Akron Beacon Journal, January 1, 1967
By JACK MAJOR
Patricia Harty is going to be a big, big star. Lots of people think so. Especially Harty.
"There never was a time I didn’t know exactly what I wanted,” she says.
And what she wants – exactly – is to be a big, big star.
Many people who have seen her perform or have met her seem convinced Patricia Harty will make it.
She holds some people under a weird kind of spell. I actually heard one woman refer to Patricia Harty as “Destiny’s child.” In 20 years, this woman claimed, Harty will be the most famous actress in the world.
The 24-year-old Harty may never become that big a star, but she is moving in the right direction.
This season she is starring in the NBC comedy series “Occasional Wife,” a contrived bit of nonsense that has absolutely nothing going for it – except the performances and the chemistry of its stars, Michael Callan and Patricia Harty.
It’s a tribute to their talent that the show is expected to return for a second season. If two other actors were doing the show, it might well have been canceled by now.
But one show does not a career make. Countless actresses – from Polly Bergen to Abby Dalton – have attracted great notices for work on television, then fallen far short of their goals elsewhere.
Harty is confident she can perform well in any role, in comedies, dramas and musicals. She also thinks she has an image that can take her a long way. She is tiny cute, not va-va-voom voluptuous, which she sees as an advantage.
“Old ladies look at me in a bikini and still think I’m a nice girl,” she said during a publicity stop in Cleveland. “To show how innocent and harmless I look in a bikini, the New York Times ran a picture of me in one. How many times have you seen a girl in a bikini on the pages of the New York Times?
“Sure, sometimes I envy girls who are, you know, built” – and she drew an outline with her hands that measured about 46-23-36 – “but then I look at the roles they play, and I’m glad I am the way I am.”
What Patricia Harty is is skinny, Well, almost. Let’s say slim. She’s five-foot-six and probably doesn’t weigh much over 100 pounds, soaking wet.
When she approaches you from a 25-foot distance, you figure her for a 12-year-old. Up close she seems older, but even face-to-face she seems no older than 18.
“A couple of years ago I played the ingénue in ‘Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Momma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feeling So Sad.’ In the third act the girl seduces a young man.
“One night a woman left a complaint at the box office. She wanted the producer arrested because she thought it must be against the law for anyone as young as I appearing in a seduction scene.”
While Patricia Harty projects cuteness, it’s not the kind of itsy-poo, self-conscious cuteness you get from Marlo Thomas or Mary Tyler Moore. Harty is cute the way Audrey Hepburn is cute – stylishly and with sophistication ... and more than a little sarcasm.
It’s Miss Hepburn’s road to success that Harty hopes to follow.
The person in charge of steering her down that road is E. Thomas Kearney, her manager and her husband. Kearney is the careful watchdog who is determined to help his wife avoid pitfalls. Toward this end Kearney had established certain rules – no Playboy layouts, no beach party pictures, no Elvis Presley movies, no deodorant or undergarment commercials, and no prostitute roles unless their source is a literary classic.
These rules are just now being put to a test, and thus far Kearney has stuck to them. Recently, for example, Harty was offered $50,000 to do a movie, but it wasn’t the “right kind” of movie, so Kearney turned it down.
His determination is matched by his wife’s. She began planning her career at age 12 while growing up in North Miami, Florida. She took dancing and singing lessons, studied long and hard, and was graduated from high school at 16. Then, with $1,000 in the bank, she went to New York City.
She landed her first job in a matter of days, as a dancer on Perry Como’s television show. She claimed there was a bit of trickery involved. “At the audition I found myself among 600 dancers trying for just three jobs. I went home and later phoned the show’s dance director and told him I was unable to make the audition. ‘But I’m an awfully good dancer,’ I said. ‘Could I see you later in the day when you’re not so busy?’ ”
She says the trick worked. In the coming months she added several jobs to her resume, including “The Andy Williams Summer Show,” “The Pat Boone Show,” “The Garry Moore Show,” and about 100 commercials*.
“I used to do a commercial on Dick Clark’s ‘American Bandstand’ every Saturday. For this I had to take a train to Philadelphia every weekend because the commercials were done live. One Saturday I couldn’t make it and so they agreed to tape the commercial. Well, after that I was ‘busy’ every Saturday and they began taping all of them. It had been a bit much riding to Philadelphia and back to New York just do do one commercial.”
One of Harty’s commercials is still shown occasionally. She’s a stewardess who drops a tray when she sees one of the passengers brushing his teeth after his meal. “Hardly anyone recognizes me,” she said. “I had dark hair then.”
She said commercials were valuable in many ways. “For one thing, the money was great. I made $50,000 from that toothpaste commercial. I also learned a lot about acting and about make-up. You don’t realize how important make-up is until you’ve been around awhile. You can change your appearance completely when you know how to handle your make-up.”
It was in those commercials that Harty made her acting debut. She also performed in a few comedy skits on “The Garry Moore Show.”
“I had never acted before,” she said, “not even in high school.”
She deliberately left acting to last in preparing her career. “I wasn’t worried when I got to New York because there are always jobs available to girls who can sing and dance. I figured I’d be able to act later. Too many girls try to work in reverse. They go to New York or Hollywood hoping to act, then discover the best opportunities go to girls who can do musicals.”
Harty was making $275-a-week as a dancer and part-time comedienne for Garry Moore when Kearney advised her to quit and take a $95-a-week job as dancer and understudy in the Broadway musical, “Fiorello!” She took his advice and eight months later was playing a principal role in the show. Noel Coward saw her in it and signed her for his musical, “Sail Away.”
It was during the Philadelphia tryout of this show that Harty accidentally demonstrated the quick wit that is the trademark of Greta Patterson, the woman the plays in “Occasional Wife.”
“Sail Away” had her wearing a bikini in a dance routine. The bra strap snapped during one performance. She smiled, told the audience, “Excuse me,” and without missing a beat danced into the wings and returned wearing a man’s sport coat.
Unhappy with our waitress during our luncheon interview, Harty solved her problem with a silly joke and a funny face. The waitress responded with a smile and the meal went smoothly from then on.
Smooth sailing. That’s what Patricia Harty has gotten used to. Her real tests lie ahead. Stardom is predicted far more than it is realized. It’ll be interesting to see just where she stands 20 years from now.