STOPTIME: Live in the Moment.

Patricia Ward Kelly: Living a Legendary Life

August 20, 2021 Lisa Hopkins, Wide Open Stages Season 4 Episode 11
STOPTIME: Live in the Moment.
Patricia Ward Kelly: Living a Legendary Life
Show Notes Transcript

When Patricia Ward met Gene Kelly in 1985, she admits that she had no idea who he was.  Five years later, she married the iconic dance legend who was the love of her life. He was 47 years her senior. Thanks to her, and lucky for us, she has dedicated her life to preserving his legacy.

In this intimate conversation you will get to know the  fiercely brave and intelligent woman who spent the last years of Gene Kelly's life living, loving and learning with him as his biographer, confidante and beloved wife. 

You will learn more about the artist and his process in his work the man behind the legend and the once in a lifetime relationship of a couple that vowed to stay together despite the world trying to break them apart.


"I'm writing about the man that I loved and, and reconstructing our life together."

"I'm grateful for the rollercoaster"

"Why else are we on the planet if we aren't going to engage."


On having no regrets that they hadn't met sooner:

"I got the man in repose."

https://www.facebook.com/GeneKellyTheLegacy

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Lisa Hopkins:

This is the stop time podcast. I'm your host, Lisa Hopkins, and I'm here to engage you in thought provoking motivational conversations around practicing the art of living in the moment. I'm a certified life coach, and I'm excited to dig deep and offer insights into embracing who we are and where we are at. So as a dancer, today's conversation holds a very special place in my heart. I would be lying if I didn't say I was over the moon excited to be speaking with today's guest. She is the biographer and wife of one of the most iconic and beloved dance icons of our time. When Patricia Ward met Gene Kelly in 1985, she admits that she had no idea who he was, she had a gig working on a documentary about the Smithsonian, and he was almost five years later, she married the iconic dance legend who became the love of her life. They were together until he passed away in 1996. Thanks to her, and lucky for us, she has dedicated her life to preserving his legacy. Patricia, thank you so much for taking the time to join me today. Really, I mean, it.

Patricia Ward Kelly:

Oh, I'm delighted, this is just great. And especially given your, your dance background that makes it It adds a new nice dimension to everything.

Lisa Hopkins:

Oh, thank you. Yeah, it's such a thrill. It really is. And first of all, I really do want to take a moment. And it's safe to say I speak for the worldwide dance community. And really, when I say that, I am grateful for you. And for the work you do, it's one thing to preserve a national treasure, and something quite different to share it so wholeheartedly as you've done with us.

Patricia Ward Kelly:

Thank you, it was really I, I feel like it, I use the word privilege to describe it, because I really feel it was a great privilege. That gene entrusted me with his story. And then also gave me the guidance and he basically said exactly what he wanted how he wanted to be represented in the world as, as a creator more than as a performer more as the guy behind the camera, changing the look of dance and the look, particularly the look of dance on film, and then also changing the costume How does the American male dancer look and so Gene is as you can imagine, was very specific about a his wishes and any kind of gave me those marching orders. And I so I feel it's an honor to be able to represent that. And I always say to that, you know, if you were not a really decent human being if he were not a man of such great integrity and humility, I wouldn't do it if I didn't really believe in this. And and I do and it's it's such a joy, you get up in the morning, and you're able to share this extraordinary career.

Lisa Hopkins:

Oh, yeah. And you have done that, again, as I said, completely selfless in your in your, in your work. It's just, it's, it's very rare. I mean, you must know that.

Patricia Ward Kelly:

It's funny because people, some people will say how strange it is. Because I guess it is rare, most people. I think in some ways, I kind of laugh and say that gene was very smart to marry a woman who was so much younger than he was because I'm particularly an biographer, archivist writer, because he then had kind of the built in package so that he entrusted me with his archives with the story. And so he got somebody who was really dedicated to this craft, and most spouses don't interview their husbands every day for 10 years. And fortunately I did that was my first priority was as the the memoirist is the person to get the story. At that not been it, I wouldn't have had that tape recorder going all the time, I wouldn't have been writing all those notes. And you'd have a vague memory, I think of how things transpired. But the difference here is that I have his exact words and his gestures, and what he's wearing, what he's eating everything. And so it is an unusual thing. And I think, I think people look at it is kind of odd that this woman would devote this amount of time to her husband that decades. And yet if you look at somebody who's saying, writing the Lyndon Johnson biographies and is devoted 40 years to that they don't see anything odd about that. So I don't worry about that. I just do what I do because I just, I believe in it. I love it. And I love the ability to share it and see the responses the three year olds who are getting tuned into Jane all around the world and the 103 year olds who are re visiting him and getting a better understand Standing of him really seeing him not just as this one dimensional figure up on the screen, but as a multi dimensional figure who had feelings, emotions responses, this intellectual prowess. And it's interesting because there's there is such a reciprocal thing going on. And I think without that, it would seem very kind of like a vacuum. If I were just sort of sending this stuff out, and there was no response, then then it would be different. But it is very much a given take. It takes two of us. It's just not about me conveying gene story. It's the way people are responding and the way that they're responding with care and thoughtfulness. And it reminds me of my own shows, the one woman show and the show with the live Symphony, in that people have said, Oh, why don't you record those for on DVD, and we could all see it. And the thing is, I love the audience. I love listening to the audience. It's their extemporaneous performances. So I can move and adjust. And, and I can hear them breathing. I can hear them laughing. I can hear them crying, I can hear them commenting, and, and I think that makes for a much more organic, alive thing. And Gene talked about that of preferring the stage to the movies, because he loved that sense of that interaction with the audience. And he, he knew that even if he had the the women in the Wednesday matinee, who were, who thought he was terrible, you're in Pal Joey that they would just start to cringe, and you could feel it across the lights, then he go into this song and dance and be able to turn them back and bring them back in. And he said, with the movies, you don't have that you just are in front of this camera. And I get that I love the love the interaction with the people.

