PATTI D’ARBANVILLE-QUINN IS frantically prepping for a big party, and her vacuum cleaner is in need of last rites. But everything else in her sprawling house on Long Island’s North Shore is very much alive. Upstairs, she goes over some home improvements with Ted the painter. Downstairs, having removed the glue that son Liam, 2, applied to the hair of daughter Alexandra, 3, she simultaneously welcomes daughter Emmelyn, 4, home from preschool and fields phone calls from the production offices of her two TV shows, Fox’s New York Undercover and ABC’s My So-Called Life. Husband Terry Quinn, a New York City firefighter, is on another line in the kitchen, cooking up a possible business deal as well as a huge vat of tomato sauce for the bash. “I finally have everything I wanted,” says D’Arbanville, 43. “It took me a little while, but it was worth the wait.”
D’Arbanville’s arrival in this personal and professional comfort zone comes after two decades of a wild life on two continents, a pair of failed marriages (the first in 1975 to French actor Roger Mirmont and another in 1980 to actor Steve Curry), a battle with heroin (“self-sabotaging,” she says) and a highly publicized romance—which produced son Jesse, now 12—with actor Don Johnson. “Many of the people from my old days,” she says, “are surprised I’m still alive.”
Let alone thriving. On the Manhattan set of Undercover, a cop drama in which she plays stern and sassy Lt. Virginia Cooper, D’Arbanville isn’t sure her past has caught up with her costars Michael DeLorenzo, 29, and Malik Yoba, 27. “Mostly they think I’m a matronly mom type,” she says with a laugh. “If they only knew.” Uh, Patti, the rookies have cracked the case. “Patti’s the real deal,” says DeLorenzo. “Been there, done that. There’s nothing she hasn’t seen and no pretense about her. She’s all that and a bag of chips.” Meaning, he thinks she’s cool.
Been there, done that is right. D’Arbanville and her two brothers grew up in a “normal, average dysfunctional family” in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Her father, George, was a bartender who gambled, and her mother, Jean, was a graphic artist who drank. “I grew up pretty fast and just wanted out,” she says. After leaving home at 15, she played a minor role in Andy Warhol’s movie Flesh, then spent the next decade swinging between Paris, where she modeled and made eight films, and London, where she partied and was the girlfriend of singer Cat Stevens. “I was having the time of my life,” D’Arbanville says. “But I always wanted a family because I’d left my own so early.” Her two marriages didn’t solve that problem.
She returned to the U.S. in 1977, toting a two-year heroin addiction. “I had a little voice in me that said, ‘Don’t do this,’ but I just told it to shut up,” she says. The next year, when a friend forced her to go cold turkey, she listened. Her career, which had apparently peaked in 1979 when she appeared with Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal in The Main Event, rebounded in the late ’80s with showy roles in the movie Wired, in which she played dealer Cathy Evelyn Smith, and the CBS series Wiseguy (she played sexy music mogul Amber Twine).
But it is her four-year (1981-85) liaison with Johnson that stubbornly remains her best-known credit. “It was a short episode that escalated into a big deal,” she says of their affair. “Except for producing my son, it was a minor relationship.” Jesse lives now in Aspen with Johnson, who was awarded physical custody after a 1993 court fight. Johnson declines comment.) “I believe my son belongs with me,” says D’Arbanville, who sees him during school and summer vacations. “But he’s ensconced with his friends and school. He’s happier there.”
For D’Arbanville, Mr. Really Right is Terry Quinn, 34, whom she met through mutual friends in 1989. The Brooklyn-bred fireman had two sons ‘ (Terry, now 14, and James, 11) and co-owned several successful Manhattan nightspots filled with women, none of whom, he says, were “as interesting or as smart as Patti,” whose name he had tattooed on his arm.
D’Arbanville, who has seven tattoos of her own, including a gothic “Terry” on her ankle, happily settled into raising a family with Quinn, who was in the process of divorcing. Between having kids—D’Arbanville and Quinn wed in 1993—she continued working, playing a wacko murderer on the soap Another World and a vampy hotelier in last year’s ill-fated series South Beach. “I’ve been incredibly lucky,” says the actress. “Every time I’ve come back, my career has been there. I get to do this, then go home to Terry and the kids.”
Back on Long Island, her three kids are clamoring for a walk in the rain. Leaving the yard, they march through the gate of a white picket fence, a symbol of their mother’s newfound domesticity. “It wasn’t here originally,” D’Arbanville says proudly. “I put it there.”