September 20, 2020

Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett Were Not the "Brangelina" of the 70's

I've addressed a seventies TV hit known as "The Six Million Dollar Man" here previously, (catch it HERE), but it was more about the show than the actors in the series. 

Farrah Fawcett and then-husband Lee Majors
The lead actor in "The Six Million Dollar Man" series (Lee Majors) was already a TV veteran as an actor on a TV show called "The Big Valley", which was an American Western drama TV series which ran for four seasons on ABC from 1965-1969. That series was set in the mid-late 1800's on the fictional Barkley Ranch set in California's San Joaquin Valley (specifically in Stockton). Despite the series' popularity and the fact that it ran for four seasons, it never made the top 30 in the yearly ratings charts, although it was enough of a hit to outlive various time slot rivals during its run. 

But it was Lee Majors from that series' who went on to a much bigger career in television the next decade as "The Six Million Dollar Man". That show ran from 1974-1978 and was at or near the top of the ratings during its heyday. In fact, the show was so big that it also generated its own spinoff known as "The Bionic Woman" which was also briefly very popular around 1977. Both of those shows today run on NBC Universal's Cozi TV network (which I wrote about when it launched HERE). 

Hollywood Power Couple, Yes. But Nothing Like Brangelina.

The comparison is a bit misplaced, but some news outlets (specifically Britain's tabloid the Daily Mail) have referred to actor Lee Majors as half of a sort of "Brangelina" of the 1970's ("Brangelina" was stupid combo name given to the celebrity supercouple consisting of American actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie). The reason for the comparison is because he was married to an actress named Farrah Fawcett whose sexy image in a bathing suit was on posters in most boys' bedroom walls at the time. 

Farrah Fawcett's iconic 70's poster
 Sorry, but to my knowledge, there was never a mass movement for anyone to hang posters of Angelina Jolie in a swimsuit on their walls — she's just never been much of a fantasy for many teenage boys. Lee Majors was also not equivalent of Angelina's former husband Brad Pitt — in the case of Brangelina, Brad Pitt was the better-looking half of that former couple. 

Anyway, Lee Majors married Farah Fawcett in 1973 (she was a former beauty queen from University of Texas who went to Hollywood at age 21), the same year Lee won the role of Steve Austin on "The Six Million Dollar Man". Farrah appeared on that show and Lee used his clout to try and help get her other TV roles. He said "All the lessons I had learned the hard way, I tried to use to help Farrah." The couple divorced in 1982. Still, Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett (which she hyphenated even when she was married to Lee Majors as Farrah Fawcett-Majors, which was a pretty daring move at the time since most brides were expected to adopt the surname of their spouse at the time, showing surprising independence) were considered a Hollywood power couple of the mid-1970's.  

She landed various Hollywood guest appearances on somewhat popular broadcast TV shows at the time including "Mayberry R.F.D.", "I Dream of Jeannie", "The Flying Nun", "The Partridge Family" and "Marcus Welby, M.D."  But her her initial claim to fame (aside from her iconic poster) was a starring role on the hit Aaron Spelling TV series named "Charlie's Angels" as Jill Munroe on that show. But the couple still dealt with annoying press hounds throughout their brief marriage. Lee Majors told Closer magazine: "We couldn’t do anything," recalled Lee about the pressure they felt from the press. "The paps [paparazzi] always found out where we were." 

"Jiggle TV"

Farrah Fawcett's "Charlie's Angels" role was during a period which came to be known as "Jiggle TV". Ms. Fawcett's famous poster arguably helped her get cast in the role on "Charlie's Angels", and poster sales went hand-in-hand with ratings for the show. NBC exec Paul Klein is the person who coined the term "Jiggle Television" to criticize ABC's television production and marketing strategy under former chief Fred Silverman. The term was used to describe dramatic TV series (mostly from Aaron Spelling and former Screen Gems' top TV exec Leonard Goldberg) including "The Love Boat", "Fantasy Island", and later "Beverly Hills 90210", "Melrose Place" and others. "Jiggle TV" was seen as trashy and escapist entertainment. Programs or female performers were frequently judged by their "jiggle factor". "Jiggle TV" was also called "Tits & Ass Television" or "T&A TV" for short and in the 1970's, the amount of sex on television increased, as did its ratings. Farrah Fawcett certainly fit into that categorization. 

Farrah Fawcett herself went on the record when she told an interviewer "When the show was number three, I figured it was our acting. When it got to be number one, I decided it could only be because none of us wears a bra." 

Fawcett Redeemed Her Acting Credentials With "The Burning Bed"

Although Farrah Fawcett was not considered a great actress when she began acting (then again, neither is Angelina Jolie), she left "Charlie's Angels" which made her a household name after just one season. And, to her credit, she really did redeem her acting credentials with a dramatic role in a made-for-TV movie which aired on NBC called "The Burning Bed" in 1984 which was very good and gained her needed respect for her ability as an actress. Over her career, she became a four-time Emmy Award nominee (although she never won), but her career came to a sudden halt when she fell sick and passed away from anal cancer in 2009 — she was just age 62 when she died (see her obituary HERE). 

Former husband Lee Majors told the UK tabloid Daily Mail: "People tell me we were the Brad [Pitt] and Angelina [Jolie] of our time. Sadly, that didn't work out too good, either." 

But in spite of their parting ways, Lee Majors (age 81 years old in 2020) looks back at his marriage to Farrah Fawcett fondly. Although their separation was mutual and was never hostile, because they had no children together, there also was not much of an ongoing relationship between the couple following their divorce. 

Majors and Fawcett stayed in touch until Farrah fell in love with Ryan O'Neal, who had been Lee's friend until O'Neil hooked up with Farrah. "They got serious and I couldn't believe it," Lee Majors previously recalled to People. So once they parted, they basically left one another's lives and went their separate ways.  

Silence fell between Lee and Farrah continued until he heard about her battle with anal cancer. However, Lee Majors is very happy that he reconnected with his ex before she died. In 2009, Lee called his ex-wife to wish her a happy 62nd birthday. 

"They had a 40-minute conversation about her life and the cancer," said an insider. "They joked and they got a little bit emotional." They even spoke about working together again — sadly it wasn't meant to be. Farrah died just four months later. She was "one of a kind," Lee said. "I was always 110% behind her and proud of her." 

See also the Closer weekly magazine coverage at: 

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