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A Majors Breakup

TV superstars Farrah Fawcett and Lee Majors called it quits 18 years ago.

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You’re the third angel I’ve had in here,” Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Harry Shafer quipped to Farrah Fawcett as he presided over her divorce from Lee Majors. Shafer, who dissolved the couple’s marriage on Feb. 16, 1982, was pointing out the fact that he also judged the divorce trials of Fawcett’s Charlie’s Angels costars. But if Fawcett wasn’t amused, it’s easy to understand why.

During her nine-year marriage to Majors, the Texas native had gone from being an unknown (The Six Million Dollar Man star had called Fawcett for a date after seeing a publicity photo of the then 21-year-old model) to one of the biggest stars on television (Angels sometimes drew half of all the viewers in America during its time slot).

Fawcett had come to stardom determined to keep her down-to-earth views about marriage. Her original Angels contract even stipulated that she had to be home each night in time to cook Majors’ dinner. But her attitude changed as her fame grew (according to Majors, she once said that “if you want me in the bedroom, you’ll have to hire somebody to do the dishes”), and by the time The Six Million Dollar Man was retired in March 1978, Angels was at the height of its ratings glory.

Fawcett’s time at the top was short-lived, however. She left Charlie’s Angels after a single season (although she did make regular guest appearances) to try to make it in the movies. But 1978’s Somebody Killed Her Husband flopped at the box office and was referred to by industry insiders as Somebody Killed Her Career. Meanwhile, Majors asked his buddy Ryan O’Neal to look after Fawcett while he was away on a shoot. O’Neal obliged and soon he and Fawcett were appearing side by side at L.A. hot spots and in supermarket tabloids. Majors and Fawcett announced their separation in July 1979.

It took 30 months of legal wrangling (she wanted their Beverly Hills mansion; he wanted a share of her endorsement earnings) and four days of arguing in court before their marriage formally ended.

Fawcett would earn critical acclaim with Off Broadway’s Extremities (1983) and the 1984 TV movie The Burning Bed. Her relationship with O’Neal lasted until 1997 (they never married, though they have a son, Redmond). Since then she has tended to the bizarre, highlighted by her painting-in-the-nude video, All of Me, and her 1997 spacey appearance on the Late Show With David Letterman. As for Majors, following the success of ABC’s The Fall Guy (1981-86), he would marry Playmate Karen Velez in 1988, move to Florida, and have three children with her before divorcing in 1994. But neither Fawcett nor Majors would achieve, separately, the white-hot stardom they had when they were together.

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