Voices -- Farrah Fawcett
May 17, 2009 | 1:00 pm
Photograph by Anne Cusak / Los Angeles Times
POSED AND READY: A sculpture of artist Keith Edmier made by Farrah Fawcett was part of an exhibition by the duo at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2002.
[Note: After reading Charles Ornstein's May 11 report on Farrah Fawcett's struggle for privacy as she fights cancer, I thought it would be interesting to dig through the archives. Here's a 1999 Robin Abcarian profile from the magazine and a 2002 Christopher Reynolds feature on her collaboration with Keith Edmier]
Farrah Fawcett Is Taking Our Calls
* It's All Part of a Plan to Forget a Tabloid Past and Focus on a TV Movie Future. What Are the Odds It Will Work?
June 6, 1999
By ROBIN ABCARIAN, Robin Abcarian last wrote for the magazine on Daily Variety columnist Army Archerd
Once upon a time, there were three little girls who went to the Police Academy . . . and they were each assigned very hazardous duties. But I took them away from all that, and now they work for me.
--Charles Townsend, never-seen boss of "Charlie's Angels."
When Farrah Fawcett left "Charlie's Angels" after only one season, her personal fairy tale was just beginning. With a blinding smile and feathered golden locks that launched a million bad imitations, she would soon be catapulted into the kind of decade-defining stardom that perhaps only Madonna has achieved since. But unlike the ambitious Madonna, who courted fame from the outset, fame courted Farrah.
Indeed, Fawcett's life is a rare example of what can happen when beauty, timing and talent come together in perfect celestial alignment: Folks followed her mama around the grocery store to marvel at the beauty of her baby. Guys at the University of Texas memorized her schedule so they could watch her walk across campus. A Hollywood talent agent set his sights on her after seeing her photo in a local newspaper. Screen Gems/ Columbia put her under contract as soon as she arrived in California in 1968. She starred in commercials with Joe Namath, married the Six Million Dollar Man, posed for That Amazing Poster (red bathing suit, big smile) and rocketed to worldwide fame in her first and only season (1976-77) on a goofy TV series that captured the '70s Zeitgeist so perfectly that no one could have planned it--a trio of beautiful women, liberated enough to solve crimes and go braless? Then she tamed a notoriously fickle movie star, became a mother at 37 and, to almost everyone's surprise, transformed herself by sheer grit and talent from eye candy into a real actress. Movie stardom may have eluded her, but for a long time, Farrah Fawcett was the queen, bar none, of the TV movie.
But lately, things haven't been so great for Charlie's breakout angel. Somehow it has come to pass that this . . . icon . . . this incandescent smiling object of 12 million fantasies (yes, that's how many posters were sold) has become in the public imagination a boyfriend-battering wildcat so dislocated from reality that she can't talk her way from Point A to Point B on a late-night TV talk show. She hasn't worked for two years. Her most dramatic role has been as a victim in the assault trial of a former boyfriend. Drug rumors plague her. Lately, when you mention the name Farrah Fawcett, people lean in with looks of concern, and ask: Is she all right?
"Knowing her as well as I do, I wouldn't count her out," says Jon Avnet, who produced "The Burning Bed," the 1984 TV movie about wife-battering that transformed Fawcett's career. "Maybe she's made some bad choices, had some back luck. But she's the real thing."
By necessity, Fawcett, who turned 52 in February, is in the throes of reinvention, both personally and professionally. "The possibilities are limitless," she says on several different occasions, making it sound like a mantra. She has an aggressive new team at work on her behalf, a contract for a TV movie scheduled to air in the fall, her longtime Los Angeles home is in escrow, and she is well aware that she can no longer skate on what has become the very thin ice of her former glory.
"I got a bad reputation and it's hard, and I'm a woman," she sighs in her familiar whispery voice.
Fawcett's new agents, Darryl Marshak and Harry Gold, say they are undaunted by their client's considerable baggage. They've already signed her to star in a CBS movie they describe as "Norma Rae settles down." Her salary, $750,000, is close to top dollar for a TV movie. And, says Marshak, "We got a list a mile long for meetings."
