Anne Philippi meets: Jane Fonda

Jane Fonda
©artwork by Charles Bals / Another Slang

I didn’t go up to Jane Fonda. It wasn’t easy, but I stayed away. She was one of the first guests at a dinner in Cannes, sitting like an empress without checking her phone like everyone does out of embarrassment when they sit by themselves for three seconds. Jane Fonda sat down, erect, looking straight ahead into nothingness. I watched her for a minute, observing the way Jane straightened her spine. Sitting tall and ignoring her phone, she radiated authority. I thought about Jane in Klute, when she was able to project sex with a single glance, a subtle movement—all without being blonde. I thought of Jane in Barbarella and her saucer eyes that told us that she couldn’t answer the Barbarian questions. (Two of them: How will it be when the society of the future is one hundred percent sexualized, and what if Barbarians are attacked by one hundred hummingbirds?)

I could have sat down next to her for a moment at this dinner party in Cannes. After all, no one had arrived, but Fonda had that “don’t touch” aura. I had never seen a Hollywood star like this before. Most of them cultivate a certain nonchalance even when they don’t feel like they’re being watched. But not Fonda. It seemed she would have enjoyed sitting tall all by herself. A few weeks later I spoke with her on the phone and expected an interview with the same impeccable posture, where I would have to squeeze everything out of her, which of course never works with Hollywood stars. She was somewhere in Beverly Hills and spoke with a slightly raspy voice that sounded like she was battling a cold, but that wasn’t our topic. We spoke about her ex-husbands. Jane told me about that suit that she wore as Barbarella and the hundred hummingbirds that pecked at it. That had been her husband, director Roger Vadim’s, idea. Then she told me about the time that she was married to political activist Tom Hayden, who hated any kind of glamour, which is why she only wore rolled up jeans and slept on a mattress in Santa Monica instead of an expensive bed in the Hollywood Hills. That too was Tom Hayden’s idea. We changed the subject to Ted Turner, her last husband, whom she hooked within seconds on her first date with the help of an Azzedine Alaïa. In a picture from this time, Fonda looks like Sharon Stone’s beautiful cousin and that’s the kind of woman Ted Turner had always wanted. Jane Fonda spends half an hour telling me how she always strictly followed her ex-husbands’ tastes but even that didn’t destroy her—she never warmed up to the concept of self-destruction. Her secret must be that erectness and that’s why everyone wanted to sit next to her. It’s not something you see every day.

Jane Fonda