What made Ryan O’Neal’s daughter forgive him? They were the A-list clan torn apart by drink, drugs, violence and tragedy. Now, after years of bitterness, how have Ryan ‘the monster’ and his daughter Tatum ‘the devil’ reconciled, asks TOM LEONARD
Even though it was Farrah Fawcett’s funeral, her long-time boyfriend Ryan O’Neal was not so grief-stricken that he couldn’t notice a pretty face among the fellow mourners waiting to offer their condolences.
Grabbing the young blonde around the waist and pulling her towards him in an intimate embrace, the notorious Hollywood ladykiller whispered: ‘Hey baby, got a drink on you? Want to get out of here?’
She certainly didn’t, for it was his daughter, Tatum O’Neal.
Admittedly, by the time of Charlie’s Angels star Fawcett’s death in 2009, father and daughter had been estranged for nearly 25 years. But, as she wrote in her autobiography two years later, she was still taken aback. ‘Was it possible that my own father did not recognise me? It had been a pretty long time.’
Certainly it has been a long time since any family in the entertainment world has come close to challenging the O’Neals for the crown of Hollywood’s most troubled, dysfunctional clan. The usual metaphor of ‘car crash’ hardly does justice to a disaster-plagued dynasty where the carnage is more comparable to that caused by an atomic bomb.
Tatum has claimed that alcoholism and drug addiction are in her DNA, and it’s certainly true that three generations of her family have been ravaged by a pitiful weakness for addictive substances, not to mention a self-absorbed but highly destructive hedonism.
Farrah Fawcett and her long-time boyfriend Ryan O’Neal
The precocious Tatum was ten years old when she became the youngest actor to win an Oscar, acting alongside her father in Paper Moon.
By 40, she was a crack and heroin addict, laying most of the blame, in two memoirs and a string of interviews, on a man she claims was a brutal, neglectful and permanently stoned father who introduced his children to hard drugs before they were even in their teens. For his part, Ryan, who has acknowledged his chronic drug use, has called her a ‘devil’ and ‘b****’, while her children have condemned him as a ‘monster’ and a ‘vulture’.
Then, this week, Sean McEnroe, Tatum’s son by tennis star John McEnroe, posted online a family photo that looked so unlikely it could only have been a tasteless prank knocked up on Photoshop. It showed him, his mother, his siblings, Kevin and Emily, and his 79-year-old grandfather — all in the same room, all smiling and nobody with their hands around anyone else’s throat.
‘This is one of the most memorable photos in my life,’ Sean wrote in the caption. ‘The last time we were all together was at the 30-year Paper Moon Anniversary in 2003. I could cry tears of gratitude that everyone in this photo is still alive and that we were all able to come together again after so many years of hardship.’
Sean, who is also an actor, said later: ‘It really was an ‘anything is possible’ moment. It’s really rare to have a family have this much chaos and drama over such a long span, and I think that’s actually the thing most families can relate to. That really kind of fractured, scarred family that’s having a very hard time reconciling and forging a good relationship later in life.’
His sentiments are clearly heartfelt, and a reunion that looked nigh on impossible is certainly something to cheer. However, one has to wonder how many families really can relate to the tortured saga of Ryan and Tatum O’Neal.
‘My family is fractured,’ she once wrote. ‘A stew of drama, drugs, violence and tragedy.’ And the person on whom she heaped nearly all the blame was her father.
Hand in hand: (From left) Sean McEnroe with his 79-year-old grandfather Ryan, mother Tatum, 56, and siblings Emily and Kevin
Once regarded as far and away Hollywood’s best looking man, Ryan O’Neal has proved a perfect embodiment of Shakespeare’s dictum that ‘all that glisters is not gold’.
The actor, whose own mother became addicted to painkillers she took for migraines, got married for the first time in 1963, to the beautiful actress Joanna Moore. It lasted only three years but produced Tatum, now 56, and her younger brother Griffin.
Tatum was two when her manic, pill-popping, alcoholic mother moved her and her brother to a decrepit ranch. ‘[She] virtually abandoned me and Griffin, leaving us in squalor — starving, shoeless and ragged, as well as beaten and abused by the men in her life,’ Tatum has said.
‘My mother had a 16-year-old boyfriend who beat us with switches cut from the fig tree. We were locked in the garage so long that we ate dog food to quell our hunger. We were unsupervised and wild.’
Tatum first got drunk aged six and passed out in the bathroom. By then, she says, she had already been sexually molested twice.
‘I think their fame gave them a sort of permission to deny their role as parents,’ Tatum once said.
When her mother — who died of cancer 23 years ago — was arrested for drink-driving in 1970, the children went to live with Ryan.
Unfortunately, he had just shot to mega-stardom with Love Story, the tearjerker romantic drama with Ali MacGraw, and, as he put it: ‘I didn’t take anybody with me; I went alone.’ He had little time for children, and packed his off to boarding school where Tatum got into trouble for compulsive stealing.
Tatum has said her father continually tried to humiliate her as a child and she attempted suicide three times, but he has insisted this wasn’t true. Pictured Ryan with Tatum as a baby
But when her father heard of a film script calling for a little girl, he pushed his daughter to audition and she won the role.
Paper Moon — in which Ryan played a conman who takes on the feisty orphaned daughter of a prostitute, played by Tatum — earned her a Best Supporting Actress award. She remains the youngest winner in Oscars history but, astonishingly, neither of her parents attended the ceremony.
