It’s the end of the year, folks, and oh, what a year it’s been. Let’s steer clear of all the politics and negativity and escape it all for a bit. If you’re looking for a fun read, then check out our top five articles of 2020.
Our readers loved all kinds of articles this year, including a look back at the Waltons, a look into the Miranda Rights, a look into Linda Thompson and Sondra Lock’s lives, and the history of the Milk Carton Kids.
Every Thursday evening, at 8 p.m., millions of Americans would sit down to witness the wholesome, rural life of The Waltons. Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, this traditional, sunny-haired family took us through their everyday life out in the country, and we gladly joined them for family dinners and walks in nature.
Spanning over a decade on CBS, this series was a fresh of breath air, and although it was set in the dreary times of the Great Depression and WWII, it always managed to brighten up the screen. But what went on behind the scenes didn’t always coincide with their heartwarming demeanor. Get ready to explore some surprising facts about this iconic fictional family.
The show’s creator, Earl Hamner Jr., grew up with seven siblings in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains. This rural environment, devoid of any bustling traffic noise, was the creative inspiration behind this wholesome show. Earl first forged his experiences into a novel, which was then adapted into the 1963 film Spencer’s Mountain, and, due to its success, turned into the beloved series.
Earl is also the narrating voice walking us through those melancholy autumns and long summer days. You can truly hear the authenticity behind his words because each segment carries with it some memory from his childhood. One scene, in particular, is a routine his own family would go through before bed: the goodnight snippet at the end of each episode. With so many siblings, they would repeatedly tell each other good night until his dad would say, “Alright! That’s enough” to quiet them down.
Many lead characters on the show were very young at the time of filming and couldn’t properly reflect on how they were being treated. But after the show ended, some unpleasant concerns began to surface. Many felt that they hadn’t been appreciated enough, and, in retrospect, they felt underpaid. Eric Scott, who played Ben Walton, admitted that they did not get rich from the show.
Considering that they spent most of their childhood working on set, their frustration is understandable. Eric also noted that there was a lot of pressure to perfect the scenes and say your line correctly, and sentences like “stop making it difficult” were commonly heard on set. Many of the Walton kids feel disappointed about not being congratulated for their hard work. They’re disappointed that no one called to say, “By the way, thank you.”
The show’s mother figure, Michael Learned, took it upon herself to care for the kids while the cameras weren’t rolling. She would often receive flower arrangements and kind gestures from the producers, and after noticing that the kids weren’t receiving anything, she immediately took action.
She went to the producers and said, “These kids have given you years of their lives, and you can’t even get them something?” Once confronted, they felt a bit ashamed, but not too much, because their gift in return was scanty and embarrassing. Producers sent the kids a basket with three muffins. Unless they were trying to teach them the value of generosity, they’re three muffins short.
Ralph Waite, who played the caring and supportive father of the show, decided to take a different route once the show ended and while some of his costars stuck with acting, he dove his head deep into politics. He surprised the people of California when he decided to run for congress as a democrat on three different occasions.
His first attempt was in 1990, but it proved unsuccessful. He attempted again after Sonny Bono’s passing in 1998 and ran in both elections, the special one and the one in November, but unfortunately, he never managed to get a seat. After three attempts, John opted for a different career path, working at rehabilitation facilities and helping people overcome their hardships with addiction.
Following the rural purge on all networks, CBS didn’t think The Waltons would bring anything new to the table. Shows like The Beverly Hillbillies and Green Acres were already broadcasting and seemed to satisfy America’s taste for wholesome country life. So, when CBS decided to air it, they gave it only two or three seasons at best.
The show aired every Thursday at 8 p.m., and, at the time, that timeslot meant they were competing with two very popular shows, ABC’s The Mod Squad and NBC’s The Flip Wilson Show. This obviously added to the network’s lack of faith, but, to everyone’s surprise, the show did extremely well and lasted for nine seasons.
The beautiful scenery gave viewers the sensation that they were visiting the Waltons in the deep Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. But we already know that TV has a way of creating illusory shots, so this might not come as a surprise that the mountains were, in fact, the Hollywood hills. The chosen slope is located south of the Warner Bros. studio, and behind it, is the infamous Hollywood sign.
The Waltons’ ranch was north of the studio and beautifully crafted so it looked like they were miles away from neon signs and flashy cars. The original house had actually been burned down in 1991, ten years after the show ended, by a studio employee. Fortunately, it was rebuilt in 1993 for a special cast reunion.
The writers might have gotten a bit too caught up with the storytelling because at certain points in the show, the time doesn’t add up well and the characters’ ages become questionable to the audience who is well aware of how old they’re supposed to be. For example, one episode shows John Walton Sr. going to his high school reunion in 1936, 25 years later, meaning he would have graduated in 1911.
But a different episode shows him struggling to get a government contract because he hadn’t graduated. According to the show, he couldn’t finish high school because he was drafted during World War I, which began in 1914, three years after the supposed graduation ceremony. Despite these slightly annoying glitches, fans were forgiving and enjoyed the show to its fullest.
Richard Thomas is one of the only child actors who continued his love for acting once the show ended. From John-Boy to FBI agent, he’s taken up and played characters in all genres. He has appeared on numerous TV mini-series like The Wild West and It. He also took up roles in Law & Order, The Good Wife, White Collar and played an FBI agent on The Americans for three years.
Richard took his love of acting back to the stage as well, appearing numerous times on Broadway in plays like The Little Foxes, You Can’t Take It with You, and Democracy. The former John-Boy is deeply appreciated in the world of acting and has earned himself valuable nominations and awards.
The Waltons wasn’t the first time Ralph fictionally fathered Richard Thomas. The two have a history of acting as father and son in the 1969 movie, “Last Summer.” The teen drama is a coming of age story taking place one summer on Fire Island and it involves a lot of fishing, boating, and adolescent experimentation.
This wasn’t the only reunion of the Last Summer Cast. Richard’s costars in the teen drama, Catherine Burns and Bruce Davison made guest appearances in the Waltons’ household as well in Season Two and Three. What a change from the reckless affairs on Fire Island to the Waltons’ homey and snug environment!
The Waltons’ father was portrayed as a man who wasn’t the biggest fan of attending church and only went on special occasions. The rest of the family was far more religious. Interestingly, real-life tells a whole different story. Before pursuing an acting career, Ralph Waite was actually ordained as a Presbyterian minister after earning a master’s degree from Yale Divinity School.
He served as a minister at the United Church of Christ in Garden City and was highly regarded by the people of the community. After a few years of working as a social worker and as a religious book editor for a publishing house, at age 32, John Waite converted church bells for the sound of a clapperboard.
There’s a reason why Ralph and Michael’s on-screen chemistry was incredibly believable. Apart from being great actors, they developed deep and genuine feelings towards each other off set as well. When they began shooting the series, the two actors were single, and naturally, thoughts began to drift in a romantic direction.
Michael Learned confessed that the two were very tempted to feel all the feels and let themselves fall into each other’s arms, but they restrained themselves, for fear that it might get “too messy” and ruin the show. Learned said that their chemistry turned into love between two friends, and she named him her “spiritual husband.”
Will Geer played the Waltons’ lovable grandpa, Zebulon Tyler Walton, and he quickly charmed America with his good humor and strong opinions. Like his character, Will believed in standing up for what is right, and aside from being an actor, Will was, first and foremost, a proud activist.
He developed a profound and loving relationship with Harry Hay Jr., the founder of the Mattachine Society in 1950 and one of the first people to speak up about gay rights. Harry and Will spent a lot of time at rallies and protests in the hopes of making a substantial change in America’s views.
Mary Elizbeth McDonough played the middle sister Erin, who was supposed to be “the pretty one” on the show. This meant that a lot of pressure was being placed on her weight and looks. When the show began, Mary was 11 years old and transitioning into her teenage years so, understandably, her body was going through changes. The producers? Not so happy.
On set, Mary was confronted with questions like “Do you think you could fit in the clothes from last season, or have you gained weight?” Young and vulnerable, Mary longed for a kind word here and there, one that would reassure her that everything was ok and that she was only growing bigger because she was maturing, and that was perfectly normal. But none of that came. She slowly began starving herself and when the series ended, she was 21, and not in a good condition at all.
The Waltons’ homey, the picket-fenced house became the viewers’ house as well. It radiated family, simple living, and an overall sense of coziness. After the show ended, it went through several transformations, from being dismantled to reconstructed to becoming the Dragonfly Inn in the hit series Gilmore Girls.
Whether it’s run by Lorelai Gilmore and Sookie St. James, or a home for reuniting the Waltons, this country households a dear spot in our hearts. To this day, it remains on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, California, and is open for whoever wants to take a look.
Kami Cotler played Elizabeth Walton, the youngest of the bunch. After finishing her role as the outspoken bookworm, she took her love of reading and writing into her real life as well and attended the University of Berkeley where she majored in Social Sciences and became a teacher.
Funny enough, her first teaching job was in a small Virginia school in the Blue Ridge Mountains. After a few years, she returned to California and began teaching at the Los Angeles Environmental Charter School where she became the founding principal. The brainy Walton girl has come a long way.
When the producers thought of a fatherly figure to play the role of John Walton, they thought of Henry Fonda. After his great performance as a father in the film Spencer’s Mountain, the cast searchers were set on him as the perfect match to educate the lively Walton children. But Henry had a different opinion.
After going through the pilot script, he admitted to loving the premise and what the show represented, but he felt that there wasn’t much room for a fatherly figure. He felt that it was mainly the mother and son’s show, but the casting wanted him so badly they actually rewrote some scenes just to convince him to join. But after two rewrites, he remained unsatisfied and rejected the offer altogether.
For the first few months, The Waltons were at the bottom of the TV ratings, and it seemed as though they were no match for their fierce competitors, ABC’s The Flip Wilson Show and NBC’s The Mod Squad. After some brainstorming, CBS decided to boost the show’s reputation by publishing an ad titled Help Save the Waltons.
The advertisement described how the show was on the verge of being canceled, and surprisingly, it drew in a lot of new viewers. Millions of Americans became obsessed with the show and it did so well that it quickly climbed up the charts and reached #1 at the end of the first season. Following the dramatic turnover, both The Mod Squad and The Flip Wilson show announced that it would be their last season.
Known as the stern but loving grandma of the Walton family, Esther suffered a near stroke at the end of Season Five. But this fictional event reflected the actress’s real health situation. In 1976, she suffered an actual stroke and had to be pulled from the show for a while. When she recovered enough to resume, her script and lines had to be tweaked according to her new state.
Her speech was impaired severely, and her mobility was limited, so the show shortened her lines significantly. Instead of long wordy dialogues, the viewers would have to suffice with minimal phrases like “No” or “Home.” We’re just glad we were able to see her in all of the seasons, including the reunion movies.
Following the death of his young daughter, Ralph Waite developed unhealthy habits in order to escape his painful reality. For years he struggled with his demons, juggling between being the loving role model on screen and the troubled addict off-screen. But luckily, all those hours of filming around a joyous group of kids was exactly what encouraged him to make a change.
His costar and fictional eldest daughter, Judy Norton, mentioned how he confessed to being positively influenced by their presence. She claims he admitted, “I sat there one day at the kitchen table with all you kids, and I felt like such a fake.” It was just the push he needed to go to AA and get his life together again.
The kind and motherly Olivia Walton graced our screen with charm and much love. Michael Learned played the part brilliantly, but backstage she insisted on adding a bit of spice and human flaws to her character. She wanted Olivia to be more relatable to the audience, so she turned to writer Earl Hamner Jr. with some requests.
Learned asked him to add some mistakes for her to make, like punishing the wrong child or making them wear hot clothes on a sunny day. Hamner was a bit reluctant at first because he created Olivia in the shadow of his mom, and it was hard for him to recall her making any mistakes. At last, he agreed to make a few changes to the script, and Learned was glad to play a far from perfect Olivia.
The Waltons was Michael’s first serious acting job, which meant that her name was unknown to most of the show’s viewers. In order to avoid any confusion surrounding her gender, the producers decided to add “Miss” to her name, and for the first five seasons, she appears in the opening credits with that added touch.
Learned was in fact a “Mrs.” before coming to the show. She married in 1956 at the young age of 17 to her first husband, Peter Donat, but in 1972, the same year The Waltons premiered, the couple got divorced. Throughout her life, Learned altered between Miss and Mrs. but since 1988 she’s been married to lawyer John Doherty.
The show was filmed throughout a decade that was very different from where the world stands today with respect to sexuality. It wasn’t common for celebrities to be open and proud of who they loved if it didn’t fit the status quo, especially if you’re the picturesque model of the rural all-American family. Therefore, some of the cast members could not allow themselves to openly admit they were quite unlike their character on screen.
Years after the show ended, people learned that Grandma Walton, played by Ellen Corby, was in fact a lesbian, despite being married to one of the directors, Francis Corby. Their marriage didn’t last, and during that time she had an affair with a woman named Stella Luchetta, whom she would end up living with for 45 years. Another closeted cast member was Ellen’s fictional husband, Grandpa Walton, who was played by Will Greer. He had a long and serious relationship with Harry Hay, a well-known gay rights activist.
What began as a fictional father-son relationship, turned into an emotional get-together at Jon Walmsley’s wedding with Lisa Harrison. Jon (Jason Walton) and Lisa (Toni) took their relationship off-screen when they decided to get married for real in 1979. Former minister Ralph Waite, who played Jon’s TV dad, proudly officiated the event and as they tied the knot.
The outdoor ceremony was held in Malibu and the whole Waltons’ cast was present including Jon’s TV mom, Michael Learned, and all of his fictional siblings. Other guests included John Ritter, who played a minister on the series and jokingly suggested he should be the one marrying them.
John Walton Sr. played a substantial role in the show and appeared in all the episodes in the first eight seasons. So, it came as a surprise when his presence was sporadic during the last one. Out of 22 episodes, he appeared in eight of them. Naturally, viewers missed him on the show and wanted to know why he wasn’t appearing as much.
The truth is, the producers had tightened the budget, and Ralph suffered the consequences. Apparently, the ninth season of the show wasn’t part of the plan but ended up happening anyway. So, they were a bit unprepared and weren’t interested in paying the actor a generous amount for his work. Instead, they opted to make some cuts, and Ralph was one of them.
Like many child actors who grew up in the public eye, Mary McDonough was struggling to find herself when the show ended and she had to part ways with her graceful character, Erin. At 24, she decided to undergo some cosmetic changes in order to try and fit in with beauty standards and expectations. But her breast implants backfired terribly, and Mary’s healthy began to deteriorate.
She faced strenuous muscle pain, headaches, and constant flu like symptoms. The truth was that her implants had ruptured and began decaying in her chest. After 10 years of pure confusion and frustration, she finally removed them. Even though she began feeling better, at age 35 her health declined yet again and she was diagnosed with Lupus, an inflammatory disease that Mary blames on her implants.
Learned’s character, Olivia Walton, clearly stated how much she disapproved of having alcohol around the house. With a stern gaze and serious tone of voice, she wouldn’t budge from her thoughts on the topic. But time and again we realize that actors are seriously good at what they do because the reality couldn’t have been more different for Michael.
Learned was an alcoholic and even auditioned with a bottle of bourbon in her pocket. She landed the part due to her convincing performance, which may be stemmed from a genuine longing to be as good as her character Olivia. For almost six seasons, Learned depended on her drinks heavily, but luckily came around before Season Seven, when she took ten weeks off to treat herself properly and fix the problem.
Judy Norton-Taylor played the character of humble and good-mannered Mary-Ellen. Apparently, a decade of acting out such a squeaky-clean persona affected her and a few years after the show ended, she made a bold decision and posed nude for Playboy magazine’s August 1985 issue. She was done with her child-like reputation and wanted to show a different side of herself.
Judy claims that she couldn’t be more different than her sweet on-screen ego, Mary-Ellen. She thrives on exciting experiences and trying new things and would go crazy spending her days on a mountain kneading bread. She enjoys skydiving and skiing and considers herself an adrenaline junkie. Fans might have been taken aback by her decision to pose nude, but, for Judy, it was just another exciting adventure she had to go on.
One move by the series’ producers left viewers completely dumbfounded. The central character, John-Boy, who was played by Richard Thomas for seven seasons, was swapped by a different actor, Robert Wightman in Seasons Eight and Nine. Richard was the one who decided to leave, to pursue other interests, but many felt that the show’s replacement was terribly odd.
Some felt like it turned the show into an absurd comedy and was the weird turning point of the series. Fans claimed that they should have just left him out of the storyline altogether because it was too unsettling seeing a new actor on screen. John-Boy was a significant part of the show, so we’re guessing that’s why the production didn’t dare let his character go.
