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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

It’s Patty Duke’s birthday

By my unofficial estimate, one in four Inland Northwest residents has enjoyed some kind of pleasant encounter with her.

Patty Duke To Appear On ‘Glee’

Fun news for my BFF with word that the hit television show "Glee" has cast Coeur d'Alene's own Patty Duke as well as Meredith Baxter to appear in the upcoming Season 4 finale. Baxter and Duke reportedly will return for Glee's fifth season. Glee airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on Fox. I love that Anna, who won an Oscar as a teenager half a century ago, in her 60s is still making her mark. It's a testament to her talent and tenacity that she's earning a living in an industry that places a premium on youth. Rock on Anna Pearce!/Kerri Thoreson, Main Street, Coeur d'Alene Press. More here.

Question: Do you watch "Glee"?

Close encounters of the Patty Duke kind

Here are a few readers' recollections of meeting the actress. (The Slice had solicited same back on her birthday. This is just a sampling of the reports.)

"I met Patty Duke when we went bowling," wrote Lauren Hopkins. "Her feet are so small, she had to get children's bowling shoes. She is also very funny. She told us when her son was little, he wanted a brother. So they got a dog and named him Brother."

"She took a donkey we had to find a home for," wrote Bruce Werner.

"When she lived a few blocks from us in Coeur d'Alene's Fort Grounds, I would say 'Hi neighbor' as she walked past our house on the way to the park with her son," wrote Tom Nash.

Lorrie McLaughlin met her at a benefit. "I walked up to Patty, she turned to me and immediately enveloped me in a bear hug. I thought, Wow — she's friendly! Then she said, 'Oh, I thought you were my cousin.' So…does that make me Cathy?"

Ron Bush encountered her at an event where she was signing copies of her book. He recalled that there were a zillion people there and the experience had turned into a marathon of sorts for the actress. "When it was our turn she acknowledged each of us including our 5-year-old grandson and signed the book with names and a pleasant inscription. It was a wonderful experience and justified my long admiration for Patty Duke."

"I didn't officially meet Patty Duke, but I did wipe up her crumbs," wrote school teacher Carol Nelson. "She was eating lunch with her son at Borah School, and I was the lunchroom aide. My daughters also went to Borah, and I worked there while I was finishing my degree. That was my first job with the school district."

Nancy Haynes met her at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds.

Haynes' son, Travis, is now 26. But when he was 8, he had raised a 260-pound pig named Little Foot. It was his first 4-H animal, and the knowledge of livestock's fate was weighing on him.

Duke and her husband bought the pig and said they would keep it as a pet on their farm.

"I shall never forget their kindness, when they both came by the pen, shook our little boy's hand and assured him that Little Foot was not going to be eaten. They were so very gracious. They spent quite a while talking to Travis, complimenting him on what a fine pig he had raised." 

Franz To Star In Special CST Show

There’s big news for the Spotlight column, and then there is Big News. I think this falls into the latter category. Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre has announced a special show, for one night only, that will mark the return to the stage of Dennis Franz. Oh, and he’ll share that stage with Patty Duke, Ellen Travolta and Jack Bannon. This load of talent will come together for a staged reading of “Over the River and Through the Woods” at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 1. The play centers on a young New Jersey man who, when given an opportunity to take a job in Seattle, faces stiff opposition from his two sets of doting grandparents. They scheme to keep him in town, even going so far to introduce a lovely single girl to dinner/Carolyn Lamberson, SR. More here. (AP file photo: Actors, from left, Jimmy Smits, Dennis Franz and Isaiah Washington in a scene from old "NYPD Blue" series)

Question: How many Coeur d'Alene Summer Playhouse plays do you watch each summer?

Magic number? 65!

My television idol, Patty Duke, turned 65 last week. She shared her experience of filing for Social Security and Medicare benefits. Duke - Anna Pearce in real life - has been a spokesperson for Social Security, telling boomers to enroll for benefits online - via their laptops, in their pajamas, from the comfort of home.

 Pearce was an idol for many girls in the '60s with her extroverted personality and tall, clunky boyfriend, Richard. I liked that she was definitely smarter than he was - a rare portrayal in that era.

