I have to make a confession: I was never a Charlie’s Angels fan. Sure I watched it, but I wasn’t obsessive like some people. I never had the dolls, never had notebooks with them on the cover, never obsessed over them, nothing. Yet anyone who grew up in the seventies and eighties knew about Farrah Fawcett.
Farrah was everywhere. She was jogging on the cover on People magazine, chatting with Merv and Dinah, talking with Gabe Kaplan about a mistake another team made on Battle of the Network Stars. When she separated from Lee Majors in 1979, it was network news. Never mind the energy crisis! Farrah separated from Lee! She got together with Ryan O’Neal, she posed for Playboy, and she was doing a reality show. It felt like it was The Farrah Show, and we watched every moment.
Then there was the swimsuit picture. It seems almost quaint now how people got upset about the picture; of all things, you could see her nipples against the red fabric. Oh my God! Women have nipples! Yet you couldn’t take your eyes off her. She had perfect blonde hair and rich girl teeth that glinted white. She was the girl that the Beach Boys talked about in their songs, the girl who had fun fun fun until her daddy took that T-Bird away.
It was her post-Charlie’s Angels work that surprised me. I’m probably the only person in the world who liked her movie debut Someone Killed her Husband. (Okay, not the only person, according to IMDB it was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Picture.) When she did The Burning Bed, that blew me away. No longer was she Jill Monroe, the girl who chirped “Morning Charlie!” and jogged without a bra. Now she was Francine Hughes, a battered woman who was ordered to burn her schoolbooks by her husband. That night she snapped, lit a match, and then calmly left the house with screaming children in the backseat while Mickey Hughes burned to death.
She played the sad heiress Barbara Hutton in Poor Little Rich Girl with sympathy, and in the miniseries Small Sacrifices, she was Diane Downs, a real life Medea who shot her children on the side of the road and claimed a bushy haired stranger did it. In both roles, you were drawn to Fawcett. You wanted to see what happened next to them.
Last month when NBC showed the documentary of her battling cancer, I managed to watch half an hour of it before I turned it off. Part of it was my cat Gus just died of cancer, so I was a bit burned out by the C-word. I also wanted to remember Farrah as the girl in the red swimsuit, with the whole world in front of her. She didn’t have cancer, she didn’t have a son in prison, and she wasn’t in pain. She was just an American Girl posing for a picture, wearing a red swimsuit in the bicentennial year 1976, and she was just so alive.
Causes Jennifer Gibbons Supports
Gilda's Club, Greenpeace, Rosie's Broadway Kids,Westwind Foster Family Agency, Amber Brown Fund, Linda Duncan Fund for Contra Costa Libraries