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HomeCommunityIn Memoriam: Pat McCarthy – Below the Line Staffer, Individualist, Friend

In Memoriam: Pat McCarthy – Below the Line Staffer, Individualist, Friend

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Pat McCarthy
Pat McCarthy
Patricia McCarthy, a former production coordinator, and the woman behind Below the Line’s authoritative Production Listings for many years, died March 5 in her Palm Springs home. She was 72.

Her free-spirited and unconventional approach to life made her, (with apologies to the guy in the beer commercial), one of the most interesting people in the world.

After joining Below the Line in 2008, she was instrumental in expanding and enhancing the site’s Production Listings. She was dogged and swift in tracking down and verifying projects, producers, department heads and contact information. If you have ever gained a tip, a lead, a valuable piece of information or a job thanks to our Production Listings, it was probably McCarthy’s work you benefited from.

But there was quite a bit more to the woman who scared off an ATM mugger in her native Chicago one night by shouting, “How dare you?”

By way of full disclosure, McCarthy was my mother-in-law, and her approach to our relationship was as uncommon as everything else she did, which is to say we loved each other, we had fun collaborating and she supported and spoke well of me, even when I was at my worst.

In the 1960s, long before the term “single mother” was common, McCarthy was raising two daughters in Chicago, living by her wits and working as a freelance agent for advertising artists and photographers. She developed a keen artistic eye and what would be a lifelong passion for recognizing, encouraging and promoting the work of talented people.

Years later, she had taken up residence in a penthouse that was a former speakeasy, with a narrow staircase and false walls, high above the city’s famed Rush Street entertainment district, when production manager John Wilson brought the film Risky Business to shoot in Chicago. Wilson heard about the apartment and asked to use it. He and McCarthy became friends and shortly thereafter. Her daughter, Karyn McCarthy, went to work for Wilson, her first industry job, as an assistant production coordinator.

Karyn McCarthy worked her way up the ranks until, in 1990, as a UPM herself, she hired her mother as her production coordinator. Thus Pat McCarthy began a new career at age 47. Over the next 18 years, she worked on some two dozen feature films and television shows. Karyn McCarthy has gone on to produce John Adams, for HBO and the first season of Netflix’s House of Cards. She’s been nominated for two Emmys.

Pat McCarthy’s younger daughter Bridgett Baron was a child actress who appeared in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and today works in the industry as a payroll accountant.

When her ex-husband had a daughter and that girl’s mother died, Pat McCarthy unofficially adopted her – Brittny McCarthy, Ph.D., a former Congressional aid and now Santa Monica yoga studio owner.

In 1975, Pat fell in love with Bill Daniel, a creative director and later the owner of his own Michigan Avenue agency, and they began a 40-year love affair, the highlights of which found them in places and poses indistinguishable from the bon vivants of their favorite ’40s classics – Casablanca, An Affair to Remember, All About Eve, et al. They were an interracial unmarried couple living together long before any of that was fashionable, nor even socially accepted. They eventually did marry in Las Vegas in 2007.

It was often said Pat missed her calling for medicine, albeit alternative medicine. She was a lifetime student of homeopathy and used that discipline as well as her self-taught knowledge of Western medicine to become a first line of medical advice for dozens of family members and close friends. She correctly diagnosed her infant grandson with pyloric stenosis, an uncommon condition affecting the stomach and small intestine. Surgery corrected the problem.

Last month, as a patient waiting to be admitted to the hospital for what would be the final time, she was reprimanded by the emergency room staff for offering a diagnosis to the woman in the seat next to her who was in extreme pain. Pat told the woman she was having a gall bladder attack. The assessment proved correct.

Earlier that day, Pat had been diagnosed with aggressive liver cancer. In conjunction with the predictable medical responses, a series of less predictable bedside parties ensued – from the hospital back to her home under hospice care, through the Academy Awards, until last week when two days before she died, too weak to speak or even raise her head, she was cracking up family members by lip-synching Joni Mitchell’s, “Both Sides Now.”

Pat McCarthy died last Thursday, 11 minutes prior to the exact moment of the full moon. She is presumably disturbing the conventional order of things to wonderful effect, in another time and place.

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