GOLDIE Hawn may be the cleverest dumb blonde in the history of movies. All around her, stars are struggling to make sense of their fame, talent and beauty, but Goldie has long since sussed the business out, and now wants to blow the secret.
Be happy, she says. Goldie appears to be even happier than she is smart. A recent appreciation of her life concluded that she is “the most deliriously contented person alive”, but even that may be an understatement. Mellow and adored at 66, the warm waves of wellbeing pound her more pleasurably with each passing year. “I am compelled to continuously see the bright side,” she says. “It is in my DNA. My kids look at me and say: ‘Mom, you’re so happy!’ And I do feel happy. I feel joyful, inside. I can’t explain it.”
Which isn’t to say she can’t spread it around. Last week found the energetic blonde actress in London to launch her new book, Ten Mindful Minutes. Among the tome’s recommendations is that meditation and yoga should be deployed by schools to improve the lives of children. So keen is Goldie on these ideas that she has established a private foundation to promote them worldwide, and nobody could accuse her of failing to take the job seriously. Perhaps too seriously.
“We need to habituate better thinking to appreciate more of your day because that has a neurological correlate,” she helpfully explained to Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. Audiences that face her on these occasions are peppered with talk of “pre-frontal cortex functions” and “mid-brain over-activations”, although Goldie remains anxious to emphasise her well-meaning amateur status. “I am not an expert and I am certainly not a scientist,” she confesses in her book. “But what I have discovered so far is truly exciting.”
Is she really on to something? Last year Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, invited her to his office for talks about setting up an experimental school in Britain. The minister was clearly impressed, assuring reporters afterwards that he felt sure Goldie “could help and influence education here”. No school has yet emerged, but, as the actress’s ex-husband Bill Hudson ruefully observed in his memoir of their marriage, “what Goldie wants, Goldie gets”.
This steely-mindedness is the less familiar flip side of Miss Hawn. For more than 40 years, she has honed her endearingly ditzy image as America’s girl with the golden giggle – the one who reminds you that nice people live in Hollywood, too. And while there’s no doubt that much niceness does, indeed, reside in Goldie, it competes for houseroom with a tough personal agenda.
“Lurking behind this glittering, ever-smiling exterior is an insecure and resentful character,” claims her British biographer, Christopher Wilson. “She is unhappy with her looks, revisionist in her childhood memories, judgmental of others, and appalled by the slight way in which she is treated by the world’s media.”
Goldie was raised on the outskirts of Washington DC, by Edward “Rut” Hawn, a local bandsman and his Hungarian-Jewish wife, Laura, who worked at a dance school. Accounts of Goldie’s early life have claimed Rut to be a descendant of one of the signatories to the American Declaration of Independence, but others have debunked this version, portraying him instead as a “semi-literate, Arkansas redneck”. The revisionism doesn’t stop there. One of Goldie’s better known stories is that while her schoolmates all wanted hot careers or handsome husbands, “my only ambition was to be happy”. Far from it, suggests Wilson. She was set on fame and money from the start.
Goldie failed to perform at school, but her other talents soon shone through. She could dance with energy, and possessed an infectious blend of vulnerability and worldliness. Showbiz was the obvious route, and after stints with a ballet company and as a New York go-go girl, she landed TV parts – first in a short-lived 1967 sitcom, Good Morning World, and the following year in the pioneering sketch show Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.
Goldie essentially played herself, or, at least, the public’s notion of what she ought to be – the brainless, blonde, good-time girl. The idea that she might be able to act barely occurred to audiences, until she appeared in Cactus Flower, a 1969 Hollywood comedy starring Walter Matthau and Ingrid Bergman, for which she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.
The career trajectory hit its peak with the 1980 mega-smash Private Benjamin, although the movie can also be seen as the point at which things began to go wrong for Goldie. Heady with success, she became a serious actress. A long run of flops followed. The marriage to Hudson failed, too, and the singer/comedian would later write a savage account of the couple’s time together. It wasn’t so much the infidelities and excesses that made life with her so unbearable, he claimed, as that “the only things that matter to Goldie are Goldie and money”.
Or, perhaps, she just picked the wrong man. For the past 29 years, Goldie has been blissfully cohabiting with actor Kurt Russell, with whom she has a son. Her two children from her previous marriage, Kate and Oliver Hudson, have both followed her into the movie business. So happy has all this made Goldie that she has even tried to develop a documentary about joy. “I want to know where joy lives,” she says. “I’d interview scientists, religious leaders and heads of state. I’d want to find out exactly what makes people happy. I’d want to look into the biology, the chemistry of the human brain. A body smiles, like, 72 times a day. Where does that smile go? That’s what I want to know.”
It is easy to scoff. Too many stars have peddled their tales of finding fulfilment through therapy, rehab, cult-immersion and low-carb diets. We know what Goldie wants, though. And she won’t be happy until she gets it.