Stephen Hawking meets his “heartthrob” Jane Fonda. (Courtesy: Jane Fonda)
By Michael Banks
Stephen Hawking’s annual pilgrimage to the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) seems to be turning into quite a celebrity tour.
Only last month the Los Angeles Times reported that “hundreds” turned out to hear the cosmologist speak at Caltech. Before his talk, 13-year-old “physics fan” Evan Hetland raved “It’s like seeing the nerd pope!” While another devotee said they wouldn’t “stand in line this long for our favourite rock star”.
Now Hawking is living up to his status and hanging out with the great and the good from Hollywood.
On Tuesday, Hawking met the actress Jane Fonda – known for her starring role in the science fiction film Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy. He got together with the 73-year-old backstage at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles after watching the Academy-Award-winning star in the play 33 Variations, which is about how Beethoven created the piano composition Diabelli Variations.
Fonda, who was presented with a large bouquet of flowers by Hawking, has written all about the encounter in her blog (including that Hawking described her as his “heartthrob”).
Apparently the cast and crew of 33 Variations were very excited about Hawking’s visit. “Michael, the head of the costume department, was shaking with emotion as we waited,” Fonda wrote. “He has read all of Hawking’s books and Stephen is his hero.”
Fonda asked Hawking whether his illness has enabled him to go deeper in his research. “We all waited with bated breath [for his answer] and all I could think about was that this man, imprisoned in a wasted body, was able to comprehend matters that are presumed to lie far outside the realm of human understanding,” penned Fonda. Hawking’s only reply was that it had “freed” him from teaching.
The meeting ended with Fonda giving Hawking’s colleague – who she described as a “very nice British man” – her e-mail address so that when Hawking next visits Caltech she can “watch them work”. For more of Fonda’s innermost thoughts see here.