My O’Neal family connection, and remembering Farrah Fawcett as a mother

I’ve always sort of followed the O’Neal family (as in Ryan, Tatum, et al) with a little bit of particular interest because of my own family history. When I was a little girl, living in the Los Angeles area, my grandmother was at that time the west coast editor of Photoplay Magazine. Before People magazine, there was Photoplay. It was the premier entertainment tabloid until the early 80s. And because of her work, my grandmother knew and became friends with a lot of very interesting people. In fact, just the other night I was perusing her handwritten address book from the mid-70s, and saw page after page of home numbers and addresses for everyone from John Wayne to Aaron Spelling to Priscilla Presley to David Cassidy to Sonny & Cher.

Here are some family pix that include shots of my grandmother on the job as an entertainment reporter, and hanging out with various actors over the years.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Among the famous folks with whom my grandmother became exceptionally close was Joanna Moore, Ryan O’Neal’s first wife, and quite an accomplished actress in her own right. She was also the mother of Tatum and Griffin O’Neal. My grandparents became surrogate parents to Joanna, seeing her through her struggles with drug addiction and mental illness. She lived with them for quite some time during the period Ryan O’Neal left her for Leigh Taylor-Young, and my grandmother did what she could to try to help Joanna maintain a relationship with her young children after custody was awarded to Ryan O’Neal. When Joanna did get to see Tatum and Griffin during that period, it was often at my grandmother’s house, and I remember playing with both of them, as I was just a little bit younger than they were. I think my cousin Paige played with them even more often, as she was exactly the same age as Tatum.

When Tatum and Griffin had to give up their dog due to all the family turmoil, she became my family’s dog for the next 13 years. My grandmother also remained on friendly terms with Ryan O’Neal for some years, until she retired to Tennessee in the late 70s; she even attended Leigh Taylor-Young’s baby shower when she was pregnant with her son, Patrick O’Neal. She also knew Lee Majors and his then-wife Farrah Fawcett-Majors pretty well.

I picked up Tatum O’Neal’s autobiography a few years and was saddened to read that she believes her mother abandoned her. I know for a fact that her mother fought like hell to retain visitation and custody rights to her children. But she had a drug problem, and she was being divorced by a super rich, wildly successful movie star who used his power and wealth to make sure that Joanna Moore was effectively cut out of her kids’ lives forever. And then he made sure that his children grew up believing that their mother hadn’t wanted them. To her credit, Tatum apparently reconnected with her mother late in Joanna Moore’s life. My grandmother, who stayed in touch with Joanna until the very end, was so happy to see that happen.

Anyway, with this background, I was sad to see that Farrah Fawcett died yesterday. She was so young – only 62. And as a mother myself, I couldn’t help but think about how hard it must have been to let go and leave behind her own son, Redmond O’Neal, who is very ill with drug addiction. And that’s what I am blogging about over at Babble at the moment.

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