The Waltons graced our screens at a time when Hollywood was being heavily criticized for lacking morality and producing controversial content. People argued that critical values were being thrown out of the window and replaced by disreputable behavior, and the rural Virginian family seemed like the perfect counterexample.
According to the youngest Walton, Kami Cotler, the show was a direct response to such backlash. It was there to prove that television was still capable of providing wholesome and proper content to its viewers. The show had such an impact on families across America that even years after it ended, in 1992, President George Bush stated in a speech that he wished to make all families “more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons.”
Linda Thompson is a 69-year-old songwriter/lyricist, former actress, and beauty pageant winner. You might recognize her as a cast member of ‘Hee Haw’ as one of the “Hee Haw Honeys.” But she was famous for other reasons, one being the fact that she was a longtime girlfriend of the late great Elvis Presley. That is before she married Olympic decathlon champion Bruce Jenner, and then the legendary music producer David Foster.
Thompson once said: “I’m the kind of person who lives under the radar.” It sure sounds modest, right? But how do you live under the radar when you were the other half to the King of Rock’ n’ Roll? Thompson was no stranger to walking the red carpets, but her glamorous partners were only part of the story. After writing a tell-all book about her life, some new, rather revealing, information surfaced that was only considered to be rumors before.
Linda Thompson’s story reads something like a Cinderella story…at least at first.
Born on May 23rd, 1950, Linda Diane Thompson grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. She comes from a low-income family, but they kept their Southern Baptist faith. As she was growing up, people around her noticed her beauty, and it didn’t take long for high-profile celebrities to notice her, too. She might have led a simple life at first…
But she would always get comments about her looks and how stunning she was. In high school, she won the title of Homecoming Queen, but that was just the beginning of all the crowns she would wear in her life. Thompson’s looks got her some pretty special opportunities. She won Miss Liberty Bowl, Miss Tennessee, Miss Shelby County, to name a few.
Luckily for Linda, her looks paid off – quite literally. Her pageants were able to help pay for her schooling. And after joining one beauty pageant, all the rest just fell into place, and doors were suddenly opening for the young, bright, and beautiful girl. Thompson would later attend Memphis State University, where she double-majored in English and Drama.
Having grown up in a very modest and grounded family, Thompson kept her faith and traditional values in front of her decision-making. But being that way didn’t stop her from shining bright. Linda also had an older brother named Sam. And as it turns out, Sam had his own door into the world of show business. He was one of Elvis Presley’s bodyguards.
1972 wasn’t just the year that Linda Thompson won a few beauty pageants; it was also the year she met her first love. Due to living a strict and faith-oriented life early on, Thompson didn’t even think about nor have the time to fall in love in high school or in college. But when she did fall in love, she fell hard. And for someone quite special.
That’s right: her first lover was none other than Elvis Presley himself. How many can say that their boyfriend was a rock god? I mean, who can say that their boyfriend was the king of anything, really? Well, Elvis met Linda, who was 15 years younger than him, at a private movie screening in 1972. But Elvis was fresh out of a relationship…
Soon, the two would embark on what would become a four-year relationship. But when Presley met Thompson, he still had deep feelings for someone else. While Thompson’s first love was Elvis, the singer couldn’t say the same about Thompson. Elvis had loved someone else before she ever came along. Elvis met Priscilla when he was 24, and she was just 14.
Let that sit for a moment. The girl was 14. So yeah, we can say that their relationship was, umm, unique. The two were practically in love from the moment they laid eyes on each other. And one year after they met for the first time, Priscilla moved to Graceland. They had a baby girl named Lisa Marie, and everything seemed great. “Seemed”…
It didn’t take long for the young Priscilla to learn of the dark side of fame as she was living with her ultra-famous husband. The musician was always exhausted because his career was his life. And thus, his relationship with Priscilla suffered big time. His busy schedule and lack of sleep led him down a dark path of substance abuse.
And that was not something Priscilla signed up for. Elvis’ way of living grew into something Priscilla simply couldn’t and didn’t want to handle. So she filed for a divorce. And it was after a bitter break-up that Elvis then landed in the arms of Linda Thompson – another younger woman who would soon learn what Priscilla knew before her. But first, she had to do the necessary act of falling in love with him.
It’s no secret that Elvis was a lady’s man. And it looks like he had a thing for younger women, too. Elvis had a reputation that any faith-driven girl would have no business getting involved with – at least romantically. But fame and talent can really make one change their ways. And since Elvis was such a superstar, can anyone really blame Linda for not saying no?
The whole situation was exciting for Thompson, and she quickly became smitten with the black-haired blue-eyed singer. After all, this is the King of Rock and Roll we’re talking about. People would have called her crazy if she didn’t go out with the man. Once Elvis laid his eyes on her, it was only a matter of time until he made his move.
Thompson was only 22 years old when she met the 37-year-old Elvis. He had rented out a movie theater for some of his friends to enjoy. When word went around that Miss Tennessee was in town, Elvis quickly sent her an invite to his movie screening. And with his track record, he knew the blonde beauty wouldn’t say no to his invitation.
The two ended up sitting next to each other, and while Elvis was fresh out of a divorce, he knew that he would have another shot at love. Would their romance last long? At that moment, I don’t think that either of them was thinking of where their roads would lead to. At that moment, all they cared about was how the other one kissed.
For anyone who’s been on a hot first date at a movie theater, watching the actual movie and paying attention to what’s happening on screen is the last thing on your mind. For Linda and Elvis, their experience was no different. These two were definitely not paying attention to the movie screen.
Thompson and Elvis hardly knew each other, but the chemistry was surely there. And apparently, Elvis kept it classy when he made his moves on women. Thompson revealed later in an interview that Elvis pulled the good ol’ “yawn and stretch” before putting his arm around her. In no time, the two were locking lips for nearly the entire double-feature. Shocked, Linda couldn’t believe what was happening. It felt unreal to her.
I could only imagine that she must have felt like she was herself in a movie. I don’t think anyone could be prepared for smooching for a long time with Elvis. Obviously, having heard of Elvis, who he is, and who he was with, Linda just assumed that he was still committed to Priscilla. He surely still had feelings for the woman who left him.
But at one point, he told Linda, “You know I’m not married anymore.” Thompson was caught off guard and responded with, “I didn’t know that, and I’m sorry it didn’t work out, but you should have married a southern girl.” After the make-out/movie, Linda gave Elvis her number. Like many girls would think, Linda, didn’t expect the star to ever give her a call.
Not long after she got home from the movie and the best night of her life, Linda received a phone call. Her aunt answered the phone, and Linda could hear Elvis speaking on the other end, asking to talk to her. He told her aunt that it was an urgent call. I can only imagine that exchange. It probably went something like: “Honey, Elvis is on the phone!”
Elvis then told Linda: “I just want you to know how happy I am that I met you. Can you come over tomorrow to Graceland and meet my father?” Can you imagine? Of course, Linda didn’t hesitate to accept his invitation to head over to Graceland. Once she got there, she met a few other people as well. The pageant girl later described that day as a dream. No kidding.
After that special day in Graceland, Thompson heads out to Alabama for a personal vacation. But the thing is that she never left a contact number for Elvis in case he wanted to call her. Oh, the good old days of life before cell phones. Everything had to be so calculated and planned! Anyways, back to the story.
Linda had only told him that she would be back soon and hoped to see him again. And guess what – once she got to Alabama, she got a call from the one and only. He had a request. “You don’t just disappear from my life, who do you think I am? I’m going to Vegas tonight, and I want you to come with me,” he told her. All she needed was a toothbrush.
It came to a point when these two became an item. And it was when Elvis started taking priority in Linda’s life. She stopped everything to be with her new beautiful beau. She had plans of her own, like modeling in New York, but her career goals weren’t on her mind with Elvis in the picture. And I gotta say, I don’t blame her.
Elvis was smitten by her just as much as she was with him. He was infatuated with her and enjoyed showing her off to the people in his life and to the media. Elvis didn’t take any time making their relationship public. She followed him around everywhere, and the two were head over heels in love.
Elvis was a generous man, especially with the people he loved most. Linda Thompson told Larry King in an interview that “Living with Elvis was like living with Santa Clause.” And that’s because he would buy her gifts all the time. Hey, he certainly had the money for it. But his generosity went beyond just material things.
He didn’t just spend his money – he spent his time, too. He enjoyed being with his friends and loved ones. Elvis adored Linda and helped her in many ways. The two were inseparable. Whether it was karate practice, touring, or rehearsals, Linda was right by his side. They were together for four years, but for some reason, they never got married.
Thompson said their first year together was a “loyal one.” Sadly, rumors started to spread, saying that Elvis wasn’t so faithful to Thompson. She was in love with the man, so she tried to turn a deaf ear to all the negative comments she was hearing. She even forgave him after her own suspicions arose. But it was a matter of time until the pressure got between them.
In the beginning, Thompson really felt like she wanted to marry the man. And don’t forget, she was in her early 20s. But Elvis wasn’t. He was in his late 30s, already a father, and after a divorce. Basically, he wasn’t on the same page as her at all.
Linda was no fool – she read the room, so to speak, and understood the situation. As the years went by, her desire to tie the knot with Mr. Presley faded away. As time went on, the rock star lifestyle was also getting to her. Starting her day at 9:00 p.m. and ending it around 2:00 p.m. the next afternoon was not the kind of life she envisioned for herself.
She longed for a regular life – something she was more used to. The harsh reality started to set in, and Linda began to notice what Priscilla personally experienced. And it wasn’t pretty. And by the time Elvis finally came around to even considering marriage, he had missed the boat. Linda’s dreams of marriage have already left the station.
The time came for the couple of four years to call it quits. They both felt as though the love was fading for a while, but neither of them wanted to do anything about it. Breaking up is hard to do, right folks? And breaking up with Elvis Presley must be a whole lot worse. But Linda got the big red flag when Elvis did the unthinkable.
He flew in a different girl and asked Linda if she wanted to go home for a while. Yeah, that’s a pretty big sign if you ask me. Oh, she went home, alright. She left his home along with a letter explaining why she had to end it with him. She loved him, but she knew where their relationship was heading. And she wanted out.
Linda and Elvis actually remained friends after the break-up, up until his death about a year later in 1977. In a recently unearthed interview, the former beauty queen and actress shared a pretty sad insight into her famous ex’s private thoughts, including something tragic he once told her. Linda opened up about their romance on The Dean Z Show.
She told the host: “The year we shared sort of equates to 10 or 12 years in normal life. In a normal relationship, you go to work, you come back, you meet for a few hours, you have dinner, and you go to sleep. The next day you’re both off doing your thing,” she explained. “With Elvis, it was so intense. It was so 24/7.”
Thompson explained how in their relationship, there was such “togetherness” that it felt like a lot more than just four years. One day, she and Elvis had a really deep conversation. “I asked him one time, when we were sitting and having a philosophical talk, ‘What do you think is your worst flaw?'” She then described his response.
He waited for a minute, finally saying to her: “Well, I’m probably only gonna say this once, but I think I’m a little bit self-destructive.” Linda admitted that this “confession” stuck with her. And during his later years, he even recognized his self-destruction, but he had already started the downward spiral, and she didn’t think that he knew how to stop it.
Once Linda realized that Elvis took sleeping medication (and other pills), it felt like “having a newborn baby. I wouldn’t sleep. I wanted to know he was okay. I would sit and watch him until he fell asleep, and then I would get up all through the night,” Linda remembered. She would check on his breathing to make sure he was okay.
This was simply exhausting. “I was a young girl, but it was still exhausting… and also just emotionally exhausting because this is a person that I loved more than my own life, and watching him slowly self-destruct and not being able to do anything about it.” Linda also revealed how one morning, Elvis wasn’t breathing properly and told her to call an ambulance to take him to the hospital.
There were several times like that which really scared Linda, and she finally just thought, “I can’t spend my life trying to keep him alive.” In Linda Thompson’s 2016 memoir, she spoke out about why she ended her relationship with Elvis, which happened just a year before his death. She said that she’d love him until the day she dies.
But she wanted more for her life. She wanted to be a mother. On August 16th, 1977, Elvis passed away. He was 42 years old. His daughter, Lisa Marie, was just nine-years-old. And the first person, the young girl, called was Linda. She needed to break the devastating news of her father’s death, as well as seek comfort.
But before Elvis’ death, he unknowingly shared his thoughts on Linda’s future husband…
Before the end of their relationship, Linda and Elvis would enjoy going to watch the Olympics together. And one time, they got to see Olympic runner Bruce Jenner cross the finish line and win the gold medal in the decathlon. Neither of them knew how much of a critical moment that would end up being (let alone the fact that the athlete would end up becoming a woman one day).
In Thompson’s memoir, she wrote how Elvis himself said about Jenner: “Damn if that guy is not handsome! I’m not gay, but $&*#, he’s good-looking!” Soon after splitting up with The King, the still young and beautiful Linda Thompson would go out and meet that particular athlete.
This brings us to part two of her story…
When Linda described what it was like to meet Bruce Jenner, she said, “He was the classic jock.” Jenner would always wear his typical athletic clothes and flip-flops. And since many athletes do this, he was just doing what the others did. Linda admitted that she easily became attracted to the athlete, thinking he was very masculine.
Of course, at the time, Linda didn’t know that underneath his tough exterior was a very real interior struggle with gender dysphoria. No one knew back then. They just saw a strong, male athlete. And Linda liked what she saw. Things quickly became interesting, as Linda found herself in yet another high profile whirlwind romance. But this time, it was with an athlete and not a rock star.
Similar to how it started with Elvis, Thompson and Jenner hit it off rather fast. The two met in 1979 at a celebrity tennis tournament that was being held at the Playboy Mansion. Jenner had been living there for a while after splitting up with his first wife, Chrystie. Linda got an invite to the awards ceremony where she was to hand out trophies.
And sure enough, Bruce ended up winning the tournament, and Linda gave him his trophy. It didn’t take long for her to fall for him. After the tournament, they spent the whole evening talking. Jenner didn’t want to leave her and even stayed in his tennis clothes to make sure that she wouldn’t leave his sight.
After Bruce told her that he didn’t want other guys to have a chance with her, he asked Linda out to dinner, and I think it’s obvious that she agreed. It turned out to be an exciting, new phase for Thompson having to basically babysit Elvis for all those years. While she didn’t have to be maternal with Bruce, she did find herself in some familiar territory.
Once again, Linda found herself on red carpets, and this time locking arms with Jenner. It was as though the limelight just didn’t want to let Thompson go. In no time, Bruce proposed, and the two decided to make it official. Their relationship read like a typical story of the jock marrying the homecoming queen.
Their wedding took place in Hawaii on January 5th, 1981. Hawaii was a place where Thompson always imagined her wedding would be. So she was happy as can be. As Linda walked down the aisle, she chose to have an Elvis song play in the background. Jenner said he didn’t mind as it was her favorite song.
He understood that her deceased ex-boyfriend was not a threat to their marriage. The couple then started a family of their own. They had two sons, Brandon and Sam Brody (but he’s known as just Brody). Finally, Thompson felt a real sense of fulfillment. Today, she says those early days in their marriage were “too good to be true.” But in hindsight, her instincts were right…
Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. And Linda would end up looking back on her marriage to Bruce with a lot more insight than she had back then. She had no way of seeing how things would eventually play out with all the twists and turns that would occur in Bruce’s (and her) life. It took some time, but Bruce did eventually spill the beans.
Seven months after the birth of their second son, he told Linda that he had something to share. Worried that he would follow in Elvis’ footsteps, Linda initially thought that he was going to tell her that he was having an affair. But then Bruce said, “Its time you know the truth about me.”
That’s when her husband revealed to her that he actually identified as a woman, and living as a man was making him miserable. Not everyone gets news like this from their spouse. It was the last thing she ever expected to come out of his mouth. Linda said that after a few moments of him telling her this, and her moment of shock wore down a bit, her heart ached for him.
Her beloved husband was in pain, and she wanted to help him. So together, they went to a gender dysphoria specialist. It’s there that they realized that Jenner’s internal struggles would never go away. It was who he was. Thompson had to make a very difficult and real decision. Would she able to stay with a man who didn’t want to remain a man?
Even though it was as shocking as it comes, Thompson was actually glad that her husband never told her until after having their sons. Thompson gets asked a lot if she wishes she knew about it before getting married and building a family. And Thompson’s answer is one that many may not understand. Thompson said she’s thankful that she was unaware for so long.
She also says that she would have remained friends with him, but wouldn’t have married him because she wanted to marry a man. And if Jenner would’ve told her earlier on, they would never have had kids. Linda wanted to be a mother so badly, and she has no regrets. But their marriage was over…
In an interview with Fox News in 2017, Linda described how she saw no warning signs of her husband’s desire to identify with being a woman. According to Linda, there was absolutely nothing about Bruce – the “athlete, Malibu dude, the jock of all time” — to indicate that there was a feminine aspect to his nature.
