John Paul Getty III (/ˈɡɛti/; 4 November 1956 (some sources say 5 November) – 5 February 2011), also known as Paul Getty, was the eldest of the four children of John Paul Getty Jr. and Abigail (née Harris), and the grandson of oil tycoon J. Paul Getty. His son is actor Balthazar Getty.
|John Paul Getty III|
Getty in 2003
|Born||4 November 1956
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
|Died||5 February 2011 (aged 54)
Wormsley, Buckinghamshire, England, UK
|Known for||Being kidnapped|
|Spouse(s)||Gisela Martine Getty (née Schmidt; m. 1974; div. 1993)|
|Parent(s)||John Paul Getty Jr.
|Relatives||Mark Getty (brother)
J. Paul Getty (paternal grandfather)
Ann Rork Light (paternal grandmother)
George Getty (paternal great-grandfather)
Sam E. Rork (paternal great-grandfather)
Gordon Getty (paternal uncle)
Getty spent most of his childhood in Rome, Italy, while his father headed the Italian division for the Getty family's oil business. His parents divorced in 1964 when he was 8 years old, and his father married again in 1966 to model and actress Talitha Pol. They adopted a hippie lifestyle and spent much time in Britain and Morocco during the 1960s. Getty remained in Rome living with his mother Gail and attended St. George's British International School. In early 1972, he was expelled from St. George's after having painted 6ft-high wording offensive to the school's headmaster in a hallway of the school one afternoon. Later that year, his stepmother died of a heroin overdose in Rome. While his father moved back to the United Kingdom, he remained in Italy, where he lived a bohemian life, frequented nightclubs, and took part in left-wing demonstrations. Endowed with a considerable artistic inclination, he reportedly earned a living making jewelry, selling paintings and appearing as an extra in movies.
At 3 a.m. on 10 July 1973, Getty, then age 16, was kidnapped in the Piazza Farnese in Rome. He was blindfolded, transported, and imprisoned in a mountain hideout in the southern Italian region of Calabria in the tiny fishing hamlet of Seminara. A ransom note was issued, demanding $17 million (equivalent to $94 million in 2017) in exchange for his safe return. When that message arrived, some family members suspected the kidnapping was merely a ploy by young Getty, as he had frequently joked about staging his own kidnapping to extract money from his wealthy grandfather.
A second demand was received, but delayed by an Italian postal strike.
In November 1973, an envelope containing a lock of red hair, a human ear, and a note was delivered to a daily newspaper with a threat of further mutilation of Paul unless $3.2 million (equivalent to $17.6 million in 2017) was paid. The letter read, "This is Paul's first ear. If within ten days the family still believes that this is a joke mounted by him, then the other ear will arrive. In other words, he will arrive in little bits."
At this point, the reluctant Getty Sr. negotiated a deal to get his grandson back for about $2.9 million (equivalent to $16 million in 2017). Getty Sr. paid $2.2 million—the maximum amount that was tax deductible—and he loaned the remainder to his son, who was responsible for repaying the sum at 4% interest.
Getty III was found alive in a petrol station of Lauria, in the province of Potenza, on 15 December 1973, shortly after the ransom was paid. At his mother's suggestion, he called his grandfather to thank him for paying the ransom, but J. Paul Getty refused to come to the phone.
Nine of the kidnappers were apprehended, including a carpenter, a hospital orderly, an ex-con, and an olive-oil dealer from Calabria, as well as high-ranking members of the 'Ndrangheta—a Mafia organization in Calabria—Girolamo Piromalli and Saverio Mammoliti. Two were convicted and sent to prison; the others, including the 'Ndrangheta bosses, were acquitted for lack of evidence. Most of the ransom money was never recovered. In 1977, Getty had an operation to rebuild the ear that had been cut off by his kidnappers.
In 1974, Getty married German national Gisela Martine Zacher (née Schmidt), who was five months pregnant. He had known her and her twin sister Jutta since before his kidnapping. Getty was 18 years old when his son, Balthazar, was born in 1975. The couple divorced in 1993.
Getty acted in some European films: he played supporting parts in Raúl Ruiz' The Territory and in Wim Wenders's The State of Things, which was shot at the same time as Ruiz's film, using part of its cast and crew. He and his wife lived for a time in New York City, where they consorted with Andy Warhol's art crowd.
Permanently affected by his kidnapping, Getty suffered from drug and alcohol addiction during the years that followed. In 1981, he drank a Valium, methadone, and alcohol cocktail which caused liver failure and a stroke, leaving him quadriplegic, partially blind and unable to speak. Afterwards, he was taken care of by his mother. He eventually sued his father for $28,000 a month to cover his medical needs. He never fully recovered and remained severely handicapped for the rest of his life. By 1987, however, he was able to regain some degree of autonomy. He could again visit concerts and cinema, and was even able to ski when strapped to a metal frame.
In 1999, Getty, along with several other members of his family, became citizens of Ireland in return for investments in that country of approximately £1 million each, under a law which has since been repealed.
The 1995 book Painfully Rich: the Outrageous Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Heirs of J. Paul Getty by John Pearson includes significant content on Getty's kidnapping ordeal. The book was adapted to the 2017 film All the Money in the World, directed by Ridley Scott. John Paul Getty III is played by Charlie Plummer and, as a young boy, by Charlie Shotwell.
Aerosmith's song "Last Child" has the lyric "Sweathog ready to make a silk purse/From a J. Paul Getty and his ear/With her face in a beer."