J. Paul Getty III was seemingly born into a life of privilege, but his life turned out to be anything but. The grandson of oil tycoon Jean Paul Getty, J. Paul Getty III was kidnapped in Rome when he was just 16 years old. Though his multi-billion dollar family could easily afford the ransom, they initially balked at paying it. What ensued was a harrowing 5-month experience which changed J. Paul Getty forever and transformed his life of privilege into one of turmoil.
Getty’s son, actor Balthazar Getty, confirmed that his father died this past Saturday in a London castle surrounded by family. Though the cause of death was not disclosed, Getty was known to have had significant health issues for most of his adult life — issues which stemmed from a stroke he suffered in 1981 which left him paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
But that life began to veer toward the tragic several years beforehand when Getty got kidnapped. His family was reticent to pay the multi-million-dollar ransom. In an effort to sway them, the kidnappers cut off Getty’s ear and mailed it to the Italian newspaper IlMessaggero. When the dust finally settled, the Gettys forked over $2.7 million and J. Paul was freed after 5 months of captivity. But one has to wonder what type of permanent damage was suffered aside from the obvious mutilation.
After his release, Getty embraced an alternative lifestyle, ultimately becoming a known carouser within the hippie counterculture still prevalent during the early 70s. Then, less than a decade later, Getty suffered a stroke as he was undergoing treatment for alcohol abuse. After the stroke, he required around-the-clock care.
But that didn’t stop him from living life to the fullest extent he could. Son Balthazar had this to say about his dad: “[He] never let his handicap keep him from living life to the fullest and he was an inspiration to all of us, showing us how to stand up to all adversity. We will miss him terribly.”
Getty challenging and often tragic life serves as a reminder that no child is immune to turmoil no matter what type of family he or she comes from.