Friday, January 23, 2009

Paige Peterson

Paige Peterson in her studio.
She’s quite something, Paige Peterson. Now a painter, illustrator and writer, she came to New York as a soap opera actress, where she met David Peterson, son of billionaire Pete Peterson. (They are amicably divorced and they have two children together.) She’s a kooky, long-legged blonde, wildly energetic, laughs loudly and often, and is one of those people who is hugely flirtatious both with men and women, betraying, perhaps, an underlying anxiety that she might not be liked. But we did like her – it would be impossible not to. When we learned later that she had suffered from some appallingly serious illnesses in her lifetime, something she didn’t even hint at during the interview, it made her persona suddenly even more endearing.

Where did you grow up?

I was raised in San Francisco, in the Bay Area. I was transferred here. I was working for ABC.

What were you doing for ABC?

I was on a soap opera.

Oh, I didn’t know that – for how long?

Four years.

Your name sounds a little soap-opera-ish.

[Laughs] Well thank you! It’s my married name, which makes it even better!

What was your maiden name?

Matthews—a good Scottish name.

Which soap opera were you on?

I was on a couple of them but the one that I really loved was The Edge of Night and my name was Myrna Whitmore.

[Sian] You were on The Edge of Night! – I used to watch that!

Did you?!
Above: Looking into the living room out to Central Park.

Right: A California cowhide sits under an 18th century Japanese dining table.
Left: One of Barry Clinton's paintings of Paige and a 19th-century French bird cage in the living room.

Below: The same corner of the living room replete with Christmas decorations.
Right: A bright pink orchid adds more color.

Below: The living room couch is covered in sheep skins, red chenille throw and down pillows. Herend ducks sit on the 18th century Japanese dining table. A wooden sculpture offering a black kukui nuts ribbon lei stands by a sketch by Barry Clinton.
Were you the femme fatale?

Oh yes, for a while! But then you end up in the suicide prevention hotline center wearing really boring clothes and you wish you were the femme fatale again. You know they take you through all these different storylines.

You still are a femme fatale, aren’t you?

Oh thank you! I’m so delighted at my age to be called that! [laughing loudly]

What other acting work have you done?

I did a movie called ‘Mask’ with Cher, directed by Peter Bogdanovich. I played Cher’s friend – I was a biker chick.
Left: Jack Peterson.

Below:
Paige's grandmother brought the tea caddy (now Lamp) back from China in 1913. Paige's painting, " Homage to Fortuny" hangs above the living room couch.
Family pictures in the living room.
Barry Clinton's portrait of the late great book editor John Dodds hangs on the wall above the fireplace mantel along with two of her friend Christopher Cerf's Emmy awards. A pair of 18th century French sconces flank the painting.
Left: The same space transformed by Christmas decorations.

Below:
Standing in front of the painting of a horse by William Matthews is a 19th century English carved parrot head walking cane. The miniature furniture was originally made as examples for the Pierre Hotel in New York City.
What was Cher like?

Cher was as unpretentious and as loving and as available and as interesting and as healthy! … the girl is SO healthy. There is no energy around this girl at all – she is just a straight arrow, a lovely, lovely girl.

I heard being on a soap opera is tough.


It’s the hardest job I ever had.

Why is it so hard?


First of all you have to memorize an entire play every night. And then you have to produce it all day long. But it’s a junkie thing—it gets exciting. I was also doing a lot of commercials at the time. In those days, if you remember, television stars and movie stars – nobody wanted to do commercials. It was basically your death … you were at the bottom of the barrel. And since I was already at the bottom of the barrel, what did I care? So I did the Ultra Bright Girl ... and Levi Strauss … and Ralph Lauren. I was having a grand time!
Right: Priscilla Rattazzi Whittle's photograph of Paige and her daughter Alexandra on a bench in front of the Museum of Natural History was taken 4 days before the birth of her son, Peter Cary.

Below: Phyllis and Bennett Cerf's green settee.
Left: The 19th century Bergere Chair is covered in Fortuny fabric.Barry Clinton's painting of a Greek warrior hangs above a moroccan inspired couch. The 19th century Bergere Chair is covered in Fortuny fabric.

