Fonda, Hayden Separate; Career Conflicts Are Cited

Times Political Writer

Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden, among America’s most celebrated, controversial and uncommon couples, have separated.

The two said Wednesday they are parting on a trial basis after a 15-year marriage, a pairing of trench-war politics and global show business. A spokesman said the two consider the decision a private matter and neither wanted to comment further. The trial separation did not involve court filings, the spokesman said.

Hayden, 49, Democratic assemblyman from Santa Monica, for weeks has confided in friends that he is deep in self reevaluation--both in his personal life and in his political career. Coincidentally, the news of the separation comes just a day after a new statewide poll showed him leading other Democrats for the the newly created office of state insurance commissioner.


Fonda, 51, Academy Award winning actress and doyenne of the modern video exercise craze, has recently returned to California from location in Mexico and is finishing post-production work on a film, “Old Gringo,” based on the novel by Carlos Fuentes.

The decision was announced by Steven Rivers, a long-time confidant of Hayden and currently Fonda’s publicist.

Friends said the split was the result of increasingly divergent paths, Fonda pushing her film and exercise business and Hayden searching to widen his political career after six years in the Legislature.

Hayden recites an old political joke on the point: “If Jane and I have an evening at home alone together, it is a scheduling mistake by the staff.”

One long-time friend of the couple said, “I think it’s been leading up to this for some time. The difficulty is, No. 1, Jane has made a very strong commitment to her career and there was this huge separation. They have been trying very hard to keep it together, but Jane went off to Mexico and Canada, and Tom was left here on his own. He’s going through a mid-life crisis over his career, what he’s doing and all that.”

Glamour and Purpose

The Fonda-Hayden relationship has been a novel one through the years. Fonda brought home glamour, position and money; Hayden contributed politics and a sense of civic purpose.


The two labored to bring Hollywood’s young cadre of actors and actresses--the so-called Brat Pack--out of an often self-indulgent world and interest them in politics. They were most successful in 1986, when they organized a bus caravan of young celebrities that traveled the state on behalf of Proposition 65, Hayden’s successful clean water initiative.

Grubstaked with her money, the two built a 100,000-member political organization, Campaign California, formerly the Campaign for Economic Democracy. This began after Hayden lost a Democratic primary campaign for the U.S. Senate in 1976.

Their annual Easter retreat brought together precinct walkers, political journalists, old and bruised veterans of the anti-war movement and some of the biggest names in cinema. They would gather and sing old tunes like “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Hayden led religious services on Easter Sunday. Fonda always dressed as the Easter bunny. With the separation, this year’s retreat was canceled.

Common Touches

Now millionaires many times over, there has always been a sense of the common-person about this pair. They drive ordinary station wagons, she a Chrysler and he a faded Volvo. Their home in Santa Monica is decidedly upscale, but for a family whose annual income has been estimated in the double-digit millions, it would have to be called modest. They own a rustic but breathtaking mountaintop ranch near Santa Barbara, just a few ridges south of Ronald Reagan’s.

Known as just Tom and Jane, they fell in love in 1971 after meeting on stage at an anti-war rally. In his recent memoirs, “Reunion,” Hayden recalled sitting on the floor of Fonda’s home, then in Laurel Canyon, and showing slides about the Vietnam war.

At the time, Hayden had come West after a long and sometimes violent series of struggles in the civil rights and then anti-war movements. Fonda, daughter of actor Henry Fonda, was a budding--and, by her later admission, naive--anti-war activist with a ho-hum resume as a Hollywood sex kitten.

“Jane was starting to cry. I kept flipping slides of grotesque young Saigon women, talking about the . . . operations performed to turn them into round-eyed, round-bodied, Westernized women, transforming them body and soul into creatures of our culture. Suddenly I understood why she was weeping: I was talking about the image of superficial sexiness she once promoted and was now trying to shake. I looked at her in a new way. Maybe I could love someone like this.”

Wartime Images

America found some of the images of the twosome hard to forget: Fonda posing cheerfully with the North Vietnamese in Hanoi during the war, Hayden the angry defendant in the notorious trial of the “Chicago Seven,” resulting from the police-demonstrator clashes at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

Even to this day, protest sometimes surfaces where the two go.

Sidney Galanty, a political consultant and producer of Fonda’s workout videos, said the relationship had become one of support but not dependence before the split.

“When there was political work to be done, Jane did political work. And when there was Hollywood movie work to be done, Tom was there for Jane,” he said. “One did not neglect the other. Tom has never been known as Mrs. Jane Fonda except by people who have been aggressively angry at Tom. She was very good at helping to raise funds and bringing people into Tom’s political life that weren’t there before. But Tom is able now to galvanize a lot of people on his own.”

Political associates of Hayden and friends of Fonda say that regardless of the separation, each still has a bright future. Fonda will have two films released this year, “Old Gringo,” and a love story with Robert De Niro called “Stanley and Iris.” A new workout tape is being filmed next month for release later.

Hayden, meanwhile, is said by an associate to see the latest Field Poll results as vindication--at long last--that he has gained acceptability enough for a run for statewide office. The job of insurance commissioner was created by voters last year, and while Hayden has not announced for the position, the poll showed him the favorite of 50% of the Democrats. The next closest potential challenger was Los Angeles City Atty. James Hahn at 26%.

Times staff writer Alan Citron in Los Angeles contributed to this story.