Arts & Culture Blog
Jane Fonda, James Durbin and the Ronettes
May 9, 2011
WE’RE FONDA JANE: Jane Fonda, the former spouse of, consecutively, Roger Vadim, Tom Hayden and Ted Turner, has been through more metamorphoses than any other thespian (or political figure) we know. So it was interesting, but not particularly surprising, that there was a Hippie Jane period in which she was tempted to give up the rat race and hang out in Big Sur.
In “Queen Jane, Approximately" (will the Dylan references never cease?) Hilton Als’ excellent profile of Fonda in the most recent issue of The New Yorker, Als talks with her at length about her checkered, protean, career—including a pit stop in these parts.
Before heading off to France, where the New Wave film movement was taking off, and where she would encounter her own emotional waves with roguish director Vadim, Fonda recalled: “I had a long weekend off, and I was obsessed with meeting Henry Miller, so at a hundred and twenty miles an hour I drove to Big Sur to find him."
The close encounter never took place, which may have been a good thing for the actress, all things considered, but she was nevertheless enchanted by the Big Sur Hot Springs Lodge, late to become the site of the Esalen Institute (where Hunter S. Thompson, coincidentally, also put in a stint.)
“I remember the first night I was there, I was in the dining room, and these girls waiting on me had hair under their arms and tie-dyed skirts,’’ she tells the magazine. “I’d never seen hippies. I was so straight. They were having babies in the woods, with goats wandering in and out of their houses, and throwing the I Ching. And I thought, I could stop right here. This is very appealing to me."
But, like the commune her brother Peter visited with Dennis Hopper in “Easy Rider" before barreling down the road to New Orleans, the idyll proved short-lived for Fonda. The rest, as they say, is history. But it’s a nice historical sidelight to what has become one of the most distinguished careers in film history.
Just for kicks, here’s a link to an infamous “sex in space" scene from Fonda’s 1968 film, “Barbarella."
IDOL CHATTER: Meanwhile, in other local news, Santa Cruz’s own James Durbin is getting closer and closer to the final cut of this year’s Jennifer Lopez-enhanced version of “American Idol." Durbin, who has surmounted a battle with Asperger’s Syndrome, killed with his rendition of Mars’ “Closer To The Edge" last week, according to no less an authority than Steven Tyler, and finished with a rendition of the late, great Harry Nilsson’s “Without You."
This week’s competition will feature adaptations of songs by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, who wrote “Stand By Me," “Hound Dog," Chapel of Love" and “Love Potion Number Nine," among other classics). All that seems well within his wheelhouse—and will be judged by Lady Gaga.
True dat, as surreal as it may sound.
With only Lauren Alaina, Haley Reinhart and the extremely odd country crooner Scotty McCreery remaining in the final four, smart money is lining up behind James—in part because of his human interest story—but the tale remains to be told.
The whole show is pretty ridiculous, of course, and has far more to do with commerce than anything resembling art. But nevertheless, Durbin’s story is compelling, and worth rooting for.
Meanwhile, check out the Ronettes version of “Chapel of Love," which is better than what the rest of these jokers (excuse me, enthusiastic competitors) will ever do.