Farrah Fawcett’s Life Uncovered

This article appeared in Pensandpatron and has been published here with permission.

Unrecognizable

According to Vanity Fair, Farrah’s longtime partner, Ryan O’Neal was upset that Farrah kept calling him ‘Steve’, while she was on her deathbed. He alleges that Steve was her dealer.

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Unrecognizable

The Origin Of Farrah’s Name

Born Ferrah Leni Fawcett, she had said at one point that her name was simply made up by her mother Pauline, since she liked how it sounded with their last name. The other rumored origin is that her father, who worked as an oilman in Texas was inspired by the Arabic word that means “joy”. It was Farrah however who decided she wanted to change the way her name was spelled in order to better represent the pronunciation.

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The Origin Of Farrah’s Name

W. B. Ray High School’s Most Beautiful

Farrah Fawcett was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 1947. Raised Roman Catholic, her family attend the St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in the area, and she spent her early years in the parish school. She moved on to the public high school in Corpus Christi, W.B. Ray High School, where she was a member of the cheerleading squad. Even at her young age, her beauty was recognized by her classmates, who voted her as having the “best smile” 4 years in a row.

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W. B. Ray High School’s Most Beautiful

New Girl On Campus

After graduating high school in 1965, Farrah began studying at the University of Texas Austin. Though she originally wanted to study microbiology, she eventually made the switch to an art major, specializing in sculpting. She decided she didn’t want to live in a dorm from the start, and moving into the Madison House, which is still located on 22nd street. Farrah was the first UT Austin freshman to be chosen for one of the “10 Most Beautiful Coeds on Campus”.

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New Girl On Campus

College Dropout

When Farrah was chosen as one of the most beautiful students at UT Austin, her photo was sent along with the others to Hollywood agents. David Mirisch was one of the recipients of the photos, and began dogging Farrah with calls and requests to move to Los Angeles. It took him two years, but he eventually convinced her, and she flew out to California after her junior year in 1968. Though her parents blessed the decision, she was often otherwise derided as a college drop out.

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College Dropout

She Didn’t Use A Mirror

Farrah’s iconic red bathing suit poster has quite the backstory. The photoshoot was requested by Pro Arts Inc, who wanted her to collaborate with Bruce McBroom. However, the company didn’t provide Farrah with any beauty help whatsoever. Farrah reportedly did her own hair and make up, using lemon juice to bring out her highlights, and she didn’t even have a mirror to aid her along. The results of the shoot were a prolific 40 rolls of film, from which Farrah got to choose her favorite 6.

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She Didn’t Use A Mirror

The Famous Red Bathing Suit

In 2011, Farrah’s bathing suit that she wore in her iconic 1976 photoshoot was given to the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History in Washington DC. The suit was designed by Norma Kamali, who had been honored with a special tribute award by the CFDA in 2005. The suit was donated by Farrah’s estate, but was presenting to the museum on February 2nd by on again off again partner, Ryan O’Neal. The suit is still on display to the public today.

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The Famous Red Bathing Suit

Famous Tennis Partners

During her marriage to Lee Majors, Farrah and Lee often played doubles tennis with Aaron Spelling, the prolific TV producer and father of actress Tori Spelling. This personal friendship spurred Spelling to cast Farrah in the original made for TV movie of Charlie’s Angels, along with Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith, who played the private investigators of Townsend Associates, which was run by a mysterious, and never seen multi-millionaire. Fawcett portrayed Jill Munroe, who she then signed on to play in the TV series.

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Famous Tennis Partners

Distance Didn’t Make Their Hearts Grow Fonder

It seems Farrah’s marriage to Lee Majors was doomed from the start, as both were already working actors. Majors was starring in Six Million Dollar Man, which ran on ABC between 1974 and 1978. Their busy shooting schedules  didn’t allow them to spend much time together, which caused the couple a lot of conflict and led to their eventual split. Though they publicly blamed the distance as the major issue, there were also whisperings that Farrah’s career ambitions also played a role.

