Living the Dream: Starks native advises others to ‘sieze every opportunity’

Published 3:51 pm Tuesday, January 25, 2022

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Patti Brindley Cradic wants to see more women live out their dreams.

“Seize every opportunity. It doesn’t matter if you’re in your 60s, your 30s or your 90s,” she said. “Don’t let age define you.”

She is 65. In the last five years she’s been in 25 film or TV productions, including “Chosen,” “Capone” and “1883,” the Yellowstone prequel. In 2020, she finished in the top 20 in a Mrs. United States of America pageant. Five years ago, she eloped to an English estate for a storybook wedding that could not have been more romantic if Emily Bronte had planned it.

“Doesn’t every woman, no matter her age, still have that little girl inside her that wants to be a princess?” Cradic asked. “I know I do.”

Like most young women, she didn’t realize this about herself or others until she was almost 40. She was taking a medical history (her first career), and the patient said:

“Honey, there’s something you need to know. I may be 90 but inside here is a 16-year-old girl who wants to be told she’s beautiful.”

Cradic never looked at older women the same way again. Moreover, her appreciation of the unique qualities and beauty in people of all shapes, colors, sizes and disabilities increased. She began to use her gift to connect with others to encourage and inspire.

Home is Starks, La. where the population, according to the most recent census, is 303. She left when she was 16 to pursue a degree in theater. She moved back in 2012 to care for her aging father Elton Brindley and his wife Shirley. Creativity, art and entertainment run in the family. Her father is a fiddler of some renown in Louisiana and East Texas, and is included in Ron Yule’s book, “Louisiana Fiddlers.”

Cradic, her husband Billy and their three cats live in the same, small cottage she grew up in on Sand Ridge. That’s what locals call the area. The downsize from their 4,000-square-foot Odessa, Texas house was quite the challenge. The change in the variety of available music, art and food venues is a topic the couple continue to discuss, and occasionally lament. He is from San Diego, but the couple has lived all over the United States. They have 14 grandchildren between them. He has six and she has six and they have two bonus grandchildren, she said. Both have siblings they didn’t know about until later in life.

The house was built by her father and uncle. It has been remodeled by her husband, and it is decorated with a few of Cradic’s favorite whimsical, hand-painted up-cycles. She’s a painter, and most of her subjects are impression-style angels. Her work has been shown most recently in galleries Sulphur and Port Arthur.

Never-ending romance

William “Billy” and Patti Brindley Cradic met as co-workers 21 years ago. Both are retired flight attendants from Southwest Airlines, Cradic’s second career.

“I remember when I first met Billy, and this is no lie,” she said. “I fell in love with him immediately. My skin would just break out in red blotches any time I was around him. I didn’t want to play games. I wanted to know whether he was interested or not, so after a couple of flights together, I just told him there’s something about me you need to know; I have a really big crush on you.”

As it turned out, he had a “really big” crush on her, too.

They were planning a wedding at the castle in Sulphur, when she looked at Billy and said, “Why don’t we just elope?”

He jumped at the idea and went from a local “castle” to an English estate.

“I called a wedding planner at Chatsworth House,” Cradic said.

In the film “Pride and Prejudice,” Chatsworth Estate was used as Pemberley, the residence of Mr. Darcy.

“I was already in contact with a theatrical company from Bath, England, and they shipped a big box of professional costumes worn by Mr. Darcy in “Pride and Prejudice” here for Billy to try. I already had my dress.”

“For seven days, we lived on this 50,000-acre estate where the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire live,” Billy said. “It was perfect, magically perfect.”

No pageant girl

Cradic didn’t tell anyone, not even Billy, who she considers her best friend, about her decision to enter the Mrs. Louisiana Pageant for married women ages 18 and up. She was the oldest contestant and advanced to the Mrs. US Continental Pageant.

“I’m not a pageant girl,” Cradic said. “I didn’t know the system or how it worked. Many of the contestants are pageant professionals. Their lives are devoted to winning pageants. My mom left home when I was eight or nine. I don’t even remember having new clothes as a girl. I do remember my cousin gave me her things. It was always a dream to be in a pageant and wear a crown, but I never had the women, the tribe around me that a person needs for that as a little girl.”

Entering the pageant was a friend’s idea because she thought it would be the perfect antidote for someone like Cradic, an artist isolated because of COVID.

“You can get in a dark place if you’re not out and about doing things,” she said.

Her greatest fear, after she made the decision to enter the pageant, was falling.

“You have to wear these really high heels,” she said, holding her index finger and thumb about 5 inches apart. “My daughter was streaming the pageant in Nashville and watching with family and friends. The whole time she was praying out loud, please don’t fall. Please don’t fall….”

Even though she only finished in the top 20, Cradic walked away stronger, empowered, she said.

Double take

An audition and callback to meet the director and producer did not result in Cradic and her husband getting selected for core immigrant roles in the Paramount series “1883.”

“That was a big ouch,” Cradic said. “We would have been with the crew, like family for six months.”

However, Cradic remained on the storyboard and the casting company pitched her for the brief scene featuring Sam Elliott/Shea Brennan’s wife who dies of smallpox.

“I was this close to him,” Cradic said with a gesture that showed a distance of less than a foot. “When I walked in, I gave him a big smile. He responded with that trademark Sam Elliot crinkle of the eyes and dip of the chin like he was tipping his hat and saying, ‘howdy ma’am.’”

That was enough for Cradic, who explained that being close to the stars does not give extras the carte blanche to chat them up.

“It’s just not professional,” she said. “Even if they’re not on camera, they’re working, rehearsing in their minds. They are in character and they need to stay there. Now if we would have been cast as core immigrants in 1883, it would have been different. We would have been like family for six months.”

Cradic plays a cowgirl in episodes 1 and 2 of “1883.” Billy is a latino cowboy and also plays a union soldier. He’s in episodes 1, 2 and 4.

“What I loved most about ‘1883’ was watching those cowboys, real cowboys — we were filming at the Fort Worth Stockyards — get to be in a movie that’s going to be history. ‘1883’ is going to be up there with ‘Lonesome Dove,’” she said.

When she was on the set for the making of “Capone,” she inadvertently struck up a conversation with English star Tom Hardy.

“Filming had gone on for 24 hours straight. It was three o’clock in the morning, and they were blocking the Bloody Valentine scene when the man I thought was Tom Hardy’s double leaned up against the wall next to me.”

Cradic told him what a good job makeup and wardrobe had done making him look exactly like Tom Hardy.

“Well, I am Tom Hardy,” he responded.

“We didn’t talk long, and I thought, no one will ever believe this,” she said. “I would have never spoken if I’d known it was him.”

Working on her craft appears to be more important to Cradic than meeting the stars.

“I love working with a group of western film makers in Texas,” Cradic said. “A lot of the time it’s free — you don’t get paid — but you’re with your friends and they’re making movies. They’ll pitch those short films at a film festival hoping that a production company will pick it up and make something big out of it.”

By Rita Lebleu