February 2, 1947 – June 25, 2009
By Mark Langlois
Daughter, Beauty Queen, the ex-Mrs. Lee Majors, Starlet, TV Angel, Poster Icon, Actress, Ryan O’Neal’s long-time partner, Mother, Playboy model, Sculptor, Artist – Farrah was many things to many people, but to American kids coming of age in the 1970s – she was the ultimate goddess.
I (Scott) think she became a focal point for the gays, because she was someone that we could like who we acknowledged was beautiful, but we didn’t want to do her, but everyone assumed we did. We just really liked her. Our posters hid our non-sexual interest from others, who’d assumed we were straight. I had my own obsession. I still have the collage I made back in 1977, and proudly sported my Farrah shirt (and perm, and tube socks).
Plus she caused a lot of drama, and hung out with good looking guys. Perfect. Back to you, Mark.
Farrah was born Ferrah Leni Fawcett in Corpus Christi, TX, on Feb. 2, 1947, to an oil pipeline worker father and homemaker mother. She was a local teen beauty queen and a University of Texas art major drop-out who landed in Hollywood in 1968 to pursue a career as an actress. Within two weeks of arriving she was under contract to Screen Gems, making $1,000 a week, and doing guest spots (as gorgeous girls) on I Dream of Jeannie, The Flying Nun and other sitcoms. Farrah landed a lucrative contract as Wella Balsam shampoo commercial spokes model, and she famously “creamed” Joe Namath with Noxzema shaving cream in a commercial that was first shown during the 1973 Superbowl.
She married Big Valley TV star Lee Majors in 1973 and later appeared in 4 episodes of his hit series The Six Million Dollar Man. Farrah charmed her way through lots of episodic TV work, and had a role in the sci-fi film Logan’s Run. She was billed as Farrah Fawcett-Majors until 1979. Hollywood’s hottest couple even appeared as themselves on the 1st episode of The Brady Bunch Hour. Kate Jackson recalled seeing Farrah and Lee Majors at a party during her first years in Hollywood. She told the press that after seeing the “glorious, gorgeous” Farrah, she thought, ‘Oh God, I better go home and, you know, be a teacher or something.”
During the 1976-77 television season, Farrah became a sensation on ABC’s new sexy-detective series Charlie’s Angels co-starring Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith.
During Farrah’s one year on the show, the feathered-haired blonde beauty was everywhere – on T-shirts, Topps bubble-gum cards, magazine covers, toys – ie: Farrah’s Glamour Center – a mini bust of her head/hair to groom,
and of course on her top-selling poster that featured her million-dollar smile, red swimsuit and those perky nipples. The iconic poster was shown in Travolta’s Saturday Night Fever film bedroom. I remember people claimed you could spell out the word SEX in her hair, an attempt at subliminal (ish) advertising.
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Farrah left the #1 series with the hopes of feature film superstardom. It never happened. Aaron Spelling and ABC still had her by her lovely locks. Her character Jill Munroe was replaced by Cheryl Ladd as “Jill’s kid-sister, Kris Munroe.” That clever tie to Farrah was enough to keep the show a ratings smash for years.
Meanwhile, Farrah’s legal wrangling with ABC-TV continued and her theatrical films: Somebody Killed Her Husband (1978), Sunburn (1979) and Saturn 3 (1980) all fizzled at the box-office. Farrah returned to do some Angels episodes, but by then – Farrahmania was over. She would have to work hard to escape the “fallen angel” label in the years ahead. After her 1982 divorce from Majors, Farrah was in a highly publicized romance with her ex husband’s (former) pal Ryan O’Neal.
Farrah did find some later success and acclaim with acting roles in the 1984 TV-movie The Burning Bed in which her character is assaulted by a man and she gets revenge by setting him on fire, and in Extremities (1986) where her character is assaulted by a man and she gets revenge by imprisoning him in a fireplace. She ended the decade with the TV-film Small Sacrifices (1989) where she played a divorced mother who murders her children to run off with a man who apparently didn’t like kids.
As Farrah’s on-again/off-again relationship with Ryan O’Neal continued to make People magazine covers, she decided to sign a multi-million-dollar 1995 deal with Playboy for a series of nude layouts and a 1997 tie-in video (at age 50) called Farrah: All of Me in which Farrah sculpts and paints with her naked body and has a tearful meltdown at a St. Bart’s photo shoot. Farrah acted spaced-out on David Letterman’s Late Show that year, and soon after made headlines when her then-boyfriend, director James Orr, was arrested for viciously assaulting her. Police reports stated that the couple’s public argument culminated with Farrah’s beat down in Orr’s driveway – her head was slammed into the pavement and she was kicked repeatedly. Orr was convicted of one count of battery and was given three years’ probation. Farrah was bitter in the press over the judge ruling that she incited Orr to violence by turning up with a baseball bat at his home.
By 2005, Farrah and Ryan were back together and they jumped on the Reality TV bandwagon with Chasing Farrah – a critical and ratings flop for TV Land. The real “reality” drama came a year later when Farrah discovered she had anal cancer.
