A Paper Life

A Paper Life

4.3 39
by Tatum O'Neal

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A real Hollywood-style tell-all, this is the extremely candid and highly explosive autobiography of one of the movie industry's most talented and troubled young stars.

At age ten, Tatum O'Neal became the youngest Oscar winner in history for her performance in the film classic Paper Moon. As the sidekick to her father, the flamboyant star and man-about-town

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A real Hollywood-style tell-all, this is the extremely candid and highly explosive autobiography of one of the movie industry's most talented and troubled young stars.

At age ten, Tatum O'Neal became the youngest Oscar winner in history for her performance in the film classic Paper Moon. As the sidekick to her father, the flamboyant star and man-about-town Ryan O'Neal, she became a fixture at the most glamorous Hollywood parties and counted celebrities ranging from Cher to Stanley Kubrick among her childhood friends.

Yet behind the glittering façade of Tatum's life lay heartbreak: abandonment, abuse, neglect, and drug addiction. She reveals the most intimate secrets of her dysfunctional relationships with her father, Ryan O'Neal, and stepmother, Farrah Fawcett, as well as her alcoholic mother, Joanna Moore, and ex-husband, tennis pro John McEnroe.

After the collapse of her marriage and with no real family to turn to, Tatum succumbed to the demons of her past that would nearly kill her. Now she has emerged clean and sober, rediscovering herself as an actress, mother, and wonderfully vibrant woman in what she considers the prime of her life.

Editorial Reviews

Janet Maslin
“A Paper Life, her slash-and-burn family album about…oh, go read it. You know you want to.”
Liz Smith
“I know memoirs are always described as ‘explosive,’ but this one really is.”
People Magazine
"In her bombshell autobiography...Tatum O’Neal...names names...while telling, for the first time, an eye-popping story..."
“In her bombshell autobiography...Tatum O’Neal...names names...while telling, for the first time, an eye-popping story...”
Philadelphia Inquirer
“Forget ‘Mommie Dearest;’...it looks as if Tatum O’Neal’s A PAPER LIFE...might be the new classic.
Daily News
“In her red-hot tome, O’Neal dishes on the...Hollywood of the 1970s - in all its raunchiness.”
USA Today
“If an Academy Award were handed out for the most scorching family drama, it could certainly go to Tatum O’Neal...”
At the age of ten, Tatum O'Neal was at the pinnacle of her Hollywood career, starring as a precocious sidekick in the 1973 film Paper Moon. The role won her an Oscar, making O'Neal the youngest Academy Award winner in history. By 1982, though, this angel-faced ingénue was a full-blown cocaine addict, a teenage victim of depression, parental neglect, and abuse. A Paper Life: My Story recounts the actress's fragile passage through decades of adversity and personal turmoil to sobriety and spiritual peace. With astonishing candor, O'Neal discusses her destructive relationships with her father, Ryan O'Neal, her mother, Joanna Moore, and her ex-husband, tennis pro John McEnroe.
Publishers Weekly
At age 10, O'Neal became the youngest Oscar winner in history for her performance in Paper Moon. In this honest, disturbing memoir, O'Neal, now 41, reveals the behind-the-scenes story of her lonely, chaotic life-one dominated by struggles with drugs and damaging relationships. O'Neal portrays her divorced parents (actors Joanna Moore and Ryan O'Neal) as neglectful and abusive, with drug problems of their own. Though O'Neal appeared in such kid-fodder movies as The Bad News Bears and Little Darlings, she says that during the '70s and early '80s she battled depression and attempted suicide. "I found that coke made me feel so much better," she recounts in the straightforward though unoriginal language that characterizes the narrative. Much of the book's second half covers her fraught marriage to volatile tennis champ John McEnroe; these passages alternate between recollections of the pleasure of being in love and having children and the pain of living with McEnroe, whom she depicts as controlling and demeaning. Ten years and three children later, O'Neal and McEnroe divorced. She resumed using drugs, fought child custody battles and watched her mother die of cancer. Although O'Neal speeds through the details, she addresses her addictions: "I wanted to take my own life but... instead... I started doing drugs 24/7. I couldn't stop." She also zips through her recovery, abruptly claiming "rebirth" in the final chapter. Writing this memoir seems to have been cathartic for O'Neal. Perhaps reading it will provide inspiration to other abuse victims and addicts. (Oct. 12) Forecast: A publicity blitz (Oprah, Today, Dateline, Live with Regis & Kelly, Larry King Live), a serial in People and a push from book clubs will put O'Neal in the spotlight. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Read by the author. Simultaneous with the HarperEntertainment hardcover. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Read an Excerpt

A Paper Life

Chapter One

The story of paper moon reflects my childhood, but it also closely parallels my mother's and strangely foreshadows my daughter's. Three generations of women: we all lost our mothers early in life—the first literally, to death; the second virtually, to addiction; and the third, my daughter, temporarily, when I succumbed to familiar demons. It is a cycle that I'm determined to break.

