What Generation Gap? These Grads Feel Great About Their Famous Parents
Not so long ago college graduations were battlegrounds for the militant young. But these warm spring days, young men and women across the land are trooping up to receive their diplomas in a spirit of peace and harmony unimaginable in the late 1960s. Some of them are on these pages—ordinary graduates in many ways but quite special in others, for they are the sons and daughters of public figures. Being the children of the celebrated is not easy. Some have taken the experience in stride, others have hidden from it, and a few have gloried in it.
They have one common trait: they seem astonishingly at ease with their parents and even with their parents’ ideas, although they may disagree. Perhaps the prominent parents are more understanding; perhaps the young people themselves are particularly intelligent. Perhaps it is only pure luck. The evidence here does not make the generation gap an obsolete worry. But it does suggest that the gap is passable terrain.
“I think I’ve established my own identity here at Brandeis,” says Christie Ann Hefner, daughter of Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner. “I don’t think people here have thought of me as his daughter.” Though her parents are divorced, she gets on fine with both. This year Christie graduates summa cum laude in English and American Literature and will do some writing before going back to school for more classes—and perhaps another degree. “She is just another pretty, serious girl,” says a classmate. In fact, the first attention drawn by her father’s influence were two bodyguards who appeared at her side two months ago—hired by Hefner after the Hearst abduction.
It is not surprising that Frederick Borman went to West Point. His father Frank, the former astronaut, graduated eighth in his class in 1950, two years before Fred was born. Young Borman, now 22, acknowledges that his academic prowess isn’t up to his dad’s. He admits that the academy’s major attraction was football. His father was a star quarterback, and young Borman was a varsity player until a neck ailment sidelined him last fall. He has a five-year obligation in the army but then plans to leave, with his parents’ approval. Being an astronaut “never really interested” him. Has a famous name caused trouble? “That’s what I like about this place,” he says, “you’re just another pea in the pod.”
“I grew up,” says Jamie Anne Maria Bernstein, daughter of composer Leonard Bernstein, “in an atmosphere where unless your life is in the arts, you’re a failure, and unless it’s well done, you’re a failure. That leaves you little room to move in.” Jamie, seen here clowning with classmate and friend Sam Perkins, has done all right, however. She is graduating from Harvard with an English major and planning a career in fiction or journalism. Although music appeals to her and she plays guitar, sings and composes, she shies from considering it as a livelihood, “for obvious reasons. I’m perfectly talented,” she says, “but not a genius.” Her mother, a Costa Rican-born actress and pianist, had a promising career of her own but dropped it to raise the three Bernstein children, of whom Jamie is eldest. She gets along well with her parents who, like her, worked hard for Eugene McCarthy’s candidacy in 1968. “It was the last time I had a hero,” she says wistfully. “Nobody has living heroes now.”
Being Michigan football star Tom Harmon’s son could be tough on a growing boy, but it hasn’t bothered Mark Harmon, who graduates from UCLA this year. He credits his father and mother, former actress Elyse Knox. “It could have hurt,” he says, “if the rule had been, ‘You’re Tom Harmon’s son until proven different.’ But they never pushed.” Still, Harmon was good enough last season to quarterback UCLA’s varsity team, although he doesn’t plan a pro career. He will either go into advertising or law—he feels the contract field is ripe for an attorney with sports savvy. He greatly admires his parents. “I’d love to be able to know I could raise my kids the way they did,” he says. “We have no major hassles.”
The sharp tongue and pointed wit that have made Manhattan Congresswoman Bella Abzug prominent are clearly inherited by her daughter Isabel, who graduates this year from Boston University. The 21-year-old woman, who goes by the name Liz (and who at right gets a congratulatory buss from her father, Martin, a stockbroker), has earned her degree in psychology, as well as a green belt in karate and a reputation as a fierce tennis player. Like mother, Liz will study law but will forego politics. What has she learned from her mother? “You might ask,” she replied, “what did Bella learn from her daughter.”
As the daughter of Red Schoendienst, former second baseman and now manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, Cathy Schoendienst comes by her sports verve naturally. Graduating from St. Mary’s College of South Bend, Ind., 21-year-old Cathy is captain of the school’s championship fencing team. “If I were a man,” she says, “I’d be playing shortstop for the Cardinals next year. Dad would like that.” Instead, she plans to teach. Any disagreements at home? “It’s a little touch and go when talking about contemporary moral issues.”