She is beginning to date, Fawcett says, "for the first time in my life," and was recently asked by her college boyfriend if she was available to be "courted." ("Yes," she told him, "I like that idea.")
She is ridding herself of about five acres in mountaintop real estate. The 9,500-foot-square mansion off Mulholland Drive that she bought in 1976 with then-husband Lee Majors is already in escrow (asking price: $2.65 million). Next door, a sleek, art-filled 2,300-square-foot home that she remodeled with polished concrete floors and leopard-print carpet is still for sale (asking price: $1.65 million). She bought the home as a place for her parents to stay when they visited from Texas, but ended up moving in after the big house was damaged in the Northridge earthquake.
Fawcett isn't certain, or isn't saying, where she'll live. She talks about converting a warehouse in Venice, a place to paint, sculpt and live. It's evident, as she gives a tour of both houses, that she's in a downsizing mode.
On this day, she's in tight faded jeans, a long-sleeved gray T-shirt and black leather motorcycle boots. She wears little makeup and her famous hair is nearly shoulder length and tousled. She says she's under the weather and, over the course of a couple of months, complains about feeling sick quite a bit (her agent says she's a "bit of a hypochondriac"). But she looks great.
Fawcett tends to run late or reschedule--at least for our interviews. But she can be immensely charming and is generous with her time once we get together. Sometimes she is surprisingly candid and at other times maddeningly elusive. She tends to ramble while she talks, leaping from topic to topic, often assuming you already know the back story. Not an irrational assumption, actually, by someone who has been in the public eye for three decades.
As we tour the immense house off Mulholland, her assistant casually maneuvers Fawcett to help the actress avoid workmen and their inevitable gaping. "You know what I want?" she asks. "I want to take all the art that I love and not be shackled to a pool man, a gardener, cleaning the brush and the gutters, all of that . . . . I am just tired of rebuilding and redecorating."
The quake was a turning point, and not for the better. "Since 1994, I'd have to say, my life has never been quite the same," says Fawcett. "When I was young, my business might have had a lot of stuff going on, but I always came home to a very peaceful home environment. And now the home environment is all chaotic."
The disarray is not just physical: In March 1997, she announced her split with Ryan O'Neal, her love interest of 17 years. It was the end of what was perceived as one of Hollywood's most enduring--if tempestuous--romances. O'Neal lives in a home he has owned for many years on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. Their 14-year-old, Redmond, splits his time between households but attends school near his father. Redmond has had his share of teenage troubles already, some of which have been chronicled in the tabloids. "I loved my childhood, and in a way, I feel his has been distorted . . . it's been taken too early from him," says Fawcett, who attributes her breakup with O'Neal to parenting conflicts. (O'Neal did not respond to requests for an interview.)
In May 1997, Fawcett was accused by actress Kristen Amber of stealing clothes and destroying nude photographs from the home of writer-director James Orr, who was involved with Fawcett. Farrah denied the thefts. No charges were filed, but the accusations found their way into mainstream media.
In June 1997, Fawcett raised eyebrows after a disjointed interview with David Letterman to promote a pay-per-view showing of her Playboy video, one in which she smears her naked (and astonishingly firm) body with gold paint and hurls it against a huge canvas. Both Letterman and the audience interrupted her repeatedly, and at one point, a stage manager tripped on a cable and fell. On the other hand, Fawcett seemed unfocused. She told a story of fans chasing her into Central Park and couldn't think of the word "embankment." She turned to look at Letterman's backdrop and uttered a non sequitur "Wow!"
The press was not kind: "Spacey," "distracted," "rambling" were some of the adjectives used to describe her appearance. People magazine called her "Hollywood's woman on the verge." The tabloids were more brutal. One headline read: "Farrah Drug Agony."
Reviewing the Letterman tape, it's hard to say whether Fawcett got a bad rap. She certainly thinks she did.
