Friday, June 26, 2009

RIP Farrah Fawcett

Farrah Fawcett, a reigning symbol of American pop culture who never quite managed to escape the one electrifying role that made her that symbol - as one of "Charlie's Angels" - has died. She was 62 and had been suffering from anal cancer, which had recently spread to her liver.

"After a long and brave battle with cancer, our beloved Farrah has passed away," Fawcett's longtime partner, Ryan O'Neal, said in a statement released by Fawcett's publicist, Paul Bloch. "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."

A near-mythic figure of '70s TV screen and pinup poster fame, with her radiant grin and bounteous hair, Fawcett became a cultural star - at one time adored, then mimicked, by fans, and mobbed by paparazzi. She was one of those uniquely Hollywood/tabloid creations who would in time seem famous simply because she was famous.

Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1947, Fawcett moved to Los Angeles after high school, and was cast in small roles in series such as "I Dream of Jeannie" and "The Flying Nun." After marrying TV star Lee Majors in 1973, she guest-starred in four episodes of his hit series "The Six Million Dollar Man" and began doing ads for Wella Balsam hair products. That led to a poster company inquiring about taking her picture.

A deal was struck, and the Fawcett pinup - featuring the star in a red bathing suit that didn't hide much at all - became a worldwide best-seller. It remains her iconic image: A picture that for some still recalls an entire decade.

Despite later attempts at serious TV movies and stage work, it was just one role that defined Fawcett for the past 30 years, for better or worse. In 1976, Fawcett - then credited as Fawcett-Majors - was cast as Jill Munroe, one of three female detectives in an ABC series that was originally going to be called "The Alley Cats." The trio never actually saw their boss, but were sent off on assignments to health spas or beaches or nightclubs - where they might model either snug-fitting bathing suits or Nolan Miller gowns. ABC spent up to $20,000 per episode on the costumes Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith wore - insanely profligate even in 1970s dollars.

But her career rehab turned out to be hit or miss. Later lowlights included posing nude in Playboy (1995); a memorably incoherent appearance on "Late Show with David Letterman" (1997); and a well-publicized altercation with her then-boyfriend, director James Orr (1998).

After divorcing Majors in 1982, she began a tempestuous, tabloid-friendly relationship with actor Ryan O'Neal, with whom she co-starred in "Good Sports," a short-lived 1991 CBS series. Their son, Redmond, 24, was - recently was arrested after police said he brought drugs into a California jail.

Her battle with cancer was made public in 2006, and she subsequently signed a deal with a California TV producer to create a show that would follow her on her tireless rounds of treatments for a disease she was certain she would beat. The program aired May 15 on NBC and attracted 9 million viewers (It will be repeated tonight at 9 on Ch. 4).

"Farrah's Story" will be her final credit.

FAWCETT, Farrah Leni
Born: 2/2/1947, Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S.A.
Died: 6/25/2009, Santa Monica, California, U.S.A.

Farrah Fawcett's western - actress:
Children of the Dust (TV) - 1995 (Nora Maxwell)

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