Interview by Lawrence Grobel
Lawrence landed his interview with Patty Hearst in 1982 after meeting her at the Playboy Mansion. They took a dip in the grotto.
The Animated Transcript
Lawrence Grobel is a freelance writer who has written 22 books and for numerous national magazines and newspapers.
The oddest thing about your celebrity was that you were a celebrity who couldn’t be seen. You were in hiding all the time. you could have not appeared at all. Once you appeared the game was over.
What about the time you were driving with Bill in Sacramento and the woman says to you, “You look like Patty Hearst.”
We were walking and she pulled up and asked for some directions. She just looked and looked and then she said, “You know, you look so much like Patty Hearst.” Eek.
Did you say anything at all? Were you able to?
No. I didn’t say anything. Bill Harris just said, “Yeah, you know, we hear people say that all the time.
I really thought we could have won the case until final arguments. we had virtually no closing argument, I think that’s where it was finally lost was right then. Ultimately [Crosstalk] they’ve got to prove reasonable doubt, reasonable doubt. Is it reasonable to assume that someone who has been locked in a closet for 57 days after being kidnapped and brutalized, raped, abused, then they say you’re going to rob a bank now? Is that reasonable to assume that that person had the free will to go out and willingly… I mean you’re talking about reasonable doubt.
If you could’ve erased it, the kidnapping, the birth of Tania, becoming the most famous fugitive in the world or the United States, the guerrilla skills you learned, the radicalization, feminization, living life on the edge, jail, the trial, prison, would you like to have erased it all?
There are some days when I think “ehhh”. There’s always some days you wish things had never happened, like you’d never been born, that sort of thing but I’m not the kind of person anyway that can just sit around and say, “gee, I wish that never happened.” I don’t ever do that. There’s no point. That is a total and complete waste of time.
What were the circumstances surrounding the times you were hit?
Oh, you know, made some sassy remark or you know, didn’t move fast enough. Or, was disrespectful to my leader.
Was it a backslap or was it a fist punch?
It was a punch.
Right in the eye?
Did he ever hit you any place else than the face?
Or the stomach or …
I mean, you’re so fragile. If I punched you in the eye, I would be afraid I would crack your whole face. How hard…
No. I got hit in the face with a gun. I’m not very fragile at all. it makes me think maybe things would be easier if I were terribly frail and fragile somehow
I just want to straighten out a few facts. You were a willing participant in the bank robbery at that time.
Well but you can’t separate them like that. You can’t say, “we’re not talking about the threats that you were under.” They said if I didn’t do it they’d kill me. In a sense I became as much of a believer as I was capable of becoming. But you’re talking about someone too who really has no free will anymore. That’s when we’re getting to that thing about traumatic neurosis with dissociative features.
Is? Who told you about that?
Is the technical name for what happened to me. What everyone calls brainwashing, that is the actual name for it.
It wasn’t like you were in a fog
Oh no, it wasn’t like I was in a fog and didn’t know what was happening, like, “where am I?” At the same time, mentally and emotionally, I was not fully in control of myself.
You made a conscious choice to stay alive in the SLA and whatever it took to stay alive, you were going to do it. Even if it meant killing other people, blowing up police cars, shooting up Mel’s sporting goods shop.
It didn’t. It didn’t. It never came up.
Well it came close though.
It didn’t. When did it come close?
At Mel’s it came close.
It didn’t come close at Mel’s.
You shot right above everybody or below everybody. It came …
That’s right. So what?
That’s close, Patty.
There was never a thought of kill or be killed. Never. Not ever. I don’t know that I would ever choose to kill.
Did it take guts to join the SLA?
Would it have taken more guts not to have joined, to have resisted and eventually tried to escape.
I think it would’ve been crazy to not have joined. Because they would’ve just killed me. That doesn’t take guts. “Would you do this or would you rather be dead?” Well, gee I’d rather be with you. I mean I think it takes much more guts to say, “never. I’d rather die.” I’m sorry. I’m a coward, I didn’t want to die.
How much of a markswoman are you, getting onto your guns for a minute. Didn’t you tell me you once shot two turkeys with one shot? How about that one?
I like deer and … but we eat everything we shoot. People who’ve never gone hunting have a tendency to look down on hunters and act like they’re out killing Bambi’s father.
But isn’t it terrible to do? This poor deer, it’s a beautiful animal. Why not just buy steak?
You have to go hunting to know the excitement of seeing someone get their first deer. It’s a thrill for them. It is.
What else would you feel satisfied shooting? A boar?
Maybe you. No.
That stays in.
Meeting Patty in the Grotto
Lawrence Grobel told us about his big get:
“How I became the lucky journalist to get the Patty Hearst interview for Playboy after she had served two years in prison before President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence is a story in itself. “Patty Hearst is coming with her husband for breakfast to the mansion,” Christie Hefner told me over the phone. “Why don’t you join us?”
“You mean to see if she’d agree to do the Interview?” I asked. I had done several Playboy interviews by then, including marathon sessions with two highly elusive stars, Barbra Streisand and Marlon Brando
“You never know,” Christie said.
The Hearst Family
Patty was born into an American dynasty – she was the granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst, publisher of the San Francisco Examiner and The New York Journal. Orson Welle’s Citizen Kane is thought to be loosely based on him.
From Kidnapped to Bank Robber
February 4, 1974 – The kidnapping
Hearst, then a 19-year-old university student, is abducted from her apartment in Berkeley, CA by a group calling themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army. Watch a news report on the kidnapping
February 12, 1974 – ‘I’m okay’
In a recording delivered to KPFA radio, Patty Hearst appeals to her father to follow the SLA’s demands to secure her safe release. Listen to the tape.
February 16, 1974 – ‘I’m Not Dead’
A second tape of Patty is released by the SLA: “It’s depressing to hear people talk about me like I’m dead.”
February 19 – March 25, 1974, SLA Demands
To meet SLA demands that the Hearsts provide food for all needy Californians, Patty’s father Randolph Hearst forms People In Need, a food distribution program.
April 3, 1974 – Patty becomes “Tania”
In a fifth tape recording, Hearst denounces her family and pledges allegiance to the S.L.A., taking the name “Tania.”
April 15, 1974 – The Hibernia Bank Robbery
Along with four SLA members, Patty robs a Hibernia Bank branch in San Francisco and it’s all caught on tape.
Theories abound – was she a willing participant, was she forced, or had she been brainwashed by her captors?
May 16, 1974 – Shots Fired
Patty is with two members of the SLA who attempt to shoplift a pair of socks at Mel’s Sporting Goods in Los Angeles. A scuffle ensued with store employees and Patty fires 27 bullets into the storefront from a van parked across the street.
Six SLA members are killed in a televised shootout with the LAPD. But Patty is not among them, as she watches the shootout on TV from the safety of a motel room near Disneyland.
June 7 – Patty’s Eulogy
On a seventh tape-recorded message, Patty offers a eulogy for those killed in the shootout. She vows that the S.L.A. will continue its fight.
September 18, 1975 – Caught!
Patty Hearst and fellow SLA members, Bill and Emily Harris and Wendy Yoshimura, are arrested in San Francisco.
March 11, 1976 – Guilty
The jury doesn’t buy Hearst’s “brainwashing” defense, and Patty is found guilty of armed bank robbery. She is sentenced to 7 years in prison.
February 1, 1979 – Set Free
Twenty-two months into her prison term, President Jimmy Carter commutes Patty’s sentence. Carter would later say: “my heart went out to her when her case first came to me.”
January 20, 2001 – Pardoned
President Bill Clinton pardons Patty Hearst.
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