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

Recruitment Genius: Accountant

£25000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join...

Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Executive - Software

£20000 - £25000 per annum + 55,000 OTE + benifits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Software Sa...

Argyll Scott International: 2x Service Desk Analyst

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Argyll Scott International: Service Desk Analyst Re...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Uber app allows passengers to hail a taxi with a smartphone  

Who wouldn’t like a sharing economy? Well, me, for one

Mary Dejevsky
David Cameron spoke about immigration at a press conference in Ipswich  

David Cameron’s big problem is that he has been listening to the wrong people

Alan Johnson
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?