"If I hear the word incoherent again," she says in exasperation, explaining that she was exhausted, hungry, nervous and embarrassed by the Playboy photos that Letterman showed the audience. During another chat, she says her appearance was a "performance." She watched the tape recently and thinks she was pretty damn funny.
But if 1997 was, as Fawcett told Details magazine, "like living in a Dali painting," 1998 was even stranger. The year started promisingly with a small, critically praised performance in Robert Duvall's glowingly reviewed "The Apostle." And her time on the Louisiana set, she says, was "the best acting experience I've ever had." She attended a White House screening of the film in late January. Then, two days after she returned to L.A., following a drawn-out evening of arguing, Fawcett was assaulted by Orr, a boyfriend six years her junior with whom she'd had an off-and-on relationship. Orr claimed Fawcett, consumed with jealousy and suspicion, assaulted and threatened him. The case was complicated by the fact that Fawcett smashed some of the windows at his Bel-Air house with a baseball bat, would not go to trial for seven months, during which time Orr and Fawcett reconciled, pleaded with prosecutors to drop the case and then broke up in June for good.
Around that time, one of the tabloids ran a photo of Fawcett standing in a gym next to Harry Perzigian, the convicted drug dealer whom Carroll O'Connor accused of abetting the suicide of his son, Hugh. Fawcett says she called O'Connor and swore to him that she hadn't known Perzigian and had simply been asked to pose for a picture with a fan.
"It's very easy for people to say, 'Oh her behavior is erratic, or she's thin, or she's acting strange,' " says Fawcett, gliding past the fact that her behavior has seemed erratic, that she is thin and that she has acted strange. "Because I didn't speak about the James Orr incident, nobody really knew about [the stress she was under]. I became more reclusive, I didn't go to parties. I didn't call people to discuss it. I just didn't feel like it. I didn't know if we were gonna go to trial . . . . That was probably one of the few times in my life I didn't know how to handle the situation . . . it was a tough period."
Given that public disintegration is not rare in the world she inhabits, and that there had long been reports of Fawcett's appearing disheveled and fuzzy-tongued around town, theories about this seemingly sad denouement to a stunning career were advanced: Drugs. Alcohol. Drugs and alcohol. Emotional strain and drugs and alcohol.
"Rumors, unfortunately, in a business like this are never productive or positive," says Universal Studios President Ron Meyer, who was Fawcett's agent for eight years. "If there are negative rumors around, people are usually put in a position of having to protest too much."
Fawcett has a theory about the bad press.
"It seems to me I started being attacked or scrutinized or written about in a strange way when Ryan and I separated," she says. "He was a really good buffer. They seemed to be a bit more respectful when I was with Ryan. Now I'm free, and it's like, take your best shot: 'Yeah, you slept with her, yeah, you did drugs with her . . . she did this, she was mean, she's a lesbian' . . . . I wonder if it's just human nature, that they sense when someone is vulnerable . . . it seemed vicious.' "
The tabloids, with their knack for choosing alarming photos to go with alarming stories, have recently had a field day with Fawcett. "When people see me now, they say, 'You look so beautiful, you look so gorgeous,' " she says. "The only reason they're saying that is because there have been such horrific pictures of me out there."
And yet the symbiotic relationship of star and tabloid is a fact of Hollywood life. In February, the National Enquirer ran a sympathetic story to accompany Polaroids taken the night Orr beat her up. She says she doesn't know how they were obtained but was relieved by the story's tone, since she'd been depicted as a crackpot by much of the mainstream press. (One Times columnist described the assault trial as the "Farrah Fawcett head case.")
"I was so embarrassed," she says, "and on the other hand, I thought maybe people now will understand that what I was going through was not some temper tantrum, not some anorexic, drug-crazed, neurotic actress thing."
"After we ran the story," says Enquirer editor Steve Coz, "Farrah called me up to thank me profusely. She was so enamored of the Enquirer's presentation of the story . . . . "
Not about to let the access ebb, Coz then published a flattering story ("Farrah--her new look & new life"). "Right now, Farrah will take my calls," says Coz cheerfully. "And she's a sweetheart."
