How could Tatum punish me like this: Ryan O'Neal on not being invited to his daughter's wedding to John McEnroe
16:34 GMT, 6 May 2012
Tatum O'Neal with her husband John McEnroe in 1991. The couple divorced three years later
My daughter Tatum reminds me of a jungle cat, graceful, commanding, and yet always wary.
We had once been close, but Tatum did not take well to the arrival of Farrah Fawcett in my life.
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Ryan with Farrah and his son Griffin, who was involved in the death of Gian-Carlo Coppola in 1986. After the tragedy, Ryan's eldest son never worked in the movie business again
I can only imagine what Tatum has said, and if I were him, and she had been telling me what a b*****d her dad had been all her life, I’d be inclined to put distance between my family and the father too.
Farrah had admitted to me that, when she was seven months pregnant, Tatum and John had offered her cocaine.
I was surprised because at the time Tatum was still proclaiming her objections to drugs and alcohol. I assumed John was the instigator and Tatum just went along.
My third son enters the world on January 30, 1985. I’m elated. He’s blond except for a bright-red shock of hair at the nape of his neck. We call him Redmond, which was also the name of the character I played in Barry Lyndon.
The following year, it is Tatum’s turn. My first grandchild is due around Mother’s Day and Tatum has extended an olive branch. She wants me there for the birth.
When I arrive at the hospital in Los Angeles, my daughter is glowing and on May 23, 1986, she makes me the proud grandfather of a baby boy, Kevin McEnroe.
Four days later, Tatum and the baby are back home in Malibu and I’m with them.
The phone rings. Tatum answers and I watch her face turn ashen.
‘Dad, there’s been a terrible accident.’
Tatum puts her hand over the mouthpiece and repeats to me what she’s hearing.
‘They were in a boat on the Chesapeake Bay. Griffin cut between two slow-moving boats.
'He didn’t know that one boat was towing the other. He saw the rope at the last second and ducked. Gio was practically decapitated.’
The actor seated with his eight month-old baby son, Griffin. His then-wife, actress Joanna Moore, has their daughter, Tatum, on her lap. 'Joanna and I made some dreadful mistakes as parents,' said Ryan
It’s beyond my worst fear. My eldest son Griffin was on location in Maryland working with director Francis Ford Coppola on the Vietnam picture Gardens Of Stone.
He was starring in the film and Coppola’s son Gian-Carlo was on the crew. Francis knew Griffin was having a rough time and wanted to help him restart.
Gian-Carlo Coppola was 22 when he died, a year older than Griffin.At first Griffin denied that he was driving the boat and tried to place the blame on Gian-Carlo.
Like Tatum, I was desperate to believe he was telling the truth.
But Griffin feeds on danger and the truth eventually came out. I imagine the scene over and over. He’s had a few too many, he’s feeling invincible.
He spots these two slow-moving craft up ahead, and can’t resist. He guns the engine. Thinks he’ll have some fun.
Adding to the tragedy, Gian-Carlo’s fiancee was two months pregnant. She would bear him a son whom he would never know.
After a short trial, Griffin will be charged with reckless boating, fined $200, and sentenced to 18 months pro-bation. They won’t be able to convict him of a felony because police didn’t test his blood for alcohol.
Sometime after the trial, Gian-Carlo’s mother, Eleanor, calls me. She expresses sympathy for what I’m going through with Griffin, and suggests he might benefit from therapy.
Here’s a woman who just lost her son, and she’s consoling the father of the person responsible for his death, offering support. It takes me a moment to find my voice.
‘I wish it had been me and not your son,’ I tell her. ‘I mean that.’
'Tatum reminds me of a jungle cat, graceful, commanding, and yet always wary,' said Ryan
And I did. Griffin never worked in the movie business again.
Tatum and John insist that on the way back to California, we stop over in New York for a visit at his parents’ Long Island estate.
So with Patrick, the son I had with my second wife, Leigh Taylor-Young, and little Redmond in tow, the four of us take a car from JFK Airport to Oyster Bay.
