The following is an excerpt from "Both Of Us: My Life With Farrah" [Crown, $26.00] in which fellow-actor and long-time beau Ryan O'Neal shares the secrets of his tumultuous romance with the "Charlie's Angels" star. Chapter 5, "Bad Sports," reveals a regretful rut in their relationship:
Writing a book is an emotional odyssey, sometimes exhilarating, other times deflating. Today I’m trapped in the latter, having to confront certain truths about Farrah. Writing about Good Sports in the previous chapter brought it back to me, this conversation Farrah and I had.
It was right after we had taped our last show. Farrah and I were vacationing in the Bahamas. We were having dinner at a highly recommended little restaurant on the water. A handsome couple was sitting across from us. And Farrah says to me, “I’ve been watching those people since we sat down. They don’t even look at each other. Who has dinner and doesn’t speak?” I said, “Married people.” I got that line from somewhere, and though I didn’t remember then, I do now. The dialogue was from the 1967 movie Two for the Road with Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney. It’s the story of a married couple told through a series of flashbacks that recaptures the trips that punctuate their life together. These scenes take the audience through the universal stages of every long-term relationship: love in the beginning, at its most idyllic; the baby years when responsibility eclipses romance; the inevitable disillusionment of familiarity; and then, the ennui that either swallows you or that you both choke back and conquer. I’m making this superb movie sound more cynical than it is. Probably just my state of mind, thinking about all this and not having another chance, like Hepburn and Finney, to make it right.
Anyhow, in Two for the Road there’s this clever motif the screenwriter uses as a commentary on what happens when two people are together for a long time. It’s up to the audience to determine whether the message is optimistic or cautionary. At various intervals on the road, Hepburn and Finney will encounter a couple dining together in silence, and when Hepburn asks what sort of people sit together and don’t talk to each other, Finney says, “Married people.” Was it the silence of two people so comfortable with each other that they don’t feel the need to say anything; or was it a stony silence, born of frustration, or, worse, indifference?
I rented the movie today and I’ve been sitting here watching it. The last time I saw Two for the Road was with Farrah. We laughed at all the witty parts. I’m not laughing now.
Just like those couples in the movie, at some point the conversation between Farrah and me stopped. It’s as if our love was put on mute. We could see and touch each other, read each other’s moods like fingers tracing across braille, but our mechanism for reconciling, for flushing the toxins out of the relationship, had atrophied. I never realized it until I began this book and started viewing my memories with a new lens, not an easy thing to do when those memories are all you have left. What I’m about to tell you I’ve never admitted to anyone, not even to myself. The truth is I believe the conversation Farrah and I began that first long-ago weekend in Big Sur, where we talked for days about everything important, luxuriating in the joy of getting to know each other, stopped that autumn of 1990 when Good Sports started taping its first and only season.
I can see it as if I were watching a movie trailer. Pushing Farrah beyond comfort; convincing myself it’s for her own good, like a personal trainer so focused on results that he doesn’t realize he’s put too much strain on his charge’s joints; an insecure Farrah, whose hands are sweating and whose throat becomes tight trying to be funny on cue; the endless production meetings; the rigid rehearsal schedules and strained performances; the live studio audiences; the conflicts with producers; the constant scrutiny of the press; the flat scripts; the nagging questions: Will we be picked up for another season? Will the network give us a better time slot? Flashback to a younger Ryan and Farrah in Big Sur as they slip into the Jacuzzi and kiss; close-up of that same couple a decade later, returning home in LA after fourteen hours on the set of Good Sports, climbing into opposite ends of the Jacuzzi and reviewing next week’s script in silence, then retiring to separate bedrooms, where one will escape into sleep, and the other will write in his journal all the things he should be telling her but doesn’t.
Journal Entry, November 7, 1990
There is this thin, impenetrable veil between us. We’re professional and considerate to each other on the set; cool, almost aloof at home. Farrah told me today that we remind her of Jack and Anjelica. They loved each other but it wasn’t enough for Nicholson. She accuses me of being bored and angry. Maybe she’s right. Sometimes our love just doesn’t make up the differences. I constantly hesitate. I feel like the guy who wants to prove he can go over Niagara Falls but is afraid to get in the barrel.
Yes, we were sleeping in separate bedrooms by then, but not for the reasons you’re thinking. When Redmond was a toddler he’d come into our bedroom at night wanting to sleep between us. Redmond has strong legs like his mother, and he would burrow into the bed, decide he didn’t have enough room, and then start pushing with all his might, until I had no other choice but to sleep on the floor or in the other room. Eventually he outgrew this, but by then, Farrah and I had grown used to our privacy and it stuck, and even when we traveled after that, we’d often get adjoining rooms. I always thought of our arrangement as terribly mature of us. Now I wish I could have back every one of those nights we slept in separate beds.