David Gritten
May 24, 1982 12:00 PM

Why, it’s Jane Fonda!” exclaims an elderly Santa Monica resident, astonished to find the Oscar-winning actress on his doorstep with a wide-screen smile, not for Redford or Kristofferson but, this time, just for him. “I’m walking the precinct for my husband, Tom Hayden,” announces Fonda, proffering a handshake and a Hayden handbill. Some 10 years after Jane’s strident radio broadcasts from Hanoi and Tom’s “Chicago Seven” trial made them the chicest of radicals, more than the times have been a-changin’.

In films, Jane has become not only an extraordinarily bankable star but a bankroller extraordinaire. Her IPC (Indochina Peace Campaign) production company, founded in 1972, has raised consciences and box office grosses with such films as Coming Home ($30 million), 9 to 5 ($103 million) and currently, On Golden Pond ($101 million). Meanwhile Tom has written six books on politics (his most recent: The American Future) and has been organizing on grassroots issues since his 1976 loss of the Democratic nomination for a U.S. Senate seat to John Tunney. Hayden’s current campaign to win the June 8 Democratic primary for California’s 44th District State Assembly seat may well determine whether, at 42, he has a political future.

The couple’s combined effort is as large as the position is small. When she rings those doorbells, Fonda is ready to talk the issues—rent control (Hayden is pro), nuclear power (Hayden is con), community services (Hayden wants to tax the oil companies to help). Jane admits, however, that most voters prefer to chat about the health of her father, Henry, especially since his On Golden Pond Oscar. Once such digressions would have rankled, but no more. “These are family people,” says Jane of a heavily Democratic district that includes many tenants and senior citizens as well as the very rich. Besides, the elder Fonda, once opposed to Tom and Jane’s political activities, recently distributed a letter to all the district’s registered Democrats supporting his son-in-law. Encouragement from Dad and Jane’s personal appearances don’t hurt. (Hayden’s major opponent, Steve Saltzman, 32, an aide to Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, has no comparable backers but draws his support from businessmen and landlords. Saltzman characterizes Hayden’s politics as “anti-free enterprise, anti-private property.”) Of course, Jane has faced some slammed doors as well as smiles, but Hayden has stated that voters are impressed that “a talented actress with other priorities would come to their doors and knock herself out for her husband.”

No regimen in her current Workout best-seller (see story, page 42) is as tough as the new chapter Jane has written for herself. In the last month (before a strained tendon aggravated by skiing put her temporarily on crutches) Fonda trudged four hours daily, five days a week, to 800 dwellings in the district that includes much of West Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Malibu. “This area has the greatest variation of income in the U.S.,” deadpans Hayden, “mine and my wife’s.”

The money serves their political purposes. The profits from Fonda’s best-selling Workout book (some 360,000 copies sold, according to Simon and Schuster, which recently raised the price from $15.95 to $17.95), from Fonda’s Workout salons and from Fonda’s Workout records, tapes and video-cassettes are tunneled directly into the Campaign for Economic Democracy (CED), a political action organization founded by Hayden six years ago. It is a major source of Hayden’s political finances. Records show that CED spent $52,870 on 22 political candidates during the past year, but of that, $34,220 went into Tom’s own campaign. An additional $37,850 has come from donations by friends like Ed Asner, John Ritter, Jon Voight and Sherry Lansing. Jeff Wald and Helen Reddy have pledged $10,000. Joyce DeWitt and Margot Kidder hosted fund raisers.

Hayden and Fonda have learned a good deal about persuasion since Hanoi and the race against Tunney. “I was frequently shrill,” Jane admits. “People view us, and me in particular, as angry and humorless. I’m just glad I’m able to correct that impression.” She certainly tries. Whether visiting an affluent L.A. synagogue, attending a celebrity fund raiser or knocking on the doors of the average working stiff, Hayden and Fonda are models of low-key charm. “Very often people can only open their hearts and minds to new ideas if it’s done gently,” she says. Still, their acceptance is by no means complete. Part of the 44th District constituency remains unconvinced that the founding president of SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and the sex symbol turned radical have made the transition to just folks. CED has been labeled “socialistic” by local Republicans, and Democratic Party leaders are split over their support for Hayden. In some local supermarkets placards read: “Put Tom Hayden in his place—the zoo.” Other attempts at mud-slinging are comical. Hayden says a veteran accosted him and said: “I fought in the Korean War and I know what you were up to.” Hayden retorts, “I was 11 during the Korean War. I wonder what he had in mind?”

Other critics are equally suspicious of Fonda’s role in the campaign. Tom says she exerts the same limited influence over his politics as he does over her movie choices. “I’m there to see that he’s happy,” says Jane of their mutual support. “It’s also his biggest contribution to me.” Michael Dieden, Hayden’s campaign manager, believes Fonda is modest. “There’s not a political decision this campaign or Tom personally makes that Jane does not play a role in,” he has stated.