It took Bruce six years to tell Linda when Brody was one and a half, and Brandon was three and a half. “Now, this was around 31 years ago, so what did that mean? We had no idea really what “transgender” meant. And it’s still confusing to some today. Some people still struggle to understand how and why this happens to someone. Back then, I had no clue,” Linda explained.
After the two split up (but before their divorce), there was one evening when Jenner called up Thompson and said, “It’s time you come to see your husband.” Linda’s thoughts raced as she flew to New York to see him. But when she arrived at his door, it wasn’t Bruce who answered the door; it was Caitlyn. He had since become a she.
Linda said she saw “this feminine, fully dressed woman with a wig, makeup. It was devastating. I wasn’t prepared to see that. That was my selfish feeling, but I was confused.” Thompson said that she literally fell to the floor due to shock. It was that moment that helped Thompson move on from the situation and give her some closure.
By 1986, Bruce and Linda were divorced. And Jenner thought it was time to begin his gender transformation process. He started by doing hormone therapy and having plastic surgery. So what about their sons? Well, Thompson decided it a secret – at least for the time being. They were still young at the time.
She wanted to wait until the process became more evident. But then things didn’t go as planned. Jenner decided to put the whole thing on pause. He told her that he wanted to give being a man one last shot after he met Kris Kardashian. Jenner had fallen in love with her and must have figured that his desire to be a woman might fade. The two got married in 1991 and had daughters Kendall and Kylie Jenner.
Thompson herself struggled to watch the show ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ in the coming years, but she was able to move on…
Not long after ending her marriage with Jenner, Thompson met Canadian music producer, David Foster. The two bonded over music and spent time in the studio together. Let’s not forget that Linda Thompson was a songwriter. She began her career as a lyricist when she wrote the recently deceased Kenny Rogers single “Our Perfect Song.”
But Thompson also collaborated with David Foster on several songs, including “No Explanation” for the film Pretty Woman (in 1990), and “I Have Nothing” for the film The Bodyguard (in 1992). Those two songs earned both Thompson and Foster the Academy Award for Best Song in 1993 and the Grammy Award for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television in 1994.
David and Linda fell in love and ended up getting married in 1991. There was a lot less drama in their relationship, and Thompson felt that this time things would be better. In 2005, Linda starred in the short-lived reality TV show, ‘Princes of Malibu,’ about her and David Foster’s efforts to improve her two sons and herself.
But while she felt that her second marriage (third relationship) would be the charm, she was wrong. The two ended up having very different views on marriage. Foster worked long hours, which he framed as his way to provide for them. And Thompson herself wanted to work and do things that she was talented in as well. Thompson decided to end the marriage in 2005.
Linda Thompson is now single at the age of 69. She may be twice divorced, but she is still beautiful, smart, and looking for the right mate. After all of her marriage experience, she learned a few things. She expressed her hopes of finding someone low-key and definitely not in the entertainment industry. She has been single since her divorce in 2005.
It gave her the time she needed to write her tell-all book, “Little Thing Called Life: From Elvis’s Graceland to Bruce Jenner’s Caitlyn & Songs in Between.” But aside from all the interviews and press that she’s doing about her book, she still keeps busy. Thompson plays tennis, goes to the beach, loves hiking, and, most importantly, spends time with her blended family.
Before her marriage to Jenner, he already had two kids, Burt and Casey. And along with their own two sons, the big family was and still is, able to get along well. Thompson says she loves Jenner’s other kids as her own and still stays close with them today. And speaking of the boys, Jenner and Thompson’s sons grew up to be handsome men.
These days, Brody spends his time in Hollywood, and Brandon makes music. You might have caught sight of Brody on the reality TV show, ‘Laguna Beach’ and ‘The Hills.’ Both sons inherited their parents’ good looks and interesting personalities, which is definitely a blessing.
It’s been a long time, but Thompson is still revealing stuff about her first love…
In 2018, more than 40 years after they parted ways, Linda Thompson paid tribute to her former boyfriend and first love, Elvis Presley, on Instagram. Her post on “Fabulous Flashback Friday” showed the young couple boarding one of Elvis’s private planes, which he called the Lisa Marie. The Convair 880 he owned had a conference room, master bedroom, and gold-plated bathroom fixtures.
The jet was named after his only daughter, but it also went by the name “Flying Graceland,” according to Rolling Stone. It remains on display at the Graceland in Memphis, along with his other private airplane, the Hound Dog II. Thompson also captioned the photo “Stairway to Heaven,” which is a pretty fitting description of the photo, if you ask me.
In 2019, Caitlyn Jenner joined Linda Thompson and their sons, Brody and Brandon, to celebrate the release of Brandon’s new song and video clip called “Death of Me.” The whole family took a photo with Brandon’s ex-wife, Leah Felder, with who he’s been co-parenting since their divorce. But in Thompson’s Instagram post dedicated to her sons, she cropped out Felder and Caitlyn.
“Being your mother is the greatest honor and accomplishment of my life,” she wrote in her post. “My prayer is that all the people of the world could share the expansive heart & unconditional love of good mothers everywhere to make our planet a kinder, more nurturing place for everyone to live.”
Brandon shared that same cropped image on his own Instagram, calling Thompson and Felder as one of the “two most incredible mothers I know.”
Linda Thompson wants only the best for her ex-husband David Foster. She spoke to Us Weekly in 2018 about the music producer’s then-engagement to Katharine McPhee. He married McPhee the following year. “I wish them well,” Thompson said but added that she “can’t dodge” the headline-making news about the 68-year-old married a 34-year-old Mcphee.
“I think the only thing that’s a real deterrent, I think, is the age difference,” Linda said. “But I think life doesn’t have any guarantees anyway. If you find someone you love, go for it, you know? McPhee is a lovely person. She’s beautiful, and she’s talented, and they have that musicality in common, so that goes a long way.”
Anyone who has watched Law & Order, or any other U.S. detective show, will have heard the cops state the words: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…” The phrase needs to be recited by law enforcement while detaining suspects. It basically ensures suspects of their rights to defend themselves and that they are not required to talk to detectives without an attorney present.
These rights are also known as the Miranda Warning and were implicated in a 1966 case: Miranda v. Arizona. Ernesto Arturo Miranda was a 24-year-old high school dropout who was accused of the kidnapping and sexual assault of an 18-year-old girl. He gave a full confession during a two-hour investigation, and that was the sole evidence used against him. After Miranda’s conviction, his lawyer used the Constitution to appeal to the court. This is the case that changed police protocol in the United States.
On March 3, 1963, an 18-year-old young woman was working her regular job at the movie theater concession stand in downtown Phoenix. When her shift was over, she got on the public bus and headed home; nothing out of the ordinary. It seemed to be a typical evening. When the bus reached her stop, she jumped off and made her way towards her house. She noticed a car, which later was proved to be Ernesto Miranda’s.
Mr. Miranda didn’t know who this woman was, but he approached her. He then forced the frightened woman to get into the backseat of his car. The girl was obviously terrified, worried she would never get out of this kidnapping alive. Miranda drove for about twenty minutes before he stopped at a secluded area. Sadly, that’s where he stopped and sexually assaulted the innocent girl.
The young woman was scared. Not only did Ernesto rob her and kidnap her, but he also raped her. However, after the brutal assault, he took the woman back to the city, alive and relatively safe (as safe as you can be after a traumatic attack). While dropping her off, he muttered the words, “pray for me,” and the woman rushed home.
She told her family, who immediately called the police to report the demoralizing rape. The woman spoke to detectives and described to them what the car looked like. She said the assailant drove a green or gray car with dark upholstery with stripes. This was their only lead.
Approximately one week later, she and her cousin noticed a car in the neighborhood that matched the description. She managed to get part of the license plate number, which she gave to the police. From that partial plate, police tracked down the sedan, and it led them to 29-year-old Twila Hoffman. She wasn’t the suspect, though.
She was living close to Mesa, Arizona. Hoffman was living with her boyfriend at the time, and his name was… Ernesto Miranda. He was detectives’ first and only suspect. When they knocked on the door, Miranda agreed to go into the station and participate in a lineup. He stood there for identification with three other men.
From that partial plate, the investigators discovered that Ernesto Miranda was their top suspect. Mr. Miranda was arrested on March 13, 1963, and taken into the police station. He was placed in a lineup to be identified. Unfortunately, the victim wasn’t able to positively recognize him as her attacker, but Miranda was led to believe otherwise. He asked the police how he did afterward, and Captain Carroll Cooley responded, saying: “Not too good, Ernie.”
It’s important to note that Miranda only had a 9th-grade education. He didn’t even know the constitution, let alone understand the law. Because of this, he was an easy suspect for detectives to work with.
After his arrest, Miranda was placed in a lineup. The card label he was wearing was number 1. Then, for another two hours, he was questioned by detectives. However, Mr. Miranda was never told that he had the right to have a lawyer present, and he wrote a confession. Miranda ultimately confessed to kidnapping and assaulting the young woman.
At a certain point, the detectives decided to bring the victim into the room. Miranda was asked if this was the woman he raped, and his response was, “That’s the girl.” He detailed the confession, and it was used in court. It didn’t take long for the jury to deliberate and come up with a verdict. They convicted the criminal, and he was sentenced to 20-30 years behind bars.
Another attorney heard about Miranda’s case, and he was intrigued. The attorney, Robert Corcoran, worked with the Phoenix chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. He got in contact with John J. Flynn, a prominent trial lawyer in Arizona. Flynn took over the case and recruited his colleague, John P. Frank, a constitutional law expert.
Flynn wanted Frank’s help to appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States. Frank wrote in his brief on behalf of Miranda, “The day is here to recognize the full meaning of the Sixth Amendment.” As you probably know, the Sixth Amendment covers the rights of criminal defendants, and part of that is the right to a lawyer.
The Sixth Amendment guarantees the rights of criminal defendants, but the Fifth Amendment was also at play here. The Fifth Amendment protects defendants from being forced to become a witness against themselves. Was his Fifth Amendment right also violated?
After all, Miranda’s confession was written directly under a statement saying he was fully aware of his legal rights. His lawyers, however, argued that those rights were not clear enough to him. He could have confessed because of the pressure of interrogation. (We now know false confessions happen all the time.) They believed that under the duress of detainment, his confession should not have been admissible in court.
The Supreme Court said that the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution guarantees that “no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” That means that when an officer takes somebody into custody for questioning, the officers are technically making a suspect a witness against themselves… unless they give them certain warnings, of course.
Therefore, the Supreme Court said that when someone is taken into custody or deprived of their freedom by authorities, the police can’t just question or interrogate them. Well, they can… as long as the person being questioned is completely aware of what is going on, and that the things they reveal can be held against them.
The Supreme Court, which was being led by Chief Justice Earl Warren at the time, agreed with Miranda’s lawyers. In a 5-4 ruling, the decision was made, and the Supreme Court reversed the Arizona Supreme Court’s initial decision. They believed that under the circumstances, Miranda’s confession shouldn’t have been admissible.
On June 13, 1966, Warren’s 60-plus page written opinion was released. He further explained the police procedure to make sure that defendants were fully informed of their rights while being detained and interrogated. These new police procedures were known as the Miranda Warning. Police departments all over the country wrote them down on index cards and told their officers to read them to suspects.
In order not to break the Fifth Amendment, police must warn the defendant prior to questioning, stating the following: “you have the right to remain silent; anything you say can be used against you in a court of law; you have the right to the presence of an attorney; if you cannot afford an attorney one will be appointed for you prior to any questioning if you so desire.”
There are a lot of misconceptions about the Supreme Court’s official position in the Miranda case. It doesn’t mean that police are required to read each individual’s rights after an arrest; it also doesn’t mean that investigators always need to read the rights before they start questioning.
You’ll never guess how Miranda’s retrial went and ultimate fate.
So what you are probably wondering is when exactly it is required for an officer to read the Miranda rights? As it turns out, the only time the cops need to read you your Miranda rights is if they are planning on conducting a custodial interrogation. If the suspect is in custody, they are required to receive their Miranda Rights, so that they can be protected when there is a formal arrest or freedom associated with that formal arrest.
Interrogation under Miranda doesn’t only refer to asking questions, but also any words or actions on the part of the police, which they know are likely to elicit any incriminating statements from the suspect. In a custodial interrogation, custody, and interrogation happen at the same time.
Sometimes police begin an interrogation without having the suspect in custody. For example, the detectives often leave their business cards for people who are involved in an investigation. If the person who obtains a business card calls the detectives and agrees to come to speak with them at the police station, the detective does not detain or arrest the individual during questioning.
Since there is an interrogation, but nobody is in custody, the detective isn’t required to read the Miranda rights. So if someone comes in voluntarily, cops don’t need to read the rights because they are free to leave at any time. They aren’t being held against their will.
As for Ernesto Miranda, he was released from prison, but he did not get away with his heinous crime. After his conviction was overturned in 1966, his case was brought back to the Arizona trial court. During his second trial, the prosecutor wasn’t allowed to use Miranda’s confession against him since it was no longer admissible.
However, Miranda’s ex-“common-law” wife testified at his second trial. Not long after he was arrested for kidnapping, she visited him in jail. Her testimony stated that when she was there, Miranda confessed to her that he kidnapped and raped the 18-year-old girl. But was that enough? Would he still be sentenced without his confession?
As we know, Miranda’s case was set for a retrial. This time, however, the confession was left out of the evidence, even though his Supreme Court case changed the entire criminal procedure in the United States. However, Ernesto Miranda’s fate wasn’t as altered. As we mentioned, during his retrial, Twila Hoffman, his ex-girlfriend, testified against him.
She claimed that while he was in prison, he revealed details to her about his crimes. Without the confession, her testimony was essential for his conviction. In October 1967 he was convicted once again and sentenced to 20-30 years in jail. In 1975 he was released on parole, and let’s just say he wasn’t a model citizen.
Okay, so after getting out of prison, Miranda’s newfound criminal fame made it hard for him to get a job. To make cash, he sold his autograph around Phoenix. Shortly after his release, Mr. Miranda got in a fight during a poker game at a bar, over $2! Pick your battles, man! During that drunken fight, Miranda was stabbed to death. Then, things got weird.
The police detained and questioned the man who allegedly gave the murder weapon (which was a knife) to the killer. After he received his official Miranda Warning, he declined to make a statement. In an ironic twist of events, the killer got away and was never found. The Miranda Rights were basically the reason that Ernesto Miranda’s killer was never discovered.
It should sound familiar to you by now; the Miranda Warning reads: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind, do you wish to speak to me?”
So if the police want to question you regarding a crime, it’s best to speak with an experienced lawyer before talking directly to the detectives. Even if you are completely innocent, misunderstanding can occur, and every citizen has the right to defend themselves. An attorney is there to help guide you and secure your rights.
A misconception of the Miranda case is that Ernesto was let out because he didn’t have his rights read to him. I mean, before his case, nobody had their rights read, so it wasn’t a rational reason to dismiss the case. During his original trial, his lawyer argued that because Miranda only had a ninth-grade education, he wasn’t aware of his Fifth Amendment right.
His defense was that Miranda didn’t know his laws against self-incrimination. Basically, he didn’t know his rights, but it had nothing to do with police not reading him his rights. It was only when his lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court that the Miranda Warning became a thing. The judge believed that the Fifth and Sixth Amendments didn’t mean much if defendants like Miranda don’t understand them.
Police officers are not required to read Miranda rights during stops, although they do ask the driver questions. In the 1984 Berkemer v. McCarty case, an Ohio man attempted to fight his DUI arrest. His defense was that the police did not Mirandize him during his stop.
As we mentioned earlier, you don’t get your Miranda rights read to you unless you are in police custody. This is similar to when witnesses call up detectives or speak to police voluntarily. Although being stopped in traffic isn’t necessarily voluntary, the individual isn’t being arrested. Of course, if the police stop the suspect to take them into custody, they need to recite the Miranda rights.
Thanks to this case, police protocol has changed in America forever. But some cases can be so ridiculous, you won’t believe they are real. Check out these crazy lawsuits!
Due to the nature of his confession, Ernesto Miranda’s case changed how the U.S. justice system conducts itself. It is always disappointing to see someone released after such a heinous crime. His clever lawyers were able to use the Constitution against the prosecution, and the Miranda rights soon became basic protocol.
But even today, these laws are important because you can always protect yourself. If a suspect gives a confession without being told their rights, it will not be admissible in court. Although Ernesto was ultimately released on parole, he wasn’t able to run away from karma. He quickly met the fate he deserved.
Let’s start with a “sweet” one. A California woman filed a lawsuit in 2017 against the candy company Jelly Belly. Why? Because she felt misled by the fact that their candies contained sugar. Yup. Jessica Gomez filed a complaint against the jellybean manufacturer for their use of the term “evaporated cane juice” which appears on the packaging for the Jelly Belly Sport Beans.
