Farrah Fawcett's legacy as an American pop culture icon is still causing a stir. After the Charlie's Angels star's death, her iconic red swimsuit went to the Smithsonian museum, while her art collection went to her alma mater, the University of Texas. Now the late actress' longtime boyfriend, Ryan O'Neal, is embroiled in an ugly battle over one piece of art that hasn't yet found its way into the university's collection. But what's the story behind this feud over Fawcett's estate, and who is in the wrong?
When Farrah Fawcett died in 2009, fans of the Charlie's Angels actress were devastated. Farrah Fawcett wasn't just another beautiful blond actress in Hollywood, but an American icon. Fawcett got her start on a "movie of the week" that later turned into the beloved series Charlie's Angels, that premiered in 1976. Fawcett and her fellow angels Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith, were propelled to stardom almost instantly, Fawcett being the most popular angel by far.
Appearing on TV Guide in 1977, Fawcett joked, "When the show was number three, I thought it was our acting. When we got to be number one, I decided it could only be because none of us wears a bra." Fawcett was well aware of her pinup status: Sales of a poster with her posing in a red swimsuit were so high that she started to earn more on royalty from poster sales than she earned working on Charlie's Angels.
Following contract negotiation disputes, Fawcett left the show after just one season. But her hairstyle continued to be an international trend well into the '80s — and Fawcett herself continued to work, taking on more dramatic roles. Throughout her career the actress earned four Emmy and six Golden Globe nominations. In December 1995, Fawcett appeared semi-nude in Playboy, and then again in 1997 at the age of 50. Both issues went on to become best sellers. In 2005 Farrah Fawcett signed on to a reality TV show, Chasing Farrah, which aired on TV Land. The series only had seven episodes, but it gave viewers an inside look into the life of one of America's favorite icons shortly before she died of cancer on June 25, 2009.
But in the aftermath of Fawcett's death, ugly family drama began to rear its head as her son, Redmond James Fawcett O'Neal and his father, Farrah's longtime boyfriend Ryan O'Neal, fought over her estate. Ryan O'Neil even gave a bizarre interview with Vanity Fair where he claims to have shot at his son while Farrah was still alive and sick, able to hear the gunshots and fighting from bed. Redmond, who has struggled with multiple arrests and drug addiction, has always maintained that his father, who was never married to Farrah, was only interested in securing a place in her will. "My dad's only goal was to make sure he would be in the will. It was so disgustingly transparent as soon as he found out she was terminal. I consider him a vulture presiding over a carcass. Ryan thought he was going to get everything." Redmond told Barbara Walters in an on air interview in 2009.
Ryan O'Neal ended up receiving nothing from Fawcett's will and Redmond was left with the majority of his mother's $5.5 million estate. Knowing her son's struggle with sobriety Fawcett set up provisions so that the trust is overseen by two executors who will give him a monthly allowance and will monitor his spending closely. Redmond seems to be doing much better with his substance abuse problems since being released from jail in 2012 and he has even made a red carpet appearance with his father as recently as October 7 of this year, suggesting that the two have reconciled.
But O'Neal hasn't let go of all of Fawcett's estate. In the current legal battle, the late actress' boyfriend is claiming he should be allowed keep an Andy Warhol painting of Fawcett that he took from her home shortly after her death. "They just want expensive art," O'Neal claimed while on the stand in court, choking back tears. The University of Texas counters that Fawcett left the painting to them as part of her art collection.
Despite the drama that continues to surround Fawcett's personal life, she will always be remembered as an American icon.
Watch an emotional clip from Chasing Farrah below