The 4 Worst Famous Relatives People Managed to Live Down
Every family has its black sheep, but some families have a cousin who molests that sheep while threatening the police with a katana. Still, relatives often support their maniac because blood is thick, and people are even thicker. Don't get me wrong -- standing by your family is noble. Defending them when they have clearly molested kids ... maybe not as much?
So it's OK to renounce an irredeemable relative. Life's hard enough without a bad guy ruining your name, and nobody should be held accountable for their relatives' actions. You wouldn't want the FBI arresting you because your mom murdered those gigolos, and I don't want my brother footing the bill for this golf course I'm about to joyride in an ATV. Here are some people who faced up to a painful reality and disclaimed their own blood.
Who She Was
This Wisconsin resident was primarily brought up by her nanny and seldom saw her high-ranking father. But if she had, she might have seen him order the deaths of 10 million people.
Born Svetlana Alliluyeva, Peters was the beloved daughter of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who you can tell was evil because he was foreign. Also, nobody grows a mustache that luxurious without spilling some blood.
"Tickle torture" had an entirely different meaning with Papa Joe.
Ioseb Besarionis dze Dzhugashvili was born in Georgia, the fourth son of a cobbler and the only one to survive childhood, possibly because when Death approached his crib, he exiled it to Siberia. After his Myers-Briggs test showed that he would grow bored with cobbling's low murder rate, he turned to the seminary, but, like other Sith Lords, abandoned the monastic life for one of crime. Here's everything you need to know about his personality: His style of Marxism was robbery, and his method of robbery was detonating bombs in marketplaces. He was probably also a snitch to the police, because really, what crime is beneath Joseph "Man of Steel" Stalin?
Man, he went from brat in a Roald Dahl novel to goddamn cologne model like: boom! Communism.
For a pox-scarred, gimp-armed, four-toed priest, Stalin was quite the murdernaut. At 5 feet 6 inches (or 1.68 meters, if you use that commie metric system), he's proof that short guys spend their free time dreaming of ways to punish the world. Even growing a mustache thicker than an Italian woman's pubes didn't soothe Stalin's ego. He thug-lifed his way to power and erased more people in his lifetime than most nations kill in their entire history. If Joseph Stalin had an action figure, its right hand would have a realistic Death-Warrant-Signing Grip.
The conservative estimate is that Stalin's regime slaughtered 3 million of his own comrades, but possibly as many as 10 million, which is enough blood to paint half of Rhode Island. You can add another 3.5 million if you blame him for the Ukrainian famines. Oh, and all the purges as the Red Army marched west to fight Germany in World War II. Basically, Stalin killed so many people, there is an eight-figure margin of error.
Sure, it's easy to condemn a man just because he's the most ice-blooded monster the world has ever shuddered to behold, but by God, you have to admire anyone who's that good at his job. You do if you believe in God, I mean. You probably don't if you're a communist, or someone who looked at what Stalin did to the communists.
Even though Stalin had died a decade earlier, Peters was never allowed to officially marry her third husband, Indian Communist Brajesh Singh. When he too died, she traveled to India, found spirituality, and decided to reboot her existence. Like most women who do that, she wrote her memoirs. But hers were better than Elizabeth Gilbert's because there was a bloodthirsty dictator in them.
But the final title was Twenty Letters to a Friend.
The United States welcomed her defection and held a press conference so she could explain how depressing Soviet life was, even for the General Secretary of Murder's daughter. She took the more Anglican name of Lana Peters and got down to capitalizing.
After a fitfully weird U.S. residence, she returned to the Soviet Union, and all of America's political points reverted to Russia. But after two years, Peters came back to the USA -- apparently just to prove that no Iron Curtain could hold the Daughter of Steel.
Later in life, Peters described her dad as a "very simple man. Very rude. Very cruel." She said he loved her, but that "He broke my life," which is something most girls say as teenagers -- usually because they get grounded, but sometimes because Daddy sends their first love to a labor camp.
Here are some Russians who apparently never heard that Stalin killed 10 million of themselves.
Despite being the first person in history to convene a government press conference just to call her dad a dick, strangers associated Peters with her father's sins throughout her life. She died in 2011, having finally found some peace in Wisconsin -- which is more than Packers fans can say.
William Patrick Stuart-Houston
Who He Was
William Patrick Stuart-Houston was a U.S. Navy pharmacist's mate in World War II who was wounded in service to his country. He had grown up in Liverpool before going to live with his father in Germany, where he worked various jobs for the next decade. Willy returned to England in 1939, because unlike his half-brother, Heinz, Willy didn't want to be a Nazi. He was visiting the U.S. when World War II premiered to huge ratings in Europe and found himself stranded stateside.
