It was Friday afternoon, Sept. 18, 1975, and I was making my first visit home since beginning freshman year at Penn State when I heard the news of Patty Hearst's capture (or was it a rescue?). The reason for coming home that weekend wasn't because I was homesick, but rather to pick up my high school yearbook (The Voyager) which had just been published (I was its editor). I was riding in a friend's car when we heard about Hearst on the radio.
Thus ended a fascinating 19-month odyssey. First came the kidnapping of the 19-year-old newspaper heiress/college student (Univ. of California at Berkeley) in February 1974, followed a number of months later by her participation in a bank heist in which she was caught on camera toting a machine gun. Then later that spring the L.A. bungalow where she was supposedly staying at with her captors (from the Symbionese Liberation Army) was surrounded by police and burnt to the ground during a gun battle. Patty went from being an innocent kidnap victim to landing on the FBI's Most Wanted list. She even changed her name to Tania, and when booked in prison after her arrest listed her occupation as "urban guerilla".
Hearst will forever be part of the zeitgeist of the mid-70s. (I still have the TIME Magazine cover, shown above, with her hard-bitten mug shot on it.) A 1988 TV movie (starring Natasha Richardson) and the feature film Guerilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst were made about the kidnapping. Her defenders said she suffered from Stockholm syndrome, whereby she came to identify with her captors. As high school students, for kicks we'd occasionally point and yell "Patty Hearst!" when we were in a crowd. (Of course, "streaking" was a more common activity in those days.)
Years later, after serving nearly two years in prison and becoming an upstanding wife and mother, "Patricia" (as she preferred to be called) made cameo appearances in a number of films by off-beat director John Waters, including Cry Baby and Serial Mom (in which she is beaten to death by Kathleen Turner's demented title character for wearing white shoes after Labor Day.)
(You can read Patricia's account of her ordeal in the book Patty Hearst: Her Story.)