Jane Fonda, 1957 (photo by Mark Shaw)
Interview as 1960s time capsule (also, why one should always think twice before accepting a gift from Dennis Hopper):
“Two hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve, Jane Fonda was coiled like Cleopatra’s asp on the living room sofa of her father’s lush townhouse. That afternoon she learned she had won the NY Film Critics Award for best actress of 1969 for They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
Optimism was high. So was Jane. “You don’t mind if I turn on, do you?” she asked impishly. Then her long fingernails carefully rolled the tobacco out of a Winston cigarette and replaced the ordinary old stuff that only causes cancer with fine gray pot she had just brought back from India? Morocco? She couldn’t remember; all she knew was it wasn’t that tacky stuff they mix with hay in Tijuana, this was the real thing.
Then she lay back on the sofa, inhaled a lung full of dreams. “I’m very optimistic about the world tonight. I wonder if, at 10pm on New Year’s Eve in 1959, people looked back on the 50’s and thought their decade was as productive as ours has been. I don’t think so. It was the end of a time when people had been fed sleeping pills by Eisenhower. Things are more exciting now. We’ve stepped on the moon! People are more alive in every walk of life. Take a simple thing like turning on – doctors, lawyers, politicians – I don’t know anyone who doesn’t turn on.”
There was a noise on the stairs. It was her father Henry Fonda, looking straight and spruce enough to be the conductor of the Yale Glee Club and his pretty wife Shirlee, the fifth Mrs. Fonda.
Jane leaped up and waved her arms frantically to blow the pot smoke out of the room. “This reminds me of the times I used to clean this place on my hands & knees after my parties before my father came home. If only he knew how many bodies have passed out on this floor.”
The Fondas toasted the New Year with champagne & Jane decided to call Peter [Fonda] in New York. They all sang “Happy Decade” to Peter and after they hung up, Jane rolled her eyes. “Boy, was he stoned!”
Henry Fonda saw it all clear and made a mental association. “Have you seen Dennis Hopper lately?”
“I was at his ex-wife’s house just before Christmas,” said Jane, “and you know what he gave his daughter? A Polaroid camera box filled with hair. He had cut his hair off and wanted his child to have it as a Christmas gift! It wasn’t even clean – just dirty, matted hair. So I don’t know what kind of scene he’s into now.”
The subject turned to 1970. Biafra. Slum housing. Strikes. Corruption in Congress. “We’ll always be pouring money into military wars,” said Jane glumly. “I’m not happy about the political situation either.”
“Where are we all headed?” asked Mrs. Fonda. “The Far, Far Right,” answered her husband. Jane looked dour. “Come to think about it,” she said, a few minutes into the beginning of her brand new decade, “I take back what I said earlier about the world getting better. The only thing I’m optimistic about is me.”
-excerpted from Rex Reed’s New York Times Fonda profile, December 1969