Why Farrah Fawcett really left Charlie’s Angels
Farrah Fawcett was destined to be a star.
The future Charlie’s Angels icon was in her freshman year studying microbiology when she was named one of the 10 most beautiful co-eds on the University of Texas campus. It was 1968.
As a result, her photos were sent to various agencies in Hollywood before it caught the eye of agent David Mirisch. He took two years trying to convince a young Fawcett to leave behind Texas for Hollywood. By junior year, she finally agreed.
Closer Weekly reported she was quickly signed by Screen Gems to a contract that paid her $350 a week.
“Her father was shocked, wondering what she was doing to make so much money a week,” Mike Pingel, Fawcett’s former assistant who currently runs CharliesAngels.com, told Closer Weekly. “ … Fans have told me when they saw her in those commercials, they were like, ‘Who is that girl?’ She just had the ‘It’ girl look.”
Fawcett was soon in demand for TV guest roles for shows such as I Dream of Jeannie, Myra Breckinridge and The Flying Nun, just to name a few. But it was a poster that would forever change her life.
According to the publication, Fawcett was approached in 1976 by Pro-Arts Inc. to become their newest pin-up. Fawcett agreed and 40 rolls of film were shot by photographer Bruce McBroom, the choice coming down to the famous one of her in the one-piece red swimsuit. That image reportedly remains the best-selling poster in history. The sultry image is enshrined at the Smithsonian.
“The combination of that poster with Charlie’s Angels was a phenomenon that was hard to escape,” said Pingel. “Something like 12 million boys plus had that poster on their walls, so it’s hard to avoid the big smile, big hair and that bathing suit.”
It was also that same year Jill Munroe came calling.
Closer Weekly noted Fawcett and then-husband, The Six Million Dollar Man star Lee Majors, often played tennis with producer Aaron Spelling, which led to her being cast as the heavenly blonde bombshell in the 1976 movie Charlie’s Angels, which spawned the series that ran from that same year until 1981.
“Charlie’s Angels was based on a wealthy mystery man named Charlie who ran a detective agency featuring three beautiful women (Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith). It was an immediate hit.
“ … These three women were not only breaking the ceiling of being three leads on their own show, but they were number one in the ratings,” Pingel explained. “It was just lightning in a bottle. … The funny thing is that many of them told me that they were working so hard all the time, they had no time to really understand what was going on until they had a break. “Then they would go out in public and be mobbed. And they all had stalkers; people were trying to break into their homes. [Co-star] Cheryl Ladd said, ‘One day I was nobody and the next day everything I ate was something interesting to someone’.”
But despite the show’s success, Fawcett was ready to spread her wings even further. The Guardian reported after Season 1, she left.
“At that point, I think she was like, ‘I’m pretty good at doing something like this’,” said Pingel. “Farrah was wanting to expand her acting. The progression came, and at the end of the first season, she wanted more as an actress. People are going to hate me for saying this, but she was done with the ‘cookie-cutter’ Jill Munroe, the beautiful girl that episode after episode did the same thing.”
Pingel added Fawcett also knew her worth.
“Even in ’77 she knew the power of her imagery and what money can come with that and what she’s worth as far as that’s concerned,” he explained. “They were only offering her 2.5 per cent of the merchandise. At that point, she already had her own poster coming out; she knew she wanted much more than that for her image and her rights. And that’s why she didn’t sign the contract. She kept saying to them, ‘Can we renegotiate this?’”
Closer Weekly noted Fawcett was allowed to leave the show but was contractually obliged to make guest appearances six times, which she did. Ladd, who played Munroe’s sister Kris, would go on to replace her.
Not only did Fawcett stay busy professionally, but she was also focusing on her personal life. Her marriage to Majors lasted from 1973 until 1982. And while her relationship with actor Ryan O’Neal was on again/off again for a number of years, they welcomed a son, Redmond James Fawcett-O’Neal, in 1985. Fawcett and O’Neal remained together in the last decade of the star’s life.
Pingel said he had zero regrets working alongside the star.
“When I was being asked to even interview for the job, I was like, ‘I don’t really want this job, because I don’t want Farrah Fawcett to be yelling at me at some point’,” he admitted. “And at some point that is gonna happen because you’re an assistant. But honestly, we had such a great rapport in our working relationship … she was just a down home country girl. Very sweet, but the smartest businesswoman I’ve ever met. She knew the value of her, and she wasn’t going to take anything less than what she valued herself for.”
Fawcett passed away in 2009 at age 62 from anal cancer. Pingel said it was still difficult to think about his former boss all these years later.
“It’s tough for all of us who were very close to her,” he explained. “Because she had such a way about her. Such sweetness and just a genuine, amazing person. She’s gone way too soon; she had so much more to offer … It’s been 10 years this summer, and it’s still hard to even wrap my head around the fact that she’s no longer here. I know that’s a weird thing to say. Believe it or not, I’ll be in a store, and I’ll see something and still be like, ‘Oh, Farrah would love that. I should call her’.
“She was a boss. She was a friend. She was an angel,” added Pingel.
But Fawcett’s legacy lives on. Closer Weekly noted the Farrah Fawcett Foundation was designed to help with patient care and financial assistance for those battling cancer.
Back in April 2018, Jaclyn Smith told Fox News she still cherished fond memories from her times on Charlie’s Angels.
“We had laughs, we had so many laughs,” said the now-73-year-old. “Angels in chains, being chained together. Eating lunch together. It was an education and it was eye-opening because each girl was so unique with her own personality and style. And these are my friends today. That bond is what I really remember.
“The friendship is what I treasure from that. The friendship. Aaron Spelling was so dear to me. He’s somebody I miss. He was a personal friend, as well as the producer of that show and the creator. We’ve lost some people. John Forsythe, what a gentleman. David Doyle. And of course Farrah [Fawcett]. It’s bittersweet to think back.”