My mother was born, like Addie, in the heart of the Great Depression, not in Kansas but in Americus, Georgia. The elder of two daughters of Henry and Dorothy English Cook, she was named for her mother but later christened herself Joanna. A letter from her cousin Libba that I discovered after her death depicts her early childhood as cozy: rocking on the old porch swing, sitting by the potbellied stove, sliding down the banister at her grandmother's.

She was the only one not in the car when her father swerved off the road because her mom fell asleep on his shoulder, plunging down a sandy embankment into a ravine. Both her mother and her baby sister, Virginia, died instantly. Libba's letter recalls, in haunting detail, how she got the news: "We were on the playground. . . . My ma had come to school.

You had all visited the day before. And Momma kept saying, 'The pillow I put in my stroller for the baby to sit in had an imprint of the little body in it.'" Henry, my mother's father, was badly hurt but lingered for a year before dying of a ruptured spleen—or, she always believed, of a broken heart. So, at age six, my mother became an orphan. For a time she was farmed out to live with her maternalgrandmother, who was confined to a wheelchair with an osteoporosis-like condition. She was also addicted to morphine, prescribed by the town doctor, making her the first known link in my family's chain of drug dependence. Even in that environment, my mother managed to bloom. She was pretty and vivacious, with a million-dollar smile, and so talented at singing and playing the piano that she became a star at church. By the time my mother reached her early teens, however, her grandmother had grown too feeble and impoverished to raise her. She was adopted by a wealthy local family, who saw her through high school then sent her off to Agnes Scott College near Atlanta, which was one of the top women's schools in the South. I've heard rumors that she was molested by a member of her adoptive family, but my mother never spoke of it. She rarely mentioned her teenage marriage to Willis Moore, of which her lifelong last name was the only trace. Southern women of her era were bred to smooth over unpleasantness, but denial in my mother ran as deep as her love for amphetamines. So I came to know her through a scrim of pictures and letters, lies and secrets.

She was extraordinarily beautiful, with blond hair, a perfect heart-shaped face, huge green eyes, and lush full lips. She had a smoky, seductive voice (which Emily and I both inherited) warmed by her southern lilt. Winning a beauty contest brought my mother to Hollywood in the mid-1950s, where she was discovered at a cocktail party and signed to Universal. A flood of contract assignments followed, in films ranging from such minor classics as The Last Angry Man and Walk on the Wild Side to teen screamers like Monster on Campus. Among them was A Touch of Evil, the last Hollywood film directed by Orson Welles, which has been hailed as "the greatest B movie ever made." It opens with one of the most famous shots in movie history—nearly three and a half minutes long—tracking a car with a bomb in its trunk through a seedy Mexican border town. Finally the car explodes, killing the driver; and a corrupt, drunken sheriff (played by Orson Welles) tries to pin the crime on bystanders Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh. Though my mother is on screen only for a short time in the film, she is masterful as the victim's daughter. My father always said that my mother was the best actor in the family, but it was only after she died that I came to recognize her power.

In A Touch of Evil my mother had to darken her hair to avoid out-blonding Janet Leigh. After hours, she had to dodge Charlton Heston, who once lured her to his room, seemingly to seduce her. Later Elvis Presley hit on her with even less finesse. While making Follow That Dream in 1962, he actually tried to break down her door. But my mother had no use for the idol of millions of teenagers, telling an interviewer, "He's a bore."

After the mid-1960s, she worked mainly in television. She was featured in most of the major series of the day: Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, Bat Masterson, Wagon Train, Maverick, and The Virginian—westerns dominated the top twenty—as well as The Fugitive, Perry Mason, Route 66, 77 Sunset Strip, Bewitched, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. She became a semiregular on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, usually cast as a southern belle, and had a recurring role on the Andy Griffith Show as Peggy McMillan, the sheriff's girlfriend.

On one of those shows, she met my father, then just a struggling actor. He wasn't a dream-chasing migrant like she was but a native Angeleno, with a mother hellbent on propelling her two sons to stardom. My grandmother even pushed her youngest, my uncle Kevin, to study ballet and take growth hormones to groom him for the screen.

