Friday, April 19, 2019

Farrah Fawcett: Six Feet Under

June 25, 2009 was a day I'll never forget.  Farrah Fawcett, a true 70s icon, lost her battle with cancer.  The world was in shock......for about five minutes.  Then that freak show Michael Jackson died too, and Farrah was all but forgotten.  Jerk.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Farrah Leni Fawcett (wow, her real name!) was born on February 2, 1947 in Corpus Christi, Texas.  Her father worked in the oil fields while her mom raised two girls.  Fawcett once stated in an interview that her mother hade made up the name "Farrah" as it went so well with the family name.  The more you know.

In 1968, Farrah was a student at the University of Texas, majoring in microbiology.  There she was discovered by a Hollywood agent, who all but begged her to come to L.A.  Upon her arrival, she was immediately signed to Screen Gems Production Studio for a whopping $350 a week.  Pretty good money by 60s standards, but unheard of for someone with no prior experience.  She immediately found work in commercials, including this ridiculously cheesy one for Noxzema, co-starring Joe Namath. 

More commercials would follow for companies such as Max Factor and Beautyrest Mattresses.  She also started landing guest spots on popular network series of the time, including The Patridge Family and I Dream of Jeannie. Click on the titles to view her clips.

Farrah's real rise to stardom began in 1976, when an Ohio-based poster company approached her with an idea, one that would captivate teenage boys the world over.  Farrah posed for photographer Bruce McBroom wearing an iconic red swimsuit, after styling her hair by herself and heightening her blond highlights with lemon juice (!).  The poster, seen at right, remains the highest-selling in history.

The poster earned Farrah, who by this point was Mrs. Lee Majors, a supporting role in the sci-fi classic film Logan's Run.  Here's a clip.

Farrah and Lee spent their off time playing tennis, often with producer Aaron Spelling.  It was through this relationship that Spelling would cast her as Jill Munro in the made-for-TV movie Charlie's Angels.  Most people forget it had life before it became a weekly series. Here's the intro for that movie of the week.

Farrah was joined in the cast by Kate Jackson as Sabrina Duncan and Jaclyn Smith as Kelly Garrett.  Not the Kelly Garrett who is my cousin though.  David Doyle rounded out the cast as their colleague John Bosley.  Charlie himself was never seen on-screen, but was voiced by long-term Spelling associate and veteran actor John Forsythe.

The movie debuted on March 21, 1976.  A ratings smash, it quickly went to series, which had it's formal debut on September 22nd of that year.  Watch the revised series intro here.

When most people think of the series, they usually think of Farrah.  That's ironic, considering that she was only on for one season.  A variety of reasons have been given over the years for why she left so early, but Farrah herself stated that she wanted to broaden her acting opportunities. 

Farrah starred in a number of mostly forgettable films, including Sunburn in 1979 with the horribly miscast Charles Grodin, then later Saturn 3, with Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas.  Her biggest post-Angels success however, was the 1983 made-for-TV classic The Burning Bed, a movie that most likely gave birth to the Hallmark Channel.

Fawcett played real-life battered wife Francine Hughes, a Michigan woman who killed her husband after years of abuse.  Here's a clip from the film, as well as the NBC introduction.

While the film earned Fawcett praise, it would prove to be the last major credit to her career.  Hoping to revitalize it once again, she appeared in the December 1995 issue of Playboy, this time without the red swimsuit.  It proved so popular that she posed again less than two years later in the July 1997 issue.

Making the rounds to promote the issue, Farrah sat down for an interview with David Letterman.  She appeared distracted and confused however, and tended to ramble throughout the interview.  If you love cringeworthy TV, then this clip is for you.

Cancer was no stranger to Farrah, as she'd already lost her sister to it.  So it came as no surprise when she herself was diagnosed with it in 2006.  I won't go in to detail here about what she went through or how she tried to battle the disease, but it sure as hell wasn't pleasant.  She tried a number of therapies over the next three years, but ultimately passed on June 25, 2009.  Here's how Entertainment Tonight covered the story.  Damn you, Michael Jackson.

Fawcett was laid to rest at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village in its famed Celebrity Row.  Her nearest neighbors include George C. Scott, Jack Lemmon and Carroll O'Connor.

Rest in peace, Angel.

  • While still a series regular on Charlie's Angels, Farrah appeared with her husband Lee Majors on another ABC series, the hilariously awful Brady Bunch Variety Hour.  Watch a compilation of their scenes together here.

  • While Farrah divorced Majors in 1982, the couple separated as early as 1979.  That year, she started dating Ryan O'Neal, with whom she had her only child, Redmond James Fawcett-O'Neal, born on January 30, 1985.  Here's a recent photo of him, taken after his arrest for attempted murder, burglary, and holding up a convenience store.  Naturally, he blames his parents.

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