The Haydens share a similar rhetoric about moving from political fringe to mainstream. Says Tom: “If you’ve been trying to get into a house for a long time and the door finally opens, it would discredit much of what you’ve been saying if you don’t go in.” Adds Jane of working within the system: “Unless what we had done in the past was a fad or dilettantism, then of course you want to go inside.” Tom is disappointed by inflexible ’60s activists—”friends of my generation who couldn’t handle the opening up of the system.” For Hayden, “The ’60s was a great decade, but it’s pointless to live in the past. What am I supposed to tell my son? That the greatest period of his father’s life is over? That the most interesting things happened before he was born?”

Family has become a major part of the Haydens’ campaign. The brochure features many snapshots of Tom fishing, playing Softball, or posing with Jane and the kids—Troy, 8, and Vanessa, 13 (Jane’s daughter by her first husband, French director Roger Vadim). Even Henry gets in the act. Tom reveals that before he and Jane married in 1973, “Henry wondered what his daughter was getting into.” The making of On Golden Pond in New Hampshire brought them all closer. “Fishing is a great way to get to know Henry Fonda,” says ardent angler Hayden. “Henry is not a big talker and fishing doesn’t require it. We enjoy each other. He knows his daughter’s marriage hasn’t been short-lived or disastrous. And he’s got a grandson out of it.”

Jane attests that Tom’s gentleness was a strong attraction at their first meeting in Detroit in 1971. She recalls how he handled Vanessa on their first date. “It was late and we were holding hands in the dark,” she recalls. “Vanessa woke up and stumbled into the living room. Instead of ignoring her or saying I should take her back to bed, Tom turned on the lights, introduced himself and took her in his arms. He’s a very tactile person. I thought: at last, a human being.” Jane adds that Tom hasn’t tried to replace Vanessa’s father, who has a house minutes away, but Tom and Vanessa respect each other. “They get mad sometimes,” Jane allows, “but she likes Tom, I think.” Vanessa resents being a campaign prop and has been known to wear clownish whiteface around photographers. “She’s a character,” says Jane.

For his part, Tom claims that “being a father is the most enjoyable and moving experience of my whole life.” He won’t be apart from Troy for long. “A week is unthinkable,” he protests. “Last night,” Tom continues, “I insisted he sit on my lap because pretty soon he will get too old to feel it is okay. We regressed and watched Chip and Dale cartoons.”

The Hayden family has been a fixture around Santa Monica for 10 years, and by Hollywood standards they live like the Waltons. A well-used 1978 VW stands outside their rustic, wood-paneled home a block from the beach. It’s a high-crime district where houses in the inflated L.A. real estate market are being offered for $400,000. A German shepherd, Geronimo, provides protection—and company for the family mutt, Manila. Still, the modesty of their lifestyle can’t disguise their wealth. There’s a live-in housekeeper to pick the kids up at school and to cook when schedules get hectic. The Haydens also own a $500,000, 120-acre ranch in Santa Barbara. Soon they will be moving upscale in their Santa Monica neighborhood to a new abode, priced at an estimated $1 million, that they are redesigning and converting to solar power. “I’ll miss this place,” sighs Jane, “but privacy is getting to be a problem.”

Both Hayden and Fonda believe they balance each other by being separate people in different spheres. Hayden says it works best “when we come up with political and film agendas that intersect, like Three Mile Island and The China Syndrome.” But the combination of politics and business builds pressure. “You pay a price for being right before it’s popular,” says Hayden. “It gets polarized into one extreme against the other. In fact, it’s just the future against the past.” In that continuing battle, Fonda and Hayden say they rely mostly on each other for support. “We’d both been through a marriage each when we met,” says Jane, “and we both knew what we needed. I didn’t need another person like me. I needed humor, calm, wisdom, all things Tom provides.” Tom credits Jane with breaking him out of ’60s prejudices against marriage and family. “It’s not that we’ve found the perfect answer or even that we’ll always be together,” he says. “It’s just a serious commitment that goes beyond us.”

In public, the Haydens rarely display overt affection. But after a play at Vanessa’s school, when they thought no one was looking, Tom reached out in the dark to hug Jane. The moment was revealing. On Golden Pond, Jane later admitted, told some home truths about her difficulty in reaching out to her father, and to men in general. “If you’re a strong, famous woman,” says Fonda, “it’s not easy to find a man who isn’t threatened. Tom is an extremely powerful person. We’re lucky,” she adds. “Certain previous relationships required us to minimize our potential. We don’t have to do that anymore.”

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