Call Me Anna: The Autobiography of Patty Duke

Call Me Anna: The Autobiography of Patty Duke

by Patty Duke, Kenneth Turan

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Call Me Anna: The Autobiography of Patty Duke by Patty Duke, Kenneth Turan

The Star--The public saw her as a gifted child  star: the youngest actor to win an Oscar for her role  as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker and the  youngest actor to have a prime-time television series  bearing her own name.

The Nightmare--What the  public did not see was Anna Marie Duke, a young girl  whose life changed forever at age seven when  tyrannical mangers stripped her of nearly all that was  familiar, beginning with her name. She was deprived  of family and friends. Her every word was  programmed, her every action monitored and criticized. She  was fed liquor and prescription drugs, taught to  lie to get work, and relentlessly drilled to win  roles.

The Legend--Out of this nightmare emerged  Patty Duke, a show business legend still searching  for the child, Anna. She won three Emmy Awards and  divorced three husbands. A starring role in  Valley of the Dolls nearly ruined her  career. She was notorious for wild spending sprees,  turbulent liaisons, and an uncontrollable temper.  Until a long hidden illness was diagnosed, and her  amazing recovery recovery began.

The Triumph--  Call Me Anna is an American success  story that grew out of a bizarre and desperate  struggle for survival. A harrowing, ultimately  triumphant story told by Patty Duke herself--wife,  mother, political activist, President of the Screen  Actors Guild, and at last, a happy, fulfilled woman  whose miracle is her own life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553272055
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/28/1988
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 411,281
Product dimensions: 6.80(w) x 11.00(h) x 0.88(d)

About the Author

Patty Duke (1946–2016) was a true show business legend whose career spanned six decades. Her Oscar win for her role as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker made her, at the time, the youngest Academy Award winner. She also entered the history books as the youngest person to have a show bearing her full name, with The Patty Duke Show, on which she played genetically unexplainable identical cousins. In addition to her acting, she became the second woman ever elected president of the Screen Actors Guild.

