Farrah Fawcett: The Golden Girl Who Didn’t Fade

2 minute read
Richard Corliss

The 1970s needed Farrah Fawcett. Bad news, from Watergate to soaring gas prices, had the nation in need of a tonic, and it came in the trim form of a Texas blonde with a no-quit smile. Fawcett, who on June 25 died at 62 after a long battle with cancer, was an alluring antidote to a decade’s gloom.

Before becoming the breakout babe of Charlie’s Angels in 1976, Fawcett was most visible as an icon of TV commercials and the wife of future Six Million Dollar Man Lee Majors. Photographers had a lot to work with: Farrah had immaculate Chiclet teeth, honey-glazed arms and a wild mane that gave rise to the rumor that a lion at the San Diego Zoo had been secretly scalped.

A throwback to pinup girls of an earlier era, she became the decade’s premier poster girl, with 8 million copies reportedly sold in a single year. The number of baby girls named Farrah spiked; hairdos went Fawcett-feral. Some women might shrink from the fame tsunami, but Fawcett expertly surfed it like a monster wave.

When Farrah mania faded, she changed careers and became a fine actress. For much of the 1980s, Fawcett was the monarch of TV-movie biopics, earning an Emmy (her first of three) as an abused woman in 1984’s The Burning Bed. In later years, she occasionally emerged into notoriety, as in her apparently addled 1997 interview with David Letterman. After divorcing Majors in 1982, she was battered by a boyfriend, and endured a mostly on-again 25-year relationship with the legendarily truculent Ryan O’Neal.

Any actress can find an arc of redemption through suffering, and Farrah put her battle with cancer to worthy use by becoming an activist. She was no longer the Golden Girl, but she lived–and died–with weight, value and an exemplary glow.

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