Why Do Stars Steal?

Winona Ryder reportedly took makeup; Bai Ling lifted $16 worth of magazines.

ByABC News
March 20, 2008, 4:33 PM

March 21, 2008 — -- They have loads of money, fabulous clothes, beautiful bodies and people following their every move.

And yet, they steal.

Winona Ryder reportedly set off the alarms at a Hollywood pharmacy recently when she tried to walk out with a bag of makeup she hadn't paid for. Her publicist told ABCNEWS.com that the report, originally published by the National Enquirer, "was not accurate." The LAPD said they had no record of the incident on file but admitted that if Ryder had simply returned the makeup and left the store, a police report "probably wouldn't have been filed." Of course, Ryder's no stranger to shoplifting -- she's known less, perhaps, for her movies than for stealing $5,500 worth of clothing from a Beverly Hills Saks Fifth Avenue in 2001.

Earlier this month, actress and model Bai Ling was charged with petty theft for taking $16.22 worth of batteries and tabloid magazines from a store at Los Angeles International Airport. (She later explained the incident was a mix-up, the result of an "emotionally crazy" day she was having because of a recent breakup with her boyfriend.)

Sure, Hollywood's messed up. The heady mix of fame, money and any number of mind-altering substances could drive anyone nuts. But the compulsion to steal is one of the most baffling ailments of the rich and famous. Why stuff a fistful of baubles in your Birkin bag when you could easily put them on your black card?

"It's a compulsion. It's irrational. It's totally unrelated to their need for it," said Dr. Norman Sussman, a psychiatry professor at New York University's School of Medicine who has treated people in the public eye for kleptomania. "In some strange way, it makes them feel better. You go through the door, your heart's pounding and you get away with it, and you feel better, at least for a little while."

Kleptomania among stars is nothing new. In 2003, actress Shelley Morrison was charged with stealing more than $400 in costume jewelry from a Los Angeles Robinsons-May department store. (Ironically, at the time, Morrison played a housekeeper constantly accused of stealing on "Will & Grace.") In 1993, newly established as one of the best tennis players in the world, Jennifer Capriati was also arrested for shoplifting costume jewelry at a shopping mall.