Jeez, Farrah Fawcett was 62? Groan. How the time do fly. For the record, I was young when she was young (but older!), and I lived through the era of the Poster. This poster, of course:
In about five minutes, Farrah’s poster replaced Carly Simon’s cover photo on “No Secrets” as the erect-nippled fantasy queen of the dorm room. It was time. American boys might go for a brunette from time to time, but sooner or later they always come back to the archetype of the California blonde. (Fawcett was from Texas, but then, many of the blondes in California are from elsewhere.) I argued over that poster many a night, always met by the same implacable male shit-eating grin: But I like it. OK, fine. Farrah was blot-out-the-sun beautiful and sold a million blow dryers to a million women who aped her haircut, but she was never really threatening. Take note, Angelina. It’s possible to be a sex symbol without making other women want to put a tack on your chair.
It was the smile, of course. And the fact that nothing but the hair looked excessively fussed-over. Since every woman fusses over her hair, it bound her to us, instead of pushing us away, the way breast implants and see-through blouses do. She isn’t showing an acre of skin, only the results of a healthy, athletic lifestyle and the sort of thoroughbred good looks that some people get through the luck of the genetic draw. You know what that poster says? Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful. It wasn’t something she could help.
Farrah also wasn’t a man-eater. There was that unfortunate early marriage, after which she dropped the -Majors from her name and apparently swore off matrimony forever, even as she settled down with one man, Ryan O’Neal, for nearly 20 years. And while she had many ups and more downs, most apparently of her own making, she always seemed to be carrying her own weight. She worked in crap and quality, she went off the rails for a while, she had too much plastic surgery, but she was writing her own story, not depending on others to take care of her. Is it possible the girl in the poster, who angered so many feminists, turned out to be one herself?
I am thinking of another picture of Farrah, which you probably won’t see in the obit roundups. It was from a book I bought from a remainder table, “Cheap Chic,” by the editors of Rags magazine, now defunct. The picture looks like it dates from her pre-famous, modeling days, and features her in plain old Levis, white sneakers and a man’s white shirt, tails knotted at the waist. She’s posing on a skateboard, showing evidence of skateboard competence and the customary sunny smile. She looks great, of course, the essence of the American blonde beauty but warm, not Grace Kelly cool, fresh and clean and scrubbed. Don’t hate her because she’s beautiful. She was just one of the lucky ones.