Biography of Farrah Fawcett

Farrah Fawcett (1947-2009), television and movie actress

Biography of Farrah Fawcett, television and movie actress, with links to YouTube and also to her family tree.


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Farrah Fawcett

Farrah Leni Fawcett was born 2 Feb 1947 at Corpus Christi, Nueces County, Texas ("Texas Birth Index"), the younger of two daughters of James William Fawcett (1917-2010), an oil field contractor and his wife Pauline Alice Evans (1914-2005), a homemaker. Farrah's birth index entry calls her "Ferrah".  Farrah's older sister was Diane Fawcett (1938-2001), who married Earl Eugene Walls.  There are some sites that claim that "Ferrah" is an Arabic word, and that her father James is entirely or partly Lebanese.  On my detailed research into her ancestry, I prove that this claim is false.  There is at least one publication that claims that the name "Farrah" was made up by her mother, because it went well with Fawcett.  There is at least one site that claims that she was listed as "Ferrah" in the birth index in error, and there's at least one site that states specifically that she changed the spelling of her name from Ferrah to Farrah.  Until we can find some primary souce for any or all of this, we will have to take it with a grain of salt, since these sites do not cite any sources for their claims.  I do however note Barbara Walters' in a much later interview with Farrah, mentions an earlier interview with Farrah (evidently in the 1970s).  If that earlier full tape can be found, perhaps there might be something useful on it about this.

Farrah attended high school in Corpus Christi, Texas. In 1964 she was mentioned as a "favorite model" at Lichtenstein's Hootenanny and Teen-Age Fashion Show.  In Feb 1965, is mentioned that she was awarded "most beautiful girl" in the senior class at her Ray High School.  An article in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times (18 Apr 1965, "Tea Honors Four Seniors") states that she was a "W B Ray senior", then described as living at 3410 Floyd in Corpus Christi.
Farrah enrolled in 1965 at the University of Texas at Austin, where she had planned to major in microbiology. (  There she was "going steady with the big man on campus -- quarterback Greg Lott of the Longhorn's football team. ("Paydirt", 1989) (Note: I haven't done in-depth research on Greg Lott, but I did note one blog entry which claims that he was a "wingback" not a quarterback.)  Farrah was voted "one of the ten most beautiful undergraduates in sixty-six". (Burstein 1977, cited by Genevra Garrett  And she was named "Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps sweetheart at the UofT".  Following her heart, she transferred into the art school. ("Alcalde", 2000)  Genevra also states that there was a 1997 Playboy Video in which Farrah, apparently in an interview, reveals some details of her early life.

"Farrah's studies at UT quickly became focused on art. She studied under sculpting professor Charles Umlauf, becoming a protégé of his and maintaining contact with him through the rest of his life. In Farrah's Story, the documentary that aired on NBC this summer chronicling her three-year battle with anal cancer, she says, "Even though I majored in art I would somehow always end up as the subject for my fellow classmates." Umlauf found the same inspiration in her. Sculptures of Fawcett, as both student and celebrity, are among his many works at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden next to Zilker Park in Austin. " ("Texas' Angel", University of Texas Alumni Association)

Tom Daley states that when he was 19, he was working for an ad agency who shot Farrah in an advertisement for Austin pharmacy chain Bray & Jordan. "I sent the commercial to David Mirich, an agent who was part of the Mirich family, who were big in Hollywood. He had seen a still of her and he called me, wanting a copy of the drugstore commercial. I was excited just to be talking to Hollywood. I made a print of it. We sent it out to David, and he went crazy. He said tell her to call me!"

Farrah was so attached to her football hero that she rejected numerous offers of modeling jobs in California.  But when Greg fumbled Farrah in the summer between her junior and senior years by telling her he wanted to date other girls, she bolted straight for Hollywood." ("Paydirt", 1989)  Greg's football career ended in his junior year when the ligaments in his knee were torn during a game, but that did not stop him from graduating BBA in 1970. ("Alcalde", 2000)  Later he was arrested while driving a truckload of marijuana from Arizona to New York and served a year in federal prison. ("Vanity Farrah", 1997)  He was, even later arrested for some sort of offense involving cocaine and served more time in prison.  By 1997, he had evidently become sober and owned a flooring company in Texas which he apparently still owns.  Greg tried to get back with Farrah a few times over the years, and supposedly did for a brief time, at least according to his own report.  Greg Lott was in the news in 2009 when a website he had created with Farrah was shut down after receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Ryan O'Neal.  Greg claims that Ryan had cut-off his access to Farrah, so in retaliation, Greg started bad-mouthing Ryan on that site.  The latest from Greg is his claim that Farrah left him $96,000 in her will.  Wikipedia's article on Farrah in a bizarre fashion, does not mention Greg at all.  Clearly as I show here, he merits at least a mention.

