Pat Loud, Mother of ‘An American Family,’ Dies at 94

Pat Loud, the matriarch of the show “An American Family,” which is considered the first reality series on American television, died Sunday. She was 94.

A representative for Loud confirmed her death to Variety, and the news was posted to the official Loud Family Facebook page.

“With inconsolable sorrow, we are sad to share the news with friends and family that on Sunday January 10 at 1:55pm PT, Pat Loud passed away peacefully in her sleep of natural causes,” the Loud Family’s post reads. “She was snuggled up safe in her comfy home, attended by loving children Michele, Delilah, Kevin and Grant.”

Loud made history as part of “An American Family,” a 1973 PBS television documentary created by Craig Gilbert that is often cited as the first American reality series. The series followed Loud, her husband, Bill, and their five children as they went about their daily lives in Santa Barbara, Calif. The show also documented the separation and subsequent divorce of Loud and her husband, as well as the coming out of their son, Lance, who is credited as the first openly gay television personality.

Born in Eugene, Ore. in 1926, Loud attended Stanford University and earned degrees in world history and English literature. She then returned to her hometown and married Bill. Their first son, Lance, was born in 1951. After welcoming four more children, the family moved to Santa Barbara in 1962, where they would begin their stint on television. Following the show’s end, Loud moved to New York’s Upper East Side and began a career as a writer, penning two books: “Pat Loud: A Woman’s Story” in 1974 and “Lance Out Loud” in 2012. In 2011, HBO premiered “Cinema Verite,” a fictionalized interpretation of “An American Family” starring Tim Robbins as Bill, Diane Lane as Pat, Thomas Dekker as Lance and James Gandolfini as Gilbert.

Loud also lived in Bath, England for a time, and moved back to Los Angeles in the ’90s to be with Lance when he was diagnosed as HIV positive. Lance died from complications due to Hepatitis C in 2001, and Bill died in 2018 of natural causes.

“Pat Loud was a fierce, inflexible, forthright matriarch and loyal champion of outsiders and iconoclasts. Her door was never locked and there was always room at her table,” the Loud Family said. “Never one for regrets or reflection, she moved forward in life with enthusiasm and courage. A letter from her often closed simply, ‘Excelsior!’”

Loud is survived by her children Kevin, Grant, Delilah and Michele.

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