The Magazine

Jane Fonda Remembers

She's still searching for the role of a lifetime.

May 9, 2005, Vol. 10, No. 32 • By CYNTHIA GRENIER
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With second husband Tom Hayden, she was "head over heels" in love when he told her how the U.S. government and the South Vietnamese were trying to overthrow the culture of centuries, and replace it with a consumer-driven Playboy culture to make Vietnamese women ashamed of their slight Asian bodies and seek breast implants. Jane began crying, and felt "he was someone with depth and soul, different from any man I'd ever met." The next paragraph opens with them "making love on the living room floor." (Jane herself had implants for a time, having them removed only in her sixties.)

Then came Hanoi, where Hayden thought she should go by herself. She bravely maintains, at the beginning of her Hanoi chapter, that the image suggested by the antiaircraft gun picture "had no relationship whatsoever to what I was doing or thinking at the time." When she returns to the arms of Tom Hayden in a room at the Chelsea Hotel, she tells him she wants them to have a child together as "a pledge of hope for the future. We held each other and wept."

The night she turned 51, Hayden told her he loved another woman. "Never," she writes, "could I imagine such emotional pain." Then there were therapists, even psychics, and the day her divorce was announced in the press, she got a call from Ted Turner asking, first, for confirmation of the divorce and, second, whether she would like to go out with him. Before she and Turner become a couple there is a tall, dark, handsome Italian, seventeen years younger, with whom she falls "in lust" but who vanishes from her pages with no more mention than that.

Ten years of marriage with Ted Turner involve a great deal of travel in high style from one ranch to another, from the American West to Tierra del Fuego. Turner is described vividly, and with enough detail to make any woman wonder why on earth she would have an affair with, let alone marry, such a character unless it were for purely economic reasons. He appears to have been faithful, except for one "nooner," and for Jane's 60th birthday he gave her a $10 million family foundation. Interestingly, as she's beginning to feel things are not working out for her and Turner, she abruptly announces, "Out of love and respect for Ted and his children, I will not go into specifics about what was not working in our relationship. Quite honestly it is not necessary."

By then, Jane had found Jesus--well, sort of--but was terrified of telling Turner. He was the man, after all, who had declared, "Christianity is for losers." She writes: "I find it impossible to have that [spiritual] experience when I cannot reconcile myself to the Judeo-Christian assumption that man was God's principal creation, with woman as a mere derivative afterthought." But she finds there was a reason women were among Jesus' most ardent followers, responding as they did to "his revolutionary message of compassion, love, and equality."

Her conclusion, after nearly 70 years on this planet, is this: "If our civilization hadn't been built on devaluating, fearing, and denigrating women, men wouldn't split head from heart and distance themselves from their emotions, which are supposed to be the domain of women." So we leave Jane Fonda and Jesus together, waiting to see what turn her life will take.

Cynthia Grenier writes the Mag Trade column for the Washington Times.