Gomez said she thought it meant that the candies were sugar-free, and thus, they were a healthier snack option. The candy company (and myself included) called the lawsuit “nonsense” and urged the courts to dismiss it because the product’s nutrition label visibly shows its sugar content.
The case was indeed dismissed after the court ruled that the plaintiffs failed to show the facts specific to their purchase and reliance on advertising.
Let’s move on to a family matter. Whenever families are drawn into court, it’s more often than not an unfortunate event. But this case will baffle you for sure. Let me just say this, if you’re a parent to a teenager, try not to get any ideas from this.
In 2018, a New York married couple took their 30-year-old son, Michael, to court. They were seriously (and I mean seriously) hoping that the judge would force him to move out of their home. This only begs the question: what did he do??
Mark and Christina Rotondo gave their son a series of eviction notices and even offered him over $1,000 to help him land on his feet. After the notices failed to get their son out of the house, they filed for the court to order Michael to get out. What did Michael have to say for himself? He didn’t have a job and refused to leave in time. The ruling? The judge sided with the parents and ordered Michael to vacate the home.
A man from Texas made headlines not just in America, but also in international news and even became a poster boy for pettiness. And it’s because of the ridiculous lawsuit he decided was worth hiring a lawyer and going to court for. So what was his case? He sued a woman after what he called the “first date from hell.”
Brandon Vezmar, age 37, went on a date with a woman he met on the dating app Bumble in 2017. The two met up, and Vezmar was ticked off when she apparently spent the whole night on her cellphone. Vezmar went ahead and sued the woman, hoping to get back the $17.31 he spent on the movie ticket he bought for her. The woman eventually gave him his money back so that he would drop the whole thing and leave her alone.
If you thought those lawsuits were the perfect topics of discussion at your next water cooler meeting or your next dinner with friends, you should read this one. Now, there is something to be said for claims of false advertising, but lawsuits can easily go haywire when the accuser just gets greedy.
One case came around in 2016 when a New York man went after a basketball manufacturer when his ball prematurely lost some of its air. Jaish Markos accused Russell Brands, the company that makes Spalding Neverflat basketballs, of misleading him despite their advertisements that say the ball would stay inflated for a year. Okay, so why not just ask for a refund? No, Markos wanted a greedy $5 million for the faulty product. Apparently, the case is still open.
When you think about Red Bull, what comes to mind? Sure, that they’re an energy drink. But somewhere in your thoughts is their super famous commercial and the slogan “Red Bull: It gives you wings!” well, apparently someone thought they were serious. This is a rare example of a brand who got sued for their slogan. And not only did they get sued – they lost too! Now, if you ask me (and any other level-headed person), drinking an energy drink is NOT going to give you wings.
The claim obviously isn’t meant to be taken literally, yet somehow it landed the company in court. Disappointed Red Bull drinkers sued the company because they claimed that the advertisements led them to really believe that Red Bull would give them a physical performance boost. It looks like that’s the angle they used, and that’s what worked.
Webster Lucas, a man from California, had a rather unsatisfactory visit at a McDonald’s location in Pacoima, California. The problem was that he didn’t have enough napkins…
On a visit to the fast-food chain, in late January 2014, Lucas claimed that after asking for an extra napkin with his order, the Manager on duty (who he described as a Mexican-American) mumbled something that Lucas considered to be racially discriminating.
Lucas wrote a letter to the location’s General Manager, saying that the incident left him “unable to work because of the undue mental anguish and the intentional infliction of emotional distress” caused by the manager who may or may not have given him an extra napkin. The price tag Mr. Lucas requested for his emotional and mental distress? 1.5 million dollars.
While it is unclear as to whether or not he even got his much-needed extra napkins, one thing is, however, clear: He’s Lovin’ It!
This one gives new meaning to the saying, “I’ll sue the pants off you!”
A Washington, D.C. judge (a judge!) by the name of Roy Pearson took his pants to the dry-cleaners at a family-owned business called Custom Cleaners. He claims that they never returned the correct pair of pants, and thus betrayed their “satisfaction guaranteed” sign. This goes down in pants history as the most expensive pair of pants because he sued the company for an incredible $67 million.
Good news! He came to his senses and dropped the case. Bad news! He dropped it to “only” $54 million. Pearson passionately described his mental suffering, inconvenience, and discomfort to the judge.
The case ended dramatically, as you might assume. The dry-cleaner owner held up a pair of pressed pants, faced the judge, the jury, and the plaintiff, and said: “These are your pants.” Pearson then ran out of the court, tears streaming, shocked at the injustice. To this day, he denies that those were even his pants.
A woman in Washington, Cynthia Ruddell, was simply not a fan of her neighbor’s pet duck, whom she called “crazy” in a 2014 lawsuit. Ruddell sued Lolita Rose (the duck owner) after she claimed that her duck attacked her, leading to injuries. Ruddell said the duck, which Rose apparently let roam around free, flapped its wings at her in a way that knocked her down as she was walking down the street one day.
Ruddell claimed in court that the duck truly scared her and that the fall to suffering major injuries, including the breaking of her wrist. Ruddell was looking to get money, obviously, and she was officially seeking $275,000 in damages and medical expenses. This lawsuit eventually disappeared from the public view.
We can all admit that we get annoyed at the thought of snack packages, whether boxes of candy or bags of chips, containing more empty space than the actual food inside. But do we take the snack company to court? These people did. A group of angry snack customers took the makers of Junior Mints to court because they were very unsatisfied with how much air was in the boxes.
The lawsuit was filed against Tootsie Roll Industries (who make Junior Mints), and the claim was that the company was deceiving buyers by leaving one-third of every Junior Mints box empty. A federal judge in New York threw the claim out in 2018, saying any “reasonable” customer expects some empty space inside each box.
What do you think about this one? In 2013, a college student from Pennsylvania made headlines when she sued her university after receiving failing grades. The young woman, who was studying nursing at Misericordia University, blamed her school’s officials for not assisting her enough when she failed the same required course on two separate occasions.
The student wanted punitive damages after the school allegedly discriminated against her having disabilities of anxiety and depression when she was taking her final exams. The woman ended up dropping the lawsuit. In 2014, the company agreed to settle for $13 million, but not for the student alone. Their settlement involved offering every unsatisfied customer either a check for $10 or a certificate for $15 of Red Bull energy drinks.
In 1991, a man named Richard Overton sued Anheuser-Busch, the beer maker (Budweiser and Bud Light), because their advertisements featured guys getting together with beautiful women. The problem? The ads don’t illustrate the reality that consuming beer doesn’t get you, attractive women.
He accused the beer maker of deceiving society to get people to buy their products and promoting the false belief that beer is needed for social interaction between the sexes. Apparently, Overton was passionately concerned for society and its beer drinkers – specifically the dudes who just want attractive gals. Overton claimed that he experienced emotional and physical distress and financial losses of 10,000 dollars. He demanded $250 for every day Anheuser-Busch continued to air these ads.
Allen Heckard wants you to know that he is not Michael Jordan. And he would really appreciate it if you stopped calling him by that name. In his own legal words, dealing with “defamation, permanent injury, and emotional pain and suffering” of being mistaken for the basketball legend proved to be too much for Heckard, who was 8 years older, about 6 inches shorter.
Heckard sued Jordan for $416 million for stealing his likeness. He then sued Nike for the same amount for making Michael Jordan one of the most recognizable men in the world. Have any of your jaws dropped yet? If you’re wondering why $416 million… Heckard explained: “Well, you figure with my age and you multiply that by seven and, ah, then I turn around and, ah, I figure that’s what it all boils down to.”
Don’t worry, folks; there’s hope in the world. The lawsuit was quickly dropped, most likely because Nike’s lawyers found Heckard and told him about all the ways they would counter-sue.
This is not a joke. Ernie Chambers, “the duly elected and serving State Senator from the 11th Legislative District in Omaha, Nebraska,” sued God. Why, do you ask? “For directly and proximately [causing], among other things, fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornados, pestilential plague.” Chambers used the lawsuit as a cease and desist order to the Almighty, complaining that He must bow down to the law and “cease certain harmful activities and the making of terroristic threats.”
Chambers later claimed that he filed this lawsuit as a way to fight local laws that prohibited the public from filing frivolous lawsuits. As a senator, what better way to bring up the issue and prove that “anyone can sue anyone they choose, even God” by filing a crazy lawsuit and waste the taxpayers’ money?
Chambers revealed that he not only believes in God, but he also believes that he can sue him to make a point. The judge (obviously) rejected the case because of a technical reason: the Almighty didn’t have a recorded address. The jury is out as to whether God will show up to court. Your move, big guy.
Tons of noteworthy and also hilarious lawsuits have come out of New York, and this was one of the better ones. Andrew Rector, a used car salesman, went to a New York Yankees game in July 2014, but he ended up falling asleep in the stands. That kind of sucks, right? Well, what sucks, even more, is that ESPN, which was broadcasting the game, caught Rector on camera snoozing, and the announcers basically poked fun at him.
Rector decided to sue the network for defamation and demanded $10 million in damages because he felt that the announcers’ remarks hurt his reputation. A judge threw out the case in 2015, stating that Rector was only on camera for a mere 30 seconds and that the jokes were nothing as serious as defamation.
Disability claims are no laughing matter, but this one had many people rolling their eyes in 2014 when it made the news. What do you think of this one?
A firefighter in Houston, Texas, decided to sue the fire department that he worked for under the Americans with Disabilities Act. He claimed that he had a debilitating fear of fire, which meant he was unable to do his job. After poor performances at multiple fire scenes, the man was demoted to a job outside of the field of firefighting, which is what led to the lawsuit.
Believe it or not, the jury sided with the man, which would have awarded him $362,000 in damages. But a judge in the Texas Supreme Court was a little stricter than that and disagreed with the jury. He stripped the decision upon appeal and said the man didn’t prove that he was “disabled” under the ADA’s protections.
Come on, man… everyone knows that the house always wins. Casinos will gladly take all the money from you than you care to play with, and most people understand that whether they like it or not. But one gambler by the name of Mark Johnston felt like his rights were violated after a particularly unlucky night. Johnston, a California man, sued the Downtown Grand casino in Las Vegas after he claimed $500,000 in losses.
His basis for the lawsuit was that he was too drunk to responsibly gamble, making it the casino’s fault. In a shocking twist, the story ends by Johnston having actually ripped the casino off for the $500,000 by writing phony checks to borrow money from them. That led the Downtown Grand to countersue him, and then a warrant was issued for his arrest.
One day in 1995, Robert Glaser went to a Billy Joel Concert at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego and felt nature calling and naturally went to relieve himself. But he wasn’t aware that the bathrooms at the stadium were unisex. When he got to the bathroom, he found a woman using a urinal to urinate. This apparently traumatized Glaser.
He went around the stadium trying to find a place to pee in peace, but all he found were women in all the restrooms. He was terrified at the thought that one of them would suddenly crouch over the urinals, or that he would end up in a ladies’ restroom and “breaking the rules.” So what did he do? He held it in for four hours. The “emotional distress” and “embarrassment” he suffered were his complaints in the lawsuit he filed against the stadium and even the city of San Diego for $5.4 million. He lost the case. To this day, women can use a urinal to pee in San Diego.
Lauren Rosenberg is not a happy Google Maps user. Rosenberg was trying to walk from 96 Daly Street, Park City in Utah, to 1710 Prospector Avenue using Google Maps on her BlackBerry. Part of the Google directions involved a half-mile walk down Deer Valley Drive. When she arrived there, she saw that the road itself had no pedestrian sidewalk. Why? Because Deer Valley Drive was also Utah State Route 224.
Rosenberg continued following the directions and walked down the major highway. But she got hit by a car, and so she sued Google for leading her there. She demanded $100,000 because the directions were unreasonable and unsafe. Rosenberg said she never saw the side roads that she could have used. She also didn’t pay attention to the fact that Google posts a warning about the safety and reliability of its directions with each map search.
Now, if the other lawsuits haven’t baffled you yet, try this one. Fugitives might feel the necessity to do some desperate things just to stay out of jail, but Jesse Dimmick pulled a rather shameless move after he got caught for a crime he committed in 2009. What did he do? Well, he was on the police radar after a murder charge in Kansas.
He broke into a couple’s house and held them at knifepoint. When the couple managed to get away from him when he fell asleep, they obviously called the police and told them where he was. Dimmick was quickly caught. What did Dimmick do? He sued the couple because they apparently made a legally binding oral agreement that they would help him stay free in return for money. A judge dismissed his case lawsuit in 2012, and all faith in humanity can be restored.
Some people like to watch sports as part of some family-friendly activity, and then some prefer to watch sports as a reason to unleash all their anger onto the players they see. If you’re around the latter group during a sporting event, you know you’re going to hear lots of bad words and yelling.
In 2017, two New York Giants fans sued police officers at San Francisco’s Levi’s Stadium for what they believed was a violation of their First Amendment rights. The two football fans, who are brothers, said they were removed from the NFL game for cursing at the football players and flipping them off. The passionate fans also said that the cops who kicked them out of the game used excessive force, even zapping one of them with a Taser.
McDonald’s has been on the receiving end of numerous lawsuits, like the infamous hot coffee case. Some are legit; some not so much. And one case that was deemed to have no merit whatsoever happened in Miami, Florida, in 2018. A pissed off couple filed a lawsuit because the massive fast-food chain charges just as much for a Quarter Pounder WITH cheese as it does for one without the cheese.
The angry burger eaters said that they ordered the burger without any cheese and were shocked to see how the price was the exact same. So, naturally, they wanted $5 million in damages. I mean, it only makes sense…
Anyway, a Florida judge tossed it out, stating that the couple couldn’t prove that they were harmed by the additional charge.
According to Hellman’s parent company Unilever, federal regulators define mayonnaise as a spread that contains eggs. This is why Hellman’s wasn’t happy that a competitor was trying to pass off an egg-free version as the real deal. Hampton Creek’s line of “Just Mayo” uses plant products instead of eggs. Unilever claimed that by calling their non-mayo product “Just Mayo,” Hampton Creek is falsely advertising and stealing the market share that is rightfully theirs.
“Consumers and cooks have an expectation that mayonnaise should both taste and perform like mayonnaise. Just Mayo does neither,” the complaint stated. Hampton Creek’s CEO, Josh Tetrick, didn’t think it was a big deal. “Today it’s mayo; tomorrow it’s a cookie … next year it will be pasta,” he said. “Maybe we’ll see big cookie and big pasta lawsuits against us next.”
In 2012, a Dallas Cowboys fan had to watch the live game while sitting on a hot bench. It must have been a really hot day because she sued her favorite football team, claiming how she suffered severe burns due to sitting on that hot bench at the game. Jennelle Carrillo, a Texan woman, got lawyers involved after attending a team fight and unwittingly sitting on the very hot seat.
As it so happens, the temperatures that day were more than 100 degrees, and the bench she sat on was black, so you can imagine how hot it was. But Carrillo claimed that she had no way of knowing that the bench would be as hot as it was because the team didn’t have any signs posted warning fans. The lawsuit went away after the initial media mentions. No wonder…
Geography is tough for many of us. And in 2014, an American dentist by the name of Edward Gamson got a lesson in geography. He planned himself a trip to a southern city in Spain, called Granada. He was especially excited for this trip due to his lifelong passion for Islamic art and his Spanish Jewish heritage. But despite his insistence with the travel agent at British Airways that he really wanted to visit Granada, Spain, you can imagine his surprise when he ended up on a 9-hour flight to the Caribbean island of Grenada.
But British Airways refused to reimburse Gamson and his partner for the $4,500 business class tickets. So he went ahead and sued the airline for $34,000 in damages. Even though there was a little bit of suffering that he had to endure as a result of the mistake, he still got a trip to the Caribbean!
Suing over destroyed property can be a legitimate legal claim, but when you’re looking to sue mom and dad for your missing porn stash, you’re better off just cutting your losses and moving on. A man in Indiana failed to accept that insight. He brought his parents to court in 2019, telling the judge that several boxes full of pornography and adult toys mysteriously went missing after he moved in with his parents in Michigan after a divorce.
The man estimated the value of his fancy collection and came up with a total close to $30,000. The man’s father came through and admitted to having destroyed the collection in an email. So this one could even end up earning the plaintiff some money.
A class-action lawsuit from 2017 shows that people put too much trust into the pictures on beer labels. Unsatisfied beer customers sued Kona Brewing Co. after realizing that much of their beer is made in New Hampshire and Tennessee, rather than Hawaii. The bottles clearly state on the labels that the beer is made in these locations. But considering their Hawaii-themed beer names and labels, customers felt duped.
