Paul & Patty: the Stockholm Syndrome At Work

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The Seventies Are Dead

I just read the New York Times obit of J Paul Getty III.

Like most people, I had no idea that he had a stroke and was incapacitated for the last twenty or so years. Like most people, I had forgotten about him but at one time I kept up with his every move.

I knew when he was kidnapped – I knew when his ear was cut off and I knew when he returned to his, obviously, uncaring family. It was difficult for me to understand then when I read that his billionaire grandfather refused to pay the ransom for his release. At the time the old man said that if he did then all of his grandchildren would be kidnapped. Makes sense. Maybe so, but harsh nonetheless.

As a senior in high school circa 1973-74, I was long obsessed with pop culture and the TV news. I may not have heard the music I read about or watched all the movies – but I knew every detail. My favorite choice of getting the news was Rolling Stone when it was good, five or six years before it became a yuppie fashion magazine around the time that bands with skinny ties and sunken cheeks started playing three chord chung-chung-chung. (See any record by The Cars)

In 1974 my heroes were J. Paul Getty III and Patty Hearst.

Two kidnap victims.

From rich families.

These were the days before the term “Stockholm Syndrome” was in our vocabulary. I was just stunned that these families with more money than God could just write off a teenager like some piece of meat.

They sent Paul’s ear to his freaking family for God’s sake! OK, they sent it to a newspaper but it was his damned ear.

Patty came into her own as “Tanya” the machine gun toting bank robber then quietly became a housewife. Paul lost his ear and became a clothes model and drug addict. Patty parodied herself in a John Waters film. Paul had a stroke from an alcohol-induced overdose and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

There was some kind of smugness in Paul’s obituary just like the news reports of Patty’s release. Is it because they were rich?

One of my early memories was when Frank Sinatra Jr. was kidnapped and it was rumored to be a scam with him and a group of friends. He is alive and seemingly happy today so I guess it turned out OK. I guess that is why I have always had some kind of a kidnap fantasy but I have nothing to ransom or take so I think I am safe.

I am sorry to hear about Paul, he lost an ear and learned that his grandfather thought more about his foundation that retrieving a grandson. Maybe he is finally at peace.