Patricia Callaghan, my grandmother, had sacrificed her own acting career to raise her children. She can still be seen in Three Came Home, the true story of a woman's survival in a Japanese prison camp, starring Claudette Colbert. Born of a Russian mother (who was named Devonovitch and rumored to be Jewish) and an Irish father, she was raised in Toronto and San Francisco and instilled with a gloves-wearing, hair-ina- bun propriety that made her the polar—and harshly disapproving —opposite of my mother.

My dad's father, Charles O'Neal, was more accepting and shared my mother's southern roots and jolly temperament. Born in North Carolina, he attended the University of Iowa, where thanks to his accent, classmates dubbed him "Blackie," and the nickname stuck. He met my grandmother in a San Diego theater troupe but discovered a new vocation—screenwriting— after publishing a short story in Esquire. My grandpa achieved modest success with screenplays for such movies as The Seventh Victim, Cry of the Werewolf, The Missing Juror, and Montana in the 1940s and 1950s; then he moved on to writing for TV series, including The Untouchables, The Californians, and Lassie. Also the author of two novels, he developed one into the 1952 musical Three Wishes for Jamie, which starred John Raitt (Bonnie's father) and Anne Jeffreys and ran for several months on Broadway.

A Paper Life. Copyright © by Tatum O'Neal. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are saying about this

Liz Smith
“I know memoirs are always described as ‘explosive,’ but this one really is.”

Meet the Author

The youngest actress ever to win an Academy Award®, Tatum O'Neal has been a public figure for the last three decades. An actress, author, and the mother of three children, she makes her home in Los Angeles, California.

