Bonnie and Clyde are perhaps the most romanticized
outlaws of all time. At a time when gangsters were celebrities,
they stood out. They caught the attention of the media and
the public during the Great Depression, but eventually, the tide turned. Here’s the truth about Bonnie and Clyde. While Bonnie and Clyde may have ended up finding
fame by slaying people and robbing banks, they probably could have just taken a more
legal route to get there. Both were talented in far more traditional
ways. According to historical sources, Clyde Barrow
was a natural musician. His brother-in-law had taught him to play
the saxophone, but he also played guitar. Clyde enjoyed sharing his music with the impoverished
people of the south, and he would often play his guitar around campfires in the west Dallas
campgrounds. Bonnie Parker was the one who actively wanted
to be famous, though. Sources who worked on two separate Bonnie
and Clyde movies claim she wanted to be a celebrity by any means – a Broadway star,
a singer, a Hollywood actress, or even a poet. She did have talent. Growing up, Bonnie starred in school plays
and pageants. Texas Monthly reports that when a boy once
upstaged her, she punched him, then cartwheeled across the stage after the audience broke
out into applause. Once she became famous for her life of crime,
she referred to their fans as, quote, “her public” and signed autographs. Bonnie and Clyde are up there with Romeo and
Juliet when it comes to famous romantic relationships, but Bonnie had found love long before meeting
Clyde. In 1926, she met and married Roy Thornton,
and they never divorced. Roy was a naturally good-looking man, but
Bonnie definitely had a type. While sometimes referred to as a welder, Roy
was, in fact, a hardened criminal. “I know a kller when I see one.” The two met when Bonnie was just 15, and a
year later she dropped out of school to marry him. She even went as far as getting their names
tattooed in a heart above her knee. But Roy would disappear for long stretches,
committing crimes and seeing other women. Bonnie probably knew about the cheating, and
she wrote as much in her diary. When he left for the third time in less than
a year, she was pretty over it. She refused to take him back and swore off
all men. When Bonnie met Clyde almost two years later,
it was love at first sight. But she would continue to wear Roy’s wedding
ring until the day she passed. Clyde’s initial brushes with the law were
pretty minor, but his crimes continued to escalate until he was 21 years old, when he
was sent to prison for burglary. Eastham Prison Farm was no joke. Even at a time when prisons were known to
be horrific, Eastham was considered to be one of the absolute worst. Prisoners were regularly beaten by guards
and subjected to torturous punishments. One particular guard would execute prisoners
point-blank and later claim they had passed trying to escape. Clyde never spoke of his experience at Eastham
with those he loved. Years later, a friend explained how prison
had changed Clyde, saying he had gone, quote, “from a schoolboy to a rattlesnake.” “He wasn’t born that way. He wasn’t born with no dark soul.” Oddly, by the time they passed, both Bonnie
and Clyde would suffer injuries that made it difficult for them to walk. For Clyde, it began with the backbreaking
hard labor he endured during his time at Eastham. Hoping for a transfer to a less terrifying
environment, he asked another prisoner to chop off some of his toes with an ax. It wound up being pointless – the parole board
had already agreed to release him, and Clyde left Eastham six days after mutilating himself. But it had a lasting impact on his ability
to walk, and he had to drive in his stockinged feet from then on. Bonnie had less choice when it came to her
injury. In June 1933, the two were on the run when
Clyde badly crashed their car. He was fine, but Bonnie had battery acid leak
onto her right leg, eating away to the bone in some areas. “She drags her left leg. She gimp?” Despite the seriousness, the outlaw refused
to go to a hospital, relying instead on Clyde and other members of the gang to take care
of her. She never walked properly again. It wouldn’t be wrong to call Bonnie and Clyde
the first American reality stars. The public followed their exploits for two
years, romanticizing their horrific crimes because they were a young, beautiful couple
in love. The fact they weren’t married made it even
more risque. It was perfect tabloid fodder, except it was
also front-page news of legitimate newspapers. The pair shot to fame after police discovered
some rolls of undeveloped film at one of their raided safe houses. The cops processed the pictures, a local newspaper
ran them, and they were sent over the wires. The public loved them. “And all I can say is, they did right by me. And I’m bringing me a mess of flowers to their
funeral.” They showed the couple larking about with
each other, Bonnie on Clyde’s shoulders or pretending to shoot him. The most famous of all was an image of Bonnie
with a cigar between her teeth and a pistol in her hand, looking like the perfect gun
moll. This would be how the public would go on to
imagine her, even though she didn’t normally handle guns, and she preferred cigarettes
over cigars. Thanks to those photos, the couple went from
local Texas outlaws to the superstars of the criminal underworld. Plenty of people passed at the hands of various
members of the Barrow gang – Clyde himself is thought to have 10 alone. But in spite of all the chances that Bonnie
and Clyde had, they didn’t always take them. Instead, the couple seemed to enjoy kidnapping
people and traveling around with them, regardless of whether they were civilians or police officers. “Let’s take ’em.” On some occasions, they would give their kidnapping
