Lee Majors & Farrah Fawcett: The 70's Golden Couple.
They were the ‘Golden Couple of the 70’s, good looking, hit TV shows and the darlings of fans and the press throughout the world. “People tell me we were the Brad [Pitt] and Angelina [Jolie] of our time,” Lee said, “Sadly, that didn’t work out too good, either.
But how did it start and where did it all go so wrong….
Whilst Lee was working on The Big Valley, Dave Gershenson, Lee’s publicity agent, came across a picture of a young woman who had just come to Hollywood looking for a break in her acting career. That woman was Farrah Fawcett. Gershenson knew Lee would like this Texan beauty, and Farrah says “When I first heard from Lee Majors, he was the rudest man I’d ever encountered”.
This is probably due to the first time Farrah heard from Lee was when he left a message one her answer machine at the all-girl boarding house Farrah was staying at – “Please tell her that Lee Majors will be by at eight o’clock to pick her up.” “I’m so sorry I left that message,” Lee said. “You know when you work on the set, you can’t always get back to a phone, and I just didn’t want you to make plans.” he told her, almost contritely. Farrah realised that Lee could probably have his pick of any of the girls in Hollywood, at the time, and here he was asking out the new girl in town. It seemed that this handsome actor genuinely wanted to take her out.
Fawcett originally came to Hollywood at the age of 21 hoping to make it as a model. She received that initial invitation from Lee Majors and thought to herself, “Who does he think he is?” She went out with him anyway and it turned into a heck of a first date!
That first night out together was filled with stilted conversation and silences, as the two behaved as if clumsy and ill-at-ease teenagers out on a high school date.
Farrah says she remembers she wasn’t a drinker and ordered a Scotch and coke and she spent part of the evening ill in ladies room – something Lee thought at the time was a hint that she hadn’t wanted to go on the date in the first place. Although Farrah described the experience as awkward, she said it was love at first sight.
Despite this, Lee was adamant not to let this wonderful girl slip through his fingers, and the next day sent Farrah a gift of 13 yellow roses [the state flower of Texas]. Farrah was touched by his thoughtfulness, and from then on the couple were inseparable and were soon seen, and photographed, at various Hollywood social events and night spots over the coming months.
One of Farrah’s first movie roles was in the controversial adaption of the Gore Vidal novel Myra Beckinridge. Lee got Farrah, his then-girlfriend, involved in this movie. He was sought for the role of Rusty but turned it down. However, he did introduce the producers to Fawcett, who had done several television commercials by that time, and she was hired to play Mary Ann. She later told Rona Barrett, “It was a terrible picture. But it taught me a lot about egos and star-trips. Everyone was on that!”
Lee and Farrah’s engagement photo’s
Lee said of Farrah: “She’s so gorgeous […] she’s like a little girl. So cute, so beautiful inside[…]”
Lee and Farrah were married on July 28, 1973 in a garden ceremony in the Bel-Air hotel. Lee’s step-father Harvey Yeary, was Lee’s best man and Farrah’s sister, Dianne Walls, was her matron of honour. Famed costume designer, Theodora Van Runkle, created original wedding outfits for the bridal party. Theodore, nominated for her work on Bonnie and Clyde (1976), The Godfather Pt 2 (1974) and Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) also worked on Myra Breckinridge (1970), in which Farrah co-starred. The wedding party was made up of around 150 guests, and Lee jr. was in attendance to see his father get re-married.
In the early days it was reported that Farrah had no interest in doing feature films, much prefering commercials and guest roles on television as she didn’t want to be away from her new husband. This included playing ‘Jess’ girl-friend on ‘Owen Marshall’ when the script called for it, in 1971 whilst they were still dating. She had 4 guest spots on Lee’s ‘Six Million Dollar Man’ series between 1974 and 1976. “It was a decision we reached together” Lee said, “because she didn’t want to spend alot of time away from me”
Their marriage criteria included a rule for Farrah to be home from work engagements in time to cook for him, whilst controversial and something frowned upon today, Lee did it with the best intentions. Lee Majors was skeptical about Farrah getting into the TV business, as he was worried about the people she would have to work with. Farrah claimed she had the same insecurities about him.
In 1976, Farrah’s star was again on the rise when casting directors picked her to act in “Charlie’s Angels.”, a new all-fame detective show. The poster for the series, which showed Fawcett in a red one-piece bathing suit, sold 12 million copies. “Charlie’s Angels” turned her into a super celebrity and a sex symbol idolized by both men and women. The hairstyle she donned in the poster became known as the “Farrah Do” and was recreated worldwide.
