Why Patty Duke is Grateful to Gay Community, Garth Brooks

Patty Duke

Patty Duke gives a big thank-you to gay fans for helping her get over her decades-long feelings of humiliation over her performance in the 1967 “Valley of the Dolls.”

The esteemed, Oscar-winning actress will reign o’er “Valley of the Dolls” special screening festivities at Chicago’s Music Box Theater this Saturday (11/20) — festivities complete with a costume parade and “Valley of the Dolls” sing-along.
“I’ve come to enjoy that movie — not that it’s not still embarrassing.  But thanks to the gay community, I can see it in a different way and have a good time with it,” she says.

Still, the memories linger all these years later of the critical drubbing meted out for the adaptation of Jacqueline Susann’s novel of pill-poppin’ show business gals with unfortunate love lives, in which Duke starred along with Barbara Parkins and Sharon Tate.  Comparing her journey to that of the recent stranded Carnival cruise ship Splendor in terms of lack of fun, she recalls, “‘Valley of the Dolls’ premiered on the maiden voyage of the Princess line, and there were all these press people aboard who hated it.”  She laughs.  “I had the choice of swimming back or taking my lumps.”

This is quite a month for Duke.  Come Nov. 29, she’ll be seen as the mother of Samantha Mathis in Lifetime’s original movie, “Unanswered Prayers,” based on the Garth Brooks song about a married man who re-encounters the high school girlfriend he thought he’d love forever.  Eric Close and Mathis play the husband and wife, with Madchen Amick as the former flame who threatens to turn their world upside down.  Although Duke’s role is small, she and the movie’s director worked out ways to subtly give it depth, including the fact she’s often seen holding a cocktail.

“It turned out to be one of the best experiences I have had in these 56 years of doing this,” says the one-time child actress, now 63 (who has no plans for retirement any time soon).  “The people on the set, the other performers were just a delight…We liked each other so much we decided to start a rumor that this is a back door pilot.”

She also liked Garth Brooks — who she met when both were on hand for an evening at the Virginia Governor’s mansion during location shooting.  “The governor (Bob McDonnell) was lovely, and Garth Brooks was as down-to-earth as you’d ever want him to be,” she says.  “He was so witty, but never with that underpinning of cynicism.  I laughed all evening.”