victims money to get back home. The podcast Stuff You Missed in History Class
recalls a time when a kidnapped officer asked Bonnie if there was anything she wanted him
to tell the press after his release. She said to tell them she didn’t really smoke
cigars. The fact that Bonnie and Clyde didn’t end
everyone they came across might have been one of the reasons the public loved them so
much. But a single mistake turned the tide. When two policemen approached their car one
morning, Clyde’s cry of “Let’s take them” was misunderstood by a gang member, and he
started shooting. After the officers’ deaths, public opinion
turned against the couple. The duo and their gang became famous for robbing
banks. They stole nice cars, and the pictures that
circulated showed them wearing fancy clothes. Jim Wright, a former Speaker of the U.S. House
of Representatives recalled: “It was a very romantic existence we felt
they must enjoy. And even if you did not approve of them, you
still would have to envy them a little, to be so good-looking and rich and happy.” In reality, their infamous robberies were
unimpressive. The gang lived hand-to-mouth and continued
to hold places up because they never got much money out of it. In fact, they never took more than $1,500,
and once they got as little as $80. “I don’t want no rich man!” They were so desperate for cash, sometimes
they would break into vending machines for food money. They robbed fewer than 15 banks during their
21-month crime spree, and since it was the Great Depression, things didn’t always go
as planned. At one point, a member of the gang attempted
to rob the Ponder State Bank in Texas, only to be told it had failed a week earlier, “What money, Mister? There ain’t no money here.” and there was no money to steal. Clyde apparently thought this was hilarious
when he was told. But Bonnie and Clyde’s choice in targets was
extremely disappointing. Knowing there was less of a chance being caught
if they robbed small-town restaurants, grocery stores, and gas stations, those were the places
they normally hit. So they weren’t hurting The Man so much as
the little guy. Bonnie might be the most famous woman in Clyde’s
life, but there was another equally important one. Cumie Barrow, Clyde’s mother, was fundamental
in enabling his life of crime. After the couple’s passing, the U.S. government
put a number of their family members on trial for aiding the outlaws. In his closing arguments, the prosecutor roared
that Cumie was the real mastermind behind the conspiracy. Cumie was certainly more than just a mother
who loved her criminal son. When Clyde first went to prison, authorities
tried to pin a crime on him, but Cumie swore he was with her in a different city when the
crime occurred. In order to make her son look like just a
boy, she said the 21-year-old had only just turned 18. She tried to get him out of jail by claiming
to be a widow who needed the support of her son, although her husband was very much alive. Her lies worked. The parole board’s eventual decision to release
Clyde early was made based on Cumie’s story. “I love you, Ma.” Once Bonnie and Clyde began their crime spree,
Cumie gave them clothing and board. She gave weepy interviews, denying she knew
Bonnie and asserting Clyde’s innocence. And when it came time for her own sentencing,
Cumie managed to cry her way into just one month behind bars. Bonnie and Clyde’s names might go together,
but they weren’t equally criminal, not by a long shot. Eyewitness reports say Bonnie never wielded
a gun, always waited in the car when they were holding up banks, and almost certainly
never shot anyone herself. Before turning to a life of crime, Bonnie
was bright and popular. According to one historical source, she was
kind hearted, and would look out for other, less fortunate classmates, breaking her pencils
in half for those who couldn’t afford their own. “Must be one hard lady.” “To the contrary, Sir. Little bitty thing, can’t weigh more than
90 pounds. Smartest girl in school. She was in all the plays. Won spelling bees.” So what was she doing with someone like Clyde? According to Psychology Today, Bonnie was
probably attracted to those men because she suffered from hybristophilia. Typically women, hybristophiliacs gain pleasure
when their partner commits a crime, particularly a bad one. Roy Thornton fit the bill, but if worse crimes
equal a bigger turn-on, then Clyde really must have done it for her. “Ain’t that romantic.” Part of the attraction may be that they feel
special. While their mate becomes increasingly worse toward others, it will supposedly never be directed at them. And Bonnie is such a perfect example of someone
with hybristophilia that it’s often called Bonnie and Clyde syndrome. Passing away didn’t tone down the craziness around
Bonnie and Clyde. Within 24 hours, the population of the nearest
town swelled from 2,000 to 12,000 people. As the car with their bodies inside was hauled
to the morgue, trophy hunters reached in to grab things, either from the car or the couple’s
bodies. One huckster offered Clyde’s parents $50,000
to turn his mummified body into a traveling attraction. They refused, but when the stolen car
was returned, its owner put it on tour. You can still take selfies with it today. The outlaws’ bodies were returned to Dallas,
where they were put on public display at two mortuaries. Around 10,000 people came to see Clyde, while
20,000 showed up for Bonnie. The couple had asked to be buried next to
each other, but Bonnie’s mother wouldn’t hear of it. They were laid to rest in Dallas cemeteries
a couple miles apart. Bonnie and Clyde may finally have the chance
to be reunited, however. In 2019, it was reported that the couple’s
descendants were considering making their wish of being buried next to each other a
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