Joey Heatherton was one of the preeminent sex kittens of the 1960s, and she’s still around today at the age of 78. Sadly, Joey’s legacy has been significantly tainted by a number of public scandals, the most notable of which involved her first and hitherto only husband. From 1969 to 1972, Joey was married to football player Lance Rentzel. The marriage ended when Lance was arrested for exposing himself to a 10-year-old girl, and the controversy was so large that it extended to Joey. Join Facts Verse as we explore how Joey Heatherton lost her career because of him.
Joey Heatherton Was Born to Be a Star
Joey Heatherton was born and raised in New York City. From an early age, it became apparent that the young woman was going to have an easy time becoming a star. She rose to prominence as a sex kitten during the 1960s, not long after her coming of age. Over the years, numerous people have compared Joey’s early career trajectory to that of Ann-Margret. Sadly, Joey wouldn’t go on to have the lasting appeal that she did. As a performer, Joey made a name for herself via appearances on programs such as The Mike Douglas Show and The Dean Martin Show. She became such a popular entertainer that she was eventually given the chance to entertain troops alongside Bob Hope during the Vietnam War. In all of these respects, Joey’s story mirrors those of other sex kittens from the time period. However, controversy would rear it’s head in the 1970s, and this controversy has severely tainted the star’s legacy.
In 1964, Joey Heatherton won a Golden Globe Award for her performance in the made-for-television feature Twilight of Honor. The film served as the star’s debut, and the award that she won was for Best New Star of the Year. From the outside looking in, it seemed as if Joey was going to have a long and successful career in the entertainment industry. In 1969, Joey found success in her personal life when she married football player Lance Rentzel. Lance was the wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys. Like her, it seemed as if promising things awaited him in his career. Sadly, their success in both their careers and their marriage would end.
In 1970, only a year into the marriage, Lance Rentzel was arrested for a decidedly problematic reason. As it turns out, Lance had a penchant for exposing himself to young girls. This time, Lance was arrested for exposing himself to exposing himself to a ten-year-old girl. Lance had been caught in a similar crime previously, but that incident had been swept under the rug due to the fact that he didn’t yet have as high of a profile. With his second crime, there was no keeping that cat from getting out of the bag. As soon as the public caught wind of Lance’s arrest, the formerly beloved celebrity became a laughing stock. The impact was so large that it went on to affect Joey Heatherton.
Lance Rentzel Was Always Insecure
Lance Rentzel’s career in football started in 1963, and he was playing with the Minnesota Vikings by 1965. Though he was a good football player, many believe that he wouldn’t have been able to make a name for himself in the profession if it weren’t for the fact that he came from a wealthy family. During his time with the Minnesota Vikings, he developed a reputation as a playboy. However, he also developed the decidedly more negative reputation of being constantly injured during play. Lance got injured so much that it began to become an expected thing during games. It was during his time recovering from one of these injuries that the football player sunk into his first depression, and it was in the depths of this depression that he would commit his first crime.
According to Lance Rentzel himself, he was sitting around reading George Orwell’s 1984 while nursing a football injury when he decided that he wanted to go for a drive. In his state of depression, the football player drove to a playground and exposed himself to two underage girls. Given that Lance had a continued career in football afterwards, one might imagine that the wide receiver wasn’t caught this first time around. However, Lance was caught and convicted of the crime. Instead of the player being banished from the world of professional football, it was agreed that he could stay on and play so long as he agreed to undergo psychiatric treatment.
Given that Lance Rentzel wasn’t that popular of a player at the time, not much was made of his first sexual offense. He was given the reduced charge of disorderly conduct, and he was traded to the Dallas Cowboys in 1967. Lance’s time with the Dallas Cowboys proved much more successful than his time with the Minnesota Vikings, and he was soon finding himself a star in his chosen profession. It was via this star status that Lance was able to secure his sex-kitten wife. Lance met Joey Heatherton, and they married in April of 1969. Given the fact that the pair was comprised of two good-looking celebrities, their marriage was widely covered in the media. It seemed as if there was a new power couple on the rise, but this power couple wouldn’t last for long.
How Lance Got Arrested a Second Time
At the end of the day, it doesn’t seem as if Lance Rentzel ever had what it took to become a professional football player. Not long into his tenure with the Dallas Cowboys, the team started to fall apart. Much of the team’s failure was blamed on Lance, and the wide receiver started to sink into another depression. Whereas his first bout of depression had been abated by a reading of George Orwell’s 1984, his second bout of depression was abated by another notable piece of art. This time, it was a viewing of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey that allegedly sunk Lance into the stupor that would cause him to commit a sex crime.
Lance Rentzel claims that he reacted very strongly to his viewing of 2001: A Space Odyssey. When this reaction was combined with the negative space the football player was already in because of his lack of career success, the chemical reaction caused some very bizarre behavior. Once again, Lance went on an aimless drive and ended up exposing himself. This time, it was a single 10-year-old girl. As with the previous time, Lance was caught. However, the judicial system wasn’t quite as lenient when it came to his second offense. Also, Lance’s increased public profile meant that many more people caught wind of his crime than before.
According to Lance Rentzel himself, the reason he felt that need to expose himself to young girls was because he felt that his masculinity was lacking. Lance blames the fact that his mother smothered him from a young age. Given that Lance was a professional athlete that was married to one of the most attractive women of the time, it may come as a surprise to viewers that the wide receiver should’ve felt so insecure in his masculinity. However, it’s hard to ever be certain about what’s going on in a celebrity’s head.
The Incident Ruined the Pair’s Reputation
Lance Rentzel claimed that he had found everything he could’ve ever asked for in another women when it came to Joey Heatherton. Unsurprisingly, Joey didn’t feel the same way once it was revealed that she was married to a sex offender. The two separated soon after the arrest, and the marriage was over officially in 1972. Given the fact that Joey was just another innocent victim of the crime, she arguably should’ve been able to recover from the controversy. However, Joey is still a controversial figure today. Though the secondhand controversy she inherited from Lance was the first thing that called the star’s legacy in question, she has done plenty in the years since to sully her own name.
In the decades since falling out of the limelight due to her husband’s indecent exposure, Joey Heatherton has been accused of assaulting numerous people herself. This pattern of behavior started in the 1980s, when it was alleged that the fallen idol had slapped a clerk while visiting the offices of the U.S. Passport Agency. Just a year after this incident, Joey was arrested for a second time after she was accused of throwing knives at a man that was apparently both her ex-lover and ex-manager. Much of the sex kitten’s erratic behavior during the time period was chalked up to drug use.
More recently, Joey Heatherton came back into the news yet again for another assault. In 2014, the former sex kitten was accused of assaulting a noisy neighbor with a high-heeled shoe. According to the story, Joey and this neighbor had a habit of feuding over the latter’s penchant for making noise, and it eventually became too much for the fallen celebrity to bear. Joey decided that she was going to take the matter into her own homes by waiting in the neighbor’s apartment while she was away with a high-heeled shoe. When the neighbor came into the apartment, Joey relentlessly attacked. Thankfully, the neighbor was awarded a restraining order.
Joey Heatherton’s legacy as a 1960s sex kitten has been derided by numerous controversies, though she didn’t technically cause all of them. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that Joey Heatherton was married to a sex offender, and that she was once arrested for throwing knives at an ex-lover? Comment down below!