Farrah was still battling cancer in September 2008, when her lover Ryan O’Neal and their son Redmond were busted for methamphetamine possession during Redmond’s routine probation checkup at their Westside home.
Redmond was sent to rehab for the 4th time, and by April 2009 was at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic, CA. Redmond was allowed by authorities to visit – in shackles- his gravely ill mother after Ryan paid $1,300 to cover the costs of his son’s supervised transport.
Farrah’s exhaustive cancer treatment and her home life with Ryan and Redmond was featured in “Farrah’s Story”- a 90-minute home-video documentary (shot and produced by her galpal Alana Stewart) that aired on NBC in May 2009, attracting 8.9 million viewers.
US Magazine reported that after years of only speaking through acquaintances, Lee Majors phoned Farrah on her final birthday, February 2, 2009, and the two had a 40-minute “lovely, joking…emotional” conversation together.
One of Farrah’s friends, Joan Dangerfield – widow of comedian Rodney Dangerfield, told People magazine that Farrah was “the kind of friend who would show up with a German chocolate cake she baked from scratch and tell stories all night, acting out every part.” About a week before Farrah died, Dangerfield reportedly visited her in the hospital and the weakened Farrah managed to sit up in bed and demanded a steak dinner. Dangerfield rushed to a restaurant for takeout, which Fawcett devoured.
Farrah Fawcett, age 62, lost her battle with cancer at 9:28 a.m., Thursday morning, June 25, 2009 at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA.
Ryan O’Neal and Alana Stewart were at her bedside along with Farrah’s longtime friend and hairdresser, Mila Murphy, and her attending physician, Dr. Piro.
Ryan O’Neal released the following statement: “After a long and brave battle with cancer, our beloved Farrah has passed away. Although this is an extremely difficult time for her family and friends, we take comfort in the beautiful times that we shared with Farrah over the years and the knowledge that her life brought joy to so many people around the world.”
As the world learned of Farrah’s death, her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame became a shrine for people to visit, and leave expressions of their good grief.
Michael Jackson died of cardiac arrest a few hours later – and stole Farrah’s media thunder. We imagined that somewhere in LA – at a 12-step meeting – recovering smack addict Tatum (Tantrum) O’Neal was making the deaths (of her pseudo-stepmother and ex-boyfriend) all about her.
Farrah’s private funeral was held at 4 p.m. on a sunny Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Angels in downtown Los Angeles.
Fans and news media watched from across the street. Her Charlie’s Angels co-star Kate Jackson was among the early arrivals before the hearse pulled up, accompanied by 10 motorcycle officers. Her casket was covered in yellow and orange flowers and Ryan O’Neal acted as one of the pallbearers.
Ryan’s son (Farrah’s stepson) Griffin was not allowed in, and was actually stopped at the Cathedral doors from entering. There is certainly something up with that O’Neal family. Thanks Audrey.
My pal Jim Uht adds: I saw a TV interview with Griffin shortly after he was refused entry to the funeral. He said it was at the orders of his father and that all he wanted to do was pay his respects.
Later on, the same reporter caught Ryan coming out of a restaurant and heading towards a car. The reporter-(I forget who it was)-asked Ryan if it was true that Griffin was barred from the funeral on his orders. Ryan said, “Yes.” The reporter asked why and Ryan said as he got into the car, “Because he’s not a nice man.” Ryan then closed the door and the car left.
Farrah’s casket entered the Cathedral to the songs “Amazing Grace” and Irving Berlin’s “Always.”
The celebrity mourners included: Cheryl Tiegs, Tatum O’Neal, Marla Maples, Garry Shandling, Kate Jackson, Lee Majors and Dick Van Patten. Farrah’s elderly father attended – as well as her son Redmond (flanked by two sheriff’s deputies). “To Where You Are,” a song written by Richard Marx and Linda Thomspon was played as well as “The Prayer,” written by Carole Bayer Sager and David Foster, the entire program here.
As you can see, the funeral program featured a cover photo of a radiant Farrah smiling in a sequined dress with the James Joyce poem “At That Hour” inscribed inside. The back of the program featured a lovely photo of Farrah peeking through a door.
There was a private service at Westwood Memorial Park, where her body was interred on Thursday, July 2, 2009.
The Farrah Fawcett Foundation – PO Box 6478, Beverly Hills, CA, 90212 – for cancer research, was established in her memory.
Back around 1998 I spent some time with Lee Majors. When I told him I was from Detroit, he responded, “My parents were killed and are buried in Detroit.” Weird conversation starter, but terrific guy. Only one reference to FF was made. When asked about Farrah Fawcett – he said Farrah Fawcett what? Meaning “Majors” of course. Perhaps he thought she rode in on his coattails? My guess, but he never said a negative thing about her.
Thank you Mark Langlois, Audrey and thank you to Dearly Departed Tours newest employee, the fantastic Brian Donnelly. Brian was on the Hollywood scene, and got the Walk of Fame and Chinese Theater announcement. I’m proud to have you aboard, Brian.