After receiving a special dispensation from FDR, the expat was cleared to enlist and fight the Ratzis on America's behalf. The story goes that his draft officer was named Hess, the same as Germany's deputy fuhrer at the time -- which is pretty funny, considering that Willy Hitler was Adolf's nephew.
Ha! You thought this would be about Heinz.
What can be said about Adolf Hitler that hasn't been said already? Certainly not that he was a gentle lover. This is a man who had six girlfriends in his life, and four of them took up suicide as a hobby. He probably kept his watch on during sex and blamed his arrhythmic thrusting on her not lying still enough.
Adolf Hitler was the fourth son of Alois Hitler Sr. and Klara Polzl, and the first one to survive past infancy. He pondered the priesthood before -- holy crow, that's exactly what happened to Stalin. Was Hitler's dad a dick, too? Let's ask a Victorian street urchin:
Wine for breakfast and anger for lunch -- that was life in the Hitler household.
The Adventures of Teen Hitler featured the character moving to Vienna, where he excelled at not getting into art school. A spinoff series, Hitler at War, cast the oddball in the Bavarian Army, where he got into comic mishaps like inhaling mustard gas and taking explosives to the groin.
You know you're a schmuck when dogs try not to be photographed with you.
Hitler spent the years between the wars like your typical demagogue, shrieking about conspiracies and people who looked different. All that changed with the Beer Hall Putsch, in which the cantankerous twerp led 600 Nazi stormtroopers into the Burgerbraukeller -- which sounds like a delicious dinner combo at T.G.I. Fascism's, but was actually a political meeting/drinking ground.
Germany's government at the time was the Weimar Republic, and it was not taking care of business every day -- meaning the trains did not run on time and Germans could not get to work by nine, as noted by German historians Bachman-Turner Ubersteuern. Hitler planned to change all that (especially the trains) by inciting a fascist revolution that would pour into Berlin and overthrow the government, because Jews or something.
At Burgerbraukeller, Hitler took the stage to talk 3,000 scared and angry drunks into supporting his crazypants ideas -- and it worked. If Hitler had had a sense of humor, he would have been the most successful stand-up comedian ever.
Although he still killed the audience.
Despite Hitler's devilish hypnotic powers, the putsch failed and he went to prison for a year. You have to wonder if somewhere in the 1950s there was a German ex-con scoring free drinks after he became known as "That Guy Who Raped Hitler Right Off the Calendar."
Rape is funny when it happens to Hitler.
Hitler went on to have some pretty crazy times, you guys. Like when he imprisoned (and blitzkrieged?) his niece till she committed suicide. Or when he ran for president after doing time for high treason and almost won, because shit-hearted people are everywhere. The rest you pretty much know.
Around the time Hitler was inventing high-ranking unelected positions for himself, nephew Willy came back to Germany to soak in the reflected glory. Chancellor Hitler got him a couple of nice jobs, but Willy wanted more, and had the audacity to blackmail Uncle Krazy von Powergrab.
That's when Adolf started calling Willy "my loathsome nephew," which translates from Hitler as quite a compliment. The Fuhrer told Willy he could have a great job if he renounced his British citizenship. His nephew responded by upping the blackmail ante and threatening to proclaim the family's Jewish lineage, writing a magazine article called "Why I Hate My Uncle," and then going back to Germany anyway. Jeez, the Nazis goose-stepped because they were trained to, but Willy did it to avoid stepping on his own colossal balls.
This would be a good place to mention that Willy might have been a British secret agent all this time, trying to get closer to Hitler to learn juicy secrets. Or just, as history sometimes paints him, an opportunistic nepotist. Either's fine. If you want to blackmail Hitler, you don't need to explain your motives to me.
Willy lived out his days on Long Island running a blood lab. Heinz Hitler was captured by the Soviets and tortured to death, because Ivan don't play.
Who She Is
This California resident became a best-selling New York Times author after publishing a suspense thriller about a woman given up for adoption who reunites with her family ... only to suspect that the brother who lives with her is a scheming killer. It was sort of a reverse Dexter.
Oh, except it wasn't fiction, and the longer he lived with her, the more she came to believe that he had murdered Laci Peterson and their unborn son.
See? He even looks like Michael C. Hall.
Laci Rocha had a huge smile and a passion for horticulture. Have you ever known any horticulturalists who weren't nice people? No, you have not, because they are one with the plants. Unfortunately, she married Scott Peterson, and was therefore quite an impediment to the household's "Scott Peterson Gets to Do Everything He Wants" plan.
On Christmas Eve 2002, Peterson reported his wife missing. She was a pretty, pregnant white woman, three adjectives you might recognize as the media coverage trifecta. Very soon, the entire nation was watching the news story instead of It's a Wonderful Life.