Other brewers like Red Stripe and Foster were also previously sued for “false advertising” about where they made their beers. So, these customers probably thought they had a chance. In June 2019, Kona Brewing settled this lawsuit, agreeing to pay a maximum of $20 per household for those customers who had valid proof of purchase. They also offered a maximum of $10 per household for customers who didn’t have proof of purchase.
A Chicago coffee drinker by the name of Stacy Pincus got fed up with her watered-down iced coffees from Starbucks. She took matters into her own hands and decided to sue the company over it. The court documents that were brought in on behalf of Pincus state, “Plaintiff alleges that…Starbucks has engaged in the practice of misrepresenting the amount of Cold Drink a customer will receive. As a result of this practice, Starbucks’ Cold Drinks contain significantly less product than advertised, by design and corporate practice and procedure.”
Getting ripped off on your “cold drink” is no laughing matter, people. The complaint says that standard practice at Starbucks is to fill up a venti-sized cup until just above the head of the siren on the logo and then fill the rest with ice. This means customers are getting around 14 ounces of coffee instead of the 24 ounces that fit in the cup. Starbucks says that customers can just ask for less ice.
After receiving a pair of bullets while fleeing from a police officer, a bank robber sued the County for $6.3 million. Kirkpatrick, currently an inmate at Clallam Bay Corrections Center, filed a legal claim against Snohomish County. Apparently, he claims that his medical bills from the gunshot wounds came out to more than $300,000 and that other cops failed to stop the deputy from “trying to execute” him.
What really happened was Kirkpatrick pointed a gun at the officer, and thus, he received two non-lethal hits. It looks like inmates are really trying to take the legal system for a ride. Similar to the kidnapper that sued his victims, this robber suing the cop that shot him is pretty much laughable.
In 2011, Jennifer Connell attended her nephew Sean Tarala’s 8th birthday party. Apparently, Tarala was so excited by the presence of his “Auntie Jen” that he jumped into her arms. The jump caused her to fall to the ground and break her wrist. So Connell gave her nephew a gift in the form of a $127,000 lawsuit.
Connell actually sued the boy himself for the cost of her legal bills, claiming her injuries were caused by his “negligence and carelessness,” arguing that the birthday boy “should have known that a forceful greeting such as the one delivered by the defendant to the plaintiff could cause the harms and losses suffered by the plaintiff.”
Due to a shoddy health care system and crappy homeowner’s insurance companies, Connell was left as an injured woman paying six figures out of pocket, feeling forced to sue her nephew (on paper) to get the insurance carrier to pay up.
Is a reality show grossing you out? Sue, the network! Do what Austin Aitken did to NBC after watching a Fear Factor episode in 2005 showed contestants eating a “rat smoothie” for a $50,000 prize. The 49-year-old paralegal from Cleveland, Ohio, claimed in a handwritten lawsuit that such a “barbaric” task in the episode caused his blood pressure to rise, result in him vomiting from dizziness and giving him “suffering, injury, and great pain.”
He sought $2.5 million in damages but made it clear that he wasn’t doing it for the cash; he wanted to send an important message that “these networks are going too far” and that they need to recheck their programming. He said: “You really think I expect to get $2.5 million? I just put any figure.” The judge tossed out the lawsuit, calling it “frivolous” and warned Aitken against filing an appeal.
In 2014, a mystery rock that looked like it was a jelly-filled doughnut was seen in photographs taken on Mars by NASA’s Opportunity rover. Scientists explained that the reason it wasn’t there before was that it was most likely something that had been moved by the rover. But this explanation wasn’t enough for Rhawn Joseph, a neuropsychologist and author, who chose to file a lawsuit in California demanding NASA “thoroughly scientifically examine and investigate” this mystery object that appeared out of nowhere on the surface of Mars.
Joseph claimed the rock was already there and grew to its current size in 12 days calling it “inexplicable, recklessly negligent, and bizarre” that NASA didn’t take close-up photos from different angles, and requested that “100 high-resolution photos and 24 microscopic in-focus images of the object’s exterior” be given to him.
Scientists conclude that a rover wheel rolled over a rock, broke it off a bit of it, and sent the chip downhill to where it was seen. The dark red “filling” might have formed geologically after erosion exposed the rock at the surface.
Here’s a wild idea: if you’ve done something illegal and serving time in jail for it, just file a lawsuit against who? Yourself. In 1995, Robert Lee Brock did exactly that, seeking $5 million in damages for drinking alcohol and committing crimes that he stated: “violated his religious beliefs.” His sentence was 23 years at the Indian Creek Correctional Center in Virginia for the crimes of grand larceny, breaking and entering. Brock clearly had no income to pay for the damages and asked the state to pay up.
“I want to pay myself 5 million dollars but ask the state to pay it on my behalf since I can’t work and am a ward of the state,” he stated in his claim. During the final ruling, while the judge saw the lawsuit as “an innovative approach to civil rights litigation,” he still called it “totally ludicrous.” The case was ultimately tossed out. Duh…
If a horror-themed attraction is so effective that it literally scares the life out of you, make them pay, of course! This is what Cleanthi Peters thought when in 2000, she filed a complaint against Universal Studios in Orlando for their Halloween Horror Nights haunted house. She said they caused her “extreme fear, mental anguish, and emotional distress” and also physical injury.
She said that in 1998, she and her granddaughter visited the parks’ haunted house and were chased and “attacked” by a terrifying character with a chainsaw, causing them to slip on a wet spot on the floor. According to Peters, the guy continued to scare them even as they were on the floor, both frightened and hurt. The 57-year-old woman fought for and was ultimately awarded the $15,000 in damages.
Lindsay Lohan was positive that it was her whom E-Trade was mocking in their 2010 Super Bowl advertisement that featured Lindsay, a “talking” baby who admitted to being a “milkaholic.” Lohan’s lawyers said that the idea of a baby with her name and being an “-aholic” indicated her struggles with alcohol and substance abuse, and it should count as defamation.
The then 24-year-old celebrity insisted on how the commercial was using her “likeness, name, characterization and personality” without her consent, which violated her rights. She demanded that E-Trade stop showing the ad. In September 2010, she dropped the case for a $100 million settlement with the company. People later wondered if her uproar was an admission of guilt or an effort to cover up the embarrassment.
Cookies will brighten up most peoples’ days, especially if they’re given away for free. Right? Well, at least, that’s what two teenage girls figured when they surprised their neighbor with some homemade cookies. But boy, were they in for a surprise. Lindsey Zellitti and Taylor Ostergaard just wanted to do something nice for their neighbors.
They walked around their neighborhood, knocking on doors and giving out small packages of cookies. When they got to 49-year-old Wanita Young’s house, the sudden sound of the girls knocking on her door drove her into an anxiety attack, causing her to call the police who came and called the paramedics who took her to the hospital. After the girls apologized and even offered to pay her hospital bills, Young still decided to take them to court. She sued them for $900. And get this – she won!
It was in 2011 when William Baxter was cat-sitting a cat when it “viciously” attacked him and bit his finger. Baxter did the only reasonable thing he could do: he sued the cat’s owner for $100,000. First, he demanded $50,000 for the scratches on his arm, and then another $50,000 for the bite on his finger. The wounded finger was his ring finger.
Here’s a twist: the owner of the cat was Christine Bobak, who might actually be his wife. The Southtown Star, which originally reported the lawsuit, did some digging into and found that the two were listed as married on Facebook. The lawsuit claims that not only is he suffering now, but he will “in the future continue to suffer,” which probably refers to the need to take off the band-aid.
John Coomer was watching a baseball game in 2009 when a hot dog flew into his eye. The culprit was Sluggerrr, the Kansas City Royals mascot, who was tossing hot dogs into the crowd between innings. Blinded by anger and ketchup, Coomer chose to file a lawsuit against the team. His claim? That the hot dog created a detached retina in his left eye in which he had to get surgery. Also, the act of chucking hot dogs into the crowd is dangerous.
After deliberation, the jury ruled against Coomer, saying that airborne foodstuffs are inherent risks of watching a baseball game. They also said that since Coomer had already been to 175 Royals games and witnessed the “Hotdog Launch” many times, he was definitely aware of the danger. But Coomer appealed to a higher court and managed to get the verdict reversed. The judge ruled that “the risk of being hit in the face by a hot dog is not a well-known incidental risk of attending a baseball game.”
I know this isn’t an American lawsuit, but it’s worth mentioning. An Israeli couple had to pay up $2,000 for an apartment they never even rented out thanks to an emoji. The couple messaged a landlord they found online about an apartment. During their text conversation, the couple used smiley faces and other emojis like a champagne bottle and a peace sign, for example. Harmless, right? Not so much.
The landlord took it as the couple being sincerely interested and took the property off the market. The thing is, they didn’t end up taking it and backed out. So the landlord took them to court for the month’s rent that he lost. The judge ruled that he had every right to do so. “Although this message did not constitute a binding contract between the parties, this message naturally led to the Plaintiff’s great reliance on the defendants’ desire to rent his apartment.”
In yet another example of how companies are sued for false advertising, this one comes from way down under in Australia. A group (not just one angry person) of unsatisfied Subway eaters sued the sandwich chain when they realized their “footlong” sandwiches were a little short of a foot.
In 2013, a customer measured his footlong sandwich to find the bread only came up to about 11 inches. A class-action lawsuit was thus put together, and it took a long four years to finally settle. The court eventually tossed it out in 2017 after the judge realized that the lawyers behind the case were going to make a lot more money from it than the plaintiffs were. Subway said it would do a better job making its bread more uniform.
I’ve been handpicking each and every lawsuit on this list, and I think this might be a fun one to leave you with. It’s another one that comes from the land down under (Australia). A 56-year-old man sued his former boss because he said that he was forced to put up with something rather uncomfortable. He alleged that his ex-boss would constantly fart around him.
David Hingst called his former employer’s behavior “bullying” and sought $1.3 million in damages! Hingst claimed that his boss would come into his tiny and windowless office and pass gas at least five times a day, thinking it was funny. The judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, saying he didn’t think flatulence could be defined as bullying.
The idea of missing children on milk cartons has become part of American culture. Unfortunately, back in 1982, there was no organized way to find missing kids, and missing minors were no different than missing adults. This meant that law enforcement waited 72 hours before investigating; now, we know that those three days are the most crucial when it comes to child abductions.
One of the first projects that were focused on locating missing children were putting their faces on milk cartons, replacing ads that would normally be placed there. Because police waited so long to conduct an investigation, leads and evidence were less likely to surface. Despite the billions of milk cartons with faces on them, it was still rare for any of the children to be found alive and safe. Check out some of the better-known milk carton kids.
12-year-old Johnny Gosch left his home in West Des Moines, Iowa, on the morning of September 5th, 1982. He left the house at about 7 am to deliver newspapers like he did almost every Sunday. He was headed towards the paper drop, which was witnessed by other carriers who spotted him. However, that was the last time Johnny was reported seen by more than one witness.
A man named Mike, one of the Gosches’ neighbors, told the police that he saw the boy talking to someone through his bedroom window. The man was in a blue Ford Fairmont with Nebraska plates, but he couldn’t hear what they were saying. Mike also claimed that he saw a different man following Johnny as he walked down the street.
Noreen and John Gosch, Johnny’s parents, were getting calls from people on Johnny’s route, saying that they did receive their newspapers. John Gosch immediately went outside to look for his son, and just two blocks from his home, he found Johnny’s wagon full of newspapers.
That’s when John ran home and called the West Des Moines police department to report his son missing. During that time, there wasn’t much of a difference with the protocol for missing children and missing adults. This means that Johnny’s disappearance didn’t qualify as a ‘missing person’ until 72 hours after he was seen last.
Noreen went on to criticize the police for years because there was no distinction between missing minors and adults. She said it was a dreadful and slow reaction time. Noreen also claimed that it took 45 minutes from when her husband called to when the police even got there to speak with her.
Based on Johnny’s abandoned wagon and the neighbor’s reports, police started to suspect that this could have been a kidnapping. But they couldn’t figure out a motive. Barely any evidence was found, and no arrests were made involving this tragic case. That wasn’t going to stop Noreen and John from searching for their boy.
Despite the carelessness and skepticism of the local police, the couple took it upon themselves to search for their missing son. They organized search parties, contacted the FBI, and reached out to the media outlets making public pleas for Johnny’s safe return.
In 1984, just two years after Johnny went missing, Eugine Martin, another paperboy in the area, went missing under strangely similar circumstances. Both boys delivered newspapers and were last seen on the south side of Des Moines. Eugine and Johnny’s pictures were printed on the side of half-gallon milk cartons, which established a tradition for years to come.
When Eugene Martin went missing, he had a family member who worked at Anderson & Ericson Dairy and asked his employer if he could help. He decided to launch a local milk carton campaign that would feature the faces of Eugene and Johnny. It took just a couple of weeks before the milk cartons with the kids’ faces to be all over the city.
Without Facebook and social media in those days, the idea was to get their faces out there – somehow. Maybe somebody somewhere saw something that could break the case. The endeavor got bigger, and it didn’t take long for other Dairy’s companies to get on board with this idea.
Seven hundred independent dairies joined in by the National Child Safety Council. They started bringing the faces of missing children to kitchen tables, lunch boxes, and cafeterias all around the country. Soon after, Child Find of America and Operation Lookout National Center for Missing Youth got involved. They led a national campaign to put the images of missing kids on cardboard milk cartons.
The co-founder and treasurer of Operation Lookout, Melody Gibson, said: “In our eyes, the Milk Carton Campaign was highly visible whereby children were found, and hundreds of families were impacted.” Even though the program was pretty successful in raising awareness, Johnny Gosch’s disappearance remains a mystery.
His mother, Noreen, has continued to make claims of strange occurrences related to Johnny’s disappearance. She even told the police that her son was seen a few months after he vanished, yelling to a woman for help as two men tugged him away. It’s important to note that the claim was never independently verified.
It makes sense that a grieving mother wants to believe anything to find her son. Everyone needs a little hope to hold on to, and the police obviously didn’t help much when it came to Johnny’s case. But Noreen revealed something else that may come as a bit of a shock.
Apparently, she saw Johnny alive herself. Noreen went on to say that one morning in March 1997, she woke up to a knock on the door. When she opened the door, Noreen claimed that it was 27-year old Johnny, and a man she didn’t know.
She told the Des Moines Register, “We talked about an hour or an hour and a half. He was with another man, but I have no idea who the person was. Johnny would look over the other person for approval to speak. He didn’t say where he was living or where he was going.” Despite all of this, Johnny has still never been found.
On the milk cartons that were a little bit bigger, designed for refrigerators, they featured two children side by side. One missing child would appear on the smaller cartons, typically found in school lunches. The children chosen for the milk cartons were the ones believed to be abducted by strangers.
At least 5 billion milk cartons were printed with missing children and their descriptions all around the country. Despite the circulation of their faces, very few success stories were tied to the local or national campaign. Most children, including Johnny and Eugene, were never found. But there was one compelling exception.
This particular exception was a little girl who came across her own picture on a milk carton at the supermarket. The girl was taken from her father by her mom and stepdad – not a stranger. This meant little Bonnie Lohman wasn’t a typical candidate to appear on a milk carton. But her father desperately managed to get his three years old’s face out there.
Bonnie grew up living in places such as Saipan and Hawaii and was rarely allowed outdoors. As she grew up, she got more freedom, and after moving to Colorado, she went to the grocery store with her stepdad one day to get milk. Bonnie was seven years old and saw her own face on the milk carton.
The picture of her would have been black and white with the word MISSING printed on top. As a seven-year-old, Bonnie didn’t really know what any of this meant. It could have just ended there if it wasn’t for her overly confident abductors. Not only did her stepfather buy the carton with Bonnie’s photo on it, but he let the girl cut out the picture and save it, but he told her to keep it a secret.
One day, Bonnie realized she accidentally left it inside her box of toys that she left at the next-door neighbor’s house. It didn’t take long for police to be notified, and Bonnie was returned to the custody of her father. At least this milk carton story had a happy ending.
Bonnie’s incredible story was a rare win for the campaign that wasn’t able to locate many missing children. However, the milk carton campaign was successful when it came to making real social and political change. They were able to raise awareness and helped legislative efforts, including the Missing Children Assistant act.
In 1990, the book Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney was published by Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for young readers. The novel is loosely based off of Bonnie’s story, but in the fictional version, the girl is a little bit older when she sees her face on the milk carton. In 1995, the book was adapted into a movie.
The first kid to ever appear on a milk carton (even before Johnny and Eugene) was a little boy named Etan Patz. His story later became the most known when it came to the “Milk Carton Kids.” In 1979, Etan disappeared in Manhattan, the first time he ever walked to the bus stop alone. The bus stop was only two blocks away from his house, but the six-year-old never got on.
During that time, there wasn’t an organized system to find missing children and the United States. Etan’s story helped introduce the Missing Children’s movement. His case also helped launch the development of new legislation and new methods of finding missing kids.
