Pop Culture

Farrah still has her sense of humor, costar says

A life-or-death battle with cancer that has gone on more than two years has left Farrah Fawcett weak, exhausted and largely bedridden — but as her “Charlie’s Angels” pal Kate Jackson can attest, Farrah’s bawdy, wicked sense of humor remains intact.

“Recently, I walked into the room and I don’t think she wanted to see anyone and she didn’t say anything,” Jackson told Meredith Vieira Friday. “But I was given a very clear signal, a hand signal, that I should probably leave the room. So I did!”

That the 62-year-old TV icon Fawcett can raise a joking middle finger to a close friend is proof positive that recent tabloid reports of the actress lying in a comatose state are false — and her doctor told TODAY that, given the dire circumstances of Fawcett’s health, she’s actually holding up well.

In fact, said Dr. Lawrence Piro, appearing alongside Jackson via satellite from Los Angeles, Fawcett plans to watch the TV special about her brave battle tonight with her loved ones.

“She is capable of doing that, and she plans to watch it tonight at her home with both Ryan [O’Neal, her longtime companion] and Alana [Stewart, her friend] and some other close friends,” he said. “We hope she will feel up to that and she’s looking very much forward to that.”

The TV special chronicles Fawcett’s journey from first being diagnosed with anal cancer in October 2006, her trips abroad to seek treatment as the cancer spread to other parts of her body, and her current, likely terminal state as she grapples with her fate. TODAY focused its spotlight on the courageous story of Fawcett this week, airing interviews with her longtime companion Ryan O’Neal and close friend Alana Stewart. NBC is set to air “Farrah’s Story,” a video diary of Fawcett’s cancer battle tonight at 9 p.m. ET.

Laughter, the best medicineDr. Piro told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira that Fawcett has also given him a dose of her humor, showing once again the Farrah people know and love is still very much there.

“We had to do a little procedure yesterday and at the end of it, she turned to another doctor and myself and she said, ‘You guys should have a drink now,” Piro related.“She’s obviously having a lot of side effects that come with cancer and that come with cancer chemotherapy,” he added. “She’s weak and she’s spending a lot of time in bed resting. But overall, she’s in good spirits and she certainly still has her trademark sense of humor, which has helped her through all of this.”

Stewart, who shot much of the video used in “Farrah’s Story” with a handheld camera, told Vieira in a separate TODAY interview that her love and respect for Fawcett grew only stronger as she looked through the viewfinder.

“There’s been moments when she’s broken down and cried because, Lord knows, she’s gone through hell,” Stewart told Vieira. “She’ll pull herself together afterwards and say, `I’m really sorry, I’m really sorry, I don’t mean to be a baby.’

“I’d say, ‘A baby? Are you crazy? You’re the bravest person I have ever known.’

“She never has said, ‘Why me?’ ” Alana Stewart continued. “She’s never felt sorry for herself; there’s never been any self-pity or anger about why this happened to her.”

False reports
On TODAY, Jackson lit into celebrity tabloids who have reported Fawcett’s weight has dipped to 86 pounds and that she in a coma, saying the false reports “really do hurt a human being and a person like Farrah, who has to read that she’s dying and she’s lost the will to live.”

Dr. Piro labeled those reports “completely false,” and said that, aside from times when she is groggy from pain medication, Fawcett is “just 100 percent crystal clear and on the money and with a very sharp wit.”

Close friend Jackson — her costar as Fawcett became a pop culture phenomenon through her iconic swimsuit poster and the breakout success of “Charlie’s Angels” starting in 1976 — said Fawcett didn’t agree to air her video diary out of any need to be before the cameras one last time.

“This was meant to give to others hope and inspiration,” Jackson told Vieira.

It’s made her all the more proud to call her a friend, Jackson added. “I’ve learned that she’s the most courageous human being I have ever known. I knew that she was brave, but I didn’t know that she had the courage of the depth and magnitude that she has and she shows everyone in this documentary.”

Losing her curlsOne of the most dramatic moments in “Farrah’s Story” comes when the iconic actress realizes she will have to lose her world-famous cascade of blonde curls through chemotherapy. Dr. Piro, who acknowledges “Farrah probably has the most famous hair in the world,” told Vieira the issue is far from trivial not only for Fawcett, but any cancer patient.

“Your hair is probably the most significant sign that you’re a victim of something when you’re going through cancer therapy — it affects your whole sense of who you are and what fight you’re fighting,” Piro said.

