Love Story Of Gary Clarke & Pat Woodell
Even before Gary Clarke gave nineteen-year-old Pat Woodell her engagement ring at Christmas, he said of her: “Did you ever feel like you had your own person—your own human being? This is the way I feel about Pat. And it’s a funny feeling, you know? You look at a person and you think, ‘Hey, you’re mine! I own you!’ Not own like—not materialistically, but . . . but tenderly. Protectively. And ever so surely—for keeps.”
And Pat said of Gary: “It’s like—like Gary’s mine and l’m his. Completely. That’s a pretty wonderful thing, you know—to own a human being. To own a body and a mind and a spirit. The way I feel, no person is whole. I know I wasn’t. You’re only half a person until you find someone to make you complete. With Gary l’m a whole person now—and it’s beautiful.”
That’s the way it’s been for both of them since the first date. Instant togetherness. And now, they’ve even got a tentative date set for their marriage—June 26. Getting together, however( was something else. Theirs is a tender, dramatic love story backgrounded by the frenzied tempo and pressures of two television series. Gary co-stars in “The Virginian,” and auburn-haired Pat is the whistle-stopper, Bobby Jo, in “Petticoat Junction.” And they are so in love, they race time across town from Revue Studio in San Fernando Valley to General Service Studio in Hollywood, just to spend what’s left of a lunch hour together.
But there’s the horrible wonderment for both of them: “What would have happened if they’d never met? If Gary hadn’t gone to Pat’s recording session after work one evening a year ago March? If they’d gone through life just half a human being apiece?
“I can tell you the exact date,” Gary says now. “It was March 28. I have it in my book here. I’d seen her on a ‘Hawaiian Eye’ show and I thought, ‘She’s cute!’ Then our mutual friend Kelly Gordon, the A & R man for Four Star Television Records, raved to me about how well she sang. And I wanted to meet her.
She was exactly right
“I got to the session before Pat,” Gary recalls. “I was sitting over by the orchestra, and she walked in, and—just perfect! Five feet four, perfect figure, dark brown hair with a very dark auburn going through it. Brown eyes—beautiful eyes—and lashes a foot long.
“I thought she was beautiful. But it was more than that. There are other girls in Hollywood as beautiful, if not more so. She says she was nervous, but you would never have known it, she walked in with such an air of confidence. So straight, head up, so independent! And nothing phony about her—Pat means everything she says, you could tell that. She just walked in like, ‘Hi, how are you?’ and, ‘I’m here to sing.’ Then she sang—and I was just awed. I hate to compare her, but I think Barbra Streisand had better watch out.”
In all the hassle of the session, however, Gary was never introduced. “I looked at her, and once or twice she was looking at me—and she kind of smiled. She wasn’t cold, but she wasn’t giving me anything to go on, either. And I didn’t want to interrupt, I knew she was concentrating on the session.”
Pat says, “I’d just gotten off work and I was so nervous. I’d never had a recording session before, and there were thirty-five musicians waiting for me to sing. I remember this boy coming by the booth, when I was getting ready for a take, and smiling at me. He had on a blue-striped sweater. He smiled and I smiled back—and that was it. I remember Kelly saying Gary was there. ‘I’d like for you to say hello later,’ he said. But we were never introduced.”
Later in the week their friend Kelly called Pat and invited her to have dinner with him and his wife and Gary. Pat said she was busy. He called again—and nothing!
“What is it with you?” Kelly said. “What do you have against Gary Clarke?”
“I don’t have anything against him, I’m just not interested,” she said. As she tells it now, “I felt if Gary really wanted to see me he would call me himself.” Whereas Gary’s thinking was they should be introduced by their friends and become better acquainted before he called. And when he did call, finally. Pat was a little cold.
“I thought, ‘Well you finally decided to call.’ And I told him I was busy.”
“Well, I’m going to call again,” Gary said. Undisturbed.
“The second time Gary called we talked on the phone for two-and-a-half hours,” Pat recalls. “We both have a nutty sense of humor, and we got so carried away laughing and talking that we missed all our appointments for the day. He was fun and warm and all of a sudden—I liked him.”
Gary asked Pat for a date for the following Friday, “I can give you the exact date, I have it down in my book,” he says. “We were going to the opening of the Billy Williams Revue at Harris’s Club in Anaheim.”
