A great individual has passed away.
Farrah Fawcett, the 1970′s icon, passed away this morning. Farrah rose to fame in the 1970s during her one year stint as Jill Munroe on the TV show “Charlie’s Angels.” After “Charlie’s Angels” Farrah stayed in public view with one of the best selling posters of all time, selling over 12 million copies. Her flowing blond hair, perfect smile, and bathing suit clad body found their way to the walls of many teenagers’ rooms, including yours truly. She then embarked on a film career that led to many Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. Farrah also managed to keep herself in full public view by posing in Playboy Magazine in 1995 at the age of 50. Farrah’s cover installment of Playboy is the magazine’s top selling issue of the 1990s.
None of the previously stated work, in my opinion, makes her a great individual.
Instead, that for which I will best remember Farrah Fawcett is a television special that aired on May 15th of this year called “Farrah’s Story.” “Farrah’s Story” was filmed using a home video recorder and narrated by the actress herself. Unlike other films featuring the blond bombshell from Texas, this production is Farrah’s video diary as she undergoes treatments in her battle against anal cancer. The film follows her back-and-forth to Germany as she endures various agonizing procedures, exposing herself as no pictorial ever could. Some critics pointed out that the film showed how the wealthy have the advantage to aggressively seek out the most cutting edge treatments available anywhere in the world. They used her film to expose problems with health care and felt no sympathy for a rich starlet grasping at one last shot of limelight. One comment after a review of the two hour show in the New York Times said, “A cancer patient’s ‘reality show’ struck me as demeaning and – I’m sorry – ego-ridden.” I think some may have missed a deeper message, whether that message was intentional or not.
Farrah said she filmed “Farrah’s Story” to bring to light a lesser known cancer and the struggles to fight it. She does accomplish this somewhat, but then she does so much more.
First, cancer will touch almost everyone in some way. Many will actually have their own personal battle with the dreaded ailment. Others will have a family member, friend, or an acquaintance who will face a cancer diagnosis. For many in the latter group, we will hear of the fight but never actually get to be with the patient on the front line of the war. Farrah brought us to the fight. Her reporting included footage of the atrocities of the disease, not just statistics or pictures of cancer victims. I remember watching my closest friend as he slowly succumbed to pancreatic cancer. I sat in the hospital, feeding this once proud, robust man spoonfuls of jello. I witnessed my friend wasting away as the cancer and the treatments attacked his body and soul. Even with this experience, “Farrah’s Story” was able to provide me with a deeper understanding of the struggles cancer patients endure each day.
Second, the film tore away the image of the beauty queen and reminded us Farrah was so much more than a photograph on a wall or a character on the screen. For many, the attributes of the characters portrayed by the stars become the attributes of the stars themselves. Farrah opened herself up and reminded all of us that Hollywood is not Mount Olympus and that fame and fortune does not make anyone immortal. Make no mistake, it is certainly understandable that many was the star who hid in seclusion at the onset of illness rather than allow themselves to be seen as anyone less than the characters they once brought to life. Farrah did not do this, instead our final images of the beauty queen will be of her bald head and vomiting from a reaction to medication.
Finally, and for me as a girls’ basketball coach most importantly, Farrah displayed an inner strength of which few knew. Throughout the film we are shown a woman who was once on top of the world now taking her lumps like anyone else. I watched in horror as Farrah faced numerous painful procedures, dealt with sickness as well as the side effects, and rode a roller coaster of positive and negative prognosis. Through it all, Farrah never lost her dignity nor her zest for life. She remained determined to chronicle her struggles and reminded us that even a one time pinup girl can muster quite a fight. More than once I found myself questioning my own ability to find the strength and courage Farrah displayed if God forbid I was ever put in her position.
I will always remember the Farrah Fawcett that appeared on that great poster back in the 70s. The beautiful crime fighter in “Charlie’s Angels” will always be a part of my memory. But it is the Farrah Fawcett I watched in “Farrah’s Story” that I will always most admire.
That is why I say, a great individual has passed away.
If you wish to see “Farrah’s Story,” click here.