Those waves. That red swimsuit. The feathery whisper of a voice. And that smile. Farrah Fawcett was known for all those things, but there was plenty more about her to appreciate. And a lot to sympathize with. The beauty who made a splash with her red swimsuit poster that became the bestselling of all time was also an artist, a mother, a wife, a lover, an actress, producer, award winner, and headline maker. Sometimes her life was enviable; other times, she fought to keep her family life and troubles private.
Farrah knew exactly what she wanted at a very young age and she was unstoppable, thankfully, her parents were very supportive of her decisions, especially the ones she made later in her adult life. While she did have an unconventional start with the advertising world rather than the big screen, she soon proved everyone that she was more than just a pretty face who advertises shampoo. In fact, in the mid ’90s she was ranked right in the middle of the prestigious list as one of ’50 Greatest Television Starts Of All-Time’. Peek behind the curtain to see the life and tragedy of America’s Sweetheart from that forever will stay in our hearts.
How She Got That Special Name
It’s an unforgettable name, and that’s precisely what her parents were hoping for. Farrah said her mother, Pauline, chose the name because it sounded good with the last name Fawcett. Alliteration is always good and memorable. Farrah said her mother made the name up.
Her father, James, said that he thought it was suit his daughter as the name, spelled “Farah” is the Arabic word for “joy.” That’s a lovely reason, but Farrah wanted to change the spelling by adding an “r.” Her parents agreed. And after her rise to fame, women everywhere were naming their daughters after her.
That Famous Poster
Everyone knows the poster. It was likely on every heterosexual male’s bedroom wall, door, or ceiling above their bed in the late 1970s and on to the 1980s. Farrah in that red one-piece swimsuit. Her blonde highlighted curls spilling over her shoulders.
And that gleeful look on her face and inviting smile. It’s the photo that made her a star. Turns out, Farrah styled her own hair, did her own makeup, and she didn’t even use a mirror. After 40 rolls of film were used, Farrah chose six photos she liked the best, and this was one of them.
The Dating Game
New to Hollywood, Farrah got small gigs here and there, and one of which was as a contestant on The Dating Game. Just like any contestant, Farrah was presented with three different bachelors vying for a date with the Texan beauty. Farrah asked questions, like “What is your favorite smell?” and “When is a woman really the most beautiful to you?”
In the end, she picked bachelor number two, Joey Hooker. The relationship didn’t last long, obviously, because she soon started dating TV star Lee Majors. It’s unclear what Hooker is up to these days.
Farrah, the Teenager
Growing up as a Texan, it’s sort of in your blood that you either love football or cheering for football, and Farrah was no different. She was a member of the W.B. Ray High School’s cheerleading squad. Plus, the teen was already making quite an impression on her peers.
She was voted “Most Beautiful” by her fellow classmates every year of her high school career. As lovely as she was, Farrah had a bit of self-consciousness about her stomach. She had a scar there from an appendectomy, which is partly why you rarely see Farrah in a bikini.
Beauty, Brains, and Talent
Although Farrah was often celebrated for her looks, she had a ton to offer beyond her pretty face. When she started college at the University of Texas at Austin, she was all set to study microbiology.
However, she got a taste of art and found that she both enjoyed and was really great at sculpting. So, she changed her major. Art became a big part of her life later, too, and she even famously painted with her naked body.
“Most Beautiful” Title Sticks
It didn’t matter that Farrah was the new girl on campus, or that she was just a lowly freshman. The student body named her one of the “10 Most Beautiful Coeds on Campus” and she was the first frosh to be included on that list. Her photo, along with the others named as the most attractive, was sent to Hollywood agencies.
She joined the Delta Delta Delta sorority also, which would likely have helped her in her career. At the time, though, she had no desire to use her beauty to forge a career. That would all change, though.
Collegiate Life Ended Early
Farrah almost made it through her college career, but being named one of the most beautiful on campus was a bit of a blessing and a curse. One of the Hollywood agents who got his hands on her photo that the university sent out and he was nothing if not persistent.
David Mirisch called Farrah immediately and begged her to fly out to California. She refused. He continued to pester her until he finally wore her down, and after her junior year, she agreed. Farrah’s parents supported her decision to leave school and give show business a shot.
Farrah’s First Love?
It could be argued that Farrah’s first love was her first husband, Lee Majors. However, their relationship didn’t last long, and part of that could’ve been because of their demanding careers. They started dating in 1969, just one year after Farrah moved to Hollywood. For four years, Majors dated the young beauty, and finally married her in 1973.
Divorce came, though, in 1982. Some say the reason their marriage didn’t last is because Farrah was becoming a bigger star than Majors, who was already quite successful on TV. Perhaps it was just the pressure that comes with fame, though.
Before She Became an Angel
Farrah and her husband Lee Majors spent a lot of time with TV producer Aaron Spelling before she landed the role as Jill Munroe in the television show Charlie’s Angels. Farrah and Majors often played tennis with Spelling. This early relationship with Spelling helped her land that role.
Aside from having a famous husband and friends, Farrah also had small gigs here and there. In fact, you may recognize her in shows like I Dream of Jeannie, The Flying Nun, and her husband’s show The Six Million Dollar Man. She had a few other famous roles, too.
