SECTION ONE
PAGE TWO

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COLUMN SIXTY-THREE, SEPTEMBER 1, 2001
(Copyright 2001 Al Aronowitz)

AMERICA'S ANSWER TO BARDOT
THE YOUNG JANE FONDA

II.

Merely to be a performer creates its own torment.  To be a performer and an artist is double the penalty.  Sometimes the penalty has been extreme.  Like Marilyn Monroe, Jane Fonda agonizes before the mirror, dreams of herself in the emperor's new clothes and suffers headaches that reverberate through her entire body before each public appearance.  When Margaret Sullavan's daughter, Bridget Hayward, committed suicide in 1960, Jane, a lifelong friend was appearing in the Boston tryout of Arthur Laurents' Invitation to a March.  Laurents remembers finding Jane crying in her dressing room, racked with a migraine, already under sedation and unable to go onstage.

"You're afraid you'd do it, too, aren't you?" he said.

"Yes," Jane replied.

Jane denies the story, although she doesn't deny occasional anxieties of suicide.

"Yeah, yeah" she told me, "I always think about it, but I never would do it.  I'm telling you I value my life too much.  I think I'm too important."

She chews two sticks of gum at a time, stays up baking cakes for friends until six in the morning, borrows matches from cab drivers and walks in her sleep.  When she is in a play, before she goes onstage, she climbs to one of the boxes and searches through the audience until she finds a face that looks friendly.  She was pleased recently to learn that her father does the same thing.

She is five-feet-seven-and-a-half inches, taller than she'd like to be, and she weighs one hundred and ten pounds, skinnier than most persons expect to find her, and still she diets constantly.  Europe has hailed her as America's new sex goddess, and yet she talks self-consciously of having to wear padded bras.

"Physically," she says, "I never liked my body."

She doesn't use lipstick.

"I think," she says, "it makes me look ugly."

And even without lipstick, she doesn't particularly like her face.

"When we were doing Walk on the Wild Side, she did makeup tests," her boyfriend told me.  "So she saw the makeup tests and she said "I hate them.' She doesn't like her cheeks; she doesn't like her cheekbones. The same thing when she did Tall Story.  She saw the makeup test. She hated it, so that every time she would act, it was a makeup test.  Another thing, if on the stage there is another beautiful girl, she would relate to the beautiful girl on the stage.  Like in The Fun Couple, the other girl was Dyan Cannon, a very attractive and wonderful girl, which is not to say there was any kind of antagonism or


Jane doesn't think
she's as attractive
as other actresses


animosity. But in rehearsals, when they were both on the stage---regardless of what kind of a scene it would be---Jane would relate to her in a way that she would almost try to hide herself and say to Dyan, 'That's you, you are the pretty girl, don't mind me.'

"I know, because I said to Jane, 'stop hiding." The first time I suggested Dyan Cannon for the part, I saw a Venetian blind come down in front of Jane and I said, "What's the matter?  Do you mind her being in the show?' She said, 'No, I like her." I said, 'then what is it?? And she smiled and said, 'You know me, the moment I know there is someone going to be very attractive around, then suddenly I say, "What the hell am I doing there, why should I be there? She can do the part perhaps better than I can do it."'

"Another thing is opening nights, any public appearance, she gets headaches, invariably she will have a splitting headache.  The other day, there was the Actors' Studio Benefit, and she had to go on the stage and give a prize.  She asked me the same question about six times.  She was wearing a green dress and she was thinking of wearing a black dress, and she says to me, 'You do think that the green dress is a better one than the black one?' I said, 'Yes, I think so.' And then minute later she asked me exactly the same thing.  And then she says to me, 'I have splitting headache.'

"I said, 'Your hair, perhaps because it's up.' Always she had an excuse that when she had her hair up, the hair goes the other way and gives her a headache. At La Dolce Vita in California, when we went to the premiere, she couldn't see practically because of the headache. She said, 'I can't see, I have a headache."

I think that one of the most obvious panics that I've seen her in---more panic than        opening night or facing a camera ---is when she has to be somewhere without having a character to do. Like, we got some tickets to go to opening of Mutiny on the Bounty. I say 'How wonderful! We are going to see Mutiny on the Bounty!' I take it for granted that we go. And then, as the day grows nearer, I see her getting kind of a little removed, here and there. Sometimes I recognize it, sometimes l don't. When the day comes, she's nervous, she's edgy, she's sharp, snaps her fingers till you say, 'What's the matter?? and you realize what it was all the time, that she doesn't want to go.  Not because she doesn't want to see the movie, it's just that she doesn't want to see the movie on that particular day, when she knows that as she comes out of the car there are going to be people outside, photographs, and all that.  Not that she's shy. I don't try to pretend that she's shy.

"But it's like every other person---we grow up to find our identity. And someone like Jane had an identity for such a long, long time in her family, with everybody saying, 'she's a healthy girl, the brother is the one who is weak'---I mean physically weak, not emotionally weak, I don't know the boy---but her family her family was always saying, 'Jane is the healthy one, she's going to be all right."

"Now that has given her a responsibility, the responsibility of a young girl who has to think, "I don't have anything wrong. I like my horses, I like my Daddy, I like my stepmother'---whoever that can be, you know, three of them, four of them---'I always liked them.' Now, the moment when she came to the point where she might think, 'I feel insecure." Well, not she, not Jane, not Lady Jane, who has been brought up all right.  That kind of a thing makes trouble for people.

"It's like with her mother. At first, she never talked to me about her mother.  Usually, when two people live together closely, you talk about things.  When I became close to Jane, I waited and waited and waited for a burst of emotion about her mother. But it was sidetracked.  It was bypassed.  When Jane would talk about anything in the past, in some strange way, any subject of memory would not include her mother. It's like her life started from twelve years old on." ##

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