 While I have never met Pearce, I have tracked her career, her health challenges, her adoption advocacy and her involvement in Spokane theater. And when I turn 65, I will crawl into my red pajamas, log on and sign up for my benefits, too.

 Happy birthday, Anna!

(S-R archives photo, courtesy of Patty Duke)

NIBlogs: Happy Birthday, Patty Duke

Kerri Thoreson, of KVNI/Coeur d'Alene Press fame, is kicking herself today for missing an important birthday. Kerri, as most of you know, does a swell job keeping track of most of our birthdays out there. But she forgot Anna Pierce's 65th birthday today. Anna, of course, is better known as Coeur d'Alene actress Patty Duke, who has appeared in all those Social Security PSAs over the past year. Writes Kerri on her Facebook page: "She's now eligible for the benefits herself!"

I've always shied away from cards and gifts that say "Jesus is the reason for the season." Not that there's anything wrong with that saying. I guess I just feel like everybody knows it already. It's the celebration of his birthday after all. I don't need my Christmas cards to remind anyone of that. But over the last few weeks, I've needed reminding myself. I had lost sight of the reason for the season. I was preoccupied with what my kids would like to find under the tree and the fact that I wouldn't be able to buy every single thing on their lists. But the sad thing is, their lists were in my head/A Butterfly Moment. More here.

HucksOnline numbers (for Tuesday, Dec. 13): 8391/5001

Question: Are you held captive by Christmas gift lists?

Duke’s ‘Miracle’ will return

“The Miracle Worker,” directed by Patty Duke – a springtime hit for Interplayers Professional Theatre – is coming back next month for a 12-performance encore.

The story of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan will return from Aug. 26 to Sept. 4.

Tickets are $24 and should become available soon through TicketsWest outlets. Keep an eye out for further details.

Sarah Denison will return in her award-winning role as Annie Sullivan. However, audiences will be seeing a new Helen Keller: Caroline Slater, 9.

Duke was quoted in a press release as saying, “Thank you, Spokane, for keeping ‘The Miracle’ going.”

Rebecca Cook will be “associate director” of this revival.

Remind me to ask Jim Kershner

If his pal Patty Duke ever told him anything about the making of "Valley of the Dolls."

Just saw part of that a couple of days ago. What a hoot.


Hucks Poll: Don’t Run, Patty

  • Wednesday Poll: Most Hucks Nations voters don't want to see actress Patty Duke of Coeur d'Alene run for political office in Idaho. 82 of 153 respondents (53.59%) said they don't want to see Duke run for office. 55 of 153 respondents (35.95%) said they want her to run. 16 (10.46%) were undecided.
  • Today's Poll: Do you consider the Idaho Freedom Foundation to be mainstream for Idaho?

Hucks Poll: Flooding Affects 2 Of 10

  • Tuesday Poll: 22 of 120 respondents (18.33%) said they are personally affected by the flooding now occurring in North Idaho and the Inland Northwest. 98 of 120 (81.67%) aren't affected at all.
  • Today's Poll: Would you like to see Coeur d'Alene actress Patty Duke run for elected office in Idaho?

Patty Duke For Idaho Governor?

Approximately eight years ago, Coeur d’Alene city councilman Mike Kennedy approached friends to assess whether his aunt, Anna Pearce, also known by her stage name as Patty Duke, could develop a second career as a successful public officeholder in her adopted state of Idaho. One’s initial reaction might have been to wonder if he were serious? He was and with reason. His aunt is not only a talented member of the nation’s acting community, who achieved stardom at an early age with her unforgettable role in “The Miracle Worker,” she also has long cared about public policy matters, is intelligent and can carry on an articulate conversation on almost any political subject/Chris Carlson, The Carlson Chronicles. More here. (AP file photo: Patty Duke is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Aug. 17, 2004.)

Question: Would Patty Duke be a good elected official from North Idaho?

A post-show talkback with Patty Duke

The post-show talkback sessions at Interplayers Professional Theatre are always worthwhile — but this is the talkback not to miss.

