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Kitchener-Waterloo Record (14/Sep/1992) - Anthony Perkins of Psycho fame dies of AIDS at 60



Anthony Perkins of Psycho fame dies of AIDS at 60

Anthony Perkins, the haunting, lanky character actor who achieved his greatest fame as deranged motel keeper Norman Bates in the classic Hitchcock thriller Psycho, died Saturday of complications of AIDS.

Perkins, 60, died peacefully in his Hollywood home in the company of his wife, Berry Berenson Perkins, and two sons, Osgood, 18, and Elvis, 16, according to spokeswoman Leslee Dart. However, the spokeswoman said she was unaware of how long Perkins had been ill or how he might have contracted the AIDS virus.

Long regarded as a private, even mysterious figure in Hollywood, Perkins managed to keep his illness a secret even to the end, addressing it only in a personal statement prepared shortly before his death.

"I chose not to go public about (having AIDS) because, to misquote Casablanca, "I'm not much at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of one old actor don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world," Perkins said.

Elaborating on his experiences with AIDS, he added, "There are many who believe that this disease is God's vengeance, but I believe it was sent to teach people how to love and understand and have compassion for each other.

"I have learned more about love, selflessness and human understanding from the people I have met in this great adventure in the world of AIDS than I ever did in the cutthroat, competitive world in which I spent my life."

The product of a tormented childhood, Perkins' film career was most noted for roles that brought out the darker sides of human nature, in particular the series of four Psycho films. In those films, as in life, Perkins was tense, repressed, a man of few words.

Later in his life, Perkins talked candidly about the psychological torment he suffered as the only child of 1930s stage and film star Osgood Perkins.

During his early years, his father was frequently gone, traveling with theatre productions or filming in Hollywood. Young Perkins, who remained at home in Manhattan, grew "abnormally" attached to his mother, Janet, and became "jealous" whenever his father returned, he told People Magazine.

He wished his father would die — and suddenly, when Perkins was 5, his father did die, of a heart attack, saddling the child with a crushing guilt, which poisoned his relationship with his mother.

"I assumed that my wanting (my father) to be dead had actually killed him," Perkins told writer Brad Darrach in 1983. "I prayed and prayed for my father to come back. I remember long nights of crying in bed. For years, I nursed the hope that he wasn't really dead. He became a mythic being to me, to be dreaded and appeased."

His mother — who had a habit of touching him in seemingly erotic ways — became a source of dread to him, in part because of his guilt over his father's death, he said.

Perkins' film career began in 1953, when he appeared alongside Spencer Tracy, Teresa Wright and Jean Simmons in The Actress. He made his Broadway stage debut in the 1954 hit, Tea and Sympathy, in which he won praise for his portrayal of a sensitive adolescent.

The high point of his career came in 1960, when his agent told him of the fateful call from Alfred Hitchcock, who was then making the first — and most famous — of the Psycho films.

Privately, Perkins' emotional troubles continued to plague him. In a later interview, he described how fame brought him the attentions of numerous leading women, whose advances left him "shook up" and scared.

Once in Paris, for example, Brigitte Bardot invited him to her penthouse, making clear her intentions, Perkins said. "Sooner than get close to her," he admitted, "I would have crashed through the window and fallen to the pavement 10 stories below."

He admitted to having a homosexual encounter, but described "that kind of sex" as "unsatisfying." He went through intensive psychotherapy and, at age 39, had his first close relationship with a woman.

Two years later, at 41, Perkins married his wife, Berry, then 25, and settled down. Though friends predicted the 1973 marriage would not last long, it became the primary steadying influence on him.