Spoiled Children of Divorce

Catch Him If You Can – Frank Abagnale

I don’t know whether to stick this guy under “Exemplary” or “Bad.”

Frank Abagnale wrote about the strange life he concocted for himself in reaction to his parents’ divorce in his autobiography called Catch Me If You Can. The story was made into a movie by Steven Spielberg and starred Leonardo di Caprio.

Abagnale was 16 when his parents divorced in 1964.  (Edit, 4/19/2008:  I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Catch Me If You Can and Abagnale says there that he was 12 when his parents separated and 14 when they divorced.  He was 3d of 4 children who chose to live with his Father rather than his Mother.  His descriptions of how his life progressed into what it did might be interesting for divorcing parents of teenagers to pay attention to but I don’t know if any of it is true).  Stressed out by the situation, he ran away during a court appearance and made his living for the next 5 years as a Con Artist and Forger, taking on all kinds of personalities and fooling everyone around him. He was finally caught and spent some time in jail. He didn’t see his Mother for 7 years. His Father died and he never saw him again. I believe he now works for the Government detecting fraud.

One of the big regrets of my life is that I didn’t just run away when I was 15. I can easily say that my parents’ divorce was not worth living through. No redeeming experiences came to me through it. So, although I don’t condone crime, I really envy this guys’ brains and guts. Check out the Movie, it’s great.

(from: http://www.cinema.com/articles/1758/catch-me-if-you-can-production-notes.phtml)

The plot of “Catch Me If You Can” might have seemed a bit far-fetched even by Hollywood standards…were it not for the fact that it is based on a true story.

“Things that happen in real life are sometimes a hundred times more fascinating than anything a person could make up off the top of his head,” remarks Leonardo DiCaprio, the actor who portrays the subject of the story, Frank W. Abagnale, Jr.
“Catch Me If You Can” is based on Abagnale’s autobiography of the same name, which chronicles how he-as a runaway teenager, without so much as a high school diploma-managed to pass himself off as an airline pilot, a doctor, a lawyer, and a college professor, all while cashing millions of dollars in fraudulent checks.
Frank Abagnale offers, “It begins with my parents’ divorce and its dramatic effect on me. I ran away and suddenly found myself a teenager alone in the world. I had to grow up very quickly and become very creative in order to survive. But what started out as survival became more and more of a game. I was an opportunist, so when I saw an opening I asked myself, ‘Could I get away with that?’ Then there was the satisfaction of actually getting away with it. The more I got away with, the more of a game it became-a game I knew I would ultimately lose, but a game I was going to have fun playing until I did. “

A bestseller, Abagnale’s autobiography has fascinated millions of readers, including director/producer Steven Spielberg. “I was like the many people who fell under the seductive influence of the real Frank William Abagnale, Jr. , just through his book. And when you meet him, you understand in a second how he could pull the wool over your eyes and convince you that he was a doctor or a lawyer. I was fascinated by the unique way he came of age. I really believe he was very strongly affected by the divorce of his parents. There are all sorts of ways kids act out against divorce, and Frank just happened to act out in a way that was so original, it was worth making a movie about. Personally, I have always loved movies about sensational rogues, like the Newman/Redford classics ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’ and ‘The Sting. ‘ They were breaking the law, but you had to love them for their moxie. “

Exemplary Children of Divorce – Steven Spielberg

Filmmaker Steven Spielberg’s parents divorced when he was around 15 or 16.

He says here that E.T. is inspired by that experience:

“From the very beginning,” Spielberg said, “ `E.T.’ was a movie about my childhood–about my parents’ divorce, although people haven’t often seen that it’s about divorce. My parents split up when I was 15 or 16 years old, and I needed a special friend, and had to use my imagination to take me to places that felt good–that helped me move beyond the problems my parents were having, and that ended our family as a whole. And thinking about that time, I thought, an extraterrestrial character would be the perfect springboard to purge the pain of your parents’ splitting up.”

from http://www.scruffles.net/speilberg/articles/article-006.html

And also from an article at Businessweek.com (www.businessweek.com/1998/28/b3586001.htm):

With his parents’ divorce looming, Spielberg’s grades sank. He barely graduated from high school and was rejected from both UCLA and USC film schools. Settling for California State University at Long Beach because it was close to Hollywood, Spielberg got a C in his television production course. He dropped out in his senior year.

Exemplary Children – Scientists & Thinkers
January 30, 2008, 8:51 pm
Filed under: Exemplary Children of Divorce

Am looking for Successful Scientists & Thinkers who were ground through the Divorce Mill and succeeded and so far haven’t come up with anything.  Only used the Time100 list of Greatest 20th Century People (can’t remember exact title).  It’s a White Man’s Convention out there in this field, let me tell ya.  Well Rachel Carson made the list.  Thank yah Rach!

