A Lotus Grows in the Mind
by Goldie Hawn
Putnam, 446 pp., $25.95
THIS IS NOT SO MUCH an autobiography written by Goldie Hawn as the life lessons the actress wishes to impart to those of us who really, really liked her in Private Benjamin, in which she played a spoiled Jewish girl with a lot to learn. In other words, the actress born in Takoma Park, Maryland (an area Goldie aptly dubs "the holy grail of my mind"), is trading on the ditsy blonde charm that brought her to the screen in order to promote the notion that she is now, 60 years into her existence, perfectly poised to become our spiritual instructor.
This ambition is clearly hard-won. But then Goldie is at least as fit for the job as some of her past associations: the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, before whose picture she recites a mantra, which "tickles my joy center"; a California woman who produces rebirths through a process Goldie calls "transformational breathing"; and an analyst who makes sure she enrolls "in the University of Goldie Hawn," which was, as things turned out, "the best college I ever attended."
What are we to make of this turnabout? Well, like most Goldie movies, it has a happy ending. The girl who began her career go-go dancing on tabletops has at last found a steady partner and walked it home. "Life is a dance with the Cosmos," Goldie explains. It lives either "in the flicker of an eye" or in its country house, "a bubble in the stream."
These life lessons are many and solemn, generally consigned--in order to differentiate them from the chronological passages--to pages in the book tinted pale gray, which pop up always when least expected, brightened with rosy pink blobs. When you hit a gray-pink blob page, you can tell a mile off that Goldie is definitely not going to finish the story she launched earlier on white pages of why she left, more than three decades ago, the hit TV show Laugh-In, where she played an empty-headed giggler who flubbed her lines, but is instead going to offer us, say, "A poem I wrote the night Elvis died," which contains these tender but obscure lines: "His lover shot a dart through his tender heart / He tumbled to the ground hoping he'd be found." As Elvis died on the toilet, I didn't fully understand this tribute. Perhaps what Goldie is really saying is that a lotus also expires in the mud.
Anyway, there seems to be a pretty big disconnect between the insights the star actually provides and the questions movie fans hope might be answered here. For example, you might wonder: How much of a settlement did Goldie really have to shell out when she split from Gus Trikonis, who was husband number one? Is the phrase "He never supported me a day in his life!"--uttered right after the judicial decree--spiritually worthy of someone who believes life is but a bubble in the stream? Roommate Kurt Russell: real hunk or real Neanderthal? Perky daughter Kate Hudson: how did Goldie feel when her kid married rock star Chris Robinson, an avowed pothead 13 years her senior who graced the cover of High Times?
I wish Goldie had dwelt on all these issues--hell, I'd have been happy with just one--but Chris goes unmentioned, and practically the only reference we get on the subject of Kate is "A poem to my unborn daughter," which begins, unfortunately, "Oh heart beat in my womb . . . "
And let's say you were interested in finding out whether Goldie, like the actress character she played in the 1996 hit The First Wives Club, has had a few facelifts, as scurrilous Hollywood gossip suggests, or at least is thinking about taking the plunge and, to that end, saving her pennies. Here you might be disappointed. Of course, it's likely that Goldie's reticence on both subjects stems from the same issue: She didn't want to do First Wives Club because it hit too close to home. But that isn't the only film ignored. So is Shampoo, where Goldie was really quite touching as Warren Beatty's discarded lover. As for Private Benjamin, it is consigned to just a tiny photo caption.
On the other hand, virtually every chapter features a sort of Ripley's compendium of Goldie nuggets, many of them attributed to a field the actress consistently refers to as "science."
"I even dabble in quantum physics," Goldie writes, which is a statement you'll simply have to take on faith. But most of her research, it turns out, centers on the human brain. This is not good news. Thus: "We are all made up of waves of energy. The neurons that are constantly firing in our brains have small tentacles called 'dendrites.' . . . Scientists have now learned that these little radios can pick up information--even other people's thoughts."
I guess that's my favorite passage from the book, in part because it is topped off by another scientific conclusion: "The brain is awesome."
More than awesome, if you stop and think about it. For instance, Goldie also writes that "the new brain--the prefrontal cortex that scientists have only recently discovered," can actually understand that we no longer "have to fear being eaten by saber-toothed tigers." Which just goes to show how evolved she is. Moreover, she realizes that, even if attacked by something saber-toothed, there is no cause for alarm because "we are all miracle workers, and we can all heal others." (Like so many infomercials featuring actresses, however, this one comes with a warning label: "Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.")
Small matter. Goldie has other gifts. She tries to save elephants in India and children from Peru. One can even believe, sort of, her contention that she "never aspired to be a movie star, rich or famous." She was always nice to her late mother, a famous harpy, and to her father, a violinist who didn't much like her mother. She still loves Takoma Park, and whenever the spirits move her, which is now and then, returns (much to the astonishment of the current occupant) to her childhood home. She never once told us whom to vote for or which war to protest--and for an actress, this is self-abnegation indeed.
If only she'd applied the same restraint to her spiritual journeys. It might have been better--and not only for Goldie. But for Elvis.
Judy Bachrach is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair.