Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Christian Brando — A Hollywood Family Tragedy

Cheyenne

Book cover of Nellie Bly's Larger than Life
Book cover of Nellie
Bly's Larger than Life

Tarita Cheyenne Brando was 11 years younger than her half-brother Christian and lived a sheltered, protected life. She was alternatively described as being "a wounded bird" and an extroverted egotist.

"Nobody dared tell her anything because she was Cheyenne Brando," said former classmate Nathalie Degage. Cheyenne used to boast, "I am the most beautiful girl in Polynesia, the most intelligent and also the richest because of my father."

She was beautiful, she was rich and friends also said she was quite intelligent. She could talk about art, natural science and dance with equal aplomb. Friends remember her as an energetic dynamo who loved horseback riding and dancing.

But no amount of Hollywood power or wealth could protect Cheyenne from her family history of alcoholism and mental illness. While most of Brando's ten other children have managed to escape the family demons, Cheyenne did not. Bouts with alcoholism and drug addiction plagued her teen years, and she became even more dependent on drugs after a serious automobile accident scarred her face and ended a promising modeling career.

Cheyenne Brando (AP)
Cheyenne Brando (AP)
 

She blamed her father for the accident, and in part he was at fault, but certainly not to the level she believed. Marlon was in Toronto in 1989 filming The Freshman with Matthew Broderick when Cheyenne phoned from Tahiti asking for permission to visit him. When Brando refused, Cheyenne, apoplectic with rage, jumped into her boyfriend's jeep and sped off the family's Polynesian compound. Traveling at speeds near 100 mph, the Jeep failed to negotiate a turn and crashed. The accident left her disfigured: her jaw was broken, part of an ear was torn away and she was scarred on her cheek. Plastic surgery managed to restore much of her good looks, but not her mental health, and as she aged her fragile mental state deteriorated even further.

It was while she was recovering from her reconstructive surgery that Cheyenne became pregnant by her longtime boyfriend, Dag Drollet, the son of a prominent Tahitian family. Drollet stood by Cheyenne during her fights with depression, schizophrenia and chemical abuse. They had lived together for more than a year before Cheyenne's accident, but friends said Dag was losing patience with Cheyenne's inability or unwillingness to give up the drugs. His relatives warned him to leave the "unhappy Brando family."

"Dag, stop this life with Cheyenne because she's not balanced," his father recalls telling his son in a prescient conversation shortly before Dag was killed. "You will have great difficulties — perhaps suicide, perhaps she can kill you, or you can die, both of you, because of her."

Tragically, Drollet failed to heed his father's advice and paid with his life.

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