That was last April Fool’s night, and when Gary called for Pat, for a minute there, the joke seemed on both of them. “I’d had to work late, and everybody was gone from my home for the evening,” she says. “So I told Gary to pick me up at my girl friend’s house, which is just around the corner from ours. I walked over there without taking my key, so I locked myself out of my house. And when I got to my friend’s—nobody was home there. Her car was parked out in front, and luckily it was unlocked. So there I was, out in the Street waiting for Gary for our first date. I was so embarrassed. All of a sudden a car comes up and Gary’s sitting there trying to see the address and figuring I stood him up or something.”
“I was peering for the numbers in the dark,” he says. “I’d parked on the opposite side of the Street. My window was down and her window was down. And I see a girl leaning on her elbow on the steering wheel just looking at me. And I’m saying, ‘Pat?’ And out of the blackness a small voice is saying, ‘You’ll never believe this. I know you think I’m some kind of a nut. But this is what happened. . . .” Gary howled. And the tempo was set for a real fun-evening.
“We went to the Tahitian in Studio City for dinner,” Pat recalls. “And I remember we were so silly—I think it was because we were tired or something, you know. We were laughing so hard we couldn’t even eat.
“I liked Gary very much—he was warm and very nice. There was only one thing: I was afraid he was too good to be true. I’d been out with other people, and they were out for something, you know. And Gary didn’t seem to be. And I kept thinking, ‘Golly—this seems just too good.’
“When we got back from the Tahitian, Gary suggested we go get a hot dog at Pink’s Hot Dog Stand in the valley. So there we were, all dressed up at 2:30 A.M. in the Street in front of Pink’s eating hot dogs, and suddenly he said, ‘Would you like to come up to my place for a cup of coffee?’ ” Pat laughs, remembering. But at the time. “My heart sank. I thought, ‘Well, here it is.’ I said it was too late. I just didn’t want to find out. . . .”
“Okay,” was all Gary said. And seemed to think nothing of it. Pat found out later, he’d had nothing ulterior in mind.
Gary’s impression of Pat from that first date was, “Why don’t we do this more often? So we did. There was immediate chemistry between us. Everything about her appealed to me—the whole attitude, you know. There was no friction of any kind. There was a complete feeling of being at ease. And it was all so spontaneous. Everything I’d say, Pat would top, and then I would top her, and she’d top me again. She was fun. So honest. You knew she meant every word she said. I was very happy with her and I didn’t care to go out with anyone else. And each date, it grew more and more with me.”
It was the same with Pat. “Since that first evening, Gary’s been the only one for me,” she says. For her, too, their relationship grew “more and more.”
The following month, when Pat lay in a New York hospital gravely ill, they knew how much they were in love.
“I knew I was in love with Gary before, really, and I found out later it was the same with him. But I hadn’t wanted to show him that I cared,” Pat says now, “because I was afraid of getting hurt. I didn’t want to find out—if he didn’t care for me. And Gary would approach the subject and he’d just back away from it. I remember him saying, ‘I can’t tell how you feel about me.’ And we didn’t tell one another—until I was in the hospital almost dying.”
Pat had flown to New York with the producers of “Petticoat Junction” to plug the show.
“I hadn’t been feeling well before I left Hollywood. I’d gotten a virus and I had pains and so forth but I just didn’t look into it. I got off the plane in New York on a Wednesday evening and on Thursday morning I was rushed to Doctor’s Hospital with peritonitis. I had all kinds of complications, and they had to give me adrenalin to keep me alive. I was there ten days.
“I was 50 sick and so miserable. I didn’t want my mother to come, I didn’t want her to see me like that. Gary was working. And there was nothing anybody could do, anyway. I had the finest care.
“But I’d get so lonely! In the middle of the night I’d call home or I’d call Gary, and he was always calling me. The hospital wanted to take my phone out, and I put up such a rage. The doctor saw how much it meant to me, and he told them, ‘Let her keep the phone and let her put through calls whenever she wants to.’ Gary would call me and we would talk for hours. He had a five-hundred dollar phone bill.”
With Pat ill—and so far away from him—Gary realized how much he cared. “I think I knew before,” Gary says now, slowly. “But maybe I didn’t want to know. Maybe I wanted to wait and see. I just said to myself, ‘Well, I’ll know when I know.’ When Pat left on the plane for New York I felt empty. We’d seen a lot of each other, and I’d grown to love her—and not really realized it. Then, talking to her in the hospital—
“I wanted to go there, but I was working every day. When I talked to Pat she would say she’d been ‘pretty bad’ but she was ‘better now’—things like that. I found out afterwards that at one point a priest was called in to administer the late rites.”