Fact is, even her critics say she's a sweetheart. But she is damaged from events of the last few years.
"She hasn't worked for two years, and I think it's hurt her drastically," says her new manager, Mark Burg of Evolution Entertainment. "She has been painted by James Orr as a crazed psycho woman." Orr, through his lawyer, declined to comment for this story.
Marshak and Gold, the agents, said their first reaction when Ron Meyer called them last winter to suggest they sign Fawcett was "cautious excitement." Their agency, Gold/ Marshak/ Liedtke, specializes in old-timers in need of professional rejuvenation and young adults on the rise.
"I think she is a consistently superb actress," says Meyer. "I have never seen any sign of drug abuse or anything that has given me any reason to think that she has a problem."
"As we started to do our research," says Gold, "no one could give us information about Farrah being difficult or not showing up or any of that stuff . . . . And because of the questions hanging around about her, we needed her to come to meetings."
"We've taken her to heads of networks, and studios," says Marshak. "She was on time, articulate, all that stuff."
Fawcett, whose last foray into series television was the ill-fated "Good Sports" with Ryan O'Neal in 1991, has said she's not interested in the rigors of a series. But, says Marshak, "Believe me, if David Kelley (creator of 'Ally McBeal' and 'The Practice') called tomorrow, I would drag her ass down to Fox and say, 'Open mind, open mind.' "
Despite the rumors and bad news, or maybe because of them, Fawcett remains an object of fascination. Both the E! network and A&E recently produced biographies on her.
"The possibilities are limitless," says Burg. "Everyone wants to meet her. Every 35-year-old studio executive and writer grew up with her poster above his bed . . . . There are scripts that will get made in the next year . . . roles playing opposite the likes of Warren Beatty and Clint Eastwood. Personally, I don't want to see Sean Connery [with] Catherine Zeta-Jones, OK? I don't want to see Michael Douglas with Gwyneth Paltrow. I think it's time for 50- and 60-year-old actors to maybe think about women their own age."
Anything Susan Sarandon is considered for, he says, should be shown to Fawcett. This makes historical sense: Fawcett replaced Sarandon in the 1983 off-Broadway production of the revenge drama "Extremities," which led to Fawcett's turn as a battered woman who immolates her sleeping husband in "The Burning Bed."
Not only does "The Burning Bed" remain NBC's highest-rated TV movie, but the very words became a kind of Hollywood shorthand. After the movie aired, "managers would call and say, 'She'd like to do her Burning Bed,' " says Robert Greenwald, who directed the film. "It means someone who wants to make a career transformation and be taken seriously."
Says "Burning Bed" producer Avnet, "What I discovered watching her with Robert is that she had this extremely volatile temper that she could access, that she had these emotions and this rage . . . . "
That rage, Avnet speculates, is the special burden of the woman imprisoned by her looks. "No one expected her to be smart," he says, noting that he and Greenwald would work with her again in a heartbeat.
"I loved Farrah," says Preston Fischer, who produced two of her TV movies, "Murder in Texas" in 1981 and "Criminal Behavior" 11 years later. "I certainly found that she was more difficult the last time than the first . . . . But whatever problems I had with her on the second set, all she had to do was smile and she would melt you away."
Even people on her most troubled project--the Playboy video--came away with mixed emotions. Dick Rosetti, president of worldwide productions for Playboy, worked with Fawcett for eight months, and he says, "I did indeed truly fall in love with Farrah, and a strong part of me still loves her."
Yet the experience turned out to be miserable for both of them. Playboy had been chasing her for so many years that she was able to win complete creative control and a sweet financial deal. The video's first half is a documentary-style biography, featuring clips of her performances and interviews with people who've worked with her. The second half features Fawcett sculpting and painting in the buff and rolling around nude in the waters of St. Bart's.
