The spotlight that superstar status brings isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, all that attention is great for an ego boost, but leaving yourself at the mercy of the public can sometimes have unexpected consequences — or even make you a target.
International fashion icon Calvin Klein was enjoying the fruits of his success when a group of unscrupulous individuals planned the unthinkable against him. When their scheme was finally put into action, the legendary designer was forced to risk everything to save the one thing that mattered most.
Born October 21, 1967, you’d think that Marci Klein, the only child of Calvin Klein, grew up in comfort and luxury. In reality, however, this assumption is the furthest thing from the truth.
At the time of his daughter’s birth, 35-year-old Calvin Klein was a virtual unknown, having dropped out of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. To make ends meet, Calvin spent his days as a designer for a number of small retail shops.
Thankfully, just a year later, Calvin’s fortunes changed following a business partnership with his childhood friend, Barry Schwartz. No sooner did Calvin release his first designs that an executive at Bonwit Teller department store snatched them up. Soon, orders for Calvin Klein clothing began pouring in.
PatricksMercy / Flickr
As the 1970s rolled around, Calvin’s designs earned him international acclaim, bringing with it money and accolades. But even with so much professional success, it appeared his good fortune was not reserved for his personal life.
In 1974, Calvin divorced from his wife, Jayne Centre, who took Marci to live with her on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. While the divorce was surely difficult on Calvin’s young daughter, nothing could prepare her for the trauma she’d endure just four years later.
On the morning of February 3, 1978, an unaccompanied Marci boarded a bus headed north along Third Avenue. The trip from her mother’s apartment to the Dalton School on East 89th Street was supposed to be a short one, but 11-year-old Marci never made it to class that day.
At some point during the ride, Marci was approached by Paule Ransay Lewis, a Fifth Avenue waitress who had recently worked as a babysitter for the Kleins. Recognizing the familiar face, Marci happily welcomed Paule to sit with her, completely unaware of the young woman’s true intentions.
artistmac / Flickr
Paule told Marci that Calvin had fallen ill and had requested that she bring her to him at nearby Mount Sinai Hospital. With no reason to doubt the words of her former caretaker, Marci exited the bus and was hastily led into a waiting cab.
Instead of the hospital, the taxi came to a screeching halt outside a four-room apartment on 97th Street in Harlem. Once there, Marci was confronted by Dominique Ransay, Paule’s 19-year-old half-brother, and his friend, 24-year-old Cecil Wiggins. Wherever the young girl’s father was, he definitely wasn’t here.
With the story of Calvin’s illness revealed to have been a ruse, Paule and the two men restrained and blindfolded Marci, leaving her totally immobilized. With the frightened girl completely under their control, the kidnappers began plotting her ransom.
At 8:15 a.m., Paule and her accomplices phoned a startled Calvin with their demands: $100,000 for the safe return of his daughter. The designer obliged, but as soon as the kidnappers hung up, Calvin made a call of his own.
Contacting both the New York Police Department and the FBI, Calvin joined up with law enforcement officials to ensure the return of his daughter – and the capture of the kidnappers – went off without a hitch.
Paule requested the money be left at the Pan Am Building just outside of Grand Central Terminal. But when the kidnappers picked up the cash, they were unaware the FBI had coated the bills with a special spray that would invisibly mark their fingerprints. They had their money, but it wouldn’t be theirs for long.
Pan Am Historical Foundation
After collecting the ransom, the kidnappers phoned Calvin again and revealed the location of his daughter. With a fleet of 60 NYPD officers and FBI agents in tow, the designer raced for the Harlem apartment to rescue Marci.
Calvin was the first one inside the building, racing up the stairwell and banging frantically on the apartment door. However, the kidnappers had purposely given him the wrong address within the building, and it took nearly ten hours for Calvin to finally reunite with his daughter.
Where is Darren Now?
Following the traumatic ordeal, law enforcement officials quickly tracked down the perpetrators. Upon taking Paule into custody, however, the young woman insisted that she, too, had been a victim in the plot. But something didn’t add up.
If Paule had been forced against her will to kidnap Marci, why didn’t she alert the bus driver of her predicament on that fateful day? Why didn’t she just deliver the young girl to the police while in the taxi on the way to her apartment?
Olivia Dileo / Flickr
Paule was given a lie detector test, and after failing, she officially confessed to her role in the kidnapping. But even after the ransom money was recovered and the three criminals were arraigned, another shocking claim was made that flipped the entire case on its head.
Paule claimed she and Calvin had been romantically involved, and that he had been the one to mastermind the entire plot. The woman alleged Calvin wanted the media coverage brought on by the kidnapping to drum up publicity and gain sympathy from the public.
Calvin denied the claims outright, and Paule and her accomplices were found guilty of second-degree kidnapping and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Four decades later, Emmy-winning producer Marci Klein may have left her traumatic experience in the past, but the moment she and her father reunited is one she’ll never forget. “I ran out and I saw him and I jumped into his arms,” Marci told Vanity Fair in 2008. “I’ve never felt so safe in my life.”