Judy Kessler
October 24, 1977 12:00 PM

She came to New York City like a shooting star in search of an orbit. Since taking French leave of the ABC series that made her a star, Charlie’s fallen Angel had whiled away four months playing tennis, nosing through historical novels, whipping up Southern specialties like cornbread and okra for bionic mate Lee Majors, redecorating their Bel Air mansion—and watching the new Charlie’s Angels on TV. “I was surprised that I was so easy to replace,” Farrah Fawcett-Majors admits. “I think Cheryl [Ladd] is doing a great job. I’ve defended her to a lot of people.” Does she miss the show? Sort of, but “It bothers me that Kate is saying this or Jackie saying that. They feel I walked out on a contract. I haven’t spoken to the girls. You just don’t call. It’s probably irreparable now.” The lawsuit against Farrah should come to trial this winter, unless settled out of court.

Meanwhile, she has been professionally idle. Now, eastbound on a Fabergé company jet, she was going back to work in a big new way. Ahead—God and Charlie’s Angels‘ litigious producers willing—lay her first starring role in a film. Her new production company, Fawcett-Majors Productions, had aired its first TV movie, Just a Little Inconvenience, on NBC. And more significant, perhaps, Madison Avenue’s most photogenic combination of teeth and hair would find out whether she can handle responsibility on the other side of the camera. “Before this I felt like a little girl,” she said at week’s end. “I think I grew up.”

Personal growth is rarely so profitable. Given her ultrabright track record in advertising and endorsements (now including, inevitably, the $100 Farrah faucet, in gold), her deal with Fabergé is not so much a departure as irrefutable evidence of her arrival. Three months in the making, the contract calls for the company to create an entirely new line of “Farrah Fawcett” products and to give her a percentage of sales. Farrah Fawcett hair products—shampoo, hair spray, creme rinse and conditioner—will be on the market by April. Farrah combs, brushes, suntan lotion and beauty preparations may follow. Fabergé has pledged an ad-and-promotion budget of $5 million, and the company’s president, Richard Barrie, estimates Farrah’s probable take at “several million dollars.”

She made perhaps $500,000 last year, but Farrah insists that her changes of heart and career are matters of psychic timing, not avarice. “With anything you do there comes a time to move on,” she says. “I even enjoyed being at home during the legal hassles. But it started to get to me when things I really wanted to do got taken away because of the lawsuit. All of a sudden I realized I could lose. The other day somebody told me, ‘You need to go back to work.’ They were right.”

And so, with a vengeance, she did—in a week in which she doubled as model and mastermind of her own new line and sampled the worst of both worlds. Each day she rose at dawn, did her usual 30 situps, took a sauna and an ocean swim when she could, and sat through 45 minutes of hairstyling before setting off for locations in suburban Westchester County and Long Island. Posing for print ads took up three days, but beforehand she enjoyed playing boss. She toured the Fabergé plant in Ridgefield, N.J. (workers gave her a standing ovation), offered suggestions about her products (“I like my hair squeaky but not too squeaky—maybe we should add some vinegar”), restrained overwrought advertising types (“not too many shampooing scenes”)—and even got an earful of corporate adspeak. “Are you fresh and wholesome?” Fabergé Board Chairman George Barrie asked her solemnly. “I guess,” she said.

The rest was photogenesis—despite a night-long attack of nausea after the first day. “I was bummed out and depressed,” she said afterward. “I felt like a trained seal. I had a photographer shooting me, and someone was shooting him shooting me. You’re always under pressure to look and feel and be good. How would you like to be photographed every day of your life?” She was stung by a bee and nearly tumbled out of her décolletage when her horse lurched in rural New York (“Now we’re getting our money’s worth,” exulted a bug-eyed Fabergé photographer). She was turned down for a posh apartment in the city by tenants who feared a permanent infestation of photographers. And finally, for a cold day’s shooting on a Long Island beach, somebody forgot to bring underwear. “It was freezing out there,” she said afterward, sipping a brandy. “But I told myself, ‘I am not cold.’ I have a lot of mental control when I work.”

Beginning next month Farrah gets her chance to return to film, as director Lamont Johnson (One on One) begins New York shooting on Somebody Killed Her Husband—a PG mystery light-years away from her 1970 debut as a Cro-Magnon man’s mistress in Myra Breckinridge and from the days when she was fighting off other Hollywood primates. “I don’t know how I got to be a sex symbol,” she says. “My body isn’t that great. I don’t think I’m too much of a threat.” At the same time, she says, “I change a lot. There are times when I don’t want to be all-American and glamorous.” She wasn’t looking for an R-rated script this time out, but says, “If one came along and I liked it, I would do it.”

The fans might love it, but what about her husband? Farrah insists rumors of domestic trouble are nonsense—she still cooks and markets in L.A. “just for Lee” and looks forward to having children (“I told him I want him up for the two o’clock feeding”). Separated by a continent and an ocean while he shoots Six Million Dollar Man episodes in Hawaii, they are planning long weekends together. Withal, Farrah admits: “The pressure of two careers has to affect the marriage. Now I may be less patient with his moods. Before I would not be so exhausted.”.

Farrah has also turned 30, and the person her husband described fondly as “just like a little girl” after their marriage four years ago now sees herself as growing up—ridding herself, for one thing, of guilt over her extraordinary success. “God balances things out,” she says, and illustrates the point with a favorite hypothesis. “My theory is that God gives you either straight white teeth with lots of cavities or crooked stained teeth with no cavities. I have lots of cavities. In the same way, if someone were not as attractive, then she might be much more intelligent.” Farrah feels her own intellectual shortcomings keenly, which may be precisely why her week as Fabergé’s newest executive, exhausting as it was, seemed to be a significant passage in her life. It marked the end of a sweet American confection, perhaps, but also the emergence of a woman who knows what she wants and how to get it. “At one point early in the week, I asked myself, ‘Am I going to be able to do it?’ Now I know—yes, I can. I feel great pressure and responsibility, but at the same time I feel very important. People are finally listening to me.”

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