6 Celebrities With Family Histories Crazier Than The Movies
Think your family is crazy? Join the line -- right behind writers, but ahead of every single amateur stand-up comic from the 1980s. That bar is even higher when we're talking about the lives of celebrities, because we've heard it all from the tabloids already. Child star whose parents stole their money? Passe. Comedians whose personal lives were actually sad? Boring. For a strange celebrity family to impress us, they need to get seriously weird. We're talking about how ...
Cary Elwes' Parents Had A More Fantastical Love Story Than The Princess Bride
Carey Elwes has an origin story that makes Westley and Buttercup's journey look like a low-key afternoon courthouse marriage. Carey's father, Dominic Elwes, supported himself as a "society portrait painter" -- a profession about as lucrative then as it is now -- and had mostly run out of money by the mid 1950s. His mother, Tessa Kennedy, was a wealthy socialite, and when Dominic "swept off her feet" at a party at the Spanish Embassy, her parents took out a restraining order and forbid their daughter from marrying him anywhere in England.
Hounded by the press, the couple fled to Scotland to get married, but were denied by the court, so they turned to one of Dominic's influential acquaintances: a famous mobster in Cuba. They flew to Cuba and finally got married in an extravagant event at the Havana Riviera, with a guest list that included Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ernest Hemingway, and a bunch of American gangsters. But no wedding is complete without a few little mishaps for the couple to laugh about years later, and this was no exception. The celebration was cut short by the Cuban Revolution, and the couple had to flee the country on a raft with a pair of National Geographic journalists. At least it didn't rain!
The couple then went to New York to get married again (in case the Cuban Rush-Job didn't count). And to prove once and for all that no legally binding restraining order can contain TRUE love, they returned to England as husband and wife. Whereupon Dominic was immediately pulled away from Tessa and arrested. But when he got out of jail, they were allowed to remain married, and they later had three children, including the Dread Pirate Roberts himself.
The story didn't have a fairy tale ending, though. They divorced eight years later, and six years after that, Dominic committed suicide after being ostracized by his peers for apparently refusing to participate in the cover-up of a murder allegedly committed by his childhood friend, Lord "Lucky" Lucan. Basically, every movie Elwes would end up starring in was markedly less scattershot than the series of events that birthed him. Oh, and he's descended from the possible real-life Ebenezer Scrooge, for good measure.
Glenn Close's Father Gave Her To A Cult So He Could Work For A Dictator
When Glenn Close was 13, her father William dropped her and her three siblings off at the headquarters of "The Moral Re-Armament," a militant religious group that banned all sexual thought and was led by a huge fan of Hitler. The kids lived for years at the cult's hotel in Switzerland, the "Mountain House," and co-founded '60s singing group Up With People to spread the MRA's cool "desire is unnatural" message. This led to her arranged marriage with the band's guitarist.
Where was William during all this? The Congo, of course. He acted as personal physician to dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, whom Glenn met several times during extended visits. She described Mobutu as "charming early on," but he eventually descended into rampant corruption, looting the treasury, executing political rivals in public ceremonies, and once promising clemency to an exile but instead ripping the guy's penis off. Needless to say, you won't top Close in a "My dad had this weird friend growing up" conversation.
William eventually got the hell out of there in the late '70s, and Glenn left the MRA through means she still refuses to disclose. She dissolved her arranged marriage after two years, and eventually stopped having nightmares about the cult. We hear she even managed to make something of herself with this little "acting" thing.
Hope Solo Was Conceived In Prison By A Conman Who Was Later Framed For Murder
Jeffrey Solo was a small-time criminal who wound up imprisoned in Washington state in the '80s. He married his girlfriend Judy while still incarcerated, and their supervised conjugal visits produced a daughter, named Hope, who would go on to be the goalkeeper for the U.S. women's national soccer team for 16 years, have a few run-ins with the law herself, and serve as a loose inspiration for the Star Wars saga.
Jeffrey later moved in with Judy and became Hope's first soccer coach when she was five. He took off again, however, when the family discovered that he'd been forging checks to himself from their grandfather's account and pocketing the family's mortgage money, causing them to lose the house. He got arrested again years later for calling in bomb threats to a bank, and after kidnapping his kids for a "vacation" (during which he had sex with a woman while they were in the hotel room), he disappeared from Hope's life.