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Distance Didn’t Make Their Hearts Grow Fonder

The Inevitable End

Beginning their relationship towards the end of the 1960s, Farrah Fawcett and Lee Majors had quite the storybook romance. They dated for a number of years before their 1973 marriage, but both were such celebrities at the time that they had little privacy when they were together. Lee later said about their union, “It was quite the extreme. It was probably like Brad and Jennifer when they were together. The press was all over us (…) Naturally, we really couldn’t go anywhere.”

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The Inevitable End

The Photoshoot That Caused Major Scandal

Generally a principled model, Farrah Fawcett repeatedly turned down requests to pose without her clothes on, in 1995, she finally accepted one offer. The exception was for the December issue of Playboy, for which she didn’t even bare all, but it was no matter. Her appearance in the adult magazine caused a lot of outrage, and many criticized her as hypocritical for the reversal, given her steadfast refusal to pose immodestly throughout the 70s and 80s.

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The Photoshoot That Caused Major Scandal

Called Quits On Charlie’s Angels

After a year of starring as Jill Munroe in Charlie’s Angels, Farrah started having second thoughts on sticking with the show. She claimed that she didn’t have a contract, and that she was now in high demand due to the show’s popularity. Unfortunately for Fawcett, she was under contract, and Spelling-Goldberg productions decided to sue her for breaching it. The case was ultimately settled out of court, with Farrah agreeing to a number of guest appearances in 1978 and 1979.

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Called Quits On Charlie’s Angels

Infamously Unreliable

Though Fawcett thought she was a hot commodity after the success of Charlie’s Angels, her high profile departure ended up backfiring, and suddenly all of the interest in her as an actress dried up.  The co-producer of Charlie’s Angels, Leonard Goldberg commented, “We made her a star, and she walks out after one year. We had a valid contract with her, and no major studio or production company would hire her. Producers don’t like people who walk out on contracts.”

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Infamously Unreliable

Close But No Cameo

When it was announced that Charlie’s Angels would be remade as a feature film in 2000, starring Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, and Cameron Diaz, Farrah Fawcett was offered a cameo. Though she seemed excited about the role, she also had an odd request: that she could also be the voice of Charlie. But the producers declined her request, and she refused to accept the role unless that condition could be met, so she did not, in fact, appear in the remake after all.

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Close But No Cameo

Love At First Sight

Farrah Fawcett had several high profile relationships, but it was her longtime beau, Ryan O’Neal, who fell in love at first sight. O’Neal has been quoted a number of times that from the first second their eyes met, he knew they were destined to be together. The pair were introduced at a friend’s party, and he saw her before she even entered the house. He said that it was her smile that really sealed the deal.

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Love At First Sight

Doomed From The Start

When Fawcett and O’Neal were introduced, Ryan O’Neal already had several children from previous relationships with two other women, one of whom was struggling with addiction. At the same time, his acting career was in on a downslide, with him saying in 1980, “Farrah’s visibility is on the rise… Meanwhile, my career is in a slump.” Even if they had fallen in love at first sight, the personal struggles O’Neal was dealing with made it hard for him to be a good partner to Farrah.

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Doomed From The Start

Attention Seeking

O’Neal often needed Farrah’s undivided attention, whether or not she was in a position to provide it. In one particular incident from 1984, he arrived at their home furious about poor reviews that his latest movie had received. O’Neal was looking for Farrah in order to vent, but to his detriment, she was on the phone. He shared in his memoir that in order to catch her eye, he started pacing in front of her until he was able to catch her eye.

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Attention Seeking

Late Show Catastrophe

Farrah made an appearance of the Late Show With David Letterman one night in 1997, where she seemed to be rambling and refusing to make eye contact with the comedian. The odd behavior caused many to believe that she must be abusing her medications, but Farrah said that they were really just seeing her nerves. O’Neal defended her in the conversations that ensued by explaining to the press, “She was selling Playboy magazine, and she thought she was being Playmate-ish.”

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Late Show Catastrophe

Afraid For Her Life

With the release of Charlie’s Angels Fawcett became something of A-lister. So intense was the public’s response that she felt compelled to hire a security guard to stay with her at all times. O’Neal was uncomfortable with the arrangement when they began their relationship and requested to go unaccompanied, but shortly after the security guard left them alone, they were bombarded by fans, causing O’Neal to ask, “Remember that security guard? Can we get him back?”