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Paper Life 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
Downunder-reader More than 1 year ago
I wrote a review for this book a few moments ago but I don't think that I pressed the submit button, so here is another blog. The reading of 'Paper Life' is a guilty pleasure. If you are born in the 60's you are likely to know the name Tatum O'Neal and or her father's name Ryan O'Neal. I read the book hoping to gain an insight into a world that I will never know - movie stars, fame, glamour, and addiction. One aspect that I didn't expect was the revelation of violence. In fact Tatum states that when she won the Academy Award for Best Actor at the age of 10, her father 'slogged' her. (Or words similar.) You can't help to wish Tatum all the best in her future life, but if she was a horse running in a race I don't think that I would place my money on her as there might be a drug offering before she reaches the finishing line. I hope not. Good luck Tatum and thanks for the insight.
jufrida More than 1 year ago
The unbelievability of this actress's life is what keeps you turning the page. It's like reading about a train wreck; you can't get enough. The writing isn't anything to speak of, but Tatum's vulnerability and unabashed drive to lay herself open is commendable. In the end, you are rooting for her, no matter what mistakes she has made. Afterall, we don't pick our parents; but, when it's all said and done, it's what we do with the lessons of our upbringing that makes us who we are.
MELKI More than 1 year ago
The title should be "Not my fault, was surrounded by the wrong people".
I should've guessed from Ms O'Oneal's interviews that this book was going to be one of these so-called memoirs with very little insight and lots of blaming everybody else.
Bad parents, bad choices, bad husband, bad everything...bad book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
For anyone who gets into reading biographies-this one you won't want to put down. The life this girl lived is unbelievable. You will find yourself going from chapter to chapter to find out more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tatum O¿Neal is a very inspiring woman, who faced the many trials and tribulations of success at an early age. A Paper Life reflects upon O¿Neal¿s heartbreaks, abandonment, neglect and abuse while growing up in the public eye. O¿Neal expresses her sorrow towards her love-hate relationship with both mother (Joanna Moore) and father (Ryan O¿Neal), as well as her catastrophic marriage to tennis extraordinaire John McEnroe. Tatum O¿Neal became the youngest Oscar winner at the tender age of ten for her role in Paper Moon, costarring Ryan O¿Neal. O¿Neal states it was then that the loving relationship between father and daughter quickly melted away. Her mother was not exactly the nurturing type either after the separation from Ryan, Joanna quickly turned to alcohol as an escape. Unfortunately both parents became abusive to both Tatum and her younger brother Griffin. Tatum¿s life began spiraling out of control at a very early age, the neglect and abuse became too much to handle and drugs became the liberator. Then in 1984 O¿Neal met John McEnroe, the bad boy of tennis at the time, and together the two had three beautiful children: Kevin, Sean, and Emily. However, it was not long before the bad boy image turned into real abuse toward O¿Neal, and the two eventually separated. After experiencing so much abuse and neglect in her life, O¿Neal is now sober and trying to be a wonderful mother, something she herself had always hoped for. Throughout all the years, O¿Neal had no support system and no one who believed that she could stay sober for her kids. However, the day O¿Neal realized that she could and would remain strong and sober for her children was the day she believed in herself, making all the difference. O¿Neal truly believes that the birth of her three children is what kept her alive. The message O¿Neal sends is to always believe in oneself, and not let anyone or anything define who one is as an individual. Throughout A Paper Life, O¿Neal utilizes much satirical language in the overall description of her family. Even though the situation was anything but humorous, O¿Neal incorporates a positive outlook towards her relationships and on life itself. A Paper Life offers the reader a glimpse into a drug addicted, abusive, and neglectful life. As hard as it was to read and believe that such abuse exists, I believe everyone should take a seat and try to understand what it must be like growing up in a world where the only dependable person is oneself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tatum takes us behind the glitz and glamour to reveal the painful abuse from the two significant men in her life. From an unhappy childhood to an unhappy marriage she is also self depricating as she tells of her life long struggles with drug addiction. At 40 she is finding peace and happiness. I wish her happiness for the future as it is long overdue and well deserved.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was an interesting book but I have a hard time believing all the sex and drug stories because I do not see how people can survive this kind of lifestyle and it appears that most of them did. It is obvious that Tatum loves her children very much and she should be proud of the way they turned out. I think it is sad that she grew up in such an uncaring family.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow! Listening to Tatum O'Neil go on and on about how awful a father Ryan O'Neil was is a real eye-opener - not in a good way! I caught a bit of her on Oprah and was intriqued. She said that her father is not speaking with her, despite her attempts to reconcile. I can't say I blame Ryan. The book is more than an expose, it's absolutely incriminating. If half of what Tatum says is true, Ryan O'Neil should be tried and convicted of everything from child abuse to child molestation. Tatum sounds like she was a very unlikable child. And, is probably still unlikable today. The book, however, is well-written, but let me repeat, if Tatum O'Neil is trying to mend broken fences, and establish a relationship with her father, this is NOT the way to do it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading Tatum O'Neals, 'A Paper Life, ' I am left with more questions than answers. For example, why in the world did she decide to have a baby with John McEnroe, when they had no plans to marry? She claims it was John's idea to keep her off of drugs. Can you believe that anyone in their right mind would go along with such a solution to a serious drug problem? It certainly was easy and entertaining to read. She obviously has love for her children. However, she breezes through some very important issues, like her recovery from drugs. There is no doubt she suffered from childhood neglect and abuse. You don't get the sense that she has really triumphed over her inner demons. Her book seems to have been written in direct rebuttal to John McEnroe's book, 'You Can't be Serious.' She describes her divorce settlement with John McEnroe as a deal with the devil. She frets over their shared custody agreement, where they had 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off with the kids. I read elsewhere that she got a 3 million dollar divorce settlement from McEnroe. I hardly consider a 3 million dollar divorce settlement, plus shared custody, a deal with the devil. She had it good, and can't even see it. She claims she spent a million dollars on court fees fighting for custody of her kids. It is a shame she had to use the court system to work through her anger. She then says the east coast judges are less tolerant of drug users than those in California. I would have liked to see more remorse from her. She says that she thinks she and John were good parents, each in their own way. What? She lost custody of her kids, because of herion addiction. She bashes John throughout the book, and then thanks him perfusely at the end for caring for her children. Seems to me she has a lot of unresolved mental health issues. I now feel compelled to read McEnroe's autobiography to get his side of the story. Unfortunately, I have to agree with her father that her book sounds very much like self therapy. She needs to stop looking for sympathy and get her life together. Had McEnore not exposed her, she might still be stuck in a drugged quagmire.