February 2, 2011
Farrah Fawcett was America’s dream girl. With her sweet, southern smile and bright, bubbly California style, she captured the hearts of millions with her classic beauty and warm personality.
And today, on what would have been her 64th birthday, members of her family were on hand to donate items from her personal collection to the National Museum of American History.
Born Ferrah Leni Fawcett in 1947 in Corpus Christi, Texas, Farrah (as she later changed the spelling of her name) was always a recognized beauty. Voted “Most Beautiful Student” for all four years of high school, she left college to pursue a career in Hollywood and found instant fame modeling and starring in TV commercials and print advertisements. And then came the poster.
The image, shot at her home on Mulholland Drive in California, showed Fawcett in a one-piece red bathing suit, tilting her head back slightly and smiling into the camera. The shot, for which she did her own hair and makeup, would launch her career into superstardom and the poster would go on to sell more than 12 million copies. Its popularity took everyone by surprise, according to family friend and one-time tennis coach, Nels Van Patten, who was present during the shoot.
“She thought nothing of it. It was so blasé. She was so nonchalant about the shoot,” said Patten. “She was really more serious about playing tennis and being healthy.”
That bathing suit, as well as an original copy of the poster, is now a part of the permanent American entertainment history collection at the museum.
Other items donated today include: a leather-bound book containing scripts for the first season of “Charlie’s Angels,” an original Farrah Fawcett doll, her 1976 covers of both TIME Magazine and TV Guide and an original “Farrah’s Glamour Center” toy.
“There’s no time capsule of the 1970s that would be complete without them,” said curator Dwight Blocker Bowers. “These items now belong to the American people.”
Farrah Fawcett went on to star in the popular TV show Charlie’s Angels, in which she donned her signature, trend-setting “angel-wing” hairstyle. After one season, she pursued a film career, staring in a number of dramatic roles, including “The Burning Bed,” for which she was nominated for an Emmy. The documentary Farrah’s Story, which chronicled the battle with cancer she lost in 2009, endeared Fawcett to new generations of fans.
Many friends and members of her family were on hand for the donation, including her long-time partner Ryan O’Neal, their son Redmond, and O’Neal’s daughter Tatum O’Neal. “She was one of a kind,” Ryan O’Neal said. “She had an energy and an aura I had never ever seen before or since. She was magnificent.”
It is the family’s hope that the memorabilia donated today would help visitors to the museum better understand Fawcett’s legacy and impact on popular culture.
“She had it. Usually in Hollywood, you have it for maybe one year; she had it for 40 years,” said Patten. “There was no one like Farrah and everybody loved Farrah and because of this day here at the Smithsonian, Farrah will never be forgotten.
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