Farrah’s Early Career
Farrah starred in many different commercials, including a PSA about getting cancer checkups for the American Cancer Society. Farrah has also been seen in ads for an airline. She and her fluffy hair also starred in an ad for Head & Shoulders shampoo, and for Schick Speed Styler.
Other ads that featured Farrah included Max Factor, Mercury cars, Noxema, Serta, and Ultra Brite. As her star rose, she began starring in ads that featured her own products, like her shampoo. Eventually, she had her own doll, too, complete with a giant head of feathery hair.
A Hot Commodity
When Farrah agreed to appear on the ABC show Charlie’s Angels, she was just starting to peak with her career. The poster continued to sell well, and she was a bona fide star. After the first season of the show, though, Farrah quit, and for good reason.
She had no contract to stay on the show, and other opportunities were coming down the pipeline. Whether there really was a contract or not, the production company claimed she was in breach of contract. In the end, the settlement determined Farrah owed the show six guest appearances over the following two years.
Before “The Rachel”
Long before everyone was asking their hair stylists for “the Rachel” in the 1990s, to copy the hairstyle of Jennifer Aniston’s character “Rachel” on TV’s Friends, women were asking for the “Farrah.” The 1970s and 1980s saw so many different hairstyles gain fame, as women and men experimented with sculpting their hair, dying it bright shades, and teasing it to gravity-defying heights.
But the “Farrah” was one of the most requested hairstyles ever – and still is requested today. You thought long layers were new? Nah. In fact, the style is so classic, it’s likely to never go away.
Farrah Inspired a Song
Back in the late 1960s, at the end of Farrah’s first date with Majors, she met Jim Weatherly, a singer-songwriter who was friends with Majors. Farrah had to make it to the airport right after the concert, though. As the story goes, Weatherly asked Farrah what flight she was taking.
“The midnight plane to Houston,” Majors remembered her saying. If it sounds familiar, that’s because it became a song for Weatherly that got a few rewrites and became “Midnight Train to Georgia,” and a hit single for Gladys Knight & The Pips.
A Controversial Choice
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Farrah made it clear that she wouldn’t bare all for the world to see. She turned down offers to pose nude all the time, until 1995. Farrah was 48 years old, and still quite the beauty. The model and actress posed for the cover of Playboy magazine and appeared semi-nude in the pictorial inside.
The December ’95 issue wasn’t the only time she stripped for the camera. When she turned 50, she posed for Hugh Hefner’s magazine again, only this time she exposed more, and even painted a canvas with her naked body.
On Her Deathbed
Longtime love Ryan O’Neal was upset when he visited Farrah in the hospital just before she died. At her side, it is believed that Ryan was trying to be there for her, trying to give her some comfort, but she kept referring to Ryan as “Steve.” Ryan seemed confused that Farrah didn’t recognize him.
“Who’s Steve?” he asked the nurse nearby. The nurse explained Steve is the guy who brings Farrah her medications. “He’s her dealer!” Ryan joked, in a way to deal with the situation. After all, Farrah was deteriorating before him.
The Famous Red Suit
You can get an up close and personal look at the red swimsuit that helped catapult Farrah to fame. Although it’s a simple design, it was the perfect item to help Farrah’s beauty shine. That famous red swimsuit is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. The swimsuit was designed by Norma Kamali, an award-winning fashion designer, and it was donated to the museum by Farrah’s family.
Farrah’s likely one true love, O’Neal, presented it to the museum back in 2011. You can see it and other pieces from her career, such as her own script from Charlie’s Angels, an original copy of the poster, and an original Farrah Fawcett doll.
When Farrah Met Ryan
The tumultuous, but long-lasting, love between Ryan and Farrah seemed destined from the start. They both attended a party, and Ryan said when he spotted her on the driveway, she looked up and smiled at him. That was all it took. He knew. He said he fell in love with her instantly.
The attraction was mutual and the two embarked on a relationship that lasted for 30 years, but it was a union that was perhaps doomed from the start. Aside from colliding fame and ego, there were reports of infidelity and drugs.
Every family has dysfunction in it somewhere, but Farrah’s troubles seemed far more epic. Farrah and Ryan had an on-again off-again relationship and one child together, Redmond. But Ryan said in an interview he blamed his own family for Farrah’s downward spiral, and ultimately, her death after a ferocious fight with cancer.
Particularly, he blamed his daughter Tatum O’Neal’s behavior. “… If she had never met us, would she still be alive today?” he wondered. He expressed that he truly believed the turmoil weakened Farrah, who never smoked, rarely drank, and exercised daily.
Farrah’s Film Career
Hollywood is a fickle mistress, and although it seemed Farrah had the world eating from the palm of her hand, her acting chops just weren’t there. She took roles in films, such as The Cannonball Run, See You in the Morning, and Saturn 3. She didn’t get rave reviews.
Critics loved Farrah, but most of the films she starred in were panned, as were her performances. Perhaps Logan’s Run was a bit better, but barely. Sure, she was a success after appearing in the first season of Charlie’s Angels, but it didn’t translate well to the big screen.
