Ever since Keith Olbermann left MSNBC, we have missed his "Worst Person in the World" nightly feature. I attempt in my own feeble way to fill in this lacunae with the story of Ryan O'Neal -- alleged drug abuser, child beater, girlfriend threatener, child sexual. . . intimidator, and self-idolator who turned Farrah Fawcett's death into a paean to himself. What a guy!

 

The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, May 29, 2011. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.

Worst Person in the World!

Ever since Keith Olbermann left his 8 PM evening show on MSNBC, we have been deprived of his nightly list titled "Worst Person in the World!", including three people selected from among Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, and the occasional mass murderer who intruded on this group of conservative notables.

Where have ye gone, Keith? How will we fill this void?

My suggestion is -- no, not Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is revealed each day to have had another affair, groped another woman, and intimidated another potential whistleblower.  I humbly nominate -- Ryan O'Neal.

O'Neal you know was a leading Hollywood star whose early career (O'Neal is now 70) featured his performances in "Love Story," "What's Up, Doc?", and "Paper Moon," all released in the early 1970s.

After that, O'Neal's career was mainly known for his drug busts, run-ins with family members, and long tortured relationship with Farrah Fawcett.  Here are the top six feature events of his post-"Paper Moon" life.

6.  Beating up Redmond. In January, 2008 Ryan O'Neal punched his 22-year-old son Redmond, knocking him out (Ryan was an amateur boxer), during a violent argument in the Los Angeles gym the Oscar nominee owns, after Redmond's 12th stint in rehab.

5.  Shooting at Griffin. In February of 2007, Ryan fired a gun in his home in the vicinity of his other son, Griffin, in a scene that included Redmond being tied up in a dog run, Griffin swinging a fire poker at his father (according to Ryan), and instead hitting Griffin's pregnant girlfriend.  Just an average day at the O'Neal household!

4.  Ruining Tatum. Tatum O'Neal was the youngest-ever Academy Award winner as Ryan's ten-year-old co-star in "Paper Moon."  It was all downhill for Tatum after that, as she detailed in her memoir, A Paper Life. Among the horrifying details Tatum described was her father's constant emotional and physical abuse, fueled by his drug use, leading -- after marrying and divorcing tennis star John McEnroe, with whom she has three children -- to her heroin addiction and her arrest, in 2008, for allegedly attempting to buy crack.  In response to her memoir, O'Neal, issued a statement, "It is a sad day when malicious lies are told in order to become a 'best-seller'."

3.  Abusing other women. As in the prosecution of the Mob, we often encounter the problem that the people testifying against the defendant have so much to hide themselves -- which is the case with the three O'Neal children.  Fortunately, this problem is solved by the appearance in Ryan's life of the younger sister of his girlfriend, Anjelica Huston, Allegra Huston, as detailed in Allegra's memoir, "Love Child." The daughters of legendary film director John Huston, Allegra was less beautiful and charismatic than her sister, and as a result was largely neglected by John -- which, in her case, worked well for her. Allegra became a skilled editor and average person who interacted with Hollywood royalty through her father or Anjelica.

One such interaction was with Anjelica's boyfriend, Ryan O'Neal. When Allegra was a kid, she came to live with Anjelica and Ryan: "When I was alone with him in the car, Ryan rested his right hand on my thigh, the same way he rested it on Anjel's when she was in the passenger seat. 'You don't mind, do you?' he asked me once."

On another occasion, sitting in Tatum's bedroom with Griffin. "Suddenly Anjel ran in and slid open the closet door. 'Don't tell him I'm in here,' she whispered to us. She looked really afraid. She was shaking. 'If he asks, don't tell him please.'"

But here's a scene to conjure with:

"Allegra!" A barking shout from above.

I went to the foot of the stairs. "Yes, Ryan?"

"Bring me some soup. And a Coke."

Soup was always Campbell's tomato. Coke was always on ice, with a half lemon squeezed into it.

I heated the soup, poured it into a bowl, put the tall glass of Coke beside it, carried the tray upstairs, and set it on the bed in front of Ryan. He took a spoonful.

"Where's the pepper." It wasn't really a question.

"Sorry, I'll go get it. . ."

He stood up. He seemed bigger than usual.  I took a step back. His hand were clenched into half fists.

"Get down those stairs before I throw you down."

I sensed, without thought, that the sight of fear in me might make him snap. . . .I expected to feel the blow of a china bowl on the back of my head, and hot soup scalding me.

I made it to the corner where the stair doglegged. . . .Then I ran.

2.  Hitting on Tatum. Ryan and Tatum supposedly have started to reconcile -- but not before, well, let the two describe their interaction at Farrah Fawcett's funeral themselves:

"I had just put the casket in the hearse and I was watching it drive away when a beautiful blonde woman comes up and embraces me," Ryan told me. "I said to her, 'You have a drink on you? You have a car?' She said, 'Daddy, it's me--Tatum!' I was just trying to be funny with a strange Swedish woman, and it's my daughter. It's so sick."

"That's our relationship in a nutshell," Tatum said when I asked her about it. "You make of it what you will." She sighed. "It had been a few years since we'd seen each other, and he was always a ladies' man, a bon vivant."

1.  The aftermath of Farrah. For the latter part of his life, although he was never actually married to Farrah Fawcett, O'Neal was mainly known in terms of his relationship with her, which was see-saw at best. Yet, when Farrah died a horrible death due to cancer, Ryan appeared as a concerned and caring mate in a documentary film made of her final months.

Here's how that happened :

The network had bid $1.5 million for a cinéma vérité-style film Ms. Fawcett was making of her struggle with late-stage cancer, and with the gossip media buzzing about her imminent death, NBC was eager to get the show on television for the upcoming May sweeps rating competition. . . .

But Ms. Fawcett was too sick to approve a final version of the documentary, and Mr. Nevius (the producer Fawcett selected to tell her story) was reluctant to move forward without her. "I must honor my duty to her intent and her vision," he wrote back.

NBC ultimately got what it wanted, but only after the actor Ryan O'Neal, Ms. Fawcett's on-again-off-again boyfriend of more than 30 years, engineered a takeover of the project from Mr. Nevius. . . .

If the documentary was a wrenching drama, the off-camera takeover itself was operatic, with threats of violence and a death-bed transfer of legal rights. . . .

But Ms. Fawcett had intended the film to address shortcomings she saw in American cancer treatment and to present it in art-house style. She would reference François Truffaut when talking about her vision.

After Mr. O'Neal and NBC gained full control of the documentary, the film took on the feel of network celebrity fodder - at once more glossy and more morbid.

"It was a contradiction of what the film was supposed to be," said Mr. Nevius, who had become Ms. Fawcett's part-agent, part-manager, part-producer - and a full-time devotee.

Over Mr. Nevius's objections, the film, originally titled "A Wing and a Prayer," was renamed "Farrah's Story," echoing the 1970 film "Love Story," in which Mr. O'Neal played a husband devoted to his terminally ill wife. ("‘Love Story' was one of the most viewed movies of all time," Mr. O'Neal said in an interview. "What's his problem?")

Any other nominees?

P.S. (June 21, 2011): "The worst four four minutes of Ryan O'Neal's cringeworthy interview with Piers Morgan." (Only for those with strong stomachs.)