From Stockholm Syndrome to the Westminster Dog Show — Patty Hearst Has Quite the Life

More than anything, Patty Hearst just wanted to be normal. Is such a thing possible for a formerly abducted heiress?

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Feb. 20 2024, Published 3:12 p.m. ET

Patty Hearst young
Source: Getty Images

Patty Hearst at age 19

Patty Hearst was arrested in San Francisco, Calif., in September 1975. The Hearst Media heiress was kidnapped from her home Feb. 4, 1974, by members of a terrorist organization called the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). Their "priorities included ending racism, monogamy, the prison system and 'all other institutions that have made and sustained capitalism,'" per PBS. Two months after she was kidnapped, Hearst pledged her allegiance to the SLA.

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Eventually Hearst was arrested for her involvement in a bank robbery that resulted in the murder of a bystander. While on trial, her lawyers would claim she was brainwashed but the jury didn't buy it. Her seven year sentence was commuted by then President Jimmy Carter after Hearst served a mere 22 months. What is Patty Hearst up to now? She's doing great, doggone it.

Patty Hearst
Source: Getty Images
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Where is Patty Hearst now? She very much reinvented herself.

While chatting with the Huffington Post in April 2020, Hearst looked back on a career she wasn't looking for growing up. In 1988, Hearst met the pope of trash himself while promoting a biopic about her life. John Waters revealed that he had been collecting newspaper clippings about her and was hoping she might be interested in doing a bit of acting. The Pink Flamingo writer-director was casting for his movie Cry-Baby, which would go on to star Johnny Depp. When he sent Hearst the script, she thought, "Why not?"

Despite an audition that she and Waters described as very bad, Hearst got the part which kicked off a few collaborations between her and Waters. Most notably, she was involved in a hilarious scene in the movie Serial Mom wherein Kathleen Turner berates her for wearing white shoes after Labor Day. She would go on to have walk-on roles in shows like Frasier, Boston Common, and Veronica Mars. Some poked fun at her past but for the most part, she was just Patty.

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Hearst is also involved in Elton John's AIDS charity, and regularly attends fundraising events for the organization. She is usually a guest at Johns's very glamorous Oscar-viewing party, but missed the February 2020 event because it fell on the same weekend as the Westminster Kennel Club. Dogs are a passion of Hearst's, whose pups have taken home prizes at the famous canine competition. In 2017 she was a double winner as her "French bulldog Tuggy won best of breed and Rubi won best of opposite sex," per SF Gate.

Bernard Shaw and Patty Hearst
Source: Getty Images

Patty Hearst and husband Bernard Shaw in San Francisco, circa 1979

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Patty Hearst was married for 34 years to a man who started out as her bodyguard.

Hearst's personal life took a page out of the Whitney Houston movie The Bodyguard when she married a member of her security detail in 1979, reported Page Six. Shaw was a former San Francisco police officer who was married when the two met in 1976. His first marriage ended in 1977, and when Patty was released, they quickly married.

In 1996 while guesting on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Hearst shared that her folks didn't have a lot of faith in their marriage. "My parents gave us a Sears vacuum cleaner as a wedding present," she said. "They thought it wouldn’t last." The joke was on them because two children later, the couple were happier than Hearst ever thought possible. Sadly Shaw passed away Dec. 17, 2013, at his home in Garrison, N.Y. He was 68 at the time. The cause of death was later revealed to be cancer.

In 1983 Patty went on Good Morning America where she talked about the kidnapping and reflected upon her life at the time. She revealed that after the abduction, what hurt the most is the fact that people thought she was odd. When they would meet her in real life, she was constantly told how surprised others were by how normal she is. Perhaps that informed her decision to live what some would call a relatively typical life. She got married, had children, raised dogs, and somewhere in between did some light acting. Patty Hearst is just like us.

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