It soon came to light that Scott was sticking his Peterson in so many women that he qualified for a gynecology doctorate. His philandering, of course, was at odds with his moral and financial responsibilities as a family man. Divorce was not an option, because it doesn't come with a hefty life insurance payout, so Peterson summoned his best psychopathy and dispatched his wife to the ocean. Her unborn son washed up a few months later, as did her badly degraded body the following day. If you're waiting for the joke about that, I'll make one as soon as I can stop shrieking.
Peterson was arrested in possession of everything you would need to convince police to do that: a ridiculous amount of camping equipment, an ax, a dagger, a gun, over $10,000 in cash, four cellphones, and other people's ID and credit cards. The only thing he didn't have was a good excuse for why he had dyed his hair blond.
"As your lawyer, I advise you to stop murdering your family."
In the wake of Laci's disappearance, the Peterson and Rocha families came together to endure the agonizing investigation. Scott stayed with his sister Anne, who had been welcomed back into the Peterson clan five years earlier.
Living in close proximity, Anne observed a lot of odd behavior from her brother as the case developed. While the Peterson family -- including Anne -- still supported Scott even after his arrest, she eventually realized that he was pretty good at this murder business, although not as good at pretending to miss his wife.
Anne wrote her memoir of the investigation, Blood Brother: 33 Reasons Why My Brother Scott Peterson Is Guilty. Its publication estranged her from the Petersons, since it's hard to brag that your kid's a New York Times best-selling author when the book's about how your other kid is damned in blood.
Who She Is
Born to parents of mixed Middle Eastern (and Swiss) backgrounds, this aspiring model/musician made a small splash around 2005 and 2006 when she scored a reality TV show about struggling in the entertainment industry. The show was pitched as bridging "the gap that people feel exists between the cultures she has lived in."
Dufour was born in Los Angeles and moved to Saudi Arabia, then Switzerland, before returning to America to earn a law degree at Columbia. Then one bright day in September, Wafah bin Ladin found it prudent to start using her mom's maiden name.
He died as he lived: surrounded by porn.
Osama bin Laden is the 17th son of Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, who fathered 54 children. That's normally cause for a high-five, except when one of them tests a new form of murder on 3,000 people. Also, it's not super classy that the 22 wives who birthed them got dropped like a box of hot rocks when their faces wrinkled.
What's really important is that Wafah Dufour has never met her estranged dad's half-brother. Not even once. She was on bad terms with her father well before September 11, but that didn't stop people from sending her death threats. And I don't know about you, but when I send death threats to strangers, I make sure they've actually gotten away with a crime, like worshiping a different god than mine, or filming a Friedberg/Seltzer spoof movie.
No jury on earth would convict you, unless it was 12 drunken Pitbull fans.
If you want to make it in the music industry, you need a hook to make it big. Most stars just wear clown wigs and sleep with John Mayer, but some are more audacious. For the people managing Wafah Dufour, the hook was her uncle's terrorist antics. Even the articles about her having zero connection to Osama bin Laden focus entirely on that relationship. While it's great to be forthcoming, introducing your client to everyone as "bin Laden's niece, but don't hold that against her" is not only marketing, it's bad marketing.
Girlfriend, your only crime was going blonde.
Dufour seemed to want to talk about anything besides her half-uncle, but her publicist insisted that she explain the matter. He also referred to her in public as Wafah bin Ladin, but encouraged reporters to move past that connection. When a publicist can't get his client's music onto the first page of Google returns for her name, he's less equipped to do his job than a Japanese whaler with a Nerf gun, and at least the whaler won't reopen any wounds.
Dufour appeared to truly want her name detached from a stranger's crimes. But when you hitch your wagon to media opportunist Judith Regan, you're hooking up with the lady who tried to make murder lucrative for OJ Simpson. Here's ReganMedia's press release, classily worded to show up in Web searches for "capture bin Laden."
Bin Ladin captured ... the hearts of America!
According to people monetizing a tragedy, the show's premise was "Can America overlook the bin Laden connection?" The answer: Not if that's your premise. You can't ask people to disregard your accident of birth while you use that same request as a springboard to fame. That trick only works for the Gottis, whose lawyers would like our lawyers to remind me to remind you that they are not associated with the mob -- although they are associated with something much more reprehensible: Judith Regan.
The working title was eventually shortened to "Nope!"
Thankfully, producers passed on this program, and no pilot was ever produced. America will never forget that brave day when we, as a nation, spoke in one heroic voice to say, "No, Hollywood, not today. You can do anything else, but this ... this is the line right here."
And we're all better off for it ...?
Brendan once uncovered the Five Sexiest Details of Lana Kane. He whispers sweet nothings to you on Twitter @brendanmcginley.
Brendan defended family in 6 Pro-Gay-Marriage Arguments for Fighting With Crazy People and then ruined family forever in an Open Letter to My Unborn Son.