Bronzed legs that go on forever, hair perfectly imperfect, golden, dewy skin and a sparkling mega-watt smile — the now iconic image of Farrah Fawcett laughing in a simple red swimsuit so perfectly encapsulated her spirit and vitality and love; it was clear that whomever captured this beauty’s heart would most certainly be a very lucky man . . .
. . . and he was. Ryan O’Neal does not even try to deny it. And so it begins — she was the star of the ground-breaking, sexy and wildly successful television series, Charlie’s Angels, and he was the star of Love Story, one of the most romantic films of all time . . .
It was 1980, and Farrah’s then husband, Lee Majors was on location shooting a film. Farrah and Lee had been experiencing difficulties in their marriage and were going through a trial separation at the time. Ryan O’Neal and Lee Majors met up on the movie set before Ryan was set to return to Los Angeles, and it was then that Lee asked Ryan to call by his house to check on Farrah, for, despite their separation, Lee worried Farrah might be lonely and could use some company whilst he was away. Ryan obliged and called to see Farrah, and upon meeting her, his heart skipped a beat: “I first saw her in their driveway, and she lit up the day, the sun came out.”
Ryan was instantly besotted with Farrah, falling in love with her immediately, but it would not be until two years later that they would officially become a couple.
“I never saw two more beautiful, madly in love people in my life, it was electrifying to be in their orbit.“
Despite the pressure of constant scrutiny from the media, and their own admission that they were each difficult to live with, Farrah was never seen without a smile when Ryan was close by — she was utterly in love with him.
With numerous photographs of the pair laughing and dancing at Hollywood after-parties, or gazing into one another’s eyes on the red carpet, still so obviously love-struck — their passion for one another was undeniable.
In 1985, Farrah & Ryan’s son Redmond was born, and shortly after, more in love then ever, Ryan proposed to Farrah with a beautiful ring featuring 17 heart-shaped diamonds. Although wonderfully romantic, Farrah turned him down. When asked in an interview about marriage, Farrah replied, “Marriages that last are with people who do not live in Los Angeles.” It has been rumored that Ryan would propose to Farrah on numerous occasions over the years, with her answer being ‘no’ each time; after one failed ‘Hollywood’ marriage already, perhaps she did not want to jinx the special relationship her and Ryan already had.
Farrah & Ryan freely admitted to often having terrible rows, fighting over the littlest of things — but it is often those passionate, heated romances that have the strongest love. Living life with such fervor, Ryan was often criticized for his parenting skills of young Redmond, but Farrah gently, patiently helped and guided the new father.
As the years went on, their arguments became more heated, and they quarreled more often; after fifteen years together, they were both exhausted by the passion they dispensed into their relationship, leading, eventually, to a terribly painful and extremely public break-up.
But they could not stay away from one another for long, and in early 2001, reconciled.
“Love is imperfect. There is no such thing as a perfect love, but you can do something with an imperfect love. You can finesse it, and you can keep it alive. You can find ways to stay together. The key is to stay together.“
Above, with Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith on the set of Charlie’s Angels (1976-1977)
It was in 2006 that Farrah was diagnosed with cancer. Both were hit hard by the news, as Ryan had already battled the disease himself, and had survived. But ever courageous, and with the love of her life by her side, Farrah vowed to fight, constantly maintaining a sunny disposition.
Ryan held her hand through numerous alternative and holistic treatments, through operations and through chemotherapy — he was her constant. Despite her zeal and will to live, the cancer began spreading, and after three years of battling the disease, the future looked bleak.
“She is why I don’t fear passing. I know she’s waiting for me.” — Ryan O’Neal
And it has been said that in the end, Ryan proposed to Farrah a final time, and she accepted, at long last, but they would never make it that far. He never left her side, and regardless of their passion for life and each other, they knew the end was near.
On June 25th, 2009, Ryan held Farrah in his arms for hours, later explaining he could feel her will to live, he could feel her holding on. After hours of lying quietly, contently in his arms, he finally felt her pulse slow, and eventually stop.
In spite of knowing that Farrah would go, Ryan was lost without her: “It’s a love story. I just don’t know how to play this one. I won’t know this world without her.”