a young girl she dreamed of being an actress. “I saw my first
play at 9, “The Barrett’s of Wimpole Street,”
and that was it. I remember sitting on the train at 11, sucking
in my cheeks and pretending to be Marlene Dietrich,” she looks
down and smiles. It is the shy innocent smile of that same young
girl, alluring; you are instantly captivated, disarmed. It’s
impossible not to like her.
Patricia Baxter Naggiar was born in Leeds, Yorkshire, England. She
was the bad girl in school, “I’d put ink in the Holy
water, anything to get attention.”
Pat studied drama at the Guild Hall and became an actress, “I
was a dead body in my first part. My mother came to every performance
and said, ‘You didn’t even breathe!’ She was my
biggest fan, not so with my father.”
As National Service, following WWII, Pat toured the Middle East
with John Gielgud in two plays. On break, she went alone to Tobruk.
“There were 2,000 naked ‘Tommy’s,’ British
soldiers, on the docks waiting as the ship pulled in. The captain
shouted, “Woman on board!” and they all covered their
privates and ran.” Pat laughs, “I did what Rommel couldn’t
In Cairo, Pat met businessman Ray Naggiar. Pat and Ray fell in love
and married. Reknowned Egyptian painter, Ezzeldin Hamouda painted
her wedding portrait. The painting won the Venice Exhibition Prize
Soon after their marriage they moved to Italy and ran a buscuit
company for a time. When Ray closed the business they moved to Suez.
The Battle of Suez erupted shortly after their arrival and they
fled to America.
Pat found work: an actress on a CBS soap opera, learned news at
Time magazine, and eventually hired on as a producer at CBS News.
ZDF, German Television, had offices at the CBS Broadcast Center
and wanted someone who could look at America through foreign eyes.
Pat got the job. She traveled everywhere, interviewed everyone of
importance for the show, “Portrait of a Person.” She
became the Barbara Walters of German Television. One wall in her
Hudson home is a gallery of those she interviewed; Dolly Parton,
Ted Turner, Malcolm X, the Dalai Lama, Andy Warhol, James Garner,
Kirk Douglas, Jane Fonda, Gerald Ford, Mother Theresa, Christopher
Reeves (his last interview prior to his riding accident), Peter
Ustinov, Arthur Miller, Loren Greene, George Bush Sr., Woody Allen
and Ronald Reagan to name a few.
Pat became a bit of a genius at acquiring interviews. Every year,
as Christmas neared her boss chided, “Get Bing Crosby singing
White Christmas. And Garbo!”
During a chance meeting with a lawyer she noticed he had papers
for Crosby to sign. Pat persisted and finally got a phone number.
She called and Bing answered.
“I’ll give you ten minutes. I’m a stickler for
being on time. I’m going to walk in and out, that’s
it,” he said agreeing to the designated interview time of
Pat booked the Cole Porter Suite at the Waldorf. It was October,
but she found a Christmas tree and decorated it. Caterers delivered
food and she waited. 5:30 came and went, no Bing. Finally, at 6:45
he arrived apologizing profusely, “I’ll do anything
“Will you sing White Christmas?” Pat chimed. Jazz great,
pianist Joe Bushkin played and Bing Crosby sang for 45 delicious
minutes, including White Christmas. Back at the office Pat’s
boss said, “Well, you still didn’t get Garbo.”
Pat once sent an out of print recording of ‘30’s jazz
clarinetist Edmond Hall to Woody Allen’s office. Woody called,
wanting to know where she found it. Pat got her interview.
One trip found Pat among a throng of journalists nestled in the
back of Air Force I. “Journalists paid three times the First
Class rate to fly,” she points out. Discovering there was
another bathroom in the front of the plane, she went to use it.
Pat smiled at Nancy Reagan,
not the President. She told the First Lady most journalists were
wrongly accusing her President of dying his hair, pointing out the
occasional gray hair in his thick dark locks. “No hairdresser
can make it look that good,” she told Mrs. Reagan and Nancy
invited her to sit down. Eventually she asked if the President might
consent to an interview. “Oh, Ronnie would love to talk with
you,” Mrs. Reagan beamed and Pat got the interview.
Pat’s favorite question, lifted from Walters was, “What’s
the greatest misconception about you?”
Nancy Reagan confessed it was the misconception the President dyed
his hair. “I’ll tell you something else,” she
whispered. “Ronnie has no cavities.”
“Don’t tell the press,” Pat warned, “They’ll
make fun of it. You know, ‘Look Ma, no cavities.’”
What was Dolly Parton’s misconception?
“That she’s stupid, it’s hardly the truth. She’s
a very smart business woman.”
“He had a great sense of humor, falling down funny. He was
a very charming man, fascinated with jazz and became a good friend
to my family.”
What’s your dream?
“To win the lottery and produce a film, starring me.”
Pat laughs her endearing laugh, looks down and smiles. When her
eyes return they are filled with light, “I’ve traveled
to every state in America, met extraordinary people. I’ve
had a really wonderful life.”
We’ll talk next time From The Road.