There was always something major about Farrah Fawcett.
An enduring pop-culture icon for more than three decades, the Charlie's Angels superstar and '70s fashion goddess endured the sort of stinging reviews and embarrassing tabloid headlines that would sink many a career. But the Texas beauty, who died Thursday, June 25 at 62 after a very public three-year battle against cancer, never stopped fighting for respect.
She shot to the top in 1976 as Farrah Fawcett-Majors, the model-starlet wife of Six Million Dollar Man Lee Majors. She quickly eclipsed his fame and fortune--thanks in part to a swimsuit poster pin-up phenomenon that triggered male pheremones across the country.
Her luxurious mane of feathered hair was the "Rachel" of its day, and her robust athleticism, capped by that blinding smile kept her from seeming like a Marilyn Monroe wannabe. "I didn't come to Los Angeles wanting to be anything. I was led. Events happened, fell into place," Fawcett told TV Guide Magazine in 1983. Landing an agent and a husband in short order, she appeared in commercials and bit parts (most notably in the 1970 movie "Myra Breckinridge"). Then she was cast on Angels as the world's jiggliest undercover detective Jill Monroe, a supporting player to more-established headliner Kate Jackson.
The show was an instant hit--Fawcett once joked, "When we got to be No. 1, I decided it could only be because none of us wears a bra"--but the most popular Angel rocked the TV world by leaving the show after only one chart-topping season. (Lawsuits forced her to appear as an occasional guest star over the next few years.) She also left Majors behind.
After striking out in a few flop movies, Fawcett found her professional and personal bearings in the '80s. She earned strong reviews as abused and vengeful women in the off-Broadway and film versions of "Extremities," and most famously in the 1984 TV-movie The Burning Bed, which brought her the first of three Emmy nominations.
She also became romantically linked with bad-boy actor Ryan O'Neal, and their stormy relationship continued on and off for the rest of her life. They had a son (Redmond, who was recently arrested on charges of felony drug possession) and briefly co-starred in the short-lived 1991 sitcom Good Sports and a celeb-reality show, Chasing Farrah, in 2005.
Besides Angels and Burning Bed, Fawcett is remembered for her 1997 appearance on David Letterman's late-night talk show, where she appeared dazed and confused--and possibly on something (though she denied it).
Even then, you couldn't take your eyes off her. That's the mark of a star, and Farrah Fawcett ranks now and forever as one of TV's most incandescent "it" girls.