As noted on an earlier entry to this burgeoning blog, I ran into Jane Fonda the other day while lunching at Michael's,which used to be the Main Haunt of the book business while there was still one. She was with Lynn Nesbitt, the formidable literary agent who represented, among glittering others, my too-early-late lamented buddy Michael Crichton, whose premature and very sad departure leaves the literary world without its annual Crichton blockbuster, except tis said they found another novel on his hard drive. No one was harder driven than Michael, but as he was always miles ahead on gripping events to come, we'll see if this is but a way to milk the cash cow.
But it was lovely seeing the still lovely Ms. Fonda, whose performance in 33 Variations I found to be darkly dazzling, as is, in a blonde way, the lady herself(though she might insist on being referred to as 'woman,' the 'lady' label is undeniable, she so oozes class.) Surprising almost beyond belief is the fact that the play, which is itself quite admirable, is not doing much business. My waiter at Sarabeth's, himself an actor as are most of the waiters in New York, went to a matinee and said the whole balcony was empty. They should, if not clinging to the rafters at leasr be leaning over the front rows of the mezzanine, hyponotized. Besides her excellence in the role there is her luminous bravery, playing a woman who's failing, when Ms. Fonda herself has never failed except for a lapse she is still apologizing and being picketed for, and a couple of marriages. I saw the courageness of the character she played, fighting MS. echoing in a riveting way the personal courage of the actress herself, who seems to never give up, and never give in, continuing to evolve rather than simply go into the shadows with her contemporaries lest her wrinkles show.
I had occasion to almost have a movie with the on-the-brink of middle-age Jane Fonda, with my novel MARRIAGE, about a women who's more successful than her husband, at a time when it wasn't yet all right for a woman to be that (as if it WERE now, yet, ever) without its destroying the husband and the marriage. I regularly lunched then with Linda Obst, who was book-pimping for Fonda, courting me and becoming my new best friend so Jane could option the book, play the role and produce the picture. As it turned out-- she was married to Tom Hayden at the time, and was afraid people would think it was HER story, rather than mine, which it was, my husband having fallen victim to the contempt shown men when their wives outshine them, especially in Hollywood-- she decided not to buy the book. Very sad, as she would have been wonderful and so would the movie never made, as it would have synthesized who and what she was at the time. But such is the way of that West Coast playground, and, if you're sitting down, once the deal was off, I never heard from my New Best Friend Linda Obst again.
But Jane, if I may call her so, having achieved that almost-intimacy, is valiant in 33 Variations as she is in life, so I urge you all to go see it as she stretches her talent to the limits, and grabs the Golden Apple from the tree. The play's good, too, though a bit lofty for today's non-thinkers. As a friend said, Peter Schaffer('Amadeus') would have done better, but then, so would Robby Lantz as the agent. Well worth the price of the ticket which is probably available at discount, Alas.