When Fawcett’s illness was diagnosed, in 2006, it had been three decades since she first captured the spotlight as the breakout star of the television series and as an iconic blonde beauty whose 1976 bathing-suit poster sold 12 million copies.Although it proved the best-selling poster of all time, most people assumed that Fawcett’s popularity would be as transient as the vogue for her voluminously feathered hairstyle, and her initial success was often attributed to the erect nipple clearly visible under her red bathing suit in the infamous poster.Day after day, O’Neal and Stewart took Fawcett’s favorite treats to the hospital, trying to tempt her to eat: green-corn tamales, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese.When she was conscious, she thanked them in her soft, whispery little voice—“That’s so beautiful! “When she turned 60, we had this celebratory birthday where I shot my son,” O’Neal said, his tone as casual as if there had been nothing conversation-stopping about such a remark. Farrah was lying in bed, and she could hear it all—fights, swinging, gunshots. ” Baring his teeth in a faux-cheery grin, he launched into an energetic rendition of “Happy Birthday to You.”O’Neal has four children by three different women; the son he shot at was Griffin, but Redmond, the deeply troubled child of Fawcett and O’Neal, was also fair game for mordant remarks.In this effort, as in the rest of Fawcett’s life, public perceptions were shaped by the well-rehearsed charm of Ryan O’Neal, who knows how to work an audience.“I’ve asked her to marry me, again, and she’s agreed,” O’Neal told Barbara Walters in a television interview conducted in late June, adding that he would dress for the ceremony “like a gigolo, you know?With a little thin mustache and slicked-back hair.”Days earlier, when he first tried out the exact same lines on me, his wounded but winning smile and smoothly polished insincerity evoked the irresistible appeal of his youth.
And yet the engines of popular culture seemed determined to process Fawcett’s final days into predictable formulas, chief among them our favorite romantic cliché.In the final days of Farrah Fawcett’s life, she was so heavily sedated that she sometimes failed to recognize even Ryan O’Neal, her lover of 30 years and father of her only child.“When I got to the hospital last night, I said, ‘Who am I?’ She had that thousand-mile stare, and she said, ‘Steve,’” O’Neal told me one day in mid-June. ’ The nurse said, ‘He supplies the medications.’”O’Neal shook his head, his eyes reddening. ”Given his own arrest for possession and the horrendous drug problems of three of his children, such a crack might appear unseemly, but Fawcett’s condition had become so dire that O’Neal was desperately trying to sustain himself with gallows humor.Meanwhile, Stewart, who had loyally supported Fawcett’s fierce belief that she would triumph over her disease, still clung to hope.“I think I’m in some kind of denial,” Stewart said, her face wan and tired. I just keep putting one foot in front of another: O.
Farrah Fawcett, photographed by Bruce Mc Broom on the day he took the famous red-bathing-suit picture, 1976; Ryan O’Neal in Fawcett’s apartment in Los Angeles on June 19, 2009, standing next to Andy Warhol’s drawings of Farrah’s eye and Ryan’s lips.