In Defense of Dad

I'm sick of the low blows, the kidney punches, and the shots after the bell and on the breaks. I'm sick of all the trash talking. From Vanity Fair, The Today Show and The View just to name a few. From mean spirited bloggers who say my father is an awful man, and would be better off dead. That's my dad you're talking about and I don't like it. Not one bit. All this nasty criticism you throw at my dad reminds me of the guy that throws the sucker-punch. The weakling that hits someone when they aren't looking, and then disappears into the crowd because they're scared they might get punched back, or the coward that kicks someone in the head when they are already down. For no other reason than to be hurtful I suppose, but none of you have any idea what you're talking about. I do. I'm actually an expert on the subject.

My name is Patrick O'Neal, and my father is Ryan O'Neal and I'm here to stick up for my old man. I love him. I always have and I always will.

Tatum wrote a book. I wish she hadn't. Keep it in the locker-room I say. Griffin has gone on TV talk shows for decades demonizing our father, and has sold countless stories to the tabloids trashing Ryan so that he could profit. To partially quote Michael Corleone from The Godfather, I would tell them, "Tate, Griff, you are my older sister and brother and I love you. But don't ever take sides with anyone against the family again. Ever."

Is our family different than most? Sure. Have there been documented problems with Ryan's children? Yes. But not all of his kids have made the list. Nope, there is one of em that's doing okay. He has a cool job, a dream job actually, and pays his bills and loves his daughters. That's me. This guy right here. Am I interesting copy because I haven't been arrested? Hell no, that doesn't sell, and how does that support the fact that Ryan (according to everyone) has ruined all his kids lives?

Usually Ryan only has three children, but when I do get mentioned there's the thought, "Well, Patrick must not have ever spent any time with his Dad, he had to have been only raised by his mother, and that's the reason he hasn't gotten into trouble, says everyone." Cue WRONG buzzer sound effect please. Yes I went to summer camps and three years of boarding school in high school. Sure, I had countless positive influences in my life from my mother Leigh Taylor-Young, the nicest woman in the world, and a great actress to boot, to my grand-parents Don and Pauline and Patsy and Blacky, Aunt Dey and Uncle Lance, and teachers, coaches and counselors. But my dad was my hero.

My parents split up when I was three, but my dad was there to pick me up every weekend. And I couldn't wait for him to pull up in the Rolls and honk his horn. The coolest man ever. And he was my Dad. Talk about a lucky son. He was one of the biggest movie stars in the world. It was unreal how famous he was. He was the Golden Boy! The MAN! This is Rodney Harrington from Peyton Place, Oliver Barrett from Love Story, Howard Bannister from What's up, Doc?, Moses Pray from Paper Moon, Redmond Barry from Barry Lyndon, and The Driver!

That's his legacy! Those movies will last forever. And when people look back 50 years from now, when my kids tell their kids, that's what they'll remember. Not Barbara Walters interrogating him on The View. "Why are you such a lethal father?" asks BaBa Wawa. Please lady, get a clue. You don't know a thing about the type of parent my dad was. What, because he makes jokes with you and others in his interviews? That's how my dad has done interviews since 1965. Everything is a quip or a one-liner, and it always has been. In interviews or at parties or just with his friends, my dad is always making jokes. He makes light of everything, even in the darkest of moments. He likes to make people laugh. Some hit, some don't. Hey, my dad dominated TV and movies for two decades. He supported his family, everyone, from the time he was twenty-one. This is the most generous man in the world. Way too generous in my opinion.

When I was fifteen I moved in with him and Farrah, this would be in 1984 and Tatum and Griffin had already moved out, so I was the only kid in the house until little Redmond was born in 1985. I spent some important formative years with just my father as my caretaker, since my Mom had moved to New York. So there goes the theory that I wasn't around.

Oh, I was around. If you add up the number of sporting events my dad and I watched together on TV over the years, we are talking tens of thousands of hours. If you add up the number of Frisbee throws back and forth on the beach, it would be over a million. Add up the number of racket ball games we played, it's well over a thousand. And my dad won more than half, probably 75%, so he has the bragging rights. Plus he used to spot me ten points in the early years. But towards the end of our battles on the court, I closed the gap. I'm partly responsible for his two replaced knees, because I had a secret pleasure running him side to side and up and back.

It was fun and competitive. Very competitive, and there's nothing wrong with a little competition. My dad got me in shape and stressed exercise. I'm glad he made me do those fifty sit-ups on the slant board every day. I'm glad he pushed me to run the five miles to the pier and back on that soft sand. I was good at sports because of him. I have an awesome job as a sportscaster because of what he taught me. I am a loving parent because of him. When the three of us were little we used to wrestle him for hours. We would attack him from all angles. We would spend days in the pool, and he would throw us from side to side, over and over and over. It was so much fun, the most fun I ever had. I've heard there are some kids that didn't get to toss the ball around with their Dad and I feel sorry they missed out on that love, because I cherish the memories.