One of the earlier methods was the milk carton program. However, Etan was already missing for five years when his face first appeared on the milk carton. Unfortunately, it didn’t help investigators locate him, and in 2001, Etan was declared legally dead.
In 2017, 16 years after Etan was declared dead, a man named Pedro Hernandez was convicted for the boy’s kidnapping and murder. It is believed that Hernandez kidnapped Patz while he was on his way to the bus stop and murdered him later that day. Sadly, his body was never found. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan declared the date that Etan disappeared as National Missing Children Day in the United States.
Molly Bish was just 16 years old when she went missing in the year 2000. At that time, the milk carton program wasn’t as popular, and missing children were barely printed on the cartons anymore. Still, Molly’s parents wanted to use every possible avenue to find their teenage daughter.
This meant they wanted Molly’s face on the side of a milk carton. Any possibility to find their little girl. Keep in mind, this was way before Amber Alerts and viral social media posts. Faces on milk cartons were the way to get the faces of these kids out there. Unfortunately, the milk cartons didn’t help the police find her.
On June 27th, 2000, Molly went to the local pond to start her lifeguarding shift at 10 am, at her hometown of Warren, Massachusetts. Just twenty minutes later, a woman arrived at the pond with her kids, but the lifeguard was nowhere to be found. After the girl vanished, the police had no leads. Her face ended up on a milk carton, but it didn’t help Mollie’s fate.
Sadly, this story didn’t have such a happy ending. Molly was never seen alive again. Three years later, her remains were found 8 km from where she went missing. Some potential leads and suspects were investigated, but no arrests were made for her tragic murder.
As the milk carton campaign died down, it gave other companies ideas to launch a series of related campaigns. Faces of missing children began appearing on pizza boxes, grocery bags, and even utility bills. Still, nothing struck a nerve the way missing children on milk cartons did. It brought a real conversation to the table when families sat down for a meal.
Nowadays, news spreads so quickly with the internet, so faces of missing children on milk cartons aren’t as necessary. A Facebook post will circulate much faster. Plus, we have Amber Alerts and a clear distinction between adult and child missing person’s investigations.
After launching the Milk Carton Campaign, the National Child Safety Council partnered up with grocery bag manufacturers as another way of circulating pictures of missing kids as well as Safetypup® child safety messages. Various manufacturers of paper and plastic bags distributed them by the billions.
The four largest grocery bag manufacturers in the country introduced Missing children’s pictures and Safetypup®’s safety messages on their bags. Various layouts were provided from the NCAC and Safetypup®, including preventive tips targeted towards parents and their young children. The public would cut out and save the pictures of the missing kids, as different faces and biographies were printed on the bags.
NCSC was becoming successful when it came to publicizing the faces of missing children. The milk cartons, grocery bags, and posters caught the attention of telephone directory companies. They were also concerned about the safety of children and were interested in participating in the program.
Like the milk cartons, the telephone directory companies used their advertising space to publicize pictures of Safetypup® and prevention tips to educate children and hopefully prevent abductions. Unfortunately, yellow phone books are a thing of the past. Obviously, at the time, every household had one, but nowadays, some people have no idea what they even are.
Speaking of missing children, the following is one of the most popular cases in the world…
In 1994, a boy from Texas named Nicholas Barclay went missing. Three years later, the boy-turned-teenager was found in Spain. He was reunited with his family, but not all was as it seemed. Something was off, and no one could really believe that it was really Nicholas. The sudden and miraculous discovery of the troubled teen just seemed too good to be true. And when it feels that way, it usually is too good to be true.
Nicholas was 13-year-old went after a basketball game with his friends at a neighborhood park. Frederic was a 23-year-old young man from France who grew up in a home without love or affection. He took up a life crime to keep himself afloat and essentially to feel wanted. This is the incredible and very true story of a boy, his assumed kidnapping, his spine-tingling “return,” and an imposter’s performance for the history books.
Nicholas Barclay was born on December 31st, 1980, and raised in San Antonio, Texas, by a single mother, Beverly Dollarhide, who was battling her own drug addiction. She worked the “graveyard shift” at a local convenience store. Beverly had two older kids from a previous marriage, a daughter named Carey, and a son named Jason. Both of Nicholas’ half-siblings were much older than him.
Nicholas was a troubled little boy and had his share of run-ins with the law, despite his young age. He managed to accumulate a juvenile criminal record for felonies like breaking and entering, stealing, truancy, and threatening his school teachers. Nicholas was also known to be verbally and physically abusive toward his mother. Eventually, Beverly asked her eldest son, Jason, to help her with Nicholas.
Jason was in his 20s at the time that he came to live with her and Nicholas. Beverly was hoping that Jason could help her take control of her son that was continuously acting out. This wasn’t necessarily the best thing Beverly did, though, as Jason himself was battling a cocaine addiction and had a violent temper of his own.
Police had been repeatedly called to the home on calls of domestic disturbances. Needless to say, the cops knew Nicholas and his mother pretty well. Nicholas was scheduled for a court appearance on June 14th, 1994, which could have led to the possibility of him being sent to a group home. Obviously, the thought of being sent to a group home and losing his freedom didn’t sit well with the boy.
Nicholas was last seen playing basketball in June of 1994, but there’s speculation as to the exact date. His mother reported him missing on the 13th, despite the reports made that stated that Nicholas was last seen on the 10th. Apparently, it wasn’t unusual for Nicholas to be away from home for a day or so, which could explain why she waited three days.
The park that Nicholas was playing basketball at was about a mile or two from his house. He reportedly called home to see if his mother could pick him up when he was done his game, but Jason answered the phone instead. He told Nicholas that their mom was still asleep, and he didn’t want to wake her up. (Let’s remember that she worked the night shifts and slept during the days).
Jason told Nicholas that he was going to have to walk home. Jason was the last person to ever speak to Nicholas. On June 13th, Beverly called the police to report her son as missing. Given Nicholas’s reputation with the police and his scheduled court appearance, they were slow to respond. They assumed that he was just running away from the inevitable.
The cops told Beverly that it was likely that Nicholas would show up in a day or so. They were given a description, however, as to what Nicholas was wearing that day. The boy, who was small for his age at only four-foot, eight-inches, and weighed only 80 pounds, was wearing a white shirt and purple pants. He was carrying a pink backpack, too.
With such a description, the police probably thought that the boy would be hard to miss and would be found and brought home before long. But they were mistaken. Nicholas was carrying on him only $5, and he wasn’t known to be carrying any extra clothing. His family figured, if he had been planning to run away, he would probably take more personal items with him. Rather, he had left everything behind.
Police then opened a missing person investigation, but there were no leads as to where Nicholas could have gone. With only $5 to his name, the chances of him buying a ticket on public transportation were low. So was the possibility of finding room and board somewhere. The only explanation at the time was that he hitchhiked somewhere of town, which meant there was even less hope of finding him.
Then, three months later, in September of 1994, police received a phone call from Jason Barclay. He claimed that he saw Nicholas trying to break into their garage. When the police arrived, Jason told them that they were too late – Nicholas had already fled. That incident was the only lead in the case up to that moment, which ultimately was a dead end.
Three years later, just as the Barclays were losing hope, they received an unexpected phone call. They were told that Nicholas had been found, he was lost and scared in a Spanish village. The boy was immediately flown back to the United States and reunited with his family. Sounds wonderful, right? But this story is far from a fairytale ending…
The story the new Nicholas told the police was that he was kidnapped by high-ranking government officials that were running a child prostitution ring. He claimed that he, and other kids, were subjected to sexual abuse. He claimed that he was part of bizarre experiments, which, as he explained, caused his blue eyes to turn brown and his hair to grow darker, making him unrecognizable.
Nicholas’s half-sister Carey was flown out to Spain, believed that she was going to rescue her baby brother. She then came with him back to San Antonio, and at first, had him stay in her home and share a bedroom with her son. He was then placed back in his mother’s home.
Nicholas’ family welcomed the now teenager back with open arms. His mother had kept his room just as he had left it, as she had been anxiously waiting for his return. It could be said that his mother missed her son so much that she didn’t notice the completely obvious inconsistencies between her son who went missing and the teenager who was now in their home.
Keep in mind that the Nicholas, who went missing in 1994, was a blond-haired blue-eyed boy with a violent temper and an attitude problem. The Nicholas who was found in Spain in 1997, was a dark-haired brown-eyed 16-year-old who was creepily calm and made anyone around him uncomfortable. Despite the blatant discrepancies, the Barclay family insisted, without a doubt, that this boy was indeed their son.
The disturbing story of the Barclay family’s pain and the too-good-to-be-true Hollywood ending made national headlines. The story of a missing boy reunited with his family drew news crews and reporters to the Barclay home day in and day out. But news reporters weren’t the only ones interested in getting the full story.
Investigators were also determined to find out what happened to Nicholas Barclay during the three years he was missing. That is if it was even Nicholas who returned. After hearing the story, private investigator Charlie Parker got suspicious. The hair and eyes claims that the new Nicholas reported were way too suspicious. It was highly unlikely that his supposed kidnappers went to such lengths to alter his eye color. That’s to say that such a thing is even possible.
Parker was also put off by the clear difference in personality. Though it is possible that such a traumatic experience can result in a more subdued personality where the victim withdraws into him or herself, Parker felt that it was above and beyond that. The new Nicholas didn’t seem withdrawn; he seemed more mature – older than his reported 16 years of age.
Something was fishy, and Parker knew that the circumstances were too strange to be believable. Then Parker found out that his instincts were on the mark. This new Nicholas Barclay wasn’t 16, but rather 23. In fact, it wasn’t Nicholas at all. Months after his “return,” Nicholas was exposed for who he really was, a 23-year-old French citizen named Frédéric Pierre Bourdin – a notorious con artist.
But before we get into who Frédéric Bourdin is…
Were Beverly and her family really convinced that this was the same boy? Or were they hiding something? Partly because of Bourdin’s claims after finally being arrested for posing as Nicholas Barclay, many people believed that Nicholas’s family is responsible for what happened to their son. Some speculated that Jason might have murdered him.
After his arrest, Bourdin told the police that he didn’t believe that the family’s grief was real. While in custody, he proposed a rather disturbing theory that could potentially explain why the Barclay family accepted him into their home so willingly. That they opened their home to a young man who was so clearly not their biological son. But then again, this is coming from a serial imposter…
“I don’t have any confessions. There’s no body. Murder is very simple and very basic,” Frederic Bourdin said. “I think something happened inside that house, but I can’t prove it.” Bourdin’s theory was that Nicholas’ own family took his life – that one or all of the family members had killed Nicholas and only adopted Bourdain because it was a way to cover it up. Private investigator Charlie Parker bought into Bourdain’s theories and has been working on proving them ever since.
Using the evidence collected from initial investigations as well as others that were opened after Bourdain’s imprisonment, Parker put together a rather compelling case. He claims that Nicholas Barclay’s rage came to a boiling point and pushed a family member over the edge.
While there is no body, and no confession other than that of a known criminal, Parker is still confident that the Barclays have something to do with it. The idea was that if Jason did it, then Beverly, trying to protect her older son, helped him cover it up. Not long after Bourdin’s arrest, Jason died of a drug overdose (whether or not it was accidental is unknown).
But for many, it seemed suspicious. Did Jason feel some sort of guilt? But whether or not he took Nicholas’ life, he must have felt some remorse as he was the one who told his little brother to walk home by himself the day he vanished.
Jason was questioned multiple times, both by the police and private investigators, but no conclusion was ever made as to his involvement. His reported sighting of Nicholas in September also seemed very suspicious to those following the case. Some people even pointed the finger at Beverly, saying she knows more than she ever let on.
She showed major resistance when it came to DNA testing. But that could also be explained by her drug addiction. There’s also the chance that she was simply in denial and heartbroken. Maybe she knew deep down that this teenager wasn’t really her son, but her grief made her chose to believe that it was him. She was given three polygraph tests, all on the same day. The first two she passed, but the third she failed.
Now, for the imposter…
He managed to fool the Spanish authorities, the FBI, and even the Barclay family themselves, keeping up the charade for three and a half months. But Jason Barclay’s death raised suspicions even more, and Frédéric Bourdin was eventually outed to the family. Bourdin was arrested and sentenced to six years in prison, which was double the recommended time.
Frederic Bourdin, who is also known as “The Chameleon” by Interpol, is a criminal and serial imposter. He was born on June 13th, 1974, in France. Bourdin was raised by his grandparents until he ran away and moved to Paris. He never knew who his father was, as his mother stated that she married an Algerian immigrant named Kaci.
Bourdin began his impersonations as a child, and he has claimed to have assumed at least 500 false identities throughout his life (he is now 45). Three of those identities were of real missing teenaged boys. He had been wanted by Interpol for years. Bourdin is clearly an experienced criminal. He has even written something as creepy as this: “When you fight monsters, be careful that you do not become one.”
When Bourdin heard the story of a distraught American family looking for their son, he easily slipped into the persona. But it wasn’t even his initial idea. Bourdin later admitted that he got the idea when a Spanish cop said that he looked like the missing boy from Texas. He then went down a dark and slippery path. A path he was all too familiar with…
On May 3rd, 2005, in France, someone called an emergency hotline for missing and exploited children, saying he found a 15-year-old boy who was alone and scared. Short and thin, with pale skin and shaking hands, he wore a scarf around his face, and a baseball cap pulled over his eyes. He had no money on him and carried just a cell phone and an ID.
His ID revealed that his name was Francisco Hernandez Fernandez, born on December 13th, 1989, in Cáceres, Spain. He eventually started talking, saying that his parents and younger brother were killed in a car accident. The crash had left him in a coma for weeks and, upon recovering, he had to live with an uncle who abused him.
Francisco was then placed in a state-run institution that held about thirty-five boys and girls, most of whom were from dysfunctional families or abandoned. He was then enrolled at a local high school with kids from mostly tough neighborhoods. Although the students were forbidden to wear hats, the principal made an exception for Francisco, who said he was scared he would be teased about his scars on his head.
Francisco looked like a typical teenager, but he seemed to be deeply traumatized. He would never change his clothes in front of the other boys in gym class and refused to do a medical exam. He spoke softly, kept his head down, and recoiled if anyone tried to touch him.
With time, Francisco became one of the most popular kids in school, impressing his classmates with his knowledge of music and American slang. “The students loved him,” a teacher remembered. “He had this aura about him, this charisma.” But one day, everything changed. Francisco was about to exposed for who he truly was.
On June 8th, 2005, an administrator from the high school rushed into the principal’s office. She told her that she watched a TV program the night before about one of the world’s most infamous impostors. They were talking about Frédéric Bourdin, a 30-year-old Frenchman who continually impersonated children. The administrator told the principle: “I swear to God, Bourdin looks exactly like Francisco Hernandez Fernandez.”
Claire Chadourne, the school principal, was skeptical. At age 30, it would mean Francisco was older than some of the teachers. She searched online for “Frédéric Bourdin,” and hundreds of items came up about him as “king of impostors” and the “master of new identities.” He was likened to Peter Pan, the boy who “didn’t want to grow up.”
She then saw a photograph of Bourdin that looked too much like Francisco. The similarities were undeniable – the chin, the gap between the front teeth, for example. Chadourne then called the police. An officer asked her: “Are you sure it’s him?” She replied: “No, but I have this strange feeling.”
When the police arrived at the high school, Chadourne sent Francisco to be called out of his classroom. As Francisco entered Chadourne’s office, the police grabbed him and thrust him against the wall. Chadourne panicked, feeling doubtful, that maybe they were arresting an abused orphan. But then, while handcuffing the supposed orphaned teenager, the police removed his baseball cap.
No, there were no scars on his head as he once claimed. Rather, he was going bald. “I want a lawyer,” Bourdin then said, his voice suddenly dropped to that of a man. Yes, Chadourne was in shock. At police headquarters, he admitted to being Frédéric Bourdin, and that for the past decade and a half, he invented all kinds of identities, in more than 15 countries and five languages.
There were reports that Bourdin even impersonated a tiger tamer and a priest. But for the most part, he almost always played a similar character: the abused or abandoned child. He was remarkably good at transforming his appearance, including his facial hair, weight, walk, and mannerisms. “I can become whatever I want,” is something he liked to say.
In 2004, he pretended to be a 14-year-old French boy, and when he was medically examined at the request of the authorities, the doctor concluded that he was, indeed, a teenager. A police captain noted, “When he talked in Spanish, he became a Spaniard. When he talked in English, he was an Englishman.” Principal Chadourne said, “Of course, he lied, but what an actor!”
Over the years, Bourdin found himself in youth shelters, orphanages, foster homes, high schools, and children’s hospitals. His trail of scams took him to countries like Spain, Germany, Belgium, England, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, Bosnia, Portugal, Austria, France, Sweden, Denmark, and America – to name a few. He became a wanted subject of Interpol, the international criminal police organization.
