It was now 12:20 PM. All of a sudden the side door opened and in walked Patty Duke, John Astin & a woman carrying 1 year old Sean. What a relief. She looked great. She was dressed in all beige with her hair pulled back in bun with a matching crocheted hair tie. At that time she was very into crocheted clothes. Then she sat down right in front of me. I didn't want to pass up the opportunity for an autograph so I tapped her on the shoulder. I just totally ignored the announcer's instructions.

She turned around and I handed her a picture I had brought with me for her to sign. It was the album cover from "Patty Duke Sings

Songs From Valley of the Dolls ..." I knew how much she hated the movie at the time and so as not to insult her I cut the picture out off the album cover. When she asked me what it was from I told her "One of your old albums". She said "Oh!" & then signed it with a smile.  She then handed it to John to see and he signed it (even though I didn't want him to.) Later when I thought about it I surmised that because she was the big star in the family and so he wouldn't feel left out she included him by having him sign it too. That just goes to show you the kind of thoughtful and caring person she is. Sean was now on the loose & running across the stage headed straight for a giant cable. Patty looked up in horror. I think everybody's heart stopped for an instant, but the resilient little boy stopped dead in his tracks and jumped over the cable. Patty caught her breath and ran over & scooped up her little boy. All was well.  As it turned out they had been stuck in traffic. They were coming from upstate New York where they were doing a show. This was at the beginning of their 4 year stint of  summer stock. I later got to see them in "My Fat Friend" (see my review coming soon to Anna's theater pages.) All during the TV show Sean was yelling from the audience "Mommy, Mommy." On the next commercial she ran over & grabbed a jar of peanut butter, put some on a cracker and gave it to the nanny and said "Here give him this. It'll keep his mouth glued closed & he won't be able to talk." Everyone laughed & the show resumed. I finally got to talk to them, and on TV no less. After I wished them a happy anniversary they thanked me. The host then picked up on the anniversary thing and I was ushered off. I found out later that my aunt & grandmother were watching TV & during their channel surf they saw me & were shocked. I hadn't told anybody I was going to be there. Of course there were no VCR's then & I doubt that a tape of the show even exists, but if it did wouldn't that be something to see now? When the show was over they stayed & signed autographs and took pictures for anyone who asked. It was an experience I'll always cherish and never forget. Now, it's nearly 30 years later and I've met Anna on several occasions since then & I gotta tell ya she hasn't changed. Everyone who meets her loves her & if you ever get the opportunity don't let it pass you by. She's charming & gracious and as her late mother would tell you "She's still the greatest actress that ever lived". 

 

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