The studio shoots, says Rosetti, were unpleasant. "She would get into very, very aggressive moods, then she would get into very, very passive moods. And she never, ever shows up on time for anything. And you can quote me on that."
"Can you imagine what I was up against?" asks Fawcett, her voice full of contempt. "Misogynistic, chauvinistic, duplicitous people. They lied to me. They compromised me many times. If I had an idea, they were threatened."
"She has been abused and hurt by a lot of people so she just assumes people are out to get her," says Rosetti, who was, to his dismay, subpoenaed by the defense in Orr's trial last August. Charged with two misdemeanor counts of assault, Orr faced two years in jail. Rosetti's testimony was to have buttressed Orr's attempts to portray Fawcett as a creature given to irrational demands and fits of anger.
The Rosetti testimony was part of a strategy to reduce any damage the prosecution hoped to inflict with testimony from Jamie Rose, Orr's former wife. According to a previously sealed trial transcript, the prosecution planned to call Rose to testify that Orr had choked her twice during their marriage and that Orr had offered to send her out of town during the trial. Orr's attorney disclosed that, in rebuttal, Rosetti would then testify he saw Fawcett with "white powder on her nose . . . behaving like she had just used cocaine," that he observed her smoking "what appeared to be a marijuana cigarette," and that he had to restrain Fawcett when she was "physically and verbally attacking her assistant." Fearing the damage to Fawcett's reputation, prosecutors opted not to call Rose, which legally shut the door on the defense's calling Rosetti.
Orr and Fawcett met in 1994, when he directed her in a Disney movie called "Man of the House." He testified that he began dating Fawcett that August; she testified that they got together after she and O'Neal split up in February 1997. The relationship was always turbulent.
From the beginning, the case was somewhat misportrayed in the press as an incident of mutual combat, as a face-off with bar stools. But Orr was the only one who brandished a bar stool, and he poked it at Fawcett hard enough to deeply bruise her arm as she held a cymbal stand. The trial transcript shows that Fawcett struck Orr just once, and that was to kick out at him after he'd pinned her to the ground.
Fawcett testified that Orr pulled her to the ground and banged her head against asphalt, splitting open her scalp; he maintained that she tripped and that he then straddled her for her own good. "I got on top of her as if to restrain her, keep her down so she could control herself," he testified. "She was fighting me like a wildcat."
Fawcett, fearing Orr's arrest and the ensuing press nightmare, refused to seek medical attention. "I think that I realize I'm trapped by, you know, who I am," she testified, explaining why she returned with her assistant, Colette Weintraub, to Orr's home the night after the incident for help to stop her bleeding from the scalp. "If I go and seek help, it's going to be sensationalized. I knew I couldn't do that. I tried to explain it to him . . . . I just wanted him to acknowledge what he had done, maybe say he was sorry. And that didn't happen."
Why both she and Weintraub carried bats the second night is a point of contention. They testified they were frightened of Orr, who had once been Weintraub's boss. Orr's attorney claimed they planned to attack him. Incensed that Orr refused to come out of his house, Fawcett testified that she told him, "You broke my head. I'm going to break your windows." As she smashed glass, Orr phoned the private Bel-Air Patrol, whose officers saw Fawcett's injuries as she was leaving and called the LAPD.
A jury found Orr guilty of one count of misdemeanor assault.
Though a probation officer recommended 270 days in jail, Santa Monica Superior Court Judge Robert Altman gave Orr three years' probation and ordered him to attend counseling. In an unusual sentencing statement, Altman blamed Fawcett for the incident. "Ms. Fawcett was jealous and angry and precipitated the violence," he said. "Clearly, Mr. Orr had been pushed to the breaking point . . . . "
Deputy City Atty. Lara Bloomquist was outraged. "This was not a one- or two-slap incident," she says. "This guy went completely out of control. She had bruising on both sides of her neck, bruising on her legs, bruising on her coccyx bone where he knocked her to the ground, a significant bruise on her cheekbone, her head was split open about half of an inch where he pounded her head into the pavement."
