SECTION ONE
PAGE SIX

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

AMERICA'S ANSWER TO BARDOT
THE YOUNG JANE FONDA

VI.

When she was ten, her father went to New York to appear in the Broadway production of Mr. Roberts.  Six months later, she moved with her family to Greenwich, Connecticut, where she became as dedicated to horses as she now is to acting.

'she started really to study jumping, for instance," her father said, "and she was in horse shows and pretty soon her room was full of blue ribbons, around the room, blue ribbons."

Still, she would start fights with the stable boys and hit them and kick them and once she broke her arm in a battle with one and another time she broke it in a fall from a horse and still smother time she broke her wrist roller-skating.

"I was very competitive," she remembers.  " I've always been competitive.  For instance, I had a girlfriend in California who had a horse.  She always had horses, but she had one that burned in a fire.  I tell you, the attention she got from this horse burning in a fire. So, on the spur of the moment, I told everyone that I had also had a horse that had burned in a fire.  And then that I had been given a new horse, and every day would tell about the horse I had, I would make up eelaaaborate stories.

"Now this meant that for about a year, I couldn't invite anyone to come to my house because they would find out that I really didn't have a horse. For maybe a year, I lived in fear that somebody would call up and say, 'How's Jane's horse?' And the guilt went to the extent that on Washington's Birthday, the whole school was assembled and we were all lined up against the wall and the headmistress said, "Now, who knows what George Washington said when his father asked him who chopped down the cherry tree?'

"My hand shot up, because I knew, and she called on me. But I couldn't got the words out, "I cannot tell a lie.' So I put my hand down.  I will never forget that. I couldn't say it.  I had such a guilt about that thing."

Later, she sat down and wrote a document for herself.  She still has it in her possession. In it she wrote, "I swear that I will drop the trivil bar at Mike's, that I will enter fast jumping in Teddy's classes, that I will not sell my tack, that I will own a horse of my own before I'm twenty-one, no matter what happens in my family."

Jane Fonda still has never owned a horse.

Looking back, Jane feels that she was a prisoner, kept incommunicado from her emotions and that the key for her release was psychotherapy and acting. But just as she was pained by her compulsion to keep her emotions to herself, she is now pained by compulsion to make her emotions public.  She says the reason for the pain is the sensitivity of her father and her brother and her love for them. Jane Fonda's lifelong adoration of Henry Fonda is much too strong to be cut short by the mere exposure of it, no matter how disrespectful that exposure may sound to her father.  If she felt an absence of family, it was out of love for its members.

"I remember," she told me, "there was a certain kind of thing that used to just gas me.  Like there were certain girls that I liked to spend the night with more than others, and the reason was because---like, you'd wake up in the morning on Sunday---it gets me every


Jane would fantasize
about a family having breakfast
at a big, round table


time I talk about it---and there were certain kinds of noises that you hear in a home where there's a mother and a father and maybe a maid and a couple of brothers and sisters. There's kind of a clinking in the kitchen, and there's the smell of coffee cooking, and there'd be sun coming in. 

"And there'd be a big dining room and a big round table and the whole family would have breakfast together, and there'd be a great, big, abundant breakfast.  There's a certain kind of smell to family breakfasts, there's a certain kind of warmth. I used to love to spend the night in a girlfriend's house like that, because it was a home.

"And one of my fantasies used to be that I was---which is ridiculous, because, God knows, I had a beautiful home and I had parents and I had every advantage and everything like that---I used to imagine that I'd be on kind of a winter's day walking down a country road and I'd be looking in the window of a farmhouse, a marvelous, lit window, and I'm looking in and seeing them sitting around at the dinner table.

"And this used to get me.  And, now that I think of it that has a lot to do with my acting. That's why I'm so excited about doing Strange Interlude. It has nothing to do with the actress---acting. I don't really think I like acting, I mean it's   painful. I really don't like it. It's just---it's belonging to a group, like I told Lillian Ross, just being in the theater, especially during rehearsals, working together in the same place, for the same goal, under the one spotlight surrounded by darkness, like a family  in the living room. And I never could figure out what it was that was different about certain of my friends' homes   than mine, and I can't explain I what it was. And it's not that the other kids had happy homes, because I don't know anybody that has a happy home, really."

The fact is that whether or not Jane Fonda had a happy home, she obviously did                not have a normal one, whatever that may be. Her father, after all, was Henry Fonda and her mother, after all, did commit suicide, an act that certainly was not the culmination of any great happiness.

"I had governesses, but my mother was a very warm and affectionate mother," Jane remembers, "and very demonstrative in her affection."

From what I have seen, all Fondas are demonstrative, but Jane's complaint apparently is that they are not demonstrative to one another.

"You see," says one of Jane's closest friends, "when Jane's mother became ill, the illness which finally sent her to the sanitarium, any demonstration, any raising of the voice, any show of emotion came to equated with her mother's sickness."  ##

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