Patricia Dale Duffy
1931 - 2018
A behind-the-scenes stage manager, Patricia Dale Duffy worked in opera production, drove Hackney show horses, managed a stable, learned to fly airplanes, and traveled the world.
Born in Salinas, California, Patricia Duffy was forever grateful to her parents, Dale Winter Duffy and Henry Duffy, who adopted her when she was fourteen months old. In Pat’s early years, the family made their home at beautiful Sky Farm in Los Gatos, California.
Her talented theatrical parents owned Dufwin Theaters, a chain of 5 theaters on the West Coast, so Pat had vivid memories of growing up backstage wherever her parents performed, often together. Her mother also had a career on Broadway and in film. They lived for a time in Los Angeles, and Pat attended Berkeley Hall School in Beverly Hills. When not on the road with her stage parents, “Patsy Dale” was cared for by her beloved maternal grandmother, Estelle Winter, a major influence in Pat’s life.
Pat (also known as Dale) spoke often of meeting many of her parent’s close friends, early Hollywood luminaries like Buster Keaton and Charlotte Greenwood. For a time, Pat worked for and traveled with the stage and screen actress Billie Burke (famous for her role at age 53, as Glenda the Good Witch in the original Wizard of Oz.)
Years later, when her mother married Herschel McGraw, the family, including Pat and her brother David, moved into the Grayholm estate in Montecito. She graduated from Santa Barbara High School and went on to two years of college on the Riviera Campus of what became UCSB. In her late teens, Pat was awarded a scholarship by Friedelind Wagner (granddaughter of Richard Wagner), to attend summer Master Classes at the Bayreuth Music Festival in Germany, where she learned opera production and management. Upon her return, she continued to work at UCLA opera workshops.
Although she had tried acting, Pat discovered early on that her real talents were working backstage. At the Music Academy of the West, she worked on a number of productions, the last in 1963. She was Assistant Stage Manager and an understudy for Edwin Booth at the 46th Street Theater, Broadway in 1958 (and coincidentally, decades later, was involved in the revival productions of Cyrano de Bergerac and Much Ado about Nothing in 1985 at the same theater.)
Her career continued behind the scenes with the Los Angeles Opera Company in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s under the direction of Maestro Wilfred Pelletier. Pat also worked for the Santa Fe Opera company, and with the San Francisco Opera under the leadership of the distinguished directors: Kurt H. Adler, and later, Lotfi Mansouri.
Returning to Santa Barbara, Pat became the Business Manager and frequent travel companion for over 22 years of the wealthy Santa Barbara oil heiress Cynthia Wood (who died in 1993 of a brain tumor at the age of 55.) Miss Wood was a generous opera and arts patron, which made for a great working partnership. Pat was a savvy business woman and, starting in 1967, she assisted in the establishment and day-to-day management of the renowned Cynthia Wood Stable located at beautiful Stalloreggi on East Valley Road in Montecito. Here some of the country’s top American Saddlebred show horses were bred and shown on the West Coast as well as in Louisville, Kentucky by their trainers, Miss Wood and frequently Pat herself. A well-known personality in the Saddlebred world, Pat (Dale) successfully showed 3-gaited & 5-gaited horses under saddle, and drove Hackney show horses. Eventually, Pat owned a small American Saddlebred stable in Kentucky for a few years.
When Miss Wood took her financial backing to Broadway, Pat assisted in the successful production of at least 3 plays during the 1970s and 1980s, including “Much Ado About Nothing” for which English actor Derek Jacobi won a Tony award in 1985 for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Pat remained friends with Sir Derek and his partner, Richard Clifford, for many years, and she was active with the American Friends of The Royal Shakespeare Company. She made numerous trips to London and New York to visit friends and see the latest theater productions. There was not a single theater or opera performance of the hundreds Pat attended in her life time, for which she did not save her ticket, the playbill and any critical reviews.
Always ready for an adventure, Pat took private air flying lessons in the late 1970s. She also travelled widely to the Bayreuth Festival in Germany, special performances at La Scala and Stratford, throughout continental Europe and Scandinavia as well as to Iran and China. Over the years, Pat’s finely-tuned driving skills enabled her to accompany many friends on extensive road trips both in North America and abroad.
Her volunteer work included serving on the Board of the Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara and involvement in the Pacific Saddlebred Association.
Her mother and grandmother, both active Christian Scientists, raised Pat as a Christian Scientist, and she remained one throughout her life.
She is survived by her brother Dr. David Duffy of Torrance, California. Her Santa Barbara friends are planning a celebration of Pat’s life in early June.