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Afraid For Her Life

Badmouthing Her Besties

There were many media figures, Howard Stern in particular, who were dismayed that the three women of Charlie’s Angels seemed to be on such good terms. There were many occasions where the press attempted to manufacture drama among them during interviews in order to create some juicy headlines, but the women stayed strong. Farrah ardently refused to say anything bad about Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith, as the co stars were all genuinely good friends with one another.

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Badmouthing Her Besties

The Farrah-Flip

Like the most popular haircut of the 90s, inspired by Jennifer Aniston’s “Rachel” haircut on Friends, Farrah Fawcett’s feathered flip became the most popular hair style for women when she was at the height of her fame. All you had to ask for at the salon was the “Farrah ‘do” or the “Farrah flip” and every hairstylist in America knew what you meant.  Whether you wanted the color to match Farrah’s highlights was still up to you though.

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The Farrah-Flip

The Dating Game

One of the earliest game shows, dramatized and satirized in TV shows throughout the ages, The Dating Show featured a relatively unknown Fawcett as a contestant. The premise of the game was that Farrah could talk to each of three single, male contestants, but they were hidden from one another by a curtain. The men would have to try and convince her to go on a date with them based on their answers to a number of questions that she posed.

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The Dating Game

Baby Naming

In a trend that still continues through today, as seen in the popularity of names like “Emma” in the early 2000s, and more recently, “Bella”, popular television shows and stars have an outsized influence on baby names that become popular. In the 1970s, Farrah became one of them after Charlie’s Angels skyrocketed Farrah Fawcett to fame. Similar to ‘Sarah’ it isn’t so exotic that Americans can’t pronounce it, but it’s a nice alternative to the overused names of the era like “Jennifer.”

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Baby Naming

Contacting The Departed

Farrah Fawcett became friends with Tori Spelling when the latter was quite a young child, as the two were neighbors, and Fawcett was a good friend of Spelling’s father. After Farrah passed away, however, it seemed their bond was much stronger than anyone had realized. Tori went to visit a psychic a few times in order to have help speaking to her old friend, despite Farrah already being gone from this world. What messages Fawcett sent from the beyond, we’ll never know.

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Contacting The Departed

Cover Girl

Despite Farrah’s minor success upon her move to Hollywood, all it took was one image and she seemed to shoot to stardom, virtually overnight. Within a very short period of time, her face was plastered everywhere, from shampoo bottles to billboards, and she even booked a Super Bowl commercial. But it was magazine spreads that she loved posing for more than anything. Fawcett’s photos were featured in top fashion magazines, including Cosmopolitan and Vogue, but her modeling career highlight? Playboy.

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Cover Girl

Farrah Went Plastic

Though film merchandizing has become all encompassing these days, with lines of dolls and action figures for seemingly every movie released under the sun, that honor used to be reserved for only the most iconic roles. So it was an extra flattering tribute when Mattel decided to release a Barbie that paid tribute to Farrah’s classic red bathing suit poster in 2011. With her feathered golden locks set against the backdrop of a Mexican blanket replica, the charity doll is the spitting image of the late star.

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Farrah Went Plastic

Midnight Plane To Houston

Jim Weatherly, who wrote the song Midnight Train to Georgia, later shared that the song was actually inspired by Farrah Fawcett and then husband, Lee Majors. He said one night, he called up the couple, with the intention of chatting with Majors, when the call was picked up by Fawcett. The two made some small talk, and Farrah told him she was going to be taking “the midnight plane to Houston” in order to visit her mother.

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Midnight Plane To Houston

Reclaiming Her Fame

Despite her near instantaneous rise to stardom, he career rapidly waned in the aftermath of her Charlie’s Angels departure. Though she starred in Sunburn, Somebody Killed Her Husband, and Saturn 3 in quick succession, roles quickly dried. But Farrah was not ready to disappear into anonymity just yet, and she made a comeback as a successful TV movie actress when she starred in 1984’s The Burning Bed. Her performance in the heart wrenching film about domestic troubles was well regarded by many critics.