Working on the set of “The Virginian” all day, Gary could think of nothing but Pat. He couldn’t sleep at night, worrying about her. And as he says, “I realized, ‘Hey, you love that girl! ’ And I told her on the phone I was in love with her—”
Pat says, slowly, “I remember talking to Gary—it was 4 o’clock in the morning. I was in pain and I couldn’t breathe very well—and I started to cry because I missed him so much. I remember Gary saying, ‘You can’t die now—you have to come home to me.’ Then he said, ‘Because I love you.’ And I didn’t really believe I heard it. I thought I was delirious again. ‘Did you hear me?’ he said. ‘I love you.’ I told him I loved him, too. And then—I really had to get well.”
This was their secret. Gary was counting the hours to meet Pat’s plane when she flew home. “But my producers insisted on driving me right to my door,” recalls Pat. “I’d been in their care while I was ill, and they didn’t know how Gary and I felt about one another. I told Gary long distance I’d call him just as soon as I got home.”
And she did. “Hi,” she said. “Goodbye. Honey,” said Gary—and he was on his way to her.
From there on the future was prefaced with, “When we get married—” or “We’ll get married when—” But they’ve said nothing of their plans. “Anything that’s been printed has been sheer speculation,” says Gary. “I’ve never talked about us until now.”
And Pat adds, “I’ve never told anybody that I’m in love with Gary—outside of my family and my personal friends.” They wanted to keep what they felt private until time elapsed and they could complete their plans.
But during these months Gary and Pat have needed love like theirs to weather some of the problems—the rumors—gossip items—magazine pieces—the needling comparisons with the past.
“Pat’s never been subjected to this kind of publicity before,” Gary says now. “She’s always been protected and loved by her family. But she’s a very mature young lady, and she’s taken it beautifully.”
However her parents, unfamiliar with the profession, have been understandably upset. “And there was the initial concern that any mother has,” adds Gary, “but especially with a man who’s been divorced. You couldn’t blame her. I didn’t blame her at all.”
“My mother has gotten calls from busybodies,” says Pat, “who say, ‘Why do you allow your daughter to go out with a divorced man?’ Things like that. I went home the other day and my mother was sobbing her heart out. Some stranger had called and tried to tell her Gary and I were secretly married.”
Initially, there was a concern about Gary being a divorced man. “I’ve been brought up very strictly in the Catholic faith,” explains Pat. “At one time I was going to be a nun. But when I explained to Mom that Gary wasn’t married in the church, she knew there was no religious problem there.
“But all this is in the past now,” Pat says happily. “My folks like Gary very much, and they want me to be happy.”
Theirs are completely different back- grounds, but out of this very difference there’s a balance. With Pat’s stability and her unquestioning love for him, Gary Clarke has found a sense of security he never knew in his own turbulent home environment. He comes from a home that was broken and rebroken. He grew up in the tougher section of East Los Angeles, to the discordant symphony of warring teen-gangs, screaming epithets and domestic argument. He was kept busy protecting his beloved mother from the threats of a drunken stepfather. His teen-marriage, with its constant arguments and subsequent divorce, added to the insecurity.
Pat grew up in the suburban community of Arlington, Massachusetts, just outside Boston. Her father, Howard Woodell, was killed in action in World War II. When Pat was four years old her mother, Marie Louise Saveriano, married Joseph Acquaviva, a mechanical engineer, “who is just like a father to me,” she says. “When I was nine years old they adopted a three-months-old baby, my brother Chuck. We are a very close family.
“My folks have given up everything for my career,” Pat goes on. “My stepfather had built my mother a brand new brick home in Arlington. He had a fine position he’d held for sixteen years. When I had the opportunity to go to New York and study and work club dates, they gave it all up and went with me. At one time my stepfather worked three jobs including dish washing, to pay for lessons and to keep us eating.” Two years ago Warners caught Pat in a New York TV show and offered her a screen test in Hollywood. The whole family came West to help her.
But Pat, so trusting and vulnerable from her protected world, was no match for the hurts in the competition of the celluloid jungle. And Gary Clarke, with his toughness and his warmth, helped her become better acclimated.
