Farrah Fawcett's Fabergé hair products were surprisingly more flop than frizz
Shampoo fueled the career of the Charlie's Angels star.
Every decade has its one iconic pop-culture hairstyle, from the Elvis pompadour to the Beatles mop-top to "The Rachel." In the 1970s, the coif du jour was undeniably the flowing, feathered look of Farrah Fawcett. Her blonde locks bounced as she roller-skated and played tennis in the opening credits of Charlie's Angels. Her sunkissed mane tumbled down the straps of that red swimsuit in her ubiquitous poster. Perhaps it is no surprise then that so much of her success came down to shampoo.
A shampoo commercial led to the making of her historical wall poster. When Charlie's Angels kicked off in the fall of '76, Fawcett was not quite a household name. She had a small run on the series Harry O to her credit, and a recent role in Logan's Run, but most knew her from television commercials. One of those TV ads, for Wella Balsam shampoo and conditioner, enraptured Pat Partridge, an Akron University student who happened to live next door to Ted Trikilis, co-owner of the Pro-Arts poster company.
The college kid told Trikilis he would make a poster of Farrah Fawcett if he were running Pro Arts.
"Who's Farrah Fawcett?" Trikilis asked.
Partridge explained that guys in his dorm were cutting out photos of Farrah from beauty magazines and tacking them on their walls. Trikilis reached out to Fawcett's people and a photoshoot was arranged.
Fawcett did her own hair for the poster shoot, spritzing in lemon juice, and her own makeup. In other words, it was not that far off from a selfie.
The actress earned more money — taking about 40% — from poster sales than her Charlie's Angels paychecks. That had to play into her decision to leave the series in 1977. That same year, Fawcett signed a seven-figure deal with Fabergé to create her own line of hair care products. The cosmetics company was known for bridging the worlds of beauty and celebrity, as Fabergé hired actors Cary Grant and Roger Moore as board members, and utilized celebs Joe Namath and Margaux Hemingway to sell its Brut and Babe scents. So the suits were not entirely jazzed that their newest signing had quit her hit show.
The exact details of her contract and earning vary in reports from that era, ranging from $1 plus royalties to $2 million (according to Weekly World News) to $2.5 million (according to TV Guide) to $10 million (according to People). Whatever the case, it was millions.
Fawcett had input into the creation of the Farrah Fawcett by Fabergé line, which included shampoo, creme rinse conditioner and hair spray.
"I like my hair squeaky but not too squeaky," she suggested to the Fabergé shampoo formulators. "Maybe we should add some vinegar." She also asked that her commercials not include "too many shampooing scenes," which is why the television spots instead showed her frolicking with a dog in the misty surf and hazy sun on a beach.
The relationship between star and brand soured a bit, as sales reports began to trickle out. "Fabergé carped that she didn’t give her all," People wrote in a 1979 cover story. When Fawcett nearly tumbled off a horse after being stung by a bee during a photoshoot, a Fabergé photographer smarmily remarked, "Now we’re getting our money’s worth."
"Fabergé had project sales of $15 million right away," gossip columnist Roger Deming wrote in 1981. "Sales barely reached $12. And in the second fell to a shocking $9." He added the cosmetics giant had dumped $20 into promoting the products. By his account, Fabergé took a, er, bath on the shampoo. Farrah Fawcett made a bundle — but flopped, the caption read under her photo.
Which makes the zeitgeisty renaissance of Farrah Fawcett hair care products so much more remarkable. Stranger Things may be steeped in 1980s nostalgia but the second and third seasons feature Farrah Fawcett hair spray in memorable scenes involving fallen cool boy Steve and lovable dweeb Dustin. In the recently released batch of episodes, Dustin even sprays the stuff in defense like Mace.
We adore those moments, but our inner nitpicker questions whether how the boys procured the products in 1985. It's a bit of an anachronism. You see, in 1984, Fabergé was gobbled up by McGregor, who discontinued many Fabergé brands. The Stranger Things teens must have been stockpiling it.