December 21, 1937– Jane Fonda:
“I loved campaigning with Harvey Milk in the Castro District in San Francisco for Prop 6. He was the most joyous. He was like Allen Ginsberg. He was always smiling and laughing, and he was beloved and he was funny. The most lovable person. I was so happy when I was with him. And it was just so much fun going into those gay bars with him – oh my god!”
Fonda says she was the number-one beard for closeted actors during a time when homophobia in Hollywood was decidedly worse than today.
“When I was young, I was the female that gay guys wanted to try to become heterosexual with. A very famous actor who’s gay, and I will not name names, asked me to marry him. I was very flattered, but I said: ‘Why?’ This was 1964, and I mean, he wasn’t the only one. It’s very interesting. And I lived for two years with a guy who was trying to become straight. I’m intimately acquainted with that.”
Fonda has long been a Gay Rights advocate. In 2013, she said:
“I’ve lived a long time, 20 years of that time was in the south, and I have seen too many lives destroyed and distorted by homophobia. I pray with all my heart that I live to see the day when people can come out freely, safely and be accepted by every strata of society.”
Fonda and her friend Lily Tomlin have given us three seasons of Grace And Frankie on Netflix. I was slow in appreciating this series, even though I hold the two leads in the very highest esteem. For the first five episodes, I found it forced in its comedy, and Sam Waterson and Martin Sheen as the husbands that leave their wives for each other, seemed to be acting gay, instead of being gay. I originally thought the show would be a laugh fest, considering the pedigree; Marta Kauffman was the creator, and she had brought us Friends (1994-2004). I melted and fell in love with the series eventually, yet I still think the two leading women should have switched roles and the whole thing could have been presented like a Ingmar Bergman style Scenes From A Marriage for the new millennium. Still, I am already looking forward to Season Four which starts streaming January 19, with new cast member Lisa Kudrow as Grace’s long-time manicurist and Frankie’s new foil.
Grace And Frankie has received seven Emmy nominations, including for both Fonda and Tomlin and SAG Award and Golden Globe nominations.
Fonda has spoken out to our gay youth, urging them not give up hope as they come out to their parents, whatever the reaction to the news might be:
“Do not despair, no matter what your parents say. You’ve got to understand it can be very hard for parents to hear that their son or daughter is gay. But it’s their problem. It’s not your problem. Don’t despair.”
Fonda is such a strong LGBTQ ally she recently said she would not go to North Carolina due to its recent passage of anti-gay legislation, including a law that forbids transgender people from using the bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.
Fonda has had many personas: Academy Award-winning Actor, Sex Symbol, Film Producer, Political Activist, Fitness Guru, Trophy Wife, and Gay Icon.
She was born Lady Jayne Seymour Fonda. As a little girl, she was enamored of her famous father, Henry Fonda, but apparently, he was too self-involved to notice. She would crave his attention for the rest of his life. Her mother, Frances Seymour Fonda had wanted a boy, since she already had a daughter from her previous marriage. When her brother, Peter Fonda was born, her mother’s postpartum depression kept her in the hospital for months, and her depression lingered in the form of manic mood swings, which worsened when Henry Fonda enlisted in the Army for two years. Frances once said to her young daughter: “Lady, if I gain any extra weight I’m going to cut it off with a knife!”
In 1948, when Henry Fonda returned from serving in the war, he was offered the lead role in Mr. Roberts on Broadway and he moved his family from Hollywood to Greenwich, Connecticut. A year later he announced that he was in love with another woman, and wanted a divorce. Henry’s rejection ultimately sent Frances over the edge. She was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in 1950. A week later she killed herself by slitting her throat.
Henry Fonda married Afdera Franchetti, a 23-year-old countess, in 1957. Jane dropped out of Vassar to study painting in Paris, where she modeled for Vogue. When she returned to NYC, her friend Susan Strasberg urged her to study with her father, legendary acting coach Lee Strasberg, who had taught Marlon Brando and Marilyn Monroe.
Fonda made her Broadway debut in 1965 in There Was a Little Girl. She decided that she would be the best actor on Broadway and the prettiest. She purged to stay fit. She took Dexadrine before her dance lessons. She was living with her lover and manager, Andreas Voutsinas, who turned out to be gay and who has written that at the time, her bulimia was out of control. Yet, Fonda harnessed her emotional problems brilliantly for her performances on stage.
