Jill Clayburgh was a big feminist actress in the late 1970’s and early 80’s, but then she got married and moved to the suburbs to raise kids. She missed out on that whole era of women-in-shoulderpad movies like Working Girl and Baby Boom , and by the time she was ready to re-enter Hollywood, Hollywood wasn’t sure it had use for her. Perhaps you remember her in the Matthew Perry vehicle Fools Rush In , or as Ally McBeal’s mom?
But lately, greatest Clayburgh hits like An Unmarried Woman (1978), It’s My Turn (1980) and I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can (1982) have been resurfacing in the gauzy confines of lady networks like Oxygen and Women’s Entertainment (WE), conjuring up with startling immediacy a lost world of nouvelle cuisine and white wine and culottes, self-realization through therapy sessions and affairs with bearded men. Lifetime has taped an “Intimate Portrait” of Ms. Clayburgh and her family.
She received The Observer in a chilly 12th-floor bedroom at the Regency hotel, at the end of a junket for her bawdy new movie, Never Again , which is about a man and a woman in their 50’s who find love.
“I just lost my mojo,” she said of her hiatus.
She was wearing a sleek, sleeveless black outfit and assuming what looked like the lotus position on her bed.
“I no longer say nice things about yoga because it’s so hip and chic ,” said Ms. Clayburgh, uncoiling and sitting in a chair. “I was doing yoga so long before everybody else.”
In one of the more memorable scenes of Never Again , her character berates a woman in her 20’s for not respecting the older generation of feminists who were on the “front lines.”
“I don’t want to categorize 25-year-olds,” said Ms. Clayburgh, who is now 58. “There are certainly very political 25-year-olds … but the 70’s, it was such a different time. Almost Famous is so fake-oh, my God!” she said, referring to the Cameron Crowe movie set in the 70’s that stars Kate Hudson as a glamorous groupie. “First of all, nobody whitened their teeth-let’s just start with that! It kills me that my children think that the groupies were just this lovely sort of airy-fairy thing. And then, you know, we don’t realize how much the Gap, Banana Republic, that way of dressing has influenced, infiltrated-and I don’t even have anything against it, but it just wasn’t there, so there was just this amazing individuality. And then when you see Gimme Shelter , it’s just a whole different world of optimism and fearlessness, women just taking off their bras and dancing around naked, and a political hopefulness and involvement.”
She looked great, with a red pedicure from a Korean place, $25 cubic zirconia earrings and a faded denim jacket. She was planning to pack a wet suit for her trip to Gloucester, Mass., where she’s in rehearsals for a couple of plays with her 19-year-old daughter Lily, who also plays her daughter in Never Again .
“I love to swim for miles; I could just go back and forth,” she said. “Last night I came from dinner, I went downtown with my friends, I came back and the elevator was down at the end, so I ran down the hall toward my room at 10 at night, having had two glasses of wine. I thought, ‘Oh, here’s an opportunity for exercise!’ I like to run, I like to go down the stairs, I’m one of those kind of people. And I do do yoga, I guess I have to admit it. And I do get on my StairMaster, and I do hike. But compared to the women who run with the wolves where I live, I’m a wimp …. You know what I noticed? Now, whatever character in whatever movie you’re watching, they have these toned arms and muscles. I mean, I remember seeing that movie with Nicolas Cage and whoever, where they’re both alcoholics and she’s a prostitute, and they’re … built! And you know, there’s something about soft, unstructured arms that’s very beautiful.”
‘Pigeon Tits’ In Chelsea
“Welcome to the Clearview, where dreams come true!” Netta Lettuce said. It was a recent Thursday evening, and Ms. Lettuce-a.k.a. Steve Polito-was introducing Barbarella, the latest screening in a popular cult-film series this summer at the West 23rd Street theater. “We’re about to begin, so find your seats.”
An iris spotlight found Ms. Lettuce as he-she-walked down the aisle toward the front of the theater. She wore heels and a pink feather boa over a blue dress with the Star of David on its back.
“I’m Netta Lettuce,” she said. “Some of you may know my niece, Hedda. My first husband Lawrence and I,” she said, pointing to her ring, “raised Hedda from when she was a little girl. Us Jewish widows remember husbands by the jewelry they gave us.
“But Lawrence didn’t die. He divorced me, after accusing me of having an affair with the gas-station attendant near our home. Can you believe? Well, he was right: That hot little Mexican was filling more than my tank.
“Just out of curiosity, how many straight people here tonight? Applaud if you’re straight. None? Wonderful, because I’m responsible for the gay-rights movement.
“Seriously. One night in 1969, when I was singing at the Duplex, three little queens were making a racket at a bar down the street. So I peeked my head outside and told them to sheket b’vakasha ! That’s Hebrew for ‘Shut the fuck up.’
“Meanwhile, they got louder. So I threw my drink at them, and the glass cracked in front of the skinniest one, who got so pissed she ripped a parking meter out of the ground-just tore it out of the concrete, this skinny little queen. Where she got the strength … ? Then she heaved it at me but missed, and it crashed through a bar window down the block. That was the Stonewall Inn.
“Well, the patrons looked outside and, mistaking a group of cops for the culprits, threw the meter at them. Pretty soon a fight ensued, and the next thing I knew the skinny drag queen was tap-dancing on the face of an Irish cop’s punym . You know the rest.
“Now where are you from, sir? France? Oh, lovely country-where everyone spends a fortune on clothes and not a fucking dime on deodorant. Is that your girlfriend next to you? Oh, it’s your sister! How Angelina Jolie. You guys are so tolerant in France. No issues with taboos. No deodorant, no issues.
“And where are you from, sir? Riverdale? You came all the way from the Bronx to see Barbarella ? It’s a piece of shit! Are you gay? Yes? Is that your lover? No? But did you guys ever screw? Because I understand that gay people sleep with their friends. I’m sorry to ask, but I’m so curious about the lifestyle.
“O.K., for those of you who don’t know, Barbarella is a PG film in which a 29-year-old Jane Fonda shows off her pigeon tits in the opening credits and then proceeds to sleep with every man in the entire movie. How it got a PG rating, I have no idea. The censors must have been French.
“Anyway, at the end of the movie the evil Duran Duran tries to kill Jane with an orgasm machine. That’s where the band got their name, for those of you who never caught the cultural reference. But Jane pulls a fast one and explodes the orgasm machine with her own sexual energy.
“Confused? Like I said, it’s a real piece of shit. What I don’t understand is why Drew Barrymore wants to remake it. Roll ‘em!”