Celebs

Ryan O'Neal: Farrah Fawcett gave me permission to talk to TODAY

Dec. 23, 2013 at 9:09 AM ET

Farrah Fawcett may have died in 2009, but to her longtime off-and-on partner Ryan O'Neal, she's still very present. When he joined TODAY via satellite to discuss his recent success in legally securing an Andy Warhol silkscreen of the late actress, he said, "I talked to her this morning about doing your show. She said I could do it."

An emotional O'Neal, sitting next to his attorney Martin Singer, was on the operating table having minor surgery for skin cancer ("I'm doing fine," he said) when he learned that his case against the University of Texas, which also claimed to be the rightful owner of the Warhol portrait, had gone in his favor. 

"My son Patrick called me from the courthouse," he recalled. "He texted me. I was lying on an operating table. There was blood running down the side of my face and then there were tears running down the side of my face mixing with the blood. It was a pretty amazing moment for me."

The actor said it was a "long shot" for the university to have gone after the portrait, even though the school contended that Fawcett left all of her artwork to the university in a living trust. But the actor said the school was goaded to go after him. 

"I have enemies, and one of them sent 90 emails to the regents there, said I stole it and that it was worth $30 million and I stole it and they should come get and it," he said.

During the trial, O'Neal had testified that he talked to the portrait of his love. "It seems to have developed over the years," he told TODAY of speaking to the cherished piece of art. "I had it in my home for 18 years, the painting."

"I know that she would've said, 'Fight for me! Fight for this painting!' She would've told me that," O'Neal told TODAY of the trial, which dredged up difficult times in his relationship with the actress. "Redmond and I discussed it, and he said, 'Let's go get it.' So we got Martin here for help, because it looked like it was going to be a tough case, and it turned out it wasn't."

Redmond O'Neal is the 28-year-old son of the late actress and actor; Patrick O'Neal's mother is actress Leigh Taylor-Young.

Now that he has the silkscreen, O'Neal promises he'll never let it go. 

"It will never be sold," he said. "It will go on to her son Redmond and his children and his children. ... It was always invaluable to us. She was a wonderful woman, and this is what was left. That's all that was left."

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