Defenders of Farrah Fawcett have claimed she was (a) severely tired; (b) extremely nervous; or (c) knowingly playacting the role of a birdbrain when she appeared on David Letterman's Late Show this past June, burbling and meandering so effectively that less sophisticated viewers might be forgiven for thinking she was in serious distress, or even drugged. Certainly she didn't look tired: The tight black dress she wore showed off a tanned, toned, sex-kitty body unknown in nature to 50-year-old women. In fact, the dazzling, disturbing sight of Fawcett's remarkable physical self in such harsh discord with her wobbly stage presence was enough to distract those same less sophisticated viewers from the very product the woman was on TV to hawk in the first place: a pay-per-view concoction, just now released for home-video consumption, called Farrah Fawcett: All of Me. I now cradle a tape of this rivetingly depressing, souped-up, soft-core fantasia of self-promotion in my untanned, untoned arms. And I gotta ask: Is this all that's available for our golden poster girl, our athletic Angel, our very own American bit o' honey, now a 50-year-old mother who loves to paint and sculpt but thinks that the only way we would like to see her do it is with her clothes off?
You think I'm going all corny-poetic on you, don't you, all feminist hooey and humor impaired. Well, let me tell you what's in All of Me.
First, there's a quick A&E Biography-type spin through Farrah's corn-on-the-cob-wholesome Texas childhood and her magical rise to fame: the move to Hollywood, the early gigs, the transformation into the late '70s-early '80s It Girl that hair, those teeth, those nipples on The Poster. (Critics supplying trenchant commentary include blow-dryer wielder Jose Eber, bathrobe wearer Hugh Hefner, and culture carny Camille Paglia.)
Then comes a section documenting the photo sessions for Farrah's 1995 Playboy naked pictures (this being a Playboy video and all), wherein the subject explains why she finally agreed, at age 48, to take off her clothes and expose her permanently attentive breasts; by the end of the shoot she unravels in tears and phones an unknown intimate to report, ''I don't like my body, I don't like my hair.'' It's awful, painful, humiliating, creepy.
Then follows the creative centerpiece: Farrah explains her love of art and demonstrates it, too. First she sculpts a female form with clay she ends up rubbing all over her naked body. Then she decorates a canvas with images of a female form using paint she ends up rubbing all over her naked body.
Next there's a brief interlude in which the actress avers that the most important acting she has ever done was in the 1983 stage play and 1986 film version of Extremities (in which she is abused by a man and gets revenge by torturing him) and the 1984 TV-movie production of The Burning Bed (in which she is abused by a man and gets revenge by setting him on fire).
Finally, there's an exotic performance piece during which the star recites verses from the biblical Song of Solomon in a seductive whisper while wearing a black dominatrix wig. When she takes a bow, her robe falls off, revealing (you know what's coming) her naked body.
Look, for all I know, I've made you want to run out and see this thing. Certainly it's never dull. But the straight-faced solemnity with which everyone involved participates in what is come on, guys, be real a howlingly silly project is, as them Playboy honeys like to say, a turnoff. Our Farrah the gleaming girl of our memory, that radiant exemplar of American sunshine is better than this. Deserves better than this. And if, for whatever reasons of intractable insecurity, she doesn't know it, then she deserves to have somebody trustworthy and sensible (who doesn't stand to make a buck off her bod) in her camp. That somebody should tell her that All of Me is not all of her, and that there are other roles available to Farrah Fawcett in the next 50 years of her life than smearing paint on her fine bum. D