Liz Smith: Tatum and Ryan, Hollywood’s Greek Tragedy

Oscar winner Tatum O'Neal

And more from our Gossip Girl: Megan Fox — Steven Spielberg fired you, Hitler’s to blame … plus, why we love olive oil

TATUM HAD a wonderful childhood. I mean, she met Queen Elizabeth!”

That was yesteryear’s star, Ryan O’Neal on CNN with Piers Morgan the other night. Yes indeed, Ryan’s idea of a great childhood is to have the opportunity to curtsy to QE2. Even Piers, a Brit, looked a bit taken aback.

Actually, Piers looked taken aback throughout the entire agonizing hour with Ryan. The actor spoke with Piers to promote the new reality show, “The O’Neals,” that he and his daughter have filmed for Oprah’s OWN channel. (His daughter has just come out with a followup memoir, “Found: A Daughter’s Journey Home,” which documents her attempts to mend her tortured relationship with her famous dad).

I have rarely witnessed such a train wreck of emotional ups and downs as displayed by Mr. O’Neal. The duality of his nature — which Tatum has always stressed — has never been so apparent. One minute charming and possessed of some sense of humility and guilt; the next minute, a total jerk — brutal and cruel. He is still suffering mightily, he says, over the death of his longtime love Farrah Fawcett, and he appeared to be on the verge of sobs throughout the interview. But that didn’t stop him from savaging his daughter — all of his children. He essentially blamed them — especially Tatum — for Farrah’s cancer! He said his son, Redmond, wants to commit suicide because “he shamed himself so much” to his mother, Farrah. Of his son Griffin he said, “I want a DNA test on that one!” He wasn’t kidding.

Ryan simply refused to take responsibility for anything, although when Piers pressed him several times he said “he might have done things differently.” Didn’t say what, however. (Maybe not living a life of drugs in front of his own children?)

O’Neal insists Tatum won’t be satisfied until she has “stripped me bare, taken my epaulets. But … I want my epaulets.” He denies Tatum was a drug-abusing child, scoffs at her tales of teenage suicide attempts and generally dismisses her point of view. “She was cruel to Farrah, she never gave us a chance,” said Ryan. That Tatum was a sensitive teenager when Farrah swept in doesn’t enter the Ryan O’Neal equation.

And yet, together, Ryan and Tatum did this reality show, and at the end of the interview with Piers, Ryan said he wants to “make it right with Tatum” (whom he frequently calls “Farrah” and vice versa. Paging Dr. Freud.) “I have to. I have no options,” he said of a full reconciliation with his only daughter.

I was exhausted by the time this interview ended. Piers looked like he needed a stiff drink. Ryan looked like he’d already had one. It was riveting, tragic — the most compelling TV I’ve seen in ages. I simply hated it!

* * *

THE beleaguered young woman of the moment is actress Megan Fox. She is beautiful and maybe talented. I’ve seen her in three movies. She’s best known for the horror flick “Jennifer’s Body” and  two of the “Transformers” movies. I saw one of those against my better judgment. It was the worst, despite Miss Fox and leading man Shia LaBeouf (Such movies are not my cup of tea, but even the person I went with, who does like this sort of thing, said it was bad.)

Anyway, Megan was supposed to reprise her role in “Transformers 3,” but was fired. Great mystery surrounded the event. She was a diva. Director Michael Bay was a diva. Shia LaBeouf recently gave a tortured explanation as to Megan’s exit — she didn’t feel comfortable being photographed in a “sexual manner,” as per Michael Bay’s style. Since Miss Fox has never appeared to be shy in exposing her body, this didn’t ring quite true. Perhaps Shia was attempting to be gallant? (Or sexist, if you read some new feminist journals on chivalry — I told you about that the other day.)

Now, with the new “Transformers” movie about to open, the real reason Megan Fox was fired appears to have surfaced. She gave an interview to a magazine back in 2009, talking about her relationship with director Bay. She said he wasn’t easy, had a kind of Napoleon complex and behaved like “a socially retarded Hitler.” But, she said, he was fine when not in director mode. Bay now says he was amused by her remarks, but producer Steven Spielberg was not. According to Bay, Spielberg ordered her firing, instantly. And so it was done. (Bay also says, sarcastically, that he is “so sorry” he made Megan behave professionally, etc.)

