Jane Fonda wrote admiringly of Omaha this week, and said the Big O enjoys something that the home of moviedom does not — the likes of the Film Streams art-movie house.
“Citizens of Omaha, including schoolchildren, are exposed to film masterpieces they would otherwise not have a chance to see, often followed by panel discussions,” she wrote in her blog. “I hate to say this, but even Hollywood doesn't have this, which is truly shameful.”
Fonda appeared Sunday evening at the Holland Performing Arts Center in Omaha for a fundraiser that grossed $227,000 for the nonprofit Film Streams, home of the Ruth Sokolof Theater. The event is expected to net about $140,000; Fonda did not charge a fee.
In her blog, the famed actress praised Rachel Jacobson, 33, Film Streams founder and executive director.
“Rachel has done an amazing job,” Fonda wrote, “creating and building this place where people can see mainstream and even just-released films in one theater and classic art films, foreign films and documentaries in another.”
Tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of the opening of Film Streams and its Ruth Sokolof Theater, which sit in the north-downtown shadow of the CenturyLink Center Omaha and TD Ameritrade Park.
Rachel is a hometown gal who moved to New York City for five years specifically to gain experience and return home to fulfill her dream — opening a cinema for independent and classic films.
The theater, she says, has benefited greatly from the hands-on support of Oscar-winning writer-director Alexander Payne of Omaha, who serves on the board. Sunday, he spoke with Fonda about acting and moviemaking in front of more than 1,300 people.
Fonda's blog calls him a “great director,” but she seemed especially taken that he directed her to one of Omaha's oldest and most unusual restaurants — the second-story King Fong Cafe, 315½ S. 16th St. downtown. (Payne is part owner of the building that houses King Fong.)
She posted several photos of the restaurant, which opened in 1920, referring to its “secret speak-easy upstairs and amazing Chinese decor.” Fonda wrote of its extraordinary “inlaid mother-of-pearl tables, embroidered silk tapestries, elegantly carved chandeliers.”
She also told of staying with her son and daughter-in-law in a condo at the former Paxton Hotel and dining at M's Pub in the Old Market, an area she described as old brick buildings turned into cool shops and restaurants.
Fonda, who acts in HBO's “The Newsroom,” wrote admiringly of actress Laura Dern, who flew to Omaha with her. The headline of the blog post, in part, was “an amazing weekend in Omaha.”
It was also an amazing weekend for Jacobson, who told me Wednesday that it couldn't have gone better.
There were fears that protesters might appear because of Fonda's long-ago opposition to the Vietnam War, but that did not happen. Though some still hold hard feelings, a World-Herald article noted that the actress has apologized repeatedly over the years for the photo of herself peering into the sights of a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun.
Jane, 74, the daughter of actor and Nebraska native Henry Fonda, spent some summers of her youth in Omaha with an aunt. Though this is not her hometown, her visit was a kind of homecoming.
“I was able to look out over the city,” she wrote, “and my fears that Omaha would be so over-developed that I wouldn't recognize it were abated.
“It has changed, of course; there are beautiful new buildings, but the essence of the city feels the same. How wonderful to be in an important American city where you can still look out over the downtown and see the horizon.”
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