Cut to 2001. Washington police discovered real estate agent Mike Emert dead, having been stabbed 19 times. Emert had been seeing some mysterious new client who had a cane and a limp. So police turned their eyes to a homeless guy with a cane and a limp who hung around the area: Jeffrey Solo. When Jeffrey died of a heart attack in 2007, he was still suspected of this murder, but it turns out he might've been the victim of a con himself.
Investigators grew to suspect that Solo was framed by Gary Krueger, a cop on the case who later went rogue and became a bank robber. Before the police could bring any formal charges against Krueger, he fled by boat, and his dead body was fished out of Lake Washington months later. Truly, enough tacked-on plot twists to fill half an SVU episode.
Sean Astin Lived The Real Mamma Mia!
Sean Astin, the spunky underdog who made the Notre Dame football team and helped destroy the One Ring, is the son of Hollywood legend Patty Duke. That half of his parentage was well-known. But the other half was a secret throughout most of his life -- even, somehow, to his own mother.
Sean was raised by Duke and her husband John Astin, who played Gomez Addams in the original Addams Family series. When Sean was 14, Patty confessed to him that John wasn't his biological father -- it was in truth Desi Arnaz Jr., the son of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Sean sought out Arnaz Jr., and they became close friends.
Then, when Sean was 26, a stranger named Michael Tell contacted him to claim that he, not Arnaz, was in fact Sean's biological father. Tell explained that when Patty was having her fling with Desi Jr. (who was six years younger than her), Lucille Ball and Desi Sr. didn't exactly approve. Tell, who was Duke's roommate at the time, offered to marry her to get the press to stop hounding her for getting involved with the 17-year-old son of television royalty, and to help restore her "good girl" public image. They were only married for 13 days, but Tell was, a test later confirmed, Sean's biological father. In the '70s, two-week Hollywood sham marriages meant something.
This was a surprise even to Duke, who responded to Tell's news by saying, "As long as he is respectful of my truth, he can have his truth." As for Sean, when asked, he explains, "John Astin was my real father, Mike is my biological father, and Desi is like my godfather, and I love them all." Just goes to show that all it takes to grow up as a well-adjusted Hollywood kid is a mom and at least three father figures.
Pedro Pascal's Dad Was A Disgraced Fertility Doctor Who Fled To (And Then From) The U.S.
Pedro Pascal scored a sweet fan-favorite twofer with his breakout roles as Oberyn Martell on Game Of Thrones and Javier Pena on Netflix's Narcos, making him one of Chile's most recognizable actors. He's also starring in the upcoming Star Wars TV series The Mandalorian, about a lone gunman living on the outer reaches of the outer reaches of the Galaxy. Which is an odd coincidence, because Pascal's own father, Dr. Jose Pedro Balmaceda, is also living where the law can't reach him.
Dr. Balmaceda was a fertility specialist who fled Chile's increasingly authoritarian grip in 1975, along with his wife, child psychologist Veronica Pascal, and their two children. They relocated to Denmark, then Texas, and finally to the University of California Irvine Medical Center in 1986, where he become one of the world's most sought-after fertility specialists.
But in 1995, Balmaceda was accused of performing egg and embryo transfers without the consent of the original couples. He was charged with a litany of crimes -- conducting human research without permission, obstructing university investigations, and prescribing fertility medication without government approval. Rather than stick around waiting for the outcome, Balmaceda escaped back to Chile, where he was received with open arms and immediately started working at the Clinica Las Condes, one of the most prestigious private clinics in the city. Many of his colleagues are aware of the "human experimentation" thing, but largely dismiss the rumors as gossip.
Dennis Hopper's Father Faked His Death To Cover Up His Secret Identity As A Spy
Dennis Hopper grew up believing that his father, James Millard Hopper, managed a post office for a living. When World War II broke out, James took off overseas, and in 1942, Dennis received the news that he had died in combat in the Pacific.
But it later turned out James wasn't dead. Nor did he work at the post office. In straight-up True Lies fashion, he was in fact a spy working in military intelligence, and his death had been a cover story while he was operating for the newly created Office of Strategic Services. He spied in China, Japan, and Burma, and among other duties, he armed the Japanese after their surrender to keep the Chinese from taking over.
When the war ended, he returned to America. The government kept James' secret from everyone except Marjorie, who never told Dennis. When Dennis found out his parents had lied to him all his life, his trust in authority was permanently shaken, and this may or may not explain a whole lot about Dennis Hopper.
Diego Rivera is a comedy person. Sometimes he's funny on Twitter at @piover45.
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