R.I.P. Farrah Fawcett

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Farrah Fawcett was one of those rare "golden children." She was blessed with beauty from birth, and by the time she hit adolescence she'd been told "you're so pretty" so often that she began to feel self-conscious about it. She was voted "Best Looking" in her high school graduating class, and was a sorority sweetheart at the University of Texas-Austin. Farrah eventually succumbed to all the gushing about her looks and decided to try her luck in Hollywood. Her subsequent career had many peaks and valleys, but we at mental_floss prefer to focus on the "up and coming" portion of her life. Back when she was still a fresh-faced ingénue and hadn't yet starred in The Burning Bed or her own VH1 reality series.

Game shows used to be a useful stepping stone to fame for aspiring actors.

It was a way to get "noticed" by agents and casting directors (Kirstie Alley, Mel Harris and Kathy Najimy all appeared as game show contestants before getting their SAG cards). Farrah appeared on a 1969 episode of The Dating Game. Note that when the aspiring gallery owner was introduced, Bachelor Number One asked, "What was her name, please?" A few years later, everyone would know.

Farrah was 23 years old and had only been in Hollywood for three years when she landed a small but memorable role on The Partridge Family. Danny and Mr. Kincaid hired her to help them snap a photo of Harry Morgan bending down (to prove his "whiplash" was phony), but even 10-year-old Danny was mesmerized by Ms. Fawcett's effervescent beauty. "It was like the camera had a mind of its own," he later explained.

Ultra-Brite toothpaste was famous for its ""¦but mother never told me" advertising campaign during the early 1970s. With her mile-wide smile, Farrah was an obvious choice to feature in one of their commercials.

Farrah had the beginnings of her trademark "˜do here, but she was still considered to be the "unknown" in this Noxema commercial. Joe Namath was the star of the spot; Fawcett was cast as the typical arm candy that fawned over Broadway Joe during that era.

1975"¦a year when gasoline was cheap, cars were big, and the leonine features of Farrah Fawcett perfectly complemented Chauncey the Mercury Cougar. Would you buy a used car from this woman?

Farrah had been battling it out in the Hollywood trenches for several years before she'd earned enough money to hire a publicist, an acting coach, and "“ in retrospect, perhaps most prescient - a personal hair stylist. Hugh York first gave Farrah the layered, feathered, highlighted style that became her trademark. After she gained fame on Charlie's Angels, "stylists to the stars" Allan Edwards and Jose Eber would both help to maintain her trademark locks.

fawcettThe Pro Arts Company of Ohio was run by two brothers who specialized in selling youth-oriented posters. They hit pay dirt in the early 1970s when their "Fonzie" poster sold a quarter of a million copies. In early 1976, one of Pro Arts' founders heard from a friend that many of his dorm-mates at college were buying women's magazines just for the Wella Balsam shampoo ads that featured a blonde beauty named Farrah Fawcett. Pro Arts tracked down Fawcett and arranged a photo shoot beside the pool at her Bel-Air, California, home. Photographer Bruce McBroom used an Indian blanket that doubled as a seat cover in his Chevy as a backdrop. Farrah chose a red one-piece bathing suit in lieu of a bikini in order to cover a scar on her stomach. In the ultimate example of serendipity, between the time Farrah posed for the poster and its release in late 1976, she had been hired as one of Charlie's Angels and the first few episodes had aired. The free publicity provided by the show sent poster sales into the stratosphere, and made Pro Arts a multi-million dollar company.

June 25, 2009 - 11:10am
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