Folksinger Holly Near of Sebastopol (left), Jane Fonda and
David Zeiger, director of Sir! No Sir!' at a
Mill Valley fund-
raiser for the documentary. (IJ photo/Leslie Harlib)
It's always a shock to meet people who, by achievement and reputation, are larger than life. Especially film stars. We expect them to be 40 feet tall, as they are on screen, or at the very least glow with a numina, looking lit, in real life, as they are in reel life.
Take Jane Fonda. The famous two-time Oscar-winning actress, political activist and best-selling author, was in Mill Valley on Wednesday night at the 142 Throckmorton Theatre. She was helping her friend, Los Angeles-based filmmaker David Zeiger, promote his new documentary about the anti-war movement within the U.S. Army in the 1960s and '70s, called "Sir! No Sir!" The flick will go into national release in April; Fonda appears in it both as a talking head and in archival footage from the Vietnam protest era.
Fonda is a gorgeous woman in her 60s, with short and feathery gold-streaked brown hair, blue-tinted glasses and impeccable makeup. She wore a brown, sedate yet figure-hugging outfit that showed off the results of her decades of devotion to ballet and workouts.
She's petite and has a quiet, yet steady presence. If you didn't know who to look for, she wouldn't stand out in any group other than as a stunning middle-aged woman with a killer smile.
But my goodness, she was mobbed. The 260 guests who paid $100 or more to attend this rare early screening massed as a wall of clamoring fans, most of whom loomed over her. Each person wanted to shake Fonda's hand, pay his or her respects, find a topic in which to engage her in a nanosecond of conversation. If excitement could wrap someone in threads, like the giant spider does to Frodo in "Lord of the Rings," Fonda would have been mummified.
Event co-chair Janice Anderson Gram of Tiburon (attending with husband Tom), who co-hosted the event with Carole Simone Mills of San Rafael, said she was thrilled with the turnout and honored by Fonda's appearance.
"I hope this evening will introduce a fairly large number of people to a film that is very important," Gram explained. "American soldiers' rebellion against the war in Vietnam was widespread, yet it's a little-known phenomenon. We hope the money raised tonight will help the film (it's set up as a nonprofit) gain the largest possible audience. Way beyond theaters, we want it to be screened in schools and colleges around the United States. We expect to bring in over $20,000 from this event."
Director Zeiger was one of the evening's special guests, as was folksinger and political activist Holly Near, a friend of Fonda's who came down from Sebastopol for the party.
During the social hour that preceded the screening, there was a mostly vegetarian buffet of sandwiches and assorted salads to chomp on, wine to drink and the opportunity to cozy up to Fonda.
Then we trooped into the theater where Mill Valley resident and blues singer Maria Muldaur and a three-piece band gave a short concert. A surprise guest speaker, who won a standing ovation from the crowd, was Cindy Sheehan. The Bay Area mom and peace activist, whose son was killed in Iraq, and who, through her book "Not One More Mother's Child," and public appearances, is spearheading the current anti-war movement against the Iraqi situation, wore jeans, a sweatshirt and a T-shirt that read," Jesus was a peacenik."
"It's getting dangerous out there," said Sheehan. She was arrested at the White House at end of January for wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with anti-war statements to a speech by President Bush asking to support our troops.
"I love the troops; that's why I want them to come home alive," she said to a cheering audience.
The film itself, 74 minutes long and incredibly moving as well as disturbing, was followed by a short opportunity to have more talk with Fonda, Zeiger and Near and eat dessert.
Among the ardent enthusiasts at the screening were Mark Fishkin of San Rafael, founder and executive director of the Mill Valley Film Festival; Fred and Mary Warnecke and Robert Wolfson, all of San Rafael; Jackie Kane, David Harris, Mishana Hosseimian, Evelyn Topper, Jeff Brown, Richard Habib and Glenn Perelson, all of Mill Valley; Don Matthews and Barbara Tomber of Sausalito; Kim Weichel of Tiburon; Sharon Fox of San Anselmo; and Ron Cowan of Belvedere.