Farrah's first agent was David Mirisch.  He had contacted her, while she was yet at the University of Texas, and asked if she wouldn't want to come to L.A. to work.  Now, after dumping Greg Lott, or being dumped by him, here she was.  Farrah arrived in Hollywood in July, 1968, driving cross-country with her parents and her father's sister, pulling a U-Haul trailer full of her stuff. ("How Farrah Fawcett Changed The World", by Gregory Curtis, "Texas Monthly", Apr 1982, p133-8, 200) (I here correct several sites which claim 1969 in error, and at least one later document which claims 1967, and another 1966!)   When she first arrived, David Mirisch had arranged for her to stay in the Hollywood Studio Club, a third-floor walkup.  Under his agency, she "made some appearances and got her picture in the local papers as Miss Boat Show and the like" ("Texas Monthly", op cit.) On 23 Sep 1969, "a little more than a year after her arrival in Hollywood", Farrah terminated her agreement with Mirisch. ("Texas Monthly", op. cit.)

She had only been in California for a few weeks before she met and began dating Lee Majors (b. 1939).  Farrah liked football players, Lee was an ex-college football player from Kentucky.  The story related in "Paydirt" is that Lee saw Farrah's picture while leafing through stacks of 8x10 glossy prints, while in his agent's office.  The agent's name is not stated, and why Lee was looking through stacks of glossy prints is also not stated.  Their first date was a Jim Weatherly concert on 28 Jul 1968.   Jim Weatherly states that he wrote his song "Midnight Train to Georgia", originally titled "Midnight Plane to Houston" based on a phone conversation with Farrah, and about her and Lee's relationship. (See here.)  Shortly afterward, Farrah and Lee moved in together, but would not marry for five more years.  At the time they met, Lee Majors was playing "Heath", Barbara Stanwyck's step-son on the TV-series "Big Valley". (A role which ended in 1969.) He had already made big money off that, enough to buy his own house, a fact which would be brought out in their later divorce and property division. ("Paydirt")

Lee took over the handling of Farrah's career and over the next several years, she appeared here and there on various television series, commercials, and a few forgettable films.  In that first year, she appeared once on the television series "Mayberry, R.F.D." in the episode "Millie, the Model" (airdate 20 Oct 1969), twice on episodes of "The Flying Nun" starring Sally Field, "Marcello's Idol" (airdate 15 Oct 1969) and "Armando and the Pool Table" (airdate 23 Jan 1970) and twice on I Dream of Jeannie, in the episodes "See You in C-U-B-A" (airdate 4 Nov 1969) and "My Sister the Home Wrecker" (airdate 9 Dec 1969).  In an article in the Texas Alcalde, 2000, they state that her first film was in 1969, with French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, "Love Is A Funny Thing".  The IMDb entry for this film states that it was released Dec 1969.  She also played the small role of the hitchhiker in the 1969 "ABC Movie of the Week" "Three's A Crowd" with Larry Hagman.  IMDb in their article on it states that this movie was released 2 Dec 1969.  It would be very interesting if someone were able to find this movie and post it to YouTube.  Farrah now got a role in the film Myra Breckenridge, playing a love scene with Raquel Welch.  The film was panned as one of the worst films ever, even though it starred many veteran actors, including Mae West and Rex Reed, and marked the film debut of Tom Selleck.  Watch her in a three minute scene here.

One of Farrah's first commercials, or at least the first I've been able to find online, was with the then little-known Penny Marshall, for Head and Shoulders shampoo, which you can watch at YouTube. ("Farrah Fawcett on YouTube")  She was also in a commercial for Mercury Cougar which "... showed her rising up out of a dark sea". ("Vanity Farrah") Lee also got her appearances on his shows "Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law" (his role lasted from 1971 to 1974) and "The Six Million Dollar Man" (1974-1978).
Farrah and Lee on their wedding day (Credit: NY Daily News)
See full related story here

In 28 Jul 1973, on the fifth anniversary of the day they met, in a private ceremony, Farrah married Lee Majors at the Hotel Bel-Air.  Her older sister Diane was her matron of honor, and her father "owner of a Houston janitorial service" gave her away. ("Paydirt") Lee's parents, brother, and son by his previous marriage to Kathy Robinson, Lee Jr, were all in attendance.  At this time Farrah changed her name to "Farrah Fawcett-Majors".    She was in commercials for Ultra-Brite toothpaste and Noxzema skin cream (with Joe Namath, in 1971 or 1972 see his biography here), Wella Balsam shampoo and Fabrege perfume.

