Christina Crawford was born on June 11, 1939, to teenage parents. She was later adopted by screen legend Joan Crawford, originally named Joan Crawford Jr. When she was 11 months old, she was taken to Nevada, where she was formally adopted by Joan and renamed Christina. Her early life was one of happiness living with her “Mommie Dearest”.
When she was three, her mother married Phillip Terry and they adopted a baby originally named Phillip Terry, Jr. but, after their divorce, he was renamed Christopher Crawford. By her account, soon after, things started to change at home. Her mother started giving her tasks around the house, like doing the dishes but Joan also sometimes assigned her things to do that where physically impossible for her to do. In the mornings, everyone would have to walk on tiptoe and whisper so as not to wake Joan up. Around this time, what Christina calls “night raids” started happening, such as the infamous “No Wire Hangers Ever” scene depicted in Mommie Dearest (1981). These raids would sometimes last for several hours. When Christina was about nine, Joan adopted twins, Cathy and Cindy.
Soon after, her mother decided to send her to the prestigious Chadwick School, a boarding school in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, about forty minutes from their home. Christina alleges during her time at Chadwick she wore her coat to class because Joan gave her only two dresses, one pair of shoes and the coat for a whole semester. There was also an unfortunate incident where Christina was caught alone with a boyfriend without permission. Joan heard about it a few days later and removed her from the school. Christina was sent to a Catholic boarding school until she went to college in Pittsburgh. She spent one year in college and then started doing acting jobs. She moved to New York, worked in a restaurant and did odd jobs. She went to England for a while and while there her stepfather, Alfred N. Steele, CEO of the Pepsi-Cola company, died. While in a summer stock production of “Splendor in the Grass”, she met a man she would eventually marry, but the marriage didn’t last long. Christina was cast on the TV soap opera The Secret Storm (1954) in 1968. While out recovering from surgery, Joan, who by then was well-past 60, stepped in for her, playing a 28-year-old woman. After this, Christina returned to California, went back to school and met David Koontz, later her second husband.
When Joan Crawford died in 1977, it made headlines that she had cut Christina and Christopher out of her will. Shortly afterward, Christina wrote “Mommie Dearest” about her life with her abusive mother. In 1981, the best-selling book was made into a blockbuster movie. Christina shortly thereafter suffered a major stroke from which she recovered. A couple of years later, she and David divorced. Since then, she has lived in Northern Idaho, operated a bed-and-breakfast, and continued writing.
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