Lisa Hopkins:

It's a real dichotomy. And it makes so much sense in the context of the way Gene was considered a perfectionist in his film work. Because even though he feels like you can control so many elements, actually, in live theater, as you just said, in live theater, if you are intuitive, and if you are connected to the audience, you can also shift as you said, the energy of the audience, you can receive it, feel it adjust on the fly, which is you know, not everybody can do that. But clearly he could.

Patricia Ward Kelly:

That's why he felt he was a better performer on stage than under the camera because he relied on that interactive sensibility. And he could, he could play these rascals and yet get them everybody cut to come over. So he understood the mechanics of the camera. And that was what he was really working on all the time. But to perform in front of it, he just never felt completely comfortable. He always felt like he was kind of overreaching going for that fourth balcony that bring them in and they never felt at ease, I think in front of the camera as much as he felt on stage, although there was that initial always that kind of for him a kind of jittery feeling before that curtain come up, came up and he sang his first note.

Lisa Hopkins:

absolutely - sounds like you probably would miss a little bit of that because your brain is thinking about all the other elements and especially for him in film, where he was directing and you know, writing and choreographing and training his his leading ladies. I mean, that's the thing that blows my mind is that some of his most well known leading ladies he trained

Patricia Ward Kelly:

Correct . People say well, he was a triple threat and I kind of say well actually I think it's more like quadruple septuple and it's because it really was he would just take off one hat and move to the next thing and and overseeing the costumes the music the way that the Technicolor was shot and everything and yes working with the leading ladies and the leading men and the leading mouse you know, Jerry, the mouse and all of that, but, but teaching somebody like Frank Sinatra to dance and he had two great assistants. He had Carol Haney behind the scenes amazing, doing a lot of the teaching and his, his second wife, Janie poin was also an assistant. Working so and Ernie flat, the the dancer choreographer was teaching. For example, those three were really working with Debbie Reynolds on singing in the rain, and then Gene was as well but they were in there in those rehearsal halls day in and day out working with her. Yeah,

Lisa Hopkins:

remembering that that Debbie didn't dance. Well not like that. She certainly didn't dance like that.

Patricia Ward Kelly:

No, certainly nothing like what she was required to do. And if you notice Gene always choreograph to the non dancer or to the less accomplished dancer, because he never wanted to eat. His whole thing was you make everybody look their best. And that only elevates yourself you don't out, try to outshine everybody that doesn't do any good. And so, it he would choreograph the steps that she was able to to accomplish. And therefore, she looks fantastic in this and slightly different from the steps that Jean and Donald are often doing. But it's, he's able to merge that so you're not, that's not a glaring kind of thing. But yeah, she really learned and he would go to the set. And they it's recorded exactly when they arrive at the set and whether they go into make, or whether when he would rehearse, and he and he would shoot and then he would go home at night and with his assistants, Carol Haney, Gini point, Stanley, Donen, and they would be up till all hours of the night, then setting what would be coming the shots for the following day. And so it was this extraordinary cycle when these things were going I mean, it was virtually 24 hours a day, and he would sleep very, very short amount of time and, and get up. I mean, it was a very rugged schedule.

Lisa Hopkins:

Do you know what stands out to me and I'd love to ask is, just as you're speaking about this, it sounds like Gene was working towards the just cause you know, the thing that's going to live beyond him, the idea that a film once is made, is in the can, it's permanent. And that he put all his energy into doing the very best he could in capturing the very best of everybody. Especially when he was taking the lead, right. I mean, it's it's his ship. So that makes sense. Tell me a little bit about how he shared with you or didn't how that because I imagine as a young man, there was an arc of going from being the performer, climbing up the ladder, making money to live and then slowly getting into fame. And then responsibility comes in there at some point and then the greater good, right?

Patricia Ward Kelly:

Well, and never really wanted to be the performer. Even when he first went to New York, he really wanted to be a choreographer, but he had to, he had to start in little roles and work his way up to where he began to get the assignments to, to craft his own dance numbers and things. And so it was this real apprenticeship in New York. And then and then as you say, stardom kind of overnight massive start up with pal Joey that just became this overnight sensation essentially, even though we've been working toward that for years, but, but I think, to be up on billboards, and to have people will begin to recognize you and then to come out to Hollywood. And I think then just trying to find his way in Hollywood, because he never really intended to be out here. He always intended to go back to the Broadway stage, he thought he'd come out just for a short amount of time. But I think once he began to see the opportunity, not only to hone his craft, as a choreographer, but also to begin to choreograph the use of that camera, and and as you say, have a real feeling of responsibility. I think that he took it so seriously. And I think it bothered him when people did not in the sense of gene as a child of the depression took money very seriously, because he didn't have a lot of money. And so this notion that if you would waste money or waste time on a set or on a production, it was anathema to him, and he felt a responsibility to bring these pictures in on time and on budget. And you reference the in the can and what was interesting is that Gene shot his numbers in the camp, so he knew he edited in the camp, instead of putting a whole batch of cameras up, which they do today, Gene shot, generally with one camera. And he knew by connecting the dance movement with musical beats, that there was no way to turn that footage over to an editor and have them do anything else with it other than to put the jigsaw puzzle pieces together. She was as he said, editing in the camera. So he knew the outcome of that number as he shot it.

Lisa Hopkins:

I'm curious if you ever said anything about how he navigated sounds like tap dancing specifically.

