You’ve heard about the kidnappings of John Paul Getty and Patty Hearst, which have been the subject of movies and TV shows. However, in the 1970’s, another famous man and his family had a harrowing brush with kidnappers: Calvin Klein.
16. Fashion Unknown
The legendary designer was still a fashion-unknown when his daughter Marci was born in 1967. Klein was 35 years old and had dropped out of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. He worked designing for several small retail shops around the city.
15. International Acclaim
Just one year after Marci’s birth, Calvin Klein made it to the big time. He partnered with a childhood friend named Barry Schwartz, enabling him to release his own fashion collection for the first time. Bonwit Teller department store was wowed, and they purchased his collection.
14. End of the Marriage
The Klein collection was a sensation. By the early 1970’s, when Marci was just a toddler, her father was internationally renowned. Fame and fortune naturally followed, including a well-known commercial for CK Jeans, featuring Brooke Shilelds. However, by 1974, Klein’s marriage to Marci’s mother Jayne was over. Marci moved in with her mom on the Upper East Side.
13. Fateful Bus Ride
Four years later, when Marci was 11 years old, she was subjected to a harrowing ordeal because of her father’s acclaim. On the morning of February 3, 1978, she got on a bus heading down Third Avenue, on her way to school on East 89th. She never made it to school that day.
During the ride, her babysitter, Paule Ransay Lewis, spotted Marci and went to sit with her. Lewis was a waitress and occasional babysitter. Marci was totally unaware that Lewis had other motives for befriending her that day.
11. A Nefarious Plot
Like any undercover kidnapper, Lewis had a nefarious plan. She told March that her dad had gotten very sick and asked Lewis to bring Marci to the hospital. A nervous Marci naturally went with Lewis in a cab, where she hoped to see her father.
10. Three Kidnappers
Instead, the taxi stopped in front of an apartment building in Harlem, on 97th Street. That’s when the horror truly began. Dominique Ransay, Lewis’ 19-year-old half-brother, and his friend, 24-year-old Cecil Wiggins, then took over. This archival drawing shows the brother-sister team at their eventual trial.
9. Blindfolded and Bound
The two men told her that they made up the story about Calvin being ill. They restrained the 11-year old child and blindfolded her. Then they started to plan her ransom. They called Klein shortly after 8:00 a.m.
The kidnappers demanded $100,000 for Marci’s safe return. Of course, Klein quickly agreed, but as soon as the call ended, he contacted the FBi and the Police Department. They prepared for a dangerous exchange of money.
7. Pan Am Escalator
Paule wanted the money left at the top of an escalator in the Pan Am Building, which was just next to Grand Central Station. The kidnappers retrieved the money and their ruse went off without a hitch. Or so they thought. However, the kidnappers had no idea that law enforcement coated the $100,000 with special spray which would take invisible fingerprints.
6. The Wrong Address
The kidnappers called Calvin to let him know the address where Marci was being held. Law enforcement swarmed the house with 60 officers and agents. Calvin burst into the building and ran up the stairs and started banging on the door. Unfortunately, the kidnappers purposely gave him the wrong apartment number. Marci wasn’t there.
5. A Frantic Search
Klein ran from apartment to apartment banging on doors until he got to the top floor. There he found Marci, who had been bound and blindfolded for ten hours. Although Lewis was present, she claimed she had also been bound by the kidnappers.
4. Lewis Plays the Victim
Frantic law enforcement later arrested the kidnapping crew, including Lewis. She insisted that she was also kidnapped. The police were skeptical of her story. She left the bus with Marci despite many people being on board who could’ve helped. She admitted to being alone with the girl in the taxi, so why didn’t she just go to the police?
3. Lie-Detector Test
Lewis took a polygraph test, which she failed miserably. Then she admitted to her role in Marci’s kidnapping. But Lewis wasn’t done making shocking claims. She told police she was romantically involved with Calvin and that he had masterminded the kidnapping plot.
Why on earth would Calvin have ransomed his own daughter? Lewis said it was because he wanted to gain public sympathy. Police did not buy into her claims. This drawing shows Klein explaining what happened during the kidnappers’ trial. Lewis and her accomplices were found guilty of second-degree kidnapping and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
1. Terrible Memory
Marci Klein is now an Emmy-winning producer, but she still has clear memories of that terrible day. “All of a sudden I hear him screaming my name. I hear him banging, banging, banging on all these doors.” Finally, he found the right door. “I ran out and I saw him and I jumped into his arms. I’ve never felt so safe in my life.”