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Reclaiming Her Fame

The Best-Selling Poster In History

Farrah’s iconic red bathing suit poster, the very same that’s now been immortalized in a special edition Barbie, and has been put on display in Washington DC has been so highly honored, because the 1976 photograph is the best selling poster of all time. The shoot was so spontaneous that the Mexican blanket in the backdrop was used simply because that’s what he had in the back of his car, and it just so happened to match Farrah’s bathing suit.

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The Best-Selling Poster In History

Mystery Scar

The reason Farrah was specifically wearing a one piece bathing suit in her historic poster is because the designer needed to cover up childhood scar. Though Farrah never specifically opened up about what kind of accident or injury caused the scar, people who knew her say that she injured herself while trying to learn to ride a bike as a child. However it happened doesn’t really matter anymore, given that original copies of the poster will cost you between $300 and $400.

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Mystery Scar

Friends Orr Enemies?

In a break from her tumultuous relationship with Ryan O’Neal, Fawcett became romantic with James Orr, a Hollywood executive in 1997, but the couple didn’t last for very long. The tabloids had a field day reporting on their rocky union, which included a conviction for Orr in 1998 after things got heated while arguing with Farrah. The following legal battle was detrimental to both of their public images, though given his conviction, Orr’s career in Hollywood was irreparably damaged.

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Friends Orr Enemies?

Kids Before Marriage

While Fawcett and O’Neal never actually married, it was impossible for them to separate completely. They began dating in 1979, before Farrah was officially split from ex husband Lee Majors, but in 1985 she gave birth to a son with Ryan, named Redmond James Fawcett-O’Neal. Following their 1997 break up, O’Neal remained a constant presence in their lives, co parenting Redmond to the best of their limited abilities. As in love as they often looked in photos, their smiles hid the truth of their rocky relationship.

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Kids Before Marriage

Sticky Fingers

Right from the start of Farrah’s turbulent romance with James Orr, things started going wrong.  Immediately following her split with her partner of 17 years, Ryan O’Neal, Fawcett took up with Orr, whom she met when he directed her in 1995’s Man of the House. Shortly after they began seeing each other, a friend of Orr’s, Kristen Amber, alleged that Fawcett had taken $72,000 worth of her clothing from Orr’s home. A subsequent investigation proved the claim fictitious, but it did provide further tabloid fodder against Farrah.

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Sticky Fingers

‘Til Death Do Us Part

Both Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O’Neal had their fair share of health scares, though Farrah ultimately succumbed to hers. As trying of a time serious illness can be, Farrah stuck it out for Ryan. Farrah often called Ryan the love of her life, even after their 1997 break up, but when Ryan was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001, the couple reconciled. They still never quite made it down the aisle, but they certainly embodied the vow of “til death do us part”.

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‘Til Death Do Us Part

Battle With Cancer

5 years after O’Neal battled with leukemia, Farrah received a cancer diagnoses of her own. She was willing to try any treatment, both conventional and alternative, jetting back and forth between Los Angeles and Germany to try and beat the disease. Tragically, none of the treatments really worked, and the cancer metastasized to her liver. Roughly three years after receiving the diagnosis, Farrah passed away with her son Redmond in attendance, and his father, Ryan O’Neal by her side.

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Battle With Cancer

Kicking And Screaming

When O’Neal and Fawcett finally called it quits on their 17 year partnership, they were on the brink of total war. Tabloids had an endless stream of public screaming matches to share with the world, as well as reports of infidelity and even possible violence. But despite the romantic split, neither was willing to cut off all contact with the other, which may have been particularly difficult considering the pair share a son. They eventually got back together in the wake of their health crises.

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Kicking And Screaming

Photo Fight

Shortly after Fawcett and O’Neal met, O’Neal arranged an introduction to Andy Warhol, who easily decided to use Farrah as a model. He painted two portraits of her, which Fawcett later lent to The Andy Warhol Museum. After her passing, it was discovered that she had bequeathed all of her art to the University of Texas, who then sued O’Neal in an effort to recover the Warhol portrait of Farrah that he had hanging in his home. Luckily for O’Neal, the court ruled in his favor.

