Farrah Fawcett in a skintight red bikini flashing her gorgeous smile. This sounds like a recipe for a great photograph, and in 1976, it proved to be true . Here's how the iconic poster of Farrah Fawcett in her red bikini was photographed by Bruce McBroom and why it eventually sold over 12 million of copies.
The story actually begins with Mike and Ted Trikilis, brothers who started the poster company Pro Arts Inc. The company was doing relatively well when the idea of the Farrah Fawcett image came up. At that time, Charlie's Angels was still a few months away from being shown on TV, and Fawcett was only known as a model for beauty product ads in magazines. She was so unknown at that time that when she was suggested as a poster subject, one of the Trikilis brothers had to ask, "Who's Farrah Fawcett?"
The company asked her about the idea of a poster picture, but the only way they got her to agree with the idea was by giving her absolute control of the image. Before the iconic poster, Pro Arts had already spent money on two other photo shoots which Fawcett had rejected, and in desperation, they turned to the only photographer she trusted: Bruce McBroom.
Bruce McBroom was a freelance Hollywood photographer who first got acquainted with Fawcett through her husband Lee Majors. He was tasked with taking some promotional pictures of her for the soon-to-be released TV series Charlie's Angels. Somehow, McBroom must have struck a chord with Fawcett because he was the only photographer she wanted for the Pro Arts project.
The photoshoot happened at Fawcett's home on Mulholland Drive. The Pro Arts executives wanted her in a bikini, but she didn't have one there. McBroom had Fawcett try on different outfits and photographer her around different places in the mansion, but nothing clicked. Almost running out of color film, the photographer asked if she was absolutely certain that she didn't have a bikini. McBroom recalled, "She went in to look around and came out of the back door and stood in the doorway in this red suit, and she said in her Southern accent, 'Well, is this anything?' And I literally said to myself, 'Oh my God.' I knew that was it."
The blanket behind Fawcett was McBroom's car seat cover. Fawcett squeezed a lemon into her hair to make her highlights pop. The photographer shot 36 frames of the scene. Fawcett picked two frames she liked the best. One of them became the now famous red bikini poster.
This TIME article goes in detail about how Bruce McBroom got the iconic Farrah Fawcett poster. This Cleveland Scene story tells how the Pro Arts Inc poster company made its fortune with the 1976 poster. The actual poster is still in print and available as Farrah Fawcett - Red Swimsuit Poster - 1976 - 20 x 28 Inches or the larger sized Farrah Fawcett Movie Poster - 27 x 40 Inches.