10. Soon-Yi Previn
The scandal that erupted when Woody Allen took nude photos of actress Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, tarnished his reputation. Although Woody Allen was not Soon-Yi’s adopted father (her father was composer/ conductor Andre Previn), many people believed his relationship with the then-teenage girl was inappropriate and morally suspect. Woody Allen was still romantically involved with long-term partner Mia Farrow when he took up with Soon-Yi. Woody Allen married his much-younger girlfriend in 1997 and they remain together today: they have two daughters. Soon-Yi and her mother have been estranged since her affair with Allen began. In a famous quote, she described Farrow as “no Mother Teresa”. Mia Farrow has also slung some mud in the mass media, telling a reporter that her daughter was marrying Allen to “improve her situation”.
9. Christina Crawford
Christina Crawford was born to an unmarried mother in 1939. Famous Hollywood actress Joan Crawford adopted her in 1940. In Christina’s notorious autobiographical memoir, Mommie Dearest, she portrayed her mother as a cruel harridan who doled out frequent physical abuse and verbal lashings to her own daughter. Christina was one of five children adopted by Joan Crawford, and she became an actress who appeared in several small film roles, most notably alongside Elvis Presley in the 1961 movie, Wild In The Country. Christina Crawford and her brother Christopher were both disinherited from their mother’s will when she died in 1977. In 1978, Christina had her revenge. She wrote Mommie Dearest, which exposed her mother’s problems with alcohol abuse and her volatile mood swings. The book was adapted into a successful film, starring Diana Scarwid, in 1981: Faye Dunaway played the role of Joan Crawford.
8. Debbie Harry
Debbie Harry, the beautiful and charismatic lead singer of seminal new-wave band, Blondie, was born in July of 1945. A couple from New Jersey adopted her when she was a baby. In the Sixties, Debbie moved to New York City, where she worked all manner of jobs to make ends meet. Stints as a secretary and a Playboy Bunny came and went, and she began to waitress at Max’s Kansas City, a popular, hipster nightspot of the time. She became interested in music and performance art. Debbie sang in a few bands, doing folk rock and other styles, until she met Chris Stein in the mid-Seventies. They formed Blondie together, and their debut album was released in 1976. They also become lovers, and later on, Debbie nursed Chris through serious health problems. Her classic songs with the band, including Heart Of Glass, Atomic, and Call Me, remain popular today. Debbie Harry still resides in NYC, where she is a supportive and talented member of the avant-garde art and music scene.
7. Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs rose to fame as one of the founders of Apple, Inc. Along with co-founders Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne, he helped to revolutionize society through the commercial sales of motherboards and the Apple I and II personal computers. Steve was born in San Francisco, but he was raised in Mountain View, California, after being adopted by his parents, Paul and Clara Jobs. Steve Jobs met his business partner, Steve Wozniak, while working for Hewlett-Packard during his summers off from high school. One other highlight of Job’s career was the purchase of Pixar (then named The Graphics Group), a company that has produced stellar animated films, such as Toy Story and Wall-E.
Today, Jobs is battling a rare form of pancreatic cancer, and he has taken a leave of absence from his duties at Apple. Update: Sadly, Steve Jobs succumbed to his long battle with cancer and passed away on Oct. 5 2011.
6. Marilyn Monroe
This iconic actress spent most of her childhood in foster homes, because her mother was unable to care for her. After spending her formative years in an orphanage, she returned to live with her mother at age seven, but it did not work out. Marilyn’s mother has mental health problems, and she was declared legally insane during this period. Marilyn was sent back to the orphanage after her mother was admitted to a mental institution.
When Marilyn turned eleven, she went to live with a friend of the family, Grace McKee, who later adopted her. However, Grace and her husband suffered from financial problems, and in time they too could no longer be there for Marilyn. In her mid-teens, they offered her a difficult, sad choice: early marriage, or a return to the orphanage. Marilyn chose to marry at age 15.
Marilyn’s troubled childhood, and her genetic predisposition to mental health problems, may have exacerbated the problems she struggled with when she became a famous actress. She was notorious for showing up late, and for mood swings she could not seem to control. Marilyn abused pills, and eventually died of a drug overdose.