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Photo Fight

Michael Jackson Overshadowed Fawcett’s Death

The day Farrah Fawcett died, June 25, 2009 was a sad day for Hollywood. Hours after her passing, it was announced that Michael Jackson had also passed away. Farrah was being treated at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, and was in the company of O’Neal and her best friend Alana Stewart. Jackson died just a few miles away in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles, which the media covered with such ferocity that it completely overshadowed Farrah’s passing.

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Michael Jackson Overshadowed Fawcett’s Death

Permanently Damaged Their Son

No one ever said it was easy to be the child of a celebrity, which is especially true for Farrah and Ryan’s son Redmond. O’Neal recently discussed his son’s difficulties, saying, “One of us should have been the grown-up. Instead, we were two single-minded people who gave into our baser impulses…Our moral compass had become submerged in a sea of ego and confusion and our sweet little boy would bear the brunt of the corrosion.”

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Permanently Damaged Their Son

Finally Out Of Jail

Farrah’s troubled son Redmond has found it difficult to stay on the right side of the law. Despite his promises to Farrah to stay clean when he visited her just before her death, which he was lucky enough to attend after being imprisoned for possession just days before, he was convicted of another offense in 2011. Though he was released on probation before that sentence was up, he ended up back in jail for violating it in 2015. Redmond was released again in 2016.

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Finally Out Of Jail

Cheating On Every Man’s Fantasy

Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O’Neal’s 1997 split was due to O’Neal’s rampant infidelity. In an upsetting incident from 1997, Farrah caught her partner of 17 years in his Malibu home with another woman. When he was later sued by University of Texas in their effort to recover the last of Farrah’s artwork, his testimony included a recounting of his tryst with Leslia Ann Stefanson, who was then known for starring in The General’s Daughter.

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Cheating On Every Man’s Fantasy

A Valentine’s To Remember

The day that poor Farrah walked in on O’Neal also happened to be Valentine’s Day. O’Neal recounted, “It was terrible, I didn’t expect to see her down there. I tried to put my pants on, but I put both legs in one hole. Leslie dived under the covers.” O’Neal hoped Farrah didn’t realize what was happening, but in vain. “I thought Farrah was going to attack her, but she said, ‘What’s your name?’ Leslie said, ‘Leslie.’ And Farrah walked out.”

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A Valentine’s To Remember

Special Guest At Farrah’s Funeral

Five days after her death on June 25, 2009, Ryan O’Neal organized a private funeral service for the love of his life so her friends and family could pay their respects. Their son Redmond was given furlough from prison in order to attend, where he gave a short memorial reading in her honor. He is pictured in photographs from the service wearing the blue California corrections jumpsuit. Farrah was buried on June 30, 2009 in the Westwood Village Memorial Park, which is located in Los Angeles.

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Special Guest At Farrah’s Funeral

No Vain Bone In Her Body

Farrah was quite open about her disdain of lengthy beauty rituals. She even said, “I’m always more comfortable when I have on hardly any make-up, my hair is brown and I’m very unattractive.” O’Neal once prompted her on why she chose her classic feathered locks, recalling that he said,  “‘Why do you wear your hair like that?’ and she said, ‘I can’t see to the right or left, and that way I don’t have to see people looking at me.’”

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No Vain Bone In Her Body

The Secret Affair

During the legal battle over Farrah’s estate and her enormously expensive art collection, it came to light that Farrah may have rekindled her romance with a college lover in the years following her official split from Ryan O’Neal. Court records of the deposition show that her college flame claimed the two got back together in 1998, and carried on behind O’Neal’s back for 11 years. The affair was revealed during the proceedings for Farrah’s Andy Warhol paintings which were valued at the time to be worth $26 million.

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The Secret Affair

Fawcett’s Football Flirt

As a coed at the University of Texas, Austin, the beautiful Farrah Fawcett dated football star, Greg Lott, who is now a 67 year old car dealer in Texas. Lott claimed in his deposition in the Warhol painting case that O’Neal wouldn’t allow him to see Fawcett in her final days. He said, “He kept me from seeing the love of my life before she died,” he said. “Photos don’t make a relationship. I know what I had with her. He didn’t have that. He blew it.”

