THB, Banditos, Wayward and more confirmed for Cosmic Cocktail!

SUPPORTING ROLE

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Maybe you've seen Hollywood starlet Patricia Breslin in a rerun of "Perry Mason" or "Twilight Zone" or a dozen other TV shows from the '50s and '60s.

What you probably don't know is this: The pretty ingenue playing the defendant or consulting a fortune teller is the feisty, stand-by-your-man wife of Ravens owner Art Modell.

"Every once in a while a friend watching TV will call me up and say, 'You're hitting that man with a leg of lamb again,' " Patricia Breslin Modell says with a laugh. She's not sure now which show it was. An episode of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," perhaps.

She had a career others would have killed for, yet she now dismisses her acting days with a wave of her carefully manicured hand.

"It's part of a life I don't even think about," she says.

She's always been comfortable in front of a camera -- and has had her picture taken a thousand, maybe a million times. You can tell she'd never be caught with a frozen smile on her face or her eyes half-closed.

Her tousled pouf of Zsa Zsa hair is yellow as sunshine, gold as honey, beautiful as the best colorist in the city can make it. The bright-red lipstick and eye makeup are flawlessly applied, even though she's dressed casually in a bulky black sweater, black leggings and leopard print slippers. Her mandarin nails are painted fuchsia, and she takes long, sensuous drags of her cigarette as she talks. She looks good --great, really, for someone her age.

And how old would that be?

"I won't tell you," she says. "My mother always said a lady never tells her age or sits in the sun."

So does she sit in the sun?

"I used to, but not anymore. I'm paying for it now."

Not really. The rest of us should look so good when we're -- what? 60? 65? Surely not 70. But then we weren't movie stars, or at least starlets.

Patty Breslin always knew she wanted to be an actress. She was one of three children born in New York to an Irish Catholic father and a mother whose family came from Scotland. Her father, Edward Breslin, was a judge. Patty was quite properly brought up, going to schools run by Ursuline nuns for 16 years.

She begged her father to let her leave college her sophomore year for the theater. He refused but allowed her to work in summer stock her last two years, sure she would get tired of the drudgery involved.

"I scrubbed floors, painted scenery. I loved it," she says now. She eventually won the female lead in "Romeo and Juliet," and then there was no looking back. After college she appeared on Broadway in "The Wayward Saint," "Richard III" and "The Tempest," moving to Los Angeles in the early '50s to get into TV and film work.

As Patricia Breslin, she starred in the series "People's Choice" with Jackie Cooper, and appeared on "Peyton Place" and the live "Philco Television Playhouse." Her movie credits include 1958's "Andy Hardy Comes Home" and 1961's "Homicidal," a "Psycho"-inspired thriller. She acted with the likes of Mickey Rooney, William Shatner, Joan Crawford and John Ireland.

Her most famous role was probably her last -- nurse Meg Baldwin on the soap "General Hospital."

Patricia Breslin never had any trouble getting work, but she left it all behind 32 years ago when she became Mrs. Art Modell.

"That's what Patty is like," says her close friend Connie Pitcher. "She puts things behind her and never looks back. Occasionally Art talks about her acting, but she doesn't really."

It was a younger and very handsome Art Modell, then the owner of the Cleveland Browns and still a bachelor at 43, who turned her head. They were introduced in an Italian restaurant in Santa Monica by a mutual friend, Dan Reeves, who owned the Los Angeles Rams.

Art asked her to dinner the next night. Their second date they took along her two sons from her first marriage, David, 8, and John, 9.

The boys liked Art immediately.

"He taught us how to light matches," David says, "which we thought was really cool. We weren't allowed to play with fire, but I guess that night all bets were off."

For Art, it was as close to love at first sight as it gets.

"I just met the girl I'm going to marry," he told friends.

"They say it hits you hard between the eyes," Art says now. "My judgment has been vindicated for 32 years. It's been a great run. We laugh together. We cry together. And she likes football."

In June 1969, three months after they met, the two were having dinner on one of Art's frequent trips to Los Angeles when he reached in his jacket and brought out a piece of paper.

"He sat there with the piece of paper," Pat Modell remembers, "saying you have to go to this game and that game with me."