5. Faith Hill
This country music superstar was born in Mississippi in 1967. She was adopted by a devout Christian couple, who raised her alongside their two biological children (both sons). From an early age, Faith’s singing talent was obvious to those around her, and she began performing in churches and at local rodeos. Faith struggled to get noticed in the competitive music business, and eventually she had her lucky break. She was singing backup for Gary Burr, at the Blackbird Café in Nashville, when a record company executive in the audience saw something special in the beautiful, talented young woman. This Warner Bros. VIP was the driving force behind Hill’s first contract with his company. Her debut album, Take Me As I Am, was released in 1993. After her first marriage to Dan Hill ended in 1994, she went on to meet country artist Tim McGraw. They have been married since 1996.
4. Richard Burton
This brilliant actor, with his glorious speaking voice and ravaged beauty, lived from 1925 to 1984. He was born in Pontrhydyfen, a small town in Wales. Richard’s father was a coal miner and an alcoholic. His mother died after given birth to her last child. She bore 13 children and Richard Walter Jenkins was the birth name of her twelfth child.
Richard went to live with his sister Cecilia after his mother’s death. Cecelia was an angel in Richard’s life, caring for him and supporting him, even when he tried her patience with his wildness and bad behavior. Burton’s father would weave in and out of his children’s lives, but Cecelia was always there for Richard and his siblings.
A schoolteacher, Philip Burton, discovered Richard’s considerable gift for acting during the boy’ performances in school plays. Richard also had a beautiful, rich singing voice. Eventually, Philip adopted Richard as his ward and helped propel him toward a life in theatre in film. Richard went on to play lauded roles in Shakespearean dramas, and to multiple marriages. He left his first wife, Sybil, when Elizabeth Taylor entered his life. Their forbidden passion ignited tremendous scandal and moral outrage during the Sixties.
3. Edgar Allan Poe
This poet, writer and critic, who specialized in a dark and macabre style, lost his parents when he was very young. Frances and John Allan then cared for him, but they did not legally adopt him. Nonetheless, they raised him to adulthood. Only after Poe completed a University degree did he decide to sever relations with the Allans.
Poe married his cousin, Virginia, in 1836, but tragedy lay ahead for the gifted writer and his love. Virginia soon lay desperately ill with incurable tuberculosis. The sense of menace and quiet, grim beauty he captured in his famous poem, The Raven, was a testament to his love for her, and the depths of his sorrow over her impending death. Virginia died two years after his poem was published.
2. John Lennon
John Lennon came from a turbulent background. His mother, Julia (known as Judy), was abandoned by her husband, Alf, after John’s birth in October of 1940. John’s father went AWOL while stationed on board a navy ship. He did not reappear to help the young mother cope with the responsibilities of new parenthood. John’s maternal aunt, Mimi, helped Julia in many ways, by helping her care for John, and by offering her a place to stay. In time, Julia began to look for a life outside the confines of the home, and she soon began to drink and party at local pubs. In time, she was in no condition to care for John, and Mimi began to look after him all of the time. Mimi was solidly middle-class, and she was very willing to make the future singer a part of her family (as parental guardian). John Lennon later admitted that life with Mimi Smith and her husband, George Smith, was cushier and more upscale than the other Beatle’s upbringings. He also admitted that his “Liverpudlian” accent was exaggerated because the public enjoyed the band’s working-class image.
1. Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela was born in 1918, in the city of Transkei, South Africa. When Mandela was just a child, he lost his father to tuberculosis. In order to respect a debt that lay between Nelson’s father and himself, a Thembu king, Jongintaba, informally adopted the nine-year old boy. The Thembu Regent oversaw the interests of the Madiba clan. Nelson’s mother remained alive and well throughout his adoption, living in the village of Qunu, in a cluster of huts, and tending her fields as was customary. Nelson Mandela’s anti-apartheid activities began when he aligned himself with the African National Congress in the 1950’s. This political party was devoted to racial equality that was long overdue in the South Africa. Nelson was arrested for his anti-government activities more than once, and, being a lawyer himself, he pleaded that armed resistance was the only way forward, away from apartheid. Nonetheless, he was imprisoned for 27 years for his “acts of sabotage”. He was released in 1990 and went on to become the first president of South Africa to be elected in a democratic vote.