Thursday, February 20, 2014
Little Girl Lost
Tania is 60 today. Feel old?
Of course, that's not true; Tania never existed, except in the brainwashed mind of Patricia Hearst, whose current incarnation is a suburban matron of means - only recently widowed, I've just read - who lives as ordinary a life as can one who was the center of an era-defining media maelstrom and who has appeared in as many John Waters movies as Edith Massey.
The kidnapping of Patty Hearst was huge. Her reappearance, even more so. In the interim - the year and a half she was on the lam - her absence was a daily presence on the nightly news. The kidnapping, not just of a pretty rich girl, but of a Hearst, caused shock waves in all the country clubs and better neighborhoods of the whole nation. Even in our little hometown, we were suddenly made to feel more vulnerable, as if homegrown offshoots of the Symbionese Liberation Army were hovering just out of sight, waiting to pounce.
My father and other serious businessmen, concerned their children might be next, organized a very peculiar kind of summer camp for us, bringing in some kind of security expert for for a whole week in August of '74 put us through our paces, learning how to go limp, leave traces of evidence, and resist the siren song of Maoist brainwashing. It's amazing, in retrospect, that any of us were ever able to sleep again.
And then suddenly it was all over. Tania appeared and slowly morped back into Patty, sadder and wiser, perhaps, but again just the usual mid-'70s sullen post-deb. Her marriage to her bodyguard might have seemed a tad déclassé, but when you think, said the old ladies, what the poor dear has been through (the silent spectre of some kind of awful assault hovering in the same way it did when they talked about how dangerous it was on the wrong side of State Street), well...
And the years fly by, and she's best remembered, at least to me, as the unlucky juror in Serial Mom. Whatever other effects her kidnapping - which truly was a dreadful experience on every front - may have had, it certainly opened out her world, and in an odd way, ours.