“You’ll see in the documentary this was a very difficult moment for Farrah. When it came down to the time that the choice that was best was one that would take her hair, she signed up readily, and with the same bravery she has had all through this.”

Another major moment captured by Stewart’s video camera for the TV special came when Fawcett’s 24-year-old son by O’Neal, Redmond, paid an emotional bedside visit to his mom. Redmond, currently in jail on a court-ordered drug treatment program after his third drug arrest in as many years, was granted a three-hour visit with his mother, and arrived in prison shackles.

Farrah hasn’t been told about her son’s latest arrest, but is only all too well aware of Redmond’s struggles with addiction, Stewart says. She added that the mother-son reunion “was so emotional, I didn’t even know if it should be part” of the TV special.

“It was so touching seeing him come to see his mother after all the problems he’s had and all the thing things he’s been through,” Stewart told Vieira. “He’s a good kid, and he’s promised his mom he would never, ever take drugs again.

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    Farrah Fawcett, right, shares a scene with Raquel Welch in the 1970 film "Myra Breckinridge." It was Fawcett's first major film role.

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    Major life changes -

    Fawcett, right, married actor Lee Majors in 1973. The next year, Majors debuted as Col. Steve Austin in the television series "The Six Million Dollar Man," in which Fawcett guest starred. The couple divorced in 1982.

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    The blonde 'Angel' -

    Fawcett, right, won fame on the television series "Charlie's Angels," in which she played a glamorous private detective along with Jaclyn Smith, left, and Kate Jackson. Fawcett's famous 'do was copied by women across the nation.

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    In 1976, just as her career was taking off, Fawcett posed for this pin-up poster, which sold millions of copies and broke sales records.

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    A princely evening -

    Fawcett, left, meets the Prince of Wales backstage at the London Palladium after the Royal show Supernight in London on April 9, 1978. Fawcett, who was married to Lee Majors at the time, was the emcee for the benefit event that raised funds for the United World College.

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    Fawcett starred with Kirk Douglas in the 1980 film "Saturn 3." Despite Fawcett's topless scene, the film was a commercial flop.

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    Fawcett staged a comeback in 1984, earning critical praise when she portrayed a battered wife in the television movie "The Burning Bed."

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  • RYAN O'NEAL AND FARRAH FAWCETT, DEAUVILLE, FRANCE - 1984

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    After her divorce from Lee Majors, Fawcett moved in with Ryan O'Neal. In 1985, they had a son together, Redmond O'Neal.

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    A taste of revenge -

    In 1986, Fawcett starred in "Extremities" with James Russo. The movie is about a woman who takes revenge on a would-be rapist.

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    Losing her grip -

    In 2000, Fawcett played Kate, the mentally unstable wife of gynecologist Dr. Sullivan Travis (Richard Gere), in Robert Altman's "Dr. T & the Women."

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    Fawcett, with actor Charlie Sheen, portrayed Judge Claire Simmons on four episodes of the television series "Spin City" in 2001.

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    One big happy family? -

    Ryan O'Neal, center, and Fawcett arrive with their son Redmond at the premiere of "Malibu's Most Wanted" at the Chinese Theater on April 10, 2003, in Los Angeles. Ryan O'Neal had a role in the series.

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    Fawcett had a role in 2004's "The Cookout."

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    In August 2006, Fawcett took part in the Comedy Central Roast of William Shatner. Two months later, the actress announced that she was battling cancer.

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    Fawcett joins former "Charlie's Angels" co-stars Kate Jackson, left, and Jaclyn Smith, right, onstage at the 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on Aug. 27, 2006, in Los Angeles.

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    Farrah Fawcett and her son Redmond O'Neal share an embrace in a scene from "Farrah's Story," a personal look at her battle with cancer. Shot with her own home video recorder, the film chronicles the actress' two and half year battle with cancer. It aired on NBC on Friday, May 15.

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    In a scene from "Farrah's Story," Fawcett consults with a health careworker while receiving treatment in Germany in 2008.

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    Farrah Fawcett decided to do the film "Farrah's Story" because she wanted to serve as an example whose health battle would offer a lasting effect — especially in the areas of protecting patient confidentiality and promoting alternative treatments for cancer.

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“I pray to God he means it.”

O’Neal, who attended a special screening of “Farrah’s Story” Wednesday in Beverly Hills, told the New York Daily News Fawcett’s fighting spirit — like his love for her — has never waned.

“She’s fighting,” he said. “She’s still on treatment, still on chemo. She asked me, ‘You think I’m getting better?’

“And I said: ‘It’s hard to get better than you, Farrah.’ ”

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