“When I came out here,” says Pat, “I was so gullible, I thought everybody was wonderful—that nobody would hurt me. And I found out this wasn’t true. It’s so competitive here, people will walk all over one another. Many of them just don’t have any feeling. But Gary does. He’s strong and he’s good. He gives me so much confidence. I’m not afraid of anything or anyone, with Gary. I could do, say, or be anything when I’m with him. You know? I feel so sure and happy and warm.”
And Gary agrees. “Pat’s good for me,” he says, “She won’t let me make a big stink out of a little thing. What she does is make me see the insignificance of little problems that bug me. If I’m upset about something, she’ll ask me what I’m going to do about it, and I’ll tell her. ‘Well, all right, if that’s what you want to do—but I think it’s a very stupid idea,’ she’ll say, reasonably. Which is my cue for, ‘What do you mean it’s a stupid idea?’ And very calmly, she tells me.
“Pat and I can talk to one another. We don’t have the arguments like—I’ve had in the past. Where there could be an argument we’ll say, ‘Ali right, let’s sit down and talk about this—and find out why.’ In the past, I walked away from a situation without talking. I don’t now, because it’s all handled so easily. Pat can be very objective and still very warm, and I love that feeling. And the jealousy that was here before in my life is almost completely gone,” he says, “because I trust her.” Their love is not competitive in any respect. As Pat has said, “There’s no jealousy between us professionally, either. I only want what’s good for him, and he only wants what’s good for me. And if Gary becomes the big star and Fm not—it isn’t going to do anything to me.” Once the possibility of the reverse would have been a big worry to Gary. But no more. “Sometimes a girl’s career does zoom along more quickly,” he says. “But for some reason, I don’t feel it would make any difference at all with me.”
Working their two television series now, they still manage to be together, day or night. Life has a way of stopping when they tear themselves away from one another, and beginning only when they’re tearing to get together again. In their one hour for lunch he picks her up and they tear out to Zups in the valley for “the greatest steak sandwiches in the world “—which they eat heading back to the studio. They work until late, then rush to eat dinner together and then try to keep awake in a movie.
“I’ll fail asleep and Pat’s shaking me and saying, ‘All right, Honey, let’s go,’ ” Gary tells it. “Then in a little while I’m shaking her and saying, ‘Time to go, Honey.’ And we keep doing this until the movie’s over.”
Pat’s learning to cook, and she usually makes dinner for Gary and his roommate, Steve Ihnen, at their house in the valley. “It’s really quite a kick,” laughs Gary. “She gets so involved and she’s so oblivious to everything else. ‘Leave me alone with my pots and pans,’ she says. She has an apron on and the kitchen’s all piled up and there’s stuff scattered all over—”
“When I even step into a kitchen I shake,” Pat says, “because I know I’m not supposed to be there. But everything’s usually turned out pretty well—with one exception. The night Gary wanted sirloin tips over rice, I was in there for over an hour. And Gary’s calling into the kitchen, ‘Honey, it’s quick-cooking rice. What are you doing? I took the pan in to show him and it was like paste. You could have put pictures in your scrapbook with it. And Gary’s trying to look sympathetic and howling, ‘Oh you shouldn’t be wasting that wonderful homecooked food.’ But I’m determined and I’m learning—”
Pat is also in the process of establishing a warm relationship with Gary’s three sons: Jeff, Dennis and David. Pat’s brother Chuck is eleven, but for all her experience with little crewcuts, she was understandably nervous at meeting Gary’s sons.
“As you know, they live with their mother who’s remarried and has her own family. We went over to her place and we sat around and talked, and at first it was just a very polite thing,” Pat now recalls. And she was really concerned. I like for kids to be well-mannered, but when they’re just being polite, they’re doing it because they’re suspicious of you. But by the end of the evening they were crawling all over me, and they were showing me their report cards and the things they’d done in school—and they were just wonderful.”
“I didn’t have any worries at all,” Gary said later. “Pat has an innate sense about people, and I wasn’t worried. They get along fine. I haven’t told them about Pat yet, I didn’t think it was time. They don’t ask any questions. They’ve just accepted that she is with their daddy.”
But soon he will tell them that this pretty brown-eyed girl is going to be an important part of their lives—from now on.
The engagement ring at Christmas was a marvelous surprise. “She didn’t have any idea!” Gary said later, telling me. “Before Christmas I asked her how she’d like to have a car.”
