Outgoing daytime doyenne Oprah Winfrey's unwillingness to save Agnes Nixon's ABC soap institutions All My Children and One Life to Live took on multiple levels of irony this month with the arrival of her cable network's heavily-touted serialized docu-drama The O'Neals.
This eight-episode "soaprah" pairs the ever-tumultuous Ryan and Tatum -- the former again reviving his love-never-means-having-to-say-you're-sorry persona(lity?), as last portrayed in May 2009 in NBC's controversial "news special" Farrah's Story -- in their ever-continuing starring roles as warring father and daughter all-too-willing to rescue their off-screen relationship by rekindling their on-camera chemistry. (Tatum's Oscar-winning turn at age 9 as Dad's co-star in 1973's Paper Moon, anyone?)
But could Winfrey's OWN brand of retrocentric melo-reality TV unwittingly be creating more of a soap operatic existence for its turmoil-plagued male lead than even he bargained for?
|Two years after Farrah's tragic death on June 25, 2009, Ryan O'Neal's family drama continues.|
According to new reports on Good Morning, America
and Radar Online
, police are probing the Love Story
star for apparently possessing a famous Andy Warhol portrait of Fawcett that the iconic TV angel bequeathed -- along with all of her other valuable artwork -- to her alma mater, the University of Texas, where she majored in art. The painting's estimated worth: $30M. (You heard it right -- five times the value of a circa-'74 Lee Majors, folks.) The missing portrait appeared hanging in O'Neal's Malibu bedroom in footage -- apparently shot in recent months -- airing on the June 19 premiere episode of The O'Neals.
Farrah's missing $30M Warhol portrait, in her Westwood
condo in her final years (top image) and in Ryan O'Neal's
Malibu home as seen on the June 19 episode of The O'Neals.
O'Neal's apparent possession of the original artwork is especially circumspect given the fact that Fawcett excluded her on-again, off-again love from her living trust signed in 2007. In that document
-- referred to in press reports as her last will and testament -- the Charlie's Angels
star left $4.5 in trust to their troubled son, Redmond, $500,000 in trust to her father, James, $500,000 to her nephew and $100,000 to Greg Lott, Fawcett's boyfriend during college and, according to Lott, her secret lover off and on until Farrah's final years. Ryan O'Neal, on the other hand, received nada. Zippo. Zilch.
But the latest troublesome chapter in O'Neal's 70-year-old life may have only just begun. According to an exclusive report in the July 4 issue of Star
magazine, the University of Texas has reached out to Lott and Farrah's Story
executive producer Craig Nevius in their investigation. Which isn't good news for their biggest foe. Both men have said O'Neal cut them out of Fawcett's life during her last three months. (Incidentally, Charlie's Angels
co-star Kate Jackson also has claimed
O'Neal denied her access to her beloved friend of nearly 35 years -- and even the chance to say goodbye -- during Fawcett's final, bedridden weeks. Jackson will likely tell all in her memoir The Smart One
, due out in October.)
And in an explosive commentary
posted this week on TheMortonReport.com, Nevius spills on O'Neal's less-than-Love Story
-worthy relationship with Fawcett. The writer-producer -- who recently settled dueling lawsuits
in which he claimed O'Neal unscrupulously seized control of Farrah's Story
from him while O'Neal's manager/Fawcett's estate trustee, Richard Francis, "usurp(ed) her estate"
during her final months -- accuses the actor of self-serving, controlling behavior throughout the Burning Bed
star's three-year battle with anal cancer. Referencing O'Neal's newsmaking interview this week with CNN's Piers Morgan, in which the reality star claimed he and his adult children contributed to Fawcett's deadly cancer, Nevius writes:
I'm not buying these well-rehearsed and over-dramatic soundbites. Because I know this man well enough to know that he very rarely says what he really means. That's why if the media listened carefully to Ryan's interview what they would really hear is that Ryan is not actually blaming himself or his children for causing Farrah's cancer. In fact, he's doing the opposite. In some sick and narcissistic way, he's attempting to take the credit for it. Not only does his ego demand that the public recognize him as the love of Farrah's life, he also needs everyone to know that it was this same intense love that ultimately killed her.
