Daily Book Excerpt: Entertainment Biography/Memoir:
A Lotus Grows in the Mud, by Goldie Hawn
I have Annika to thank for making me pick up this lovely book. I want to give it to all my friends – mainly my women friends, because so much of what she has to say is her perspective on being a woman, and negotiating career/family/kids/romance … but there is much to satisfy anyone here, anyone who is a fan of her work. But for me, the real gold of this book (and you can tell by the unconventional title that she chose) – is her more philosophical sections, where things in her career dovetailed with things in her “real” life … or where her romances went sour, and she tried to figure it all out … or issues with her father, or being a child … It’s a deeply honest and beautiful book. Not all that well-written, I suppose, but it is so genuine that that just does not matter. It feels to me like she wrote every word, and that she thought about every word. She has something to share. It’s not just about what she has learned, but what she feels she has to pass on, as a woman with experience and some mileage in the highest echelons of Hollywood. This book put me into a trance, almost. It made me go inward. I felt reflected in it, I felt “seen”, and I also felt an acute sadness and loneliness that I am where I am right now. But her book made that all seem okay. She’s all about the mess, she’s all about the journey itself … nothing is too neat, and she always (to me, anyway) seems to be fully alive – whether she’s giving an award at an awards show, or chatting on the red carpet … She just seems like a person. Now what is it about her – the go-go dancing flower child of the 60s – that could survive, and so well, in such a cutthroat atmosphere as Hollywood? That is the surprise of her story. That is what makes her unique. So many other little go-go dancing flower children made 1 or 2 movies that fit into the mood of the time … and that was it. Not her. Look at the longevity. It’s remarkable. I loved the book.
I am not often in a gentle mood … and by gentle I mean: being kind and loving to myself, forgiving, open … I am a much harsher person, and I cut myself on my own sharp edges. Annika reported that this book had made her cry – and she had also done a big Goldie Hawn Festival on her site … so on a whim one day I picked it up. I have always adored Goldie Hawn – I have a long history with her … which I’ll get to in a minute. Hawn doesn’t seem concerned with “how” she should be writing her book. It’s not quite chronological. She has tiny chapters in between the bigger chapters with anecdotes pulled out of her life – people she’s met, things her father said to her that really made an impact – little stories and life lessons. She doesn’t start with “I was born a cold dark day”, she barely writes it in a linear fashion … she does tell a story, it’s not just “Here’s how awesome I am, look at all my wisdom, let me talk in milk-drenched platitudes AT you …” Maybe a more cynical reader would see the book that way, but I didn’t at all. It really struck a nerve with me. It’s one of those books I am actually grateful to have read. It didn’t just provide me with insight into Goldie Hawn’s journey (which is interesting in and of itself – I’ve always been a fan) … it helped me see deeper into my own life. She’s so gentle. And like I said, being gentle with myself is almost uncharacteristic for me. My friend David said to me once, “You are a lethal companion to yourself,” and he is right. I am a harsh taskmaster, and I cut myself ZERO slack. Even when I should be more kind. I am kind to others, and I do my best to have compassion, but for the most part – I reserve NONE of that for myself. I’m with Annika: parts of her book made me cry. I would put it down after certain sections and find myself crying, my head in my hands, letting the tears come, trying not to judge them (what I do is I immediately search myself for “self-pity” when I cry … which can be good, because nobody likes someone who is self-pitying … but sometimes you just need to have a good cry.) Sometimes you need to ‘allow’ yourself to feel sad about things that are unfair, things you ahve lost … sometimes you need to let yourself off the hook and not be so ROUGH on yourself. I’ve talked before about the people who are obsessed with others who “whine”. It doesn’t matter what your complaint is. If you DARE to shed a tear about your own plight, you’re “whining”. You’re gang-banged, and you shed a couple of tears about it – and people say you are “whining”. This is a toxic attitude for me – perhaps because I have a little bit of that myself, I hate whiners … but when it is taken to the next level, it can be truly dangerous for me. It means I cut myself off from feeling things. This is the kind of voice that is in my own head, and while, yes, it has also helped me to be an upstanding citizen, and aware of my responsibility to work well with others and not be an energy vampire. Being on the watch for “whining” can be good – but all the time? That means you live in a harsh unforgiving world where you can never mess up, you can never give yourself a moment – just a moment – to feel bad, to bemoan your fate, to honestly say, “You know what? This SUCKS.” I prefer to have friends who have a bit more give in them .. they help me balance out my own starkness. They help me be loving to myself. They help me to stop and smell the roses.
