When former Dallas star Patrick Duffy lost his wife of 43 years, Carlyn, to cancer in 2017, he never imagined he would find love again. But fate had other plans.
At the start of the pandemic – Duffy, now 74, began a zoom friendship with actress and singer Linda Purl, 67, which quickly blossomed. Now happily sharing their lives together, the couple tell Senior Planet readers to never give up on love:
Q: How did you first meet?
PATRICK: We keep finding little hints that we missed meeting each other by inches over the years. In 1978 I passed up an offer to star on a TV show, The Young Pioneers, with Linda because I’d just been offered the role of Bobby Ewing in Dallas. We were also in the same episode of TV show, Circus of the Stars, but we never met.
Q: Who finally introduced you?
PATRICK: I was in London in 2000 doing Art on the West End with Richard Thomas, a dear friend of Linda’s. She came to the show and we met for about a minute.
LINDA: In a roundabout way, Linda Gray introduced us. Patrick and I were at one of these big conventions for autographs and Linda Gray was meant to be there. We’d done a movie together and I adored her, so I bolted over to the Dallas table to say hi to Linda who was not there. But Patrick was . . .
PATRICK: So we had a lovely conversation, and then Richard [Thomas] came up in conversation. I’d lost touch with him so I asked Linda to give him my details since she was going back to New York and would see him in his play. A few weeks later, they sent me a picture of them backstage and then the three of us began communicating every so often.
Q: But everything changed during the pandemic?
PATRICK: Yes, Linda was doing a play in New York and I was starting a film in Montreal when COVID struck. Within a day her show was canceled on Broadway and my movie was canceled. She flew back to Colorado and I returned to my ranch in Oregon.
LINDA: We chatted periodically and then we started doing zoom and, before long, we were zooming every night for two or three hours. The conversation went from chatty and fun until, after a few months, it moved to a deeper level.
PATRICK: I was by myself in a big house surrounded by acres with nobody else around. She was isolated in her home in Colorado with just her dog – so we each wanted to communicate with somebody and it just kept building.
“But there were no flights so I got my car and drove 20+ hours and ended up on her doorstep with my suitcase.”
Q: And soon things escalated?
PATRICK: Yes, I started writing poetry and read her a couple of my poems – and it got to the point where our evening zoom was the most important part of my day. One night, as we were signing off, I said, ‘Sleep tight, I love you’. I pushed the off button and went ‘Oh my god. I said the L-word!’ The next day we decided we needed to see each other. But there were no flights so I got my car and drove 20+ hours and ended up on her doorstep with my suitcase.
Q: Linda was married four times before, including a brief marriage to Desi Arnaz Jr, while Patrick had enjoyed a very long marriage. Did either of you believe in finding love again?
PATRICK: My answer would be no – but happily it wasn’t. By then I was 70, and I had had a good 46 year marriage. I thought: Well, I’ve had a good life; I have wonderful children and I’m a hero to my grandkids. I thought I was content but then I realized, over the course of months talking with Linda, that being content is not the end goal in life for anybody. No! You want to be happy. And I realized that, at my core, I wasn’t happy.
LINDA: I was living in New York, where I had a community of friends and life was busy and felt fulfilling. I certainly didn’t have an expectation of having a life partnership or a deeper relationship.
PATRICK: But she had no idea who she was dealing with!
Q: What is the key to finding love later in life?
LINDA: Every union is individual, but we laugh an inordinate amount of the time together so that was a bonus. We also had a lot of common ground. Obviously our careers were vastly different. Patrick had this meteoric rise – whereas mine was more as a journeyman. However, we were in the same work culture, in the same era, with similar friends and life reference points. We’re also both very blessed to be parents to boys, so we have that in common.
PATRICK: Also, at our age, both having been in previous long relationships, you’ve already overcome the whole prologue to a relationship which makes starting a relationship later in life ten times easier. You’re starting in the final lap towards the winning line, not at the starting gate. We’ve been together three years and it’s just really comfortable. There’s no surprises.
Q: Is marriage on the cards?
PATRICK: No, but it’s in the deck of cards of course. Anything in a relationship has the potential to go in any direction. Is it imminent and have we started picking out pottery? No, not yet. But anything is possible. I once died and they said it was impossible to come back on a TV show. And that’s when I learned; you never say never about anything. But, right now, this relationship is as deep and as meaningful as any relationship I have ever been in. Linda is more attuned to a desire for marriage. We don’t beat around the bush about that. If your relationship is strong, then those conversations can be had.
LINDA: At the core of it, we’re together, and I think maybe it’s just sort of a classic male, female thing where the woman is perhaps the one that holds to a more traditional view.
Q: What do you both do in terms of diet and exercise?
PATRICK: I drink a lot! I think a glass or two of red wine a day is beneficial. And, at this age, I’m going to outlive my liver anyway. So enjoy yourself and don’t be quite so Puritan in your attitude. And then literally keeping up with Linda who says – let’s go take a walk or ride down by the ocean.
LINDA: My car is filled with toys – bicycle, wetsuit, hiking boots, hiking poles, bicycle helmet . . . Connection to nature is huge for me. I love to ski or be in the ocean. It’s all about the perspective and balance.
Q: Do you have a special diet?
LINDA: We’re pretty good about it. It’s hard not to be when the stores offer so many vegetables, but we do cave every once in a while for a bag of chips. Basically my rule that I’ve imposed on Patrick is – if we don’t have it in the house, we won’t eat it because, if it’s in the house, I’m going to eat it.
PATRICK: So the cookies stay away and we eat fresh vegetables, fish and chicken – bread is seldom purchased at the store. We have our own company called Duffy’s Dough, using a sourdough that my parents got 70 years ago in Alaska, said to have been handed down from the Alaskan gold miners. It’s probably 140 years old by now. So I’ve kept the sourdough in the family and we cook with that – be it pancakes in the morning or sourdough biscuits at dinner; if the grandchildren come over I make sourdough cinnamon rolls, all because I know exactly what’s in it. I control everything and it’s healthy to the core.
Q: What’s up next for you both?
LINDA: We have recurring roles on The Bold and the Beautiful which is fun. I have a new jazz album out later this year called Let’s Get Lost and I’m going to London to do the Year of Magical Thinking in June.
PATRICK: And my plans are just to follow her. I’m a journeyman laborer. When the phone rings and they ask: Do you want to work? I say yes.
Q: What’s your secret to aging with attitude?
LINDA: We have a phrase where you say: If not now, when? We do feel the march of time but also the benefit of perspective, having been around the block on many fronts. It comes with a certain amount of experience and wisdom. Physical movement is key. We walk, we move, we ride bikes ….
PATRICK: She is getting me more active. I had became a bit sedentary. But keeping up with her is a joyfull full time job. At our age, I find that you’ve come to grips with the aging factor and the inevitability so you don’t run from the end of your life. You run towards what you’re going to do during the interim which is a much more joyful attitude.
Gill Pringle began her career as a rock columnist for popular British newspapers, traveling the world with Madonna, U2 and Michael Jackson. Moving to Los Angeles 27 years ago, she interviews film and TV personalities for prestigious UK outlets, The Independent, The i-paper and The Sunday Times – and, of course, Senior Planet. A member of Critics Choice Association, BAFTA and AWFJ, she wrote the screenplay for 2016 Netflix family film, The 3 Tails Movie: A Mermaid Adventure. An award-winning writer, in 2021 she was honored by the Los Angeles Press Club with 1st prize at the NAEJ Awards.
Photo (top): Kevin Alvey
Photo (Middle): Patrick Duffy and Linda Purl