Farrah & Me

June 25, 2009 at 12:30 pm in Celebrity, History, Obituaries

ffMy 8th grade Le Conte Junior High class picture is all feathered hair, a smile full of braces, and my favorite shirt, a pale blue tee with an iron-on of Farrah Fawcett’s iconic poster.

Farrah and I wouldn’t meet in person, until four years later in 1981. I was working at Hunter’s Books on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. You folks would’ve loved Hunter’s. They had a smaller branch in Sherman Oaks, but the Beverly Hills store was the flagship. There was a loft-like upper floor for management overlooking a vast amount of always bustling floorspace surrounded by dark wood shelving, beneath which was the equally large stockroom — or “dungeon,” as we stockboys called it.

Being on Rodeo Drive, naturally the store drew a sophisticated and monied clientele, and more than a fair share of celebrities. Not to boast but I was a fave of Barbara Stanwyck who’d every other month or so would come to the backdoor and ask for me with a list — sometimes just for her, sometimes for her and her good friend Henry Fonda.

Countless others would come in and browse entirely uninfested by paparrazi and when they did our friends in sales would always ring us up on the hotline downstairs.

“Susan Anton and Dudley Moore are here!”

“Swifty Lazar just came in!”

“That guy from ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,’ what’s his name…?”

“Uh, Robert Vaughn?”

“Yeah — he’s here!”

“Chris Evert!”

“Bill Cosby!”

“Tawny Little!”

“Harrison Fucking Ford!”

“Paul Williams!”

“Linda Evans!”

Steve Martin!”

“Bette Midler!”

“Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood!”

“Charro!”

“Jane Fonda!”

And we’d drop whatever we were or weren’t doing, shout the word out to any one else in the dungeon and hustle up the circular steel staircase to the first floor where we’d then attempt to nonchalantly steal glances at them for as long as we could until inevitably store manager Larry would look out from his perch in horror that the rats were mingling with the paying customers and shoo us back down into the dust and dark.

But there wasn’t much nonchalant about me when I answered the phone down there and it was a sales clerk named Margo who breathlessly told me that Farrah and Ryan were in the house.

Keeping that bombshell about such a bombshell to myself, I somehow managed to almost casually saunter up the stairs to avoid attracting attention. But there was nothing calm and collected when I emerged onto the floor and found Farrah at the register in the hardcover section. I just stood and stared and longed for and yearned because the love of my young life was 30 feet from me and she was as gorgeous in person as she was in print or on screen. And radiant? As she made to pay for her books, even the polite version of her 1000 kilowatt smile was blinding.

But instead of the store manager snapping me out of my reverential revelry, it was jealous-as-all-hell Ryan O’Neal himself. Standing beside his woman, apparently he found me staring lovestruck (and probably gape-mouthed) at Farrah and decided after a few seconds that would be enough of that.

It took a few more seconds of him snapping his fingers and pointing at me to get me to break the eyelock I had on my precious Farrah, but by then I was cold busted. The senior saleslady — an arrogant and humorless German hag named Susannah, from whose mouth perpetually dangled a lit Benson & Hedges Menthol cigarette — followed O’Neal’s finger to its target and veritably hissed at me.

I froze in embarrassment. And a good thing to. For in all that hissing and finger snapping and pointing damn if Farrah didn’t look up from the counter directly at me not even 17 years old and lay one of her earth-stopping Ultra-Brite smiles on me. Then she looked at a grim and grousing Ryan O’Neal still wagging a finger and looking like he wanted to punch me out, and she tossed her head back and laughed at his ridiculousness.

What she did next will forever be near the top of my list of Best Things That Ever Happened To Me.

She put her hand to her mouth, looked me square in the eye and blew me a kiss. Not a quick one, either. It was a long slow exhale, enough to carry it over the bestsellers and the travel books and hit me square in the heart with enough force to knock me out of my paralysis and send me scampering off the floor and down the stairs telling the whole dungeon what just happened.

“Farrah Fawcett just blew me a kiss!”

My coworkers responded by thundering upstairs hoping to get their own, but glumly came back down almost immediately because by then she was gone.

And now I am the one glum because she’s gone way too soon and forever. Rest in peace, Farrah.

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