People Staff
June 26, 1989 12:00 PM

She left her leotard in her locker, but, wearing a smartly tailored beige suit and a high-endorphin glow, Jane Fonda was easy to spot the other night at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. She was at the American Jewish Committee fund-raiser to be lauded for her work on behalf of Soviet Jews. The recognition made the aerobically correct honoree, who has survived her share of political criticism, happy as could be. “When they sent me the impressive guest list, I read it and started to cry,” said Jane, with brother Peter, daughter Vanessa, stepdaughter Nathalie Vadim and son Troy and without estranged husband Tom Hayden. Attendees such as Kathleen Turner, Ned Beatty, Melanie Griffith and Jeff Bridges paid $300 a plate—a lot of scratch considering the roast chicken entree—and filled the Beverly Hills ballroom with votes on which of Fonda’s 36 movies were her best. On Golden Pond, The China Syndrome and Klute got the majority. Lily Tomlin referred to an unscripted Fonda screen image, announcing, “Jane Fonda is a conqueror of cellulite!” After telegrams from absentees such as Coretta Scott King and Robert Redford were read, congratulatory video clips from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ethel Kennedy and Shimon Peres were shown, and Gregory Peck introduced surprise guest Ida Nudel. Fonda had doggedly lobbied for the prominent Soviet dissident’s emigration visa after her release from prison in 1982, and in 1987 met the freed Nudel’s plane in Israel. Nudel’s freedom marked the end of a 17-year struggle to emigrate to Israel, which included a four-year sentence in a Siberian work camp. Amid a standing ovation, Nudel presented Fonda with the committee’s social concern award, a torch-shaped glass sculpture. The do brought in approximately 600 guests and a tidy sum for the committee, which promotes racial and religious harmony and works to safeguard the freedom of Jews around the world. “I’ve always felt one person could make a difference,” said Fonda, “and that a group of people could change the course of history. We’re seeing that this year in Poland, we’re seeing it happen in Russia, and now we’re especially seeing it happen in China.”

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