Below: The oversized Barry Clinton Sketch leans against a wall in the foyer. Los Carpentara's painting brought back from Cuba (far right).
Did you quit when you got married?

When I got married … Oh my God! I was so in love when I got married. I was so happy. I was one of those little wives who just could not believe how lucky they are. I loved the way we were living. I met him in New York, a darling, darling man. My husband’s name is David Peterson and I do refer to him as my husband, because he’s the only husband I’ve ever had but I should say ex-husband. Unfortunately we’re divorced but we’re very much intact as a family. I started painting then.

Was his father as rich then as he is now?

No, not to the extent. His father was running Lehman Brothers.

How long were you married?

Thirteen or fourteen [years]? A good run!! [really yells it]
Right: Paige's portrait of her daughter Alexandra.

Below:
Paige's painting "Dark Island" hangs on the far wall of the foyer.
Master bathroom. What goes up on the wall rarely comes down.
You come across as a lot of fun – do you have another side that is darker?

I’m a workaholic.

How do you spend your day?


Well, first of all – I know you have teenagers, and so getting a teenager out of bed to get to school on time is almost like … by the time I get this kid out of the house, I have had an entire day … emotionally … physically …!!

I’m a very early riser, a 5:30 riser … I make myself a cup of coffee. I go down and get the paper and then the dog and I read the paper and then I start to paint. I paint at all hours. I was painting at 2:30 this morning. If I can’t sleep, I paint.

Did you train as a painter?

I had such a great training. When I was a child my mother was an interior designer and she had a store called The Dovecote. My sister and I were required to work in the family store – every Sunday one of us would go with her to change the window. That was the best training I ever had in my entire life.
Above: Paige's painting of wine bottle window with iris in the dining room.

Left: Family pictures against the dining room bookcase.
Above: The18th century caned chairs are in Louis XV style and the table is a 19th century English walnut drop leaf table. Barry Clinton's wolf painting hangs on the left wall of the dining room.

Right: Anther view of the dining room.

Below: Christmas village.
Left: Among pictures and books a photo of Paige and Peter Cary dancing.

Below: Bulletin board in the kitchen.
Peter Cary's beloved "guys" when he was a little guy. Jack with Peter Cary.
How did you take to motherhood?

Oh my God! When they gave me that little girl, I thought: ‘Oh my God, she’s like a baby Buddha. Oh my God, she’s perfection!’ I couldn’t take my eyes off her. And I was a completely full-time mother. And I consider myself still a full-time mother.

Didn’t they exhaust you and drive you bonkers?

When they were little, I just loved it! I liked baking cookies, I liked doing art projects – it was in my nature.

But you had full-time help…

I had Maria!

I don’t consider someone with full-time help, a full-time mother, I have to tell you…

I totally agree. What I didn’t do was go to work. What I did do was say: ‘Maria I have to go to blah blah blah …’ and Maria was in the house. Maria was their second mother. She only spoke Spanish to them, which, in the end turned against me because all three of them spoke Spanish and I would be like ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about!!’
Above: Studio with a bed or bed with a studio.

Right: Paige paints on the rug, on the table, on the wall, in the bathtub, in the hall.
Above: Paint and brushes.

Left: Canvas's waiting.
Painter's tools.
New work over the bed is entitled "Bright Night." A Faience porcelain rabbit watches over Central Park.
Above: A place for sweet dreams.

Left: Tools for working.
Jack overseeing his bone. Work in progress
Above: Louis XVI Lit a La Polonaise bed unassembled and waiting.

Right: The dress worn for the sitting of Barry Clinton's painting.
You’re very dressed-up with your heels and your stockings and everything but you have paint on your fingers – is that a kind of affectation to show that you’re a painter?

Oh my God, I love you for that! I am going out to have lunch with one of my favorite people in the entire world, DPC. I got dressed because I knew I was going to dash out of here after this interview … and this is oil-based paint and I don’t have the turpentine to take it off … [laughs riotously] so now I don’t usually have the paint on my hands, I really don’t.

DPC will be fine with it … well, I think that’s it, then. We’ll let you go for lunch.

[She lets out an earsplitting shriek] That’s it?! That’s it?! I’ve only just started ….

By Sian Ballen and Lesley Hauge
Photographs by Jeffrey Hirsch