Lee and Farrah looked to capitalise on their small-screen success and they wanted to make the progression to features films. They set up their own production company, Fawcett-Majors productions, and produced a total of 6 films in which they starred: Lee in Just a Little Inconvenience (TV Movie) (1977); The Norseman (1978); Killer Fish (1979) and Steel (1979). Farrah in Somebody Killed Her Husband (1978) and Sunburn (1979). The films were a moderate success, but a movie career elluded them both, and they remained small-screen bound for the rest of their careers. In the 70’s the dream of TV actors was to break out into feature films. Nowadays, in the second decade of the 21st century, TV roles have come a long way and many movie actors are making the move to work on the small screen.
When Charlie’s Angels hit the screen in the Fall of 1976 and suddenly became a worldwide hit, with Farrah playing an undercover crime-fighting agent alongside Jaclyn Smith and Kate Jackson, she and Lee soon found it hard to get away from the Paparazzi wherever they went. As their respective TV shows took off, along with hectic filming schdules for their weekly shows, they found the time they got to spend together grew less and less.
Lee said “… there was a year or so when I think I saw her (Farrah) two weeks in one year. It’s very difficult with careers like that. This business is tough. Working 14 hours a day, both of you, and the days went by.”
The cracks in their marriage were reportedly due to Fawcett’s sudden fame and work commitments, and grocery store gossip magazines were also quick to publish, often un-substatiated, stories of one or the the couple out on a date, or that they were estranged.
Farrah announced she and Lee would be separating at the beginning of her nationwide tour to promote her soon-to-be-released movie “Sunburn.” The actress was 32 at the time, and after 11 years of marriage, declared she would be moving out of the Bel Air mansion the couple shared. “I want to give both of us a little time to try to adjust to what has happened,” she explained. “I don’t know if we will ever get back together again, and that scares me,” she added. “I feel so confused.”
“I just can’t go from city to city trying to pretend that Lee and I are carrying on business as usual. I remember trying to tell one reporter what I make for Lee’s dinner and bursting into tears. I can’t lie to people. I’m not pretending that I’m someone I’m not, or that I’m someone I used to be,” she said in 1979, as per People Magazine.
“I ended up seeing her two weeks in one year,” Lee recalled about their marriage. “She was off doing films and stuff, and doing her series, and I was doing mine. That’s mainly the reason we got divorced; we never saw each other. We stayed great friends, but we just had our own careers going and didn’t have time for each other.”
Farrah explained that when she got married to Majors, his expectations required a wife to clean his house, cook his meals, and be dependent. She further admitted that she still liked to cook his meals and clean his house, but she could not be dependent anymore. The actress declared she felt bad for him as he was trying to be understanding and protective.
Fawcett left the series “Charlie’s Angels” just after a year, after a difficult time trying to get out of her contract on the show, while the films Lee made post “The Six Million Dollar Man” were not doing well commercially.
After leaving “Charlie’s Angels,” fans were angry and accused Farrah of disloyalty. The movie industry stopped offering her roles because they believed she was a sex symbol who wanted to be an actress. She explained people tried to make her feel guilty about it but that she would not give up. She wanted to rely on herself more, which led to her relying less on her advisers and her husband.
Lee flew to Atlanta to be with Farrah for one night in 1979. He brought her a bottle of champagne and a single yellow rose, as a symbol of the 13 he sent her after their first date and he whisked her off to dinner at the home of Rankin Smith, the then owner of the Atlanta Falcons football team and their investment partner in a local sports complex.
The next morning Farrah’s hairdresser and makeup woman inevitably—but affectionately—joshed her. “Guess why I’m so relaxed and happy?” Farrah teased back. The mood lasted through much of a long, hot day, as Farrah and Lee dutifully toured the Falcons’ training camp. The three-limo entourage of Farrah’s 11 ladies-and-gentlemen-in-waiting followed, but discreetly turned their backs as the couple kissed farewell. “I love Farrah and I always will,” Lee declared later. “There is nothing I would like better than for us to work out our problems.” Farrah, off on another leg of her publicity trip, to New York, said only, “I’m so uncertain, but I feel good and honest about myself.”
Lee and Farrah separated in 1979 and finalized their divorce in February 1982.
“I love Farrah and I always will,” Lee declared later. “There is nothing I would like better than for us to work out our problems,” he added.
Sadly Farrah was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006, and when Lee hear it it reported he reached out to her indirectly: “He didn’t feel like he could reach out to her himself — it had just been too long, but he still cared about her deeply,” said ‘a source’ “He would send funny messages to her through friends, and she would do the same, and it was very sweet.”
Despite punishing treatment for the disease, it returned in 2009 and Lee was there for his ex-wife “This past February, her birthday, he decided to call her for the first time. They spoke for the first time in 23 years,” it was reported. “They had a 40-minute phone conversation about her life, and the cancer and it was such a lovely moment for the two of them. I guess it was a very good conversation. They joked, and they got a little bit emotional.”
Farrah sadly passed away on June 25th 2009.