I have gotten a lot of questions about my mug shot–what’s the story behind it? Is it a real mug shot? So here’s an abbreviated answer:

Late in 1970, I was starting a nationwide speaking tour about the Vietnam War and, in particular, about the Winter Soldier Investigation (WSI) that some of us were organizing together with Vietnam Veterans Against the War. WSI was to take place in Detroit in early 1971, an American version of the Bertrand Russell Tribunal aiming to prove what soldiers and many of us in the anti-war movement already knew: The My Lai massacre, while greater in numbers of people killed at one time, was not an isolated incident, but a not-uncommon occurrence that was part and parcel of the U.S.’s war strategy.

My job was to raise money (all my speaking fees from the tour went to fund WSI) and recruit GIs who had seen or committed atrocities in Vietnam. You may wonder why someone who had committed an atrocity would want to testify. I am no psychologist but I met quite a number of soldiers who needed to heal from the psychic wounds of war by speaking out about it. About 150 such military personnel from every branch of service–Army, Navy, Marines, Special Forces–came to testify.

On the tour, I would describe what was intended with WSI and at the end of my speech I would ask veterans who wanted to be put in touch with the vets in Detroit to meet with me or with the vet who sometimes traveled with me. The comedian, Dick Gregory, also traveled with me some of the time.

My first speech was given at a college in Canada and when I re-entered the US at the Cleveland airport all my luggage was seized and gone through. They discovered a large bag containing little plastic envelopes marked (in red nail polish) ‘B’, ‘L’, ‘D’–signifying breakfast, lunch and dinner- that contained the vitamins I took with each meal. They confiscated that as well as my address book (which was photocopied) and arrested me for drug smuggling. I told them what they were but they said they were getting orders from the White House–that would be the Nixon White House. I think they hoped this “scandal” would cause the college speeches to be canceled and ruin my respectability. I was handcuffed and put in the Cleveland Jail, which is when the mug shot was taken. (I had just finished filming “Klute” so, yes, it was the Klute haircut).

Headlines across the country had the story of me being jailed on suspicion of drug smuggling. I was released on bond and months later, after every pill had been tested in a lab (with taxpayers money!) The charges were dismissed and there were a few paragraphs hidden in the back of papers that they were vitamins, not drugs.

The irony was that as a result of all the bruhaha over this, the college audiences for my speeches were never less than 2000 and sometimes as large as 10,000. Read my memoir “My Life So Far” if you want to know more.

Share This Post
  1. I remember when stationed at Fort Ord the military got wind of us going to a rally and made you off limits the government owes you an apology.

    They put us under close scrutiny and questioned me and others when we left the base we were followed.

  2. I have a funny story that might make you chuckle. I had your “Klute” haircut back in the 70’s. The hairdresser did a great job, and it was really well done. One day at work I got into an elevator. There was a woman and her teenage daughter already in the elevator so I was standing in front of them, with my back toward them. The daughter said to her mother something lilke …”Mom, I think that’s Jane Fonda”. I remember feeling pretty good about that. Two seconds later the mother says .. “That can’t be Jane Fonda, her ass is too big.” True story. Every time I see that photo of you it makes me smile.

  3. Those bastards!

  4. Lo que le sucedió a usted es lo que hace la gente con poder cuando alguien con su influencia dice cosas ciertas no convenientes para ellos. En mi país, hace tiempo que My Life So Far está agotado, pero no ceso en mi empeño por encontrarlo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    El aire de Galapagos debe provocar mucho apetito. Así que yo también me preocuparía por el Reem Acra!!!!!!
    Desde Uruguay con amor

    What happened to you is what the people do in spite of being able when someone with his(her,your) influence says certain not suitable things for them. In my country, some time ago that My Life So Far is exhausted, but I do not stop from my determination(pledge) for finding it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    The air of Galapagos must provoke a lot of appetite. So I also would worry for the Reem Acra!!!!!!
    From Uruguay with love

  5. This picture is on the front of my school binder. Its not something every 10h grader has, but I tell you Jane, it turns heads and people stop to ask about it. I should take a picture of it and Twitter it. I noticed you started following me on there – thanks! I enjoy your tweets. I hope you enjoy mine.

  6. Thanks for explaining all this! What a strange experience with your vitamins! Nixon was such a paranoid person who suspected the worst in people, if they went against any of his ideas! You knew so much more than the general public about some of the things those vets were facing in the war!