Farrah appeared in the 1976 movie Logan's Run, and then in just the first year of "Charlie's Angels" 1976-1977 where she was private detective "Jill Munroe", opposite Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith.  The show rapidly became the most popular new show of the season,  perhaps helped by the apparent "no bras allowed" policy.  Although Farrah left the show as a regular after their first season, she returned as a guest for six more episodes from 1978 to 1980. ("Farrah Fawcett", IMDbHer article at states that this was because Aaron Spelling sued her for breach-of-contract and they settled out of court, with her agreeing to be in some guest spots for the show.  However the article there continues by saying that she "turned to film" appearing in Logan's Run, without realizing that her work in that film pre-dated her appearance in the "Charlie's Angels" TV series.  In 1977 appeared the book Farrah: An Unauthorized Biography of Farrah Fawcett-Majors, by Patricia Burstein (159 pages), which I haven't seen.

Farrah's picture above, "...from a poster first published in Life magazine in 1976 is the best-selling pin-up poster of all time with more then 12 million copies sold." (Wikipedia)  The article at Wikipedia goes on to say that this number is unclear with various sources citing various numbers, but Farrah herself in "Chasing Farrah" states that it was 12 million, and even states "they always get it wrong." ("Chasing Farrah")  Her "...stunning face appeared on more than 116 different magazine covers." ("Paydirt") Farrah did an interview with People Magazine and one of her statements there is repeated in the Merrian-Webster dictionary of English usage: "It's the old Marilyn Monroe syndrome.  Nobody takes a pretty girl seriously." - Farrah Fawcett, 3 Jan 1977

Farrah left "Charlie's Angels" at the end of their first season, but the reason is nebulous.  She gave various reasons over the years, but no one ultimately is really sure what was the real reason.  Shortly afterward she appeared in the awful feature film "Somebody Killed Her Husband" (1978, with Jeff Bridges).  The film was panned, read one review in New York Magazine 1978.  She also appeared in "Sunburn" (1979) (which also included Eleanor Parker see here) and then in "Saturn Three" (1980, with Kirk Douglas), in equally forgettable roles.

And then, Farrah took control, she "fired her manager.  She fired her lawyer.  And she fired Lee." ("Paydirt").  Announcing a trial separation in 1979.  Lee wanted her back and even cut a record album of love songs dedicated to her.  Although Farrah acknowledged that she owed a great deal to Lee, she didn't like the control he exerted and needed room to make her own life.

Ryan O'Neal had two children Tatum and Griffin from his prior marriage to actress Joanna Moore.  In 2004 Tatum O'Neal wrote her autobiography "Tatum O'Neal: A Paper Life" (Harper Entertainment), which I'll cite as "Paper Life".  In her book she states that when she was making the film "Circle of Two", they were filming in Toronto.  Her father Ryan came to visit, and one day in the hotel lobby they saw Lee Majors and his wife Farrah Fawcett-Majors.  The started chatting and wound up hanging around together. "At one point Lee, who wasn't going back to L.A. for a while, asked my father to take care of Farrah.  Bad move!  He asked the wrong person.  When I flew home after finishing Circle of Two, my father picked me up at the airport.  Farrah was in the car." ("Paper Life", p120)

Ryan announced shortly afterward that he was in love with Farrah.  Lee filed for divorce May 1980.  (Shortly afterward Lee would start his role on "The Fall Guy".)  Evidently Lee and Farrah were already physically separated when Tatum states that Ryan was "always going up the hill to [her] mansion overlooking the Valley...When you entered you had to pass through the Hall of Farrah, where she had hung literally every single magazine cover featuring her.  It was profoundly intimidating." ("Paper Life", p122)  Wikipedia states that from 1982 to 1997 Farrah was domestic partners with Ryan O'Neal, but Tatum seems to put this as starting squarely in 1979 or 1980 from her comments.