Farrah decided to try taking a turn on stage on Broadway. The play Bobbi Boland was supposed to be a comedy, but it wasn’t very funny, critics say. The preview was panned hard by those in attendance. Farrah missed line after line, and even forgot her character’s husband’s name.
Her blocking was off, as if she didn’t have any at all, and the direction was almost non-existent. It was clear Farrah had next to no experience on a live stage. The production was halted after just seven previews. There was a place where Farrah shined, though, beyond through that famous poster.
The Silver Screen
In between Farrah’s takes on the big screen and before taking a final bow on stage, she performed plenty in made-for-TV movies. This was Farrah’s bread and butter. It’s also where she did well – award-winningly well. At least, it was an honor to be nominated.
Farrah was given an approving nod from the Emmys with two nominations. One for her role as an abused wife in The Burning Bed, and again as a murderer in Small Sacrifices. She didn’t win for those, but it was clear that TV was her best medium.
Once the Golden Girl
Farrah’s son had been arrested numerous times for his own drug problem, and when Farrah began the talk show circuits during the 1990s to plug projects, people started wondering about her. Did she have a substance abuse problem, too?
The actress and model practically stumbles on set, and immediately seems a bit out of it. Her stories are disjointed, her memory seems shot, and she struggles through the interview. After critics pointed out her bizarre behavior, she claimed it was all an act, a performance.
Farrah’s Real True Love?
College sweetheart of Farrah, Greg Lott, came forward after Farrah’s death in 2009. Part of the reason he came forward, he said, was to take what he believed was his: an Andy Warhol painting of Farrah. The college football star remained a closet love of Farrah’s.
He said they met in the 1960s, before Farrah was famous. He described her as a “frisky palomino – all legs, teeth, and spirit.” They fell in love with each other years ago, he said, but their lives took different paths. He never stopped loving her, though, and said Farrah loved him, too.
An Invitation for a Cameo
When Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz, and Drew Barrymore came together to recreate Charlie’s Angels for the big screen, they naturally turned to Farrah to offer her a cameo appearance. Farrah agreed to appear in the film, but she had conditions.
She only wanted to be a part of it if she could be the voice of Charlie. That wasn’t quite what the producers had in mind, so she was kept out of the movie. The film went on to be a hit, earning more than $260 million worldwide in the box office.
The Beginning of the End
Before all the odd public appearances in which Farrah seemed to be out of it or in an altered state of mind, she had kind of left the spotlight. But a series of events unfolded that could only be described as heartbreaking. She split with her longtime love Ryan after 18 years together.
He had been cheating on her, it’s said. And then she had a short, but rocky relationship with director James Orr. And then about a decade later, things only got worse for Farrah and her family, as things began to fall apart.
A Year of Death
In 2006, Farrah suffered several losses, including the death of her longtime agent and friend Jay Bernstein. Then the death of friend and mentor Aaron Spelling. Finally, in August that year, Farrah lost her mother. It was enough to mess with anyone’s state of mind.
As Farrah learned how to cope with such incredible losses, it was revealed at the end of the year that she had anal cancer, and her on-again lover Ryan, was diagnosed with leukemia. On top of it all, her son Redmond was having trouble staying off drugs and out of jail.
Cancer-free and Celebrating
It should’ve been a good year. Farrah was turning 60 years old and she was declared cancer-free. Her birthday celebration wasn’t quite what she was expecting, though. Ryan got into more than an altercation with his eldest son Griffin.
As Ryan tells it, Griffin grabbed a fireplace poker and began swinging it at his father. After scratching him a few times, Griffin aimed for Ryan’s head. Ryan got nervous, he said, and went for his gun upstairs. Ryan said he shot the gun toward his son, but not at him, aiming for the banister near the stairs.
Ryan By Her Side
In a regular doctor’s visit, Farrah discovered she had a small polyp in her colon. It was malignant. The cancer was back, and she needed treatment. This time, though, the star decided to try alternative methods to deal with her illness.
And Ryan, the man who seemed to have been with her through the good, the bad, and the very ugly, at times, was by her side. Not everyone believed it was out of love, but who can say? Documentaries were made to show Farrah’s fight with cancer – a cancer she believed she would outlive.
The man Farrah was writing love letters to, though, was not Ryan. They were addressed to her college sweetheart, Lott. While the whole world watched Ryan play the role of the love of Farrah’s life, by her side as she battled cancer, Lott said it was he who was her true love.
And that the last 11 years of her life were spent loving each other when they could. The couple would rarely go into public together, only for a movie here and there. But the letters are telling. Farrah proclaims her love for Lott over and over again. “I love you with all my heart – and just know that I am getting stronger every day. For always and ever, Farrah.”
Ryan and Farrah never married over the 30 years they were together, then apart, then together again. In the midst of her illness, Ryan proposed marriage to her, finally. Farrah was often in and out of consciousness, but she accepts, in her tiny, whispery voice.
Before they could say any vows or “I do,” though, Farrah died. Farrah left the majority of her estate to her son, Redmond. Ryan’s son Griffin said his father only proposed to Farrah to get a portion of her estate. Ryan wasn’t named in her will at all.