The day I met Patty—the first time we came face to face—we just stared at one another with nothing to say. It was our first day on the soap opera, The Best of Everything, produced by James Lipton (who now does those incredible interviews on Inside the Actors Studio). The Best of Everything, originally a best-selling novel by Rona Jaffe, was the story of four girls who move to New York City and work for a fashion magazine like Vogue. It was to be a splashy and splendid soap opera, and we were to have costumes and sets that were impressive and elegant. Jimmy, that’s what we called Mr. Lipton back then, had persuaded ABC to give him everything he wanted.
I played a character named April, who was an innocent country girl. Patty played Linda, who was the same age, but more savvy and sophisticated. In the script, we became best friends immediately. But in real life, we met in our shared dressing room at 7 am every morning, five days a week, and hardly said a word to each other. I was thrilled to be working with Patty, and very open to conversation. But she was stiff and remote and very aloof. We have nothing in common, I thought to myself. And besides, why would Patty McCormack want to talk to me? She had a Tony Award for her stage performance in The Bad Seed, which she received when she was just eight years old. Not only that, but she had a star on Hollywood Boulevard and an Academy Award nomination. Yes, I felt ecstatic to have won the part of April over hundreds of others vying for the roll, but really, I was just an actress with a quarter of her experience, and that, I figured sadly, in her eyes, did not make me ‘friend material’.
In our street clothes, our hair askew, Patty and I, and the others in the cast, went about the business of blocking and rehearsing our scenes under the glare of the hot lights, as three cameras followed us around. In between, throughout the day, as we all checked in and out of hair, make-up, and the costume room, we miraculously transformed, slowly but surely, into the characters we played. By the time we were ready to tape the show eight hours later, we were line-perfect, chic, and ready to be invited into millions of homes all over the United States. But even though the rest of the cast and I were friendly, the most said between Patty and myself wasn’t spoken until the end of the day.
“See you tomorrow,” she would barely utter as she darted out of our dressing room.
“Yes,” I would say to the back of her head as she disappeared around the corner. “See you tomorrow.”
Then, one day, totally without warning, Patty sat me down one early morning and whispered to me behind our closed dressing room door. “I’m pregnant,” she told me, grinning, and her face aglow. She had never smiled at me before, and I thought to myself how very beautiful she really was. “You are the first person to know. Besides my husband, of course,” she continued. “That’s why I’ve been feeling so sick all this time. That and the fact that I always get so nervous when I start new things, made it doubly hard for me these last few weeks. But,” she laughed, “I think I hid it pretty well. “
Filled with happiness for her and relief for me, I stood, reached over and gave her a hug. And unexpectedly, she just melted into my arms.
And then, just like that, we became best friends.
The Best of Everything caught on, and it felt like all of America was watching us. We were so proud when the fan mail began pouring in and our ratings flew sky-high. Pictures of our entire cast were filling magazines and newspapers everywhere. Seldom could any of us walk more than a New York City block without being recognized and asked for our autographs.
Patty was able to conceal her growing pregnancy under beautiful costumes, and by carrying stacks of files and sitting behind desks. And the funny thing was, my character, April, became pregnant and was all set to marry the father of her baby, Dexter Key, the head of the fashion magazine, when suddenly the cast and crew were gathered together and told that The Best of Everything was going off the air. “Why?” we all asked totally dumbfounded. We were told that the cancellation was due to a dispute between the producer and the network.
Of course, we were all dazed and appalled. Our fans were devastated, too. But there was nothing any of us could do. The last scene in The Best of Everything included the entire cast gathered in a gorgeous cathedral. April, in an exquisite wedding gown, a slight bulge in her stomach, accompanied by her best friend, Linda— a bulge in her stomach, too, except this one real, and hidden by a bouquet of wildflowers— walk down the aisle, side by side, and then… off into oblivion.
Patty and I both moved from New York City to LA several months later, after her baby was born. She named her daughter Danielle. I, too, had a daughter named Danielle. And we each had a son. Many set friendships don’t last. Fortunately, ours did. When we weren’t visiting one another in our various homes, we talked on the phone for hours. One way or another, we connected every day. Why we stayed friends, we never really knew. It was just the way it was, and we were too busy raising our children and pursuing our careers to question it.
We both continued acting, but were never in the same show again. I was there when her son got his first real guitar for his fifth birthday, and she was there when my husband produced his first movie for television and sat with us at the screening party. When my family and I opened Portrait of a Bookstore in 1986, Patty was there for days helping to unpack hundreds of boxes of books into all the new shelves. When her Danielle got married, I stood by her side while she cried and cried.
It’s now been many years since we first met, and we still pretty much live in each other’s pockets, we are so close. For forty-some years we have shared the tragedies, raptures, and small day-to-day pleasures concerning our children, their spouses, and their children. (We have four grandchildren each; she, four grandsons, and me, four granddaughters, all eight of them brilliant and dear.)
There isn’t one thing that happens that the other does not know about. We are confidantes, sisters, and intimate friends. All judgment is suspended between us. It’s always been that way. No matter what one of us is going through, the other is there. We can’t not be friends, we say occasionally, laughing. Who else would remember that fleeting incident that happened ten, twenty, thirty, forty years ago, and associate it with something that happens today?
I have a handful of other close friends whom I cherish, and so does she. Yet, it is to each other that we turn in times of worry or times of delight. It takes a long time to grow a friend, but even longer to grow the best one in your life.