The scene has probably changed a bit by now although I think I’ve read that men still predominate in this field.  I blame this completely on the parents who instill these prejudices and low self-esteem in their kids no matter what, but what do I know?  Divorce would not bring out creative thinking in kids because a chaotic environment and all that shuffling around and trying not to make waves doesn’t give kids the space and peace they need to go into themselves.  Scientists and Thinkers tend to be Introverts, no?  And Divorce is for the Extroverts.  Children of Divorce I should think would naturally gravitate toward inventing rafts and houseboats and vans and any kind of transient habitation so maybe they’ll thrive once the Global Warming floods begin.  So it’s all just part of the Master Plan anyway.  Things work out in the end.

(It doesn’t seem as if any kids of Divorce will read this blog, only shrinks, whiney single parents and now Scott Peterson’s family, but if one does happen to read this — please, please, please, figure out a need in the world and go to school to learn how to fix it.  Set your sights high and think big.  Your insights are ten times deeper than the kids from the normal families, you just need to rely on your own resources a lot more in order to compete.)

Here are the people on the list who I checked.  Some are from weird families, check out the Wittgensteins for example, but none from Divorce.  And, by the way, many were considered extremely spoiled as children, it takes attitude to be creative:

Leo Baekleland (plastics); Tim Berners-Lee (Internet); Rachel Carson (environmentalist); F.Crick & J.Watson (DNA); Albert Einstein (E=MC2); Philo Farnsworth (TV); Enrico Fermi (Nuclear Fusion? not sure); Alexander Fleming; Sigmund Freud (psychiatry); Kurt Godel (Mathematics); Robert Goddard; Edwin Hubble (astronomy); John Maynard Keynes (Economics); Louis, Mary & Richard Leaky (Paleantologists); Jean Piaget (Philosopher, Psych); Jonas Salk (Medicine); William Shockly; Alan Turing (Computer Science); Ludwig Wittgenstein (Philosophy); Wright Brothers (Flight)

Exemplary Children of Divorce: Liza Minelli and Lorna Luft

Liza Minelli is the daughter of Judy Garland and Vincent Minelli. She was 5 years old when her parents were divorced. Lorna Luft is 6 years younger and is the Daughter of Judy Garland and Sid Luft. She was 9 when her parents Divorced and 16 when her Mother died. Both have been interviewed extensively about their childhoods, their Parents’ Marriages and Divorces and their Mother. The two half-sisters don’t seem to have a close relationship. This is a comparison of what they’ve said about their parents’ divorces.

Liza Minelli’s description of growing up in Divorce:


  • IS: Talk about feeling naked! You’re actually very good at showing how vulnerable we all are. Do you think your parents” divorce when you were little had anything to do with that?
  • LM: It gave me two wonderful outlets. My mother was an artist and highly strung, whereas my father was much calmer. He wasn’t like that on the set–evidently, he was Caesar on the set [Sischy laughs]–but at home he was sensational, and so was Mama. But Mama was stricter: I had to wear this and I had to do that. She was really kind and loving, but I used to be so happy to go to my father’s house. He was looser, and he fed my dreams.
  • IS: How?
  • LM: Well, I would go over to my dad’s house on a Saturday, and I would tell him everything, and I’d ask his advice. At the age of 6 or 7, I was like, “Well, what should I do?” And he’d say, “Do what you think.” Which made me realize that I had to think for myself. He would always talk to me like a very sensible human being. And then after he’d lay something like that on me, he’d say, “Who do you want to be today?” And I’d look at him and say, “Spanish dancer.” And he’d say, “All right.” And we’d get in the car and drive to Rexall on La Cienega and Beverly Boulevard, and we would buy crepe paper and a big box of safety pins. Then we went home, and because he’d been a wonderful costume designer and set designer in Chicago and in New York for Radio City Music Hall, he would create a Spanish dancer’s dress on me. He would pin the crepe paper with the safety pins and change my whole world. And when he was finished he would sit down and look at me and tell me how beautiful I was, and how wonderful, and then he’d say, “Liza, what does a Spanish dancer do?” And I would say, “Dance.” And he’d say, “Yes,” and he’d put on the music, and it was always the right music. I don’t know when he found the time to find the right music for what I had wanted to be, but he did, and suddenly I could dance, and I could find a whole world of dreams and the possibility of becoming somebody else. I’ve said it before, but it’s absolutely true: My mother gave me my drive, but my father gave me my dreams. Thanks to him, I could see a future.

