I had the pleasure of meeting Anna, and I would like to share that experience
with you. In order to fully appreciate what it was like for me to meet
Anna, one has to comprehend that she is and always has been my absolute favorite
actress and person since 1968.
When I was a kid in the summer of 1968, school was out, and I wasn't old enough
yet to be working. Bored, I went down to Klein's Department Store, and
starting looking through the discount Record Bins. There, I saw an album
titled "TV's Teen Star: Patty Duke" on the budget Unart label.
Hmm, I thought, well I always liked her on The Patty Duke Show, so why
not buy the album--heck, it was only $1.59! I took the album home on my
trusty bike (honest) and from then on, my family was inundated with many
repeated playings of "Downtown" and "One Kiss Away." I
think they were seriously considering putting me up for adoption. "I
KNOW she isn't a polished vocalist," I would whine, "but there is
something about her voice that I like!" And that was that; I became a
Duke nut, had to find all her other albums (no easy feat in those days, folks;
this was many moons before the Internet or eBay) and singles, had to see ANY
movie or TV show she was in (Anna was probably preparing for her role in Me,
Natalie at this time) and HAD to save every quarter I could find to buy ANY
fan magazines which had write-ups on her.
Ok, let us fast forward more than 30 years(!!)
I am now in my 40's and of course, have Internet access and via a young man
named Billy Jankowski and a service called Yahoo!, I found a way to read what
other fans were collecting and writing about.
I received a phone call from Billy, telling me that Anna was scheduled to
perform in the show "Gypsy." I could not believe it! Of
course, I had to go! I didn't know if I could get off from work, but I
decided I would cross that bridge when I came to it. I called my friend
Bruce, who collects all of Anna's records, and he said he would enjoy the trip,
When the day arrived, we boarded our plane in wild anticipation--after all these
years, would I FINALLY get a chance to meet her? The flight went well and
then we boarded a small, propeller plane (yikes!) into Spokane. Now, try
to understand that if the world was divided up into human parts, Spokane would
be the armpit.
We arrived at the Howard Johnson's Hotel for the Homeless (ok, not really, but
several people in the lobby did ask us for money) and there I met up with Billy
and Carrie whom I had previously met in New York on a failed effort to see
"Oklahoma!" We greeted each other and I introduced Bruce, and
subsequently met the legendary Leslie and the easy-going Jeff (whom I cracked up
with my very accurate Grayson Hall impression) and the friendly, "always with a camera," Jamie.
The first thing on the agenda was to see our luxurious suite at Howard
Johnson's. Since I am rich (yes, I'm kidding), I got the Deluxe Room
which not only featured a VCR(!) but also included an ice bucket. We had
already gotten a brief tour of the town of Spokane, and viewed the many wondrous
sights, which includes a Religious Harbor for Bums called "Beans, Rice & Jesus Christ" (in that order I
presume), and a beautiful, popular eating establishment called, simply, Dick's.
The buildings there appear to have been constructed prior to World War II and
there is certainly an air of History to the town. Mind you, it's not
necessarily an air I wish to inhale again, but nevertheless, it's historic in
it's own unique way.
We were all huddled together in the luxury suite, enjoying an episode of The
Patty Duke Show (which didn't track too well on the hotel's VCR but it was
fun to watch together), when Billy got a phone call from Mike Pearce!
"Would we like to meet them tomorrow for lunch?" Would we?! It
sure beats Dick's (no pun intended, I wonder if Carrie will edit this)!
The next day, it was off to the theatre where we were treated to a private
backstage tour of Anna's dressing room and a display of her wardrobe. We even got to see
where Cricket hangs out! We so enjoyed seeing the theatre but Leslie
reminded us all that we had to get a move on to meet Anna and Mike. There
was no need to worry; with the way Leslie drives, we got there in no time.
The sight of seven fans speeding down a highway in a rented van was probably the most interesting thing the town of
Spokane has seen in decades.
By now, my stomach was in knots, as I could not believe I would actually meet
Anna. This was ACTUALLY going to happen. I was hoping I would not
come across as mentally challenged when I met her. But Carrie and Leslie
kept holding me up and Bill assured me that everything would be all right, I
would live through this.
The weather was pretty cool as we (Bill, Carrie, Leslie, Jamie and I)
anxiously awaited their arrival. I saw their yellow Bug pull up as Anna
gave us a wave from the car. She and Mike got out, greeted each fan, with
yours truly being last. Of course, I was a wreck, so Billy or Carrie (I
honestly do not remember which) introduced me and I said something ingenious
like, "It's an honor to meet you, I've been in love with you since I was
14," and Anna said, "Awww, thank you," and gave me a hug.
I could now die
happy, I thought. Mike shook hands with me, and in his usual upbeat
manner, said, "Who are you rooting for?" (the baseball games were on)
as we followed Anna into the restaurant.
The waitress came over and took our order--Anna ordered a Cinnabun and several
people echoed her. Knowing I absolutely could not eat (this is known as
"The Patty Duke Diet"), I ordered the salad bar. Anna addressed
everyone at the table and explained that she was battling an upper respiratory problem and thus was
speaking softly. I was given the honor of sitting right next to her(!)
since I was the "first timer," so I was clinging to every word she
said, just as I have through the countless TV interviews she has done. She
gave us an update on Sean and Mack, and thanked Billy for providing photos for
the upcoming Biography special coming to television in December. I
can't discuss every single thing said, for she managed to spend private time
with each of us and I wish to respect that privacy. But Anna is such a
sweet and generous person and is very quick with a joke and an easy laugh.
I told her, "I became a fan of yours first through your records, and my mom
used to yell--would you please turn off that record!" and Anna let out a
hearty laugh and said, "One of my kids used to play one particular album
until I wanted to scream!" We also discussed roles she had played,
and how I was searching for a good video copy of The Goddess where Anna
played the Kim Stanley character as a young girl. We talked
of our mutual admiration for Kim Stanley and Anna told us a funny story of
another time in 1982, where she worked again with Miss Stanley on the TV show It
Takes Two. By the way, Anna is a proficient story teller, which of
course, emanates from her tremendous acting ability. At no time did she
appear bored with any of us and she and Mike were EXTREMELY generous with their
They stayed with us from 1:00 'til the evening--listening to our stories,
laughing with us, and Anna even hit me (playfully) when I went to light her
cigarette and my hand was shaking. We each gave her a gift, and she hugged
each one of us and thanked us individually. I gave her a DVD of The Daydreamer, Billy gave her a
beautifully framed photo of her holding Sean as a baby (which moved her to
tears), Carrie gave her an "Oklahoma!" collector's plate depicting a
scene her character was in, and Leslie gave her a framed photo of Anna's own
Confirmation. Jeff gave her a special pill box since Anna collects those,
and Jamie gave her a quarter with a picture of Helen Keller on it. Anna said, "You guys REALLY don't have to give me gifts all the time!"
She thanked us all again, collected the bouquet of roses we had chipped in to
get, and we escorted her and Mike to their car. Of course, we all had
cameras and we clicked away to our hearts' content. Anna is without a
doubt, THE most gracious person when it comes to posing with fans (whom, it
should be noted, she treats more like friends and family than "fans")
and she posed with each of us near her car. She kissed us all good-bye and
signed "I love you" as they drove away.
It was an afternoon I will truly never forget--the dream of a lifetime come
true--nothing can ever surpass it. I have met many celebrities while
living in Las Vegas and some are nicer than others, but NO ONE comes close to
Anna as far as being genuine, friendly, and down-to-Earth. She kindly
wrote on my scrapbook, "Love to you dear John--see you soon!" I
hope so, Anna, I really hope so!