When a controversial celebrity dies, there’s typically an allotted grace period of wall-to-wall positivity before we’re allowed to relax, unbuckle our funereal cummerbund, and get back to speaking ill of the dead. For Michael Jackson, to cite one recent example, it was nothing but “Billie Jean” and Jackson 5 footage until about, oh, 90 seconds after he’d passed and most drive-time DJs came back from commercial. But perhaps because of the nature of her slow, agonizing, very public fade to black, we’re still living with a whitewashed version of Farrah Fawcett: If her life were being taught in school, the textbooks would skip from the chapter on Charlie’s Angels to her brave battle with cancer, and the smart-ass kid who asked the teacher, “Hey, what about those two decades in between, where she set the gold standard for disastrous television interviews and released a Playboy video that had her reading the Song Of Solomon in a black wig and painting with her breasts?” would be sent immediately to the principal’s office for a stern lecture on showing some damn respect even under the greatest of duress. She was “America’s pin-up,” after all; ultimately it’s the image that mattered, not the glue and staples barely holding it all together.
But after a month or so, there’s not much money to be made with stiff upper lips and sob stories; if you want to keep yourself on the RSS feeds, you need to do one of two things: A) Set up a charity, which is both a lot of work and totally boring; or B) make with the scandals already, and sell all the embarrassing details of your dearly departed’s life to the highest bidder. While the first option might reap you a lot of sympathy, it doesn’t get you magazine covers. Obviously the real payoff lies in option No. 2, particularly when you’re long past the point of pretending to be likable yourself—such as Fawcett’s ex, Ryan O’Neal, who appeared in the new issue of Vanity Fair to perform the public service of telling us it’s okay to laugh again, specifically if it’s at Ryan O’Neal. Among the “revelations”:
- O’Neal wishes he could “take back” at least “a couple” of his kids, saying, “They’re either in jail or they should be.” And he’s not in touch with most of them now, about which he says he’s “never been happier.” Give him credit for one thing: At least he’s honest…
- …when it’s not disruptive to his current prospects, anyway, as his son Griffin said in the same interview that he believes his dad is just “a vulture presiding over a carcass,” crying “crocodile tears” and hoping to profit from Farrah’s death—just because he proposed to Fawcett mere weeks before she died after more than 25 years of their off-and-on relationship, and spent most of her illness becoming her de facto spokesman, turning up in endless television interviews, and hustling tirelessly for network interest in a sequel to Farrah’s Story. But hey, this was all probably just a coping mechanism, as O’Neal was only doing whatever he possibly could to stand by the woman he loved in her time of need…
- …oh, except O’Neal openly admits that he left Fawcett just as she was entering menopause—which he calls a “life change,” as though she were giving up red meat and taking pottery lessons or something—then proclaims, “They’re hard work, these divas.” (Seriously, ladies: Just because your ovaries are retiring and all your hormones are going into revolt doesn’t give you the right to act like a total bitch. What about Ryan O’Neal’s needs?) He then took up with a younger woman whom he says was “more a daughter than a lover.” Which makes it kind of sweet!
- Oh, except it’s actually just creepy foreshadowing for this delightful anecdote he relates about hitting on his own daughter, Tatum O’Neal, at Farrah’s funeral:
"I had just put the casket in the hearse and was watching it drive away," O'Neal, 68, said, "when a beautiful blond woman comes up and embraces me. I said to her, 'You have a drink on you? You have a car?' She said, 'Daddy, it's me—Tatum!'
"I was just trying to be funny with a strange Swedish woman, and it's my daughter," O'Neal said. "It's so sick."
Ha ha, indeed. But not so revolting, apparently, that it didn’t merit repeating to a reporter from Vanity Fair. Because while 99 percent of its readers may recoil in horror and say, “Hitting on a woman at your partner’s funeral as the casket is driving away is possibly the most morally reprehensible thing I’ve ever heard of—and the fact that it’s your own daughter, whom you’re so estranged from you can’t even recognize her, is some serious next-level, Danielle Steel shit that makes a strong case for your sterilization at the hands of a particularly brutish, self-taught swineherd.” But then there’s that one percent who will giggle and say, “Oh, what a charming cad! Someone needs to grab him and just hug out all the tears!” (Here's another tip: Be sure to pose for said article shirtless, because it implies emotional candor, and it shows the ladies you've still got the goods.) Add that to a renewed, burgeoning career as tabloid fodder that may one day start you down the path toward fawning public redemption, and you’d be stupid not to share every embarrassing detail about how much you hate your kids, and that time you tried to fuck one of them after her would-be stepmother’s funeral. Why, that’s just good business.
[Personal to Ryan: Thanks muchly for all you’ve done for the O’Neal name, brutha.]