Whispers From God: A Life Beyond Imaginingsby Pat Montandon
The glamorous Pat Montandon lived a seemingly perfect life, complete with multimillionaire husband Al Wilsey, loving son Sean, and a penthouse overlooking San Francisco Bay. She socialized with the elite, and was immortalized as a character in Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City. Then everything fell apart. Wilsey divorced her and Sean abandoned her, both/b>… See more details below
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The glamorous Pat Montandon lived a seemingly perfect life, complete with multimillionaire husband Al Wilsey, loving son Sean, and a penthouse overlooking San Francisco Bay. She socialized with the elite, and was immortalized as a character in Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City. Then everything fell apart. Wilsey divorced her and Sean abandoned her, both opting instead for the affections of Montandon's once-close friend, Dede Traina.
Penniless and contemplating suicide, Pat needed to reinvent herself . . . again. Casting her old life aside, she became a humanitarian for peace, a voice speaking out for the world's helpless children. The preacher's daughter, celebrity, and socialite had a new mission: to spread a message of hope in times of crisis.
A sumptuous feast of a memoir, Whispers from God is the tale of a poor-girl-turned-rich-turned-poor-again who has found peace through her devotion to something far greater than wealth and fame.
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Oh the Hell of It All
Almost everything was considered a sin while I was growing up as a preacher's daughter in Texas and Oklahoma in the '30s: makeup, dying one's hair, funny papers on Sunday, movies, short-sleeved dresses, and jewelry. Tent revival meetings with sermonizers exhorting sinners to confess dotted the landscape, which stretched mile after mile across the flat plains of the Lone Star State and throughout the rolling hills of Oklahoma.
As a child my world was family, school, friends, and church. Church came first. It permeated my youth. As the seventh of eight children born to a West Texas fundamentalist minister father, I was constantly exhorted to be good. Goodness was enforced according to the rigid tenets of my parents' faith.
My strict father was often warm and kind, although he could fly off the handle, scaring us kids half to death. He loved all humanity, advocating equality between races at a time when it was dangerous to do so. His friendship with Negroes was the one point of contention between my father and mother. She would often tell him he would rue the day he allowed "Coloreds' to attend his services.
Mother was severe and unsympathetic, yet she loved music and played the piano, taught us poetry, and emphasized the importance of being able to read and speak in public. She could also be quite humorous, but that was rare.
One of my sisters, Betty Ruth, had died from a mastoid infection when she was two, shortly before I was born on December 26, 1928. The ghost of my dead sister haunted me. Knowing I could never replace her I would try to be moreaccomplished than my older siblings and then maybe, someday, my family would love me too, I thought. My six surviving siblings—three sisters and three brothers—were usually in Mama's good graces, because they never dared to disagree with her. But she and I were constantly at war. I wanted to listen to The Pepper Cadets, a kids' radio show, play dress-up using lipstick, and go to a Shirley Temple movie—all sinful things in my parents' view.
One Sunday morning when I was eight, I refused to go to church.
"I'm not going. I'm not!' I yanked off the pink ribbons just tied onto my pigtails and threw them on the floor. Mother's sharp slap was like a gunshot. My face stung, but I would not allow myself to cry.
"No eight-year-old girl will tell me what she's going to do, and not going to do.' Collecting her Bible, Mama commanded me to follow her and my cooperative older siblings to the church house. In her shapeless print dress (pink roses against a blue background), face, eyebrows, and lashes covered with Rachel Number One, a face powder deemed okay by God, I thought Mama looked like an albino.
"I hate her,' I dared whisper to that secret inner self where all my real thoughts went.
Our battle raged almost every Sunday. I rebelled at going to church and hearing about the Mark of the Beast, Seven-Headed Monsters, The End of the World, and all those folks burning in hell, because God, a man with a beard sitting on a throne in the sky, said they were sinners. God scared me. Of course I always had to go, no matter how mightily I professed to having a stomachache, or even once when I pretended to have broken my leg.
One Sunday before we trooped off to church, Daddy sat us down and told us that he had invited his "Colored' friends to the service that day and that we were to be kind and welcoming to them. Mama had frowned and said under her breath that Daddy would be sorry.
At church I tuned out the preaching so I wouldn't have to think about the screams of sinners being burned in hell. I thought instead about the fried chicken dinner we would enjoy later, and our beautiful white Victorian parsonage, which had a flourishing flower garden and indoor plumbing. It was the most beautiful house I had ever seen, much less lived in.
"Hallelujah! Glory to God!' someone shouted. The sermon over, everyone rose for the final hymn and altar call. "Please turn your songbooks to page forty-five,' Daddy said. "As we sing the last song, remember this may be your final hour on earth. You had better think about that, Brothers and Sisters. You had better march up here and give your hearts and souls to God. This could be your last opportunity to make things right with your Maker.' As the fervor of his emotional pitch for heaven became more intense, Daddy's voice became thunderous, only to stop and then resume, as quiet as a whisper.
"Mother, while you play,' he said, indicating the black upright piano, "and the choir sings, I want those of you who are burdened with sin to come forward.' Mama took her place at the keyboard. She banged away as the men and women of the choir, wearing the mournful expression of career saints, sang.
"Softly and tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me . . .
Come Home, Come Home. O-o-o-h sinner,
What if I died today, I thought, as I often did: Would I be saved? No—I would go straight to hell for sure. Remembering my past sins . . . how I lied about breaking Daddy's watch and how I stole a penny from the church collection plate once—I wailed "O-o-o-h . . .' as tears began to slide down my face, "I don't want to die a sinner.'
At the first O-o-o-h, several of the devout, sitting nearby, enveloped me as if they had found a genuine diamond on a kid's treasure hunt. They propelled me to the mourners' bench, where I fell on my knees, sobbing. "Here's little Patsy Lou, Lord Jesus, a sinner,' intoned the supplicants. "Only you know what dark deeds she's done, what evil thoughts she's had. Oh dear God, we pray for her deliverance.' In the background, I could hear shouting, "Amen, Glory to God, I've got religion!'Oh the Hell of It All
A Memoir. Copyright © by Pat Montandon. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Meet the Author
Pat Montandon moved from Oklahoma to San Francisco in the 1960s, becoming a newspaper columnist, television host, and writer. She has been interviewed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, People, and numerous other media outlets. She lives in Beverly Hills.
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