"PRIME TIME: LOVE, HEALTH, SEX, FITNESS, FRIENDSHIP, SPIRIT -- MAKING THE MOST OF ALL OF YOUR LIFE." By Jane Fonda. Random House. $27.
Celebrities love giving advice, whether it's hunky Mario Lopez telling us how to work out or zany Jenny McCarthy counseling us on autism. Judging from some of their book and video sales, apparently we like to listen.
Jane Fonda is no exception. Although her early fame came through acting (and later infamy via her Vietnam War activism), in the 1980s she positioned herself as a fitness guru with a series of exercise videos and some exercise studios bearing her name. That gave her some cred in the fitness world, and for good reason -- her impeccably toned body was a walking billboard for clean living.
Apparently, she has a lot more than workouts to advise us on. Fonda's new book, "Prime Time," seeks to cover the waterfront with guidance on almost every aspect of life as we segue from middle age to beyond.
She's written it in her "Act III," and at age 73 seems to be at peace with who she has become, older and wiser, with the addition of a new hip and knee. "Prime Time" is part autobiographical confessional, part life advice, the two intertwined, so that reading the book is often like talking to a friend -- if the friend were an Academy Award-winning actress with a string of famous husbands. Fonda's honesty makes her anecdotes more compelling -- who doesn't want to hear about her marriage to Ted Turner collapsing?
If you're wondering about online dating, Fonda says go for it, but be sure you know what you want out of the relationship first. She met her now-boyfriend, music producer Richard Perry, when she wasn't even looking -- actress Carrie Fisher reconnected the two after they had met decades earlier. "When we've grown up (and that took a while for me)," she writes, "we are clearer about who we are, what we want and don't want, and this can mean that later in life the unexpected can always happen -- if we remain open to it."
Fonda maintains an upbeat tone throughout the book (no one wants to read a depressing book on aging), and she's careful not to assume everyone has the means and privileges she does. And there are enough stories about her own struggles with self-esteem, relationships and health to reassure readers that she often labored to find the answers to life's big questions.
Fonda doesn't stop at the emotional stuff -- there's financial and health advice in the mix, including retirement planning and the practicalities of sex in later years. Some of it is eye-rollingly rudimentary, as with her 11 ingredients for successful aging, which include not abusing alcohol, getting enough sleep, exercising ... yeah, it's that basic. But the chapter on sex will no doubt be appreciated by men and women who perhaps don't feel comfortable talking to their own doctor about changes in their bodies -- this at least may be a catalyst for starting a dialogue.
Here's where the value of a celebrity's book on health and aging must be weighed -- are you going to trust Jane Fonda to tell you how to live a more healthful life, or a physician? True, a doctor can tell us until we're blue in the face to eat more fruits and vegetables, but the advice may be more palatable when it comes from a celebrity we admire and trust. Then again, when it comes to questions about taking hormone therapy, I'll ask someone with an M.D., thank you.
Growing older can be a frightening time for some people, as friends and family become distant and disappear and feelings of vitality diminish. Fonda's book is a reassuring hand squeeze that everything may be OK.
-- Jeannine Stein
Los Angeles Times