Actor Ryan O'Neal discloses the intimate details of his love story with Farrah Fawcett in the heartfelt memoir, “Both of Us." Here's an excerpt.
I remember taking her hand in the car, both of us joyous and laughing, the wind tousling those famous curls as we drove from Tahoe to Reno, to the church. The night before, someone had given me a Cuban cigar. I removed the gold band, slipped it onto her ring finger, and proposed. She accepted, saying, “So, you think you can make an honest woman of me, do you?”
The lake and the forest have a soothing beauty, magnificent nature in repose, almost as appealing to me as the ocean. Farrah preferred it there: the mountain air, the hikes, and, of course, the rugged horseback riding. It was one of those spontaneous moments when everything seemed aligned, as if nothing could get in the way of our future. We seemed perfect for each other. We had talked about getting married early on, but we were rebels. There weren’t many people in the early eighties who lived such a public life who weren’t married. We were getting pressured to do it, not by her parents, really, or by mine, but from society, so we finally decided to get hitched. Then the flat tire. I flagged down a car whose driver offered to take us on to Reno or back to Tahoe. He would have driven us to Cincinnati if I’d asked, but instead we chose the lake. We thought it was funny, even joked with each other that it had to be “a sign.”
Looking back, I can’t help but wonder how my life with this rare woman might have been different if we had gone through with it that day. Why didn’t I just fix the damn tire and get us to the church? Instead of finding a way to follow through with our plans, we let it go. We laughed about it for years. It wasn’t the hand of God that flattened our tire that day. It was a lousy shard of glass.
She’s married. Her name is Majors. I don’t know her from Adam, well, Eve. Her husband is actor Lee Majors. He starred in a popular television series, The Six Million Dollar Man, and is also known for playing in Westerns. I know him. I first met him at 20th Century Fox when I was making Peyton Place, five hundred episodes at $750 per episode. That’s also where I introduced, pointed out, Frank Sinatra to my costar Mia Farrow. I never played Cupid again. Lee is in Toronto for a movie and I’m there visiting my daughter, Tatum, who’s shooting a film with Richard Burton. She’s fifteen. Tatum and Lee run into each other, and Tatum says, “You know, I’m Ryan’s daughter.”
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“Oh yeah, where is he?”
“He’s at the hotel.”
Next thing, he’s calling me. “Come down and have a drink with me,” he says.
So I do. And we get a little drunk together and decide to have dinner. Tatum joins us. Lee and I are both leaving the next day. I’ve been there a week. And he says, “Let’s go home together. We’ll take the same plane.” He changes his flight. Lee is a companionable big guy, worth at least five and a half million. We fly home together and the limo drops us off at my house in town. It’s on Tower Road, up Benedict Canyon and high in the hills, part of the old John Barrymore estate. We let the limo go and take my car. He lives farther up the hill near Mulholland on a street called Antelo Road, which has gates, and there’s this beautiful girl waiting for him. She’s delightful, full of childlike warmth. There is no pretense or cattiness about her whatsoever; she’s vibrant and wholesome, refreshing in this town.
We play racquetball. They have their own court. And then she says, “Stay for dinner,” which I do. She whips up this delicious meal of fried chicken with mashed potatoes and thick country gravy, a Texas treat. Farrah is so sweet to us. Lee’s a heavy drinker, kind of a sad drunk. Their house is handsome, a tasteful blend of western-style accents and fine antiques. There are pictures everywhere, mostly personal photographs. Years later, an earthquake will destroy the place, and the cacophony of glass breaking, which frightened everyone, will turn out not to have been the windows but hundreds of photographs emerging from hundreds of frames. Lee takes me on a tour of the house. He shows me his closet. It’s a room you can walk into, deep and wide. He must have seventy-five pairs of boots. Where does Farrah keep her stuff? I ask myself. We walk down the hall and he opens a door to a room you can barely turn around in. Farrah’s clothing is piled in there. Some months later, Tatum and I will make the switch. Farrah’s duds get the grand space. Lee’s we move to his den.
I had gone to their home for dinner that first night, but the next night I was supposed to travel to Las Vegas for a boxing match. I have a friend, Andy “the Hawk” Price, who was fighting Sugar Ray Leonard. I’m a fight fan as well as an ex–amateur boxer. And Farrah says, in this lilting, ever-so-slight Texas drawl, “Well, isn’t that fight on TV?”
I say, “Yes, it is.”
And she says, “Why don’t you see it here? You can play racquetball and watch it with us.”
“Hm,” I think, “hm . . .okay.” I’ve just come back from Canada. I don’t really need to get on another plane, so I return a second night. She greets me at the door with this winsome smile and says, “Aren’t you glad you didn’t go?” And that night there’s drinking. She doesn’t drink but he does. I drink a little. I’m watching them, and after dinner they start to talk about their relationship. I’m sort of encouraging them, saying things like “You’re a wonderful couple.” He’s a man of few words, a monosyllabic cowboy type. He’s not naturally funny. Farrah is more natural, open, and she doesn’t have any compunction talking about their problems.
Excerpted from BOTH OF US by Ryan O'Neal Copyright © 2012 by Ryan O'Neal. Excerpted by permission of Crown Archetype, an imprint of Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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