“Well—yes—” Pat said. Adding in a small voice, “But I’ve got a car—”
On Christmas morning Pat was expecting Gary to drive her gift over. When she opened the door to him, she gave a quick look down the Street. And so she was in no way prepared for the ring Gary was putting on her finger, as he held her hand. There was a happy little scream, and then happy tears.
It’s a pretty breathless thing—an exquisite Marquis-cut diamond, four carats suspended and with four arms coming up to hold the diamond in place. On top of each arm there’s a half-carat diamond, and two more on the ring itself.
Gary designed it. Just before Christmas, home ill with a virus, he had a jeweler-friend pick a selection of stones for him. “I found the diamond. Then I saw a couple of other rings that were made up. The rest is Pat—what she adds to any ring.”
A starry-eyed Pat wore her ring all Christmas Day, making the rounds of relatives with Gary and telling them the good news. But they agreed there would be no official announcement until mid-January.
And of the time up to the marriage Gary has said, “This is a rounding out period now. We know what we’re going to do. Now it’s a matter of working everything out in that direction, that’s all.”
“We both have things to do, and we want to get as many of them out of the way as possible before we get married,” adds Pat. “We’re caught up with our work and other people and everything else now.”
Pat would like to help make up to her parents what they’ve sacrificed through the years for her career. “Financially they don’t want anything,” she says. “They just want my happiness. But I would like to help get my mother a place and her own furniture—some of the things I took away from her a long time ago. Of course, my career doesn’t make any difference to me, where Gary’s concerned. To me a happy marriage—a husband—a home—is just sacred. I’ve felt this ever since I was a little girl. This is the way I’ve been brought up, and this is the way it will be.
“But we just want to get a lot of things out of the way. It takes time to build a marriage. It takes time and it takes effort and attention. I don’t want our marriage taking second place with other problems. We have something very beautiful—and we’re going to keep it that way.”
For Gary there’s the matter of providing a home. Of buying and furnishing a dream house on a hill. “That’s my pleasure—but we’ll know more about the house we can have a little later on. We’ll know where the series is going, whether it’s re-optioned, what the shooting schedule will be like. Whether we can have the honeymoon we want to have in Hong Kong. I feel sure something can be worked out with the series. But we’ll know more about all these things later on.”
Their wedding? “We haven’t gotten into that really,” Gary says. “It will be just as she wants it. If she wants a big wedding—fine. If she wants a small intimate wed- ding, that’s for me. It will be a church wedding. That I know. It’s for always.”
Pat doesn’t want a big wedding. “I just want the people who are very close to us to come to our wedding.”
“It’s funny how you feel,” Pat adds. “All my life I’ve dreamed of getting married in a tiny church in Malden, Massachusetts. But now it doesn’t matter where we’re married. All that matters is that he’s there—and I’m there—”
And for two people who already belong to one another, who are half of one another, it couldn’t happen any other way.
Sometimes, June seems just too long away. “We’ll be thinking and we’ll say, ‘Let’s get married now.’ Then I’ll say, ‘But what about so-and-so?’ And Gary will say, ‘Where would we live?’ ”
And where they live is important to Pat, too, because it’s so terribly important to Gary. “I wouldn’t care if we lived in half a room,” she says. “But I know how Gary feels. I know how important it is to Gary to feel he’s given me a home and all these things. It’s like he’s proving it to himself, really. More than to me. I think it would take something out of him—if he didn’t.”
Like Pat says, “He wants our marriage to be so good. He wants me to be so secure and happy. I’m perfectly secure with him now. But I know what this means to him. Can you imagine how he’s going to feel when he says, ‘Honey, this is where we’re going to live’? And he takes me into our home? I don’t want to take any of that joy away from him,” Pat says mistily. “We’ll wait. I know how much it means.”
Out of all the turbulence and insecurity in the past, out of all the angers and all the emptiness—Gary Clarke’s found his own person. And the way he feels about the girl who’s given him so much—who’s so deeply part of him—Gary would like to give her the world. But then, life’s already done that—for both of them.
—By Maxine Arnold
See Pat Woodell in “Petticoat Junction,” CBS-TV, Tuesdays 9-9:30 P.M. EST. Gary Clarke is in “The Virginian,” NBC-TV on Wednesday evenings from 7:30-9. EST.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE APRIL 1964