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Monday, January 25, 2010
Will Charlie's Angels reunite once more to get justice for "Farrah's Story"?
The angels don't seem to be smiling down on Ryan O'Neal of late.
Seven months after losing longtime girlfriend Farrah Fawcett, the Love Story star watched helplessly as their son, Redmond, was arrested—sadly, yet again—on drug charges while in rehab this month. This, just weeks after Fawcett's other on-again, off-again love, Greg Lott, angrily confronted the 68-year-old actor, with paparazzi in tow, on the streets of Los Angeles.
O'Neal refused Lott access to Fawcett in her final months, then barred him from her funeral. (The actor also denied his estranged son Griffin O'Neal the chance to say goodbye to the woman who in essence was his step mom.) Last fall, news broke that Fawcett named college sweetheart Lott—and not the embattled father of her child—in her will, to the tune of $100,000. Ouch.
Now comes an unexpected move from Farrah's close friend and Charlie's Angels co-star Kate Jackson. In a surprise reversal, Jackson is defending a producer against lawsuit claims brought Friday by Richard B. Francis on behalf of Fawcett's estate and her company, Sweetened By Risk LLC. Francis acts as a trustee for the Fawcett Living Trust. He is also Ryan O'Neal's manager.
Producer Craig Nevius sued both men and Fawcett pal Alana Stewart last May, claiming the three interfered with his contractual duty to executive produce Fawcett's cancer documentary A Wing & A Prayer. O'Neal seized control of the project last spring—Francis claims on Fawcett's instructions—and oversaw creative changes while Farrah lay dying. Those changes included filming Redmond, in jail house jumpsuit and shackles, visiting his apparently semi-conscious mom on her deathbed. More than 9 million viewers watched the special, retitled Farrah's Story (with not-so-subtle nods to O'Neal's star-making role in Love Story), on NBC during May sweeps. Fawcett died on June 25.
The suit filed by Francis alleges that Nevius, Fawcett's producing partner who knew the iconic TV Angel for five years, possibly embezzled "hundreds of thousands of dollars" from Fawcett after she (allegedly) squeezed him out of the documentary and (allegedly) rejected his (allegedly) "amateurish and sensationalized" edit, which she (again, allegedly) deemed "wholly unacceptable." The suit also claims Nevius "exploited Fawcett" and publicized privileged information about the actress, including news that her cancer had returned.
Jackson told the AP on Friday that she was shocked by the suit's charges against the producer, who'd previously produced Fawcett's 2005 E! reality series Chasing Farrah. "He had an unflagging devotion to Farrah in every way and he worked with her to help her achieve her vision, not his vision and not anybody else's vision," she said.
This is no small thing. Last May, after Nevius sued, Jackson, in an appearance with Fawcett doctor Lawrence Piro, referred to him as "Craig Devious" on The Today Show. She also told the New York Post at the time, "It is evil to try to ruin (Farrah's Story). It sounds like the effect is not the effect she intended to have be her legacy." Last week, Jackson called her previous criticisms misguided. In an in-depth, exclusive interview with Retroality.TV last fall, Nevius revealed that, in 2004, he was in talks with Jackson and Farrah for an Angels reunion. That project never materialized.
Whatever accounts for Jackson's change of heart, one thing is certain: She loved Farrah. The two women, along with Charlie's third original angel, Jaclyn Smith, remained close throughout Fawcett's three-year cancer battle. Their deep fondness for Fawcett was evident in interviews both gave in the weeks before and after her death. These ladies' bonds—strengthened by their individual battles with cancer and shared experiences as mothers—are especially remarkable considering Fawcett bailed on their ABC hit after one year. In Hollywood, there's no quicker way to end a friendship than failing to show for work. Just ask Suzanne Somers.
Jackson is not alone in her support. Mike Pingel, Fawcett's friend and her personal assistant from 2005-2007, released this statement today: "Farrah trusted her friend and producing partner, Craig Nevius, with executing her vision for the documentary, which was to tell the world of her cancer battle. Farrah was so pleased with how A Wing & A Prayer was coming together she even showed me part of the film. It's sad the documentary was changed and Farrah's version has yet to be seen."
O'Neal also stood by Fawcett, to be sure—as she did him when he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001. "I don't think about mortality in my own case. I'll go with her," O'Neal told USA Today last May. "They said this drug I was on was good for five (years), and I've gone eight, so I'm on borrowed time. But I know someone will be waiting for me."
But would Fawcett want her longtime love to spend his final years angry, aloof, embattled and unable to set a good example—however late—for his children? That's doubtful. She was far from perfect, but this TV star radiated light and offered fellow cancer warriors a beacon of hope, even when she could've let anger and resentment consume her. By no account did cancer kill her will to live and fight the good fight. For Fawcett, that fight centered on changing patient privacy laws and revamping the U.S. health care system. She went to war for the greater good.
If you believe noted psychic medium James Van Praagh, Fawcett is still an earth angel, at least in spirit. In a reading for Alana Stewart in the recent E! special Psychic Hollywood: The Search for Truth (Hollywood and truth—talk about strange bedfellows!), Van Praagh said Fawcett wanted Stewart to help O'Neal reconcile with "Griff"—an apparent reference to Griffin O'Neal. The celebrated channeler's other reference to the father of Fawcett's child: that Ryan "should be here" for the reading.
The lawsuits filed by and against Craig Nevius might see Fawcett "speak from the grave" about her vision for her cancer documentary and her relationship with the man she entrusted to execute her vision. In a statement released Friday, the producer said he "will be more than happy to let the video tapes, documents, witnesses and Farrah's own words (both written and spoken) speak for me and defend me, finally removing all doubt and suspicion as to what actually happened during the final months of her life and who her real exploiters are. This is a fight Francis, O'Neal and Stewart cannot win."
As with her role as Charlie's "smart angel," Jackson may again prove the linchpin to crack the case. It follows that Jaclyn Smith—who also spent time with Fawcett in her final months—will likely also be called to testify. Their accounts, along with Farrah's own words in unseen documentary footage and documents, could reunite the Angels one final time in the name of justice.
Sadly, nothing will bring Farrah back in the glowing, inspiring form that Ryan O'Neal and the rest of America knew and loved. And only those who knew her best can truly keep her story—and her spirit—alive. Fawcett's friends and family not only have the opportunity to carry out her true vision, wishes and intentions, they have a responsibility to do so.
Something tells me she would much rather see O'Neal spend his final years using his "borrowed time" to help his troubled children and, in doing so, heal his own hurts. There's a reason he's been given the extra time that cancer denied Fawcett. And it's doubtful that reason has been to get arrested on drug charges with his youngest son and on assault charges (later dismissed) against his eldest son.
Fawcett knew how to fight the good fight. But life also taught her how to pick her battles. Here's hoping that O'Neal starts listening to the angel perched on one shoulder while overcoming the demons weighing down his other.