Hmmmm …. Miss Fox was about 24 when she gave her fatal interview. And today’s average twentysomething hardly has a handle on the inflammatory nature of the Hitler comparison. People of all ages tend to use such references and the word “fascism” as a blanket reference for anyone who is “overbearing.” If Bay, who is Jewish, wasn’t offended, I think Mr. Spielberg maybe should have simply had a little educational chat with Megan. She might be raising funds for Israel now, instead of frolicking on the beach with her hubby Brian Austin Green.

And perhaps being fired from “Transformers” was a blessing. These are not movies in which an actor can show his chops.

What’s up for Megan? A film titled “Friends with Kids,” written and directed by the wonderful Jennifer Westfeldt of “Kissing Jessica Stein” fame. The movie co-stars Jon Hamm (Miss Westfeldt’s beloved), Ed Burns, Kristin Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Chris O’Dowd.

It’s better than screaming and running away from giant robots, I think.

* * *

I DON’T know about you — but reading the papers, watching TV news and commentary and following events on the Internet are making me so depressed by unrelenting negativity that at times, I just want to get in bed with my hat on and stay there.

But here, at last, is some good news! Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, has looked at the medical records of over 7,600 people ages 65 to 70.

Considering diet, physical activity, body mass index and other risk factors for stroke, it seems that a diet rich in olive oil will lower the risk of a stroke more than a third. Oil for cooking, salads and use in bread offers them a 41% chance of avoiding a stroke. Olive oil also protects against high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity. Now, we’ve known about the benefits of olive oil for years, but this encouraging statistic is brand new. 41%!

Put down that butter knife!

18 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Jody says:

    I’ve believed for years that Ryan O’Neal is missing the “compassion” gene. I was just a kid when I saw Tatum playing a Bad News Bear. I think she’s slightly older than me, but close enough that I always felt sort of sorry for her over the years as I would learn things about her life through the news, etc. It’s amazing the girl is even half-way “normal” at all. People like Mr. O’Neal never learn how completely absent from life they truly are. He’s either incapable, or doesn’t want to know. Either way, it’s of my unprofessional opinion that Tatum is better off letting it go. She doesn’t need him, but some day, he may need her. When he is old, frail, and his health is fading, he may want her there. Even then, I don’t believe he will get it. It’s a shame. But, as long as Tatum gets it, she’ll be just fine. All the best to her and her family.

  2. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    Ryan O’Neal is no different, really, than Mel Gibson. His comments speak for themselves. As do the comments of Mel Gibson.  The adorable bad boys. Who never really were adorable. 

    As for Steven Spielberg it sounds like he’s another victim of his own hubris.  And of his own Napolean complex. And is a little too senstive about Hitler. And the comparisons that are made. Including no doubt about him at times although for the obvious reason never publicly. 

    Did Steven Spielberg raise any objections to Mel Gibson’s comments? Of course not.

  3. avatar rick gould says:

    Ryan O’Neal is just another car on the Hollywood crazy train..
    Right up there with Tony Curtis: The aging leading man-child who was a lousy husband and father… and blames them for the mess. And rails against Hollywood for forgetting them. Van Johnson was another… Eddie Fisher… And Charlie Sheen will join that pantheon when his children become adults…
    Hollywood is great at enabling middle-aged children who don’t want to grow up. As long as they rake in the money, that is. Neverland, indeed…

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Rick..

      Well, Mr. O’Neal hasn’t raked anything in for Hollywood in decades.  Even he admits that.  Quite a pathetic figure now.

      You may know more than I do, but I never recall Van Johnson complaining over-much publicly, or being anywhere near the self-destructive mess as were/are  Tony and Eddie and Charlie.  Eddie mostly complained about how badly Miss Taylor treated him–while he obviously continued to adore her.  On that, he had a point. 

      • avatar rick gould says:

        Well, I watched some of those clips of Ryan on YouTube… he is nuts!
        And from the interviews Tatum has given and what she has written, I think she tries to be a straight shooter…but when you’ve been raised by a man like that…sheesh!

        Van Johnson wasn’t as kooky as Curtis or O’Neal, but from what I’ve read (his step-son wrote a scathing but seemingly accurate book of that era) and seen (Johnson’s latter day petulant interviews), Van always had to be the man. Or, more to the point, the baby of the family. Considering he went along with MGM busting up his best friend’s marriage, so that VAN could marry the wife as a gay cover is pretty sad.

