Authors: Ryan O'Neal
Copyright © 2012 by Ryan O’Neal
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Crown Archetype,
an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group,
a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Crown Archetype with colophon is a trademark of
Random House, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Both of us : my life with Farrah / Ryan O’Neal; with
Jodee Blanco and Kent Carroll.
1. O’Neal, Ryan. 2. Fawcett, Farrah, 1947–2009.
3. Actors—United States—Biography. I. Blanco,
Jodee, 1964– II. Carroll, Kent. III. Title.
The author and publisher wish to thank the Farrah Fawcett Foundation and Redmond O’Neal for permission to reproduce copyright material.
All photos courtesy of the author, with the exception of the following:
, courtesy of Oberto Gili;
, courtesy of Davis Factor/
, courtesy of Samuel Lippke.
JACKET DESIGN BY LAURA DUFFY
JACKET PHOTOGRAPHS BY HERB RITTS
who always will be our greatest achievement
and our best hope
Everything here is true, although occasionally events may not be described in the exact order in which they occurred.
Play on, invisible harps, unto Love
Whose way in heaven is aglow
At that hour when soft lights come and go
Soft sweet music in the air above
And in the earth below
—James Joyce, from “At That Hour”
remember taking her hand in the car, both of us joyous and laughing, the wind tousling those famous curls as we drove from Tahoe to Reno, to the church. The night before, someone had given me a Cuban cigar. I removed the gold band, slipped it onto her ring finger, and proposed. She accepted, saying, “So, you think you can make an honest woman of me, do you?”
The lake and the forest have a soothing beauty, magnificent nature in repose, almost as appealing to me as the ocean. Farrah preferred it there: the mountain air, the hikes, and, of course, the rugged horseback riding. It was one of those spontaneous moments when everything seemed aligned, as if nothing could get in the way of our future. We seemed perfect for each other. We had talked about getting married early on, but we were rebels. There weren’t many people in the early eighties who lived such a public life who weren’t married. We were getting pressured to do it, not by her parents, really, or by mine, but from society, so we finally decided to get hitched. Then the flat tire. I flagged down a car whose driver offered to take us on to Reno or back to Tahoe. He would have driven us to Cincinnati if I’d asked,
but instead we chose the lake. We thought it was funny, even joked with each other that it had to be “a sign.”
ooking back, I can’t help but wonder how my life with this rare woman might have been different if we had gone through with it that day. Why didn’t I just fix the damn tire and get us to the church? Instead of finding a way to follow through with our plans, we let it go. We laughed about it for years. It wasn’t the hand of God that flattened our tire that day. It was a lousy shard of glass.
he’s married. Her name is Majors. I don’t know her from Adam, well, Eve. Her husband is actor Lee Majors. He starred in a popular television series,
The Six Million Dollar Man
, and is also known for playing in Westerns. I know him. I first met him at 20th Century Fox when I was making
, five hundred episodes at $750 per episode. That’s also where I introduced, pointed out, Frank Sinatra to my costar Mia Farrow. I never played Cupid again. Lee is in Toronto for a movie and I’m there visiting my daughter, Tatum, who’s shooting a film with Richard Burton. She’s fifteen. Tatum and Lee run into each other, and Tatum says, “You know, I’m Ryan’s daughter.”
“Oh yeah, where is he?”
“He’s at the hotel.”
Next thing, he’s calling me. “Come down and have a drink with me,” he says.
So I do. And we get a little drunk together and decide to have dinner. Tatum joins us. Lee and I are both leaving the next day. I’ve been there a week. And he says, “Let’s go home together. We’ll take the same plane.” He changes his flight. Lee is a companionable big guy, worth at least five and a half million. We fly home together and the limo drops us off at my house in town. It’s on Tower Road, up Benedict Canyon and high in the hills, part of the old John Barrymore estate. We let the limo go and take my car. He lives farther up the hill near Mulholland on a street called Antelo Road, which has gates, and there’s this beautiful girl waiting for him. She’s delightful, full of childlike warmth. There is no pretense or cattiness about her whatsoever; she’s vibrant and wholesome, refreshing in this town.
