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Film

The moment Farrah Fawcett met Andy Warhol

It’s funny how Farrah Fawcett has gone on to become the most fondly remembered of the Charlie’s Angels cast, considering that she only starred in one series. And ye,t with her shimmering blond hair, radiant personality and a penchant for a quip, Fawcett embodied everything that was glamourous, exotic and sexy about the show.

Fawcett was undeniably gorgeous, but she wasn’t always comfortable with her role as a sex symbol. “I always felt so self-conscious,” Fawcett once said. “I wanted people not to look at me because so many people kept looking at me,” she added.

Sadly, Fawcett died from anal cancer in 2009. As per the request of her will, she donated all of her personal art collection to the University of Texas, her alma mater. Most interestingly, one of the paintings was a portrait Andy Warhol made of her in 1980. Fawcett’s lover, Ryan O’Neal, was there to witness the occasion. “There was no easel, no paint,” O’Neal recalled. “There was just this strange dentist’s Polaroid camera. He just snapped her at different turns, maybe 25 shots. It took longer to do her hair”.

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Fawcett bore O’Neal’s child in 1985, and although they weren’t entirely successful as a couple, they were supposed to be very successful as parents. Indeed, the Love Story star kept a portrait of Fawcett in his bedroom after they separated, only to give it to her when female companions found the picture disconcerting. O’Neal claimed that the portrait was always his, however. O’Neal later removed the 40-inch by 40-inch silkscreen from Fawcett’s house following her death, only for the University to take him to court in December 2013, feeling they were the rightful owners of the painting. 

If O’Neal hoped to keep the trial as low-key as possible, he was sorely mistaken. Lawyers acting on behalf of the University presented a clip of Warhol working on O’Neal’s former lover, demonstrating the artist in creative process. The session was taped by a television news magazine that went by the name ’20/20′. Shortly after, O’Neal revealed that Warhol had indeed put a copy aside for her — and another for him. 

It was the second copy that interested O’Neal, largely because it was so personal to himself. “I talk to it,” the actor purportedly informed the jury. “I talk to her. It’s her presence in my life and her son’s life. We lost her. It would seem a crime to lose it”. It might not have been the most refined of speeches, but only the stoniest of hearts couldn’t be wowed by that great expression of truth. 

Short of evidence, the University was never likely to win, and although the jury was not unanimous, O’Neal convinced enough of them to win his case. He was clearly chuffed by the win. Redmond O’Neal, however, claimed that the portrait of his mother was a “family heirloom”, and that it was never intended as a cash-grab. Considering the value of Warhol’s work, the painting could be valued to the tune of $12 million. 

Renowned for his abstract viewpoint and visceral approach to art, Warhol is one of the more popular artists of the 20th century. 1960s pop art paintings of consumer products, including Campbell’s Soup Cans and Coke cemented Warhol’s reputation as an idiosyncratic thinker, and he later put together a series of celebrity portraits that included Jackie Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and Elvis Presley among the credits. Warhol is also credited as the producer on The Velvet Underground & Nico, one of the most abstract albums that was released in 1960s. But clearly, this painting had an emotional effect on the O’Neal family, who undoubtedly wished to remember a woman who no longer walked on the planet. Judging by O’Neal’s haughty comments, he didn’t think too highly of the painter, but adored the painting. It captured much of her gleeful spirit, animated persona and gorgeous complexion. 

The rest of us can remember Fawcett in a different means. In ‘Fallen Angel’, Fawcett’s Jill Munroe is tasked with capturing millionaire jewel thief Damien ‘Ice Cat’ Roth, a charming, care-free vagabond who can capture the hearts of any woman he speaks to. Although it was the role that made Dalton’s name in America, Fawcett is the true star, purring and silhouetting with a poise that is as earnest as it is effortlessly seductive. But behind those doe-eyes, lies the face of a woman desperately hoping that she doesn’t have to cuff the man who has stolen many valuables and the entirety of her heart. 

It’s a committed performance that demonstrates that behind the hair, smile and charm lies an actress who really knew how to act. No wonder everyone from O’Neal and Warhol were blown away.

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