Fawcett, who received immunity from vandalism charges, is bitter about Orr's light sentence and defiant about her own behavior. "I didn't care about immunity," she says. "I said, 'You know what? I'll do my time, let him do his time. I'll have some quiet time, clean some toilets. They want to give me three days in a women's correctional place for doing what I did. Fine.' "
Maybe she can imagine it because she's played battered women who take revenge and pay the consequences. Or maybe she said it to get Orr to admit he wronged her. Or maybe it's part of her tough-girl-from-Texas act. It's hard to know with someone like Fawcett. The possibilities, you might say, are limitless.
Poster to pedestal
* Coming soon to LACMA ... Sculptor Keith Edmier and his muse, Farrah Fawcett, make art together.
November 16, 2002
By Christopher Reynolds, Times Staff Writer
One day when he was in the fourth grade, Keith Edmier of Tinley Park, Ill., entered a Kay-Bee Toy & Hobby Shop and laid eyes upon a certain poster of a certain smiling actress with blond tresses and a red swimsuit. The year was 1976, maybe 1977, and this was something like love at first sight.
"That image," Edmier said the other day, "was the most beautiful picture I'd ever seen. It was pure."
And it set an imagination in motion. Someday he and Farrah would be together, and barriers would fall away and a video camera would roll, and clothes would be shed, and he'd sculpt Farrah, and Farrah would sculpt him. In fact, Farrah would make a life-size bronze sculpture of him, muscled and naked. And then the results would go on display in the largest encyclopedic art museum west of the Mississippi.
All right, perhaps that's not exactly what Keith Edmier imagined back then. But that's what happened.
Edmier and Farrah Fawcett, once distant figures on opposite ends of the celebrity spectrum, are now collaborators. Their joint artistic venture, "Keith Edmier and Farrah Fawcett 2000," comes to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on Thursday as the marquee attraction in an exhibition that examines the relationship between celebrity and fan, and also between projection and reality. The central work is a pair of sculptures: a reclining marble sculpture of her, done mostly by him; and a standing bronze sculpture of him, done mostly by her. Along with the sculptures there are a few smaller works, and photos, video images and sketches made as the project evolved. If this seems odd and unnerving from a distance, it's often been that way up close as well.
On their first day of collaboration, with roles and objectives still largely undefined, "we started undoing the boxes of clay," Fawcett recalled in an interview at Edmier's Venice studio. "I remember being filled with trepidation, thinking 'OK, now, can I touch the clay?' It was much, much, much more tense than a first date. There was more riding on this."
Their work has drawn backing from the Art Production Fund, a New York-based nonprofit organization that supplies funds for artists' projects; and Rizzoli, which is publishing "Keith Edmier and Farrah Fawcett: Recasting Pygmalion" this month. It also attracted curator Lynn Zelevansky, who brought the project to LACMA.
With this collaboration, Zelevansky writes in an exhibition essay, "Fawcett has played a provocative game ... : She is challenging the public to see her as a complex and engaged human being, not simply the object of projected fantasy."
Of course, LACMA is playing a provocative game too. Though Fawcett's talents as an actress have been widely acknowledged, her greatest fame is as one of television's original "Charlie's Angels" in 1976, and her best-known previous artwork is probably the series of paintings she did in a 1997 Playboy video, applying paint to her body, then rolling on canvases.
"Is this a joke?" asked one LACMA member in an e-mail to the editor after reading of the exhibition. "While there are still things about LACMA I appreciate ... am left scratching my head as to what exactly their commitment to fine art is."
"I knew we'd be accused of sensationalism," said Zelevansky. "But it was a project that I really believed in, initiated by an artist with whom I've wanted to work for many years. And for me, the whole notion of the muse looking back and gaining a voice is a very important idea."
The project began with Edmier, 35, who studied at CalArts and worked in the film business (he did special-effects makeup on "Barton Fink," "Texas Chainsaw Massacre III" and other movies) before moving to New York and embarking on a career as an artist in the early 1990s. For most of the last decade, his specialty has been the grown-up probing, in sculpture, of his own old, childish ideas.
