Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Love (?) Story

Ordinarily I don't allow myself to get caught up in the private lives of celebrities. It's all I can do to manage my own private life.

But there is something fascinating, to me, about the schism between actor Ryan O'Neal and his daughter, Tatum, which is now being played out on a reality show called "The O'Neals" on Oprah Winfrey's OWN Network.

The two of them each had their chance to state their case on recent, separate episodes of Piers Morgan's show on CNN.

Tatum, who has a new book out, contends that her father is the root of many of her problems, like that of her drug addiction struggle. Ryan, for his part, says that Tatum never fully accepted his relationship with Farrah Fawcett, and that's when father and daughter drifted apart.

"She made my life---and Griffin's---very difficult," Ryan O'Neal told Morgan, also referring to Tatum's brother.

What captivates me about the O'Neals struggles is that they are, to me, genuine---which isn't always the case with reality TV, a genre that often blurs the line between fact and made-for-TV fiction.

But this isn't a made-for-TV estrangement; it's been going on for decades.

Ryan maintains he was a single parent and a damn good one, helping Tatum forge an acting career and exposing her to a world of culture and the arts.

Tatum says he also exposed her to drugs---or, at the very least, he wasn't exactly vigilant in keeping them away from her.

The father-daughter dynamic in this instance seems, on the one hand, to be broken---or at least damaged beyond full repair.

So why care?



Ryan O'Neal told Piers Morgan that if "The O'Neals" can help even one family examine their relationships, then the show is a success.

Ryan got emotional when the subject of his alleged "hitting" on Tatum at Farrah Fawcett's funeral was brought up.

The story goes---and it wasn't exactly denied by Tatum on Morgan's show---that Ryan O'Neal, not recognizing his daughter after many years of alienation, took the opportunity of seeing this blonde at the funeral home to ask her for a drink afterward.

The woman revealed herself to be Tatum.

Ryan O'Neal vehemently denied that version.

First, they had seen each other not long before the funeral. Second, Ryan told Morgan, when Tatum was a youngster, father and daughter would pretend to be a couple at a lavish party. Ryan would ask her, "You want a drink? You want a dance?" as part of the innocent roleplaying.

At Farrah's funeral, Ryan says he saw Tatum and, to break the ice, launched into the "You want a drink? You want a dance?" routine.

His voice quaking, lips trembling, Ryan asked Morgan, "Why throw your dad under the bus like that? Why portray him like that?"

Good questions.

As with any estrangement, both sides are to blame, and there are two sides to every story. Tatum was on Morgan's show first, and after watching Ryan's turn, it was impossible not to look sideways at Tatum's version.

But Ryan could have handled things better. He could have done a better job assuring his daughter that she was not being replaced by Farrah, and that his love for Farrah was a different love than that of his daughter.

Ryan O'Neal's acting career stalled out after films like "What's Up, Doc?" Tatum told Morgan she has her own theories as to why that is. When asked to reveal them, she clammed up.

Ryan, on his acting career: "I was OK. I wasn't great."

Agreed.

I haven't watched "The O'Neals." I likely never will, because the two interviews on Piers Morgan's show were satisfying enough.

I guess I still don't trust reality shows, as much as I think the O'Neals have real issues that long pre-dated their show on OWN.

I wish them well.

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