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Meet Patty Duke’s 3 Sons Who Were ‘Berated’, ‘Ostracized’ & Made to Do ‘Humiliating Punishment’ by her

Gaone Pule
Feb 06, 2022
08:40 A.M.
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Actress Patty Duke had many Hollywood achievements, from her Oscar-winning turn at age 16 in "The Miracle Worker" to "The Patty Duke Show" on ABC.  

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Patty Duke overcame a horrific childhood. Amid her struggles, she became a mother of three sons and was one of the first celebrities to speak out about her mental health.

Her parents both had their demons and ended up shipping her off to live in Manhattan with a husband and wife team who managed child actors when she was young.

She was born Anna Marie Duke in 1946 in Elmhurst, New York, to troubled parents. Duke's father, John, was an alcoholic who abandoned the family when his daughter was only six years old.

Her mother, Frances, suffered from depression. Duke followed her brother Raymond's footsteps by pursuing a career in acting at age seven. His managers, John and Ethel Ross took notice of her.

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However, what was supposed to be a thrilling journey turned into a life of terror. Duke suffered at a time when Hollywood studios kept secrets about stars.

Patty Duke starring as herself on the TV series comedy "The Patty Duke Show" during the 'Horoscope' episode aired in January, 18, 1964. Photo: Getty Images

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But later in her life, she risked her career to share her story of survival. She had a disturbing experience involving her managers that she kept mum about for years.

Ethel and John changed her birth name to Patty, telling her that “Anna Marie is dead. You’re Patty now,” she wrote in her 1987 memoir, “Call Me Anna.”

The TV icon was eventually diagnosed with manic depression/bipolar disorder, she revealed in her memoir. The news came as a shock because it was a time when mental illness was stigmatized.

Patty Duke as Kathy in "One Red Rose for Christmas," aired on October 30, 1959. Photo: Getty Images

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PATTY DUKE'S TRAUMATIC CHILDHOOD WITH HER MANAGERS

Faiga Levine revealed in a Washington Post review of the book that Duke's managers got rid of her accent, dressed her inappropriately, and taught her to lie.

Levine said they erased her New York accent, dressed her as a miniature, taught her to lie about her height, weight, age, and experience, adding even her audition interviews were programmed and rehearsed.

Patty Duke, 12, who won $32,000 as a contestant on the The $64,000 Challenge television program, shown with her manager John Ross leaving the house office building after Ross testified at a closed session of the House Legislative Oversight Subcommittee. Photo: Getty Images

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"They fed her booze and prescription drugs; at least once they made drunken sexual overtures to her, and they ripped off the bulk of her earnings," Levine disclosed.

She further explained that young Duke’s life revolved around her career, including the hypercritical, oppressive Rosses, who dissected and belittled everything about her.

Patty Duke as Patty Lane and Cathy Lane in the "The Patty Duke Show," aired on July 8, 1963. Photo: Getty Images

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Even her homelife contrasted with how she appeared in public: a lovable, talented child star. When she was 12, Duke landed the role of Helen Keller in the Broadway play "The Miracle Worker."

The play became such an immense success that it was adapted into the movie of the same name in 1962 and won her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

At the height of her career, the mental health advocate had her self-titled sitcom, "The Patty Duke Show," from 1963 to 1966. A year later, she made headlines for the wrong reasons by taking a more adult role in "Valley of the Dolls."

Patty Duke sitting a classroom as Patty Lane and Cathy Lane in the "The Patty Duke Show." Photo: Getty Images

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At the same time, she lived with her abusive guardians and wrote that they gave her drugs and pills as a teenager. Duke also struggled with bipolar disorder, though it was not diagnosed until 1982:

“I knew at a very young age that something was not right, or even more intensely, there was something wrong with me.”

She believed that she was not a good person and did not try hard enough, telling Barbara Walters in 1992 that her symptoms did not become apparent until her late teens.

Award-winning child star Patty Duke in "The Dutchess and the Smugs" aired on June 16, 1962. Photo: Getty Images

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PATTY'S SUICIDE ATTEMPTS & LIFE AFTER MANAGERS

When she finally freed herself from her managers, she tried to move on though they had stolen most of her earnings. Duke married her first husband, Harold Faulk (13 years her senior), in 1965, an assistant director on "The Patty Duke Show,” but they divorced in 1969.

Jill Gerston wrote in a 1987 Philadelphia Inquirer article that marriage may have been an escape for Duke, but it was never a cure, adding that when her show ended:

“She sank into a depression so acute that she couldn’t go to the supermarket without suffering an anxiety attack.”

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Academy Award winner Patty Duke pictured backstage at the Joey Bishop show in July 1969. Photo: Getty Images

As a result, she began starving herself and even attempted suicide twice. Her downward spiral continued when at age 23, she had a fling with a 17-year-old named Desi Arnaz Jr.

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Later, the Hollywood star fled to Las Vegas and married Michael Tell, but the marriage was short-lived, lasting for only thirteen days.

Patty Duke during The 40th Annual Academy Awards - Rehearsals at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica, California. Photo: Getty Images

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A year later, Duke gave birth to her first child, son Sean Astin, and said his father was her partner John Astin, whom she married in 1972 but divorced in 1985 (they had another son named Mackenzie Astin).

