patricia farinelli is an italian-american main dish not found in any cookbook
Ordinarily, growing up in or near Hollywood leaves its mark on a person. Most folks end up with fantasies of upward mobility. But Patricia Farinelli has managed to avoid most of the glamour and pretension of Tinseltown: She leads a simple life and she likes it that way. Besides, to Patti, Glitter City is just the old neighborhood -- human, funky and livable. She's street smart, that's what you pick up in a metropolis like Los Angeles; but Patti could easily pass for a small-town girl. Not that she wouldn't like a taste of the showbiz world; it's just that it's not that important to her.
"What would I really like?" she muses. "I'd like a family -- a big one -- a house that I could decorate and my own garden. Other than that, material things aren't that important to me. Wait, maybe I'd like a Jacuzzi, too. It doesn't matter. I'm happy doing whatever I'm doing. I could be a supermarket cashier for the rest of my life and be happy." Trouble is, Patti is not just an ordinary girl. Nature has given her a most extraordinary body and that has influenced her life. We're talking about a girl who, until her junior year in high school, was known as Flatty Patti. There was just nothing there. Then, all of a sudden, she blossomed, going from famine to feast. Her new-found attractiveness played havoc with her life. She went from being unpopular to being the toast of her neighborhood. And it was hard for her to tell who her friends were. At one time, she fell in with the proverbial bad crowd -- in this case, a band of mobile marauders known as low-riders for their chosen mode of transport: automobiles suspended mere inches above the ground. She didn't hang around long. "So many times it almost came to bullets; that's what convinced me I should leave."
It also convinced her to come to terms with who she was. "I used to be embarrassed about the size of my breasts. People used to make fun of me. But now I'm learning to be proud of the way I look. When I met my current boyfriend, I was a cashier at a local market. I had to wear a smock for the job and you couldn't tell what was under it. He used to come in and we would talk. Then he asked me for a date. Well, when he saw me without a smock for the first time, he was flabbergasted! It was my eyes that had attracted him.
"It's all nonsense, anyway; one guy likes legs, another guy likes boobs . . . you have to look at what's inside a person. I've gotten to be a pretty good judge of character. Fortunately. Because here in Hollywood, you meet a lot of weirdos. You have to learn to look inside people."
If you look inside Patti, you'll find a very sensitive first-generation Italian-American girl. As a child, she spent a lot of time in church -- in fact, she lived right next door to one -- and she remains deeply religious. Her conversation is peppered with casual references to Jesus Christ and God, as though they were her best friends. Patti would tell you they were. She is also very close to her mother, Clementina (Patti's father died when she was 16), and considers her something of a saint. "My mother is a great woman. She's a real hard worker. I've seen her come home from the factory after working all day and dive right into making dinner. She just does not stand still. She's from the old country. I'm more American."
Since leaving high school, Patti has been a cashier, a waitress, a hostess, a saleslady in a clothing store and, just recently, she started a course in medical-office management. "Just in case nothing else worked out, I think I'd like working in a hospital."
Her spare time is filled by her musician boyfriend, her crocheting projects, cooking and watching TV, especially the soaps. "TV is like a friend to me," she says. "If I'm feeling down, I just turn on something happy and I snap right out of it."
Sometimes when Patti watches TV, other people benefit, too. "The other night, I flipped the channel and I saw Sally Struthers talking about the Christian Children's Fund. It made me so sad I decided I'd like to sponsor a child, and I called them right up. They asked whether I'd like a boy or a girl. I told them I wanted a little girl and they promised to send me the information. I think it will be a great experience for me. I can't wait to see what she looks like. I'll really enjoy sending her clothes."
Patti is also fascinated by photography. "I love pictures and I love being in them. Pictures hold memories. My photo album is so important to me I've considered putting it in a safe-deposit box at the bank."
Patti's secret: She has developed a sense of humor about herself and her life and she enjoys both. "I'm a cheerful person," she says. "I'm always happy. I just don't let things get to me." One of the first things a visitor to Lotusland notices is the passion for fitness Southern Californians seem to share. So we asked native Angeleno Patti if she was into sports.
"Sports?" she laughs. "I hate to even watch sports on TV." Then, looking downward, she observed, with a whimsical smile," and I certainly don't jog!"
Photography by Ken Marcus