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Video: Ryan O’Neal: Farrah ‘was never afraid for a minute’

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    >>> we're back now at 8:09 with actor ryan o'neal. he recently announced that he is battling prostate cancer and he's out with a new memoir. it details his turbulent 30-year love affair with farrah fawcett . we're going to talk to ryan exclusively in just a moment. but first a look back at part of his story.

    >> say you're sorry.

    >> reporter: for actor ryan o'neal it was a love story for the ages. but it wasn't his academy award nominated role in " love story ," it was his longtime love affair with farrah fawcett . they met in 1979 , when fawcett was riding high off the success of "charlie's angels." they were hollywood's golden couple and would continue off and on until her death from cancer in 2009 . all of which is discussed in o'neal's new memoir, "both of us, my life with farrah ," as well as the troubled relationships with two of his children from a previous marriage, daughter tatum and son griffin. along the way, o'neal and fawcett would have one son together, redmond , who struggled with addiction and troubles with the law, and perhaps most heartbreaking, aride to his mother's bedside in prison shackles as depicted in " farrah 's story." ryan o'neal, good morning.

    >> good morning.

    >> it's been an interesting 24 hours . you were going to be here yesterday, you arrived at our studio not feeling well at all.

    >> yeah.

    >> and took off. what was wrong and how are you feeling today?

    >> i don't know what was wrong. terror, perhaps. terror. i don't know. i just broke out into a terrible sweat. you wouldn't have wanted me. so i went home and went to bed, and i feel better now.

    >> have you ever had panic attacks or anything like that?

    >> they said that's what it was. but i had never had one before. even with those kids, i never had a panic attack .

    >> has the terror subsided at the moment?

    >> yeah.

    >> you're okay to move forward?

    >> yeah, i'm okay now.

    >> no surprise, this is not "this is your life." i mentioned you had a little surgery here on the nose.

    >> yeah.

    >> you also had a diagnosis not long ago of prostate cancer . that follows a diagnosis a few years ago of leukemia.

    >> yeah.

    >> how are you feeling overall?

    >> inundated with the disease. actually. i'm working to cure it.

    >> have you begun treatment for prostate cancer yet?

    >> no. i chose to go to you first, and then i'll do something about it when i go back to california.

    >> well, we wish you well on that. cancer is a disease that also claimed the life of farrah fawcett back in 2009 . and now you have written this memoir and a lot of it focuses on this relationship, an often turbulent relationship between the two of you. why did you write the book?

    >> well, i wrote it because i missed her. and it was a way to keep -- keep the lines between us going. i still felt she was nearby. when i wrote this. she was close.

    >> you went back and you looked through journals.

    >> yeah.

    >> and you remember the years with her in a very honest, and very raw, and revealing way. and a lot of it is not particularly flattering about your own weaknesses, and her weaknesses, and i wonder if some people might not think it's a bit unfair, because she can't dispute any of what you've written in this book.

    >> well, i never thought of it that way. i mean, i don't think she would -- she wasn't a disputer. if you know what i mean . she would be glad i was working on something. even if it was our relationship, which was imperfect, of course. but aren't they all? but i sure miss her. and it was a way to stay close .

    >> of her, you write that -- despite all that was written and said about her beauty, she was one of the most beautiful women in the world, that as she got older, she was very uncertain about her looks, and she would spend long periods of time just staring in the mirror.

    >> well, it was possible she was just trying to keep away from me. and stayed in the bathroom. i don't know. i don't know.

    >> but was she very insecure about the way she was aging?

    >> a little. not terribly. not offensively. but i think everybody was. we were all in the bathroom for too long.

    >> you talk about some vast highs and lows in her life. she would switch almost on a dime between the two. and you say at one point, we were watching her become unhinged, it seemed, before your very eyes. did she seek some kind of treatment for those vast mood swings?

    >> no.

    >> did you talk about them? did they make life very difficult in the home when you were living together?