  7. Thanks for sharing, Jane. Since this was an issue well before “my time” it is nice to hear first hand information about what the fight was all about. It’s very interesting.

    You’re awesome and I think you’re great. Please keep blogging and welcoming us into your life via Twitter.

    I’m glad we’re neighbors in Atlanta.

  8. Thank you many times over, Ms Fonda.

    Indeed, “quite a number of soldiers needed to heal from the psychic wounds of war by speaking out about it.”

    Many of us will never forget how you put a human face on the suffering for both sides.

  9. how did you get the black power gesture in the mug shot?

  10. I do remember that incident. They were doing similar injustices to other intelligent young people trying to make a difference.

  11. I read “My Life So Far” What a fascinating life you’ve lived. I think everyone should read that book, if only to understand you better. You are a woman to be admired.
    Mary Phillips

  12. Read your memoir a few years back – very inspiring…

  13. I remember reading that section of your memoir and thinking even less of Nixon and his administration (he truly was a douche bag!). It was completely effed up for the police to arrest you, but like you said, more people turned up at your speeches and therefore (hopefully) the masses were informed more accurately.

    I know you were put through hell during the years you spent being politically active and speaking out against the Vietnam war. Other than the few regrets you mentioned in your book about things you wish you hadn’t said, do you feel you accomplished what you set out to do?

    I think you are extremely admirable, and although there were (and are) a large number of people who were against you, I thoroughly appreciate that you were vocal about being anti-war. Even now you are active in causes you believe in, and that’s honorable. You’ve certainly left one hell of a legacy, and you continue to do so each day. I have the utmost respect for you, Jane.

    I look forward to purchasing your mug shot merchandise!

    All my best,

  14. Thank you for being so unselfish and brave. Speaking up, speaking out, speaking the truth… we all should give it a try.

  15. I love that pic, I think you look fierce!

    It’s funny, I’ve often heard the story about the pic… but I never heard that they were vitamins. I guess that doesn’t make quite as an exciting story.

  16. It brings tears to my eyes.
    It’s a very moving image for so many reasons…how did you get the print of it?! if i may be poetic for a moment. discordant sound is so important to harmony — true harmony. — without discordance, everything is impotent, pretty-fication.

  17. It reminds me of Klute… love the hair. Used to always watch klute and barbarella when they were on the tv as a teenager, many moons ago…

  18. In a class on your own. Thank you for talking about important issues others have been afraid to discuss, for sharing your experiences, being true to yourself, writing an outstanding book, never backind down and being a powerful role model for women. The mug shot is something to be proud of!

  19. Jane, I love you and have been a fan for years. I LOVE this picture and what it stands for…. is there any place I can buy a copy of it???

  20. thank you for you have done and continue to do making this a better place for us all. love and peace

  21. What a bad ass photo! I remember reading this story in your autobiography and thought it was the most ridiculous set of circumstances I had ever heard. It was like the Fed’s were just dying to get you for something. God you’re fabulous!!!

  22. You are an amazing woman who has accomplished more than I could have ever dreamed to. You go with your bad self 😉

  23. Over vitamins what a joke……so ridiculous!

  24. I didn’t know you were 5’8″

    BTW I am definitely going to read your book.

  25. You showed great courage during a dangerous regime, to give voice to the views held by millions while being the lightning rod for all who opposed such positions, because of your visibility. Thank you.

  26. Jane – thanks so much for the explanation about the photograph. I was pretty young during the Vietnam war and didn’t really understand what was going on. Although I remembered watching the news with Walter Cronkite and seeing footage of our soldiers fighting overseas.

    Thanks for taking time to share some of these tidbits with us. Cheers!!

  27. I was surprised and pleased to see you were using ths photo. Thank you for sharing the background info. You rock, Jane. You just do.

    Am watching a Frontline PBS doc right now on the Taliban’s growing invasion inside Pakistan. Feel gutted to see the suffering of these good and kind people. Feel helpless. This female journalist is so very brave.

  28. 39 years ago? Whoa! I did read your book, was quite impressed. And surprised, a brand new Jane Fonda emerged, well, new to me and possibly other readers. You are a very special person.

  29. Your mugshot is such a classic photo. Better than Avedon. You are so fresh, open, direct — just Jane. I am biased, for I have been a fan of yours for since before the mugshot, but I love this photo and was happy to hear the story behind it.