Director Patty Duke will attend the May 29 matinee of "The Miracle Worker" at 2 p.m. and will be there for the after-performance discussion. This means you will be able to hear stories about Helen Keller, Anne Bancroft and Arthur Penn from the woman who was at the center of both the Broadway and Hollywood versions.

As someone who has had the privilege of interviewing her on this subject, I can tell you that she is an exceptionally fine storyteller. She'll give you insight into "The Miracle Worker" that no one else on earth can give.

"The Miracle Worker" had been extended through May 29 due to popular demand. Tickets are $24 available through the Interplayers box office at (509) 455-PLAY or Ticketswest.

Review of Duke-directed ‘Miracle Worker’


"The Miracle Worker" has just been extended a week, through May 29. 

I thought I'd post my unedited review of last night's performance, which should appear in Sunday's print edition:

“The Miracle Worker,” Interplayers Professional Theatre, Friday night, continues through May 29, call (509) 455-PLAY for tickets

The capacity crowd at Interplayers on opening night may have been drawn because of Patty Duke, but their thundering applause was for Sarah Denison and Sophia Caruso.

Those are the two talented young actresses who make the characters of Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller come to vivid life in this moving production of “The Miracle Worker.”

Duke, of course, had plenty to do with it too. She directed this production, marking one more milestone in her 55-year history with this play. Her direction is not showy, and it never calls attention to itself, but Duke’s lifelong immersion in Keller’s story and William Gibson’s script is evident in many of the performances in this 14-person cast.

It is most evident in Denison’s rock-solid performance as Annie Sullivan. The set of Denison’s jaw and her rigid posture are particularly suited to communicating obstinance, stubbornness and determination, the three absolutely vital characteristics needed to portray the woman known as “Teacher.” However, Denison’s performance reaches deeper and discovers something even more touching: Sullivan’s fear.

Occasionally, and powerfully, Denison lets Sullivan’s mask slip, and with a slight quiver of the lips and a momentary dart of the eyes, shows us that Sullivan is a 20-year-old girl who is, essentially, winging it. She’s been sent to a do a job that she has no idea how to do and she has to improvise. She’s almost sure she’s doing the right thing — but not entirely. I wonder if this is an approach Duke helped Denison develop. In any case, it makes the story even more compelling.

It’s already one of the more compelling stories in American theater. Gibson has done a masterful job of distilling young Helen Keller’s story into its essential elements. Helen, blind and mute, is a wild child, striking out in her rage and frustration (and her own canny sense of entitlement) at everyone who loves her. Annie Sullivan is brought in to tutor and tame her. But to do so, she must not allow herself or the Keller family to indulge in the easiest and least helpful of emotions, pity. She hardens herself and hardens the family and eventually, she gives Helen the key to unlock the world: language.

Caruso is a riveting Helen. She’s 9, but she’s tiny and plays even younger. Yet her Helen is no wispy little creature. She’s a flailing dynamo of anger, thwarted will, calculated outrage and manipulation. The lasting image I’ll have of her is that of a tiny bundle of calico, with fists and feet flashing out in a blur.

Caruso’s face is exceptionally expressive. She glowers into the middle distance with lowered malevolent brows. Her mouth turns up in malicious glee over some outrage she plans to commit. Yet in several crucial scenes, we also see the pain, the frustration and the utter, childlike despair over the fact that she can’t even communicate her despair.

Many of the most powerful scenes arrive in the second act of this three-act play, when Annie moves out to the garden house with the girl. Alone with each other, they fight, they make life hell for each other, and they bond. It helps that these scenes are played far downstage, with the audience surrounding them.

Several key scenes in the first act lost some power because they were played so far upstage, on the floor of Annie’s room, with pieces of scenery intruding on the view.

The rest of Duke’s ensemble cast is polished and professional. Patrick Treadway, as the beleaguered father and Elisha Gunn, as the heartbroken mother, are especially sympathetic even as their love for Helen causes them to do exactly the wrong things.

And the audience response? Well, I’ve attended every Interplayers production for 22 years, and I have never, ever, seen the audience continue applauding long after the actors had left the stage.

Even the actors didn’t quite know what to do. They finally came back out for one more bow when it became clear that otherwise, the audience was never going to leave.