Unknown:

It was all well, the music was pre recorded, so they perform to the big Lily words would play the music and they perform to a playback. And Gene was there on the stage soundstage, recording the music instructing the musicians in how to play the trumpet solo in American Paris and things like that, and is very intimately involved in that. And then all of the sound things like tap dancing, taps, were all put in after so that was all dubbed after the movie was closed. And he hated it. He hated he said, I hated tap dancing in the movies, because it was so difficult to do that post dubbing and he would have to put on a headset and then watch himself on the screen and match his steps. And there was a he said it was very dangerous, he felt because they had a microphone that was dangling at his feet. And a lot of the movement that he's doing is quite extravagant. And he was worried about that wrapping around his ankle, breaking his ankle or something. But he would then dub the tabs for the like a Debbie Reynolds, someone who was not an experienced dancer as well as his own. And he worked very closely with the sound engineer, there was a man by the name of Bill Saracino. And I had the great opportunity to we had a lot of correspondence with Bill Saracino over the years. And then after Gene died, I reached out to him because various people were taking credit for dubbing genes, taps. And I thought, Well, okay, that's true. He said he did it. But let me go to the source of the guy who ordered it. It was one of the bluest conversations I've ever had in my life, I have to say, I mean, it was he was zinging these things across he was so mad at people distortion of the truth and he since died, but I do have that recording and, and he said, No, absolutely Gene is there dubbing his taps and they would experiment, for example, with singing the rain. What's the sound of tap dancing in the rain? And so Gene brought his assistants in and everybody, they experiment with different shoes, different surfaces. And ultimately, Saricino confirmed that it was just regular taps. But then Saricino added a kind of squish sound for the water to make that reality. Was

Lisa Hopkins:

it was there ever a time that he because it was such a part of his work? And it sounds like he was always working? Was there a time where where he was able just to enjoy dance for dance sake?

Unknown:

Oh, no, no. He only on the social dancing ballroom dance floor, which he could do early on. But once gene became so famous, he lost that as well. He still enjoyed it If he had an opportunity to do it. And he wasn't being hounded. But generally he and Fred Astaire both came up with this, this thing that they pretend to have bad legs, and they step back, because the minute they got up on the dance floor, then every husband was tapping them to say, could you dance with my wife, even when Gene was in the Navy, and he would go to a cocktail party and here he is in uniform and and they're asking him to get up and perform and so it's like asking them inviting the plumber over to dinner and then saying could you by the way, could you go plumb my sink. I mean, we we ended up dancing at home, which was really wonderful and romantic and lovely. But that just was we could never do that in public. It just would have stopped the entire event. And he said it was really appreciate this that he said women were it was very difficult to dance with women socially because they would all be so they'd be feeling that he was about to toss them over a sofa or something that he was going to do. So it was not a normal kind of thing. Now, it said Billy Wilder's wife, Audrey was one of the best at Wasserman was a very good social dancer. He said Nancy Reagan was an exquisite social dancer and he really was sad that young people don't have that opportunity. That feeling of putting your arms around the your loved one and holding her close and he loved movement and he loved all of that he loved playing tennis, he loved volleyball, he loved sports, but the dance was was hard work for him and very hard work to as he said to make it appear so effortless. So that looks at it and they think they can do it. Everybody looks at singing in the rain and they could take an umbrella and they go out in the street and and so but he said it was it was very, very difficult and he would much prefer to been just simply behind the camera choreographing and directing but what he created most people could not Do so he had to be the one doing it and, and, and setting the shots and setting the lights and everything to so

Lisa Hopkins:

when you were at home, and you know you're cooking pasta or you're in the kitchen or whatever, did you ever just kind of just, you know, flap around, tap his feet?

Unknown:

Nope.

Lisa Hopkins:

No, really?

Patricia Ward Kelly:

No, he would sit and have a vodka tonic, and Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole and have a great time. I mean, he really loves. But no, that wasn't not in the round the house.

Lisa Hopkins:

That's so interesting to me. Wow. Ha, ha, thanks for sharing that. So how did your life change once you were married? You know, I mean, I'm sure gene knew everyone in Hollywood, right? There must have been moments when you had to pinch yourself with some of the company you are keeping.

Patricia Ward Kelly:

it virtually changed overnight. And you'd be amazed at how much marriage changes things in Hollywood, I pinching myself it was funny because it was never my world. So it was never anything that I I didn't dream of Hollywood, as many people do. And I didn't dream of celebrities. And I mean, frankly, when I was growing up on my walls, people always talk about how I had gene on my wall. I had the pictures from Life magazine of Kent State and I had Vietnam. the entertainment world was not my world and Hollywood. But interestingly, many of these people are not what what you see on the screen is not what they are in person, what you see is often not very interesting that it might be your dinner, mate. But it's not an interesting conversation. It's they may be gorgeous up on the screen and very charming but not in person. So the great thing about Gene was that he was incredibly charming on screen and incredibly handsome and charming in person. And very bright. I mean, really bright. But what was interesting when you when I got married, and nobody's ever asked me this, but but interestingly, you get a name, you suddenly have a name, I did not have a name prior to that the invitations would come as Gene Kelly plus one Gene Kelly and guest so it was very strange that suddenly you have this other situation, but then you also begin to live your life in a fishbowl. It we've we sort of lived it before we got married because everybody was speculating and talking and making up lies about it. But then once you get married, then everyone feels that they have they're entitled to comment about it. And it was not easy. And I was never really fully prepared for I was never prepared for Hollywood in the world of it and some of the cruelty of it and and Gene weathered all that much better than I and I was not I never, I think now you know, I think Gosh, 62 years old, I would do things so differently than I was doing at 26 years old. But that wasn't the situation I was 26 and tossed into this this arena and a completely unfamiliar arena and and even how to smile on in on camera and how to how to curtsy how to be introduced to certain people heads of state and things like that. It was it was a very interesting education one I I'm very, I'm very glad I had. But it was also a very kind of Pygmalion type of experience in many ways. And one I always kind of joke and say at one point I was like, like, My fair lady, it was like the rain in Spain. And yet now I look back and I think thank goodness, I learned that or I did that. But But no, it's a it's it's not an easy world to negotiate. And I don't think a young woman married a legend is I think, interestingly very suspect for the woman not for the man they they don't question the man. They question the woman's motives for that. And, and i a lot of people do come here to marry a celebrity for a particular reason. And they kind of give the rest of us a bad rap. But