The US State Department referred to him as an “exceedingly clever” man who tends to pose as a desperate child to “win sympathy.” Bourdin himself said, “I am a manipulator. My job is to manipulate.” In France, authorities started an investigation to determine why a 30-year-old man would even want to pose as a teenage orphan. But they found no evidence of sexual deviance or pedophilia. And surprisingly, they didn’t even uncover any financial motive, either.
“In my twenty-two years on the job, I’ve never seen a case like it,” Eric Maurel, a prosecutor, said. “Usually people con for money. His profit seems to have been purely emotional.” After his con as Francisco was exposed, Bourdin moved to a village 25 miles away. As often happened with Bourdin’s deceptions, authorities weren’t sure how to punish him.
Psychiatrists had determined that he was sane. “Is he a psychopath?” one doctor asked. “Absolutely not.” The thing is that no statute seemed to fit his unique crime. Ultimately, Bourdin was charged with obtaining and using a false ID, and received a six-month sentence. On his right arm, police discovered Bourdin’s tattoo. It said, “caméléon nantais,” which translates to “Chameleon from Nantes.”
There is a whole backstory to Bourdin, as we can see, and specifically to his choice of becoming Nicholas Barclay. In October 1997, Bourdin was at a youth home in Spain. A child-welfare judge gave him 24 hours to prove that he was indeed a teenager. If he didn’t, she would take his fingerprints, which were on Interpol records.
Bourdin knew that as an adult with a criminal record, he could easily face prison. Rather than invent an identity, he chose this time to steal one. He took the persona of the missing sixteen-year-old boy from Texas. Bourdin, at 23, not only had to convince them that he was an American teenager; he also had to convince the missing boy’s family.
According to Bourdin, his plan came to him in the middle of the night. He asked to use the telephone in the shelter’s office and chose to call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia, searching for a real identity. Speaking in English, he said his name was Jonathan Durean and that he was a director of the shelter.
He told them that a frightened child turned up with an American accent. Bourdin gave a description of the boy that also matched himself — short, thin, a prominent chin, brown hair, and a gap between his teeth. He asked the center if they had anyone similar in their database. Bourdin said that a woman at the center said that there was a boy named Nicholas Barclay who was reported missing in San Antonio.
Bourdin then asked if the woman at the center to send him more information regarding Barclay. She faxed him Barclay’s missing-person flyer, and while the printout was hard to make out, the photo of Nicholas wasn’t far off from how Bourdin looked. He then called back the center and told the woman, “I have some good news. Nicholas Barclay is standing right beside me.”
The woman gave Bourdin the number of the officer in charge of the investigation at the San Antonio Police Department, and he called, pretending to be a Spanish policeman. He told the officer about the details he learned from the woman at the center, like his pink backpack. Bourdin probably didn’t fully think through what he was about to unleash.
The next day, Bourdin got his hands on the clean copy of Nicholas Barclay’s missing-person flyer. Bourdin stared at it and said to himself, “I’m dead.” Nicholas had blonde hair, blue eyes, and a tattoo of a cross on his hand. Bourdin acted quickly: he burned the flyer, bleached his hair blonde, and had a friend, using a needle and ink from a pen, draw a makeshift tattoo resembling Barclay’s.
But there was still the matter of Bourdin’s brown eyes. He came up with the cover story about being abducted and tortured, thinking it would serve the purpose of explaining the eye color. What about his Texas accent? Well, he would say that with three years of captivity, he was forbidden to speak English. Oh, and how did he escape? He would say that he escaped from a locked room when a guard carelessly left the door open. It was a crazy story.
A few days later, Carey Barclay arrived, accompanied by an official from the US Embassy. Bourdin wrapped his face in a scarf and put on a hat and sunglasses. He was sure that Carey would immediately realize that he wasn’t her brother. But instead, she rushed up to him and hugged him. Apparently, Carey happened to be the perfect mark.
According to her mother, Beverly, “My daughter has the best heart and is so easy to manipulate.” And even though Bourdin called her “Carey” rather than “sis,” as Nicholas always had, and even though he had a bit of a French accent, Carey said that she had very little doubt that it was Nicholas. And let’s not forget, this man was a pro.
According to authorities in Madrid, Spain, Carey swore under oath that Bourdin was her brother and, indeed, an American citizen. He was then granted a US passport and was on a flight to San Antonio the next day. For a moment, Bourdin had the chance to fantasize about becoming part of a real family, but midway to America, he began to “freak out,” as Carey put it. He was shaking and sweating.
When the plane landed on October 18th, 1997, Nicholas’s family was waiting at the airport. Bourdin recognized them right away from Carey’s photographs that she showed him on the plane. Beverly, Carey’s then-husband, Bryan Gibson, their son, Codey, and their daughter, Chantel. Only Jason, the recovering drug addict, was absent.
A family friend videotaped the reunion, where you can see Bourdin bundled up, his hat pulled down, his brown eyes covered by sunglasses, his fading tattoo covered by gloves. While Bourdin thought Nicholas’s relatives were going to “hang” him for what he’s done, they embraced him, saying how much they missed him. But while everyone was emotionally crazy, Beverly hung back, looking skeptical.
But eventually, she greeted him, too. They all got in Carey’s Lincoln Town Car and stopped at McDonald’s for cheeseburgers and fries. As Carey recalls it, “He was just sitting by my mom, talking to my son,” saying how much “he missed school and asking when he’d see Jason.”
Bourdin went to stay with Carey and Bryan at first, in their cramped trailer home, which wasn’t exactly the vision of America that Bourdin imagined. He shared a room with Codey and started to do some reconnaissance. He secretly rummaged through drawers and picture albums and watched home videos. Whenever Bourdin discovered a small detail about Nicholas’s past from a family member, he would repeat it to another.
Various members of the family later said that when Bourdin seemed standoffish than Nicholas ever was or spoke with a strange accent, they figured it was because of the terrible treatment he said he suffered. As Bourdin was becoming Nicholas, he was amazed by what he thought were uncanny similarities between them. For instance, Nicholas was reported missing on Bourdin’s birthday, and they both came from poor and broken families.
Then, on November 1st, just as Bourdin was settling into his new home, private investigator Charlie Parker was sitting in his office in San Antonio when his phone rang. It was a producer from the tabloid show ‘Hard Copy,’ who heard about the extraordinary return of Nicholas Barclay and wanted Parker to help investigate the kidnapping. Parker agreed to take the job.
Parker, who was then in his late 50s, had always dreamed about being a P.I. but had only recently become one. In 1995, he received his license as a private investigator, leaving his life in the lumber business behind. Parker easily traced Nicholas Barclay to Carey and Bryan’s trailer. By November 6th, Parker was at their doorstep with the producer and a camera crew.
While the family didn’t want to talk to the producer, Bourdin, who had been there for nearly three weeks, agreed to talk. “I wanted the attention at the time,” he later explained. “It was a psychological need. Today, I wouldn’t do it.” Parker stood off to the side, listening as the young man told his story. “He was calm as a cucumber,” Parker recalled. “No looking down, no body language. None.”
But Parker was curious about his accent. He also didn’t buy that this was the same boy as the photo he was looking at of Nicholas. Having once read that ears are as distinct as fingerprints, he went up to the cameraman and whispered: “Zoom in on his ears. Get ’em as close as you can.”
“The ears were close, but they didn’t match,” Parker said, he also called several ophthalmologists and asked if it was possible for eyes to be changed from blue to brown by injecting chemicals. Obviously, the doctors said no. Parker also spoke to a dialect expert who told him that even if someone was held in captivity for three years, he would regain his native accent quickly.
Parker passed on his suspicions to the authorities, despite the fact that the San Antonio police already declared that “the boy who came back claiming to be Nicholas Barclay is Nicholas Barclay.” Worried about a dangerous stranger living with the Barclay family, Parker called Beverly and told her what he discovered. “It’s not him, Ma’am. It’s not him.”
“What do you mean, it’s not him?” she asked him. Parker then explained about the ears, the eyes, and the accent. In his documents, Parker wrote, “Family is upset but maintains that they believe it is their son.” Parker then got an angry phone call a few days later from Bourdin, asking Parker, “Who do you think you are?”
When Parker told him his thoughts, Bourdin shot back: “Immigration thinks it’s me. The family thinks it’s me.” Beverly was renting a small room in a run-down complex at the time, and Parker started to follow Bourdin when he went to visit her. “I thought he was a terrorist, I swear to God,” Parker says.
After two months of being in America, Bourdin started to fall apart. He was moody, aloof, and “weirding out,” as Codey put it. He stopped going to his classes and got suspended. In December, he took Bryan and Carey’s car and drove to Oklahoma. The police pulled him over for speeding, and he was arrested. He was brought back to his “home,” but he was missing his own mother.
According to his real mother, Ghislaine, he had called her in Europe. Despite all of their disagreements, Bourdin still seemed to long for her. He wrote her a letter once, saying, “I don’t want to lose you. If you disappear, then I disappear.” Ghislaine said that Bourdin confessed that he was living with a woman in America who believed that he was her son. She got so upset that she hung up the phone.
Shortly before Christmas that year, Bourdin went into the bathroom, grabbed a razor, and began to mutilate his face. He was then put in a psychiatric ward for several days of observation. It was after this visit that he wrote in a notebook, “When you fight monsters, be careful that in the process, you do not become one.”
Meanwhile, the authorities were starting to doubt Bourdin’s story. Nancy Fisher, an FBI. agent interviewed Bourdin after he arrived in the United States, and immediately she “smelled a rat.” And when she interviewed Beverly, she was “surly and uncooperative.” Fisher Bourdin him to see a forensic psychiatrist in Houston, who concluded that he couldn’t be American, and was most likely French or Spanish.
The FBI shared these results with Beverly and Carey, but they still insisted that he was Nicholas. Fisher believed that Bourdin was a spy, and contacted the CIA, explaining the potential threat and asking for help in identifying him. But they told her that until she can prove that he’s European, they can’t help her.
When Fisher tried to persuade Beverly and Bourdin to give their blood samples for a DNA test, they both adamantly refused. Beverly said, “How dare you say he’s not my son.” By the middle of February, four months after Bourdin arrived, Fisher was able to obtain warrants to force them to cooperate. “I go to her house to get a blood sample, and she lies on the floor and says she’s not going to get up,” Fisher says. “I said, ‘Yes, you are.’ ”
On March 5th, 1998, as the authorities were closing in on Bourdin, Beverly called Parker to tell him that she now believed that Bourdin was an impostor. The next morning, Parker took Bourdin to a diner. After a meal of pancakes, Borudin blurted out, “She’s not my mother, and you know it.” Parker then asked, “You gonna tell me who you are?”
“I’m Frédéric Bourdin, and I’m wanted by Interpol.” Parker went to the washroom and called Nancy Fisher, who just received the same information from Interpol. “We’re trying to get a warrant right now,” she said to Parker. “Stall him.” After about an hour, Parker took Bourdin to Beverly’s apartment. As Parker left, Fisher and the authorities came in. Bourdin surrendered quietly. Beverly wasn’t as calm. She turned and yelled at Fisher: “What took you so long?”
To this day, Nicholas Barclay’s whereabouts are unknown.
Sondra Locke was an Oscar-nominated actress, a producer, a director, and a talented singer. But it looks like it was her destiny to be linked to Clint Eastwood forever, even long after their 14-year relationship that lasted from the mid-70s to the late 80s. Locke, who passed away on November 3, 2018, had a lot to show for herself, but her tumultuous relationship with Eastwood overshadowed all that she brought to the table.
She was a charismatic actress with a tough and lean look who starred with her beau in popular movies like, ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales,’ ‘The Gauntlet,’ and ‘Every Which Way but Loose.’ The couple, however, became trapped in one of the most toxic relationships in Hollywood history. It was ugly, messy, and, sadly, abusive.
This is the story of love gone sour, and a professional/personal mentorship gone very wrong.
In her 1997 memoir, ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Very Ugly,’ Sondra Locke wrote about her relationship with Eastwood and judging by the title, it’s no surprise that she went into detail about how it deteriorated over the years. Locke claimed that the reason she and Eastwood were in conflict was that she wanted to branch out.
She wanted to go further in the film industry beyond his own films and build a career of her own. She wanted to be a director, and even made two films during their time together: ‘Ratboy’ (1986) and ‘Impulse’ (1990). “I understood it would be at the risk of our relationship,” Locke said. “And when I did, that was the beginning of the end.”
Sandra Louise Smith was born on May 28, 1944, in Madison County, Alabama. Her parents separated before she was even born, and in her autobiography, she noted that “Although Momma would not admit it, I knew Mr. Smith never married my mother.” When her mother, Pauline, married Alfred Locke in 1948, Sandra and her half-brother Donald adopted his last name.
Sondra grew up in Shelbyville, Tennessee, and was an introspective and ambitious young woman. She started working part-time at 16, drove her own car, and had a telephone in her bedroom (this was the late 50s/early 60s). She was a cheerleader and class valedictorian in high school, earning the title, “Duchess of Studiousness” from her classmates. She also played basketball, served as PTSA representative, and was president of the French club. The girl was busy.
Locke then went on to Middle Tennessee State University on a full scholarship, majoring in drama, and appeared onstage in “Life with Father and The Crucible.” But she didn’t last long in university; she dropped out after completing two semesters. It was around then, in 1963, that Locke broke off contact with her family.
In her opinion, “It made no sense for any of us to spend our lives pretending to have relationships that did not really exist.” She wasn’t close to her family at all. She never knew her biological father, didn’t go to the funerals of her mother (who died in 1997) or her stepfather (who died in 2007). She also had nothing to do with her half-brother, sister-in-law, and their three nieces.
Donald, her half-brother, blamed Gordon Anderson. He and Sondra were best friends since adolescence and the two became a married couple. According to Donald, it was Gordon’s fault that Sondra abandoned the family, claiming that Anderson had “an almost hypnotic spell on her.” Sondra and Gordon, a sculptor, got married in 1967.
They had been friends since the seventh grade. In early 1969, when Sondra was flooded with script offers after her Oscar nomination, the couple left Tennessee and moved to West Hollywood. But only in the late 80s, did it come to light that their relationship was nothing more than platonic. According to a 1989 affidavit, their marriage was “tantamount to sister and brother” and they never consummated it. In fact, Anderson is openly gay.
Testifying under oath to a jury, Locke considered her husband as “more like a sister to me.” She explained, “It’s funny the sort of cultural changes, but in those days males and females never lived together unless they were married.” And by the time she passed away, the two were still legally married. Anderson was actually the one who reported her death.
Anderson is a major player in Locke’s autobiography, but she never elaborated on why she chose to marry him, other than this one passage: “However conventional or unconventional our marriage might turn out to be, honestly did not concern me that much. I was very young, but I had come to feel that, for me, sex was the least important element in a relationship and the one thing that time had proven to me was that my love for Gordon came from such a deeply connected place that it transcended everything else.”
Locke, being the go-getter that she was, held a variety of jobs before she ever became an actress. She was a bookkeeper for Tyson Foods and a secretary in a real-estate office. In 1964, she worked at the radio station WSM-AM 650 in Nashville and later got promoted to its television affiliate WSM-Channel 4 the next year.
Locke’s biggest moment while employed there was when she interviewed actor Robert Loggia when he came to Nashville to promote his TV pilot ‘T.H.E. Cat.’ During the interview, he “flirted outrageously” with Locke. She also did some modeling for The Tennessean fashion page, acted in commercials, and got some more stage experience in productions for Circle Players Inc. In 1966, the 22-year-old Sondra appeared in a photo that launched her into the industry she would then remain in…
In 1966, Sondra posed for a UPI wire photo that showed her frolicking in the snow. Within one year of the photo’s exposure, she decided to pursue a career in the film industry. She then went from Sandra to Sondra, feeling that if she spelled her name that way, she would avoid being called Sandy.
In July 1967, Sondra competed with 590 other Southern hopefuls for the part of Mick Kelly in a film adaptation of Carson McCullers’ novel ‘The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter’ which was also going to star Alan Arkin. For her first audition, her then-fiancé, Gordon, gave his bride-to-be a Hollywood makeover. He bound her chest, bleached her eyebrows, and fixed her hair, makeup and outfit so as to create a more gamine (boyish) look.
Sondra not only made herself look quite different for the audition, but she also lied about her age, taking off six years to seem younger, which was a trick Locke would keep up for the rest of her career. After a couple more callbacks in New Orleans and Manhattan, she got the part.
The film came out in the summer of 1968 and it was critically acclaimed. Sondra’s first-ever movie role could be deemed as beginner’s luck because that performance garnered her an Academy Award nomination, and a pair of Golden Globe nominations, for Best Supporting Actress and Most Promising Newcomer. And even though her paycheck for the role was reported as $15,000, she later claimed it was less than one-third of that.
