From Chris Farley movies to Jane Austen novels, fictional stories about the "black sheep" of famous or wealthy families often portray them as the truly normal ones, rebelling by daring to be in touch with their fellow man. And while those people may exist, calling them black sheep does an injustice to the truly shameful, aggressively crazy members of notable families. Sponsored by Seth Meyers' new Hulu series, The Awesomes, this article takes a look at those proverbial apples that fell furthest from the tree, hitchhiked into town where all the other apples could see them, and took a highly public dump on their family's carefully cultivated legacy (still proverbial, fortunately).
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Detroit may have just filed for bankruptcy, but it wasn't always a charred hellhole of violence and despair where employment can only be found in positioning hats upon Kid Rock's head. That's where old time rock 'n' roll once came from. Cars, too.
The early '70s were a good time to be a wealthy heir from one of the Motor City's most prominent DNA pools, the Fords. Japan hadn't quite started kicking fuel-inefficient butt yet, and plenty of drugs and marginal religions were happy to relieve those kids of their trust funds.
The Rasta movement really blew its chances at killing two birds with one stone(d?).
Benson Ford Jr. and Alfred "Alfie" Ford are great-grandsons of Henry. Benson was born to the Ford Motor Company's top shareholder. Alfie's maternal grandfather was the famed Edsel, but his dad was ALSO a Ford from a chemical manufacturing offshoot of the clan. That's a lot of Ford in one man. Too much. Too much Ford.
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He was second only to Fordington Ford the Fordth, who could actually turn into a '57 Fairlane.
Benson (who certainly became an even greater embarrassment once the Soap butler-turned-governor character came into existence) took the low road of party boy and hot rod enthusiast. He was famously slighted in his father's will, which left him plenty of money, but didn't allow him any voting rights in connection with his Ford stock, probably so he couldn't wield his shareholder power to take over the company and insist on the production of nothing but souped-up Model-Ts run on amphetamines. This didn't sit well with Benson. He started suing the hell out of everyone and took to wearing hidden wires at family functions. He also alluded to a posse that was ready to kill to have him placed on the Ford board of directors. Probably a hot rod gang -- like the gang in the 1958 AIP film Hot Rod Gang.
But that whole agenda got sidetracked when Benson was busted at the San Francisco airport with pockets stuffed full of hash and coke. And also when people started suing the hell out of him for shady dealings. Because people will still do business with a screwed-up kid who took 10 years to finish college as long as he has a famous name.
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As proven by the multiple failures of Count Desmond Chocula Jr.
Alfie, on the other hand, let the sun shine in and joined the Hare Krishnas. He claims George Harrison introduced him to orange sheets and sitars, but it could just be that he wanted to answer the age-old question, "How can I still get attention and out-crazy my wiretapping, hot-rod-gang-leading, drug-addicted asshole cousin?" In pursuit of that answer, Alfie changed his name to "Ambarish Das," which, while translating to "servant of Krishna," phonetically sounds very much like "embarrass us" and therefore proves our point.
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Try saying it with a Connery accent and enjoy the next five minutes of your life. You're welcome.
Eventually Alfie purchased and refurbished a Detroit mansion once owned by the founder of Cadillac and transformed it into a sprawling Krishna temple and cultural center. Further twisting the knife into his family's gut, he embarked on this project in cahoots with fellow Krishna devotee Lisa Reuther, daughter of former United Auto Workers union head and Ford nemesis Walter Reuther. It was like cats and dogs -- living together! A bunch of bald cats and dogs!
Alfie likes to give away his vast wealth to Krishna causes, and Krishnas are known for luring all comers into their temples with free vegetarian suppers. So that means he's probably the only Ford left in Detroit of any practical use. Joining him may be the city residents' only hope of survival.
... for now.
As for Benson, the family eventually let those death threats be bygones and allowed him to crawl back into their good graces through a management trainee program in Ford's parts and service division, though it is unclear whether that path was strewn with hot-rod-gang-slain corpses.
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In 1974, the family of publishing titan William Randolph Hearst was thrown into turmoil when his granddaughter Patricia was kidnapped by the radical Symbionese Liberation Army. For her return, the SLA demanded the release of jailed comrades. When that wasn't doable, they demanded that their propaganda be printed in Hearst publications. Done. Then they wanted the Hearsts to buy a bunch of food and distribute it to the needy. Done. But they decided the food wasn't good enough ("hog feed," they called it), so they remained angry and dissatisfied. Never let it be said that anyone gets into the liberation army business due to their level-headed consistency.
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Apparently they were a revolutionary group run by annoying house cats.
While this ransom dance was going on, things with the actual kidnapping victim took a weird turn when photos surfaced of a beret-wearing, machine-gun-toting "Tania" (Patty rechristened herself after a communist revolutionary) assisting in an SLA bank holdup. It was claimed that she was a victim of Stockholm syndrome, where a captive eventually identifies with and becomes attached to her captor, and that she was brainwashed into participating. That may have initially been the case, but she really ran with this refreshing new persona for quite some time, far longer than most "syndrome" expiration dates. This led to her being sentenced to seven years in prison (which was cut short by President Carter before she served out two years because, hey, that's what famous families are for).
But for all of Patty's criminal revolutionary play-acting, perhaps her most scandalous pursuit was to come after she did her time. In the late '80s she took up acting for real and began appearing in a number of John Waters' films. Remember, grandfather William Randolph Hearst was Citizen Kane, Orson Welles' inspiration for what many consider to be the greatest film of all time. And his heir joined the acting stable of a director perhaps best known at that time for filming an obese transvestite eating fresh dog poop on camera.
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Once you grow that mustache, you're pretty much down for filming anything.