Read an Excerpt

Though I’ve been a professional actress since I was seven or eight, acting was never a dream of mine. What I really wanted to be was a nun: nuns were the only people I came in contact with who weren’t drinking and screaming! I played nun a lot with my friend Margie Stravelli—she’d play anything. We’d fold scarves a certain way, make a bib with paper from school, put on a bathrobe, and flick our rosary beads as we walked up and down. And then we’d just be mean: that’s how you played nun. Assign a lot of homework, whack the table with a ruler, fight about who was in charge. “You were the Mother Superior last week. Let me be Mother Superior.” We played nun for hours.
Yet when I think back to my earliest memory, it was of performing. It was Sundays after church and I’d always be wearing a very good dress, looking very neat and spiffy. My father, John Patrick, would be charged with taking me to a park on Second Avenue between Thirty-fifth and Thirty-sixth streets on New York’s East Side, but we never quite made it. We’d end up instead at “Grandpa’s bar,” where his father, a man with pure white hair, very blue and bloodshot eyes and that kind of handsome Irish face with all the veins sticking out from drinking too much, was a bartender. Grandpa was what they called a periodical drinker, and when he drank, my mother says, he was violent.
As early as I can remember I’d be stood on the bar and, even if it was July, I would recite “The Night Before Christmas.” Sometimes everyone would give me pennies, but mostly it was pretzels—I could be bought for pretzels and Coca-Cola. Dad, of course, would be throwing back a few boiler-makers. He’d always swear me to secrecy, but he’d get in trouble anyway when we got home, because whether I told or not—and I would, every time—it was obvious where we’d been. But I loved being hoisted up on that bar, I just loved it. And that was probably where my passion for acting began.
Until I was about twelve years old, when the place got so infested with bedbugs that it drove us cuckoo, my family lived at 316 East 31 Street. The five of us (my father; my mother, Frances; my sister, Carol, who was eight years older than me; and my brother, Raymond, who was five years older) all lived in four rooms: a kitchen, a living room, and two bedrooms, all without doors. It was at the top of a four-story walkup: we lived in the back apartment and the Callahans and their dog, Scroungy, lived in the front. Scroungy was a black spaniel, so vicious it lived its entire life with a muzzle on: the Callahans would take it off only to feed the dog when nobody was around. Scroungy was mean.
Though we had four rooms, none of them was as big as my den today—you could do submarine work after living in them. The rent was only thirty-six dollars a month, but there was a panic about not being able to make the payment every time it was due. My sister and I slept in the same bed for a while, but she didn’t like it because I moved around too much and I didn’t like it because she talked a lot and out loud in her sleep. We had a sink, stove, refrigerator, and the washing machine my mother got her hand stuck in. Even after the machine was turned off, she kept screaming. I was just a little kid, I didn’t know what to do. I finally figured out I should pull the plug, but I had to get Mrs. Callahan to extricate my mother’s hand. Thank God for Mrs. Callahan. My mother might still be there.
We also had pressed tin ceilings, the kind that are becoming really popular again, only these weren’t nice and white; they had big rust stains where water had leaked through the tar-paper roof because my mother always walked on it in her high heels—she used it for a spy tower. She’d go up there and embarrass us to death. Maybe Ray was playing stickball in the street, where he wasn’t supposed to be, or I had my finger up my nose—whatever it was, she’d start screaming at the top of her lungs. Once she screamed down for Ray to come upstairs, and one of his buddies, a guy named Walter, couldn’t take it anymore and yelled, “Jump, Mrs. Duke, jump!” Of course, the moment my poor brother walked in the door, she gave him a slug because of what the other kid had yelled. Well, she figured, he’d been standing there, hadn’t he?
The neighborhood we lived in, Kips Bay, was almost all Irish and Italian. We were street-smart city kids, but the kinds of things the older ones did, like the boys shooting off firecrackers or maybe stealing hubcaps, the girls chewing gum and putting on black eyeliner because it made them look hard and tough, seem very innocent now. We never really wanted for anything, and I never remember being hungry. So tabloid stories that say “a piece of bread seemed like birthday cake to her” still make me furious. Sure we were poor, but we weren’t desperate, we weren’t like homeless people who may have nothing at all to eat. If I was hungry, it was because my mother made pea soup, which I wouldn’t eat on a dare.
My mother had a strong sense of responsibility to her family. She used the phrase “these children we brought into the world” again and again. She prided herself on the fact that she raised perfectly clean children. People of her generation in that neighborhood had very little to be proud of, but they were proud of the way they kept a home. It was the old “you could eat off the floor” routine, though what my mother forgets is the reason you could eat off the floor is that my sister was washing it! The household might be threadbare, but it was sparkling clean, and her children were dressed better than lots of rich people’s kids; my clothes were much better, much cleaner, much neater than my boys’ are today. When you’ve got the money, you relax and say, “Fine, wear the holes in your jeans, look like a bum.” But when you don’t have it, you want to look as if you do.
My parents had both grown up in that same Kips Bay neighborhood before me; in fact my father’s sister dated my mother’s brother for a while. John Patrick Duke’s family was Irish as far back as anyone could remember, but my mother’s mother was German. She had eleven children and died when my mother, who was the youngest, was only six. It’s a terrible story. Apparently my grandmother had emphysema or bronchitis, some ailment that disturbed her breathing. My aunt Lizzie was taking care of Grandma, who was choking, when the doorbell rang and kept ringing. Lizzie went to the window to see who it was—it was little Frances—and in the interim, before she could get back, Grandma died.
When you think what an old-fashioned Irish Catholic wake on Second Avenue must have been like, with the body in the living room, all the drinking, and how many times Lizzie, not meaning to blame Frances, must have told the story about the ringing doorbell, you realize the kind of guilt my mother must have carried around all these years. I think that, and the fact that I was the youngest and smallest and looked like her, made her feel very, very close to me.
I was born on December 14, 1946, in Bellevue Hospital, the first one of my mother’s children who wasn’t born at home, and named Anna Marie. The Anna is easy to figure; both my parents had sisters named Anna. Who this Marie person is, nobody knows. We figure it might have been a drinking partner of Dad’s, or maybe he just thought another name was needed. My mother always says, “It went good with Duke.”
At first it was the classic case of the baby everyone was nice to, getting all the presents I wanted while Carol and Ray weren’t so lucky. Though I could be a tomboy on the street, I was really a traditional little girl and played with little-girl things. I wanted books and new Crayolas and when I would color outside the line my sister would make me feel dumb. My poor sister. She says I broke everything she ever had. Well, she could play with me. I was a nice toy.
When I was little, it seemed that every holiday, every event that’s supposed to be joyous and wonderful—Christmas, Easter, graduations, weddings, birthdays—turned into a nightmare for my family. We were like a family out of O’Neill, with the melancholy and the fire of the Irish. There was, for instance, the tradition of the Christmas trees always going out the window. Almost every Christmas, my father would get angry about something and there would be an argument, and before anybody knew it the tree was gone, out the window and down into the street. Years later, after my father himself was well gone and we were living in a basement apartment in the Astoria section of Queens, my mother and my brother had an argument about the tree: my mother had bought a fake one and my brother came home and freaked. There was screaming and yelling back and forth and the next thing we knew, the tree was going out the window. Except we were in the basement! Ray was so frustrated and embarrassed that he dragged the tree up the stairs and into the courtyard. So we kept the tradition alive.
Funerals were the big family gatherings where relatives who hadn’t spoken to each other in fifteen years wound up in the same room. They’d have a few too many, sparks would fly, two or three folks would beg that this wasn’t the time or place, and then the free-for-all would begin. We’d hear “Step outside of Skelly and Larney’s,” the local funeral home, and after they’d had it out, everything would be fine.

