May 1, 2012 at 9:07 AM ET
Ryan O'Neal talked to Matt Lauer on TODAY Tuesday about his admission that there "was violence at times" in his relationship with the late Farrah Fawcett, and addressed the effect that volatility had on his kids.
O'Neal, who had a child, Redmond, with Fawcett, and has three children from a previous relationship, gave a mock-choke over his coffee cup when Lauer asked about them. The children — Tatum, Griffin and Redmond — have all had their share of addiction struggles, and Griffin and Redmond have both been incarcerated. Another child, Patrick, a sportscaster, has managed to stay out of trouble.
“Were you a bad parent?” Lauer asked.
“Looks like it, doesn’t it? Sure looks like it," O'Neal said. "I suppose I was.” He credits his failings as a father to a lack of being “trained.” He also said that his adult children aren't kids anymore, and that they are now responsible for themselves. "Griffin is 45, Tatum is 49, who’s the other one? Redmond is 27. They have to take hold of their own existences.”
The children had trouble at an early age. At 6 years old, Redmond walked into a room where O’Neal and Fawcett were embroiled in an argument. In his recently released memoir "Both of Us: My Life With Farrah," O’Neal writes that Redmond was in his Winnie the Pooh pajamas and holding a knife. He threatened to stab himself if the two didn’t stop fighting.
“He couldn’t stand it,” O’Neal told Lauer. “It stopped us, I must say. We put a stop to that. And we moved the knives up higher, harder to reach.”
Reports Monday said that Redmond, who is currently in a court-ordered rehab stint, was angry about the memoir's account of his drug arrest in 2008. In an exclusive statement to TODAY, Redmond disputed those reports. "Not one of the statement attributed to me on Monday about the book are close to true," he said. "I haven't even read the book. But I am now aware of what's in the book about the 2008 incident and arrest. Nothing my Dad has written about that upsets me at all."
O’Neal, Fawcett's companion of nearly 30 years, admitted that he is “hard to live with. She got tired of that, I’m sure.”
O'Neal says his memoir was “a way to keep the line between (he and Fawcett) going. I still felt she was nearby when I wrote this. She was close.” O'Neal dismissed the accusation that the book is unfair because Fawcett can't defend herself about the stories he has written. “She loved me,” he said. “I couldn’t write a book if she hadn’t.”
According to the memoir, Fawcett became tormented by her own aging, often spending hours in the bathroom staring at her face. “Well it was possible she was just trying to keep away from me and stayed in the bathroom, I don’t know,” O’Neal told Lauer, saying Fawcett was “a little” insecure, but everybody was. “We were all in the bathroom for too long,” he said.
Fawcett died of cancer in 2009, and the disease has dogged O'Neal, too: After successfully battling leukemia, he was diagnosed with stage 2 prostate cancer last month. He feels "innundated" by the health problems, he told Lauer, and said he has not yet started treatment.
O'Neal was scheduled to appear on TODAY Monday, but cancelled, having suffered what he said was his first-ever panic attack. “I don’t know what was wrong,” he told Lauer. “Terror, perhaps. I don’t know; I just broke out in a terrible sweat.”
And though he wrote in his book that "Farrah and I did get physical with each other when we fought," he said that towards the end of Fawcett’s life, there was no more fighting; there were “no more knives.” He finally asked Fawcett to marry him, but the priest called to perform a wedding ceremony arrived too late, and she was read her last rites instead. “I’m not over it yet,” O’Neal said. “I got some relief writing the book ... but that was rough.”
O’Neal said in the end Fawcett was “so strong and brave and never afraid for a minute. She always believed she’d be here on the show with us today. Now it’s just me.”