Publisher, author and socialite Patte Barham Inman passed away November 22, 2016 at the approximate age of 99. Barham was a long-time resident of Fremont Place, where I had the opportunity to meet her more than 15 years ago at her historic mansion, 100 Fremont Place.
Patte, as she was known to everyone, was a delightful force of nature – full of interesting stories, but also interested in others. She took the time to meet with me one day at her home office, which was filled with papers and photos, memorabilia of a life well-lived. She even had time to serve as a block captain for the Fremont Place Homeowners Association.
Fellow resident and journalist Robert Penfold and his wife, Shar, recall attending wonderful holiday parties at Barham’s house, where the guests would turn up in amazing classic cars.
“I saw the most amazing MG in just perfect condition,” recalled Penfold, who was the subject of one Barham’s columns, “View from Barham Blvd” in the Tolucan Times, where she published more than 70 articles. Barham was also passionate about animals, and traveled the country with her prize-winning black and white Skye terriers.
Larchmont Chronicle founding publisher Jane Gilman recalls attending a lavish animal rights fundraiser at Barham’s home and finding a closet full of fur coats. “That was our Patte,” said Gilman.
Barham opened her historic home several times for the Hancock Park-Windsor Square Historical Society’s homes tours. The organization was founded in 1976 by Gilman and others interested in preserving local history. Barham’s home was featured on the organization’s fourth tour in 1978, and again in 1989.
In 1973, Barham moved to to Fremont Place to the 7,800 square foot mansion built by King Camp Gillette, inventor of the Gillette safety razor, though according to the Historical Society, Gillette didn’t live in the house for long. In 1927, the home became the residence of Espical Bishop John J. Cantwell, and in 1948, the long-time residence of Cardinal James Francis McIntyre, Archbishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles. He celebrated mass in a chapel that Barham later converted into a music room.
Born Patricia Ann Barham, she was the daughter of the late Dr. Frank Forest Barham and socialite Princess Jessica Meshki-Gleboff. Barham Boulevard in Los Angeles was named for Dr. Barham, who graduated from Physicians and Surgeons at USC in 1906 and in 1911 joined his brother Guy Brinton Barham in managing the Los Angeles Morning Herald, which the two brothers turned into an afternoon paper. When Guy Barham died suddenly in 1922, Dr. Frank Barham became sole publisher of the Los Angeles Herald and Express, according to Robert Wood, Patte’s long-time friend and collaborator for the Toulcan Times.
When her father sold the paper to William Randolph Hearst, the two became good friends and trusted business partners, allowing Patte an incredible seat in history, and the opportunity to become the first female war correspondent during the Korean War. The young Barham wrote how she used to follow Hearst around, eventually becoming his protegee. According to a column Barham wrote in 2000, “While the fighting was going on in Korea, I was the first female war correspondent at the forerunner of the now defunct Los Angeles Herald-Examiner),
Patte Barham also wrote or co-wrote several books, including “Pin Up Poems,” a collection of poems for servicemen in World War II. Other titles included “Operation Nightmare,” questioning why the U.S. had gotten involved in Korea, and “Rasputin: The Man Behind the Myth,” which she wrote with Rasputin’s daughter, Maria. That one garnered much attention as she asserted the “mad monk” was deeply misunderstood and that the Russian crown jewels are buried in the Gobi dessert.
In addition, Barham co-wrote “Marilyn: The Last Take.” Published in 1992, the book became a bestseller about Marilyn Monroe’s last days. The portrayal shows the actress as a woman at the peak of her career who was destroyed by a series of conspiracies hatched in Hollywood and the White House.
“She was always talking about her writing when I was with her,” recalled Fremont Place resident and Larchmont Chronicle movie critic Tony Medley, who shared a wonderful story indicative of the kind of life Barhman led.
“Patte was very upset when the movie “The Cat’s Meow” came out in 2001. Peter Bogdanovich directed and it was about the boat trip on William Randolph Hearst’s yacht when director Thomas Ince was shot to death. It was a small gathering of guests, two of whom were Patte’s parents. The point of the cruise was to celebrate Ince’s 44th birthday. She said the movie was all untrue and was really indignant about it,” explained Medley.
According to the film, said Medley, Hearst was enormously jealous because he thought Marion Davies was having an affair with Charlie Chaplin, who was a guest on the boat. Ince thought so, too and searched for evidence. He ran into Davies and was talking with her at the bottom of some stairs about the affair. She admitted, it but said “she never loved him,” referring to Chaplin. Then Hearst saw Davies from behind as she was sitting with Ince, who was wearing Chaplin’s hat…and Hearst thought she was speaking of him, not Chaplin. So Hearst shot the man…who turned out to be Ince, rather than Chaplin. The boat immediately returned to shore and it was met by an ambulance, but Ince died. Hearst swore everyone to secrecy.
“One of the other passengers was Louella Parsons,” said Medley, and at the time, Parsons “wasjust a basically little-known writer. The story is that she got her world famous gossip column [from Hearst] to shut her up. Anyway, Patte poo-pooed the whole thing and was irate about it, feeling that it defamed her parents, although I don’t remember anything that made them look bad.”
Active until nearly the end of her life, Barham was profiled by the Larchmont Chronicle in 2013:
“The longtime Fremont Place resident is a petite, perfectly-coiffed force of nature who strongly believes that a person’s age does not define them. “Don’t ever get locked into a number,” Barham advised.”
Barham is survived by her husband James Inman and her four Skye terriers.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Barham’s “Hancock Park home resembles a museum and contains memorabilia and correspondence from newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and Hearst’s mistress, Marion Davies. A scion of a pioneering Los Angeles family, Barham has led a life of adventure among the wealthy and elite — and claims to have seen a map that shows the location where the treasure of the last royal rulers of Russia is buried.” (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
After recently reading this article I found it informative, interesting, and delightfully connecting to the reader. As an outer-circle acquaintance I was not aware of Patte’s passing and my condolences go out to Jim and her family. Patricia Lombard: you did a splendid job with capturing patte’s cultural imprint and agree whole heartedly with her inspiring words: “a person’s age does not define them”.
I knew Patte since 1989. She was a character. She was quite the tale spinner but, loveable. Last time we spoke was 2005. R.I.P.