  30. Just wanted to say hello and that I remember, I was there. This is Carmen, I marched at trhe Miami Convention with Stew Alpert, Judy Gumbo, Nancy Kershan, Rene Davis and many others who felt the same strong feelings as you and I still do.
    I live here in the SF Bay Area now. Still active in the movement and in theater.
    I follow you on twitter. My twitter name is causemick and myemail is [email protected] Thanks for hanging in there

  31. Thank you Jane for sharing this with us- many, many un-answered questions are now within the last few years are being answered- I was only a kid when all this happened but I remember many things including the newscasts about you and what you did back then for everyone God Bless You!

  32. You are awesome. Fist pump in a mugshot. Defiance.

  33. Yep, that attempt to muzzle you completely backfired and lead to more publicity for your speeches than ever! I remember those days! What a life you’ve had!…and are STILL having! So inspiring for those of us in our “middle” years…(I turn 60 in December).
    Thanks again, Jane!

  34. love the mug shot – inspires me to stand up for the issues i feel are important

    (and yes! i did grow up with your workout tapes… but my Mum use to tell me about your activism and always encouraged me to watch your movies!)

    Jane Fonda… you are inspiring a whole new generation — to me your mug shot is a symbol of what it takes to stand up for what you believe in…
    – thanks for clearing a path
    – thanks for your honesty
    – thanks for guiding us through.

    ps: just bought your book.

  35. So proud of the stand you and many others took against that dreadful war, and US government hypocrisy in how it was fought. The world is a stronger and better place because of your courage, and more beautiful because of your talent. Thank you.

  36. You know what’s strange? I remember reading about this in McCalls or Ladies Home Journal back then and you mentioned something about being on your period and having problems getting Kotex while in jail. I had just started my very first period and thought how gross that must be to be in jail while on your period – maybe that’s why it stuck in my head.

  37. We admire you Jane for all that you do for the betterment of society!

    Sad that you’ve been repeatedly unjustly vilified.

  38. It’s the hair cut that I love, Were you the first to have a shag? Who created the shag? I think I’ll get a shag, it was my best look. Have I missed the point again?

  39. Hi Jane, thanks for sharing with us about those days and your mug shot. I love that photo (and the hair cut (!)) Your fist is up in solidarity and defiance. It also speaks to me about American beauty, independence, freedom and what you and others were fighting against in America then — the war, lies, scars, violence and corruption.

    You often speak about growing up as an insecure and shy young woman. I look at that photo and so many moments of your life and see such courage, passion and boldness. It would’ve been so much easier for you to stay silent or just make another movie instead of taking the Sixties heat.

    Where do you get your fearless voice? That’s what I enjoy most about you — your delightful laugh and your don’t-F-with me activist voice.

    Thanks, Jane, enjoy your vacation.


  40. I remember that…was one of the college students organizing the rallies against the war. Google this:
    global spirit forgiveness

  41. Most people in mug shots look like hell, but you look fresh and confident. The clenched fist clinches it. That’s one of the reasons so many college students turned out for you and why Nixon, as so often happened with Nixon, got the opposite of his desired effect. He merely gave more attention to a cause that was just. I just wish there were a bigger and better antii-war movement today when we just kill people willy nilly and no one’s the wiser. On that front we haven’t improved with our new president.

  42. A great story (and a scary one) and a great photo. Reminds us all of the lengths power will go to to stay in power. The raised fist was a nice touch. 🙂

  43. You are an awesome lady Jane!

  44. What a joke! I can’t believe you were arrested for carrying vitamins! I guess when the government doesn’t want the bad publicity they’ll do almost anything to cover themselves up… I hope things have changed since Nixon.

    Wonderful blog, I’m enjoying it very much.

  45. I loved “My Life So Far” and I have the utmost respect for you as an actor and an activist. Thanks for all you do.

  46. I saw you during one of those speeches in California at Cal State Long Beach. You were great! Can’t wait until you get your little clutch bag with the picture on it… thank you for all you do and for all you stand for.

  47. I was googling your mugshot (using the images) about 3 weeks ago and was very surprised to discover your original (11/2/70) mugshot. I always thought you had only one (11/3/70) with a fist in the air.

    Here’s the link:

  48. Dear Jane
    I just read that you are doing a movie with Diane Keaton!!! On my God! I am so excited, I can’t stand it! Talk about the Widow’s Adventures!!

    What a team!! You always manage to give your fans such anticipatory JOY!





  49. You are true-ly(trully?) inpsiring. Oh heck can’t spell, let’s try this again: you inspire me to stand up for my beliefs. Thank you!

Leave a Reply