Beth Reasoner of Pitzer College, Claremont, Calif., is the daughter of ABC anchorman Harry Reasoner and is a shy, thoughtful woman of 23. An anthropology major, she would like to study law, as her mother did. “She reasons like a lawyer and it is very attractive,” says Beth. “One area of law that interests me is the legal rights of minors.” She currently takes part in legal seminars and research projects and is a voracious reader—even in the dining room. She took six months off to teach in Appalachia and “loved it.” She sees her family only on vacations now. “We don’t disagree on ethics, only minor things, like clothes. And then we just joke about it.”
Peggy St. Clair
Her father’s national prominence is something recent, but to Peggy St. Clair, daughter of James St. Clair, President Nixon’s chief defense counsel in the Watergate affair, Dad has always been well-known in the Boston area where she has grown up. She graduates this year from Boston College law school and is determined to pass the tough Massachusetts bar exam. The eldest of three children, she considers herself such a liberated woman that she doesn’t worry about enjoying cooking and fixing up her apartment. As to her career: “I consider my father one of the best attorneys around. I hope for nothing less for myself.”
“There was never a time when I didn’t want to be a lawyer,” says Judi Dash, whose father, Sam Dash, is chief counsel of the Senate Watergate Committee. Judi graduates this year from Brown University and has been accepted at the University of Pennsylvania law school, where a year from now she will begin her study. Meanwhile she will travel to Caracas, Venezuela to be with her fiance, Frank Amador, an industrial engineer she met four years ago. He is Catholic, while she and her family are strongly Jewish. “We think we’ll be enriched by having both cultures,” she says, and both families have given approval. She admires her parents, especially her mother, who helped put her father through law school. She feels close to her father as well and appreciates little poems he sends to her on special occasions. (A Valentine sample: “I passed your room today, and saw it empty still…”). She took a special pride in watching him during the televised Watergate hearings. “Sometimes I forgot it was my father.”
“I decided to be a doctor at the age of 5,” boasts Lisa Brothers, a Princeton biology major, “right after I decided I wanted to be a circus performer.” But Lisa has stuck with her choice to follow in the footsteps of her physician father, rather than those of her better-known mother, popular psychologist Joyce Brothers. Once when Lisa griped that a syndicated television show was taking up too much of her mother’s time, Joyce Brothers promptly quit. “I haven’t been uptight about her career since,” says Lisa. Her parents made sure medicine was Lisa’s idea, not theirs. “Well,” Joyce admits, “perhaps we did use a little body English.” The hardest part of medical school, which she will attend at Tulane in New Orleans, will be the separation from her parents, whom she has seen virtually every week during her four years at college. “It’s been a very normal life, and that’s probably one of the reasons I don’t think I’m screwed up.” Looking at a map of their country home in New Jersey (above), Lisa told her mother: “I wish we could take New Orleans and plop it down here in New Jersey.”
Michael Blatty of Georgetown University is the son of William Peter Blatty, which means that everyone the young man meets wants to talk about his Dad’s book and movie, The Exorcist. Michael does not. “I’m sort of shy,” he says, waving off the questions. Young Blatty is gentle and soft-spoken, married and the father of a four-month-old son. He and his wife are both English majors (she will be a senior), and the three young Blattys will spend next year in Nice, France, where he will read, write and brush up on his French. He describes his relation with his father as close and casual, but admits that the one subject the two of them do not discuss is the one activity they share: writing.
Alexander Haig Jr.
Alexander Haig Jr., of Georgetown University, is the son of President Nixon’s chief of staff. He majored in history, captained the lacrosse team (“strike a balance between athletics and academics” his father advised) and plans to study law. His parents would have been happier, he says, if he had gone to West Point. He lived with them during his college years and is glad he did. “My father isn’t home that much,” he says. “I see him a couple of nights a week, but I agree with him just about in total. If I didn’t get along with them, I wouldn’t have lived at home.” Although his father is in the headlines every day now, the fame is only recently acquired. “A lot of people,” says Alexander Haig Jr., “don’t even know who I am.”
When Edwina Brooke graduated from Boston University, she got a big hug from one of the trustees, who also was her father, Massachusetts Senator Edward Brooke, the first black senator since Reconstruction. Edwina, who received an education degree, will forego teaching—she calls herself “lazy”—and instead travel to Paris to be near her fiance. He is a medical student whom she met in the Caribbean. They plan to marry later this year. While going to college she lived at home, relatively sheltered from the harsh publicity that often intrudes upon a politician’s family life. At graduation she was asked how it felt to be the daughter of Senator Brooke. “He’s my father,” she answered, “that’s all.”