Sondra Locke wanted to shed the “Plain Jane” image she created for her screen debut, so in January 1969, she posed for a semi-nude photoshoot which was published in an issue of Playboy. That Playboy layout established her as a sex symbol. Those images were then recycled in other men’s magazines as her fame increased. About three decades later, Locke said that she still got those photos in fan mail so she could autograph them.
Sondra’s next role was as Melisse in 1970’s ‘Cover Me Babe’ (1970), which was part of a $150,000 three-picture deal with 20th Century Fox (she was compensated for the other two which were never made). She then had some deals and offers that fell through, but she was about to make another movie.
In 1971, she co-starred with Bruce Davison and Ernest Borgnine in the thriller ‘Willard,’ which surprisingly became a box office hit. Locke didn’t even want to do the film as she felt overqualified, but did it as a favor to Davison, who was her unofficial lover (or mister, if you will) at the time.
Sondra was then featured in the mystery ‘A Reflection of Fear’ (1972) and got the title role in ‘The Second Coming of Suzanne’ (1974), which won three gold medals at the Atlanta Film Festival. Over time, that film developed a cult following, and ‘A Reflection of Fear’ is cited as one of the first examples of media portrayal of transgender people.
Since Locke waited decades to confirm that her marriage to Gordon Anderson was platonic, most of her romantic attachments were unpublicized. In the mid-60s, she dated her supervisor at WSM-TV, Brad Crandall. Former colleagues at the TV station have insinuated after her death that Locke was only promoted to the department through favoritism.
George Crook, a cameraman for WSM, was involved with Locke and escorted her to Nashville society events. Other than her shirt-time lover Bruce Davison, she was involved with other costars, like Paul Sand (‘The Second Coming of Suzanne’) and Bo Hopkins (‘Gondola’). Then there was producer Hawk Koch and John F. Kennedy’s nephew Robert Shriver. According to Sondra, these flings were her just “casually exploring for a romantic relationship,” saying that she didn’t fall in love with any of them.
And then she met Clint…
The two had actually met in 1973, when Sondra unsuccessfully auditioned for the title role in his film ‘Breezy.’ But it was only on the location of ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ that the two became an item. In 1975, Locke landed the role as the love interest of Clint Eastwood’s character. Locke said that she chose the role for its exposure since it came after a string of unremarkable credits.
She even took a pay cut just to be in the film; her salary for playing in Josey Wales was $18,000, which was less than half of what she had earned in her previous jobs. The film turned out to be a big hit and revived Locke’s career. But not only did it bring her back into the spotlight, but it also brought her into the arms of Clint Eastwood.
“It was just an immediate attraction between the two of us,” Locke said in a 2012 documentary. She admitted that the two made love on their first date; “not once, but several times.” She also revealed that at the time, she was wooed by screenwriter Philip Kaufman, but she chose Eastwood over him. I can’t believe it was a difficult choice, either.
But Sondra wasn’t the only one who was officially married when they met. Eastwood, too, was married during the first several years of their relationship. It was only in 1978 that their affair became public. And if anything, Clint’s marriage was as big a sham as Sondra’s was: he was a father to at least two publicly unacknowledged children outside of his marriage and confided that he’d “never been in love before.”
After the film wrapped up in December 1975, Locke and Eastwood lived in many places, between his houses in Sherman Oaks and Carmel, and rental homes in San Francisco and Tiburon. They eventually settled down in Bel-Air. Clint Eastwood’s wife at the time, Maggie Johnson, lived on a massive estate in Pebble Beach, where he rarely stayed.
Apparently, Clint and Johnson were said to have had an open marriage from the beginning. Locke claimed that Eastwood sang “She Made Me Monogamous” to her. According to Locke, Eastwood told her: “I never knew I could love somebody so much, and feel so peaceful about it at the same time.” But the media painted a different picture – that Eastwood “left” or “walked out on” his wife for Locke.
Sondra Locke didn’t like the narrative that was being portrayed on the media, though. She resented being labeled as an affair and looking sleazy as if she’d “stolen” a married man. But then again, she didn’t refute it. By the late 70s, Locke became pregnant by Eastwood twice and aborted both pregnancies.
She once told columnist Dick Kleiner in 1969, “I’d feel sorry for any child that had me for a mother.” After her second abortion, Locke underwent a tubal ligation (a surgical procedure for female sterilization) in 1979. She cited that Eastwood was adamant that parenthood wouldn’t fit into their lifestyle. When this became public a decade later, Eastwood issued a statement: “I adamantly deny and deeply resent the accusation that either one of those abortions or the tubal ligation were done at my demand, request or even suggestion. As to the abortions, I told Locke that whether to have children or terminate her pregnancies was a decision entirely hers.”
Locke had mixed feelings on the matter, which she discussed in her memoir. She stated in one chapter that she was grateful that she never had Eastwood’s children, while writing in another, that she “couldn’t help but think that that baby, with both Clint’s and my best qualities, would be extraordinary.” As for Clint, he claimed that Locke told him multiple times that she never wanted to have children.
Eastwood and Locke were still living together when, in the second half of the 80s, he secretly fathered a woman’s two kids – something that didn’t come to light for almost 20 years. Despite her declared ignorance, Sondra Locke sensed the growing tension in her relationship with Clint around 1985. “Although I definitely still loved Clint, I didn’t very much like him… either he changed from white to black, or I had been living with somebody I didn’t even know.”
By 1989, it was clear that their relationship was falling apart. Eastwood was secretly involved with another woman, despite his apparent new appreciation for monogamy. Meanwhile, Locke had two abortions over the course of their relationship as per Eastwood’s alleged suggestions. One day, while she was filming ‘Impulse,’ she came home to their shared house to find that Eastwood changed the locks and packed up her clothes.
So she filed a lawsuit. Well, she actually filed two: one for palimony and the other for fraud. Locke suing Eastwood turned her into a test case and talking-point in America’s sexual politics debate. But we’ll start with the first lawsuit for palimony. Sondra claimed that she had been thrown out of her house by the man she believed was the love of her life.
According to testimony in court, Sondra Locke confronted Eastwood over his passive-aggressive behavior on December 29, 1988. That argument led to the couple being estranged. According to Locke, after she and Eastwood made their last public appearance at the American Cinema Awards on January 6, 1989, they spent exactly two nights together, with not intimate contact.
Eastwood then left their Bel-Air mansion. Locke saw his behavior as acting out “because he wasn’t number one at the box-office anymore, or because he was facing his mortality.” (Eastwood was 58 at the time and nowhere near mortality). And as far as Sondra was concerned, their relationship was still salvageable. Then on the morning of April 3 or 4, Eastwood complained in the kitchen that she was “sitting on my only real estate in Los Angeles” and just up and left.
On April 10, the locks were changed, Locke’s possessions were placed into storage, and security guards were at the front gate of the home as per Eastwood’s orders. Locke decided to sue him for $70 million, charging Eastwood with a breach of contract, emotional distress, forcible entry, and possession of stolen goods. She also cited forced abortions and compulsory sterilization, which she later reclassified as a “mutual decision.”
During their 14 years together, Locke and Eastwood acquired four homes. She sought half of his earnings and an equal division of their properties, requesting ownership to the home in Bel-Air and to the West Hollywood home Eastwood was leasing to Gordon Anderson since 1982. She also pleaded with the judge to bar Eastwood from the Bel-Air home, “because I know him to have a terrible temper… and he has frequently been abusive to me.”
The two ex-lovers battled in court for 19 months. During the proceedings, she developed breast cancer and said the treatments exhausted her will to fight. In 1990, they reached a private settlement: Eastwood agreed to give her a $1.5 million, multi-year film development/directing deal for Locke at Warner Bros. in exchange for dropping the lawsuit.
She ended up getting the West Hollywood property (which was valued at $2.2 million), $500,000 cash as well as unspecified monthly support payments. As for Clint, he got to keep their pet parrot Putty and, maybe as his own sort of revenge, chose to rename him Paco. But despite coming to a mutual agreement, their days in court were far from over…
In June 1995, Sondra Locke sued Clint Eastwood again, this time for fraud and “breach of fiduciary duty,” claiming that the deal with Warner Bros. was a sham. The studio rejected the 30+ projects that Locke proposed and never hired her as a director. According to Peggy Garrity, Locke’s attorney, Eastwood committed “the ultimate betrayal” by arranging a “bogus” deal as his way of keeping her out of work.
Garrity said that Eastwood held that deal “like a dangled carrot” to convince Locke to drop the palimony suit. The case went to trial in 1996, and one juror disclosed that the panel sided with Locke by a 10-to-2 vote and were only debating the amount. But before a court decision was made, Locke and Eastwood again settled privately, and with an undisclosed amount of money.
Sondra Locked believed that the outcome of these trials sent a “loud and clear” message to Hollywood – which was that “people cannot get away with whatever they want to, just because they’re powerful”. She made a point to say that, “In this business, people get so accustomed to being abused, they just accept the abuse and say, ‘Well, that’s just the way it is.’ Well, it isn’t.”
For his part, Clint Eastwood waved off the lawsuit as a “dime-novel plot.” He said that “It’s all about money… about getting something for nothing.” He accused Sondra of using her cancer diagnosis to gain the jury’s sympathy: “She plays the victim very well. Unfortunately, she had cancer and so she plays that card.” Eastwood even referred to Locke as his “occasional roommate… for 10 years.”
In 1990, Locke confirmed reports that she had breast cancer, which took a toll on her strength and endurance, among other aspects of her life. “Due to factors in my personal life, I have sustained two years of extreme and unnecessary stress, which my doctors tell me has been my enemy.” She added that Clint never spoke to her after her diagnosis. “He doesn’t care if I live or die.”
Locke underwent a double mastectomy followed by chemotherapy. During cancer treatment, Sondra began dating an intern, Scott Cunneen, who was assigned to perform her post-surgical checkup. Neither of them was fazed by their 17-year age gap (or the fact that Locke was just three years younger than his mother).
They soon went public with their romance, dining at the paparazzi hotspot Spago on one of their early dates in 1990. They then moved in together in 1991. According to Locke, it was a “real, supportive, and equal relationship.” In 2001, Locke bought a six-bedroom home in the Hollywood Hills, where she lived for the rest of her life.
But the relationship didn’t last forever, which probably comes as no surprise. They eventually broke up, without any publicity as Sondra faded from public view. In 2015, after a 25-year period of what seemed to be remission, her cancer returned and metastasized to her bones. Sondra Locke died on November 3, 2018, from a cardiac arrest related to her cancers. She was 74 years old. Locke left $20 million for her on-paper husband, Anderson, who she always supported financially.
Sondra is, and should be, remembered as an early pioneer for women in Hollywood. She was actually one of only 11 female filmmakers in 1990, the year Warner Bros. released her sophomore film feature, ‘Impulse.’ Locke had an influence as a feminist icon, which was acknowledged by the mainstream press. In 1989, the Los Angeles Times described her lawsuit against Eastwood as a “precedent-setting legal case.”
They reported that it “raises the question of whether a woman, who is legally married to one man, can claim palimony rights from another.” Locke was also childfree by choice, which we can all agree is unusual for a person of her generation, at least.
Locke was also among the first female celebrities to publicly discuss her abortion experiences. Her relationship with a doctor who was young enough to be her son also added to her notoriety. During the last decades of her life, Locke maintained that she was blacklisted from the film industry as a result of her split from, and lawsuit with, Eastwood.
His career, however, remained unscathed. Peggy Garrity, her former attorney, recalled the courtroom drama in her book she called “In the Game: The Highs and Lows of a Trailblazing Trial Lawyer” from 2016. Garrity revealed that Locke’s confidential settlement from Warner Bros. (after her lawsuits with Eastwood) “was for many millions more than the settlement with Clint had been.” Locke v. Warner Bros. Inc. catalyzed changes in the legal system. California’s Supreme Court later ruled that access to civil trials could no longer be closed off to the public.
In 1986, Locke directed her first feature with ‘Ratboy,’ a story about a youth who is half-rat. It was produced by Eastwood’s company Malpaso. When Locke was asked why she had been absent from her longtime beau’s recent movies, Locke replied: “I wasn’t right for the roles.” Ratboy had limited distribution in American theaters.
It was considered to be a critical and financial flop, but it was well-received in Europe, especially France. From that point onward, Locked concentrated exclusively on directing. Her second directing project was the 1990’s ‘Impulse,’ starring Theresa Russell as a police officer who goes undercover as a prostitute. Siskel & Ebert (remember them?) gave the film “two thumbs up.”
After a long interruption in her career thanks to all her personal and legal difficulties, Sondra Locke then directed the made-for-TV film ‘Death in Small Doses’ in 1995, which was based on a true story. She also did an independent feature called ‘Trading Favors’ in 1997, starring Rosanna Arquette.
That same year, she wrote her 371-page autobiography ‘The Good, the Bad & the Very Ugly: A Hollywood Journey.’ If you read it, you won’t be surprised to hear all the nasty things she had to say about her ex-lover. In it, she called him “a completely evil, manipulating, lying excuse for a man.” It was so defamatory that Eastwood’s lawyers sent her publisher a warning letter. Although no slander charges came up, ‘Entertainment Tonight’ ended up canceling a scheduled interview with Locke.
Sondra was also bumped from being on ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show.’ In her words, she was “shut out of most venues to promote the book, in particular the networks.” Nonetheless, her book received a rave and supportive review from New York Daily News in particular. But Entertainment Weekly dismissed the book as a “peculiar, not terribly consequential, life story.”
The Advocate, which is a monthly LGBT magazine, was set to do a big piece on Locke’s book, which was natural because of Gordon being gay. But then, suddenly (and uncharacteristically), Clint Eastwood gave the same magazine an interview. In the end, they decided not to run both pieces. Locke knew that it was no coincidence.
After 13 years removed from acting, Sondra returned to the screen in 1999 with some small roles in straight-to-video movies, like ‘The Prophet’s Game’ with Dennis Hopper and ‘Clean and Narrow’ with Wings Hauser. Then, in 2014, it was announced that Locke would be an executive producer on an Eli Roth film called ‘Knock Knock,’ starring Keanu Reeves.
Locke came out of retirement again in 2016, shooting Alan Rudolph’s indie film, ‘Ray Meets Helen’ with Keith Carradine. Aside from acting and directing, Sondra was also a philanthropist. She served as honorary chairwoman for the “Starry, Starry Night” silent auction to benefit Human Options, which is a shelter for victims of domestic violence. “Being a woman, I have great empathy for these women. I can understand how stranded they must feel, how hard it is to change one’s life,” Locke said.
Clint Eastwood’s unorthodox directing is what made him a Hollywood legend. Apparently, he only shoots one or two takes and then whispers, “Alright, go ahead,” instead of the typical director yell of “Action!”). Locke, however, wasn’t a fan of Eastwood’s style. “Clint never really gave direction to the actors, certainly not to me. I was very much on my own. I always wondered how much better my performances might have been, had I had a director who really ‘worked’ with me.”
Locke also mentioned that Eastwood really hated rehearsals. Locke went on to say that he doesn’t “direct a film as he shoots a script.” She described how Eastwood would buy a script as is, then simply shoot it. “I would say it is not so much directing as ‘covering’ the script. By that, I mean he will ‘cover’ a scene with all shots required to know what is going on, but doesn’t express an opinion or guide the audiences’ emotions or eye,” Locke explained.
After their first film together, Locke did a lead role with Eastwood in the action film ‘The Gauntlet’ in 1977. The duo actually replaced Steve McQueen and Barbra Streisand, who bowed out due to an apparent clash of egos. The press touted Sondra Locke as “the first actress ever to be in a Clint Eastwood movie and get equal billing on-screen with the macho star.”
Throughout their relationship, Locke didn’t work in any role on any motion picture other than with Clint Eastwood, except for an experimental horror western in 1977 called ‘The Shadow of Chikara.’ “Clint wanted me to work only with him,” she explained. “He didn’t like the idea of me being away from him.”
In the late 70s/early 80s, Eastwood did a few movies that didn’t have any prominent female characters for Locke to play. Meanwhile, she accepted some TV role offers, co-starring with an all-female cast in 1979’s ‘Friendships, Secrets, and Lies.’ She also played Big band-era vocalist Rosemary Clooney in ‘Rosie: The Rosemary Clooney Story’ in 1982.
While the film followed her from age 17 to 40, Locke was 38 when she played the role. The couple’s final collaboration was ‘Sudden Impact’ in 1983. It was the highest-grossing movie in the ‘Dirty Harry’ franchise. Her fee was a reported $350,000, and the film premiered five months before her 40th birthday, which was the customary cutoff age for leading ladies of that era.