Patti Brindley Cradic wants to see more women living their dreams.
“Seize every opportunity. It doesn’t matter if you’re in your 60s, 30s or 90s,” she said. “Don’t let age define you.”
She is 65 years old. Over the past five years, she’s starred in 25 film or television productions, including “Chosen,” “Capone” and “1883,” the prequel to Yellowstone.
In 2020, she finished in the top 20 of a Mrs. United States of America. Five years ago, she eloped to an English estate for a storybook wedding that couldn’t have been more romantic if Emily Brontë had planned it.
“Doesn’t every woman, regardless of age, still have that little girl in her who 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 years old. She was taking a medical history (her first career) and the patient said:
“Honey, there is something you need to know. I may be 90, but inside is a 16-year-old girl who wants to be told she’s beautiful.
Cradic never looked at older women the same way again. Additionally, her appreciation for the unique qualities and beauty of people of all shapes, colors, sizes, and disabilities grew. She began to use her gift to connect with others to encourage and inspire.
The home is Starks, Louisiana, where the population, according to the last census, is 303. She left at the age of 16 to pursue theater studies. She returned 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 renowned fiddler 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 little cottage she grew up in in Sand Ridge. This is how the locals call the area. Downsizing their 4,000 square foot home in Odessa, Texas was quite the challenge. The change in the variety of music, art and dining venues available is something the couple continue to discuss and sometimes lament. He is originally from San Diego, but the couple have lived all over the United States. They have 14 grandchildren between them. He has six and she has six and they have two grandchildren as a bonus, she said. Both have siblings they didn’t know until later in life.
The house was built by his father and his uncle. It’s been remodeled by her husband and it’s decked out with some of Cradic’s fanciful, hand-painted favorite bikes. She is a painter and most of her subjects are print-style angels. His work has been shown more recently in the Sulfur and Port Arthur galleries.
William “Billy” and Patti Brindley Cradic met as colleagues 21 years ago. Both are retired flight attendants from Southwest Airlines, Cradic’s second career.
“I remember when I first met Billy, and that’s no lie,” she said. “I fell in love with him immediately. My skin would burst into red spots every time I was around him. I didn’t want to play games. I wanted to know if he was interested or not, so after a few flights together I just told her there was something about me you should know; I have a really big crush on you.
Turns out he also had a “really big” crush on her.
They were planning a wedding at Sulfur Castle, when she looked at Billy and said, “Why not just run away?”
He jumped at the idea and moved 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, Mr Darcy’s residence.
“I was already in touch with a theatrical company in Bath, England, and they sent here a big box of professional costumes worn by Mr. Darcy in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ for Billy to try on. 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 hasn’t told anyone, not even Billy, whom she considers her best friend, about her decision to enter the Mrs. Louisiana pageant for married women 18 and older. She was the oldest contestant and qualified for the Mrs. US Continental Pageant.
“I’m not a pageant girl,” Cradic said. “I didn’t know the system or how it worked. Many candidates are competition professionals. Their lives are dedicated to winning contests. My mother left home when I was eight or nine. I don’t even remember having new clothes as a girl. I 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 contest was a friend’s idea as she thought it would be the perfect antidote for someone like Cradic, an artist in isolation due to COVID.
“You can walk into a dark place if you’re not doing stuff,” she said.
Her biggest fear, after making the decision to enter the contest, 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 contest in Nashville and watching with her family and friends. All the while she was praying out loud, please don’t fall. Please don’t fall…”
Although she only finished in the top 20, Cradic came away stronger, more empowered, she said.
An audition and callback to meet the director and producer didn’t get Cradic and her husband selected for the lead immigrant roles in the Paramount series “1883.”
“That was a big ouch,” Cradic said. “We would have been with the crew, like a family for six months.”
However, Cradic remained on the storyboard, and the casting company cast her for the brief scene featuring Sam Elliott/Shea Brennan’s wife dying of smallpox.
“I was so close to him,” Cradic said with a gesture that showed less than a foot away. “When I walked in, I gave him a big smile. He responded with that Sam Elliot squinting and cupping his chin as if tipping his hat and saying, ‘Hello ma’am.
That was enough for Cradic, who explained that being close to the stars does not give extras free rein to flirt with them.
“It’s just not professional,” she said. “Even if they are not filmed, they work, rehearse in their minds. They are in character and they have to stay there. Now, if we had been considered basic 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 Latin cowboy and also plays a union soldier. He is in episodes 1, 2 and 4.
“What I loved most about ‘1883’ was seeing these cowboys, real cowboys – we were filming at the Fort Worth Stockyards – coming together in a movie that’s going to be history. ‘1883’ is going to be up there with ‘Lonesome Dove’,” she said.
While on the “Capone” set, she inadvertently struck up a conversation with English star Tom Hardy.
“The shoot went on for 24 hours straight. It was three in the morning and they were blocking the Bloody Valentine scene when the man I thought was the Tom Hardy lookalike leaned against the wall next to me.
Cradic told him what a great makeup and wardrobe job he did in making him look exactly like Tom Hardy.
“Well, I’m Tom Hardy,” he replied.
“We didn’t talk long, and I thought no one would ever believe him,” she said. “I never would have spoken if I had known it was him.”
Working on his craft seems to be more important to Cradic than meeting the stars.
“I love working with a group of Western filmmakers in Texas,” Cradic said. “Most of the time it’s free – you don’t get paid – but you’re with your friends and they’re making films. They’ll show these shorts at a film festival and hope a production company take it and make it big.
Watch for Cradic in the upcoming “Fox and the Bounty” TV series where she plays the blacksmith’s wife, Josie. Watch the American press for more details on Billy Cradic.
— Written by Rita Lebleu of the American press.