Unknown:

not knowing them and not knowing anything of the world. I certainly wasn't in that group. But it's okay. I mean, now I can look back. Now I look back at it. And I think Oh right, I could have handled that so much better. And I wish I'd done. I wish I wish I had one ounce of the confidence and the irony is the way I was prior to coming here is that I had an immense amount of confidence and sense of self and I was constantly breaking barriers and challenging things, but then I got to Hollywood and I didn't do that then so I had to kind of recruit that sense of myself after gene died really. But it took it took quite a while to begin to kind of re re ignite the person I was and that because I think that virtually virtually you get lost in the sense of people will come up to me and they'll say, Oh my gosh, I had dinner with your husband. It was so amazing. We were at Spago restaurant And I'll say yes, I was there. There were four of us. You virtually don't exist. We don't, you do not exist. And and I think I existed within the confines of our home in our bedroom where we watched the old movies of other people, not his but read poetry together. As you said, cook dinner together and listen to music. That was I that was our little secluded gene called it the cruise ship. And there there it was very different to go out in the world. And it's it's a whole different ballgame. And I never had any I never was established in that world. Somebody said to me, You were never part of it. You were just in on a pass. And I think that's on is brutal is that is I think that's true. And now, what's great is in the work that I do, I just have this remarkable connection to the world with all the dance companies around the world, Matthew Bourne's company, the Scottish ballet, we're just about to remount, the ballet Gene did in 1960, in the Paris Opera, Theatre Company's Abbey Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company, Druids, all these people come see Gene's, archives. And so it's funny, I was able, fortunately, to create a kind of beautiful world for myself, I had the beautiful world with him, but it was in this little nest. And then now I'm able to, with my own identity, have these other associations?

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah. 100%. And that's why I was really super curious to chat with you about you, you know, in the context of what you do, which obviously is connected to the larger legacy. Thank you. That was that was really I really appreciate you sharing, sharing that and

Patricia Ward Kelly:

I know you, I told you the truth. Yeah. You think about it, when you get asked questions you think do i do i go there? And? And then I think, why not? what's the what's the harm in telling the truth? You can dodge it. And it all started. I spoken a lot of schools, a lot of high schools, I would make a pact with the kids, I would say Okay, look, within these four walls today. You can ask me any question you want. The pact was that I had to honestly answer whatever they asked. I was in one high school and the kids were in an auditorium, I was up on the stage. And this boy in the sitting alone, toward the front raised his hand, he said Mrs. Kelly, you know, we really appreciate your coming here. And we've learned so much about your husband, and we really thank you for that. But what happened to your own identity? And then the boy said, Oh, I'm sorry. I guess my questions are very clear. And I turned to him and I said, Oh, no, your questions very clear. And I said something I grapple with every single day. And it was really from that point on that I began to think, Okay, I need to I need to get a grip on this and get get that identity back. It really changed the trajectory of my writing and of my speaking and my shows and things because I thought that people, people, if you treat people and young people with that with respect, then again we get back to that notion of reciprocity of mutual mutual respect. Mutual regard and you're it's a Ben goes both ways and you learn from your audience they learn from you it goes you're touched by them, you can cry with them whatever and but it boy what a process and I'm still on it. I'm still working on it. I still learn every day of kind of some like anything, when am I which is Postgraduate School stuff, stop, and then

Lisa Hopkins:

Oh, your your insights about your life are just so on point. what you're talking about, we were speaking to that anecdote about everything you said, I feel like you're saying to your younger self, you know, everything you didn't get when you went to Hollywood is exactly what you're saying to these kids is, you know, be honest, but all right, you're nodding your head. Yeah. Tell me how that resonates for you.

Patricia Ward Kelly:

Exactly and do not let anyone ever take that away from you. One of the things I talked about was a gene that kind of came from gene, he said that the great playwright, no coward once said to him, that the sound of booing and the sound of applause. When you're onstage, it's essentially the same sound. Therefore, don't go to bar when people are booing. And don't go too far, when people are applauding you, you need to learn to hold that within yourself. So that if people are booing, you still know that you presented a performance with integrity, why they're booing is not your concern. And same with if they're applauding wildly, just stay and hold the core, together with your own sense of your own self and your own performance. And don't go sway in one way or the other too much by what other people are saying about you.

Lisa Hopkins:

100%, I want to just if it's okay with you, like jump back to what you said about you wish you would have done that you would have done things differently, you know, what you would have done differently? Can you share with me what you think that will look like?

Patricia Ward Kelly:

