An heiress living her life as a student in the post-hippie stomping grounds of San Francisco, Patty Hearst seemed to be the picture of privilege. But when members of the Symbionese Liberation Army kicked in her door, mauled her boyfriend, and carried her away for ransom in February of 1974, the 19-year-old’s life was changed forever.
The radical SLA guerillas demanded that their captive’s father, son of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, feed the Bay Area poor–and he complied. But his daughter wasn’t released, and a stream of SLA-distributed audiotapes of her pleas for help began to take on a tone of indictment–she started to chastise her parents for not rescuing her, and sometimes sounded like she was even siding with her captors’ political goals. Hearst’s final tape fully condemned her family, declared her allegiance to the terrorists, and pronounced her rebirth as an SLA member named “Tania.” Soon she was photographed robbing a bank while sporting a beret and assault rifle, kicking off of a string of cross-country holdups in which she played a key role.
When the police finally caught up with Hearst, and a jury sentenced her to 25 years in jail, the public still didn’t know if she’d been a victim of brainwashing or a willing participant in SLA mayhem. It didn’t matter to Jimmy Carter and John Waters, however. The president commuted her sentence, and the director cast her in some of his silliest films. These days the gun-toting “Tania” is a soccer mom in suburban Connecticut.