I just re-read what I wrote, and it occurs to me that my response – the fact that I am writing about myself and not Goldie Hawn – is perhaps a great compliment to the book. And I think that that was Hawn’s goal. She writes a lot about her relationships with men, and men in general. She has some unconventional attitudes, ones that reflect my own … and she writes about it in such a loving thoughtful way … it never comes off as proselytizing. Much in her relationship with Kurt Russell has to do with constantly letting him go. Freedom is a big deal to her. The two of them have each other, they are a true team … but he’s a wild boy, and she’s a bit wild herself … and neither of them feel the need to stay joined at the hip. They take vacations separately. Charles and Anne Lindbergh always took one vacation a year separately. Monogamy can be stifling (to some people). Hawn feels that way, too. She doesn’t believe that human beings are naturally monogamous – and that her relationship requires a lot of breathing space to continue to work. I love her attitude. It’s very comforting to me … because I’ve said things like “monogamy can be stifling” before and it is as though I have said, “I enjoy boiling little puppies.” Goldie Hawn has made her own way, and it seems to me that she has come to a point in her life where her choices make sense to her. I mean, you see pictures of the two of them, or you see them together at awards shows – and there’s a glow there.
In the book she writes that one of the things she and Russell like to do is to get on their bikes, no plan, no map, nothing, and just go … for hours … letting themselves get totally lost … maybe stopping for a swim, getting back on, sometimes being lost for hours … letting it go. To me, it’s a nice metaphor for life itself – that it is the journey that is the most important.
Goldie Hawn describes her earliest years in New York, when she got jobs as a go-go dancer. She would show up at random bars, there would be basically a box in a corner of the bar – she would stand on the box, and go-go dance for the customers. This led to some pretty sketchy situations, and she was a true innocent. At least in terms of experience. But she also had a good head on her shoulders, and two parents who had raised her right … so she wasn’t one of those little waifs who get lost in the Big City with no home to go to … She lay in her apartment, with cockroaches racing across the wall (she could hear them clicking all through the night – so gross), tears streaming down her face, but she also could call her mother and tell her how frustrated she was, or scared … and her mother would give her advice. Hawn is a family kind of person.
I have always been a huge fan of her acting. I first became aware of her in her heyday – with movies like Foul Play (God, I LOVE that movie), and Seems Like Old Times (adore it!) and Private Benjamin – which was, in a career of many turning points, a huge turning point. Hawn was Executive Producer. She is a pioneer. The clout that she had after Private Benjamin (not just because the movie was a smash hit and she got nominated for Best Actress – but because of her producer experience) was massive. Now the woman already had an Oscar, she won one early on in her career for Cactus Flower:
She had had a diverse resume – television and movies and TV specials … she was a beloved American star, but “Executive Producers” were mainly men. This was an unprecedented deal. It was so exciting, at the time. There is a glass ceiling, make no mistake – but much less so now, and part of it is because of Hawn’s breakthrough in that arena … it was a big cultural moment; women in Hollywood, blah blah blah … and the fact that the film was so successful in every possible way – really opened the doors for other women.
Because of her blonde cutesy attitude, she was often underestimated (also, because of her dance background) – but very early on there were a couple of key people who saw something in her – perhaps a kookiness, a true comedienne was in there … and so she got a leg-up over the others. And things began to happen. It was (and still is, I guess) a rather messy career. That’s one of the reasons I like it. I still feel her in there. She doesn’t seem overly managed – she never has. And a film like Seems Like Old Times – put her where she needed to be – it’s kind of a throwback to the screwballs of the 1930s, and if there’s anyone who I think would “fit” back then, it would be Hawn. She is so. so. funny. But she also can be touching, vulnerable, angry, embarrassingly dizzy (her saying to Eileen Brennan in Private Benjamin: “See, I did join the army, but I joined a different army. I joined the one with the condos and the private rooms.” She says that ridiculous line without breaking a smile, without winking to us the humor … It’s just so damn funny.)
She’s a lovely actress, someone I truly admire, and my only regret is that we don’t see more of her. She’s due for a Diane Keaton-esque role, a la Something’s Got to Give. I would love to see her come back out into the forefront, where I think she belongs. I’m also pleased for her that her book was so successful.
Like I mentioned earlier: when I read it, I was in a gentle mood … or perhaps it helped put me into a gentle mood. It made me think about my own life, the angels I have met – those who helped me, believed in me … and how such people are always with me. It made me think about my boyfriends, and what I want from a man, my dreams, basically … and it made me really think about my own role in all of this … how important perspective is. Crucial. It is not often just what happens to us in life – but how we choose to interpret it – that makes the difference. Hawn is a person who needs a lot of quiet alone time, sitting and writing in her journal. It helps her equilibrium. I related to that as well. I love her, what can I say.
The following excerpt doesn’t have anything to do with her career, but it does show the feel of the book, its point of view and attitude … and it’s really why I cherish the book.
I’m so glad I read it. I’ve given it to a couple of girlfriends as gifts … I pick it up and leaf through the pages and feel, again, a gentleness of mood come over me. Don’t be so hard on yourself, Sheila. Try to be a little more kind to yourself. Look at your motives, take the time to ask the questions … be rigorous with yourself, but don’t be unkind.
Here is the excerpt. Goldie Hawn is maybe 18, 19 years old … she is living in New York City, working as a go-go dancer, and kind of scared all the time. She’s still just a teenager … her parents trust her, and have faith in her … but she is not sure if she will be okay. Her go-go dancing has brought her to some pretty sketchy venues. What will it all be for? I just love the story she tells here, and how she tells it.