"I said, 'Art, I can't do that. I have work.' He looked up and said, 'Oh, but I'm asking you to marry me.' "

They were married at a friend's home in Las Vegas four months later. Pat gave up her career to move to Cleveland with her two sons. Modell adopted them a year later.

The marriage has survived Art's serious heart condition, financial problems in Cleveland, and a traumatic move to Baltimore under difficult circumstances, when her beloved husband was vilified by Browns fans looking for someone to blame for the loss of their team.

"I will never, never forgive those people," she said in an interview in the Cleveland Plain Dealer at the time. "And I will never forgive the people who call Art a liar. I have never known him to lie in his life, not even a little white lie."

It was a brutal ending to a good life in Cleveland, but Pat Modell says she's the kind of person who's happy wherever she is.

"She has humor and grit," explains her son David, who moved here also and became the team president.

Pat loves Baltimore, she says, because it has a feeling of southern gentility. "There's a sort of ease here," she says. "It's more laid back than Cleveland."

She would have been happy to stay in an apartment in Harbor Court, where they first lived after the move five years ago, but Art wanted a house. Now they have one in a luxe development in northern Baltimore County. It was built only 8 years ago, but it has the look of old money.

Pat decorated the 5-bedroom home herself with just a little help from a designer. The comfortable rooms are filled with light. Cream and gold predominate, and she's used lots of flowery fabrics. Like Pat herself, they have an easy elegance.

The Modells own another home in Indian Wells, California, where they'll be heading for six weeks before Pat takes the stage again as honorary co-chairman of a ball to benefit Hospice of Baltimore.

Although Art had suggested she get back into live theater in New York after they were married and had moved to Cleveland, Pat decided instead to stay home, bring up her two small boys, play bridge and get involved with charities. She and Art used to play tennis together, but after his heart attack they both gave it up.

"I'm not what you'd call an athletic girl. How do I exercise now?" she says with a laugh. "I go from the bedroom to the bathroom."

She's just getting over weeks of bronchitis that kept her away from most of the festivities after Baltimore's NFL team won the Super Bowl. It's left her with a throaty whisper and a hacking cough. But she still talks with great enthusiasm about the season she--and many others--never expected to happen so soon.

"Little did I know we'd go to the Super Bowl," she says. "I always said I don't want to go and lose. But when our defense came out on the field I said to myself there's no way we won't win. I just had a good feeling about the team. I've never seen a team that loved each other so much."

She's knowledgeable about the game, she says, and she loves it.

"Art makes me a part of it," she explains. "I know what's going on. I go out to camp. I love the team."

Much of the rest of her time is spent on her charity work. The former actress has turned to producing and set design as organizer of the Twilight Ball, which will be held in the grand ballroom of the new Marriott Waterfront on April 27. The proceeds will benefit Hospice of Baltimore.

While some high flyers might lend their name to their favorite charities but do little else, Pat Modell isn't like that. The ball was her idea. She helped choose the place, plan the menu and organize the decorations.

"She's very involved," says Lori Raneri, director of development for Hospice of Baltimore. "She's a very hands-on person. She wants things to be the way she wants them to be."

"In doing the ball, I hope it will make people more aware of hospice," Pat says. "People don't like to talk about death. I don't like it, but I'm not afraid to."

"In hospice you're never dying and alone," she adds.

She became interested in hospice, which provides in-home care for the terminally ill, when a friend's husband was dying of cancer. Pat--never one to do things by halves--flew to Florida, California and London (where hospice started) to check out already-established hospice residences. She came back to Cleveland a convert, and she and her husband were an important part of getting a residential facility built there.

She wants to change people's idea of hospice, she says, by having a really elegant ball. But she's not sure what glamorous creation she'll be appearing in--or at least she's not telling.

"I'd love to wear a certain dress," is all she'll say. "But I can't get it on."

Her friend Connie Pitcher just laughs. The two women, she explains, have in common a love of clothes and New York designers--as well as vacationing in the South of France.

"She has magnificent clothes, and she has a hard time resisting them," she says. "She's caring, compassionate--a beautiful woman in every way."

The Twilight Ball

Friday, April 27

7:30 p.m.

Baltimore Marriott Waterfront

700 Aliceanna St.

Tickets: $350 a person

For more information: 410-512-8245

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
54°