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?
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!
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.
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!
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]
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.
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!!’
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 ….