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Patty Duke article 1987


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In this article Patty tells the entire story of how her romance with Desi Jr. started and about the birth of Sean. Lots of good stuff here.

I remember how the whole thing started, with a television appearance and a phone call. I’d been on The Merv Griffin Show, I’d lost weight, my hair was very full and very sexy, I looked quite good. A couple of days later I got a message that Desi Arnaz Jr. had called. I knew he was Lucille Ball’s son, but I’d never met him. I had no idea why he’d called, so I ignored it.

A few days later there was another message, this one saying that Desi wanted to talk about my doing some recording. But when I returned the call the first thing he said was, “We’ve never met but I saw you on The Merv Griffin Show, and what can I tell you? You looked magnificent, you’re so pretty,” and so on and on. After I thanked him, he asked me if I’d recorded recently and said that now that he was producing as well as working with his group, he’d love to get together and talk with me about it. We agreed to meet Friday night. I thought I was going to a strictly business dinner.

Friday night came and Desi showed up in his Aston Martin, and I didn’t immediately think, “Wow, what a great-looking guy.” I was just waiting to talk records. I don’t know why I asked him this question, but at one point I said, “How old are you?” and he said, “Nineteen.” We drove to another house to meet a couple of his buddies, then on to dinner to La Scala, where Desi drank, and there was a little talk about records but not much. When he drove me home he asked if he could see me to my door. I asked if he wanted a drink, and he said, “Well, maybe I’ll have a little nightcap.” We sat around for a while, just chatting, and that was the first time it hit me that I was on a date. I’m a little slow about these things sometimes.

Desi called the next day and sounded different, more personal. We agreed to have dinner Monday, and it quickly became apparent that records were the furthest thing from his mind. It was the beginning of the romance. Though I’ve at times hesitated to say it, the truth is that I loved Desi Arnaz very much.

Almost immediately we became the media couple of the moment. Not only were we both young and attractive, but having grown up in the public eye, we were both celebrities, lovers who needed no introduction. We were like a kiddie version of Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher: The fan magazines just couldn’t get enough of the story.

Though Desi did his share of drinking, overall his life was very healthy, full of tennis, touch football, bicycle riding and waterskiing. At the time I wondered how he was able to throw back so many gin and tonics and smoke so many cigarettes and still be able to get up the next morning and handle all that activity. The secret was that while I was 23, Desi was only 17.

Once I discovered how young Desi really was, I was shocked, but that was nothing compared to the reaction Lucille Ball had when she found out we were seriously involved. I’ve raised kids who are now in their 20s, and if one of them had come home at age 17 with a 23-year-old divorcée and gone up to his room with her, I would have died too. So I hold no grudge against Lucy for that kind of initial reaction. I do, however, still feel bitterness for the sorrow that she caused me by steadfastly refusing to see that I had only the best intentions toward her son.

The romantic intensity between Desi and me was very great, but we hadn’t been together for more than two or three months before it was broken up for the first time. Lucy accomplished that with a series of ultimatums: Either he stopped seeing me or he was out of the house, he was out of the will, they’d do something to me because I was screwing around with jailbait, whatever. I went into hiding for a while, then I called Desi and, not surprisingly, cried a lot. The family was going to Hawaii, and I begged to go, but he said no, I couldn’t. But I followed him there on my own, which absolutely enraged Lucy. Later, we began getting together again, though not so much in public because we didn’t want his mother to get furious.

Our situation never returned to the way it was before Lucy’s ultimatums, and one of the reasons had nothing at all to do with either of them. During my period of hiding, after that initial break, I’d met and had a brief secret affair with John Astin, the actor. He was separated from his wife and children, and when he told me he was going back to his family, I thought that was the end of it. I didn’t know how much I cared for John, and I certainly didn’t know that just before we split up I had conceived our son Sean.

From the moment my pregnancy became public knowledge, the question of who the father was was on everyone’s lips. The fan magazines really had a field day. There was such a glut of stories that you couldn’t go into a supermarket without seeing the headlines or collages of pictures of me and Desi or me and Lucy that looked as if we might have been together, although we really weren’t.

My crime during that time—and it was indeed a crime—was that out of fear I allowed people to assume the baby was Desi’s when I knew otherwise. There were times when I would nod in agreement or say something in such a way that, without straight-out declaring, “This is Desi’s kid,” I was implying as much. And I took no active part in disclaiming Desi as his father, which when you get right down to it was just as bad. [In fact, Patty deliberately avoided telling Desi and his family that the baby was not his.]

The motive for my behavior was all kinds of terror. I was unmarried, pregnant, and I thought, “I can’t tell John [Astin], he’ll throw me over and then where will I be? Desi doesn’t seem to mind the way things are, maybe I can just leave it alone and it’ll go away.” I was out of touch with reality, allowing the world to believe what it wanted to believe.