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Fawcett’s Football Flirt

A Whole Lott Of Money

The reason behind the high stakes lawsuit over Farrah’s art collection is that when the university took possession of the art that Farrah had bequeathed them, there was one piece missing. The famous Warhol portrait of Farrah, which O’Neal was instrumental in facilitating, was hanging in his bedroom. He argued with the University of Texas that she had privately given him the Warhol painting, though she didn’t leave O’Neal any money. To her secret lover, however, she left $80,000

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A Whole Lott Of Money

Lott’s Love Letters

The official documents admitted into evidence during the Warhol case included years worth of handwritten letters supposedly from Fawcett to Lott. He shared a letter from December 8, 2008 that said,  “I miss you so much, and sometimes the loneliness makes me cry. But this is a daunting journey one must take oneself, and there is very little anyone else can do to help. I wonder if at the moment of surgery I can do it, so I pray for strength and courage and it comes.

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Lott’s Love Letters

Close Call

In a harrowing incident from Redmond’s childhood, he once threatened self harm in order to get his parents to stop their explosive arguments. In his memoir, O’Neal shared the fear inducing memory of his six year old son, standing in the doorway of his parents bedroom holding a large knife while clad in Winnie the Pooh pajamas. The miniature Redmond then shouted, “I’m going to stab myself if you don’t stop it!” which effectively startled his parents into a temporary truce.

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Close Call

Stick Figure Thin

During Farrah’s hospital stay, she was only partially coherent and had lost a significant amount of weight. To try and help her, her best friend Alana Stewart cooked all of her favorite foods in an attempt to find something that Farrah could stomach. The dishes she made were all calorie dense comfort foods, like macaroni and cheese, ginger cookies, and fried chicken, but none of it worked. Stewart reported that Farrah would tell her the foods were beautiful and then return them to Stewart.

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Stick Figure Thin

Marriage Wasn’t In The Cards

Farrah and Ryan often considered making their union official, even before Farrah gave birth to their son Redmond in 1985, but between their past divorces and frequent fighting it never quite happened. O’Neal proposed to Fawcett several times, including with a cigar band in a spontaneous show of affection, but before they could make it to the alter, a flat tire turned out to be the only deterrent the pair needed to call off the elopement.

Marriage Wasn’t In The Cards

O’Neal’s Last Chance

In a valiant display of affection shortly before Farrah passed away, O’Neal asked her to marry him for a final time, his eyes brimming with tears. Farrah accepted, but wanted to wait to feel stronger. O’Neal shared in an interview, “The priest at St. John’s Hospital arrives to marry us but administered the last rites instead.” That was June 24, 2009. Farrah was taken off life support the following day, and died with O’Neal sitting next to her just a few hours later.

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O’Neal’s Last Chance

In Denial

While Farrah was in the midst of her cancer treatment, she decided to make a documentary detailing her treatment in partnership with Doug Vaughan, the senior vice president of NBC. The idea was to empower other cancer patients going through treatment by showing that it’s worth it to fight. She thoroughly believed that she would go into remission.  Vaughan later said, “This is so not the way she thought it was going to go, Farrah was certain that she was going to beat this.”

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In Denial

In Sickness And In Health

In her final days, O’Neal was a constant presence in Farrah’s hospital room. Despite the highs and lows of their relationship, he couldn’t have fathomed not being there. In one poignant moment when he was asked why he was still so devoted he said, “She’s never been more lovable. There’s a sweetness – she’s skin and bones, but she’s got this beautiful look. I don’t know how long I’m going to get it, but I know why I’ve been around for 30 years for this person.”

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In Sickness And In Health

Fighter Right Until The End

Farrah insisted that her close friend Alana film every moment as she underwent alternative therapies at a private clinic in Germany, no matter how painful they were. She would fly back to California between treatments, and she was committed to trying to advance new treatments for others. O’Neal talked about her dedication in his memoir, writing, “She’s had terrible luck. She tried so many different approaches.” Tragically, neither conventional nor alternative treatments worked, and Farrah passed away after three years of fighting.

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Fighter Right Until The End