The sweetest sound this side of heaven is Goldie Hawn's giggle.
It tickles like Bitter Lemon, teases like Tweetie Pie and tap-dances out of her throat like Fred and Ginger doing the Continental.
"EEEEhee-Hee-Heeeee," she burbles, curling her bare toes together.
The 39-year-old actress turned Hollywood producer, the former go-go dancer from Takoma Park who became America's favorite bubblehead by rolling her eyes, biting her tongue and elevating "Ummm" to a '60s cult password while flubbing her way through "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In," is talking on the telephone in her hotel suite, presumably about her new film "Protocol," which opens today.
She wears a gray knit tunic over an ankle-length matching skirt with a thigh-high slit up the side. Her Arctic-blond hair suggests a pedigreed Afghan with a body perm, and strings of long silver hearts dangle from her earlobes. Her pale blue eyes are the size of butter plates.
Elvis Presley said she looked like a chicken that's just been hatched. Dolly Parton called her Poppin' Fresh Dough. Playboy -- which features her on the cover this month reclining in a giant champagne glass -- labeled her "the girl with the golden giggle."
Whoever is on the phone is hooked.
"Listen, I'm getting involved talking to you and I'm having an interview at this very second."
She hangs up the phone, pads over to the sofa and settles back, bare feet flung on the coffee table. She stretches, yawns and takes a Vantage from a fresh pack. For all that's been written about Goldie Jean Hawn and her brilliant career -- her hit films ("Cactus Flower," for which she won an Academy Award for best supporting actress, "Butterflies Are Free," "Shampoo" and "Private Benjamin," which she also produced) as well as her flops ("Dollars," "Seems Like Old Times," "Foul Play," "Swing Shift"), her two di- vorces, her current living arrangement with actor Kurt ("Silkwood") Russell, there's never a mention of anything Wrong.
Not even a hint.
She is, like Liza and Liz, on a first-name basis with half the population and, by all that's sacred to People magazine, should be hopelessly addicted to a wide range of mind-altering drugs, not to mention The Bottle. Why is it we haven't read about her checking into the Betty Ford Center?
She tosses back her head and giggles. "Smokenders maybe, but the Betty Ford clinic, no!"
It's just, well, she seems so . . . "Content?" she says, finishing the sentence.
She just doesn't seem to have any . . . "Neuroses?"
She giggles again and cocks her head and all at once you're in a Goldie Hawn movie and Goldie's playing the dizzy blond who may not have all the answers, but at least she's trying.
Her enormous success is based on this very image, but it is -- like Chaplin's Little Tramp -- just an image. Off screen, she is one of only three Hollywood actresses (Barbra Streisand and Jane Fonda completing the triumvirate) who can call their own shots. She develops, produces and stars in her pictures and her name is boffo at the box office.
In Hollywood parlance, she's bankable. And if she wears her fame lightly, acquaintances say, don't be fooled. Beneath that soft, chewy exterior is one shrewd cookie.
Observes George Schlatter, original producer of "Laugh-In," "Anyone who's getting $5 million a picture is not stupid."
Does everyone fall in love with Goldie?
"I certainly did," says "Protocol" director Herbert Ross, whose credits include "Footloose" and "The Goodbye Girl." "She doesn't do any star stuff. She's totally open and guileless."
She is also known as a savvy professional who can be perceived as a complex, sometimes difficult person.
"There are many many Goldies," says Anthea Sylbert, former costume designer and coproducer of "Protocol."
"Her reputation is that of an extremely talented, very bright woman who can be strong and very persuasive. Certain people sometimes misread the combination of star-producer and use words like 'difficult.' "
Hawn agrees. "I have made people's blood pressure go up," she says. "I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now if I didn't have a point of view. You have to pick your battles. I probably have lost quite a bit along the way. But it's so petty and insane. The thing I don't like to do is have that experience and wind up enemies. That hasn't happened very often."
More frustrating, she says, is the picture the public has of Goldie Hawn as the girl in the bubble. Or the champagne glass.
"It's tough having the image of being up all the time," she says, curling her tootsies together on the coffee table. "I get down, too. When I'm not smiling, people come over and nudge me and tell me to smile. We all have energy fields around us. Some of us have greater energy fields than others. The ones who have a large and wide energy field have an effect on other people."
"When your field is down, and it does goes down, people become disturbed."
"The reason we're surprised when she becomes depressed," says Sylbert, "is because it happens so rarely. It pains one so. She's such an optimist. She's so positive. You want to protect her from such things."
She says she doesn't need protection.
"When I get depressed, I do what everybody else does," she says, lighting another Vantage. "I want to be quiet. I'm not a person who wants to get out of their depression, you know what I mean? When I have a depression I think I have to have that depression. I owe that to myself in some way. It's a moment of reflection, a moment of growth, and um, so I lock in. And it passes. A lot of my creative work comes out of those moments.
"It's feeling it. Allowing yourself to feel that way. But people say, 'Oh, don't feel this way.' Well, I want to feel lousy. Don't take that away from me. It's like when your dog dies, they say, buy another one right away. No! I want that moment."