When I went into the hospital to deliver Sean, Lucie Arnaz [Desi’s sister] came and sat with me. We had been friendly off and on, and I think she felt there should be someone with me, and she seemed the logical choice, given that my mother was in New York. I was in ecstasy over my son, but there was a kind of melancholy that went along with it because I was alone. Without grandparents oohing and aahing, especially with no husband, I felt the picture wasn’t exactly the way it was supposed to be. In fact I felt like a scarlet woman. I’d like to be able to say I was more sophisticated than that and had a truer grasp of what was important, but I didn’t. I felt outcast and unclean, as if I really didn’t fit anywhere. These folks didn’t want me. My mother wasn’t there. My sister wasn’t there. My brother wasn’t there. And there I was, like Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire, dependent “on the kindness of strangers.” It had been a pattern of my life, so part of me was accustomed to things being that way, but how the baby would fit into this pattern presented a new wrinkle.

I must say though that Desi Sr. came to see the baby along with his wife, as did Lucie Arnaz with her husband, all behaving as if he were part of their family. Lucille Ball, however, did not come to the hospital, which, considering the media circus, was probably wise. There were so many photographers around that Sean’s name couldn’t be used on his little bassinet or on the bracelet they put on his wrist. Lucille had tried very hard to be kind when I was pregnant, since everyone thought Desi was the father, but in the end she was not going to sacrifice her son by giving her official sanction to the relationship. I was not her idea of how Desi was going to spend his life.

Although I have always been hurt by the speculations about Sean’s parentage, not the least of those affected by the cloud I created has obviously been Sean himself. He is of course well aware of all the rumor and the scandal, although when he was little he used to get confused. He’d watch I Love Lucy, and when Desi Sr. came on he’d say, half horrified, “Mom, that one?” Or he’d get Desi confused with all those other Hollywood “juniors;” once Sean saw Sammy Davis Jr. on some show and said, “Now, that’s the guy everyone thinks is my father, right?”

In truth I had thought about marrying Desi as a way out, if nothing else, but he’d told me specifically that he wasn’t interested, that he never wanted to get married to anyone. I’m sure there were times when he thought the baby was his as well as times when he was convinced it wasn’t, but either way he definitely didn’t want any part of that whole scene. It had been a great game for a while. He didn’t want to play anymore.


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7 hours ago, Mot Morenzi said:

Very interesting stuff. 

Wasn't it later confirmed that Michael Tell was actually Sean's biological father?

Yes, all 3 men in question did a DNA test and Mike won. It might have been someone here that said it but I've read Sean has a good relationship with all three of them. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

From Michael Karol's Facebook page, he posts about Patty's book that was just published.


According to a recent bio of Patty Duke, the Oscar- and Emmy-winning star and her “nemesis” (alleged by way too much tabloid fodder in the early 1970s), Lucille Ball, made amends before Lucy died. 
Duke had dated Lucy’s son, Desi Arnaz jr., for a short period of time in 1970. After their breakup, she also had flings with John Astin (before they married) and rock promoter Michael Tell, with whom she eloped. That marriage lasted for a mere 13 days; Duke gave birth to son Sean Astin in 1971.
According to People magazine, Duke confessed to teenage Sean that Desi Jr. was his biological father. But in 2001, Astin took a DNA test, proving Tell was actually his true dad. Lucy fans have long wondered if the reported hatred between her and Patty lasted until Lucy’s death. Now we have an answer.
The Duke biography, called “In the Presence of Greatness”—published posthumously in April, 2018 and co-authored by her and William J. Jankowski—features a four-page chapter titled “Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz Jr.”
Here are some excerpts: 
Duke wrote, “I believe I first met Lucille Ball … at a network affiliates convention at the time I was appearing on ‘The Patty Duke Show.’ I was about 16. Of course, I wanted to kiss her ring. She came up to me and told me that my show was the only one she let her children watch. I believed her, and certainly, it made my day. Who could have known then what our relationship would be like in a few short years?”
In 1970, Duke says Desi Jr. told her he was 19, when in fact he was 17. In any case, she admits to be “friggin’ crazy out of her mind,” due to her bipolar disease. The relationship blew up quickly after all the media coverage. She admits her perception of Lucy was “skewed” at the time she wrote her first book, “Call Me Anna.” In it, she noted she was “still bitter about how Lucy had treated me.”  
By the 1980s, “Lucy and I were never close…but we were never unkind in any way to each other….
“Probably a couple of years before Lucy passed away, [at] an entertainment get-together, as…I walked up a staircase that was divided down the middle, Lucy was coming down. It was the first time in years I’d laid eyes on her, and she on me. Lucy’s hand was on the railing as she came down the stairs, and my hand was on the railing going up. She picked up her hand and put it on mine. And without a word, whatever might have been wrong, whatever hurts there might have been, were erased, and I knew that I never again had to worry about what Lucy thought of me.”
Jankowski adds, “Anna felt Lucy did love her. And she loved Lucy…. She was so relieved that there was a resolution before Lucy died.”
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