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Call Me Anna: The Autobiography of Patty Duke 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have purchased both "Call Me Anna" and "A Brilliant Madness" and found that I could not put them down. It is such a gift to have someone of Anna Marie's (aka Patty Duke) stature to disclose such personal testimony on her childhood abuse, mental illness in the family and her own very severe struggles with Bipolar Disorder that went undiagnosed for so many years. I work with people in the mental health field struggling with severe and persistant mental illness, many with Bipolar Disorder. Anna Marie provides a ray of hope, validation and true understanding of how draumatic mental illness can be and how it permiates every aspect of a person's life, yet with threatment, many can reclaim their life and still lead productive and satisfying lives. People are not Bipolar or Mentally Ill, rather many people, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, struggle with the symptoms of a chemical imbalance resulting in a MEDICAL ILLNESS of Bipolar or other Mental Illness. Thank-you, Anna Marie Duke, for your courage and candidness in disclosing these very personal and painful issues.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'What's in a name?' Shakespeare's question gets a different answer in this autobiography, when a little girl named Anna Marie Duke is told by her managers, 'Anna Marie is dead. You're Patty now.' It starts there, the stripping away of a child's identity so that the managers can rebuild her to their own specifications. The one thing that makes this child worth the effort, though, is there already: phenomenal acting talent. The kind of talent that makes Patty Duke a Broadway star at twelve, and an Oscar-winner at sixteen. Alcoholism and mental illness surround her in childhood, and breaking away from her managers (who become her surrogate parents early on) just before her eighteenth birthday sets her adrift in a world for which she is totally unprepared. Pat, as she calls herself then, marries early and almost doesn't make the tricky transition from child star to adult actress. Disastrous career decisions, broken relationships, financial debacles - they're all here, and Ms. Duke recounts them without flinching. But running throughout her life story are other threads, the ones that keep her going until the manic depression that causes her roller coaster behavior is finally diagnosed and treated. This woman loves her craft, and she adores her children. Thanks to those two loves, she survives and eventually rediscovers herself. Not Patty; not Pat. Anna Marie. So many celebrity biographies end with an overdose of pills or booze, or a car crash, or a razor blade in a bathtub. I found it refreshing to read this outwardly similar tale, which ends instead with a life rebuilt. With - corny as this is going to sound - a new beginning.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was really touched while reading this honest and heart-rending story of a talented child, used to the extreme by the adults in her life. Patty Duke went through a terrible childhood full of mental abuse, and a young adulthood of questioning her worth, and came out the other side to become one of the great actors of a generation. Brava, Anna!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked this book. It shows how a young girl can overcome so much. I am now very grateful to my wonderful family. God bless Patty Duke. On the other hand, I wish she had made her language a little cleaner. Then again im only 12 so...yeah. Good book. .
boeflak on LibraryThing 6 days ago
You really will call her Anna after reading this heartbreaking memoir of a vicious childhood and an adulthood rent by the extremes of manic and depressive stages of Bipolar Affective Disorder.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A truly sad story written with honesty.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I really appreciate this book. Patty Duke tells her story well and I applaud her for having the courage to let the whole world know about her private adversities, especially her struggle with illness. Since learning more about Patty Duke, I also highly recommend a little book by Taro Gold called 'Open Your Mind, Open Your Life' which contains many inspirational thoughts based on the Buddhism that Patty Duke practices. Excellent.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book!!! I read it in 2 days!!! I thought that Patty Duke told her story very well and that it took alot of courage for her to let the world know about her life and her illness!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good story and she had to overcome a LOT to get to where she is. But she said in the book that her marriage to Michael Tell was never consumated. However, in the early 1990's her son Sean Astin has DNA testing done and it showed Michael Tell is indeed his biological father. That makes me wonder how much of the rest of her life story as she telld it is accurate snd trur.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting that the overview says she was abused by tyrannical "mangers" as though she were being persecuted by hay racks in a barn. Spellcheck doesn't help if you're just plain careless.