Well, I wish I'd had more. I wish I had more resilience in a way that I didn't I would go out we would go out to these engagements. And people would just come up and say really horrible things. And they would do horrible things. And, and, and you're, I say that I still have some bruises from it of kind of being pumped checked out of the way and I remember, I went to a dinner small, very small dinner party at the Sinatra's house. Gene was alive. But he was he was ill and but Jean always said if you get an invitation from the Sinatra's it's like a royal request. So you must go. So I went. But I remember that this one woman, soon to be ex wife, a very famous person came up to me and said, Excuse me, is your husband dead? And I said, No, he's he's very much alive. He's not bad. But he's very ill. And she's at a You look so bad. I thought maybe he had died. And and then she said, I've been in Europe. And I thought perhaps and it happened and I hadn't heard about it. I thought, Oh, yeah, that that news is not going to try. Isn't it across the pond? And I mean, I don't know honestly, what I would say to somebody like that? I don't know, you know, in one sense. I just wish I hadn't let that hit me that way in. I mean, I wish I'd maybe been able to say I'm sorry. Is that kind of an appropriate? Or what? What what? Why are you asking me or something? But that isn't that isn't who I am. So I don't know. But it was so prevalent, that kind of thing. I would come home from these events. And I'd be in tears. And Gene would just say "F" 'em". They don't get no medal. But I was like, oh, but they don't do it. You know, why do we give up so much energy to that. And then people would always say, Oh, you need a thicker skin. And I thought, I don't want a thicker skin. I mean, I like my skin. I think my skin and the thickness of my skin or lack of thickness is what defines me. I think that's why I look at the world a certain way. Just try to I try to deal with it all better now and try it. But I still, I still let way too much time go to people who are really negative and just not not worth the energy, my mother's better able to dispense with it her. Her thing is it is what it is. And I've never looked at the world as it is what it is. I've always looked at it as no it it is what I envisioned. It could be you know, but now I look at it. And I think he or she has a point about some of this. She just doesn't take it to bed each night, though. And I do more and I am trying to listen to my 89 year old mother and and say, Okay, this situation is what it is. I can't really alter it. just deal with it move on.

Lisa Hopkins:

Nobody likes to hear stuff like that. But knowing that that will always... it'll always exist, Patricia.

Patricia Ward Kelly:

No. And you're right. And no matter what field I mean, it's more prevalent now because you're out there speaking about someone that everybody else has ownership over. I feel like in the aftermath of Gene's death, I was very vulnerable because I just I just had this gaping hole in me and I think everybody could see that. But I don't think they see that anymore. And so I haven't had that happen for every time I go out the door. I know that something can happen but also something magical can happen and definitely something magical happens when you go out and you open yourself up enough to receive that. I think if you just stand and hold your own composure, From your own sense of yourself, you're not as subject to that kind of ridiculousness.

Lisa Hopkins:

I was kind of dabbling around and looking at it was, I think in your blog, it was in that I loved the name of it to the notes from a napkin, you said, one thing leads to the next and soon I am wrapped in Gene's words, his collection of letters, photographs and other memorabilia, I dive in hours pass by pop out with a tender morsel savored. Alas, it is a privilege to have such trouble. And I know you were referring to trouble as as thinking, Oh, my god, there's so much right, like, but that was such a beautiful, beautiful passage. And like I've painted in my mind, like this intimate scene of where archaeologist meets confidant, where I don't know if this is true, but in my mind when you say that I'm like, you know, I'm a visual person. So I'm like, Ooh, I'm trying to picture you in an attic somewhere with all this stuff. Tell me about that experience. Like when you're actually digging.

Patricia Ward Kelly:

I haven't revisited that. Thank you for reading that I, as I'm listening to it, I'm thinking, well, it's not that bad.

Lisa Hopkins:

Beautiful, it's beautiful.

Patricia Ward Kelly:

Thank you. Well, it's sort of funny, because the notes on a napkin has a source because as you know, I record a gene with a tape recorder that I would put that tape recorder out on the table. And the minute he saw that he immediately started editing, I could hear it in his voice. And I said, No, no, no, don't talk to the tape recorder, talk to me talk to me. And it would take sometimes minutes, sometimes hours for him to drop the sense of his editing for posterity. But over time, I mean, that was certainly in the early interviews. But over time, it became a much more fluid type of thing. And he became much more as he trusts. It was interesting how as our there are actually three strands moving there's his life, as he's recalling it at to me, there's my life, as I'm living it, listening to him. And then there's our life together as it's moving along. And the interactions there and, and then and jeans. Actually, I guess there for there's Gene's actual life and then his recollection of it. And so as it moved along, and his as his trust grew for me and his understanding and our relationship grew into not only a physical intimacy, but a real emotional, intellectual, psychological intimacy. And by the end of that, then Gene was referring to it as a confessional essentially, and use that word. And so I think the guard that he had built up for so many years, he began to let down and, and you could get to these little lower layers that were there that he had not revealed to anyone before. So I essentially have a story nobody has. Now when you talk about the attic, I don't have an attic, but I do have what what is surrounding me here in my townhouse, it's 85, five drawer, 36 inch filing cabinets that are all lined up like an archive. So you can only go through, you can go single file, you turn and you go. It's like a maze of cabinets, and I don't have a sofa, you can't come over to my house and just hang out and sit and have a drink inside. There's no place to sit. It's all it's all archival, and one day, I hope that will change. But right now, since that's I'm the custodian of that and working on it, and still going through boxes and unpacking boxes. And it isn't like you just want to pop in and spend five minutes you go in and you need to really invest time in it. But I'll open a box and I'll find a note and and this literally happened I found the note that Gene left me on the day that we got married that I I had forgotten about it. So here I have this note and I've read it and it's hilarious because it's so gene and he says this is it. You're stuck. Love Love your new husband. And it's in his very cryptic handwriting and it's a note card and I wept I just started weeping and it's the kind of weeping this kind of the just takes your breath away that it by the the next day your your temples hurt and your head hurts because it's almost feels bruised. You've cried so hard and and you're literally you're on the floor. Literally you're in kind of a ball on the floor. Because it all just comes back. It isn't just that No, it's just everything comes tumbling back and this cumulative sense of loss and grief and and missing him missing the fact that, yes, I have this priceless thing and it brings it all back. And it's wonderful. And I'm so grateful I have his exact words, but I wish he were here. And, and I think that's the hardest thing is that I wish he were here with my 62 year old understanding of his life, and of his, of the history of dance of the history of the war, versus my 26 year old understanding, which was virtually zero of American popular song zero of dads zero of, of his life, he was a blank slate. And now I have all of this. And now I have so many questions and, and the absence is huge. It just wanted, like, I just have that back, and you can't and so, but then you get back up, and then you have then that becomes a little kernel in that story. And my desire is that this collection will ultimately go into the ether and become a virtual collection that can be accessed around the world in perpetuity. So after I kick the bucket, it will be available to everybody. But yeah, so you're absolutely you know it you know, you know that it's people go, oh, it must be so great. You get to seal stuff. And it's like, Yeah, it is. But I writing about Ernest Hemingway, I'm writing about the man that I loved and, and reconstructing our life together. And the way that he recalled himself and revealed himself not only to me, but to himself. So and how we grew together, how did each of us grow in this decade together, because we both did very much. To his credit, he didn't have to, he was fine. He was famous Hill, he would go on forever. But to his credit, he, he, he grabbed this opportunity, and he took advantage of it, I definitely grew.