But the public wants other moments; Judy Benjamin asking if the Army fatigues come in any other color beside green, wailing, "I wanna wear my sandals again. I wanna go to lunch!" They want the girl in Peter Sellers' soup, the perpetual birdbrain whose comedic timing conjures up the ghost of Gracie Allen. And like Gracie's, Goldie's mind has a way of clicking into fast-forward, which can leave others behind.
"She's very transparent," says Ross. "When something's troubling her you see it right away. She has the most incredible ability to leave the room mentally. Did she tell you about that? One time we were going over the script, and she stopped talking and looked out the window for what must have been four, five, six minutes while an airplane went by. All of a sudden, she came back. I said 'Where were you?' She said, 'I was wishing I were on that plane.'
"She is able to distance herself sometimes and find a quiet place."
Ask Goldie Hawn why she's so well adjusted for a Malibu movie mogul and she crinkles her eyes and creases her brow.
"I sort of think you're born with it. When my children were in my belly I felt what they were going to be like. Oliver used to rolllllll in my belly. Katie was BOOM BOOM BOOM." She punches her stomach. "I could feel their personalities. The most amazing part was, I was right! I know for instance that I couldn't wait to get out of the womb . Mother could barely make it to the hospital."
Mother is in the next room. Her father, a Washington musician, died two years ago during the filming of Hawn's last comedy, "Best Friends".
She has dedicated "Protocol," the wacky tale of a patriotic young cocktail waitress who is propelled Capra-style into international prominence, to her father.
"Of course I wanted to please my dad. I really wanted him to see this movie. I'm sure he's watching it, wherever he is."
Her father, Rutledge Hawn, was a saxophone player, performing at inaugurations and embassy parties.
"Being a musician in Washington, coming home from the White House and saying what happened. His perspective was, 'Everybody's the same. They're just folks.'
"He had a magnificent sense of humor. The most important thing is self-humor. I can't deal with anybody who doesn't have it. I can't work with them. Recognizing our own frailties is very important. Mother and I have taken trips together where we have laughed so hard people have actually said, 'Are you really mother and daughter?' It's such a pity! You have one mother and one father and there are people who don't forgive them for their mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes. We all do."
It's a question, she says, of getting what you need. If you don't, "You have trouble forgiving."
Goldie Hawn made sure she got what she needed. "I saw to it," she says emphatically. "There were times when Dad was tired and I wanted a hug, so I went over to him."
She spent seven years in therapy, where she says she made peace with herself and her childhood.
"You find forgiveness."
Barbra Streisand's last film, "Yentl," was also dedicated to her father.
"That's right," Hawn says leaning forward. "Isn't that wild? I don't know what it means."
Perhaps part of it is recognizing their influence, but another part is giving them the limelight they never had in life.
"That's right. I'm glad my mother's not listening," she says, looking toward the bedroom door. "Mom and Dad wanted me to be successful, they wanted to put my name in lights. Now, you would like to do that for them."
She was born in Washington, a second daughter, and grew up in Takoma Park. By the age of 3, Goldie, named for an aunt, was taking dance lessons. She made her professional debut at age 16, and later studied drama for two years at American University. She moved to New York and wound up in the cancan chorus at the 1964 World's Fair. That led to a stint as a go-go dancer (yes, she did dance in a cage) before setting off for California, where she was hired for an Andy Griffith special.
George Schlatter, who was putting together a new comedy show called "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In," was the first to spot Hawn's wacky star quality.
"I was totally captured by this woman-child," he recalls. "For three shows I didn't know what to do with her. We had her doing introductions. Well, she got in, screwed up and started to giggle. The director stopped her. I grabbed the phone and said, 'Don't ever stop that girl again.' "
Schlatter says the cast and crew would deliberately try to make Hawn flub her lines by putting phony words on cue cards. "I really wanted this magic thing to happen." They made rude noises, trying to trip her up, and Schlatter insisted she was only allowed to read the script once before taping.
What emerged was a deliriously spontaneous comedian.
"What you saw was absolutely genuine." Her talent translated easily to film, and in 1968, she made "Cactus Flower" with Walter Matthau, winning her only Oscar.
Director Herbert Ross now considers her America's "premier comic talent," and says he screened several vintage screwball comedies -- including "My Man Godfrey" with Carole Lombard -- to get Hawn in the mood for "Protocol."
"In a sense, she is Lombard. She can play high comedy and drama, and low comedy too." Ross not only likens her to Lombard, but says she has the sexual vulnerability of Monroe.
"Goldie is another link in that chain."
The star gets up to find a Kleenex, returns to the sofa and honks like a tractor-trailer.
She is open about her personal life, and has talked freely about her two marriages, the first to dancer and director Gus Trikonis (which lasted four years) and the second to Bill Hudson of the Hudson Brothers, which ended after 3 1/2 years. She has two children from her marriage to Hudson, 8-year-old Oliver and 5-year-old Kate.
