What ever happened to Baby Tatum O’Neal? Her recent drug bust in NYC is not the first time this very talented child of famous parents has gotten into drug trouble. Unfortunately this latest event is only a notch in the bedpost of abuse and tragedy in the life of the actress. The abuse began early in life when her mother succumbed to drugs. “Beatings, hunger, neglect, sexual molestation, underage drinking, underage driving, car crashes, suicide attempts, and drugs virtually everywhere.” she said in a 2004 interview with Dateline NBC. “My own young life had eerily echoed Addie’s, [her character in ‘Paper Moon’] even though my mother was still alive. In the grip of addiction, she had virtually abandoned me and Griffin, leaving us in squalor — starving, shoeless, and ragged, as well as beaten and abused by the men in her life.”
When her mother could no longer take care of her and her brother, they were sent off to live with her father, Ryan O’Neal, legendary actor and also legendary womanizer with a horrible temper. Things went from bad to worse, particularly after young Tate was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in the film Paper Moon, where she shared the screen with her very jealous father. When news of the nomination hit home, she says, Ryan hit the 10 year old in the face. “There was always a slugging thing. Or a backhand, or throwing out of the car or whatever. It was a rough, just rough around the house.”
A particularly glaring event happened during a European trip she took with her father and her friend at the time, Melanie Griffith (who was 18 at the time). “I thought she was my best friend. But there’s an agenda that I’m not aware of, which is that they’re going to sort of get together — and I walk in on them and I end up trying to take my life in a very sort of severe way.”
And that’s when the drug use and the self-inflicted abuse began, leading Tatum into a life of hard drugs that lasted throughout her marriage to John McEnroe’s and well into the millennium. “When you’re treated badly, at least in my situation, I just didn’t know any better then. When someone was hitting me, or hitting me and slapping me, or like sexually molesting me, it just seemed normal to continue to do that to myself.”
Watch Tatum’s striking performance in the film that started her career and her downward spiral, Paper Moon, on Fancast.