        I have always found “Crybaby” Eddie, as my Mom always called him, very annoying in his lamenting how Debbie and Liz “ruined” him. I get the criticism. Tough ladies… and survivors. But he never gave credit that Debbie raised his children without any parental or financial help or that Liz financially supported him and even bailed him out once AFTER their marriage. It was after his SECOND tell-all came out that Carrie Fisher called him out on his tacky behaviour to turn a buck.

        My point, the press and people always like to point at the Marilyns and Lindsays of the business, how actresses in Hollywood can’t cope. Well, some of the Peter Pans of Hollywood are just as sad…

  4. avatar wlaccma says:

    Saw Joy Bahar interview Tatum. It was sad. Why does she want anything to do with this creepy man who is her father? Sounds like she has pulled her life together finally and is enjoying her own children. Walk away from this mess of a man and concentrate on being a good mother. Her husband was no prize either.

  5. avatar Mr. Wow says:

    Dear wlaccma…

    Because he is her father.  Some people cannot walk away, no matter how bad the situation.  But unlike her father, Tatum has suffered agonies of guilt, not agonies of being unfairly persecuted. 

    And yes, she walked straight from the abusive father into marriage to a man of very similar temperment.  

    • avatar cb says:

      Exactly. As the daughter of a similarly charismatic but wildly…. complicated, difficult, inappropriate (insert your own best descriptive here) father, trust me… whether they deserve it or not, we are still their little girls. Right to the bitter end. If ever there was anyone I’d like to give a nice big hug to, it’s Tatum. And tell her to find a way to say “to H#ll with him. Easier said than done, but seriously… TO H#LL WITH HIM.

      • avatar Mr. Wow says:

        Dear CB..

        Although recently she has seemed (and looked) less tormented,  there is something in Tatum’s face…I cry whenever I see her.  All the hurt is right there, in the eyes and the mouth. 

  6. avatar Mary says:

    Everyone wants to have parents that are attentive to their needs and love them unconditionally.  We all want the commercialized family who best represents the Hallmark version of family.  Unfortunately this is rare and esp. seems to be rare in HOllywood.  Maybe it is best if Tatum just accepts that Ryan is her father and he will not change.  I hope she will find her own happiness and make her own family that represents stability.  It is possible to do without him.

  7. avatar Laura Ward says:

    O’Neal is a trully awful father. He doesn’t seem to like, let alone love, any of his kids.

    Carrie Fisher took care of her father Eddie in his final days. Eddie knew he didn’t deserve it and Carrie felt someone comforted with that knowledge.

    Maybe that will happen with Tatum. She’s been through too much with this awful man who’s her father, Ryan O’Neal, whom she’s still trying to get his love. He’s not worth it.

  8. avatar Maggie W says:

    No fan of Piers, I somehow stumbled across that interview with Ryan .  I had not seen or heard about the man in years.  Gawdalmighty.  What a horror show.  There was yet another middle aged druggie who fried his brain years ago and trying to get his few active brain cells to function in a positive light.   I switched it off after a few minutes of off-and-on ” Why is she doing this to me?” blubbering.  

    Heck, “Locked Up Abroad” is even better entertainment.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Maggie…

      I hate to admit it, but I am semi-addicted to “Locked Up Abroad.”  Maybe it’s the stupidity of these people, and my smug feeling it could never have happened to me.
      As for Ryan—just what the hell was in that coffee cup? 

  9. avatar Richard Bassett says:

