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Farrah's swimsuit makes the Smithsonian

By Eric Fiegel and Ed Payne, CNN
This is the famous swimsuit and poster from the '70s that adorned the walls of teenaged boys across America.
This is the famous swimsuit and poster from the '70s that adorned the walls of teenaged boys across America.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The iconic swimsuit poster sold 12 million copies
  • Long-time partner Ryan O'Neal is donating the items to the Smithsonian
  • She died in 2009 of cancer
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(CNN) -- Thirty-five years ago, it was the fantasy of millions of teenage boys. From now on, it will be a museum piece.

The red swimsuit Farrah Fawcett wore in an iconic 1976 poster and other items from her career were presented Wednesday to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington by her long-time partner Ryan O'Neal.

"I don't think that Farrah realized the impact that that poster would have on the world," O'Neal said, his voice breaking, during the presentation on Wednesday. "She was one of a kind."

He struggled to get through his short statement and mentioned that Wednesday, February 2, would have been Fawcett's 64th birthday. "What a nice way to celebrate an extraordinary occasion," he said.

O'Neal's daughter, Tatum, and the couple's son, Redmond, were also in attendance.

According to the museum's website, "the donation will include the red swimsuit, an original copy of the swimsuit poster, a leather-bound book of Fawcett's personal copies of scripts for the first season of 'Charlie's Angels,' a Fawcett swimsuit jigsaw puzzle, a "Farrah Phenomenon" 1976 edition of TV Guide, a 'Charlie's Angels' 1976 edition of Time magazine, an original 1977 Farrah Fawcett doll and a 'Farrah's Glamour Center' hairstyling toy."

"It's very iconic. It's certainly an important part of American popular culture," Dwight Bowers, curator of the National Museum of American History, told CNN. "There's not a teenager of the time period that didn't have this poster."

Fawcett was a style juggernaut the second half of the 1970s. Her poster sold an estimated 12 million copies and her feathered hairstyle became all the rage.

Nels Van Patten, a longtime friend of Fawcett's, said he was there the day the famous photo was taken. Fawcett did her own makeup that day, without even a mirror, he told her family, friends and reporters at the Smithsonian. She even asked him to squeeze a lemon in her hair to add natural highlights right before the photo was taken, he said.

"She made every man in the world think that she was looking at them," Van Patten said, "and that's the reason why the poster is so popular. I mean, what an infectious smile."

After her one-season run on "Charlie's Angels" -- a show long on cheesecake and tight-fitting outfits -- Fawcett later established herself as a serious actress.

She starred as a battered wife in the 1984 TV movie "The Burning Bed."

She appeared on stage as a woman who extracts vengeance from a would-be rapist in William Mastrosimone's play "Extremities," a performance she reprised on film in 1986.

Other Fawcett films include "Logan's Run" (1976), "Saturn 3" (1980), "The Cannonball Run" (1981), "The Apostle" (1997) and the Robert Altman-directed "Dr. T and the Women" (2000).

Fawcett died in 2009 from cancer at age 62.

The items will go on display sometime this summer in the popular culture section of the museum.