Shame on Vanity Fair for the article after Farrah died. What, they couldn't write a tribute to one of the biggest stars ever? Farrah was just an amazing person, and so darn beautiful inside and out. She was one of a kind. For being so famous, she never acted like she was. She was nice to everyone. Especially me. But Vanity Fair writes just a trashy article, not about Farrah, but more about my dad and anything negative this writer could think up. "Beautiful People, Ugly Choices" was the headline. What a disgrace that piece was. I had thought Vanity Fair was a quality magazine, but it's more like a trashy tabloid actually.

My whole life I have avoided getting involved in the public disputes, but The Today Show changed that for me. My dad did an interview with Matt Lauer to promote his book Both of Us about his life with Farrah, and when Matt asked if he was a bad parent, Ryan answered "I guess so, look at my work." Matt asked the questions people wanted him to ask. Just doing his job. But the next day The Today Show torched Ryan during their "Professionals" segment.

The subject was "Ryan O'Neal's Family Drama"; only Ryan O'Neal wasn't there to defend himself. It was Dr. Nancy Snyderman saying "there is a window into the dysfunctionality and sad parenting and frankly what seemed like a very traumatic childhoods for these kids. And also I don't know why you come on television with a band-aid on your nose."

Wait there's more, "these kids may have been genetically programmed for some level of drug use." Okay, he had a band-aid on his nose because he had melanoma surgery. And is there actual proof that drug addiction is genetic? I didn't know that. There are a lot of people that do drugs in this world, and I'm not sure any of us really know the answers as to why they start or continue to use. I suppose it could be lots of reasons, addiction being the main one. It's irresponsible for a doctor to make that statement.

Then there's Donny Deutsch. Here's what he said: "Clearly these kids are so messed up, and that is clearly a guy that should not have had the license to have kids." He wasn't done there, "as a father he made me want to puke; as a man I don't have any respect for him." So here's a guy from New York named Donny taking a cheap shot at my dad. Well, Donny, I sure am glad he had a license to have kids, because I'm here and my amazing daughters Sophia and Veronica are here, and thank God for that. I would like to revoke Donny's license for saying ignorant and damaging things on TV.

And I'll tell you something about my siblings. Tatum O'Neal is incredible. When I was six she was winning an Academy Award, and she was a freaking movie star. She is funny, athletic and a great actress. And she loves her three kids. I adored her growing up, and who wouldn't? I was very popular at school because of Tatum, let me tell you. Every kid wanted to know what she was like and if she really was throwing that curve in Bad News Bears. Yep, it was Tate. She was always very kind and generous to me. We had some fun times together. Tatum rocks.

I couldn't wait to play with Griffin on those weekends. We did everything together. Griffin is a musical genius. Self-taught. He was the best surfer on the beach. We were always in the ocean. We got into some trouble together. Griff was always looking for trouble. He was a tough one for my dad to handle. Ryan did his best. Griff was very close to starring with my dad in The Champ. My dad dropped out when Griff didn't get it at the last minute. Griffin would've been great in that movie. I remember them running their lines for the auditions. They were good, let me tell you. And then as a young teen he starred in a couple of movies. Too bad he wasn't able to fly straight. He was one talented guy. I hope Griff does good time, and get's out and takes care of himself and his family.

And Redmond was my little buddy. I love him and I'm sorry it's been so hard for him to get clean and stay clean. I pray that he can make it happen, because he has a wonderful chance to make a difference in this world. He has the financial means to help others, to travel, and enjoy the rest of his life. I love you Red, I know you can do it!

For the record, my dad did not "hit" on Tatum at Farrah's funeral; I was there, so just erase that from your mind. I know it's hard to let it go, because it just seems so juicy, but you can do it.

I haven't been a perfect son or brother. I have been busy trying to be a good father to my girls, and do the best job I can as a broadcaster. I haven't always been there for my dad or my brothers, sister, nieces and nephews. For that I'm sorry. I believe in family, and I believe in our family. That's why I wrote this, it's about FAMILY. I love you all. And Dad, thanks for everything you have done for me over the years. I'm sorry I disappeared from time to time. I was trying to make my way in this world -- not always easy. I made mistakes, and hurt your feelings along the way, and I'm sorry for that. I'm sorry you are going through a tough time right now. I know you miss Farrah and you're dealing with some physical and emotional pain. Please hang in there because we still make a good paddle tennis team, even if I have to carry us. Team O'Neal forever!