    With Tatum, it is simply a consequence of living within a dysfunctional home. On and off record, she grew up with three mothers. The real one. Ryan’s second wife, Leigh Taylor Young…and most important (in terms of longevity), Farrah Fawcett. Ryan was the perpetual bad boy of the 1960’s. His fame started with “Peyton Place” in 1964 and for the next seventeen years lived a wonton life. He was also very young and the Hollywood life can be very alluring when ‘making it big’. Especially in the 1960’s. Especially being a 23 year old man. He left the stability of his first wife Joanne and Tatum (born before he was a star) to become a Hollywood player. His romances and marriage to Young were played out in the press until he met Farrah in 1982. And even then the headlines never ended. Tatum just didn’t have Ryan as a father figure, as he was too busy living like Warren Beatty. Per usual in these dysfunctional families, drugs played an important role (either publicly or privately) throughout the years. Tatum had to watch her famous (thank you Love Story) father live like this for twenty years before he found Farrah. I do not know if there was a substitute stable father figure for Tatum during this period but now, Ryan (70) and Tatum (38), the dust has settled so all the stories and skeletons come out from hiding. I believe Ryan has resigned himself regarding regarding his career (his erratic behavior has always been there, bipolar or just high strung) and Tatum (who I believe did not marry a carbon copy of a father who she never knew and if she did, it was subconscious) is looking to resurrect her career (a dozen years after McEnroe) now that her marital dust has settled with him, as well. After all of this rebellion, I believe that it exhausts all involved and an attempt at making peace is easier made. After all, Tatum is almost 40. Even later in life, Ryan did not raise an angel. Redmond (his son with Farrah) is in jail (or maybe out by now) dealing with drugs. Ryan concentrated on his career for twenty years, then Farrah for thirty years, Farrah was about Farrah…and the children were left wandering around themselves. They were kids of Hollywood parents so the party doors quickly opened for them. Farrah, throughout the years, never really changed…even after cancer. Having both parents die of cancer, I found it difficult to watch that documentary. There was no happy ending. Even Ryan had his own problems with leukemia (now in remission) while Farrah had cancer so life fell apart for them. I will not say that it is karma but they were forced to face life in the most serious way. After decades, I’m as glad ,as anyone can be, that they have patched up their differences but this is done every day to millions of people. We just do not see it on TV.

  10. avatar Mr. Wow says:

    Dear Richard…

    But, alas, they have not patched up their differences.  He is ruthlessly determined to reject anything from Tatum.  As far as he is concerned, she sprang full blown from the head of Zeus, and he abdicates all responsibility for her traumas. 

    That they have not appeared together to promote the reality series speaks volumes. 

    He is a tragic figure now.  Somewhere, down deep (as deep as it can go) he knows he did wrong. 

    The denial of his son Griffin was the worst thing I’ve ever heard. 

    • avatar Richard Bassett says:

      I can see, in an oblique way, a father and son smoking pot together…usually the father is a left over hippie, but Ryan and Griffin doing ‘crystal meth’ together is as entire different matter. Especially a year before Farrah passed away! Ryan’s success was overnight with ‘Peyton Place’ in September 1964. A new Hollywood decadent/drug/bar hopping scene seemed to instantly form…and Ryan wanted every aspect of it. The last thing he wanted was children and Griffin was born in October 1964. Ryan was 23!  No wonder Tatum and Griffin were such a mess growing up, and Redmond came twenty years later…with such fine role models.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      I saw the interview last night and was shocked by his comment about Griffin but really was shocked by the hubris of it all.  Particularly with regard to Farrah who honestly was no angel. She had issues herself apart from the “family” and of course one of those issues was Redmond who followed the pattern of Griffin and Tatum.  He and Griffin shared the unfortunate reality of parents covering up their own issues by covering up the issues of the child. Redmond was in court in Houston. Farrah’s “fame” as well as her money bought him an odd sort of probation in which once it is completed the record is expunged. Redmond apparently went back to Los Angeles and ended up on heroin. Which the court in Houston somehow “overlooked.”  And shouldn’t have. They can expunge the record. But people knew. And people remember.  Instead of “poor Farrah” the court should have thought about “poor Redmond” and sent him on to jail where he ended up anyway. It might have woken him up to the reality of the road he was on. 

      I think the most horrendous part of the interview was his blaming his children for her cancer and her death.  What about all the stress he caused her?

      And now the Warhol.  She left all the art to the University of Texas.  And there it was for all to see.  On “Life with the O’Neals.”  No doubt he will claim she gave it to him. And keep it.

  11. avatar Karen Ferguson says:

    The report on Ryan O’Neill may be just a few paragraphs, no more than a blink in Liz Smith’s grand career, but it encapsulates just why she’s so good. Precise, efficient, funny and sensitive all at once, together with a good, accurate Texan moral compass. Boy, I’ve loved her reports since Live at 5 and one of my happiest moments, after I moved to Paris, was seeing her cross the Champs Elysees just before Christmas in the early 80s. She later reported that Paris had no Christmas decorations –I was bereft those first years!– but boy has that changed. I still find myself looking out for her at the holiday season and hope she’ll come back to see the new century’s cascade of Christmas lights.