Lorna Luft, younger half-sister, wrote a book, Me and My Shadows, about growing up in the same household. This is from Booklist review on Amazon:

  • Luft, often identified as Judy Garland’s “other daughter,” steps center stage to describe what life was like as the child of an icon. For the first nine years of her life, Luft was protected from the vagaries of her mother’s prescription-drug abuse and downward-spiraling mental health. But after her parents’ divorce, Luft found herself in the role of chief cook and bottle washer–in charge of cleaning up her mother’s messes. The horror stories from this period include breakdowns, breakups with almost everyone who was close to Garland, paranoia, and even knife-wielding episodes in which Garland went after her young son. After Luft had her own breakdown at 16, she left her mother’s home and never saw Garland alive again. Despite all the horror, Luft is kind to her mother’s memory, seeing the star as sick, not evil, and remembering all the many loving times shared between mother and daughter. Sister Liza Minelli doesn’t fare quite as well. Although Luft has many nice things to say about her, Liza’s drug abuse has left the pair estranged. Oh, yes, Luft had her own life, too, but not unexpectedly, her affairs with even the likes of Burt Reynolds and Barry Manilow and her own drug problems don’t make for nearly as fascinating reading as her tales of Judy and Liza. Dishy–and sure to be popular. Ilene Cooper

There are many interviews out there by Lorna Luft discussing her parents. I like this one in particular:

  • “You don’t really know your parents until you are in your 40’s,” she said.
  • “In your 20’s you have no idea, in your 30’s you start to get to know them and in your 40’s you have had some of the experiences they had and it is just a natural understanding that comes from being this age.”

from http://www.aussietheatre.com/news.htm “Growing up Garland: Lorna’s incredible Life.”

Judy Garland died of a drug overdose at Age 47. She had attempted Suicide previously.

Exemplary Comedians From Divorced Families

I expected a longer list here but I suppose Quality counts over Quantity.

As far as I can tell there are 5 Comedians on Entertainment Weekly’s 25 Funniest People list. I think it’s from 2006. This doesn’t mean that the other 20 people didn’t have crappy childhoods and have nothing to whine about, it just means that these 5 get to be featured on my blog.  20 percent.  That’s slightly lower than the 25-30 percent who grow up to have psych problems.  I do remember that the famous psychologist R.D. Laing based his career on the trauma he experienced at Age 5 in discovering that Santa Claus doesn’t exist.  That’s actually funnier than anything I’ve ever heard Jon Stewart say.

Jon Stewart – Age 9. Lived with Mom.

Dave Chappelle – Age 2. Winters with Mom. Summers with Dad.

Ellen Degeneres – Age 13?. Lived with Mom.

Jack Black – Age 10. Lived with Father.

Bernie Mac – Raised by Single Mother who died at Age 16.

That’s that list.

Here are some other Comedians I can think of. Will have to add to the list.

George Carlin – Age 2. Mother left Father.

Jonathan Winters – Age 7. Raised by Maternal Grandmother.

Lenny Bruce – Age 5. Shuffled around. Lived with Relatives.

Rodney Dangerfield – Age Young.  Father left.

I wrote about Richard Pryor and a couple of the others.

Who else?

Pregnant Women who are Murdered By Their Boyfriends/Husbands
January 29, 2008, 12:36 am
Filed under: Uncategorized, Violence

This is not going to go over well. One of the leading causes of death among Pregnant Women now seems to be homicide. I’ve been casually noticing that the more famous stories in the news seem to present women who come from homes with either single parents or stepparents or some such thing. I’m not going to go into researching this a whole lot because I tend to feel there’s a connection and I can’t handle it emotionally. I’m just going to present what I have found, please correct any wrong information I might be adding. The husbands or boyfriends seem to come from loving, sort of overly supportive families (I’m thinking of Scott Peterson who seemed quite spoiled).

It could be that women who grow up in these situations are either overly demanding due to deep insecurities, overly provocative or argumentative, or have bad judgment and instincts regarding relationships. Or maybe there’s no connection…

Laci Peterson – Parents Divorced, loving step-father

Lori Soares “Hacking” – Adopted. Parents Divorced.

Jessie Davis – Divorce.

LaToyia Figueroa – No Divorce, but her Mother was murdered when LaToyia was a baby.

Marie Lauterbach – don’t know situation. Woman described as “Step-Mother” has been spokesperson.

Lisa Underwood – Mother single. Don’t know about the Father.

Successful Children of Divorce – Evel Knievel
January 28, 2008, 9:57 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Evel Knievel was the famous daredevil motorcyclist who constantly tried to challenge himself by jumping over long distances:  a row of 16 cars, a row of 13 buses, even a canyon in Idaho.

Knievel’s parents divorced when he was 2 years old. He said that he began his Death Defying Stunts because he had to figure out a way to support his family.  This led to 40 Broken Bones.  A true product of a broken home.

Evel recently passed away from disease, not from disaster.  May he Rest in Peace.  Well, in his case, may he Raise Hell wherever he is.