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was a easy read and basically a no-brainer yet entertaining. Tatum did have a very hard life growing up but the excuses she made for dropping her kids and still doing drugs and her feable excuses of why she did it actually made me laugh. I would however still recommend it to someone who is interested in seeing what it would be like to have a famous father/mother for a parent. It's not so greener on the othe side.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Yes, we all now understand Tatum had a hard life, therefore she should have known what fire looked like and walked away from Mac the hot headed, tantrum throwing fits when things don't go his way, tennis star no one liked. Plus Tatum speaks of her dad, Ryan by his first name at the beginning of the story then towards the end by dad. What's up with that Tatum? Very confusing! I can just imagine how many stars are pissed off by the allegations in this book. Ryan O' Neal was right about one thing. This book does seem like a thearapy session for Tatum which I hoped it did the job by her letting go of the things she can not change, like her relationship with her father, and Farrah taking up all of her fathers attention away from her. For years Hollywood has talked about Tatums anomally relationship with her father, always seeking him out to get his full attention, ALWAYS leaving Griffin on the outside. But I'm not to say who's right or wrong. Read the story and make up your own mind. I just hope Griffin has overcame his demons like Tatum has.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was definately a great read. I never knew what horrible existance Tatum O'neal led as a child and as a wife. I am humbled by all that she survived and am very happy that she was able to turn her addictions around and find peace and happiness in her children. What a wonderful mother and a super way to end the cirlcle of addiction and abuse in that family.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although I'm not a big Tatum O'Neal fan, I felt compelled to read this book. I work as a retail manager and have very little time this time of year and read the entire thing in 2 days! This book just kept my interest the entire time an really gives you some insight as to how rough a road this girls had from the get go. I highly recommend this book and it's a very easy read.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book left a strong impression on me. But I loved it in the end. Rebirth triumphed over tragedy. A great story about a sad little rich and famous girl who lost and found herself again, of the pains she went through, of the horrors she inflicted on herself and of her acknowledgement of her path to self-destruction, an acknowledgement that led to her self-redemption. It is beautifully written. Tatum emerged as an intelligent and strong person. What emerges in this book is the fact that she has done a lot of work on correcting her flaws. I finished the book admiring her and learning not to be too hard in my judgment of others, especially child prodigies.
Guest More than 1 year ago
How many kids must have envied Tatum O'Neal, the youngest-ever recipient of an Oscar, daughter of a handsome heartthrob, and pre-teen pal of the beautiful people? Yet behind the glamorous facade was a sad and neglected child, whose subsequent decades-long quest for love and respect seemed hopeless. From abusive parents, Tatum jumped from the proverbial frying pan straight into the fire when she married tennis hothead John McEnroe, whose rants and rages on the court were topped only by those he directed at her. She does not spare herself, either, detailing her out-of-control drug addiction and unhappy love relationships. However, even with her shortcomings and failings, one thing seems to have remained constant - her love for her three children. She also appears to be a far better parent than either her famous father or glamorous mother. At the end of the book, Tatum is in recovery, and the reader can only wish her all the best.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I admired Tatum O'neil as a child actor, with the spunk and spirit that came through her character..it is a good thing she had a strong spirit, judging from the book--it is probably what saved her. A Paper Life is another example of how pervasive and generational family dysfunction and abuse are, regardless of status or income.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have to say i always thought movies stars and their children lead this wonderful life of many wonderful things! I read this book in two days! I couldn't put it down! I never realized how much Tatum and Griffin had been through. It's amazing they have finally found themselves! God bless!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a year younger than Tatum and always wished I could be as famous as she was at that age. Now I see what she went through and know I would never have survived being abandoned, unloved, and abused as she did. I felt for her when her family let her down and did unspeakable things to her, yet she couldn't totally shut them out of her life. She always gave them another, undeserved, chance. The book was so well written and in a language that felt like she was talking to you as a friend would, with no airs, and nothing held back. I finised this book in no time and am happy to know there are people out there who are willing to break the myth of Hollywood.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book almost makes Joan Crawford look like an angel compared to pape Ryan and hubby John Mac. What incredible courage and fortitude it took not only to write this book but merely to survive. Anyone who thinks being a child star is easy ought to read this torturous autobio. Go get 'em, Tatum.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tatum O'Neal's story of her troubled life has been dissected, contradicted, and praised ad infinitum. The ultimate compliment may have come from Oprah who said of the bio, 'It's hot, hot, hot!' It would seem that not a syllable could be added to what has already been written or said. However, my comments bear solely on her reading of this book. First off, her voice performance is superb (she is an accomplished actress). But, not only is her delivery flawless, there is an added impact in hearing this sad yet triumphant story told in her own voice. It becomes even more meaningful, and most listeners will find that they are at first deeply touched and then moved by the hope and strength manifested in her recovery. These are CDs you'll not only thoroughly enjoy but be eager to share with friends. All thumbs up for this reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tatum O'Neal is a strong woman with an important story to tell. It's gripping from beginning to end. And I wouldn't call it an expose. There are no cheap thrills. It's no kiss- and-tell romp. This is serious truth told elegantly. There's pain here, but there's also purity, purity of heart and mind, and there's hope. Maybe we too can lift ourselves up from our own disgraces, if we're honest as Tatum is. There is no shame in truth-telling. A PAPER LIFE is a beautiful example of the relevance of confession. I am so proud of her!