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