How could two branches be so different on the family tree?

Jane and Henry Fonda, along with Katherine Hepburn, on the set of "On Golden Pond"
Jane and Henry Fonda, along with Katherine Hepburn, on the set of “On Golden Pond”

WE NON-CELEBRITIES OF THE WORLD—and there are millions of us—are fueled by whirling curiosity about show business folks of glitz and glamour abiding comfortably in luxury’s lap. On familial matters of the rich and famous, we are happily outside the loop—some of us further outside than others.

Citizens old enough to have observed, heard about or experienced life for multiple decades, thrive on accounts of relationships—even if they are bittersweet–like the one between the late Henry Fonda with his daughter Jane.

On a TV talk show the other night, she spoke warmly of her dad—with whom she claims she had only two serious disagreements. One was her memorable, animated—and often asinine—opposition to the Viet Nam War. It was heart-breaking for her dad and many other Americans. And it likely left a crack in her heart, too.


Don Newbury
Don Newbury

Did she ever have detractors! She was the butt of jokes, the subject of sneers and a ready reason for ridicule.

When Al Capp– the artist/philosopher who created Li’l Abner–went around the country committing speeches back in the ‘70s, Jane’s name always came up. “People think I don’t like Jane Fonda,” he’d say. “Why, I’d like to send her a dozen roses this very night if I only knew which jail she’s in!”

He also responded to questions planted in audiences. For instance, “Does your wooden leg ever bother you?”

”Only when I forget to grease it.”


   Back to Jane. Now 76 and acting like it, she spoke warmly of Henry, and the eagerness with which she accepted her On Golden Pond role some 33B years ago. Maybe that “nailed down” a healing relationship with her dad in this classic movie that included Katherine Hepburn in a starring role.

During the several months of movie-making in New Hampshire, many “I’m sorries” no doubt were exchanged– her to him and him to her.

She treasures her placement on the Chinese Theater’s “Walk of Fame” in Hollywood. Her hand and footprints pressed down there last year, right next to her father’s, implanted in 1942. They let her add a little peace symbol—perhaps mostly to him, but to millions of others as well. That did it; I’ve got to watch On Golden Pond again…. Her dad waited a long time for an Oscar, finally earning one for his crusty retired college professor role in Pond–a half-century into his acting career.


   A colorful man with the Midas touch, Warren Buffet, didn’t have to wait nearly so long for recognition. He has been a national figure now in the limelight for several decades, but he entertained in a different way.

Few people realize that he was behind the clever verses Burma-Shave used to display on fence posts across the nation. His office confirmed to me that he indeed wrote for Burma-Shave more than 60 years ago.

The signs represented an advertising budget of leanest proportions, but wound up selling boxcar loads of shaving cream, as well as amusing millions of motorists.


   It doesn’t strike me as the sort of thing a University of Nebraska student would have done. However, many of us had unlikely jobs for extra cash during college years. He was creative then, and remains so now, applying his genius in the business world. He has accrued billions of dollars. His record of generosity, a portfolio packed with the fruits of good judgment and his smiles and eye twinkles make him easy to trust. We follow him eagerly, this most successful investor of the 20th century who has pledged 99% of his fortune to philanthropy.

He makes clever remarks and is quoted regularly. His love for humankind has long since blown past Nebraska’s borders. Thank you, Warren Buffett. I wish you’d run for something. Whichever office you’d seek, you’d win in a landslide.–no need for a run-off.

How fortunate America is to have men like Fonda and Buffett as icons. Most of us see them only from afar, yet, in many ways, they’ve seemed only heartbeats away.


   Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Email: Phone: 817-447-3872

Please click the book cover image to read more of the inspirational and stories of Don Newbury in When The Porch Light’s On.


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