Most of us in this room can remember when we first became aware of pop artist Andy Warhol. You probably saw one of his neon Campbell soup cans or Marylyn Monroes and thought: That’s cool! Is it art? Yeah? Great. I like art now!
But there’s only one of us tonight who can remember when Andy Warhol first became aware of her: Patti D’Arbanville.
I love hearing that story of how Warhol discovered Patti while she was playing chess in a coffeeshop because she is just so...she shrugs it off. Like, no big deal. There’s this really lovely eyeroll thing about Patti D’Arbanville. She’s never been smitten or swayed by fame—her own or those around her. She’s still just this scrappy little kid from New York City...who just keeps finding herself in the right place at the right time. (And maybe a few wrong places at the right time, too I suppose.)
Most of us know Patti from her role on FOX TV’s New York Undercover in the mid 90s. She played tough talking, New York City police lieutenant, Virginia Cooper. A lot of folks know her from The Sopranos or My So-Called Life or Modern Problems with Chevy Chase.
But. Did you know that Patti has also appeared on these shows: Charlie’s Angels, Entourage, Guiding Light, Homicide: Life On the Street, LA Law, Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Miami Vice, Murder She Wrote, Nip/Tuck, Rescue Me, Third Watch, and Wiseguy with hunky Ken Wahl?
She’s been directed by such luminaries as Woody Allen, Martha Coolidge, Nicholas Meyer, Rebecca Miller, John Milius, Ivan Reitman, Tony Scott, Penelope Spheeris, and Oliver Stone.
Patti’s played Rachel McAdams’ mom. She’s been interviewed by Arsenio Hall and Conan O’Brien. She’s been in a Sundance Grand Prize winning film. She’s played lover to a cross-dressing Paul Dano. She’s shared the screen with Maria Bello, Halle Berry, Kenneth Branagh, Michael Chiklis (as John Belushi in Wired), Billy Crystal, Claire Danes, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert DeNiro, James Gadolfini, Val Kilmer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Malcolm McDowell, Michael McKean, Ryan O’Neal, Molly Ringwald, Charlie Sheen, Barbara Streisand, Rip Torn, Bruce Willis...and Don Johnson.
Some of you here are old enough to have gone out with a guy who grew out his beard stubble, slicked back his hair, threw on some Wayfarers and an unstructured white linen suit and T-shirt—NO SOCKS WITH HIS LOAFERS—just to look cool.
Patti D’Arbanville went out with the guy who made that look cool.
But again, she could care less. Patti loves her kids and grandkids, her friends. She loves her art...her handcrafted jewelry. She loves her small town mountain cottage, the one her grandparents once lived in, that she lives in now. She loves her church at the end of the street. She doesn’t see herself as the too young, too short! Wilhelmina model, traipsing around London and Paris in the 60s or even as the winner of a Drama-Logue Best Actress award for her 1987 commanding performance in John Patrick Shanley’s Italian American Reconciliation—that was the production that got the play to Broadway in 1988, by the way—or the woman that so pissed off Cat Stevens he wrote one of the most famous breakup songs ever about her:
She’s just Patti.
And that’s why so many of us here who work as film artists in the Upstate (SC) admire you so, Patti. Your heart beats fast for imagination, creation, hands making...for your family, for your life out of the spotlight, and for your faith. You inspire us to be ambitious for our work, fearless in the undertaking, kind to those who cross our paths, and loving to those we hold dear.
P.S. I want to personally thank you for joining Emily and me in the production of our film UNBECOMING last fall...for trusting that getting kinda frumpy and disheveled on screen (maybe for the very first time in your career), for accepting the character name “Goat Lady” on your IMDb page...I want to thank you for bringing your A-game to my set and trusting me to get your performance onto the screen.
This tribute was given by Chris White on the occasion of Patti being awarded the "Spirit of the Carolinas Film Artist Award," 20 September 2016.