Patty Duke To Direct ‘Miracle Worker’

Item: Patty Duke directs the show that made her famous/Jim Kershner, SR.

More Info: The 14-year-old Patty Duke was inconsolable on the day in 1961 when she filmed the final scene of “The Miracle Worker.” “I was heartbroken, absolutely heartbroken,” says Duke, 50 years later. “In fact, I’ll tell you a little secret. There is a shot of my face when a chick is being born in my hand. My face and eyes are puffy and red because I had been sobbing for hours.” “The Miracle Worker” had been Duke’s life ever since she was 12, when the smash Broadway play opened in 1959. Her co-stars, especially the great Anne Bancroft, had been her family for years.

Question: What does it mean for the Coeur d'Alene area to have an actress of Patty Duke's caliber living here?

Patty Duke Selling Sweet ‘40 Chrysler

"A week or so ago," emails HMOffsuite, "I got a call from Patty Duke’s husband, Mike, regarding a car they wanted to sell. They have a fully restored 1940 Chrysler they have owned for some time. It's a 4-door restored by Glenn Vaughn, in Post Falls, one of the best in the Country. The car has collector value, but not as popular as Fords or Chevys, and would have a narrow market. As opposed to selling a Mustang or Corvette, for which there would be more buyers. But, it may be of interest to a buyer anywhere in the world, if a guy is into the very best of the 1940 Chryslers. My recommendation for a very fine, low demand car would be Ebay. So, the car will be going on Thursday, and is available for purchase, folks."

Question: Do you own a vintage car?

Patty Duke Raising $$$ For Thespians

Patty Duke has several goals for her three-day gig at Interplayers, “An Intimate Conversation: Patty Duke,” starting tonight: 1. She wants it to be like a live, local version of “Inside the Actor’s Studio,” with local actor-director Reed McColm playing the James Lipton role of host. 2. She wants to connect, in a neighborly way, with her fellow Inland Northwest residents. 3. And she wants to help Interplayers raise plenty of cash. “We were a little audacious in thinking that an evening with Patty Duke could make some funds for the theater,” she said with a laugh. “I’m hoping it will. “You know, I have loved all of the theaters in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, and I don’t want them to go anywhere”/Jim Kershner, SR. More here.

Question: Have you met Coeur d’Alene resident Patty Duke? Impression?

The Echo Of Her Brit Accent Lingers

It’s OK to admit it now, I guess. After all, it has been 45 years since I had a “tween” crush on Cathy and Patty – the Lane cousins. Remember them? Before Ginger and Mary Ann, early ’60s television offered rambunctious Patty and her prim and proper English cousin, Cathy, on the “Patty Duke Show.” They were played by the same Academy Award-winning actress who gave the show its name and has lived in Coeur d’Alene for quite some time. I’ve met Patty Duke – or as she prefers, Anna – a couple of times. She’s City Councilman Mike Kennedy’s aunt and mother of actor Shawn Astin of “Lord of the Rings” and “Rudy” fame. I’ve never told her that I was more smitten by her portrayal of the English cousin Cathy than the American one. I’ve always had a thing for a British accent. So why am I telling you all this? Patty is reprising her roles as the TV cousins to encourage us aging baby boomers to sign up for Social Security benefits online/DFO, Handle Extra Huckleberries. More here.

Question: Mary Ann? Or Ginger?

Patty Duke Stumps For Social Security

Patty Duke reprises her roles of Patty and Cathy for a Social Security public service announcement. Photo courtesy Social Security Administration

In this photo provided by the Social Security Administration, Patty Duke, now of Coeur d’Alene, reprises her teen-age roles as TV’s Lane cousins to drum up enthusiasm for retiring online. As a teen-ager, Duke played the characters Patty and Cathy Lane from the hit 1960s sitcom “The Patty Duke Show.” If you can remember CDA’s Patty Duke in the “Patty Duke Show,” you’re probably deep into your AARP Years and mebbe even Social Security. You can see the video here. And you can read the full press release here.

Question: Which one of Patty Duke’s “Lane” twins did you like best?