By City News Service
Ryan O'Neal testified Monday he took one of two Andy Warhol portraits of actress Farrah Fawcett from the Wilshire-area condominium of his former flame a week or more after her 2009 death.
The 72-year-old actor took the stand in trial of a lawsuit brought by the University of Texas in an effort to obtain the second of two Fawcett portraits sketched by the iconic artist in 1980. The school has one of them and wants the other to display them side-by-side in a university art museum.
Under cross-examination by University of Texas attorney David Beck, O'Neal said he was not sure if he told anyone beforehand that he was going to remove the Fawcett portrait.
"I may have, I may not have," O'Neal testified.
The actor said the portrait was not the only item he took with him from the condo.
"I also took a pepper shaker with hot pepper," he said.
The school sued O'Neal in August 2011, after the disputed Warhol portrait of the actor's longtime love, and mother of his son Redmond, was seen in his home during an episode of the reality TV show "Ryan and Tatum: The O'Neals."
O'Neal says Warhol gave the second Fawcett painting to him. But lawyers for the university maintain the portrait is school property because Fawcett agreed through her living trust to donate all her artwork to the university, which she attended for three years in the 1960s.
Fawcett, who left the school before graduating when her acting career took off, died of cancer in June 2009 at the age of 62.
The six-man, six-woman Los Angeles Superior Court jury also will decide whether a Warhol napkin drawing that O'Neal is demanding from the school through his cross-complaint belongs to him or the university.
O'Neal said he kept the portrait at his Malibu home from 1980 until 1998, but allowed Fawcett to take it with her to museum exhibitions with her copy from time to time. However, Fawcett let herself into his home in 1997 and caught him with another woman, he said.
"She was hurt, she was in shock," O'Neal said of Fawcett, mother of his son Redmond.
He said he later asked Fawcett to take the painting and keep it for him.
"I asked her to keep the portrait with her, store it for me, because my young (girlfriend) was uncomfortable with Farrah staring at her," O'Neal said.
Fawcett wanted the painting to remain with him, he said.
"She said, 'I'd like to leave it there so that she'd feel uncomfortable,"' O'Neal testified.
O'Neal said he and Fawcett reunited on his 60th birthday in April 2001, after he was diagnosed with leukemia. He said they remained a couple until her death.
"We reconciled, she forgave me," he said.
The actor said he did not know until later that Fawcett, who was herself diagnosed with cancer in 2006, established a living trust a year later. He also expressed surprise when told by Beck that he was originally included as a beneficiary before later being removed in an amendment.
"I'm surprised," O'Neal said. "What did I get?"
The actor said he encouraged Fawcett to donate artworks she created to the UT and to also go back one day and get her degree.
O'Neal also said Warhol gave the napkin drawing to both him and Fawcett. He said the sketch was actually drawn on a tablecloth.
The actor occasionally seemed annoyed at Beck's questions and often asked him to repeat them before answering.
In other testimony, Craig Nevius, who directed the 2004 reality show "Chasing Farrah," said he overheard O'Neal tell Fawcett during a speaker phone conversation after she was diagnosed with cancer that he would like to have one of the Warhol paintings to remember her by "if the worst were to happen."
Nevius said Fawcett shrugged off the question.
A lighter moment in the trial came when O'Neal's lawyer, Martin Singer, protested that Beck was leaving a photo of Fawcett on display for too long. Judge William MacLaughlin allowed the photo to remain.
Asked by Singer if he could also leave images of his choice before the jury for extended periods of time, the judge replied, "As long as it's not mine."
The remark drew chuckles from the jury.
MacLaughlin on Monday denied a defense motion made more than a week ago to put the trial on hold until some issues related to the portrait could be determined in probate court. He said he will decide later whether O'Neal's lawyers can allow jurors to hear the testimony of a former Fawcett nurse who claims the late actress told her the disputed painting belongs to O'Neal.
The O'Neal lawyers say they only recently found out about the nurse and her information.
The judge said jurors can hear portions of the "Chasing Farrah" show that were never aired, but which the UT lawyers demonstrate that the actress claimed ownership of both portraits.