Ryan O'Neal

Farrah comes in for some negative comments in Tatum O'Neal's 2004 autobiography.  Tatum essentially stating that Farrah was self-absorbed and manipulative, and that Tatum and her brother Griffin were pushed out of Ryan's life by Farrah. "He picked up and moved in with Farrah, leaving Griffin and me -- at fifteen and sixteen respectively -- living on our own." ("Paper Life", p122)  Tatum blames Farrah as well as Ryan for neglecting her and Griffin and forcing her to try to run a household at age sixteen.  She states that they were negligent.

Farrah received praise for her appearance in the dramatic 1981 mini-series "Murder in Texas" (about the real-life case of Dr John Hill), and then appeared as a ditsy blonde in 1981's "Cannonball Run".  Her performance in the made-for-TV movie "The Burning Bed" (based on the real life of Francine Hughes), is still amazing and shocking.  When she was photographed for Playboy at age 48 and again at age 50, those two issues became the biggest selling issues that decade. (Barbara Walters, 20/20) Farrah was in another made-for-TV movie "Small Sacrifices".  She moved to New York to be in the 1983 off-Broadway show "Extremities", whose cast also included Lorna Luft.  Lorna has written her autobiography and she relates a few incidents that happened during this time.  Later Farrah was also in the film version of Extremites.

Farrah and Lee's final divorce decree was filed in 1982.  Their divorce is one of the stories featured in "Paydirt: Divorces of the Rich and Famous". They had no children together.  During the time they were married, they appeared together as husband and wife in one 1977 episode of "The Brady Bunch Hour". ("Farrah Fawcett on YouTube")  It is not yet clear to me why, if Lee filed for divorce in May 1980, that they wouldn't be divorced until 1982.  Their entry in Paydirt doesn't go into too many details about why the divorce was so notorious or why it took so long, only stating that the judge in the case called it a "splitting headache".  So more work needs to be done on the exact details of what occurred.  "Paydirt" does state that Lee did not want to divide up his $5 million-dollar home, claiming that he had bought it with money he made before they met, but that eventually they came to an understanding, and he gave her the house anyway.

During the time in which she was domestic partners with Ryan O'Neal, they split up in or about 1997, then got back together again from 2001 to 2009.  I believe she is supposed to have met-up again with her old flame Greg Lott at some point during this time.  With Ryan she had a son Redmond, born Feb 1985, who is currently serving a prison term after repeated drug offenses, at least one of which involved heroin.  Farrah's mother Pauline's obituary states in part that she is survived by two grandsons Redmond Fawcett O'Neal and Greg Walls.  The Marquis Who's Who article on Farrah however calls her son : "Redmond James O'Neal", but another source calls him "Redmond James Fawcett O'Neal".("Paydirt")

1978 Commercial
Watch an early clip, evidently from sometime in the 80s here.   Watch a much later clip, probably from the late 90s, evidently from a TV-program called "Chasing Farrah" (but I'm not sure).  It is quite possible that one of the reasons for Farrah and Ryan's split was due to her posing for Playboy which also occurred in 1997.  The Playboy Video "Farrah: All of Me", released in 1997 was the all-time best-selling Playboy video. ("Alcalde", 2000)

YouTube Video
At the end of her life, she was surrounded by her lover Ryan O'Neal and her best friend Alana Stewart.  Alana is perhaps more well-known as the ex-wife of Rod Stewart and George Hamilton.

Farrah Fawcett died 25 Jun 2009 in Santa Monica, California after a long battle with cancer.  She is buried at the Westwood Village Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California.

"I never had a desire to be an actress....It’s so far away from my basic nature.  Sometimes I think it’s a bad dream....I had to make a living, and I wanted to push myself.  I wanted to see what I could do out there.  I guess I let competition get the best of me.  Acting is my livelihood, but the strange thing is that I feel much more confident about my art.  It’s mine.  You don’t have to turn it over to somebody else.” In acting you do your part, then they edit and edit and edit.  You do your performance but it’s always someone else’s idea of right; there’s always a director standing over your shoulder. But your art can be whatever you want.  It’s your vision.  And I guess I miss that freedom.  I miss those years when I held the reins and there were so many people helping me.  I miss people supporting who I was instead of paying me to be different." ( Farrah Fawcett: All of Me. Dir. Mark S. Manos. Perf. Farrah Fawcett.  Playboy Video, 1997. –direct quote-, cited by Genevra Garrett

Sources for 1

Further Reading