“No Dumb Blonde, Goldie Hawn’s In Control Of Career”
Oct. 23, 1980
By Greg Tozian
Tribune Staff Writer
Fort Lauderdale — Now playing, at a theater near you, America’s No. 1 golden girl is impersonating a pampered Jewish “princess” named Judy Benjamin, who makes an unexpected metamorphosis into “Private Benjamin” and a free-thinking woman by joining the Army.
If you haven’t caught the film, you must have at least seen those eye-catcing ads: a close-up on comedienne Goldie Hawn staring out with sad blue eyes from beneath the hard, arched brim of an Army helmet. Her shaggy blonde hair dripping wet. Mascara smeared. Her mouth drawn in frustration.
It’s a funny image, a moment of realization on the face of a young woman who’s just heard that dire knell that everyone who ever donned fatigues and combat comes to grips with, “You’re in the Army now, solider. No exit.”
That tailor-made ad, and the reputation that Hawn has built through 11 other movies and a few TV shows, has been packing theaters since “Private Benjamin’s” national release two weeks ago, during an otherwise slow period of movie attendance.
Thanks to the appeal of Goldie Hawn, people seem to believe in Judy Benjamin and her coming of age as a woman.
And on this bright Saturday morning in the dining room of the Fort Lauderdale resort hotel where she is staying for a few days to promote the movie in Florida, Hawn reveals that she, too, has come of age — as an actress, producer, working mother and free-styled feminist.
Hawn weaves her way through the started white tablecloths and sleepy-eyed early-risers for her breakfast-interview carrying 1 ½-year-old daughter Kate nestled in her right arm and with 4 ½-year-old son Oliver attached to her other hand. Dressed in simple pink slcks and blouse and a Scandinavian sweater vest, and bearing the pair of little Hawns, she is still recognizable as the wide-eyed star of such films as “Foul Play” and “Shampoo.”
Both children, from her recently dissolved marriage to singer Bill Hudson, of the Hudson Brothers trio, share Hawn’s ample supply of golden hair and exuberance.
“I brought the whole mishpocheh (family) with me,” Hawn says, as she plops down in an overstuffed dining room chair. “My mother’s around here somewhere, too.”
The 34-year-old actress quickly declines to talk about her still-fresh divorce, but eagerly discusses her family and career, using her huge eyes or punctuation. Those eyes, which melted more than one heart in movieland, bloom open, blue and bright when she surprises herself by one of her own, more direct answers; they narrow in a naughty squint, covered by long, black lashes when she laughs.
“I think the thing that’s most important for me is that I’m in control of my career. It doesn’t control me,” she says. “I don’t have to go awy from home to do movies. I can do them in Los Angeles. And when I go on location, it’s never for more than four weeks. Even then, I often take the children with me.”
She gives Kate and Oliver polite, adult introductions.
“One thing my kids know is where Mommy is going when she leaves or work in the morning, they’ve been to the studio and hey know my friends. And they know when I’m coming back at night. They don’t get anxious because they know I’ll be there to tuck them in. I like to keep a pretty normal pace.”
Now that she’s started herself off in a serious mood, Hawn confesses that she has never been the kind of weak-willed woman — dependent on every man in her life — that she plays at the beginning of her new movie.
“The film is my way of saying something. I can’t say that I was the kind of a woman who was never liberated. I started working as a dancer when I was 17, and by the time I was 18 I’d been on my own.
“But I do have a great deal of sympathy and empathy or other women who are more bound than I am, women who are less blessed. So, I made the picture to say certain things. And I made the picture to make people laugh.
In mid sentence, Hawn bends down to inspect her son’s mouth, rimmed as it is in red juice. “Honey, let me see in your mouth. What do you have in your mouth, sweetheart? He’s been eating strawberries from the table I guess.
“Look,” she says, “resuming the interview after one of the frequent time-outs to attend to the children’s curiosities and explorations, “this film was written specifically for me. And I’m the executive producer. I understand what it feels like to be told you’re not smart, like Judy is told in the movie. I, of all people, should know how that feels after all those years of the dumb-blonde thing on ‘Laugh-In’ and some of my movies.”
Hawn says she only contributed “two cents worth” to the making of “Private Benjamin,” the film that marks her first effort as an executive producer. But two of the film’s three producers, who have accompanied the actress on her promotional tour later divulge, “Goldie was totally involved. There wasn’t a scene hat she wasn’t there for when we were putting it together, and she even picked out that shot of her in the Army helmet that’s running in all the newspaper ads. It was her idea to give it that lavender tint for the theater posters.”
Hawn continues to analyze her career.
“What we do in the movies is create fantasies. The fantasy about anybody in the public eye is that if you create a good fantasy, you’re better off. If you create a bad fantasy, you’re out of business.
“I’m like one of those Rorschach tests, everybody sees what they want to in me. I think there are people who think my dumb blonde image is in the past and others who don’ like for you to change. Just as ther are people who get divorced because their mate changes. They turn around one day and say, ‘I don’t know you.’
Hawn has stopped the intermittent laughing that she permitted herself at the beginning of the interview. She confesses she longs to make a serious drama very soon, to prove she can do it, even though her films “Sugarland Express” (1973) and “Shampoo” (1975) garnered huge praise for her abilities as a dramatic actress.
“I’ve always liked to do something with a message. ‘Private Benjamin’ is a serious movie. It’s funny as hell, sure, but it’s also very serious. Any movie I make has to have some social ramifications, something that’s going to make the world see from a different point of view, a more enlightened point of view. Maybe that sounds pompous. But if I feel I’ve got something to give, and if I feel my point has validity, it’s something I’d like to show, right or wrong.”
Hawn said she feels “blessed” by the “quick success” she’s had in films. Shortly after appearing as a dingbat blonde, who danced in a bikini and body paint on the NBC-TV show “Laugh-In” 12 years ago, spouting double entendres and giggling, she mad her first feature film performance opposite Walter Matthau in “Cactus Flower.” She won a best supporting actress Oscar for that first effort, and her career hasn’t slowed since.
“The atmosphere in Hollywood is very difficult,” she says. “The movie industry is not booming right now. I was very deeply involved in making ‘Private Benjamin’ and, thank God, it’s a hit. But if I hadn’t been at this point in m career, I could have walked in with ‘Gone With the Wind’ and they would have said, ‘See you later, alligator.’”
Hawn leans forward across the table, the face that’s loomed larger than life, giggling hysterically and making puppy dog eyes in a dozen movies, is close and intent.
“I’ve run up against people not particularly wanting to accept the strength of my decisions because I’m a woman in a power position,” she says. “Some people have not wanted to take my feelings and decisions seriously. But you just need brains, you need to get in there and fight and show them that you’re right.”
She leans back, tilts that golden “Goldie” head of hair at a cockeyed angle and smiles as broadly and sweetly as in any of her movies.
“Once you do this,” she says, “they’re yours.”