Goldie Hawn Interview
Goldie Hawn is blonde, bubbly, giggly, girlish, and goofy. She became famous in the 1960’s as a wide-eyed kooky kid in teeny weeny mini-skirts, first in ‘Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In’ on American television and then as Warren Beatty’s naïve girlfriend in ‘Shampoo’, Later on, she became even better known as ‘Private Benjamin’ a Jewish American Princess who joins the army. Like Charlie Chaplin, Goldie has mastered the art of physical comedy, of slapstick, pulling sad faces, pulling happy faces, and always positioning herself up to be not the perpetrator, but the butt of the joke.
Many movies later, Goldie is possessed of a name and a face that is globally recognised. And today that face, with its big blue eyes, cute grin and blonde bangs is gracing the cover of a book. ‘A Lotus Grows In The Mud’ is the title of Goldie’s memoir, written with the aid of journalist Wendy Holden, and it is this book which brings her to Ireland.
Celebrities who write their biographies always tread on dangerous ground. Because even though the nature of a star is one who has become extraordinary, -more beautiful, more successful, more glamorous than the rest,- such is nature of the relationship between consumer and celebrity that we are only truly satisfied if they reveal themselves in their biographies to be in some way less than us. Ugly children, desperately lonely, drug addicted, dumped on, abandoned, fucked up and flawed. The more human misery, the more tragedy, the better read is the biography. Princess Diana being the perfect example of a star with eternal appeal.
Goldie Hawn doesn’t do tragic, neither does she do hopeless. Unlike her movie persona, her book is not giggly, neither is it goofy. It’s a very optimistic book. Not that Goldie has had an entirely happy life, -she’s had her fair share of sexual abuse, bullying, humiliation, divorce, depression and hopelessness. But just like her persona, she bounces back, smiling. There is a lesson to be learned from everything that comes our way, that is the message of ‘Lotus’. After all, a lotus is a beautiful flower, but it grows only in nasty, muddy water.
As I roll up to the Four Seasons in my rather unsalubrious Volvo, I am early for our meeting, but I want to be early. Even in my job, where you get to meet fantabulous people all the time, one gets nervous, at times. Declan, the publicist is also nervous. ‘She’s the most famous person I’ve had since Clinton,’ he tells me, reverentially, as we knock on Goldie’s door. I assume he doesn’t mean that in the biblical sense, although anything is possible. As we tentatively enter her suite, Goldie is in an adjoining room and she asks us to give her a few minutes. I search the room for clues. A pair of diamante mules have been abandoned, rather recklessly, near the desk. That’s all I can see. We hover, not knowing whether to stay in or go out. Eventually we go out, wait and start again.
When we do shake hands, I am surprised to see that the face on the cover of her book, -which has no signs of ageing whatsoever-does not match the face which I see smiling at me. The smile is exactly the same as it was in ‘Shampoo’, the eyes and mouth are the same too, but it is a lived in face, completely consistent with her age, which must be nearing sixty. It is a relaxed face, a friendly face, unlike the book face, which is rigid.
‘Do you ever get used to being the kind of person that people are nervous about meeting?’ I ask, as she adjusts the air-con.
‘Oh, that’s what happens when you get famous. Everyone relates differently to you. They are always surprised when you are happy to see them!’
She shivers, in a pashmina, which upon closer examination is baby soft. I admire it, she admires my necklace, we cosy up on the couch. I tell her I enjoyed her book.
‘Did you sweetie?’ she smiles. Just like in the movies, Goldie Hawn’s smile has the ability to make a stranger feel like a long lost friend.
It hasn’t been an easy ride, the fame thing. In her early twenties in Hollywood, alone for the first time, she suffered a nervous breakdown, brought on by the very thing she had strived for and won-success.
‘For the first time in my life, I had to force a smile,’ she says in her book. ‘Anxiety attacks, depression and overwhelming nausea are my constant companions. Maintaining the cover that I am feeling happier than I am is a hundred times harder than the acting.’
During this time, Goldie had to try to be funny, as she had just landed her first major television role and the girl they wanted was a happy, funny girl, not an anxious depressed girl. Eventually, with the aid of daily sessions with an analyst, she recovered. Later, she fell in love and got married to a Greek named Gus Trikonis.
‘I couldn’t stop staring at the ring on my finger,’ she says. ‘I was living my dream, I was going to have children and live happily ever after.’
But the happy ever after with Gus was not to be.
‘Stardom and the baggage that came with it, that’s what drove a wedge between us,’ she says. ‘And so we had to end it. There are very few men that can live with a woman who is perceived to be more powerful than they are.’
In spite of the loneliness, the isolation and the divorce, she reckons she’s lucky to have landed the job she did.
‘It’s a very lucky profession. You’ve got to count your blessings. I got to go places, do things, meet people. I get to meet anyone I want! I could pick up the phone and call anyone I want and say I would love to meet you. It opens so many doors. There’s a price to pay, but I am very grateful for it.’
As a child, Goldie didn’t feel that she fit in with the other kids.
‘My eyes are too big, my nose is too flat, my ears stick out, my mouth is too big and my face is too small,’ she writes. ‘I just feel different, out of step somehow.’
What set her apart might well have been the fact that she spent all her time taking ballet lessons, when normal kids are playing games. For whatever reason it happened, the experience of feeling ugly, feeling like you don’t fit in, however, she now believes is a universal one.
