Don't Tell Dad: A Memoirby Peter Fonda
What was it like to be both the voice of a generation and the symbol of Hollywood decadence Fondas recollections of his Hollywood heyday feature unforgettable moments of partying and romancing, and of hanging out with just about everybody from Dylan to Dali, Beatty to Brando. He also offers some startling revelations about the Fonda family, including the effects of his mothers suicide and his largely neglectful father. Dont Tell Dad lets readers in on the truth behind a Hollywood legend, and vividly recaptures a gloriously chaotic era.
Peter and Jane Fonda's mother, an enigmatic socialite who could trace her lineage back to Lady Jane Seymour, commits suicide when Peter is 10. The boy wanted his father to be shining and fine like Tom Joad or "Wyatt Earp riding into town," but no. Dad's off-screen psyche is stunted, Peter theorizes, by his Christian Scientist background. It "ascribed sickness to some inner failing or sin," and "sickness," it seems, encompasses just about anything deemed unmanly. If Peter acts afraid, in other words, Henry acts disgusted. "We were abandoned and abused," Jane tells Peter.
Fonda certainly doesn't stint on this front, but this is no Albert Goldman/Kitty Kelley fever dream. The star of "Easy Rider" and "Ulee's Gold" writes in a nice, conversational, been-in-therapy style. He also tries to apply a little research -- he visits all the places the family lived, talks to lovers from his past (like '60s model Vera) and he and Jane tape five days of conversations (the book is dedicated to her). Yes, the book rambles; let's just say he is quite a child of the '60s, sprinkling more than his fair share of phrases like "Far Out," "Man-oh-Manischewitz" and such synonyms for "party" as "Heinies and a doob."
The childhood stuff is the most heartfelt and harrowing -- Fonda's prep-school vignettes make Holden Caulfield's teen years seem cushy. The adult stuff is, at times, downright winning; there's a truly touching reconciliation scene with his dad, and it becomes clear that Fonda tries hard to be a good dad to his own kids.
As for the adult-acting-like-a-child stuff (aka the counterculture), well, it's both tart and wearying: We get a nice set piece describing Rip Torn and Dennis Hopper -- Fonda semi-affectionately calls the latter "a little fascist freak" -- going at each other with butter knives on the set of "Easy Rider." Then there's the drugs. And the drugs. Did we mention the drugs? My favorite acid trip moments in this book would have to be when Fonda repeatedly spits cherry tomatoes at Rock Hudson and when he watches the fibers of Jean Paul Belmondo's jacket surrealistically unthread and rethread. Peter Fonda's own life has unraveled and knit back together many times; in Don't Tell Dad he's working with fine material.
Salon April 6, 1998
- Hachette Books
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.75(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.37(d)
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What a life he has lead so far! Of course in the beginning he had a little help from dad, but he really came into his own professionally, personally, spiritually, and emotionally, despite all of the obstacles he had to overcome. He always questioned why, whether it be his family, the authorities, or otherwise. Very observant of human nature, he has climbed his OWN mountain of self-improvement and conquered it. Though I am disappointed he had to give up his beloved 'Tatoosh',(you'll see when you read this book) he always followed his dreams wherever they lead him and took all of his friends and his loving family along with him. He is a HUGE reminder that life is short, never give up your dreams for ANYONE OR ANYTHING! For anyone who is sitting on that fence, or just anyone who is looking for an extremely enjoyable read, read this book!