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The Ultimate Workout

Yes, she addresses the "Hanoi Jane" years and apologizes for posing in 1972 in a North Vietnamese antiaircraft gunner's nest, which gave the impression that she supported the shooting down of U.S. planes.

"It was a mistake, and I have paid and continue to pay a heavy price for it," she writes in a lengthy rendering of that incendiary trip to Hanoi. "I carry this heavy in my heart, and always will."


"Women have to not be afraid of their own strength and to inhabit themselves," the 67-year-old actress and author says. (Helayne Seidman For The Washington Post)

_____From The Post_____
Book Review: 'My Life So Far'

And yes, as has been the advance buzz for some days now, she reveals that her first husband, Roger Vadim, who directed her in "Barbarella," introduced her to group sex. She even helped in soliciting prostitutes as participants during their wild years in Paris. Deep down, she says, she didn't want to do it. She wanted to keep Vadim happy -- she was 25 at the time. "So adept was I at burying my real feelings and compartmentalizing myself that I eventually had myself convinced I enjoyed it," she writes.

She was ashamed. But a few years later, she writes, those prostitutes, and what she learned of their lives, helped inform her 1971 portrayal of Bree Daniel, the call girl in "Klute," which won her a Best Actress Oscar.

The book isn't quite a tell-all, though it tells much. It's a Hollywood book spanning a 39-film movie career. In it are supporting roles by Katharine Hepburn and Simone Signoret, plus cameos from Marilyn Monroe, Jimmy Stewart, Charlie Chaplin, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, even an unforgettable scene on the French Riviera, where she ends up swimming with a nude Greta Garbo. (Fonda wore a bathing suit.)

The book tells a sprawling, tangled, at times even messy story. It ranges from the stoicism of Henry Fonda to the train wreck that was Vadim to the high-handed spousal criticism of Tom Hayden to the egomaniacal charm of Ted Turner. There's a lot there -- the kids, the family histories, the inner musings, the '60s, the war, the activism, the movies, the "Jane Fonda's Workout" business. Plus tons of pictures. No wonder it runs so long. Oh, and let's not forget the FBI, CIA, Treasury Department -- those federal agencies that monitored her. It's an epic, really.

"It's going to be a huge book with men and women," she says, "and while people may buy it because they think, because of this trash that's come out early that it's going to be salacious and all that, this is the kind of book it is. People are going to buy the book, read it and give it to their mothers, or give it to their wives, or the mothers will give it to their daughters.

"But I think I have a lot to say to men, too. When you're a feminist, you're always worried that what you're going to say is going to be anti-man. But my book, I think it doesn't and I think that comes across, and that men feel included, which is great. . . . Women have to not be afraid of their own strength and to inhabit themselves, and men have to not be afraid to own their hearts."

Fonda says the book links the seemingly disconnected dots of her life.

"The through-line is what happens to a young girl when she feels that she can't be loved unless she's perfect," she says. ". . . And how that toxic quest for perfection will cause her to move out of herself, to become disembodied, and then to fill the emptiness and numb the anxiety that is caused by the disembodiment with any number of things. For me it was a food addiction, and the disease to please."

Anger and Loss

She is an awkward, desperate girl, nails bitten to the bloody quick, and she knows, just knows, that she has failed to earn her parents' love. It's all her fault. She isn't perfect. Her father, Henry Fonda, is gone a lot and, when home, gives little of himself to any of them -- not to Frances Ford Brokaw Seymour, his wife, nor to the children, Jane and Peter. The young Jane is angry at her mother, thinks she's not trying hard enough to be pleasing, to earn her husband's love. And angry at her too because her mother did not hold her as a baby or a growing child, not like she held Peter.

Jane's mother, who had been in and out of sanitariums, returns home one day in 1950 with a uniformed nurse. Jane refuses to go downstairs to greet her.

And she never sees her mother again. A month later, Seymour slits her own throat.

Those were the couple of years spent "in a zone of somnambulance," she writes. Other girls blossomed; Jane, instead, withered. "She had slipped away so quietly that I never even said, 'Good-bye, see you again in 50 years.' "


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