Scott Fitzgerald set his high society saga, The Great Gatsby, here. Helicopters carrying paparazzi, desperate to snatch a shot of the wedding, circled above St Dominic's Catholic church.
Clad in a white, Victorian-style high-necked wedding gown, and with a crown of pure white roses and delicate lilies of the valley atop her golden curls, actress Tatum O'Neal, the youngest Oscar winner in history, was every inch the personification of eternal love and happy-ever-after. Now 44, her once-beautiful face has become old before its time, ravaged with lines, furrowed by the debauchery of all her years of hard living.
This may well be the final chapter in a life riddled by drugs, sex and a propensity for living extremely close to the edge. In many ways, Tatum O'Neal's life resembles a Greek tragedy. It opens with so much hope and promise, yet winds up in darkness, depravity and deep, abiding unhappiness. Born blessed, Tatum was the only daughter of Ryan O'Neal, the matinee idol whose starring role in 's Love Story caused a whole generation of women to fall hopelessly in love with him.
But before all these high-profile flings, Ryan married Tatum's mother, actress Joanna Moore, in It was a partnership doomed to end in disaster. Joanna was flagrantly unfaithful to O'Neal and he, in turn, was violent to her. The marriage lasted four years and, after their divorce, Ryan remarried within weeks. Joanna was similarly quick to move on from the train wreck of her marriage. According to Tatum, when she and her younger brother, Griffin, were children, Joanna took a year-old lover, whom Tatum, in her memoirs, calls Seth a pseudonym.
Early on, Griffin and I discovered his cruel streak. Since rats can swim, it took a very long time, and it completely freaked us out,' she recalled. Worse still was the fact that Joanna was drinking, taking drugs and living out a wild, erotic existence with her young lover, leaving Tatum and Griffin to their own devices. Tatum O'Neal leaves court this week When she was six, Tatum was sexually abused by one of her mother's friends.
At this point, their absent father, Ryan, finally came to Tatum and Griffin's rescue and moved them in with him. By rights, little Tatum should have found safety and security with her father, but that was far from the case.
He was a deeply angry and insecure man. One instance of his wrath happened after he had put forward ten-year-old Tatum for a role in the film Paper Moon. He was also starring in it, but when Tatum's superlative performance won her an Academy Award, he exploded in jealousy and hit her.
Or a backhand, or a throwing out of the car, or whatever. It was rough, just rough around the house. He not only took her to Hugh Hefner's Playboy mansion, where sex and debauchery was rampant, but she also slept in the same bed as him and his girlfriends. Tatum says that she remained Ryan's companion on the Hollywood party circuit, growing inured to sex and drugs before she was in her teens.
If she wasn't in bed with her father and his sexually alluring girlfriends, she was in another room, listening to the sounds of his love-making. So accustomed was she to the various permutations of adult sexuality that, by the age of 12, Tatum had already had sex with another woman.
When she was 15 and struggling with a weight problem, her father went so far as to tell her to use cocaine as a way of combating it. Through it all, she was continually compelled to grapple with her father's escalating cruelty and violence towards her.
After she was late for a tennis game, she recalls: Everything Griff did seemed to provoke Dad, especially winning at pool. Most of the time I couldn't protect Griffin from my father.
He was always covered in bruises, which he'd account for with crazy stories about falling downstairs. In despair, she began to lead a cocaine-fuelled life, escaping the reality of her star-crossed existence.
Her usage was so heavy that her weight plummeted to just six stone. It was only when she met the great love of her life, John McEnroe, that happiness entered her life. She was 22 when they wed. At that time, McEnroe, 26, was the world's No. Then she made a sinister discovery. One day, alone in the New York apartment which she and John shared, she opened his safe. In it, she found drugs, some pills and at least an ounce of cocaine.
Soon, Tatum, too, was secretly availing herself of John's drug stash, going so far as to take them on her own. However, thankfully, she drew the line at taking drugs during her pregnancy. After her first son, Kevin, she gave birth to two other children, Sean and Emily. McEnroe, however, began to exhibit signs of being jealous of his own children. According to Tatum, McEnroe was sullen and resentful if she didn't have a nanny constantly present so he could command all her attention. As McEnroe's stellar career began to falter, he took out his frustration on Tatum.
I scrambled to my feet and backed down the stairs as John came raging after me. Initially, the couple shared custody of their children. She not only snorted cocaine, but took heroin, too. Tatum made attempts to kick her drug habit in , when she checked into New York's Beth Israel hospital, and again in , when she spent three months in rehab.
And I'm so terribly sad that Emily walked into that room. I'll regret it until the day I die,' says Tatum. Her remorse, however, didn't last long.
McEnroe won custody of their children because of Tatum's drug use and unreliable behaviour. Three years ago, however, Tatum claimed she was drug-free.
She was tested for drug use on a regular basis and appeared to have beaten the addictions which had eaten up so much of her life. Her abstinence, however, ended on Sunday evening when she was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance. She reportedly asked the arresting officer: Tatum O'Neal is a broken woman. And for this, her abusive parents, who set the wheels of her self-destruction in motion, must bear the everlasting blame.
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