    >> a little bit. a little bit. i felt that she was uncomfortable with me. and that maybe i was -- i had grown boring to her. it was tough. it was tough.

    >> why do you say boring to her? what gave you that --

    >> well, i don't know. it's possible. it's possible.

    >> did she ever come right out and say, you know, this relationship is boring me?

    >> no. no. never. and she loved me. she said so. she loved me. i couldn't write a book if she hadn't.

    >> you write about an addiction she had to antibiotics, of all things, and you write in the book, quote, we were both trying to harness our bodies because our lives felt so pointless. you know, at this state -- at that stage in your lives what made them feel pointless to you?

    >> did i say pointless?

    >> mm-hmm.

    >> we -- you were talking about antibiotics. we said that was her -- the drug of her choice, because whenever she had the flu, whenever she had anything wrong, she would take antibiotics for it. and it may have done something to her immune system . so whether she actually needed that system to kick in, there wasn't much left.

    >> the relationship, i mentioned turbulent. that's the best word i can use, i think, to describe it. huge highs and huge lows. there was violence at times. do you feel that you were at times as bad for each other as you were good for each other at other times?

    >> there was a bond. i don't think we were bad for each other. because we had a rhythm. we had a rhythm. that -- that worked generally. smoothly. but i'm hard to live with. she got tired of that, i'm sure.

    >> you keep coming back to irself. one of the things you write in the book --

    >> i have to defend her, you know.

    >> well one of the things you write about in the book is your relationship with your children. you have four children. a successful sports caster , tatum , griffin and redmond and they struggled. all have been in and out of rehab, griffin is currently in prison and redmond is currently at a treatment facility.

    >> yeah.

    >> were you a bad parent?

    >> looks like it, doesn't it? sure looks like it. i suppose i was.

    >> why did you fail as a parent?

    >> well, i wasn't trained.

    >> nobody's trained.

    >> nobody's trained. so i found out. but these are not children anymore, you know. griffin is 45. tatum is 49. who's the other one? oh, yeah, redmond is 27. at some point they have to take hold of their own existence.

    >> yeah, but it seems like they had troubles from a very early age. you write a story in this book that stopped me in my tracks. you and farrah were fighting. and a common occurrence and redmond walks into the room at 6 years old.

    >> yeah.

    >> wearing winnie the pooh pajamas and having a kitchen knife in his hand.

    >> and pointed it at himself.

    >> said if you don't stop it i'm going to stab myself. not i'm going to hurt one of you, i'm going to stab myself. this is 6 years old.

    >> yeah, yeah, yeah. yeah.

    >> what gets a 6-year-old to that point?

    >> he didn't want to see this. he couldn't stand it. it stopped us, i must say. put a stop to that. and we moved the knives up higher. harder to reach.

    >> at the very end, when farrah was so ill, at the end of 30 years together on and off, you decided you would ask her to marry you. really --

    >> oh, i asked her to marry me all the time. all the time. for 1 years i asked her to marry me.

    >> but at the end a plooriest was called to her bedside to perform a wedding and instead ended up delivering last rites.

    >> the last rites, yes.

    >> what were those moments like for you?

    >> i am not over it yet. i got some relief writing the book, making a clearer picture to everyone, and to me, but that was rough. that was rough. because the last several years, when she was ill, she was wonderful. there was no more fighting. there were no more knives. we were extremely close, and i just was so proud of her, and so -- i respected her so, how she was handling it. she was so strong, and so brave, and never afraid. never afraid for a minute. she always believed she'd be here on the show with us today. now it's just me.

    >> ryan o'neal. the book is called "both of us, my life with farrah ." it's good to see you. and i wish you the best with your health.

    >> thank you.

    >> thank you.

By
TODAY books
updated 4/27/2012 4:22:23 PM ET 2012-04-27T20:22:23

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?”

Ryan O'Neal: ‘I wasn't trained as a parent’

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.”

Crown Archetype

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.

Autumn, 1979

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.

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They kiss.

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.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive

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