When we arrive, Tatum and John aren’t there and his parents greet us with perplexed expressions.
To this day, I remain convinced that John’s parents were not expecting guests that afternoon.
Despite the awkward start, thanks to Farrah’s unerring social grace, we spend a pleasant few days there, and then politely make our exit.
And it’s not only desperately missing home that’s got me eager to leave.
Several witnesses have come forward putting Griffin behind the wheel at the time of the accident, and my son needs his father.
Two decades later, in her first book, Tatum will accuse Farrah and me of deliberately insulting John and his family with our abrupt departure. But that afternoon, as we’re exchanging goodbyes with the McEnroes, we think everything is hunky-dory.
Three months later an old boxing friend of mine calls and asks if Farrah and I would like to ride with them to the wedding.
‘What wedding’ I ask.
‘Tatum’s,’ he replies.
Never once did my daughter say anything about an actual wedding date. I tell myself it isn’t true, that there has to be some mistake, that my daughter would never get married without her dad walking her down the aisle, without her grandparents sitting in the front row.
I tell myself that, yes, Tatum and I have had our struggles, but she’d never hurt her family that way.
I try to think of something I might have said or done, berating myself, then shifting to denial, convinced this is not so. I call my daughter and the machine picks up. I leave several messages. No response. Then I get the telegram from Tatum.
‘I’m getting married’, it says.
Looking back now, Tatum and John also hurt themselves. The focus wasn’t how beautiful the ceremony was or how glamorous the couple, but where were Ryan and Farrah
What still bothers me most was Tatum not inviting her grandparents. It’s one thing for my daughter to want to punish Farrah and me, but it’s another to do that to her grandparents, who were a loving, supportive presence in her life.
As well as not inviting Ryan and Farrah to her wedding, Tatum didn't invite her grandparents
Tatum and John buy Johnny Carson’s house down the beach from me; I pass it on my daily beach run.
Sometimes, the curtains are drawn, but I see Tatum’s silhouette in the window, watching.
She doesn’t invite me in or even wave hello.
On those afternoons when I return from my run, Farrah will ask what’s wrong.
Too often I’ll snap at her, not wanting to explain because I’m embarrassed.
I don’t think Tatum is aware of what she’s doing to her family. It’s a debilitating survival instinct and it makes my heart ache for her.
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'Raquel Welch (left) is the only woman I can think of with whom Farrah ever had a problem… Diana Ross (right) and I had enjoyed a brief fling years earlier and unfortunately things did not end smoothly,' said Ryan
Raquel Welch was the only woman I can think of with whom Farrah ever had a problem.
Once, at an event, Raquel complimented Farrah on her beautiful white teeth, then added demurely: ‘Of course, all the ones in the back are yellow.’
One afternoon Farrah and I are walking past the Russian Tea Room in New York when a producer I know demands that we join him for tea.
But the last person in the world I would want to see is sitting there at the table: Diana Ross.
Diana and I had enjoyed a brief fling years earlier and unfortunately things did not end smoothly.
The moment Diana spots us she bursts into tears and runs into the ladies’ room. And she doesn’t come out.
Farrah is sympathetic and I don’t have to explain. Farrah and I had already had that conversation.
Barbra Streisand is never satisfied with how she looks. But that's not unusual in Hollywood
I have worked with Barbra Streisand, who is an icon.
When we were shooting What’s Up Doc, Barbra had ‘kill approval’, meaning she had the final word on which photos the studio could use for their publicity shots.
I sat there with her, watching her review thick stacks of photos, one at a time. . .
‘Gee that one looks good Barbra.’
‘But I like . . .’
‘Barbra it’s hard to achieve the perfect shot and I look good in that one!’
‘Nope, nope,’ she’d say flicking one discarded photo after another on to the floor.
She’s never satisfied with how she looks.
But that’s not unusual in Hollywood.
Ryan O’Neal 2012. Both Of Us by Ryan O’Neal is published by The Robson Press, priced 20.
To order your copy at the special price of 16 with free p&p, please call the Review Bookstore on 0843 382 1111 or visit mailshop.co.uk/books.