The Real Story Behind Farrah Fawcett’s Iconic Swimsuit Poster

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ABC News will air a documentary titled This is Farrah Fawcett on May 23, where the real story behind the classic swimsuit poster than turned the actress into arguably the hottest pin-up in history is revealed.

During a photo shoot with Hollywood photographer Bruce McBroom, the poster of Fawcett in a red one-piece bathing suit became the image of the 1970s, including an appearance in the film that personified the era, Saturday Night Fever, where it was seen in Tony Manero’s (John Travolta) room alongside an image of Al Pacino.

“It was typical L.A. in the summer. It must have been 100 degrees,” McBroom said in the documentary. “And she came out in a one-piece red suit and she said something like, ‘So what do you think of this, Bruce?'”

Fawcett had just been cast in Charlie’s Angels, the TV series that would launch her to stardom and the image McBroom captured that day would go on to become the biggest-selling poster of all time. It was shot at the home the actress shared with husband Lee Majors, star of ABC’s The Six Million Dollar Man.

The blanket in the background was an old beach blanket that McBroom kept in his truck, which he used as a backdrop.

The actress later said to Barbara Walters, as quoted by ABC News, that she liked the photo because it represented who she really was.

“I guess the fact that it was a one-piece bathing suit, and I was happy — I wasn’t in a sexy pose like Brigitte Bardot. I mean, certainly, it’s sexy because that’s my figure, and my nipples were showing,” she said.

Also appearing in the documentary is Jaclyn Smith, one of Fawcett’s co-stars in the series, which aired from 1976 through 1981. Smith and Fawcett starred in the series along with actress Kate Jackson. Both Fawcett and Smith were replaced by actresses Cheryl Ladd, Shelley Hack, and Tanya Roberts.

Smith was the only actress to remain with the show throughout its run, alongside the two male stars of the series, David Doyle and John Forsythe, before the latter became a big star on ABC’s Dynasty in the 1980s.

Smith said that her longtime friend loved to laugh and that was one of the things that people didn’t know about her, that she had a great sense of humor. She will always treasure her time as Fawcett’s friend, stating in the documentary that friendship and the bond between the women was the cornerstone of the series.

Fawcett was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006. At the time she was in a relationship with her long-time partner, Love Story star Ryan O’Neal. The actress died in 2009 at the age of 62.

This is Farrah Fawcett airs Thursday, May 23, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.