Celebrity Kidnappings: Patty Hearst, Frank Sinatra Jr, Kyoko Ono, And Others

By | April 16, 2019

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Patty Hearst with a machine gun in 1979, and a newspaper clipping from 1963 about the kidnapping of Frank Sinatra Jr. Source: (Bettmann/Contributor/Getty; rarenewspapers.com)

Invasion of privacy and public criticism are par for the course for a celebrity -- but kidnapping seems a bridge too far. And yet, as the stories of Patty Hearst, Frank Sinatra Jr., J. Paul Getty II, and others demonstrate, the lure of money from abducting the offspring of famous people is, evidently, tempting. All these years later the celebrity kidnappings that sold a lot of newspapers back then still fascinate us.

Why, as a society, we are so obsessed with kidnappings is a question best suited for sociologists. The subject of countless movies from Taken to Ransom, kidnappings capture people’s imaginations. News stations cover kidnappings wall to wall, even if there is little to no new information. If you combine kidnappings with celebrities, you have joined the forces of our two guiltiest obsessions as a society. What were the famous celebrity kidnappings from the '60s and '70s? Read on to find out -- you know you want to!

Patty Hearst: The Stockholm Syndrome

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Patty Hearst Leaving for Federal Court. Source: (reddit.com)

Patty Hearst’s kidnapping is one of the most famous in U.S history. It polarized the country for months and popularized a now-accepted psychological phenomenon, Stockholm Syndrome, which occurs when a kidnap victim or prisoner develops a bond with their captors. On February 4, 1974, a domestic terrorist group named the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) kidnapped Hearst, a wealthy newspaper heiress, and brutalized her fiancé. The SLA then extorted money from her father to further their cause, while torturing and brainwashing young Patty.