Though the lights are dim, it’s still easy to make out the many photographs scattered throughout the one-floor apartment. In one shot is Debbie Reynolds, in another Shirley Jones. Then there is Lady Gaga, Will Smith, and Doris Day. The only thing that the photographs have in common is Pierre Patrick, a man of medium height with stringy, shoulder-length brown hair, often dressed in a tuxedo. Five years ago, Patrick relocated from Los Angeles to this apartment, just a few blocks from the New Haven Green.
Born in Canada, Patrick fell ill at 18 months and spent the next ten years in and out of hospitals with failing kidneys. During this time, he says, his “universe was television and film and music,” and he became enamored with it. In Canada’s small entertainment industry, he “could sing okay” by age 14, he readily admits — good enough to record a hit single — but Celine Dion was still killing him on the charts. Around age 16, Patrick decided to start life anew and moved to the entertainment hub that is Los Angeles, in search of more exposure and new challenges.
Despite his early success in Canada, life in L.A. wasn’t easy. Patrick worked as a busboy in a French restaurant until he found his big break through a series of lucky encounters with Gene Kelly’s daughter. She frequented the restaurant because she adored people with French accents. After several conversations, she invited Patrick to her birthday party, which featured, among other celebrities, an aging Fred Astaire. Patrick gained some insight into how Hollywood works and, he says, “started meeting the right people.” Later, when his earlier hit reached the United States, he was invited to the Grammys, to which he later returned as a nominee.
Patrick began writing for the Television Chronicle in Los Angeles, and his first chosen assignment was a piece on the legendary actress Doris Day. She had always intrigued him, and, after contacting her repeatedly, she finally agreed to an interview with Patrick. Something clicked. They became close friends; she even gave him a pet dog named Breezy as a gift. In 2008, at the 50th celebration of the Grammys, Patrick accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award on Day’s behalf, since the actress has become hesitant to expose herself to the public. He always signs his letters with the unforgettable ending, “Have a Doris Day.” Even after his relocation to New Haven, Patrick still receives penned letters from the celebrity and flies to see her from time to time.
It’s odd that a man who speaks so fondly about his connections to the entertainment industry left L.A. for New Haven. Patrick remains adamant that he came to New Haven five years ago at the insistence of his friend and mentor, Jerry Goehring. Goehring urged Patrick to work with him at the National Theater of the Deaf and connected him with the Theater Department at Sacred Heart University.
Patrick excitedly relates how, since starting there, he has brought in people like 1970s pop singer David Cassidy and has booked bands including ABBA, who will play at an upcoming event.
Patrick isn’t just bringing the Hollywood industry to Connecticut. He’s also looking to cultivate new stars in the unlikely locale. He is currently collaborating with New Haven resident Mikel Beaukel, a singer and model. Patrick gets an eager gleam in his eye when he mentions that name, and he is clearly of the opinion that Beaukel will do great things in the music industry. He is also passionate about William Suretté, another artist from Connecticut. Patrick produced Suretté’s nationally-sold album, “Dance Party.”
In Patrick’s apartment, celebrity photographs are hung from wall to wall and stacks of magazines in which he is featured are piled high in one corner of the living room. His 15 minutes of fame are well and good, but he has work to do: there are still blank spaces left on the wall.