By Robert W. Dalton
Pat Patterson ’92 has donned flowing gowns and flowing wigs and entertained people under the name Patti O’Furniture for 22 years.
For one night this past May, his brother, Olin Patterson, a former Wofford employee, slipped into a dress and joined him on stage.
The bond between the brothers and the preparation leading up to that performance was one of the storylines on the second-season premiere of the HBO documentary series “We’re Here” on Monday, Oct. 11. Pat Patterson hosted a public viewing, attended by about 200 people, at Barnet Park in Spartanburg. The episode can be viewed on the HBO Max app.
“That was a huge act of generosity and love,” Pat says of Olin’s participation. “It shows how much my little brother loves me.”
Work on the episode began in 2020, the series’ first season, but production was shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The cast and crew returned to Spartanburg the first week of May. HBO hired Wofford graduates Mary Thalassinos ’20 and Sammy Verdino ’21 to work on the crew.
After joining Pat onstage to introduce the episode, Olin brought out a picture of their late mother, Liz Patterson, a former U.S. representative for South Carolina and Wofford College trustee.
“Without her, none of this would be happening,” Olin says.
Pat and Olin sat side-by-side while the images flashed on the inflatable screen. Olin was moved to tears by one scene in which he talked about sticking up for his brother.
Olin says he and his brother were already close, but this experience drew them even closer.
“For me to step out of my comfort zone and live in his shoes for an hour was hard,” says Olin, who worked in Wofford’s maintenance department for several years after giving professional golf a try on the mini tour circuits. “I was scared I’d get ostracized, but I wanted to support my brother. Family comes first.”
Pat says he initially expected “We’re Here” to be a series that just showcased different drag performers. After watching the first episodes, he says he realized the series has the potential to change lives.
“Maybe someone will see my brother and everything that he did, and they can be more accepting,” Pat says. “Or if there are kids who are feeling different, they’ll realize that there are people out here like them, and they won’t commit suicide or hurt themselves with drugs. Whether it’s Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; Temecula, California; or Spartanburg, South Carolina, we’re here.”