We play racquetball. They have their own court. And then she says, “Stay for dinner,” which I do. She whips up this delicious meal of fried chicken with mashed potatoes and thick country gravy, a Texas treat. Farrah is so sweet to us. Lee’s a heavy drinker, kind of a sad drunk. Their house is handsome, a tasteful blend of western-style accents and fine antiques. There are pictures everywhere, mostly personal photographs. Years later, an earthquake will destroy the place, and the cacophony of glass breaking, which frightened
everyone, will turn out not to have been the windows but hundreds of photographs emerging from hundreds of frames. Lee takes me on a tour of the house. He shows me his closet. It’s a room you can walk into, deep and wide. He must have seventy-five pairs of boots.
Where does Farrah keep her stuff?
I ask myself. We walk down the hall and he opens a door to a room you can barely turn around in. Farrah’s clothing is piled in there. Some months later, Tatum and I will make the switch. Farrah’s duds get the grand space. Lee’s we move to his den.
I had gone to their home for dinner that first night, but the next night I was supposed to travel to Las Vegas for a boxing match. I have a friend, Andy “the Hawk” Price, who was fighting Sugar Ray Leonard. I’m a fight fan as well as an ex–amateur boxer. And Farrah says, in this lilting, ever-so-slight Texas drawl, “Well, isn’t that fight on TV?”
I say, “Yes, it is.”
And she says, “Why don’t you see it here? You can play racquetball and watch it with us.”
“Hm,” I think, “hm … okay.” I’ve just come back from Canada. I don’t really need to get on another plane, so I return a second night. She greets me at the door with this winsome smile and says, “Aren’t you glad you didn’t go?” And that night there’s drinking. She doesn’t drink but he does. I drink a little. I’m watching them, and after dinner they start to talk about their relationship. I’m sort of encouraging them, saying things like “You’re a wonderful couple.”
He’s a man of few words, a monosyllabic cowboy type. He’s not naturally funny. Farrah is more natural, open, and she doesn’t have any compunction talking about their problems. She says when they were staying in Nevada, he had a boat on Lake Mead. He was a TV star at this point, not the Six Million Dollar Man, but he was in a successful Western series with Barbara Stanwyck and Linda Evans called
The Big Valley
. It ran three or four seasons. This was before Farrah’s fame from
and the poster that had made her the fantasy of every teenage boy in America. Lee would call her from a bar near the hotel and say, “Get undressed, I’m coming home.”
“So I’d get undressed,” she tells me. “I’d wait for him, and wait for him. He wouldn’t arrive so eventually I’d get dressed again.” She says this more in resignation than bitterness.
“That’s the kind of man I am,” he responds. “You knew that when you met me.”
I can see that the marriage is not the happy mating it once was. If reality shows had existed back then, this relationship would have been perfect fodder. The one I’ve agreed to do now with my prodigal daughter, Tatum, is alarmingly fraught. But that’s all in the future. Back in the fall of 1979, I’ve just met the woman who will become the love of my life and I shouldn’t be put off by that kiss I just saw Lee give her at the front door. I don’t say anything. I just listen and then I go to my home in town, only a few blocks away. Two days
later, I’m at my house in Malibu, and Lee pops over for a visit. We walk on the beach for a bit, and then he says, “Let’s go see Farrah.”
“Where is she?” I ask.
“She’s shooting a
. She’s at Disney Ranch.”
By this time, Farrah was no longer a regular on the show. She had quit
three years before after a bitter dispute with creator Aaron Spelling over percentages on merchandising. She wanted 10 percent, which is what she had gotten for the famous poster, and Spelling wasn’t about to give in to her or the other Angels, so Farrah, in what was back then a very gutsy move, left the series. Spelling sued and it was settled out of court. As part of the settlement, Farrah agreed to appear in four more episodes, one a year for four years, one of which she was shooting that afternoon. Although she was now being paid one hundred thousand dollars for each of the episodes, compared to five thousand dollars per episode when she was a regular cast member, she didn’t escape unscathed. Spelling Productions tried to have her blackballed in Hollywood. It would take some time before the studios and production companies were willing to take a chance on her again. But that was the Texas country girl in Farrah. It wasn’t the money; it was the sense of fair play. She was a stickler for traditional values, which appealed to me, especially after the unconventional women in my more recent past.
Disney Ranch is a long haul on the 405 freeway. There is this huge back lot that productions can lease for location shoots. We drive out there about five in the afternoon and when we arrive, there she is on horseback. She rides beautifully, confidently, and she gallops over to us. We chat for a while and offer to drive her home. She has a scene to finish so Lee and I go into her trailer to wait. Once inside, he starts looking through her things, determined to discover some secret.