Patty and me

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - I am a Patty Duke nerd.

I'm not ashamed to admit it, either. I first saw the actress when she was just a teenager, on re-runs of the Patty Duke Show on Nick at Nite. My sister and I watched the show so much, the theme song is still part of our regular vernacular ("But they're cousins! Identical cousins, all the way!").

I still remember vividly the first time I watched The Miracle Worker and was blown away by Patty's performance as Hellen Keller. I was about the same age she was in the movie when I saw it; I couldn't believe someone my age could pull off a performance like that.

So, imagine how I felt last Friday, walking into Patty Duke's Coeur d'Alene home. Then, imagine how incredible it was when the woman I grew up watching gave me a hug when I walked out the door.

Patty's Third Act

Yes, I took advantage of my job to meet someone I've always admired. But, there's a news hook, I swear. Patty, whose real name is Anna, won her Oscar for The Miracle Worker 50 years ago. She's celebrating a milestone and it's the perfect lead story for our post-Oscar special on KXLY.

Over the years, Patty (Anna) has become much more than an iconic actress. She's a mom, a grandma, a community volunteer and, most notably, an advocate for mental health awareness. She's had her own very public struggles, to be sure, but thanks medication for helping her control the extreme ups and downs that come with bi-polar disorder. She was the first celebrity to go public with such a disorder and, though she says she still asks herself "why me?" she knows her struggle is helping others.

"Lots of times, I wonder why I was put here. [One morning], the sun was out, it was a beautiful day and all of the sudden, I had this sensation of - I know why I'm here," she told me, looking wistfully out the back window of her Coeur d'Alene home. "It wasn't to be an actress. Being an actress has led to being able to get this information out about mental illness. Oh my, pat myself on the back, it felt so good!"

When she moved to North Idaho with her husband Mike, she expected it would just be for a few years; she thought of it as a logical escape from Los Angeles. 23 and a half years later, she's still here. And, she's not a recluse living on a hill, surrounded by awards (though, she does have plenty of awards to go with that Oscar.) She's involved in community events and speak about mental illness, she acts in community theater - and, she loves every minute of it.

I can't wait to share our full interview with Patty (Anna) on Sunday night. You can watch it right after the Oscars. And, Patty will be watching that Oscar special, too, remembering that night all those years ago - when she grabbed that statue and made history.

"I love the emotion I see in that little girl, I hate the hair - and, I hate the dress," she says, thinking of that night in 1963.

So, if you're asking, "What was she like?" She was amazing. She held nothing back in our interview, she and her husband Mike welcomed us into their home and they've been gracious with follow-up pictures and information in the days since.

I told her about my sister and I watching her show, so when we were done with the interview, she leaned over and said, "We should call your sister." Then, the Oscar winner called my sister in Montana and left her a voicemail to say hello.

When I walked out of her home, she gave me a hug and said, "You're so good at your job."

You think I was a Patty Duke nerd before? I'm head-over-heels for her now.

Watch Patty's Third Act, Sunday night after the Oscars on KXLY4.