Sunday, June 17, 2007

Patty Mon Amour

Patty Poem (1970)

Patty McCormick sat next to me in biology 5.

Until that time I had only dreamt of this happening to me.

Mr. Kukri sees me looking under her skirt.

Please don’t tell my mother.

Keep this between you and me.

Into the hall Patty goes, now I see all that glitters is not gold.

Yes it’s true. Patty McCormick did sit next to me in Biology 5. It was my junior year at New Utrecht High School, and a rumor was going around the school that Patty McCormick was going to be living with her grandmother for a spell and would be enrolling at New Utrecht. To me this was big news. A real life celebrity and Oscar nominee to boot would be walking the halls of our high school. She was actually born in Brooklyn in 1945 and her real name was Patricia Ellen Russo. Her major role of course was as the child murderer Rhoda Penmark in “The Bad Seed” both in the stage version and the film. When the film came out in 1956 it played at the Astor Theatre on Broadway and I remember walking past the huge billboard with the lurid wonderful artwork looming over the square. I asked my mother what did bad seed mean and I wondered why was Nancy Kelly screaming and why did the little girl look so weird. I guess she told me, but also added that I was too young to see the movie. That was all I needed to hear because I didn’t stop pestering her until she finally gave in and took me to see it at our local neighborhood theatre on a Friday night which was her night off from working in my father’s luncheonette. The film troubled me, and of course gave me nightmares. “I told you you were too young to see this movie,” my mother said after I woke up screaming during the middle of the night. As a kid growing up in the 50’s my mother didn’t really forbid me from seeing any movie that I wanted to see. “He’s very mature for his age” she would say when her friends would question her for allowing me to see Psycho or Some Came Running or Anatomy of A Murder or Written On The Wind. These were adult films but my mother thought it was ok for me to see them, because basically she also wanted to see them. These were the juicy spicy films of the 50’s and they really got me curious and wet my appetite. I was not interested in cowboy or war movies or the sweet simple musicals of the time. When Psycho came out we went to The DeMille Theatre on Broadway and stood on a long line waiting to get in during the first week it played. I didn’t stop screaming for the whole film, and my mother didn’t stop laughing during the whole film. I mean what were we thinking; here I was barely yet 13 years old, watching a movie about a transvestite who killed his mother not to mention poor Janet Leigh. The posters for the film were really exciting to me, what was Janet Leigh doing in her bra, and why was Tony Perkins screaming, and why was John Gavin not wearing a shirt? I soon found out. So on that early fall day in 1962 as I sat day dreaming in my boring biology class, the teacher Mr. Kurke woke me from my trance by announcing that we had a new student today, and there standing next to him stood a somewhat disshelved chubby blonde girl. This is Patty Russo. Russo my ass. There stood Patty McCormick child serial killer and Oscar nominee. Soon she took the empty seat next to me, and from that moment on it was all I could do to stop from looking (some would say staring) at her. She was nice. All my friends were in awe of me that I was sitting next to her, and that she knew my name, and would say hello to me when we passed in the hall. She became the star of the school. Everything was going fast like a movie. Immediately she became a cheerleader, even though she was slightly overweight. “How the fuck did she make cheerleader squad.” My friend Miriam asked me practically every day or so it seemed. “Miriam she’s a movie star and an Oscar nominee that’s how” I shot back. I would defend Patty to my last dying breath if need be. But it turned out she didn’t need my help at all in maintaining her star status at the school. She also was dating the hero of the football team, and got the leading role in the school play that year. I thought she would make a darling Anne Frank. “Anne Frank was Jewish.” Miriam screamed out at me.” “Patty McCormick is blonde, Italian and fat and besides she’s a lousy actress.” Miriam would not let up. “I like Patty” I said as if we were close friends, when actually all we did was say hello to each other. Then suddenly Patty was gone. Her seat in Biology remained empty, the football star walked the hallways alone with his head down and Anne Frank had to be recast. Where was Patty everyone wanted to know. I had no idea what happened but finally we learned that she had returned to Hollywood to appear on the western series Rawhide with Clint Eastwood and that was that.


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