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 nearly seven seasons of the Netflix series Grace And Frankie. I was slow in appreciating this show, 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.
Grace And Frankie has received 12 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 has had many personas: Academy Award-winning Actor, Sex Symbol, Film Producer, Political Activist, Fitness Guru, Trophy Wife, and Gay Icon.
This fall Fonda has been busy being arrested. She has been hauled off to jail in handcuffs four time for protesting climate change outside the United States Capitol in D.C. She was arrested with members of the group Oil Change International on October 11, with Grace And Frankie co-star Waterston on October 18, and with Ted Danson on October 25. On November 1, 2020 Fonda was arrested along with Catherine Keener and Rosanna Arquette. On December 13, 2020, Sally Field was arrested with Fonda. Fond always wears the same iconic outfit for these protests: a $500 bright red coat from Neiman Marcus, black pants and shoes, a statement hat like a black beret.
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.
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 Arthur Penn and Richard Avedon.
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 bisexual filmmaker Roger Vadim, who begged her to star in his sex romp 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 an attempt to have some power in the relationship:
“And the women would invariably fall in love with me.”
For Vadim, Fonda made 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.
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 has said.
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 48 years. Today, there are at least 7,000 websites dedicated to hating Jane Fonda.
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’s marriage. For a revolutionary, Hayden was old fashioned enough to be threatened by a wife who 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!
A seventh and final season of Grace And Frankie premiered in summer 2021, when the first four episodes of the season were made available. The remaining 12 episodes of the season are now in production after the pandemic delay, and they set to start streaming sometime in 2022.