Long Since Returned to An Ordinary Life as a Young Mother, Patty Hearst Still Thinks About Her Safety

Long Since Returned to An Ordinary Life as a Young Mother, Patty Hearst Still Thinks About Her Safety
02/01/1982

updated 02/01/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/01/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

Patty Hearst spent 19 months with the SLA and was arrested in San Francisco in September 1975, an hour after SLA members William and Emily Harris were apprehended three miles away. Her six other captors had been killed in a police shootout in L.A. 14 weeks after her kidnapping. Hearst was convicted of bank robbery and served 22½ months of a seven-year sentence. In February 1979 she was granted executive clemency by President Jimmy Carter and released. That April she married her bodyguard, Bernard Shaw, now 36 and a San Francisco police sergeant. The couple live in a well-guarded stucco tract house in the Bay Area with their 8-month-old daughter, Gillian Catherine Hearst-Shaw. Recently, Nancy Faber of PEOPLE spoke with Patty about her new life as author, wife and mother.

Why did you write this book?

I was tired of people thinking details were being kept secret. It was time to get everything out in the open. A lot of people wrote books about what they thought happened. My account would end the speculation and the myths.

Who picked Alvin Moscow as your coauthor?

My publisher, Doubleday. I had never written a book and he's a professional writer who ghosted Nixon's Six Crises.

What did you draw on for research?

I was lucky to have all the trial transcripts and the testimony I had given to state, local and federal agencies about the SLA, as well as all the confidential FBI reports.

What was your writing process?

Al wrote and I rewrote and edited. For example, we would start out talking about a chapter, say on the crimes the SLA committed in Sacramento in 1975. Then Al would take the FBI reports and other documents and write from that. I would expand on this, fill in details and comment. Each chapter was redone three times. The whole process took about a year and a half.

It is rumored you got $800,000 for writing the book. Is this true?

I never talk about money.

Did writing stir up bad memories?

Oh, sure. Like the kidnapping. In fact, after I had agreed to do the book, I thought: What have I done? But mostly, I had an awfully good time. I knew if I did a good job, readers would become emotionally involved. I also got to tell what happened without being interrupted by lawyers. They had their chance in court. Now it was my turn.

Did your family read your book?

Bernie tried to stay out of it and didn't read it until the final edit. I really appreciated that because it's hard not to throw in a few comments, and you're ready to kill someone for that. My younger sister, Anne, had good suggestions for taking out some corny parts. My mother had mostly grammatical suggestions. I didn't show it to my father until it was done. When he did read it, he loved it.

Did your parents worry about your safety because of your disclosures?

Yes. They feared that the book would make me the target of radicals again. After all, I did not portray the SLA as an intelligent, together, politically motivated group. Well, they weren't. They were just rats. [William and Emily Harris, who pleaded guilty to kidnapping Hearst, could be paroled as early as June 1983.—ED.]

Why did you join the SLA?

It's simple. I thought they would kill me if I didn't join.

Some feel you never really explained why you didn't try to escape when you had so many opportunities.

I did give an answer, but it is not the one people want to hear. Brainwashing is an oversimplification for what happened. I tried to just tell my story and let the psychologists and psychiatrists at the trial explain why I did what I did. I've heard from former prisoners of war and people who have been held hostage, kidnapped or raped. They have no trouble understanding why.

Are people willing to believe the worst because you are a Hearst?

Of course. People think of money and power.

What will you tell your daughter Gillian about your days in the SLA?

I think I'll let her sort it out for herself. She probably won't be interested. Most children are like that about their family. I was never interested in what my grandfather did.

What is your life like now?

Well, I drop off the baby with a sitter in the mornings and go riding. I have a Welsh pony named Andy. Since I'm so small, I look fine on him. I do enjoy my mornings. Then I pick up Gillian, run errands and clean up the house.

Do you entertain a lot?

Yes. I am still close with all my girlfriends from high school and they drop by frequently. Bernie has all his weight-lifting equipment in the garage. He and a friend will work out and then have dinner. We see my mother about once a month and my father a lot, too. And we go to my grandfather's old estate, San Simeon, for turkey, boar and deer shooting. I mostly do the driving and Bernie hunts.

You are considered one of the richest young women in America. How do you respond to that?

I wish it were true. We're comfortable. There are a lot of people far richer than I am who are not happy. We have a nice family life, and I think that is the most important thing.

Do you think of yourself as a victim?

Oh, sure, I was a victim, very definitely. But I don't feel like one today.

Are you seeing a psychiatrist now?

No. I haven't seen anyone since I got out of prison the first time.

What are your goals?

I'd like another baby, but I have no plans for one. And we will have to think about movie rights on the book. I haven't given that much thought. I don't have anyone in mind to play me.

Do you ever fear for your safety?

Oh, I don't know. Look what happened to John Lennon. He never did anything to hurt anybody. He just sat around and wrote music and someone killed him. I, on the other hand, ended up in an intimate relationship with a bunch of self-styled revolutionaries. Those kinds of people are crazy and unpredictable and strange, so anything could happen. I probably hate them as much as they hate me.

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