People who harass celebrities are lonely, troubled and smart--and they often don't care who it is they stalk
by Terry Mulgannon
The second of three parts
July 1949. Edgewater Beach Hotel, Chicago. Hot, humid, still. Eddie Waitkis, Chicago Cubs number 36, doesn't know what the dame wants. A bellboy brought the note. Sounded desperate. Does Eddie realize this is the young woman who sent all the letters? Not likely.
He knocks. She opens the door. The baseball player strides in, sits down. "Whaddya want?"
"I have a present for you," says Ruth Steinhagen. She turns, walks to the closet. "For two years, you have been bothering me, and now you are going to die."
All so fast. Crazy. Rifle. What?
The bullet hits him in the chest. Why?
"I liked him a great deal, and I knew I could never have him," she later explained.
"And if I couldn't have him, neither could anybody else. Also, I wanted attention and publicity for once. All my dreams have come true."
Is it any surprise to learn that celebrity stalkers are crazy--really crazy? So obvious that those around them notice, take evasive action. Ruth Steinhagen's parents encouraged her to move out; they were sick of her Eddie Waitkis thing.
Tina Ledbetter. In two years, she sent 6,000 threatening letters to Michael J. Fox--drove her own family to near insanity with the incessant click, click, click of the typewriter.
They had no idea what she was doing in there. As soon as the police called Robert Bardo's father, the man told them right off his son might well have shot Rebecca Schaeffer.
Park Dietz is a forensic psychiatrist who supervised a Justice Department study of stalkers' letters in 1990 and testified as an expert witness in the Bardo case--as well as in the Jeffrey Dahmer and O.J. Simpson trials.
"Ninety-five percent of stalkers have obvious mental disorders," says Dietz. "Seventy-five percent are psychotics."
Lt. John Lane, head of the Los Angeles Police Department's Threat Management Unit, says it's nothing for the average celebrity stalker to spend a decade or more chasing the unwilling object of desire. "They're schizophrenics, manic-depressives, people with delusions."