Lisa Hopkins:

I want to give that decade must have been I mean, for him to. I mean, when you think about, as you know, we go back to his trajectory, how it happened so quickly for him. And although obviously, he navigated it brilliantly. He too lost like you speak about what you lost, you know, given given the age gap given you also being thrown into the world, but with a totally different thing. So you both shared that you're both thrown into a world and then expect it to be a certain way that was probably so important for him Patricia to actually like be be human again, for the last 10 years of his life. I mean, you didn't even know who he was when you met him.

Patricia Ward Kelly:

Well, I think that was refreshing for him because I didn't count I didn't fall over. Most people would just meet him and just fall over. They all had a preconceived notion of who he was and what he was like. And thinking that they he was the kind of guy that could sit down and have a beer with when in fact he wasn't terribly, terribly private person and really just yearn for his alone time, aloneness. And, yeah, it's interesting, because he did speak about that about this notion of being on he, he always had to be on and he was tired of being on and the minute we go outside our emmos the tour buses are going by the trolley cars, it would go to the restaurant, people come up to the table for an autograph, you're just on all the time. And I think he he relished that. And in fact, I read. I read a book to him, in that those final months of his life, which was about the story of Franklin Roosevelt. Franklin Roosevelt talked about what it was like to be able to sit up in the private quarters of the White House and not be on and, and Jean really, that really resonated with him and, and even in his The, the choices he made for his death and his the after his death. He was so tired of being on an on a tour bus route that he said that he didn't want his ashes anywhere because he didn't want he didn't want to be on a tour bus route anymore. He's tired of it. He just for him. He said it's dust to dust and I don't want my ashes anywhere. And I really get that. I mean, I guess if I had any feeling as I just wish that I had not allowed the world to. I think he was better at tuning all of that out and to stick with the cruise ship. It was hard for me in that fishbowl to kind of block it all out. Before I came into his life. The curtains were usually closed was dead. When I first moved in with him. I was like, why was everything closed here and I so I started opening the curtains in the house and And I looked down on this, this is gorgeous look at this view. I mean, our neighbor had this beautiful, Tuscan Italian tile roof. And in the back of our house was, you could see bhuvan via and, and everything. And so Jean said, so we have Provence on one side, and we have Tuscany on the other, and services literal opening up in the windows. But this was just inside our little cocoon. I support any things. Only we just stayed in that little cocoon. If only we'd been able to stay in that little cocoon had by getting married, that cocoon just got busted open. And I mean, the world was just intent almost on taking us down. And we finally just looked at each other and said, Are we going to let everybody break us apart? Are we going to weather this and we chose to weather it. And I'm glad we did. Most people didn't know my name literally. And I was kind of love or Hello, Hello, darling. And nobody knew I had recorded them every day. Nobody knew I had this story. Nobody knew about our relationship. It just was always this mystery. Was she just this young woman that he came in and manipulated him to marry or something? You know, what was the deal? You know, I always think of it when I read those accounts that somehow I manipulated James held a gun to his head to marry me. It's kind of like, oh, not the Jim Kelly, I know. You do not. You do not all offer ultimatums to Jim Kelly, or tell him what to do. I mean, that's what's so weird is that people describe him in a way they'll describe him and in such extolling all of his virtues and his strengths and how great he was and everything, but then they'll suddenly kind of think he somehow didn't make the choice about the person he wanted to be with. I mean, what did you get done all of a sudden? So I always

Lisa Hopkins:

ask my guests, how they define living in the moment. And I'm so curious to know your definition, you know, your life's work as a biographer has been dedicated to preserving moments and finding moments and all that, but I want to know from you like, what's your definition of living in the moment?

Patricia Ward Kelly:

Boy, it's an interesting one, because in many ways, I live everywhere in I live in the past, I have the past. But as Walter said, it's not past its present. And I live in the future, because I'm constantly thinking of the next project thinking, Okay, I want to do this, I want this show I want this ballet or this. I mean, it's really the present, I suppose the present is something I have tried. I try to be very present for the close circle of friends that I have, I try to listen to what they need, or what respond to their what they need. But it's interesting, it's more about somebody else than it is about me cut. Yeah, the present is okay for me, so long as I'm not doing ugly business stuff. And then I don't want to have anything to do with it. So that I want nothing to do with ugliness. Unfortunately, there is a degree of that in what I do in the life that I have. That kind of comes with the territory, I think you You said something early on about gene, everyone claiming ownership. And that that's very true. It's a very strange thing to have this person is your husband, but everybody else thinks that he belongs to them. So So there's some stuff that comes with that, that I wish would go away. I try. I try. I'm not superhuman, I try as best as I can.

