Ryan O'Neal: Farrah Fawcett gave me permission to talk to TODAY

Farrah Fawcett may have died in 2009, but to her longtime off-and-on partner Ryan O'Neal, she's still very present. When he joined TODAY via satellite to discuss his recent success in legally securing an Andy Warhol silkscreen of the late actress, he said, "I talked to her this morning about doing your show. She said I could do it."

An emotional O'Neal, sitting next to his attorney Martin Singer, was on the operating table having minor surgery for skin cancer ("I'm doing fine," he said) when he learned that his case against the University of Texas, which also claimed to be the rightful owner of the Warhol portrait, had gone in his favor. 

"My son Patrick called me from the courthouse," he recalled. "He texted me. I was lying on an operating table. There was blood running down the side of my face and then there were tears running down the side of my face mixing with the blood. It was a pretty amazing moment for me."

The actor said it was a "long shot" for the university to have gone after the portrait, even though the school contended that Fawcett left all of her artwork to the university in a living trust. But the actor said the school was goaded to go after him. 

"I have enemies, and one of them sent 90 emails to the regents there, said I stole it and that it was worth $30 million and I stole it and they should come get and it," he said.

During the trial, O'Neal had testified that he talked to the portrait of his love. "It seems to have developed over the years," he told TODAY of speaking to the cherished piece of art. "I had it in my home for 18 years, the painting."

"I know that she would've said, 'Fight for me! Fight for this painting!' She would've told me that," O'Neal told TODAY of the trial, which dredged up difficult times in his relationship with the actress. "Redmond and I discussed it, and he said, 'Let's go get it.' So we got Martin here for help, because it looked like it was going to be a tough case, and it turned out it wasn't."

Redmond O'Neal is the 28-year-old son of the late actress and actor; Patrick O'Neal's mother is actress Leigh Taylor-Young.

Now that he has the silkscreen, O'Neal promises he'll never let it go. 

"It will never be sold," he said. "It will go on to her son Redmond and his children and his children. ... It was always invaluable to us. She was a wonderful woman, and this is what was left. That's all that was left."

  • Slideshow Photos

    Farrah Fawcett

    She may be America’s favorite "Angel." A look at the iconic poster girl’s career.

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    In bed together -

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

    Everett Collection
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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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    Poster girl -

    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.

    Bob Dear / AP
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    Out of this world -

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

    Everett Collection
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    Down, but not out -

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

    Everett Collection
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    A new beau -

    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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    Don't judge me -

    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.

    Kevin Winter / Getty Images
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    Still cookin' -

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

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    No joke -

    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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    'Angels' reunite -

    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.

    Vince Bucci / Getty Images
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    Mother and son -

    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 treatment -

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

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    Serving as an example -

    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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