Nevius states that O'Neal initially rushed to Fawcett's side following her cancer diagnosis, but could not sustain his role as selfless hero for the long run. "A few months after Farrah began chemotherapy," Nevius writes, "Ryan became increasingly jealous and, at times, even angry at the outpouring of love and sympathy that she received from all over the world -- not to mention his own children." O'Neal became "furious" when learning of Tatum's "secret reconciliation" with Fawcett following her diagnosis. "And so, ever the gentleman, he wished Farrah good luck with her cancer and made his exit: 'bowing out' as he described it in the note that he left with her assistant."
|Craig Nevius executive produced Fawcett's 2005 reality series Chasing Farrah for TV Land, and formed a business partnership and close friendship with the actress in the years following. Photo credit: Lisa Boyle.|
Of course, this reality was not depicted in the NBC "video diary" that Fawcett and Nevius originally titled A Wing & A Prayer
and that Fawcett, The New York Times reported
, "had intended ... to address shortcomings she saw in American cancer treatment and to present it in art-house style." O'Neal orchestrated a takeover
of the project during its final weeks of production in spring 2009 and, along with Fawcett's friend Alana Stewart, appeared in interviews throughout the special and during a publicity tour, including a red-carpet screening promoting its network premiere six weeks prior to Fawcett's death.
O'Neal has retained control of Farrah's Story
and reportedly plans to release it on DVD. (He also reportedly formed Unforgotten Love Productions, LL in an effort to produce
a sequel.) And though Nevius dropped his suit -- he says because he could no longer afford the costly legal fees -- he has, no doubt to O'Neal's deep disdain, retained his right to voice his grievances and, he has said, seek justice for Fawcett.
"After two years, I can no longer afford to fight Ryan O'Neal, Alana Stewart and Richard Francis over creative control of Farrah's Story
and whether or not they had the right to take over the company that Farrah Fawcett and I formed to produce the documentary about her cancer fight and efforts to protect her privacy," Nevius said in a statement in March. ""I will always believe that Ryan and Alana acted as squatters: isolating Farrah from me and others in order to obtain signatures that would ultimately allow them to turn the innovative and informative film we worked on for two years into a network deathwatch."
And according to Nevius, A Wing & A Prayer
may not be the only "last will and testament" of Fawcett that O'Neal and/or company, um, reimagined. He told ABC News this week that he first discovered O'Neal apparently wrongfully possessed a valuable item Fawcett willed to her alma mater while reading Tatum's new memoir, found
. In it, she discloses that the Warhol painting now hangs in her father's bedroom, ""That was a 'Thank God, we've caught you' moment," Nevius said. "I told the university, 'Be patient and wait, because this man is so arrogant, he's going to show it.'"
In March 2010 Nevius alleged in court papers
that Fawcett "was not aware" of the existence of The Farrah Fawcett Foundation, "a charitable foundation funded by Ms. Fawcett's assets" and an organization with which O'Neal "recently announced that he would be 'working.'" Also that month, Nevius released a statement, "in the name of Farrah Fawcett," in which he called on the attorney general
"to investigate the 'Farrah Fawcett Foundation' and interview a handful of Farrah’s trusted friends and associates with respect to Farrah’s knowledge and intent regarding this so-called 'charity.'
"And I would suggest that the attorney general start with interviewing Farrah's father and Kate Jackson," Nevius stated. "I will be happy to give him a longer list in private."
Fawcett's father, James, died last August, months after Nevius alleged in court papers
that Francis had "systematically sought to divert and delay distribution" monies due to James per his daughter's living trust. "Mr. Francis and his lawyers have helped themselves to the Trust's assets by paying themselves to line their own pockets," Nevius alleged.
Now, an impassioned group of Farrah's devotees, led by fan Cathy Swango, have taken up the cudgels for Nevius in a Facebook page called "Farrah Fawcett: We Want the Truth."
"I have started this group to discuss the controversy that surrounds Farrah Fawcett's death, her last wishes, the documentary A Wing and A Prayer
, and anything else WE AS FANS have on our minds!" Swango states in the page's description. The group has begun a letter-writing campaign requesting that California's attorney general open an investigation into the Farrah Fawcett Foundation
and her estate.
As for the Warhol investigation, ABC news reports, "O'Neal's representative said he has not betrayed her final wishes and that 'all of Farrah's wishes expressed in her will have been fulfilled.'"
O'Neal expressed disappointment last week that Oprah had essentially abandoned him and Tatum during production of The O'Neals
. “I thought that was the thing – that Oprah would be there and use her magic on us,” he told Comcast
. “I thought she’d bless us and that would help. We spent New Year’s Even with her, and she was very encouraging. Then we never saw her again. And haven’t heard from her."
With the so-not-"living-your-best-life" publicity now surrounding the show and its subjects, one wonders if Oprah can use her magic to save this father-daughter relationship. If her network gets pulled into a police investigation of a stolen Warhol, the media queen may need to save her transformative powers for damage control (Thirty Million Little Pieces, perhaps?) and stage an intervention, er, interview with Ryan and Tatum during their show's season (series?) finale.
Or it may just be time for the queen of daytime to reimagine the "soaprah." In comparison, saving Erica Cane and the rest of Agnes Nixon's "children" may not be such a tall order after all.