Ryan O’Neal and Farrah Fawcett were the golden couple of the 1970s, whose relationship and personal lives became increasingly tarnished by bad career choices, drug addiction and epic family dysfunction, according to a new article in Vanity Fair.
In an interview with writer Leslie Bennetts, who described the story on TODAY Monday, O’Neal is shockingly candid about his tempestuous 30-year relationship with Fawcett and his less-than-stellar parenting skills.
O’Neal, 68, reveals that he was so out of touch with his own daughter, Tatum, that he didn’t recognize her at Fawcett’s funeral and nearly tried to pick her up.
O’Neal recounted to Bennetts, “A beautiful blond woman comes up and embraces me. I said to her, ‘You have a drink on you? You have a car?’ She said, ‘Daddy, it’s me — Tatum!’
“ ‘I was just trying to be funny with a strange Swedish woman, and it’s my daughter,’ ” Bennetts recounted O’Neal saying. “ ‘It’s so sick.’ ”
Bennetts added that when she asked Tatum about the incident, O’Neal’s daughter said, “That’s our relationship in a nutshell. You make of it what you will.”
O’Neal, a promising, Academy Award-nominated actor whose career fizzled after a string of successful movies in the ’70s, is a “very volatile guy,” Bennetts told Meredith Vieira.
“He has had a very truculent attitude, a lot of fights with people over the years,” Bennetts told Vieira. “You also have the feeling [that] if you ask him one day a certain question, you might get the opposite answer the next day.”
O’Neal and Fawcett met in 1979, when Fawcett was still married to “The Six Million Dollar Man” actor Lee Majors. “On their first date, they kissed until their lips were bloody; by the end of their second date, Fawcett’s marriage was over,” Bennetts writes in the article.
O’Neal and Fawcett were the Angelina and Brad of their day, said Bennetts. They had a child but didn’t marry, which was uncommon then. O’Neal said they were “rebels.”
“We didn’t want to do what people expected us to do,” he told Bennetts.
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But on some levels, Bennetts said the power couple’s love affair was “sort of the story of every prom queen and high school most popular guy, football captain.
“Their problems are quintessentially human problems,” Bennetts told Vieira.
O’Neal was by Fawcett’s side during her battle with anal cancer, which was documented on video and shown on television as “Farrah’s Story.” Fawcett died at age 62 on June 25.
O’Neal and Fawcett never married, though O’Neal did propose to his longtime companion on camera at the end of her life — a move that O’Neal’s own son, Griffin, dismissed as a cynical ploy for publicity and a way for his father to ensure he was in Fawcett’s will.
According to Bennetts’ article, O’Neal responded to Griffin’s charge by saying, “I hate him! He knows I have money. I made a tremendous amount of money on real estate, more than I deserve.”
Video: Ryan O’Neal on Fawcett’s final hours The actor has had troubled relationships with all four of his children — Tatum, 45, and Griffin, 44, with his first wife, actress Joanna Cook Moore; son Patrick, 42, with second wife Leigh Taylor-Young; and his son with Fawcett, Redmond, 24.
The family has been fractured by a multigenerational history of drug and alcohol addiction, Bennetts said.
O’Neal said that the only one of his children he speaks to is Redmond, who is in jail for violating probation on a drug charge.
Redmond has been in rehab 14 times, and O’Neal told Bennetts his youngest son endured a “terrible life” despite his privileged background.
By way of explaining Redmond’s travails to Bennetts, O’Neal said, “You be my kid.”
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