Lisa Hopkins:

So many of us have a limiting belief that it's a destination, living in the moment that it looks like it looks one way. And what I'm hearing you say is that, you know, you want to move away from the moments that you have to endure. Make sense? I mean, most of us do. But what I've been really deep diving into is the idea that there's a spectrum and and it's not just one way and that emotions and feelings and yucky stuff is just as important. Just as important to experience because without that you wouldn't have the other First of all, I mean,

Patricia Ward Kelly:

yeah, yeah, that Yep, you get both. But you get both. You get that intensity of feeling of intense loss, but intense joy and, and you get to experience everything you get to feel it you get to and Yeah, sometimes it is really frustrating and maddening. And so what I try to do now is just kind of minimize how much I give over to somebody else. There isn't Going to be one big sunny day when I can, Oh, great. Now I have it all behind me, I can move on. And that'll never be my life either. I just continue to love what I do. And I think that we're just living for something that is in the future that may or may not happen. I try not to do that. I mean, I always said to my mom, if something ever happens to me, I said, I just wanted I just want people to know that I had an incredible ride and it was incredible run that that's what's so funny is that what comes with an extraordinary life and extraordinary ability responsibility to to promote, protect, perpetuate genes legacy. What's so interesting is that I have the most extraordinary life on one hand, and I probably have some some interesting challenges on the other side that a lot of people don't have. But I wouldn't, you know, I wouldn't change it. Because if you less than one side, you're going to you're going to less than the other. You're also on the other side, too. Yeah.

Lisa Hopkins:

Absolutely. Brilliant. You said that you wish you could you could ask Gene something and with all this retrospect, you can you share one thing that you'd like to ask him that you can ask him now? Well,

Patricia Ward Kelly:

just just even in the contemporary thing of going through his handwritten notes for the choreography for this ballet, I would just love to I would love to have him sit next to me standing next to me. Because as I go through these pages, what it is is this extraordinary amalgamation of language of of dance it goes from a torsion to a to a bendy twist to a bent corkscrew to a pure wet and it has a walk walk it has a john Alton move which is from his men. Yeah, so it's all in words, words, cool. Got a shorthand that he picked up because he never studied dance notation like so glissade is bliss and and then they say glis Allah Kelly he knows is the way he would do the glissade Potala it may have shown a lot appears in it. So it's the famous American Paris ballet short a lot. So the dancers will be doing it but what I would love is for Gene to stand up and and do do the passages for me and and do your or talk talk me through the the movement taught through a Bandy twist, talk me through, I can look it up. But I'd like to, I'd like to live it with him. That that's kind of on my mind right now. There's many other things. I mean, basically, anytime I pick up something like, I'd like to attend more performances with him, I wasn't able to do that. Because when we were together, there wasn't a lot of dance. I mean, it wasn't in Los Angeles with my knowledge now, which is still extremely incomplete. But I have a much greater knowledge of dance and all the different formats. And I've seen so much of it now says the Scottish ballet is doing Kenneth Macmillan smiling in a few years, and I just loved Milan, Milan, love Jean. I would love to go to that performance, and then sit down with Jean and talk about Marley and talk about the movement. And because I just don't have that with any I can do it with some people, but I want to hear his take on is based on his own things.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah, yeah, no, for sure. I'm wondering if you can finish this phrase, most people think Gene Kelly, dot, dot, dot. But the truth is dot, dot dot,

Patricia Ward Kelly:

I think most most people think Gene was a very gregarious, outgoing person, they could just sit down and have a beer with what he really was, was it terrifically cerebral, very private person, who kind of You're in for that aloneness. And they do not understand the dimensions of his creative process. And they don't understand his understanding of his art form of the use of the camera of all of the aspects and how he studied it. When he studied classical ballet with Chicago dance masters in the 30s. There was no history of dance, you couldn't go and just read a history of dance in the library. So he went to the University of Chicago library and read all the history of dance in French. It hadn't been translated yet. bowering information too, because he always felt you needed to understand what came before in order to do what you do. And in order to go beyond what has happened before, but nobody thinks of Jim Kelly like that, I mean, I think they kind of thought he was sort of not a not a dumb dancer, but just a guy who could kind of get up and move. But I don't think they understand that he executed that, how he worked with the arrangers, how he worked with the composers, how he, how he studied how to take that camera and make it appear of a one dimensional format of pure mental, his understanding of geometry. And also I think this is the other thing is his humility, tangible, his humanity and his integrity, because you read these accounts, I don't even recognize the guy, but you read about his perfectionism, which is kind of seen in a derogatory light versus the fact that it's called precision. It's called being a professional. Every dancer, every choreographer understands it. And I think to people, I read accounts of him being this very arrogant, it's kind of caustic kind of guy, and not, not at all. I never saw that. I never ever ever saw anything, but humility and decency. And a nod to the other guy a nod to the underdog. He was he was decent, he was really ahead of his time, always way ahead in innovation and revolutionary stuff. So, and a lot of people will come up and say, Did you ever choreograph anything? So I so they have no or did you ever direct anything? So they they don't they, they're he's so big on that screen that they don't have any idea. So I tried to recalibrate it and bring them back. So that and that he's responsible for what you're seeing. Give him that credit. He deserves that. And they are so cool about that. Is that when you met him, you didn't know anything about you? That was what was great because it was a blank slate. I didn't come and go Oh, my God. And, and I, I fell in love with his language, his words and his intellect. I mean, that was, that's what got me. I mean, it was like, Whoa, this guy who speaks French, Italian Yiddish reads Latin quote, every Yeats poem and every Romantic poet and and have that twinkle in that smile and be drop dead gorgeous. And just without any, it was unassuming. It was not. It was not I mean, I'm sure you know how big a turnoff It is to be with somebody who's trying to show you how, how intelligent they are, how witty they are, how charming they are. It's just look Bork. And he was just he just was. Yeah.

Lisa Hopkins:

Oh, absolutely. But I think it's because it's real. I think that's what it is, is because he's not doing anything. It's just him. You know that it factor that everyone talks about with Gene? It's it's Gene! Do you know what I mean? Like Yes, his dancing. My God is magnificent inspired all of us. But that it thing is not as dancing. It's him no matter what he did. That would have center.

