Scott's World -- UPI Arts & Entertainment

By VERNON SCOTT, United Press International  |  Feb. 6, 2002 at 5:35 PM
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HOLLYWOOD, Feb. 6 (UPI) -- Winona Ryder is Tinseltown's current example of a young woman reaping the ambiguous harvest of her ambition for fame and fortune.

Ryder, 30, faces charges of shoplifting $4,760 in merchandise from the Beverly Hills' Saks Fifth Avenue department store, plus possession of a pain medication without a prescription.

Actress Ryder has pleaded innocent and will appear in a Beverly Hills courtroom March 11 when a date will be set for her preliminary hearing.

Whether she is adjudged guilty or innocent, the slender, doe-eyed Ryder can never hear the end of her arrest Dec. 13 when she was stopped outside the store with a large bag filled with merchandise.

She is charged with four counts: grand theft of personal property, second-degree commercial burglary, vandalism with more than $400 in damages, plus possession of oxycodone.

If convicted, Ryder, free on $20,000 bond, is faced with the possibility of more than three years in prison.

Were she just plain Winona Horowitz (her birth name) leading a private life instead of becoming a famous, rich movie star, her arrest would not have attracted any public attention.

But stardom carries with it the seeds of its own destruction. Fame is a two-edged sword, as Ryder has discovered since her December arrest.

If a performer accepts the limelight, big bucks and fan adoration, he or she must also accept the shame and public furor when personal travail becomes a public issue.

In Ryder's case, her arrest and subsequent publicity in supermarket tabloids and respectable periodicals has been shockingly invasive, which would not be the case had Ryder not sought international recognition in the first place.

The situation is accompanied by a rash of pink T-shirts emblazoned with the sardonic demand "FREE WINONA!"

Business is brisk in these parts.

Ryder, free on bail, has kept a low profile since her arrest, but it is too late.

The tabloids smell blood while studios and producers hold their breaths knowing Ryder, innocent or guilty, has seriously damaged her reputation as a movie star.

Whether she is a kleptomaniac, a simple shop-lifter or the victim of a misunderstanding, she no longer will be the wide-eyed innocent little actress again.

She is not the first, and presumably will not be the last movie star, to find herself in such unhappy straits.

Remember, Hedy Lamarr's unfortunate shop-lifting spree in Florida many years ago put an end to her career.

If Ryder is guilty of boosting merchandise, every merchant will attest pilfered goods are a crime that add to high prices.

Ryder -- who earns in the neighborhood of $2 million per picture or more -- can afford to buy almost anything she chooses and has no need to steal.

All the same, she cannot be treated differently than any other woman accused of grand theft.

But of course she is treated differently because a private embarrassment or mistake becomes a cause celebre, noted by the media worldwide.

Like it or not, such are the wages of celebrity.

If Myrtle Munchausen was nailed for the same crime, nobody would give a damn and no one would read about it.

So Ryder's problem is the reverse of the coin, as Pee Wee Herman discovered when he was arrested for indecent exposure in a Florida movie theater.

If it had been Joe Bolenbecker, no one would know or care.

It's ho-hum if Frank and Frances Farkleson divorce. But when Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman split the sheets, it's headlines from here to Bombay.

This burden of fame did not occur to the youthful Ryder when she landed in Hollywood in 1986 for her movie debut in "Lucas."

In quick succession she starred in "Square Dance" (1987), "Beetlejuice" (1988") and "Heathers" (1989).

Her dreams of stardom, glamour and romance came true in 1990 when she starred with Johnny Depp in "Edward Scissorhands." The co-stars became lovers.

She was nominated for two Academy awards: 1993 for "Age of Innocence" and 1994 for "Little Women."

It was all heady stuff with no down side. Until last December at Saks.

Ryder has come a long way from her childhood in a Northern California ranch commune where her parents' close friends were beatnik poet Allen Ginsberg and drug guru Timothy Leary who was her godfather.

Until she was busted for boosting, Ryder fans were happy to learn their heroine was a blonde who colored her hair black for her movie career.

They also were disappointed when boyfriend Depp broke up with Ryder and disrespectfully changed his biceps tattoo from "Winona Forever" to "Wino Forever."

Ryder's has been a dizzying success story of artistic achievement, financial success and international distinction.

Now, at age 30, she is paying the piper for attaining her goal: movie star.

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