Ten years ago the script was unthinkable. He was a defendant at the madcap Chicago 7 trial, she a newly awakened Barbarella in panicked flight f-from the injections of silicone that Hollywood intended for her. She fled to The Movement and, at an antiwar rally, they found each other. Now “Hanoi Jane” Fonda, 41, and SDS founder Tom Hayden, 39, had left the kids behind in their solar-heated Santa Monica cottage—and embarked on a 32-day, 50-city tour aimed at what Jane herself calls “the silent majority.” To them, that was not ironic. “We’re trying to present radical ideas whose time has come,” says Tom, checking the hour on his solar-powered watch. “After all those years of being against things, we are now for things.”
Indeed. Now in its third week, the eclectic Fonda-Hayden medicine show has pitched everything from citizen control of the oil companies and the promise of geothermal power to the rights of clerical workers. It is all part, they say, of the Campaign for Economic Democracy, an issue-oriented grassroots group they founded in California three years ago to help like-minded candidates and other worthy causes. “A bunch of socialists,” growls antitax apostle Howard Jarvis. Others find them harder to label. Though they deny entanglements with any candidate for President—including their friend Gov. Jerry Brown—Tom admits: “We want to affect the politics and platform of the next President. We represent a stronger force than the pundits perceive. They’ll ignore us at their peril.”
But just finding Hayden and Fonda in the thicket of issues—rent control, health-care costs, nuclear power (unlike the more radical antinuke groups, they’re for gradual phase-out), white-collar “crime in the suites”—is a maddening day’s work. Living in such a welter of causes, what do Jane and Tom argue about between themselves? “Neatness,” says Jane. Neatness? “I’m trying,” Hayden, the sloppy one, says sheepishly.
They are strange bedfellows, but somehow the hustings seems to be their natural habitat. Averaging three talk shows, five speeches and several private meetings and fund raisers a day, they are driven around in borrowed cars jammed with Tom’s “working papers,” Fonda’s megavitamins, boxes of CED questionnaires and grocery bags full of fruit, vegetables, bread and peanut butter, which there is no time to eat. Hayden wears the same suit for a week at a time, and they are interviewed even in bathrooms. To keep down expenses (the $100,000 tab will be covered by lecture fees at some appearances of up to $5,000), they crash at sympathizers’ houses at night—but late, with little time for niceties. Tom talks to CED headquarters, Jane checks out deals with her film production partner in L.A., they call the kids and, after a few hours of sleep, it begins again at dawn.
For some reason, though, they seem to thrive on the adversity. On their East Coast swing, Jane was nursing a cold and a broken toe and beginning to speechify in her sleep—and Hayden, his left eye bloodshot, found himself frightened for the first time by an increasingly threatening swirl of protesters. Yet, they managed to win converts and ovations even in hostile territory. On a Saturday morning in Boston, Jane preached to the already converted—an auditorium full of office workers whom she exhorted to organize for better pay and working conditions. “As a secretary,” she recalled, “I was once fired for not sleeping with the boss.” Tom, meanwhile, told a region whose shoe industry has been decimated by foreign competition: “This is our fiscal Vietnam. I don’t think any country can claim greatness when it has to march forward in imported shoes.”
The going got tougher in New Hampshire, where a front-page editorial in the ultraconservative Manchester Union Leader heralded their arrival as “the Stench at N.H. College,” accusing her of a “guilt-ridden, rich-bitch mentality.” And sexist bumper stickers smirked: NUCLEAR PLANTS ARE BETTER BUILT THAN JANE FONDA. But when she reacted emotionally to Viet-cong-dupe charges from her next audience, she jolted her detractors into silence. Later one of them approached her. Vietnam had left one of his sons dead and the other a quadriplegic, he said, and he had hated Jane Fonda for it—until that night. There were tears in his eyes as he finished—and in hers. “Don’t think there is a new-left resurgence,” one security guard warned. “These people are coming out to see a movie star.” Yet, once out, they were clearly riveted by the couple’s passionate egalitarianism.
That idealism is also the bedrock of their six-year-old marriage. Their life in Santa Monica with Vanessa, 11 (hers by Roger Vadim), and Troy, 6, is strictly downscale, an expression of their belief that “conservation is the religion of the future.” Hollywood people accuse them of conspicuous penury, and Jane’s career is increasingly connected to her crusades. Her next film, titled Nine to Five and tentatively costarring Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton, is about secretaries who kidnap their boss—and manage to perform his duties better in his absence. She spends half of her considerable income on causes—including Hayden, who plans to run in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate again in 1982. “We do all this because we have to win,” she says. “We’re running out of air, water, money, resources and hope. The difference between my putting my money behind a candidate and a corporation’s doing it is that I don’t ask anything in return—no favors, no bribes.”
What she gets back from Hayden is a kind of intellectual and emotional sustenance hard to find in Hollywood. He frankly admits to the high-profile utopianism that inspired one journalist to dub them “the Mork and Mindy of California politics.” “It’s important to be romantic,” he argues. “There’s no point in starting with something practical—somebody else is already doing that. I’m not comfortable with reality. Crusaders and reformers rarely are.” He can also be self-consciously sanctimonious, as when, in refusing someone’s offer of a breakfast muffin, he launches into a sermon on the virtue of restraint.
But that discipline makes a neat symbiosis with his wife, who describes the Jane Fonda of 10 years ago with almost evangelical fervor on the tour. “I was being marketed as a star,” she remembers. “At one point they wanted to break my jaw because the Suzy Parker look was in, and I carried a lot of bizarre attachments to my body. My hair was dyed, and I had the feeling I was walking next to myself,” she continues. “But then came The War [and] these activists had meaning in their lives.” Now Jane doesn’t apologize for being an actress as well as ideologue, and in that sense her politics—and her life—have been humanized. “I’m a. very emotional woman,” she says, “and I can make mistakes. But my heart’s in the right place.”