Fonda found more work as a model, posing for famous photographers like Richard Avedon and Arthur Penn. She embraced her role as a sex symbol, and producers wanted to capitalize on her look. While working in Paris, Fonda was introduced to director Roger Vadim, who begged her to star in his sex comedy La Ronde (1964). Vadim had already been lovers with Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve. Fonda:
“I thought my heart would burst. What Vadim gave me when I was young was huge. Huge. He reawakened me sexually.”
Fonda was also drawn to Vadim because he reminded her of her father: introversion, moodiness, and a sly seductive demeanor.
They married and three years later they began having three-ways. It was Vadim’s idea; he had confessed to having affairs since they got married, but he insisted other women would never interfere with their love. The trysts were just part of his theories about the sexual freedom exemplified by Fonda’s film persona. Fonda writes that the first time he brought home another woman:
“I threw myself into the threesome with the skill and enthusiasm of the actress that I am.”
She would even solicit women in attempt to have some power in the relationship:
“And the women would invariably fall in love with me”.
Fonda made some iconic films during this era, including La Curée (1966), Barefoot In The Park (1967), and Barbarella (1968), based on a French comic strip about a space traveler whose mission to save the universe involves a series of nutty sexual encounters: she simulates multiple orgasms while perched atop a “pleasure-making machine”, performs a strip tease, and crams herself into a tiny cage where she is bait for killer birds that peck off her costume .
Barefoot In The Park with Robert Redford, is one of her best performances of her early films. My own favorite from this era is They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969), based on a 1935 novel by Horace McCoy. It is a Depression era story and it had absolutely nothing to do with Fonda’s sex kitten archetype that she had been playing. It is a bold, raw performance.
In the spring of 1970, she met Tom Hayden, one of the founders of Students For A Democratic Society. His taciturn personality reminded her of her father.
Fonda killed it with her performance as a no-nonsense call girl in Klute (1972), winning her first Academy Award. That same year, the Vietnamese Committee For Solidarity With The American People invited Fonda to visit Hanoi. She had planned to document the effects of the war in a film, and brought her video camera along while visiting ruined hospitals and schools. She was escorted to an aircraft gun and told it was protecting the city from American airstrikes. Everyone laughed as she climbed atop the big gun, unaware of a camera crew filming her. The next day, “Hanoi Jane” was all over the American press. Fonda:
“That two-minute lapse of sanity will haunt me until I die. I simply wasn’t thinking about what I was doing, I was only feeling innocent of what the photo implies.”
The Nixon White House pressed the Justice Department to bring treason charges against Fonda. She was vilified by the Right Wingers for the next 46 years. Today, there are at least 7,000 websites dedicated to hating Jane Fonda.
In the early years of their marriage, Hayden protected Jane from the backlash of that trip to Hanoi. The couple would make headlines for the next 17 years.
To make money for Hayden’s campaigns, Fonda opened her own fitness studio, The Workout, where she taught aerobic classes. By 1980, it was making loads of money. She opened two other studios, wrote workout books, and made videos that proved more popular than her films. But, Fonda’s new success was the undoing of Fonda and Hayden marriage. For a revolutionary, Hayden was old fashioned enough to be threatened by a wife that made more money. Plus, she discovered that he was having affairs, having sex with other women in their house.
Ted Turner was as successful as Fonda. He changed the news industry forever with CNN and his other networks and sports teams. They had the same goals, and ambitions. For a while, they made for a perfect power couple. By 1996, they had been married for nearly eight years, but Fonda found herself slipping back into a subservient wife role. She was almost 60-years-old and still struggling with her identity. In 1997, Fonda became a grandmother and a Christian. Turner didn’t like it one bit. They split up, but remained friends. Fonda writes they had mind-blowing sex right before separating for good. Leave it to Jane!
She has already had a few 80th birthday celebrations, including one last weekend the home of famed decorator Michael S. Smith and his husband, former Ambassador to Spain, James Costos. The guests included Sally Field, Diane Keaton, Marcia Gay Harden, Chelsea Handler, Jon Hamm, Lauren Hutton, Lisa Kudrow, Maria Shriver, Michael Patrick King, Rashida Jones, Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, Rosanna Arquette, Wanda Sykes, Frank Gehry, and Barbara Boxer.
As reported by World Of Wonder writer Trey Speegle, Fonda raised $1.3 million for her foundation at an Eight Decades Of Jane event on Saturday in Atlanta for he foundation, Georgia Campaign For Adolescent Power & Potential, created in 1995, which focuses on teen pregnancy prevention and adolescent health.
Currently streaming on Netflix is Our Souls At Night with Redford, and after 50 years, the two friends still have combustible screen chemistry. Coming in 2018, Book Club, a comedy with Fonda, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen and Diane Keaton.