After the dissolution of her first marriage, Hawn pid Trikonis $75,000, which she referred to as alimony. She has recently apologized in public to Trikonis, saying the money was not alimony, but a settlement.
Her name has been linked romantically to several male stars, including Warren Beatty and Chevy Chase, but her dating days ended two years ago when she met actor Kurt Russell while they were filming "Swing Shift."
The movie bombed. The romance did not. They now live together in homesat the Pacific Palisades and Malibu and outside Aspen. She would like to have another child, but fears that -- at 39 -- she may be too old.
"I'm really happy now," she says. "I don't know whether or not we'll get married. Neither one of us know. We sort of giggle about it. But um, we know it's not the answer to a-n-y-thing.
"Certainly," she says dryly, alluding to her marital history, "it becomes big business if it doesn't work out."
Hawn was once quoted as saying it was difficult for her to be married to a man who was not a celebrity. But she was younger then, and fame was so new and potentially fleeting.
"That is very, very true. When you're young and it's happening, it's happening to you for the first time. You don't know where to put it in your life. You don't know where it belongs. It's all trial and error, mostly error, and that's how you learn."
Those were the days when the anxiety was so strong she couldn't walk into a public place without throwing up. "If you're lucky enough to stay up there for long enough, eventually you come to a very deep understanding of your priorities.
"Certainly," she says, being 39 "would make a big difference and has made a big difference."
But that still doesn't mean she could fall in love with just anybody.
"I don't think so. That's what I've learned, you see? It's very painful."
She and Russell -- a child star whose sexuality was unleashed in the recent made-for-television movie "Elvis" -- "are very, very similar. He's been in the business a long time. There's nothing new under the sun to him. I've been in the business a long time. There's nothing new under the sun to me. We're great supporters of each other's career and very interested in what we're doing. We talk about him directing me. I talk about producing something for him. He reads everything I do. I read everything he does. We're really best friends.
"We also respect each other's judgment," she says, eyes narrowing. "Which, of course, is the bottom line in a love relationship. If you don't have respect for that person, you are finished. Finished. So not only do you need to love someone who's a nice person and appealing to you, but also who you don't feel smarter than."
But while Russell is one of Hollywood's hottest male leads, he is yet to become a star of Hawn's stature.
"You are wrong," she says heatedly. "You are wrong because this man, we have been all over the world together and inevitably, 75 percent of the time people will know him first. Kurt started when he was 9 years old! People know him in Morocco! It's unbelievable. We went to Paris and he's much more famous there than I am. In that sense, I know what it's like to be in the position of standing back."
For Goldie Hawn, it's a welcome change. "I really loved it. It was such a pleasure, I cannot tell you. In fact, I do some hiding now. I get to hide behind something. Just in case.
"It is an intrusion. He feels the same way. He doesn't relish it, however; he is very respectful, as am I. Where it counts, our values are very much the same.
"I don't have a mass of friends," she confides. "The people I know and love are the people I've been with for many years, well before I was successful. I don't go to parties where I can get daggers. Kurt and I have a very quiet life. We take the kids to school in the morning. I drive to the office in rush hour. I go to aerobics class with everybody else. I don't do the marketing because I usually don't have the time, but certainly it's one of my favorite things to do."
She's kidding, right?
"Nooo," she squeals. "I love going to the market!"
She also loves clothes. "I have some wonderful clothes, and they sit in my closet! Sometimes I'll put on some fabulous dress just to go to the movies! 'Cause we don't go out!
"I'm not complaining," she says.
Goldie Hawn knows that her fame, or luck, or whatever is in that energy field of hers, does weird things to people.
"There is a repressed jealousy," she decides. "Say, for instance, I had a lunch with a girlfriend and I forgot to go. Instead of the girlfriend saying, 'You must be so busy, I really forgive you. God, I hope this doesn't happen again.' The girlfriend will say," and here she lapses into her best Judy Benjamin accent, " 'I can't believe you did this. I am so pissed off. I took my day to come and see you and I know you're busy but what's more important' and all that stuff. This," she says, "can happen.
"However, I must tell you I spend no time thinking about these things."
She does spend time thinking about her career, anxious to expand her repertoire.
"I don't know whether it's dogged me or there was a reason for it. It's not so much the bubble brain, you know what it is? It's a person that makes people feel uplifted. It did something to the human spirit, even for a minute and I'm not sure that something's for me in any way to make judgments on because if I am the channeler of that emotion, that moment of glee, then that's my gift. Sure I would like to exercise a wider range of my personality, to take enough chances to find out what my real limitations are. Because I'm still at a point now where I'm not sure."
"The most exciting thing about Goldie," says producer Schlatter, "is that she will endure."
As a bubble brain or dramatic actress. Producer, wife, mother, mogul.
But it's tough for some people to let go of the waif. To them, she will always be the woman-child, flubbing her lines, rolling her eyes, one of life's lovable victims.
"Be nice to her," warns Schlatter. "If you're not, I'll break your legs."