It turned out that he was not the father, and Sean's real dad was eventually revealed to be rock promoter Michael Tell. Duke continued to act in various movies and TV shows, but her undiagnosed disorder made it evident that something was wrong.

The TV icon was eventually diagnosed with manic depression/bipolar disorder, she revealed in her memoir. The news came as a shock because it was a time when mental illness was stigmatized.

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Patty Duke taking a break from filming on the set of "Valley of the Dolls," on April 24, 1967. Photo: Getty Images

Duke also divulged that her mother was diagnosed with clinical depression. The starlet would later discover her passion for mental illness awareness advocacy. Not only was she forthcoming about her condition, but she also starred in a TV movie based on her autobiography.

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Duke has been married four times in her lifetime, and her last husband was Michael Pearce, a drill sergeant who worked as a consultant on the TV film “A Time To Triumph.”

The couple wed in 1998 and remained married for 30 years until Duke’s death in 2016. They adopted a son named Kevin Pearce, who lives his life away from the spotlight, unlike the rest of the family.

Patty Duke, her husband and her son arrive for the Michael Jackson concert at Madison Square Garden on September 7, 2001 in New York City. Photo: Getty Images

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WHO ARE PATTY’S KIDS NOW?

Known from "The Lord of the Rings," Sean, 50, is an actor, director, and producer. Apart from his career, he is a loving husband to Christine Harrell and a father to three daughters who look just like their grandmother: Isabella, Elizabeth, and Alexandra.

They all appeared alongside him as Elanor Gamgee in "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," and he played their father, Samwise Gamgee.

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Duke’s second son, Mackenzie, is also an accomplished actor, and unlike his older brother, he does not have any kids but is married to Jennifer Bautz, whom he wed in 2011.

The 48-year-old has made guest several appearances on popular TV shows like “Lost House,” “Greys Anatomy,” “Scandal,” and “NCIS.”

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Duke adopted her third child, son Kevin, 34, when he was only a few days old. He is currently engaged to fiancée Jenn, and he and his mom and her children are a tight-knit family.

Kevin previously joked to the media that some people wonder how Duke gave birth to someone as tall as he is before they realize that he was adopted.

Even though he maintains a life away from the public eye, he typically makes appearances on social media when his mother shares pictures of her time with him and Jenn.

Patty Duke and son Mackenzie Astin attend the 41st Annual ICG Publicists Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 27, 2004 in Beverly Hills, California. Photo: Getty Images

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Duke was also a stepmother to the children of her fourth husband Pearce, daughters; Charlene, a genetic researcher; and Raelene, who drowned in a 1998 car accident at age 22.

The former child star was incredibly close to her stepkids and always referred to Raelene as her daughter. A tribute to Raelene is still on her website to date.

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INSIDE PATTY’S MOTHERHOOD

As a mother to her kids, Duke said she was grateful for her close relationships with Sean and Mackenzie despite the rough childhood she subjected them to before her illness got diagnosed.

Her family even called her names, such as Anna Banana, and after Sean had his children, she became Nana Anna Banana. Duke later admitted to The Times that she had no patience towards her kids and explained they never knew what they were up against: 

“The thing that these kids had going against them was that you never knew when what was all hunky-dory was going to fly out of the window, and you were going to be screamed at and berated either ostracized or made to do some humiliating punishment."

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Patty Duke attends the Creative Coalition's 2004 Capitol Hill Spotlight Awards ceremony with her son actor Sean Astin March 30, 2004 in Washington, DC. Photo: Getty Images

Although she felt guilty about what she exposed her children to, her oldest son Sean has nothing but praise for his mother, deeming her inspirational:

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"She became a voice for the voiceless, a reassuring presence for the scared, the intimidated, and the lost. She was a healer of many souls and a champion for so many in need."

Patty Duke and sons MacKenzie (L) and Sean Astin attend the ceremony honoring her with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame August 17, 2004 in Hollywood, California. Photo: Getty Images

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While he and Mackenzie referred to their mom’s episodes as “freakouts,” Duke was not like that all the time, he revealed, adding she was a strong woman:

“This woman is a powerful, strong woman, who wanted us to grow up independent and confident and strong …  99 percent of the time.”

Recalling back to those days, Sean shared: “I could hear the sound of mom sort of going through the hallways like, you know, the beast in ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ And she came in with this glass of water and … throws the water in my face. And then she destroyed the model.”

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When Duke got diagnosed with manic depression, she was 35 years old. The legend was then successfully treated with lithium and told 20/20 the most challenging part of recovery was regaining the trust of her kids.

When their mom was diagnosed, Mackenzie and Sean were aged nine and eleven, so they lived through the years of recovery and reconciliation.

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While Duke was tremendously proud of Sean's success, she was most proud of his real-life character having overcome a troubled childhood to become a mature adult saying:

"He is at the core the decent, generous, loving, respectful man that I hoped he would be."

Meanwhile, Sean shared what he loved most about her dear mom, saying she was a survivor who wanted to live and make it through her challenges because she was determined to overcome her past, which was a good thing she did.

Duke sadly died unexpectedly in March 2016 from sepsis from a ruptured intestine. Her children continue her legacy and cherish their memories about her.

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