So Long, Farrah

Pardon the cliche, but it’s hard for this Texas gal not to note the passing of Farrah Fawcett without feeling it’s the end of an era.

As a child growing up in East Texas in the ’70s, Farrah represented to me everything glamorous, modern, grown-up. And she had that soft Texas accent which wasn’t all that different than mine at the time. Lots of people focused on her hair back then–and I recall vividly having my own naturally curly locks styled at my mother’s hairdresser to look like Farrah’s on one occasion. It was no small feat, I assure you, to get my wavy bangs into those long feathers. All that hairspray likely contributed heavily to the hole in the ozone layer.

At the time, I was enamored with Charlie’s Angels and Wonder Woman–shows that both suggested women were powerful and eye-candy, a curious combination. I remember feeling shocked when I discovered Farrah was married to the Six Million Dollar Man (a.k.a. Lee Majors), having been convinced that he and Jaime Sommers (a.k.a. Lindsay Wagner, a.k.a. the Sleep Number lady) were the real deal. Farrah and Lee Majors? That was against the natural order of things, for pete’s sake. In fact, Farrah’s name change to “Farrah Fawcett Majors” may have been my first introduction to the fact that what I saw on my family’s two stations wasn’t “real.” Maybe that’s why the whole episode stuck with me.

Like dolls and tea sets, I put Farrah aside for many years–only to have her pop up vividly when I decided to attend The University of Texas at Austin, where she’d once been a student. Even before I enrolled there in ’89, I discovered that she still cast a voluptuous shadow over the campus. One of my favorite high school teachers (now deceased) used to tell us how he was at UT when she attended. They had a class together and seeing as his last name began with an “E” and hers with an “F”, their professor’s insistence that they sit alphabetically in the large classroom presented my late teacher with an opportunity. He made a point to arrive early to class that semester, forcing the young beauty to squeeze past him on the way to her seat. “Yes, she really was that beautiful,” he’d say fondly.

In college and later graduate school, I encountered quite a few stories about Farrah’s time on campus. There were the tales of the young men lining up outside her sorority house just to catch a glimpse…a whiff…of her. There were also more provocative stories of her relationship with the late sculptor Charles Umlauf for whom she reportedly modeled. Whether or not the details were true seemed irrelevant–the stories were told again and again.

After college, I pretty much forgot about Farrah, except when I encountered her in that forgettable film “Dr. T and the Women.” Oh, and then there was the odd VH-1 special on the seventies that always ended up focusing on “that poster.” (You know the one. It’s so classic that the Houston Chronicle mentioned it in the first paragraph of the article announcing her death.)

Then came the news recently that she had cancer, the behind-the-scenes documentary showing her courage. The images of her were different, of course. No longer a young, ravishing beauty, she was a mature woman approaching the end of her life. The lilting accent remained, it seems, as the body was ravaged by the disease. And with that accent she gave great voice to pains known by far too many cancer patients and their families.

Today, she’s gone. I’ve lived long enough to know that any loss that I may feel is insignificant to the grief her family and friends must feel right now.

Still, it feels just… odd. Again, today the natural order of things seems a little off to me. And I for one just had to say as much.

Explore More:
• 
Slide show of the late Farrah Fawcett on MySanAntonio.com

Update:

Since I posted this earlier today, Michael Jackson was rushed to the hospital. Rumors are circulating as I type this that he may be dead at worse or in a coma at best. He’s dead, too. Ed McMahon died two days ago. I summed my feelings all up in a single tweet:

What’s with the ol’ Grim Reaper targeting the pop-culture icons of my youth? Step off, creepy cemetary dude. Enough.

Follow me on Twitter

Advertisements

10 Replies to “So Long, Farrah”

  1. Pamela, this was lovely, thank you. I was born in Corpus Christi Texas, same as Farrah (used to brag about that a little) and was an impressionable 16 when she burst on the scene. My younger brother had “that” poster, as did many of his friends. I have not followed her closely since, but to see one of the great beauties of my youth so ravaged (not only by her illness, but also by personal tragedies and a career that never quite lived up to her early success) touched me, and her death today has me feeling quite sad. Thanks for speaking for us. I think I’ll go blow-dry my hair, for Farrah.

    1. I had no idea that you were from Corpus Christi. I knew that I liked you for a reason. And I think that Farrah had a good enough sense of humor to appreciate a blow-dry tribute in her honor.

  2. Pamela,

    I, too, feel that today is a little sad for me at Farrah’s passing. If you aren’t of that time, it’s probably hard to understand…but she was an icon for many years and maybe one of the best known starlets next to those in years past belonging to the “Silver Screen” era.

    Television, film, communications, and electronics were really just at the beginning of coming into their own. And, yes, I think the world is somehow different without Farrah.

    My best wishes to those in her life who loved her.

  3. “… she was an icon for many years and maybe one of the best known starlets next to those in years past belonging to the “Silver Screen” era.”

    I think I’d have to agree, Chris. Never thought about her that way, but it’s an astute observation.

  4. It’s so interesting to read about Farrah Fawcett from your perspective as both a Texan and as someone who was young enough to copy that hairdo as a child.

    Farrah & I were very close in age, so she wasn’t a role model for me. She was nearly 30 when Charlie’s Angels became a hit…by then I had 3 kids and was in PTA. I just thought she was beautiful and sweet. When we came to Texas and visited the Umlauf museum we learned she’d been a promising art student and I liked her work in Robert Altman’s Dr T and the Women.

    I have a feeling some of my younger Austin friends will have feeling similar to yours – thanks for sharing.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  5. Pam, I had forgotten Dr. Eads’ stories about being at UT with Farrah… I am sure though that he has taken his seat in Heaven and is waiting for her to squeeze by… thanks for those lovely reminders…

  6. Annie – She made for an interesting icon. If I had to pick a fave work of hers, I’d go with “The Burning Bed,” though. Tough stuff that show. Couldn’t figure out how to work that into this post–which I intended to be bittersweet in tone.

    Kim- You may be right. =)

  7. Thanks, Pamela, for such a nice post. As a fellow Texan, I appreciate your comments. While I enjoyed Farrah as an Angel (I am a guy, after all), I was touched by her portrayals of abused women. It’s encouraging that a celebrity can use her status to present social issues to her audience. May she have a successful and painless transition to the next stage of her journey.

  8. It does feel like a generational thing – and tragic and shocking tho’ the news about Michael Jackson is, it has completely obliterated the equally tragic and shocking news of Farrah Fawcett’s passing, and that’s a great shame.

    In 1977, my 13th year, I spent the entire Summer rollerskating every single day in the hope that my chubby awkward teen self would be transformed butterfly-like into a Charlie’s Angel. Jaclyn Smith was my favourite (I’m a brunette) but even I spent hours painstakingly trying to tease my limp, thin, resolutely straight brown hair into “The Farrah” only to see it fall back to its natural state within seconds.

    As a Brit, there was something so appealingly all-American about Farrah – white teeth, impossibly tanned skin, beaming health and that amazing hair. And yes, Charlie’s Angels became something of a kitsch joke, but to girls of our generation it was a revelation to see women being beautiful AND powerful. More than that, the three of them had such grace – and that’s what I take from Farrah’s painful journey. Dignity, beauty and that smile to the end.

    Every bit as much of an icon, and every bit as sorely missed. RIP Farrah – you were one of a kind.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s