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Family Psychodramas Acted Out on a World Stage

January 16, 1994|Bruce McCall | Bruce McCall is a frequent contributor to the New Yorker

NEW YORK — Calling all adult children of unelected despots: Now there's a 12-step recovery plan just for you, reduced to only four steps in our Big January Therapy Clearance! Here's how to overthrow and garrotte your inner parental tyrant and throw the carcass to the vultures.

1. Finish School . Adult children of tyrannical despots all too often receive little or no formal education and a huge allowance. The combination can be lethal!

Let's call him "Baby Doc." Millions in Swiss banks, a plush villa on the French Riviera--and he's miserable. And why not? Baby Doc has the I.Q. of a mango; his papa gave him cars, girls, drugs--everything but a sound grounding in the three R's. Now he sits around all day watching French TV--too dumb to be bored!

2. Don't Hold Your Fire! Svetlana S.'s daddy gave her a tank factory, a province and the head of her hated geography teacher for her ninth birthday--but no hug.

Like all too many adult children of tyrannical crackpots, Svetlana sniveled away in corners for years instead of venting her feelings of rage against an uncaring pop. Then, when she finally did summon the nerve to sneak up from behind, press her tiny derringer to his temple and squeeze the trigger--it was at his State Funeral and he was already expired!

The joke was on Svetlana. Instead of emotional catharsis and release, she got 12 months in a state lunatic asylum.

3. Look Out for Numero Duo . Show trials instead of Broadway shows; beloved nannies who go to lunch and never come back again, ever; bodyguards who use your pet hamsters for target practice. After all you've been through as the child of a despotic tyrant, living well--like the poet said--is indeed the best revenge. Go to it, but . . .

"Vamoose, by all means," advises the high-style international fugitive we'll call "Wendi Noriega." "But don't flee the palace until you've fleeced it!" Funnily, you'll finally earn the respect of that mean ol' family Generalissimo if you make you getaway hauling a pillow case stuffed with cash, silverware and jewelry. That's what he'd have done!

"He always says I am a wimp," recalls the recent Caribbean self-deportee we'll call "Fidel's Little Girl." "I am wonder what El Supremo Big Shot think the other morning, when he reach over to the bed table only to find him Rolex--the one Leonid Brezhnev gives to him personally--gone!" Which brings us to . . .

4. Insert Knife--Then Twist! That plucky senora we call "Fidel's Little Girl" promptly pawned her bad ol' Daddy's souvenir timepiece Stateside for enough dinero to finance an extended nationwide book tour--then sent a postcard, telling him so!

Indeed, kids of the killer-tyrant parents all agree on one thing: Escaping a dysfunctional, abusively neglectful hooligan-criminal family-in-name-only is sweet. But revenge is even sweeter. So spill your guts. Rip the lid off. Let it all out. You'll feel better--and so will your agent!!!

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