Patricia Ward Kelly:

Exactly. And it's the wit that the sense of humor he would just constantly break me up. I mean, I would be on the floor laughing. And it wasn't a stone stand up comedy kind of thing. It wasn't that kind of humor, but it would be silly stuff. And just, you know, and it's his day still makes me laugh. And the notes he wrote to me make me laugh because they're so genius. People always say, Well, you know, why haven't you gotten remarried? And it's kind of like, well, you don't see that combination. You don't see that ease of knowledge and that amount of knowledge and that breadth and you don't see that charm, natural charm and charisma as you said, you don't don't see the tenderness. The intensity, the intensity of him. So I think to find this whole package, I don't I don't, I don't see many of those out there, frankly, I mean, history, I don't see many of them.

Lisa Hopkins:

Imagine if you guys had been the same age and met younger what the two of you would have created together. It's kind of scary to think,

Patricia Ward Kelly:

well, it wouldn't have worked. Maybe. Yeah. Is the thing is people always say to me, they'll say, Oh, don't you wish you had known Gene earlier and you have more time together? It's like no, cuz I got the man in repose. I got the final decade of the man. He didn't have to prove anything. He didn't have to. He wasn't, you know, he was not. He said that. He made the choice. It's the gates choice. Do you make the choice of work over life? What do you choose who chose work? And so you didn't wouldn't have had what I had when would not have had, I had a very special time that was related to that time in his life. He would never have sat down and done all the he would never have been able to let down that guard. I don't think at that point, you wouldn't have had time. Yeah, I've had the luxury of and he wouldn't have had the luxury of that. Or the the ability to reflect and to, to really think about what he had contributed. He was too busy contributing.

Lisa Hopkins:

No, 100% All right, before I let you out of here, I have to do what makes you so I say what makes you and I say a word. And then you just say what comes to mind? So for instance, what makes you hungry?

Patricia Ward Kelly:

I mean, it depends what time of day it is. So there's no one word. It's a what? I don't get it. Blueberries, what makes you sad? entitlement.

Lisa Hopkins:

What inspires you? Everything? What makes you frustrated? entitlement. What makes you laugh.

Patricia Ward Kelly:

I really love to laugh at myself. When when my friends poke fun at me about something I do. It just cracks me up. I just, I just start laughing so hard, because they'll tease me relentlessly about something I do that my own foibles, my foibles that makes me laugh that my to my own humanity. But it's always about it's never at somebody else. It's always that somebody has triggered something. And instead of me going No, no, no, no, I don't do that. It's like, Yeah, I do.

Lisa Hopkins:

That's awesome. It's connection to like, it speaks to your value of connection too. Right? It just immediately connected you to the person rather than pushing them away. Yeah, and connected down ridiculous. I am. Yeah, totally embracing it. bracing the mess. Alright, what what makes you angry?

Patricia Ward Kelly:

If we keep coming back to the other one is entitlement. I mean, it's just really terrible. It's a little too prevalent right now. And yeah.

Lisa Hopkins:

And finally, what makes you grateful?

Patricia Ward Kelly:

So much, in many ways, I would say the, the roller coaster to feel something intensely, as much as it might hurt. The gift of, of that feeling of energy to be able to feel joy so intensely to be able to feel beauty so intensely to feel appreciation, gratitude, and into engage. I mean, as I always say, Why else are we on the planet? If we're not going to engage? We might as well just be wandering around. I mean, if we're not going to connect with people, then what's the point? I guess, maybe gratitude that for whatever reason I have, I ended up the way that I am that appreciates that connection, and that I have the whatever it is inside of me to make that happen, or to try to make that happen. Yeah, how many words are we? I think I've covered 4 million for your one word request.

Lisa Hopkins:

No, no, that was beautiful. And I didn't actually say one word I said to respond to the one word so you're, you're fine. You're fine. What are the top three things that have happened so far? Today?

Patricia Ward Kelly:

The top three things that have happened today that I would say the opportunity to talk to you you know, I didn't know anything about you honestly. And I really didn't know I didn't have time to look at anything I read it just was been too pre occupied with other stuff but I would say that the joy that comes when you meet somebody that is really interaction is is refreshing is engaging is thought provoking. It's not been out it's not just kind of going through the motions so I would say this because up to this point, it was it was the coffee lately I've been wanting to really surround myself with things related to Jane and not only the archives but tangible things even the way he made coffee so the coffee so it's a kind of connecting and then also just enjoying it and relishing that that so Okay, so that's to the three was doing setups on my bed with my dogs. But those are three coffee dogs and, and the opportunity to chat with you and I say that sincerely because I really I mean look what we have. I mean we'll we will be in touch inevitably forever. I mean this we built something today and with hope they be something even for your listeners who might feel like reaching out. I think that's priceless. I mean that how do you say that? That to me is magic. So the magic already happened today. Whatever happens the rest of the day is kind of a bonus. No, I don't say that as any kind of you know, may be nice kind of thing. I really feel that way. And I feel like to have a genuine connection and conversation that has been fun. I mean, I've enjoyed every minute of it. And I look forward to another one.

Lisa Hopkins:

Yeah, as I have really, it's just been such a pleasure. I've been speaking today with Patricia Ward Kelly. Thanks for listening, stay safe and healthy everyone and remember to live in the moment. Patricia, thank you so much.

Patricia Ward Kelly:

Thank you. It's been a real delight and I mean that.

Lisa Hopkins:

In music stop time is that beautiful moment where the band is suspended and rhythmic unison, supporting the soloist to express their individuality. In the moment, I encourage you to take that time and create your own rhythm. Until next time, I'm Lisa Hopkins. Thanks for listening.