Talking Pictures

Wonder Women

Close Call: In ‘Air Force One,’ Glen Close plays a tough, clearheaded vice president of the United States who takes over when the president’s plane is hijacked.

Author says sisterhood is powerful

By David Templeton

Writer David Templeton takes interesting people to interesting movies in his ongoing quest for the ultimate post-film conversation. This time out, he tags along as reformed romance novelist Doris Mortman and husband go see the entertaining action-thriller Air Force One.

DORIS MORTMAN is badgering the waiter. Seconds after taking her seat, the best-selling author–feigning displeasure–has playfully goaded him into a sassy exchange of semi-confrontational, New Jersey­style banter.

“I’ve got a problem, Charlie,” she announces, reading his name tag. “I can’t find your all-day breakfast items. You serve breakfast in the afternoon here, or what?”

“You’re in a diner, ma’am,” rumbles Charlie, reaching over to flip her menu around to the hidden breakfast listings on the back. “We serve breakfast all day.”

“That’s good,” she replies, “‘Cuz, Charlie? I was beginning to have a few doubts about your establishment here. I’ll take the French toast.”

Charlie raises an eyebrow, smiles, and jots down the order.

“So. Air Force One! ” Mortman exclaims.

A huge hit, Air Force One is a wild, bloody action-thriller about a president (Harrison Ford) who single-handedly defends his family, his country, and his airplane against terrorists who’ve taken over the famous presidential jet, while his female V.P. handles the emergency from the White House. Mortman–whose novels are famed for their descriptions of resourceful, powerful women–especially liked Glenn Close’s portrayal of the tough, clear-headed vice president.

“I liked that nobody explained how a woman had ended up in the White House. She was just there,” she says. “She was competent. She knew her job. I also liked that the first lady was very competent, that she’d been his helpmate all along, that they were political partners. I loved that.”

“They were strong women. Both of them would have been your readers,” chips in her husband, David, nodding at my copy of his wife’s latest book, The Lucky Ones (Kensington; $22.95). “Though I’ve got to add that men are beginning to discover these books as well.”

“Men should read more so-called women’s fiction,” Doris almost shouts. “They’d be able to identify with it better than they think.”

While not exactly a household name, Doris Mortman is nevertheless a frequent flyer on the New York Times bestseller list, where seven of her books (including True Colors, Rightfully Mine, First Born, and Circles) have earned a seat, and where The Lucky Ones –an extremely absorbing and undeniably fun read about four women, all friends, who rise to prominence during a particularly contentious presidential election and a frightening international hostage crisis–will most likely end up.

“Heroines are changing,” she explains. “I do believe there will be a woman in office soon, and there will be a person of color, probably as vice president, so the old ‘Cinderella sagas’ are not as easy to buy as they once were.

“You know, Anne Richards made a comment in ’92. She was on one of the talk shows around the time of the convention, and someone said, ‘Wouldn’t you be happier if there were a woman candidate on the ticket?” and she said, ‘No. We’re not ready yet.'”

“I thought that was a very interesting comment,” Doris continues. “She said, ‘We don’t have the bench strength yet.’ And probably in reference to Geraldine Ferraro [the 1984 Democratic candidate for vice president], without meaning to diminish her in any way, she said, ‘We need the bench strength so that when a woman is selected as a vice president or presidential candidate, we know that she is truly the best person for the job and not simply the only woman available at that moment.'”

Charlie returns with the food.

“Better watch what you say,” he warns Doris, eyeing my tape recorder at the edge of the table. “He’s taping you.”

“It’s under control, Charlie,” she tosses back. “Thanks for the warning. Can I have some syrup?”

“In regard to Ferraro,” she says, picking up where she left off, “I can still remember where I was, the thrill of it, when she was nominated. My daughter and I were watching it on TV. She was 13. I was sitting there crying, I was so excited. And I remember saying to her, ‘You see, sweetheart? You can do anything you want, you can be anything you want.’ and she said, ‘Of course I can, mother.’

“And I thought that was fascinating. Because my generation was weeping that this had happened, but my daughter–who was the beneficiary of pathfinders like Ferraro–thought, ‘Well, yeah. Of course.’

“What I loved about the vice president in this movie was that heroism, for her, was very thoughtful,” Mortman says. “She was thinking things through. She did not get hysterical. She could make a decision that affected millions of other people, and if she teared up a little while doing it, well . . . it was all right.

“She’s the kind of heroine that I feel women are looking for today. Women don’t need Cinderella sagas anymore. I know what those are,” she shrugs, as Charlie steps up with a giant carafe of syrup.

“I wrote them, and I haven’t been writing them for a long time. This book, in a sense, and this movie, too, shift things forward a bit, because the heroines are in a place you haven’t ever seen women. They weren’t even on the radar.

“Now,” she says, taking a bite of breakfast, “they’re saving the world.”

From the August 14-20, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

© Metro Publishing Inc.

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