The Best of Everything

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by Jerry Parker

Originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times, October 29, 1978


GREENPORT, N.Y.-- Christopher Crawford, unlike his sister, refers to their mother by her initials "J.C." and will use expletives in describing her. Otherwise, the siblings’ view of life with mother is very similar. "She was not a mother," said Christopher, 35. A lineman with Long Island Electric, his bitterness is apparent "She was not a family. I honestly to this day do not believe that she ever cared for me."

Crawford lives modestly with his second wife and daughter Chrystal in unposh Greenport, LI. His salary is $200 weekly, and he received $1,500 from his sister for any rights to his name for the book and movie of "Mommie Dearest.” Yet he and Tina remain close.

Chris Crawford has had his troubles before he left Brentwood and since. He ran away from home for the first time when he was 7. At 10 he stayed away for nearly a week, sleeping under the Santa Monica Pier and conning strangers out of money for food.

Crawford has never before talked for publication. "I want to tell this once, so people will get off my back and leave my family alone,” says the 6-foot-4 man whose hard life shows in his face. He needs dental work. There are small scars on his face and larger ones on his back from a mortar explosion in Vietnam.

Crawford, the father of three children (and one grand-child) from a first marriage, recalled his mother's "sleep safe,” the harness-like device used to keep infants securely in their beds. Chris was strapped into bed until the age of 12. Once caught playing with matches, his mother made him hold his hand in the fireplace. "I had blisters all over my hand; that day I ran away for the first time. I was 7."

Chris attended 10 schools before the age of 13, before the inevitable string of boarding schools. He married at 18, and saw his mother for the last time in Miami in 1961. A new father, Chris was working as a lifeguard. "J.C. was staying at the Fontainebleau. My daughter was six weeks old and I thought J.C. would like to see her granddaughter. She held Janet for about 10 seconds, I think. I said, 'Janet, that's your grandmother; she's a very famous lady.’ J.C. said, ‘I'm nobody's grandmother. I'm Aunt Joan.’ Then she handed her back to me and said, 'She doesn't look anything like you!'"

Though Chris attended his mother's funeral, his last phone encounter with J.C. was five years ago. His youngest child from his first marriage was born in Brooklyn, on welfare. "When Bonnie was born, she had a lot of trouble. She was just a tiny little mass of bones with some skin stretched over them. So I called J.C. and said, 'I need your help. Your granddaughter needs blood and she needs it now. She might die.’ J.C. said, 'She's not my granddaughter. You were adopted.’ I lost my temper and slammed down the phone so hard I broke the receiver. That was it between J.C. and me."

Now at Chris Crawford's Long Island house no Pepsi-Cola is served. And when a Joan Crawford movie comes on the Late Show, the channel is changed.

[Thanks to Norman for this article.]


The Best of Everything