Is There an O'Neal Family Curse?


Feb. 7, 2007 — -- Their love story began in 1979, but the lives of Ryan O'Neal and Farrah Fawcett have been anything but a fairy tale.

From drugs to attempted suicide to cancer, it's been a rocky road all around for the O'Neal clan.

Most recently, Ryan made headlines for allegations that he faced off with his adult son Griffin in a family dispute. The incident resulted in charges of assault with a deadly weapon and negligent discharge of a firearm for 65-year-old Ryan.

The embarrassing headlines arrived just one day after some good news for the family. Farrah was given a clean bill of health after going through a cancer scare.

But with a long list of family fights, health problems and run-ins with the law, some are questioning whether there's an O'Neal family curse.

Ryan's longtime friend and Houston lawyer Kent Schaffer said to ABC News, "I would like to see happier times for them, but I wouldn't call it an O'Neal curse, just a run of bad luck. Just as Farrah gets her clean bill of health, this happens to Ryan."

But Ryan's daughter with actress Joanna Moore, Tatum O'Neal, acknowledged a curse in her tell-all book, "A Paper Life."

"I slipped into the darkness of depression and addiction that seems to be the family curse," she wrote.

Tatum, who for years has had a strained and allegedly violent relationship with her father, admits to attempting suicide and battling drug abuse.

She also struggled with a very public and messy divorce with ex-husband, tennis pro John McEnroe, and the temporary loss of custody of their three children.

Tatum's brother, 42-year-old Griffin, served jail time for not performing community service in relation to a 1986 reckless boating charge that resulted in the death of Gian-Carlo Coppola, the son of director Francis Ford Coppola.

He also pleaded no contest to a drunken-driving charge in 1989. In 1992, he pleaded no contest to charges he shot at his estranged girlfriend's unoccupied car.

And Farrah and Ryan's only son together, Redmond, has struggled with drug addiction.

Schaffer defended the high-profile parents: "I've spent time with both when they're figuring out the best way to handle things -- the problems with Redmond and Griffin. They have never been the kind of parents to turn their backs on their kids when many parents would say enough is enough."

"There have been a lot of misadventures in the family over the years, but in my experience with Ryan and Farrah, I've always thought them to be very involved parents doing the best they can against all odds," Schaffer said.

Ashley Rothschild, a Los Angeles-based image and lifestyle expert, said: "The family desperately needs therapy, and they should let the public know they are working on their problems. It would make a huge difference for their image. If a family calls it a curse, it will continue to be dysfunctional. Once we put blame outside our own accountability then we're not responsible for our own actions."

Rothschild also believes that making a difference in the world through charity would help.

"Get involved with something that makes a difference in the world for people less fortunate. Use their visibility, use their accomplishments to help others," she said.

Farrah has also faced her own demons, including alleged drug abuse and sometimes erratic behavior.

In June 1997, millions witnessed her dazed and confused appearance on the "The Late Show With David Letterman," which left Letterman dumbfounded.

Ryan and Farrah have tried to keep the family together under challenging circumstances. Ryan was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001 and Farrah with anal cancer last year.

Farrah released a statement through Access Hollywood: "All your cards and letters have meant so much to me during what has been a very difficult time in my life. So many of you wrote that I had inspired you in one way or another over the years. Well, now you have done the same for me. Your words of encouragement have helped keep me strong during these last six weeks. And now that I have completed my treatments, I am happy to say that the hardest part is over."

Ryan stood by Farrah, and both are now in remission. It's a positive turn of events for the two.

Their volatile relationship has had its troubles, but Ryan told British newspaper The Mail: "We've had our ups and downs, but I was the first person she called when she was diagnosed. I love her. I've loved her for 25 years, and she knows that."

As for the rest of the family, after numerous stints in rehab, Tatum, who won a best supporting actress Oscar for her work in "Paper Moon," has resurrected her acting career and is able to be with her children again.

"I am so proud of myself for getting better. I look forward to doing great movies or good TV or just working," she said.

Rothschild said: "It's time now for the O'Neal family to show the world they are united. We all create our own destiny."

Schaffer said, "I think it's their turn for good luck. They're at a time in their lives where they need to kick back and enjoy their lives without drama and controversy. Ryan and Farrah are two of the nicest people I have ever met, and I have no doubt that Ryan will be vindicated in this current case. It's so sad that this is Ryan's problem now when it shouldn't be."

Hopefully, things will turn around for the O'Neals, but as Tatum wrote in her tell-all: "Certain struggles never end."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events