Sunday, April 01, 2007


Jane Fonda was a guest on Turner Classic Movies the other night*.

They showed her films, and in between she spoke at length about her career (and what a career it was. Is.)

Host Robert Osborne asked her about the making of 1981's On Golden Pond with her aloof, distant and judgmental father (Henry Fonda) -- who was dying at the time -- and formidable costar Katherine Hepburn.

Jane, who produced and starred in the film, had lined up a stunt double to perform the backflip her character does near the end of it.

But then Hepburn cornered her and asked if she planned to do it herself.

"And right as she said that I remembered that dive in Philadelphia Story," Fonda said, referring to the magnificent scene where Hepburn herself -- wearing a gold lame' swimsuit -- executed a perfect swan dive in a single take. "And I thought, oh God, I'm going to have to do it. So I said, 'Yes, I'm going to do it.'"

First, Fonda worked on land with a trainer for a month, using pulleys and mattresses.

Then she graduated to trying to flip from the raft that's used in the film into the actual water.

She practiced and practiced and practiced but could not do it.

But she kept at it.

Every day she tried to do that backflip.

And, finally, one day she did it.

Covered in bruises, she swam ashore and crawled up the beach.

Suddenly, Katherine Hepburn -- who was nearly as aloof as Jane's father -- came out of the bushes.

Apparently she'd been watching the whole time.

"She walks over to me and she says, 'How do you feel?'" Fonda said. "And I said, 'I feel just great.' And she says, 'That's all right. You've earned my respect. You've stood up to your fears.

"'If you don't do that, you become soggy.

"''Don't raise your children to be soggy.'"

Fonda said that advice has stayed with her.

"Now, whenever I'm afraid of something, I just say, man, I'm not going to get soggy."

I used this story the next day in my Dharma-influenced open class, when I noticed that advanced students were staying in downward-facing dog when they had the option of working on forearm balance -- which they all were quite capable of doing.

As soon as I finished the story, six sets of elbows dropped to the floor in unison.

No one wants to be soggy.


*Turner Classic Movies is what former blonde hotties end up watching when they become gray-haired women of a certain age with eyesight so poor they can no longer read the buttons on the remote.

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