EXCERPT FROM A Lotus Grows in the Mud, by Goldie Hawn
Talking to my mother on the telephone later that night, I am in my kitchen making a piece of toast. “I dunno, Mom,” I say, pulling a plate from the cupboard as I rest the telephone in the crook of my neck, “maybe I should just come home. I mean, New York is great and everything and I love my new apartment, but I think maybe it’s time to come home.”
Watching the toaster to make sure it doesn’t burn the bread, all of a sudden the lights go out and the line goes dead. The toaster glows red but then fades. “Mom? Mom? Mom? Are you there? What happened?”
It is pitch-black. Putting down the telephone, I peer out the window and gasp when i see not a single light in any of the windows across the street. Only the car headlights illuminate the street. Feeling my way to the cupboard under the sink, I retrieve a flashlight and wander through my apartment and into the hallway. All my neighbors are standing around.
“What happened? Why did all the lights go out?”
“We dunno. Do you have lights?”
“No. Is there a fire? Did something happen?”
“Looks like the whole block’s out. I can’t see a light on anywhere.”
“Oh my God, the elevator! Is someone stuck in there? I can hear shouting.”
I run downstairs to the lobby and find Ernie the doorman lighting a candle.
“Ernie, what happened?”
“Looks like a blackout. The whole of New York is out. It’s inky out there.”
“I think someone’s stuck in the elevator,” I told him.
“I know. I just called the fire department.”
I walk out into the street and look around in wonder. I have never been in a blackout before. Looking up, I realize that the Empire State Building is in darkness, something I have never seen before.
Wandering back into the lobby, I see Ernie has been joined by others from our building. They are listening to a transistor radio. “What’s going on?” I ask.
“It’s a massive blackout, honey,” a woman tells me. “It’s affected the whole northeast coast, right up into Canada. They reckon there are thirty million people in the dark.”
“Oh no! Do you mean there are people trapped in buildings?”
“Yes, honey, right up in the Empire State Building.”
“Oh my God!” I cry, my hand to my mouth. “I told two strangers to go up there tonight.”
“And on the subway,” Ernie pipes in, his ear to the radio.
“None of the stoplights are working, so the traffic’s at a standstill,” a man I don’t know tells me.
I go out into the street again, craning my neck to look up at all the buildings shrouded in darkness. Everyone seems so calm. The people who live in my building are all talking to each other for the first time. Jilly’s is crammed with strangers sitting around candles, talking and sharing and connecting. Nobody can get home, so they have just stopped where they are. It feels like we are on the safest island in the world, and all of man’s foibles, all our anxieties, aggressions and fears, have melted away for one night.
“Isn’t this awesome?” I tell Eddie, the dry cleaner.
“Sure is, Goldie. I’ve lived here all my life and I ain’t seen nothing like this.”
“Isn’t that old Mrs. Krokovitch?” I say with surprise, pointing to a grey-haired woman standing talking to someone else across the street.
“Oh my God, you’re right!” he says. “She hasn’t unlocked that front door of her apartment in ten years. Wow, this night is really something!”
I run back up to my apartment to find my roommates drifting in from their auditions or from Phil Black’s dance class. They are half giddy and half hysterical.
“Did you see the moon?” asks Anita.
“I know,” says Susan. “I’ve never seen it so big.”
“And how about the stars?” says Roberta. “It feels like I’ve never seen them before.”
We run around and light the candles as more and more friends arrive on our doorstep. “Okay, I guess the party’s at our house!” I laugh as I bring some glasses in from the kitchen.
“Well, you’re the only people we know who live in a three-story walk-up!” Eddie cries, holding up a bottle of scotch as he waltzes in.
We finish lighting the candles, relishing their flickering light. Someone strums on a guitar and another rolls a joint. My front door is wide open, and, suddenly, standing there are the two guys I met in the dry cleaner’s earlier this morning.
“Hi, Goldie! Sorry to crash this party,” they say in unison.
“Hi! Oh, thank God you’re okay! Come on in, this is great. I thought you might be stuck at the Empire State.”
“We didn’t get there yet,” one says. “And 888 Eighth Avenue was the only address we knew in the whole city!”
“Welcome!” I say, and happily fix them a drink.
Other friends and strangers arrive with bottles of liquor or tins of food. People empty their refrigerators, and they bring transistor radios so we can listen to some music. We create our very own nightclub – partying together by the golden glow of candlelight.
I stay up all night, chatting and laughing with my two new friends. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, we share joy and friendship, touching and laughing and telling our secrets. We have no judgment, no history. We are just three people, united in the moment and enjoying the freedom of it. They don’t push themselves on me, or try to take advantage. We have a closeness and an honesty that completely restores my faith in humanity.
At dawn, I eventually crash. I wake to find these two guys I have only just met sleeping on my pillow. My apartment is littered with people still making love or staring out the window, marveling at the tentative first light of morning. Reaching out, I switch off the table lamp, which tells me the power is back on. The blackout is over; the moment has passed. But this beautiful, magical experience, this perfect night, will forever mark my heart.