Doing the Derby While Weathering Red-Carpet Dangers Galore

Why you should care

Because when life gives you lemons, you make a mint julep.

Back in 2015, I was invited to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby and festivities. Whenever I get to lend my name to raise money for a good cause, it’s something I like to do, especially for kids. Tammy and Tonya York do “Blessings in Bags,” where they have backpacks for kids, so there are lots of reasons to go to the Kentucky Derby, other than the races.

I was staying with my friends Tina and Ed List. Anthony Turk, my publicist, was with me, and so was Fain Brooks. (I’m dropping those names because they’re so involved with the Derby.) We were at the Unbridled Ball, and I was walking down the red carpet. Just as I had reached the end of the line a photographer said, “Patrika, could you step back so we can see the train of your dress?”

I stepped back, caught my heel in my train and did one of those ass-over-teakettle falls where it is legs to heaven. I yelled, “Please don’t take pictures of my Spanx!” People came running from every which way, because when a large lady in a royal-purple gown goes down people come out of the woodwork. It was mortifying, but I scrambled up.

Anthony asked, “Are you OK?”

“I’m OK, but I think I hurt my wrist,” I said.

 

By this point my wrist was throbbing. I finished the red carpet and it was decided that I needed to go to the emergency room. So we got whisked to the Jewish Hospital, my publicist in a full tuxedo and me in a royal-purple gown with a train, and bags of ice hanging from my arm.

He yelled at me, “Listen here, lady.  The fact that these people know who you are is a blessing, and it is going to get us back in time for the entrées. Keep quiet!” 

When we walked in, the young lady at the front desk didn’t even look up. Anthony said, “I think she’s broken her arm.”  

“Well, I’m going to need to see her insurance,” the lady said. She raised her head, looked at me for the first time and let out a scream. “Oh my God!” she shrieked. “You’re Nancy on Days of Our Lives!”

By this point she was almost having a heart attack, which freaked us all out, including everyone else in the waiting room.  

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Patrika Darbo smiles for the camera, despite the pain, at Louisville’s Jewish Hospital while hoping she hasn’t broken her wrist (she has).

I was whisked to another room, where three more nurses came running in to see Nancy from Days of Our Lives. One got out her phone and started taking pictures, asking if I would please talk to her mother because her mother was going to be so excited. So I was answering phones, talking to people on phones, my hand was still in ice, they were trying to get a doctor and then yet another nurse came in.

Trying not to cry, I said to Anthony, “My wrist really hurts! I don’t want to do this anymore!”

At which point he yelled at me, “Listen here, lady. The fact that these people know who you are is a blessing, and it is going to get us back in time for the entrées. Keep quiet!” 

So I shut up, talked to a few more people and took a few more pictures. Then the doctor came in and said that he was going to take X-rays, but because my wrist was quite swollen, he didn’t know whether he’d be able to see anything. Then he said, “I don’t know who in the hell you are, but you’ve caused quite a bit of excitement around here.”

In the end, the X-rays didn’t help. The doctor couldn’t tell whether or not my wrist was broken because of the swelling, so they gave me a brace. Anthony and I made it back in time for the entrées and all of the celebrations. Everybody was having such a good time that they wanted to go out afterward, and to keep me happy (or just quiet) they kept plying me with liquor. By the time we got home, my wrist was about the size of my thigh. I didn’t make it to all of the hoopla the next day, and the Derby went on without me.

I mean, I had been before and it’s very thrilling. I’d advise everyone to go, for the festivities alone. There have been so many tragedies at Santa Anita that you just hope it never happens anyplace else. But the Unbridled Ball and taking care of kids is important, so go and enjoy the celebration even if you never make it to enjoying the race.

I’m a Southern girl, so I can recommend that you go on down there, have a great time and be sure to have a mint julep. Enjoy the people, enjoy the place.

When I got back to Los Angeles, my doctor determined that my wrist really was broken, so he put a cast on it immediately, and that cast stayed on for six weeks. Now when a designer asks to dress me for the Emmys, the first thing my publicist says is, “No trains! She will have no trains.” So my dresses don’t have trains anymore.

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