I feel as if I knew Farrah Fawcett, even though we’ve never met.
Never needing an excuse to visit Austin’s Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum, we were quick to RSVP for two recent free events. After enjoying cocktails and hors d’ oeuvres on the patio and a walkaround the gardens, we visited a new exhibit entitled “Mentoring a Muse: Farrah Fawcett and Charles Umlauf,” which included works by both Farrah and Umlauf, along with an informative lecture. We returned to the patio a month later, but this time we were treated to a presentation entitled “Friends of Farrah,” at which her nephew and her childhood friends, the “amigas” (Spanish for “female friends”), shared memories and personal stories with us.
Farrah, a Texas girl from Corpus Christi, attended college at the University of Texas at Austin and studied art. It was there that she met Charles Umlauf, the professor and mentor that she shared a lifelong friendship with. Her artistic talent, while incredibly impressive, was something that most never knew about. Overshadowed by her beauty, the only freshman to be named one of the “10 most beautiful coeds on campus,” she was soon discovered by a Hollywood agent and left before graduation.
She rose to international fame when the photo of her posing in a red swimsuit became the best selling poster in history. And, who can forget the TV show Charlie’s Angels? In 1996, she was named one of the top 50 greatest TV stars of all time. Four Emmy award nominations and six Golden Globe nominations later, Farrah was still the same soft-spoken, sweet girl from Texas that her small circle of friends and family knew and loved.
Farrah’s “amigas” told stories of accompanying her into a venue, their amazement at the total silence that would ensue and Farah’s nonchalant way of making everyone comfortable. Scripts were always piled high on her bedroom floor, her phone was constantly ringing and she spoke of experiencing a constant emotional tug between being famous and longing for anonymity (especially when there was strife in her personal life).
Farrah remained a sculptor all her life. She and Umlauf seem to share a secret language, both becoming the others muse. With him, she was able to express the part of herself that she kept hidden from the world. Was Farrah’s deep connection to Umlauf the justification of her artistic side and her decision of a road not taken?
One of the “amigas” told the story that when Farrah was diagnosed with Cancer and lost her hair (she died at age 62), she visited her and couldn’t help but think “…Wow, if she doesn’t have the most beautifully shaped bald head!…” The “amiga” tearfully told the audience that there was nothing the beautiful Farrah would have wanted more than to be honored for her art. At that moment, the lights flickered, the microphone squealed, the audience gasped and I knew she was there with us.