Tatum has agreed with those who said her father was jealous, adding he was also ‘really selfish’.
Ryan, who had received a Best Actor nomination but no gong for Love Story, has agreed her sudden stardom created resentment in the family, saying: ‘Everybody hated everybody because of that Academy Award.’
Tatum says she felt enormous pressure to repeat it, but never did, although at 11 she became the highest paid child actor ever, earning $350,000 for The Bad News Bears.
In her teens, she starred in horse drama International Velvet (losing her virginity aged 14 to a stuntman on the set in Britain) and later posed topless, aged 16, in Circle Of Two with Richard Burton. Her adult career was fairly forgettable but by then she was in thrall to drugs.
She has claimed her father wanted nothing more to do with her once she hit puberty, and she lived for months at a time at the family home of one of her best friends, Vivian Kubrick, daughter of film director Stanley.
Tatum’s brother Griffin claims their father made him try cocaine when he was just 11. Ryan has insisted he didn’t. Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, Tatum’s son Kevin said Ryan once urged his mother to use cocaine to lose weight.
Tatum has confirmed she was smoking cannabis at 12 (the same age, she says, at which she was molested by her father’s drug dealer) and regularly taking cocaine by 15.
She has said her father continually tried to humiliate her as a child and she attempted suicide three times, but he has insisted this wasn’t true.
Ryan has also disputed her claims that she started taking drugs and drinking so young, saying: ‘This is not true. Eleven years, nine years old. She’s crazy. Why would she say that about herself like that?
‘I never saw her do a drug, I never saw her get drunk, I never saw her smoke or do anything.’
He told CNN: ‘She had a wonderful childhood. She met Queen Elizabeth. She travelled the world. She was a millionairess by the time she was 12.’ In the same interview, he admitted he had a temper but claimed his ‘wild’ children provoked him. (Tatum has admitted she too has a temper.)
Ryan insisted it was Tatum who deserted him, partly out of jealousy that Fawcett was monopolising his attention. He said: ‘She has made my life hard. And Farrah’s. Because I was never complete again when she left.’
Ryan has conceded he was a ‘hopeless father’, weakly complaining he was never ‘trained’ for the role.
He spent much of his time being a world-class womaniser, with lovers reportedly including Diana Ross, Anjelica Huston, Bianca Jagger, Ursula Andress, Cher and much to Tatum’s horror, her friend Melanie Griffith.
Tatum complained that her father made no attempt to be discreet and she often had to listen to their lovemaking.
In her shocking 2004 memoir, A Paper Life, she claimed she often slept in her father’s bed, even when he had women over. That included the time when, aged 12 or 13, she and Griffith, then 18, went to Paris with Ryan and she caught her friend and father in bed together.
Tatum has also claimed her hot-tempered father — who is a trained boxer — frequently hit his children, alleging he ‘socked’ her when she won an Oscar and again when The Bad News Bears beat his latest film at the box office. Ryan has admitted he fought with Fawcett but has never commented on claims he hit his children.
He dismissed Tatum’s book, saying: ‘It is a sad day when malicious lies are told in order to become a best seller.’
Ryan had two more children —Patrick by his second wife, actress Leigh Taylor-Young, and Redmond with Fawcett (whom he seduced despite her being married to his friend Lee Majors).
The pin-up pair — who have been described as the Brad and Angelina of their day — had a stormy relationship from 1979 until 1997, when she discovered him in bed with a much younger actress.
They reunited in 2001 after Ryan was diagnosed with leukaemia.
Tatum was 16 when Ryan left her and her brother to move in with Farrah Fawcett, and then saw him only periodically. She went out with Michael Jackson in her teens but married tennis star John McEnroe in 1986, aged 22.
They had three children, Kevin, Sean and Emily, but, in a depressing repetition of her own early years, their marriage collapsed acrimoniously in 1994 and, due to Tatum’s addictions, McEnroe was awarded custody of the children.
Kevin has recalled how his mother got a boyfriend and started on heroin, her weight dropping to just 6 st. In 2008, her life hit its lowest point when she was arrested in a Manhattan street buying crack cocaine.
Six years later, her son Kevin was arrested in almost the same place as he bought six bags of cocaine (which turned out to be baking powder) and dozens of prescription pills. He later admitted he had started taking drugs at 11 — much like Mum. Griffin and Redmond, have also struggled with addiction and served jail time.
Tatum, who in 2015 revealed she was now ‘mostly dating women’, claims she made repeated attempts to reconcile with her father, only for him to let her down. (At their last reunion in 2003, Ryan was reportedly ‘horrible’ to her and she cried all night.)
But they started to repair their shattered relationship in 2011 after Fawcett’s death, letting cameras record it in a reality TV series, Ryan And Tatum: The O’Neals.
‘He told me he’s sorry,’ she said of Ryan, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012. ‘He’s all I have in terms of family, and I needed him in my life.’
Even so, given last weekend’s get-together was the first for 17 years, it doesn’t sound like the O’Neals have suddenly become The Waltons.
Only five years ago Ryan ranted about Tatum on an Irish TV show: ‘I’m mad at her. She just irritates me. I don’t hate her . . . but life is a lot easier when Tatum isn’t around. She’s a devil.’
This is one love story that may still have a few more plot twists.
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