For one piece in 1996, Edmier tracked down Evel Knievel, an old hero. For another piece, he invoked the girl who inspired his first crush -- a girl who wore her blond hair in a feathered style inspired by a certain television star. Through these and other sculptures and installations, Edmier won a growing reputation, including solo gallery shows from New York to London, Paris and Berlin.
But he hadn't found a way to face head-on that transcendent moment in the toy store -- until 1999. Then, after one letter failed to get through, he found a way to reach the actress, relying on curator Irene Tsatsos of Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions as an intermediary.
As Edmier knew from an old profile in the teen magazine Dynamite, Fawcett studied art herself. In fact, the year Edmier was born, 1967, Fawcett was a 20-year-old art major at the University of Texas at Austin. Her professional acting career took off the following year when she moved to Los Angeles for the summer. Years later, as a television and movie star living in the Hollywood Hills, she set up a tin-shed art studio in her yard.
Edmier's request got her attention, Fawcett said, "specifically because he obviously knew about my interest in art, and my sculpture."
They met in May 2000 and hit it off. Soon a plan was launched: That August, Edmier would make a portrait of Fawcett, and Fawcett would collaborate.
Once the studio space was secured and supplies were on hand, "we basically just started pushing clay around, talking," Edmier recalled.
Working on an early press release to summarize their project, "we'd get as far as, 'Keith and Farrah intend ... ' and he'd get hysterical laughing," Fawcett said.
At first the two worked together on an image of her. But as the project developed, their thinking widened, and Fawcett set to sculpting Edmier while Edmier was sculpting her.
Despite a few bumps in the road -- their first terra-cotta collaboration exploded in the kiln -- the partnership stretched to two years, on and off, enduring Sept. 11, family crises and the unpredictable nature of Fawcett's acting gigs.
The sculpture of Fawcett was cast in fiberglass, shipped to Italy and copied by craftsmen into marble. The figure of Edmier was cast in bronze in upstate New York. Among the other pieces they made together: multiples of "Shell," a large clamshell made of melted crayons and filled with beach sand from Padre Island, Texas. A handful of the smaller pieces have been exhibited in Europe, but the central dual portrait is going public for the first time.
Though the image of Fawcett is a nude, the supine figure lies in the most demure pose possible, which is not a coincidence. Fawcett wore a bathing suit and a chiffon cover-up for most of the work, and "I know when I was up on the clay, I was very conscious of revealing as little as possible. The intention was not to make it erotic."
The male figure, on the other hand, stands tall and conceals nothing. That posed a challenge for Fawcett, who'd never sculpted male genitals before. Yet the strangest thing about posing nude, said Edmier, was "how normal it all felt."
Along the way, Edmier and Fawcett learned enough about each other that the two of them, both single, can do a fair imitation of a long-married couple. In fact, Edmier said, "we've had a personal relationship." Between them, it is established that he is the morning person, she is the night person. He is inclined to trust his memory; she takes notes, makes sketches, dates Polaroids. He is the one who has worked with unorthodox materials like dental acrylic; she is the one with more experience in clay.
Working with Edmier, Fawcett decided, was "like meeting with a secure director, a Robert Altman, who says, 'What are your ideas?' " And in their working relationship, she added, "we were able to sort of leave my celebrity out of it."
Whether or not the art is worthwhile, audiences and critics will soon have a chance to judge. And the marketplace may as well. Edmier and Fawcett will replicate some of their works in editions of up to 10, and Edmier's dealer, Friedrich Petzel in New York, has already sold three pieces from the "Shell" edition. (Petzel declined to disclose prices.)
"I hope we can just make some of the costs back," said Edmier.
As for the distance now between the star and the fan, things have changed since that day at the toy store.
"If I had to pick people who really knew me, through work, through frustration, through extreme happiness, through extreme creativity -- you know, the whole realm -- I would say: Keith does," said Fawcett. "And he's known me for less time than a lot of people."