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Posted at 3:00 PM ET, 02/ 2/2011

The famous Farrah Fawcett red swimsuit and other memorabilia donated to Smithsonian in ceremony that makes Ryan O'Neal weep

By The Reliable Source

Ryan O'Neal speaks during a ceremony in which items belonging to the late actress Farrah Fawcett were enshrined in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History February 2, 2011. (Karen Bleier/AFP)

There was a poignant little shrine on display at the National Museum of American History Wednesday: A leather-bound book of "Charlie's Angels" scripts; the 1976 Time with the Angels on the cover; a vintage 1977 "Farrah's Glamour Center" toy beauty kit; that famous Farrah-in-the-red-swimsuit poster.

And saddest of all: Farrah Fawcett's actual famous red swimsuit, without Farrah in it.

It seemed more than Ryan O'Neal could bear.

"I don't think that Farrah realized the impact that poster would have on the world," said the late actress's longtime love, tearing up as he handed over a set of Fawcett artifacts to the Smithsonian's pop-culture collection on what would have been her 64th birthday. "She was one of a kind. She had energy and an aura I have never seen before or since. She was magnificent."

Then he choked out a few halting words of thanks to the museum, reports our colleague Aaron Leitko, and, seemingly overcome by emotion, bolted from the room and stayed out of sight for a few minutes.

Listen, we know we've raised an eyebrow or two over the years about some of the showbiz stuff the Smithsonian's been taking in these days (Chuck Mangione's hat -- really? "America's Funniest Home Video" props -- really?) and whether they deserve a place alongside Dorothy's ruby slippers. But, hey, that ship has sailed. And would any pop-cult scholars argue there's anything more American 1976-iconic than The Farrah Poster?

Ryan O'Neal, with Redmond and Tatum, following the ceremony. (Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty)

Was there the faint scent of marketing opportunity in the room? There always is with these things, and O'Neal was accompanied by not just his tabloid-bruised children -- Tatum, Oscar-winning daughter from a previous marriage, and Redmond, his in-and-out-of-rehab son with Fawcett -- but a camera crew shooting footage for their forthcoming reality show on Oprah's OWN network.

But there's no denying the power of the swimsuit; Dwight Blocker Bowers, curator for the museum's entertainment history division, said the Smithsonian had sought it for years before Fawcett's cancer death in 2009.

The swimsuit -- which her publicist later found in a box of her things -- is among a small collection of items donated by O'Neal and Fawcett's nephew Greg Walls, including magazine covers, Farrah toys, and her TV scripts. But back to the poster, please? Fortunately, a witness to the famous photo shoot -- pal and tennis coach Nels Van Patten. -- was also on hand for the Smithsonian ceremony.

It was a totally casual thing, explained Van Patten (yes, one of Dick's sons). He was headed over to her place for a game of tennis, but first she had to do this shoot -- it won't be long, she said. "It was just me and the photographer," he said. "Farrah did her own makeup, did her own hair. She didn't even have a mirror. . . And then she'd say to me, so blasé, so nonchalant about the shoot, she said, 'Nels, will you get me a Coke. Lots of ice,' with a southern accent. Then she'd say, Nels will you get me a lemon?" Lemon for the ice? 'No, a lemon for the hair.'" So he plucked one off a tree in that California backyard, and squeezed it into her incredible mane.

"That's her secret," said Van Patten. "The lemon, Coke with a lot of ice."


Tatum, did you ever try on the red bathing suit? Not that one, but "I mean, I tried on some of her other bathing suits," she said, "and sort of wished I looked like her."

Read also:
Obituary: Farrah Fawcett dies at 62: After 'Charlie's Angels,' Actress Won Respect Playing Gritty Dramatic Roles, June 26, 2009
Appreciation: Farrah Fawcett: The face that launched 10 million pinups, June 26, 2009


The Smithsonian, Trying to Stay Cool and Collected; How American History Competes for Showbiz Treasures
, Oct. 7, 2007

By The Reliable Source  | February 2, 2011; 3:00 PM ET
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Never another Farrah!

Posted by: wamial | February 2, 2011 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Anyone having trouble accessing the The Cranky Redskins Fan's Guide to Dan Snyder should try this alternate link:

Posted by: RepealObamacareNow | February 2, 2011 6:02 PM | Report abuse

That swimsuit looks so plain and kinda ugly...without Farrah in it.

I bet my brother still has his Farrah poster. It's probably right next to his old 8-track player.........

Posted by: momof20yo | February 3, 2011 7:29 AM | Report abuse

I wish Farrah's family and friends peace. Say what you will about pop culture, it is a shared experience — and we all knew *someone* with with that poster on the wall.

Posted by: cfow1 | February 3, 2011 9:09 AM | Report abuse

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