Who knew that the actor Ryan O'Neal once sent a gossip columnist a live tarantula in the post?

Share

Who knew that the actor Ryan O'Neal, one of the baddest boys in Hollywood history, once sent a gossip columnist a live tarantula in the post? Rona Barrett, a later version of Hedda Hopper known to Frank Sinatra as "Rona Rat" (a compliment, presumably, from the leader of the Rat Pack), recalls receiving a curious package in 1969, shortly after Peyton Place finished on television and the year before Love Story.

"It seemed weird that it had no return address," the 76-year-old fondly remembers. The mystery was solved a few weeks later when a friend of hers met O'Neal at a party, and reported him "talking about this tarantula in a tennis-ball can. He says he hasn't seen you on TV, and he thinks he killed you!"

Exactly what Rona revealed to displease him is lost in the mists of time, though given the former boxer's spectacular record as brawler, seducer and drunk there was never a shortage of deadly spider-inducing material.

Since his daughter Tatum was six at the time, her offending report might have concerned how Ursula Andress, such a stickler for bedroom etiquette, complained: "I don't want to sleep with you while your daughter is in the bed."

However, the postal tarantula came early enough in his life to rule out the inciting incident having been O'Neal being discovered in bed with a young actress by Farah Fawcett, his common-law wife of 30 years, on Valentine's Day; firing what he described as a "warning shot" at his druggy son Griffin, in what he claimed was self defence; and, perhaps most impressive of all in a fiercely crowded field, hitting on the grown-up Tatum at the funeral of Fawcett, who had the miserable timing to die from cancer in 2009, a few hours before Michael Jackson left this world.

"I had just put the casket in the hearse," explains O'Neal, recently diagnosed with prostate cancer himself, "and I was watching it drive away when a beautiful blonde woman comes up and embraces me. I said to her, 'You have a drink on you? You have a car?' She said, 'Daddy, it's me. Tatum!' I was just trying to be funny with a strange Swedish woman, and it's my daughter. It's so sick."

He is much too hard on himself. It's the kind of comic misunderstanding that could happen to anyone. Besides, love is never having to say you're sorry for trying to pull your first-born at your missus's interment.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Relationship Manager

£500 - £600 per day: Orgtel: Relationship Manager, London, Banking, Accountant...

Marketing & PR Assistant - NW London

£15 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...

Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer

£250 - £300 per day: Orgtel: Senior Network Integration/Test Engineer Berkshir...

Software Developer - Newcastle - £30,000 - £37,000 + benefits

£30000 - £37000 per annum + attractive benefits: Ashdown Group: .NET Developer...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The truth about kids on holiday

Rosie Millard
 

August catch-up: Barack's phone calls, tribute to Norm and my Desert Island Discs

John Rentoul
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home