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RIP Pat Loud, an American Family Star

Long before Keeping Up With The Kardashians thinks of, there is PBS’ ‘An American Family’. Pat Loud, one of the stars of that groundbreaking reality series has just passed away at the age of 94.

The news of her passing announces by her family via social media on Monday. Loud passed away peacefully in her sleep at her Southern California home. She surrounds by her children Michele, Delilah, Kevin, and Grant.

Let’s pay our respects to Mrs. Loud by reflecting on her life story. We’ll also take a closer back on ‘An American Family’, and how it altered the face of television in so many ways. It was, after all, the first real reality TV show as we know them today, to hit the airwaves. So make sure you stick around for the second half of this video to learn some little-known behind-the-scenes facts about that pioneering series.

A Loud And Vibrant Life

Loud was born and raised in Eugene, Oregon. She was the daughter of Thomas and Myrle Loud. She marries William Loud. Pat attended Stanford University in 1948 where she studied World History and English Literature. She always had an inquisitive mind. After receiving her degree, she returned back to her hometown. That’s when she introduces the man she falls in love with and eventually marries.

After tying the knot in Mexico City, the newlyweds welcome their first son into the world, Lance Russel Loud, in June of 1951.

Then four more children, moving to Santa Barbara, California, and going through a highly publicized divorce, Pat’s life was all geared up for her to take the stage for a second act of sorts. After spending some time living in an apartment in New York’s historically posh Upper East Side and taking on a new career in the book business, she relocated to Bath, England.

Wherever Pat went, an opportunity to spend an evening at her table always meant the same thing for those lucky enough to receive the invite. One could expect the food to be remarkable, the drinks to be ever-flowing and top-shelf, and the conversation to be intellectually stimulating.

She Was An Advocate

When Lance contracted HIV, Pat moved back to LA to be by his side. She was his tireless advocate for the rest of the 90s. Unfortunately, he died from complications of Hepatitis C in 2001.

Lance left behind a legacy. He was in fact the first openly gay person to appear on television. He famously – or infamously depending on who you’re asking – came out on An American Family in January of 1973. Later, he became a key individual in the LGBT+ movement. Eventually, he would even write for The Advocate, one of the nations leading LGBT magazines.

Pat was the fiery, uncompromising, straightforward matriarch of her brood. She stood up for the outsiders and misfits of the world. She wouldn’t permit bigotry or judgmental in her household. Still, she never locked her door and there was always an extra seat at her table.

She Never Backed Down

She was the kind of person that lived with no regrets. After all, they only tie one to the past and she was always looking forward to the future. Pat is popular for being boisterous yet respectful. She wasn’t afraid or ashamed of speaking her mind but she always had an open ear to listen to the thoughts and opinions of others. Somebody mistakes to confuse her confidence for haughtiness. She may have been self-assured, but she was far from cocky.

Pat loved to read, and any given morning you could catch her sipping her morning coffee while reading the New York Times and doing the crossword puzzles. She fascinates with myths and legends about the Knights Templar, obsesses with Billie Holiday and Kurt Weil, and had a particular fondness for The Mumps.

Bill Loud, her ex-husband passed away in 2018 from natural causes. Before his death, Bill Loud and Pat had lived in their cozy home together for 17 years despite the fact that they were divorce. They both grew up during the Depression and World War II, but despite living through those difficult chapters in world history, they both became vibrantly creative and independent people.

According to Pat’s family’s Facebook post announcing her death. Her last wishes were for everyone to take the time to sit down and have a meal with their family and friends. Pour a glass of wine, put on some music, tell stories, and get loud. But most importantly, she wants everyone to show each other some love.

“She would love that more than anything else” the post read.

Personally, I’ve heard very few last wishes that I can behind as much as that one. Pat Loud won’t be soon forgotten. Neither will the legacy left behind by ‘An American Family’s’.co

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And stay tuned to find out how ‘An American Family”s legacy changed the way we watch TV. Ripples of its influence are still felt today.

The First True Reality Show

Reality TV was born on January 11, 1973, when ‘An American Family’ premiered on PBS. A camera crew moved into the Santa Barbara home of Bill and Pat Loud with their five children. Several months before the show’s debut, producer Craig Gilbert embarked on a mission to document the living patterns and mentality of you’re average middle-class American household.

But instead, Gilbert captured the drama of the Loud family as Lance, their eldest son was in the process of coming out. Lance was just twenty at the time when he revealed that he was gay. It is a time when homosexuality addresses in a very hush-hush kind of way. It is the first time that the subject addresses on primetime television.

At the same time, Bill and Pat loud were also going through a very difficult transition. Their marriage of 21 years was coming to an end. And while divorce had previously been featured in television programs, this was the first time that Americans saw the process through the eyes of non-actors.

Albert Brooks made a film called “Real Life” in 1979 that parodied the trailblazing series. Two decades later MTV would launch “The Real World”, an early reality show that was inspired by ‘An American Family’. It wouldn’t be until the year 2000 that the genre would really catch on in the mainstream with the debut of “Survivor”.

PBS Took A Gamble – And Won

PBS was really strapped for cash at the time of ‘An American Family’s premiere. The network was still in its infancy. They had high hopes that the show would catch on and become a blockbuster success.Fortunately their gamble paid off. Viewers we’re fascinated by what they saw on their television screens.

Gilbert and his film team recorded over 300 hours of footage for the series in late 1971. Apparently, it took the family about a month to act naturally while in front of the cameras. At first, they were really distracted by the equipment and crew but in time they forgot that they were even there. That’s when Gilbert started getting the good candid footage that would define the series.

The Age-Old Debate

An American Family received widespread attention in the press for several months after it first aired. Critics both applauded it and panned it and the American public couldn’t stop talking about it. It’s probably one of the most contested documentaries of all time.

After the series debuted, there was quite a bit of debate whether the family was actually behaving as they would if the cameras weren’t rolling. Obviously, this is a question that comes up quite often whenever discussing reality TV shows. There are countless examples of moderns ‘reality’ shows that are far from being as genuine as they are touted to be. Selective editing and sometimes even blatant scripting has marred the reputation of shows claiming to be representations of reality.

Even back then, people accused the series of dialing up the drama just for higher ratings. But these arguments only fueled public interest. The show spawned two follow-up series. The first of which “An American Family Revisited: The Louds 10 Years Later” aired on PBS in 1991. In 2003, PBS produced “Lance Loud! A Death in an American Family”.

In 2011, HBO produced a made-for-TV movie entitled “Cinema Verite”. The film gave viewers a more dramatized look into the show’s creation. Tim Robbins and Diane Lance played Bill and Pat loud respectively and Thomas Dekker as Lance.

Some have called Pat Loud “The Mother Of Reality Television”. While that designation is undoubtedly fitting she was far more than just that. For those that knew her intimately, she was one of the finest friends that anyone could ask for and a member that anyone would want on their team. She was honest, passionate, and unrelenting in her desire to elevate the lives of those around her.

Hopefully, her family can find some peace in this solemn and heartbreaking time.

Anyway, we’d love to hear from you! Do you think An American Family gave audiences a genuine peek inside of your typical middle-America family or do you agree with critics that say that it was dramatized to increase viewership? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

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