Friday, June 10, 2005

Jane Fonda's book

I read Jane Fonda's autobiography, My Life So Far, which happened to be the only book readily available book during a recent stretch of time in which I went for about a week without watching any television. (Try it sometime!)

The last part of the book concerning her courtship and marriage to Ted Turner alone was worth the price of admission, which is easy for me to say since I didn't pay for the book, but I stand boldly by that assertion after plowing through the book in about 2 days of power reading.

I've already passed the book along, so accurate outtakes are sketchy, but a few anecdotes remain sufficiently vivid to convey.

It's clear that Turner bowled over Fonda, who had never met anyone quite like the force of nature known derisively as The Mouth From The South.

She resisted him as long as she could, but it was hopeless.

On their first date, as well as their second, he kept excusing himself, practically every 10 minutes, with the announcement, "I've gotta tighten my skates." In TedSpeak, that means he has to go to the men's room. "I pee a lot when I'm nervous," he explained.

When she agreed to take him on in bed after he bluntly suggested they do so on their second encounter, he exclaimed, "Hot dog! Playtime!"

Poor Ted was very insecure, though. Couldn't stand to be alone. Serious abandonment issues. And, as he explained, he was always hoping for the best, but planning for the worst. Hence, he always had a lady in waiting should the marriage to Fonda crater, as it eventually did. When they finally parted, he had another gal waiting to jump on his jet. "My seat was still warm," she said.

Ted is an atheist but well-versed in The Bible, which he has read twice and is more than willing to debate; Jane, meanwhile, converted to Christianity during her marriage to Turner but doesn't go into great detail about her religous awakening, other than to say she was wrong in keeping it from Turner as it was happening.

Fonda writes extensively about her sad relationship to her father, the late famous actor Henry Fonda, a man of so few words that he could go the entire day with speaking.

Henry Fonda was completely cold and unemotional with his family and colleagues even though he played some memorably emotional roles in the movies (Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath, for example.)

After she finally fell in love with acting, Jane began taking classes with Lee Strasberg, the famous acting coach who played the memorable role of Meyer Lansky in Godfather II.

Strasberg had his students perform sense memory exercises and Jane's first assignment was to display the emotions/effects of drinking a glass of cold orange juice. It's not a miming exercise, mind you, but an exercise in which the student's visual expression conveys the act of drinking a glass of cold orange juice. (I don't quite get it all, either.)

In preparing for her first on-stage sense memory exercise, Jane would sit at the dining room table of her father's New York apartment and stare at a glass of cold orange juice. One afternoon, Henry Fonda walked in and asked her, "Jane, what are you doing?"

She explained she was doing a sense memory exercise for her acting class.

"Jesus Christ," Henry Fond said, walking out of the room without another word.

He didn't believe you could teach acting.

There's lot of other interesting stuff in Fonda's book: her anti-Vietnam War days, her marriages to Tom Hayden and Roger Vadim, insights into her brother Peter (who's not at all like his sister Jane), getting to know Katherine Hepburn during the filming of On Golden Pond, her struggles with bulimia, and so forth.

Weirdly enough, all three of her husbands (Vadim, Hayden, Turner) loved to fish.

A few times, she starts to get a little preachy, but she always manages to pull back before it's too late, perhaps because she had a good and wise editor. Even if you're a political conservative, I think it's informative to hear her point of view, particularly as it relates to the Vietnam War era.

As Ted Turner said when he defended his then-wife when she was confronted by an agitated pro-war person at an Atlanta social gathering, "Jane was right about Vietnam, I was wrong."

1 comment: said...

C'mon, Banjo, who's really interested in those boorish louts?

Next time you unplug yourself from the toob, try the index to the Encyclopedia Britannica. It's much more exciting, and educational too!