Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Patricia Duff

In Los Angeles in the 1980s and early 90s, she was known as Patricia Medavoy, married to film producer/executive Mike Medavoy. When the marriage ended, or was ending, it was said that billionaire businessman, Ronald Perelman kept his private jet on the tarmac at LAX, ready and waiting for her. He also bought her a mansion in Bel-Air to escape to. Whether this is true or not, it reflects the intense Perelman ardor that the tycoon felt for her at the time.

When her separation and divorce from Medavoy was occurring, it was said that she wanted to have a child and that Medavoy, already a father from a previous marriage, was not interested in fathering more. (He later married LA beauty Irena Ward with whom he has a son.)

When the l’affaire Perelman was occurring, it was likewise said that she was mainly interested in meeting a man who would agree to fathering a child. Others, taking into consideration his billionaire status, thought they saw some other motive.

After her divorce from Medavoy, the golden blonde moved to New York and began a relationship with Perelman that ended in marriage. Or ended with marriage. The couple did have a child, a lovely daughter named Caleigh and after that the Yellow Brick Road, if it ever was one, got real rocky, muddy and rutted. This was followed by a long, bitter and contentious divorce. Duff and Perelman, much of which focused, at least in the tabloids, on the custody of their daughter.

The tabloids and consequently public opinion was very hard on this woman whose beauty is at once astonishing and elusive. The woman herself, in person, is soft-spoken yet assertive when need be, kind, sensitive and a very good friend with intense liberal political and feminist interests.

In Los Angeles, when she was married to Medavoy she was an activist in Democratic Party politics as well as other environmental and political issues. After Jane Fonda , who was in the 70s and early 80s actively political for her then husband Tom Hayden's career, Duff was the most high profile entertainment industry-related female political figure in Los Angeles.

It was she who was instrumental in the mid-1980s in introducing Governor Bill Clinton to L. A. Democratic Party supporters and contributors. Clinton was relatively unknown in national party politics and was only one of many potential candidates and party leaders whom Duff presented to Southern California Democrats. She used her position as "Hollywood Wife" uniquely, gaining accessibility to national political, feminist and environmental figures. She quickly established herself as an independent and forceful individual in the forums she participated in. The Clinton connection rewarded her and Medavoy with White House access at the beginning of his Presidency.

In person, both men and women come away having met an astonishly beautiful woman, far more beautiful than many fashion models and movie stars. Yet she has a reserved friendliness about her that seems almost passive. The appeal is obvious in the ordinary sense: the wholesome prettiness, the complexion, the blue eyes, the blonde hair — a kind of All-American girl-next-door quality that gives her charisma.

There is no prima donna about her; she is not intimidating to approach or to meet. For a woman who commands so much attention, she is never "surrounded" by admirers. Like most of us, she might walk into a party alone (I've seen this happen a number of times), and like a lot of us, stand there alone, looking for someone familiar to speak to.
Women, almost without exception, and all types, tend to like her immediately, and she befriends easily. Men, in her presence, even without introduction are often instantly distracted by her.

It is the physical, the visceral. Her voice, her handshake, have a soft gentleness, like her complexion, her carriage and her bearing. This asset appears to be double-edged. It bestows attraction as well as the presumption that she manipulates men with it.

Her great allure and her short marriage to Perelman seemed at first to bring her exactly what she wanted: a child of her own. The price she paid for motherhood, however, turned out to be a cruel and absurdly rancorous notoriety hyped by the tabloids, implying, because of her magnetic beauty and her divorce demands, that money was her only real interest. The judge, in ruling over the child's custody, seemed to favor the father's demands.

Post-divorce, she settled into an Upper East Side townhouse with her daughter, spending her weekends at a house in Connecticut. Now, with all that behind her, she has finally settled into New York life, as a mother of a school-age child. There have been a number of men she’s been linked to, however briefly, like former Senator Torricelli, Frederic Fekkai and Mort Zuckerman. She and I had a conversation about single life after forty one night not long ago at a dinner party here in Manhattan. Hers, surprisingly, is pretty much solo, as far as male companionship is concerned, she confided; and she likes it that way because Motherhood, life with her daughter gives her a satisfaction and sense of completeness that can’t be found elsewhere: it’s her joy.