‘Who doesn’t have that problem? Who does think they are pretty, as a kid? When you are going through adolescence, you always think there’s something wrong with you. Its horrific!’
What’s even more horrific, and probably just as common is the experience of being a wallflower at the school dance. The girl who would one day have millions of male admirers was no different to the rest of us.
‘Every time a slow tune comes on, I wait around on the perimeter of the dance floor, hopeful that I might be asked,’ she writes. ‘But when I realise that I won’t, I put on more pink frosted lipstick and lift my ponytail higher.’
Eventually a boy does approach Goldie, and he is Ronnie Morgan, the boy she has a crush on. He offers her a piece of cake and when she delightedly accepts it, he smashes it into her face. As evidence of the actress she will become, she stays right where she is, and pretends she thinks its funny.
‘I wasn’t the kind of child that would have run off crying, I was much tougher then that,’ she tells me. ‘I know I was the butt of the joke, but I went with it. I cried afterwards, I was devastated. But later on I realised that he probably did like me. That’s what young boys do. The girls they like, they treat horribly!’
‘Surely’, I say, ‘That boy must have contacted you, after you became famous?’
‘No,’ she says. ‘Do you know I never heard from him again!’
Her earliest sexual experience was also a traumatic one. When she was eleven, a twenty year old friend of her sister’s came up to her bedroom during a Christmas Eve party and fondled her private parts. She cried out to her mother and the boy ran away.
‘It wasn’t rape or anything, but it was enough. It was shocking and strange. The way my mother handled it was that she reasoned with me. She said ‘He’s sick, the boy is sick. But you don’t have to worry, I’m here, so turn over and go ‘night night’ and tomorrow’s Christmas. I didn’t wake up feeling violated. I chose to tell that story because I thought that the way my mother handled it was really excellent.’
Unlike a lot of Hollywood stars, who choose to be stars so that they can escape unhappy homes, Goldie doted on both of her parents, and on her older sister Patti. It is a wrench for her to leave home and move to New York, when she goes in search of fame and fortune.
‘I wave and wave at the two people I love more than anything in the world,’ she says. ‘If I had known then that I would never live with my parents again, I don’t think I would ever have left.’
I put it to her that this is unusual for a movie star.
‘A lot of people run away from home. I was kinda the opposite!’ she says. ‘But Meryl Streep loved her mother to the end, and her dad. It’s a bit of a myth, actually.’
A myth that she doesn’t shatter is the one about the casting couch. On an audition for a famous cartoonist called Al Capp, she sees the seedy side of show business. She is called to read for him, at his apartment in New York, and when she arrives, he changes into a silk robe, which instantly puts her on edge.
‘I see that my host has parted his robe to reveal a flaccid penis resting heavily against his wooden leg,’ she writes. But she doesn’t give in to Mr Capp.
‘If you give in to such pressures you strip away your self-respect, your personal ethics and your standards,’ she says. While she works as a go-go dancer in low rent bars, there are several more experiences of men getting horny over her, and exposing themselves, but she learns to be compassionate about men and their inability to control their sexuality.
‘I have learned, over the years to feel a deep understanding for how difficult it is for men just to be male,’ she says. ‘To have this hormone raging through their blood like a drug. I no longer blame the male sex.’
Another husband, the musician Bill Hudson, is slipped into the story, almost unnoticed, in 1976. Goldie doesn’t like to be unkind, it goes against her religion, she says. She doesn’t talk about people, except to say nice things. One senses that what is left unsaid could speak volumes, but there isn’t even a hint of anything nasty. She is eight months pregnant with her first son, Oliver, when she marries Bill. By 1977, she says, she is living in her love nest in Malibu, with her baby, while Bill is on the road. Later on, she is living alone with her two children, having separated from Bill and also given birth to daughter Kate. No reason is given for the separation. Later on, she meets Kurt Russell on the set of ‘Swing Shift’, which they starred in together, and they fall in love. They are not married, but they are still a couple and still in love.
‘Kurt is my love and my heart,’ she says and she believes he was sent from above. Certain aspects of her life, Goldie is open about, but only those aspects that fit in with the lessons she has learned in her life, and each lesson is analysed in her own words, with a message for the reader.
‘The idea of writing an autobiography, I found really uninteresting,’ she says. ‘I didn’t know what I was going to write. But I was definitely not going to write about anybody else and say terrible things! The book had to have something positive about it.’
Goldie’s book is very much an odyssey. But like Goldie herself it is warm and it is honest and it attempts to give something to the reader, to share whatever meaning she has found in her life. I ask her if she has found her true path. Having become a globally successful star, and having written a book which contains plenty of messages, I asked her if she has found the real meaning and purpose of her life. She laughs
‘You get so busy that you wonder if you will ever find the time to become what it is that you are supposed to become. You wonder if you will have the time to get enlightened before you die!’
But there was one thing that she discovered, one definite reason for her life.
‘When I was pregnant was probably the only time I knew for certain, without any doubt at all why I am here. To bring children into the world. And I realised how lucky I was. The fact that I could bring human life through me was probably the most profound moment and the most joyous time of my life. Oh my God!’
Which just goes to show that even if you become internationally famous and embark on a spiritual journey which takes you all over the world, you may find out that it is the simple things in life, the universal joys and sorrows of birth and death that matter the most.
‘A Lotus Grows in the Mud’ is published by Bantam.