JANE FONDA * * * MY INSPIRATION
Jane Fonda, My Inspiration
Jane Fonda is my inspiration, but until I was in my 40’s Jane Fond was simply a movie star I admired. I remember taking her picture to the beauty parlor (that is what my generation called them). I wanted a shag just like Jane Fonda’s. But when I reached my forties I felt like the Lone Ranger and Jane Fonda was my inspiration and role model. Jane Fonda was the same age I was and we were both in the public spotlight. One month shy of my fortieth birthday I became the first woman to anchor an evening newscast in Central Florida (January 28th 1978). This was a huge glass ceiling to break! Until then management in Central Florida believed men now home in the evening would never watch a woman deliver the news. The noon show that I anchored (news and interviews) had broken a national record for viewership but that was because old people and women watched. I became very popular. But I was alone. All of my colleagues were ten to fifteen years younger than I was. I was a single mother of three sons who hadn’t even begun a career in TV until I was 34. So the good news was that I was a “pioneer” and received lots of awards and plaudits. However, I was faced with aging in front of the camera, balancing teen-age boys with a career.
I began to wonder it possible to have a successful career and a good relationship, I read every article I could find on Jane Fonda. I searched for interviews. I, like Jane, was part of the “silent generation” ; the Boomers followed us. There may be only a decade separating us from the Boomers but we did grow up in a different culture and many of those 1950” values we had incorporated. When I reached 50 in 1988 I panicked and for good reason. Suddenly I had become old. I felt at times as though I had some kind of disease. My news director advised me that one of my outfits was not befitting someone of my age. In September 1989 the TV station gave me my walking papers. I was devastated. A younger blonde had replaced me. Within a year I lost my savings, my car, and my home. In 1992 I moved to Seattle to re-invent myself.
All of this time, I was following Jane’s life, her career, her personal choices. My life was not over! Jane Fonda was beginning a new chapter in her life so would I. I packed three suitcases, put my things in storage and moved to Seattle. I re-invented my life. I went from linen suits and stiletto heels to jeans, a backpack and Doc Martin boots. I taught for a college and did talk radio part time. In Seattle I found my true voice, which Jane frequently alludes to. I was not simply trying to please viewers to garner high ratings I was speaking from my heart. But as much as Jane was my inspiration, I worried about her when she married Ted Turner, not at first of course, because she had achieved what women our age could only dream about. A handsome rich man did not dip into “the kitty pool” for a mate. He married someone his own age and not just some “clingy broad” but a smart accomplished women who was famous in her own right. But later I took a closer look. When I saw her on TV I felt despair. Like many women of our generation she had lost herself in a man. Jane Fonda! Jane seemed to be shrinking. She was becoming Ted’s appendage. I knew how it could happen because it had happened to me. It was a dilemma facing many women but particularly women of our generation. How much of yourself do you give to another person and how much do you give to yourself? I read My Life So Far and related to every line in it. I re-read it and underlined parts I have re-read. I have never been one to need role models. But I have to admit I look at Jane to see how she is coping with aging, being in the spotlight, relationships.
I was happy not that Jane left Ted, but that she found herself. I continue to read every article about her, watch every interview and I follow her blog. I continue to analyze her make-up, her hair, to wonder whether she has had “work done”, I celebrate the new life she has created, her causes, her return to Broadway, and her life with her children and grandchildren. Today I am happily married (at age 70), teach college classes here in Orlando and I am beginning a new TV show on the arts next month. Jane is a remarkable woman. She has been and will continue to be my role model. I am sure that she, as I have to laugh at magazine articles that ask “Is there happiness after forty?”