The Day Patty Hearst Gave Rodney Dangerfield No Respect

Patty Hearst has been in and out of the media spotlight for decades.

The granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst was kidnapped in 1974 by the very ’70s-ish Symbionese Liberation Army. Within weeks she had joined the SLA, was photographed in front of the SLA flag — and helped rob a bank.

The iconic photo of Patty Hearst, as an SLA member.

After nearly 2 years, Hearst was captured. She served 22 months in prison before her sentence was commuted by President Carter. On President Clinton’s last day in office — acting on her statements that she had been brainwashed, raped and tortured by her captors — he pardoned her.

This Sunday, CNN premieres a 6-part series: “The Radical Story of Patty Hearst.” A weekly podcast — “Patty Has a Gun: The Life and Crimes of Patricia Hearst” — has already begun.

Meanwhile, pressure from Hearst convinced Twentieth Century Fox to cancel a film about her ordeal. She invoked the #MeToo movement, saying the project would re-victimize her.

With the heiress/bank robber/victim back in the news, Westporters of a certain age remember her as a neighbor. She and husband Bernard Shaw — a former member of her security detail, when she was out on bail — lived off Clapboard Hill, in the 1980s. They had 2 children together, along with Shaw’s son from a previous marriage.

Not far away — on Hedley Farms Road — lived another famous Westporter: comedian Rodney Dangerfield.

You’d figure that — besides being a mile apart — their paths would never cross.

You’d figure wrong.

In 1985, artist Miggs Burroughs designed a special flag for the 150th anniversary of Westport’s founding. Dangerfield donated funds to produce 60 full-sized flags. To celebrate — and show some respect for the guy who said he never got any — a celebration was set for Barbara Roth’s Greens Farms home.

Miggs Burroughs, his Westport flag and Rodney Dangerfield, at the 1985 celebration.

A crowd of 100 gathered. Miggs and 1st Selectman Bill Seiden were seated in front.

Dangerfield stood up to speak.

“Obviously impaired, and sweaty and nervous, he was fumbling his way through a short talk while 2 women in the back of the crowd loudly chatted,” Miggs recalls.

The stand-up comic did not use his wit to embarrass them. Instead, Miggs says, he scolded them “without any humor or restraint.” He called them “rude,” shocking the crowd.

Miggs looked at the women — and was mortified to see that one was his wife, Mimi.

She was talking with Patty Hearst.

Mimi — who also remembers the incident well — thinks they were talking about their kids, who were in pre-school at Greens Farms Congregational Church together.

She says that after the presentation, Dangerfield walked over to them. He sputtered more scolding words.

Rodney Dangerfield

Paul McGuirk — a Norwalk Hour photographer who had known Mimi in high school — was there too. He recalls that day too. In fact, he says, Dangerfield was in such a “fuming rage” that Mimi left in tears.

Hearst — having been through much worse — told him to “go f— himself,” McGuirk says.

Miggs — who was giving interviews and “missed the fun” — adds, “My impression of Patty was how petite and very attractive she was in person — especially compared to the larger-than-life and dangerous image portrayed in the media.”

But there’s more to the Patty Hearst/Miggs Burroughs connection. Years earlier, he had been asked to paint “Tania” — her SLA alias — for a New Times magazine cover.

Patty Hearst - New Times cover by Miggs Burroughs

He worked from the photo shown at the top of this story. But Miggs’ editors asked him to “sex it up,” with her hair blowing in the wind and her shirt unbuttoned to the waist as she wielded a machine gun during the bank robbery.

Miggs ran into Hearst and her husband a few times after the Westport 150th-anniversary flag event.

“They were always very friendly and down to earth,” he notes.

“To this day I don’t know if she was aware that I was the one who did that cover of her.

“And I was always reluctant to bring it up.”

BONUS MIGGS BURROUGHS AND PATTY HEARST FEATURE: During one of those casual conversations, Miggs asked Patty to tape a brief endorsement for his “Miggs B on TV” Cablevision show.

She quickly agreed. Here’s the result — filmed in her front yard:

18 responses to “The Day Patty Hearst Gave Rodney Dangerfield No Respect

  1. Timing is everything, Chauncy Gardner ….LOL

  2. New York Times “editors asked him to “sex it up,” with her hair blowing in the wind and her shirt unbuttoned to the waist”

    Some things never change.

  3. My wife nd I bought an renovated Barbara Roth’s Greens Farm house referred to in the article, we would be fascinated to hear form or talk with anybody who attended her parties and fundraisers.

  4. We at Westport Historical Society pride ourselves on being in the know about our local history, but sometimes there are historical secrets right under our nose! It was thrilling to read this titillating tidbit about Miggs–who has always been a friend to WHS–and our own Mimi, who manages our gift shop, where we still sell those very flags!

    • Ramin, ask Miggs about the time he almost booked the Mamas & Papas to do a gig at his college before they became famous. He is a man of many talents.

  5. This post has to be the most self-serving, name-dropping of all.

  6. If you were a young woman in the day, as I was, living at a time when our culture was confused and convoluted, you might have very mixed feelings about Patty Hearst. In many ways she was far ahead of her time as a hero and a warrior to survive her ordeal intact… by whatever means it took.
    I have always been amazed that she has been able to go forward in her life as a productive member of society, a mother, and wife, dignified, a strong woman, out of the public eye.
    Who are we to judge her?

  7. Bill Boyd (staples 66)

    No respect….Geez… let the guy talk for a couple of minutes..LOL. . R I P Rodney

  8. I went to high school with her step son. She wasn’t as nice as you think.

  9. I didn’t say Patty Hearst was “nice”… I said that, in my opinion, she was strong and resilient and actually survived a horrific situation: abused, raped, alone, with her life presumably at risk every moment, and a long jail term after she was captured by the police, and was able afterwards to go on with her life in what is generally considered a “normal” way, without whining or seeking publicity.

    Not sure how much weight a schoolboy stepson’s opinion should be given in such a situation – “She made me turn off the TV and go to bed.? “She made me eat my spinach.?”

    Your comment is a perfect example of how men just don’t get it.

  10. Full disclosure: I’ve never seen, spoken to or met Patty Hearst in my life, nor have I ever met anyone else who knows her.

    • Nor have I. My frustration with posts like these is the tabloid taste (video included), the lack of privacy, the tawdry description of a man who cannot defend himself and a woman who has tried to lead a quiet life under a never ending microscopic lens. If the post was meant to be funny, or even illuminating, it missed the mark.
      I like your comment, Bonnie, although I think a good number of men “get it”, (but maybe not the producers of this new series who need to line their wallets even more).

  11. I knew it as soon as I wrote “men just don’t get it” – that I should have qualified with ‘some men’ or whatever, but decided to leave it because I assumed that most people today accept the type of man the phrase refers to. I love men – kind, thoughtful, intelligent, willing to support and share – men who don’t believe they were put on this earth to rule world and that it’s their way or the highway… sadly, too often making their point by physically abusing women and evidently now rising to the innards of our own White House.

    And, Dan is one of those good guys. His posts present us with a generous range of topics. He never tells us what to think, but seeks our opinions – Refreshing! The Patty Hearst story is out there again, courtesy of CNN, where they have to fill the night time hours with…. something weird, ugly and controversial after the news of the day has been repeated 1,000 times, to line their wallets even more – I agree. Thanks.

    I know Dan will now say comments over. I agree. I’m done.

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