From PEOPLE Magazine Click to enlarge
"Can you believe this? Is this the best?" Goldie Hawn whispers as she lies propped up against a bank of mammoth pillows in her king-size bed at home in Pacific Palisades. She is not referring to the open script by her right leg. And neither her newest leading man onscreen, Mel Gibson, nor her personal co-star of the last seven years, Kurt Russell, is anywhere near.

No, the source of Goldie's rapture is Wyatt Russell, almost 4, her shaggy blond son by Kurt. Wyatt, suddenly zonked by the nap fairy, has trapped Hawn's left arm beneath his snuggling little body.

It's late afternoon, and the view of Catalina, miles off in the Pacific, has faded in the haze. The part-time housekeeper-cook is firing up some barbecue chicken. Hawn is in baggy lime sweats and a tank T-shirt, with no makeup, and her honey-blond, just-woke-up Goldie locks tumbling all over.

"Just look at that face," she says. "This is my third and my last and, you know, each one you treasure more. It's the greatest." Moments later Katie, 13, and Oliver, 12, her children by ex-husband Bill Hudson, are home from school. Katie, who dances and plays piano, shows Goldie a drawing. Oliver, tall and lean, kneels by the bed to study Wyatt. He says he lost a tennis match, and Mom sighs, "Oh. honey, that's a drag." He shrugs to ward off her discomfort. "That's all right," she counters positively. "Did you have fun?" "Yeah." "Well, then, that's cool."

The scenes of nearly surreal domesticity continue as Russell arrives, looking jock-tough and strapping in T-shirt, jeans and a Yankee cap given to him by the late Billy Martin. After briefly discussing the day's events—and an evening schedule that includes taking Ollie to hockey practice—he disappears. In the course of an hour, the terms of endearment in this vigorously affectionate, surprisingly down-to-earth household go from Sweetie to Dolly, Honey, Boobie, Mookie and Poop.

If any female star in Hollywood can be said to have it all, it is Hawn. Now 44, she can still charm an audience with a baleful eye roll, grimace or twitch of the nose. She can even, quite gracefully, drop a towel to begin a heated love scene. This she does in Bird on a Wire, her new hit where the Goldie giggle proves more than a match for Mel Gibson's macho mirth. While other actresses worry about when their next good script will come, Hawn—who hasn't had a hit since her 1980 Private Benjamin—last year signed a seven-movie deal with Disney Studios' Hollywood Pictures, worth an estimated $30 million to her.

Right now, though, the sweetest deal seems to be the one she has at home. Let other women wilt at the sight of Gibson. "I'm open. I have as much fun as anyone," Goldie says. "But my relationship with Kurt is solid. Why would I have a romance with anyone? I'm already in love. I have the best guy around."

That view is ratified by a friend who has worked with Kurt (Silkwood, 1983) and known Goldie since the third (postpilot) Laugh-In show, in 1968. "They have the best relationship of any people I know," says Cher. "Kurt is also probably the best man who ever lived—the best father. He's just perfect, he's hysterical, he's very up. I just love being around him. He loves practical jokes. He's like a little kid with the devil in him. And Goldie's got a really good heart. I know he thinks he is unbelievably lucky to have her. So whatever it is they have, it works."

"We're in cahoots," Kurt himself explains. "We share the same outlook. When I'm not the perfect mate, she hangs in there. And we're lucky. We have both turned out to be pretty much who we looked like in the beginning."

For Goldie, love did not always work out so easily. Her 1969 marriage to director Gus Trikonis ended less than amicably (she had to pay him $72,000) four years later. A 1976 union with singer-actor Bill Hudson, though it yielded two children, led to a bitter 1980 breakup that still casts a shadow. Hudson, now remarried to Cindy Williams (they have two children), has been outspoken in his criticism of Hawn, publicly airing their battles over finances and custody. Last summer Goldie returned the barbs, and this "blended" family (Kurt's son by Season Hubley, Boston, 10, is a frequent visitor to the Hawn-Russell household) started to look more like a media Mixmaster. Goldie will no longer discuss the strained state of her prior marital affairs, concentrating instead on the nonmarital commitment that works. "We genuinely 100 percent like each other," she says of her relationship with Russell, 39.

Remarkably, the couple don't even seem to suffer long separations due to location work. Bird was shot last summer, enabling Kurt (who fought Mel over Michelle Pfeiffer in Tequila Sunrise) to fly his own open-cockpit 1977 biplane and take the kids to visit Goldie and his buddy Mel in Vancouver. "I'm one of the few actors who enjoys being on someone else's location," says Russell, who won his first film role, in Disney's 1961 The Absent-Minded Professor, at age 10. "No pressure. No lines to learn. In Vancouver it was great because Mel's wife, Robyn, was there with their six kids, and we just had a blast. Aquariums, parks, boats. So yeah, it is fun when I know the guy she's working with." In fact Kurt claims credit for suggesting the movie match. "After Tequila, I told Goldie, 'I think you guys would be a great couple.' "

Hawn, aware of Gibson's box office clout—and weary of "carrying the responsibility" of a movie's rise or fall—didn't think twice when the offer came. On the set, she says, she liked Kurt's pal just fine. "He's free of that Freudian transference—the hostilities, intrigues, insecurities—that actors can sometime project," she says. "All of us had fun together. We're never at a loss for things to laugh and talk about."

Certainly not after Bird's high-voltage stunts. In one of the film's funniest and most harrowing sequences, Goldie and Mel crawl across a girder 20 floors above Vancouver. Though a stunt coordinator sat beneath them on a platform and Goldie was hooked up to a lifeline, Hawn does not recall a feeling of security. "I was in this farchadat [dizzy] gown," she says, falling back, as she often does, on a Yiddish phrase, "that was like all satin and weighed 40 pounds, and my knees kept catching under it. I didn't dare look down. It was like Outward Bound, this movie—facing all my fears."

Some fears went deeper than movie acrobatics. Critics, who have not taken to Bird on a Wire (the title is taken from the 1969 Leonard Cohen song) with the same enthusiasm as the public, point to Hawn's girlish giggles and smirks and suggest that the image isn't aging well. Goldie herself is aware that her toothachingly cute "zany-ditzy-dingy shtick," as she reels it off, seems "inappropriate" as she steams into mid-life. It certainly does not match the independent, ambitious, very intelligent, ultra-responsible mogul-mother behind the mask.

Of course, she always was more complicated than she looked. Trained in ballet in and around Washington, D.C., where she was raised by her Presbyterian father, Edward Rutledge Hawn, a musician, and Jewish mother, Laura, a jewelry wholesaler who also ran a dance school in Takoma Park, Md., Goldie danced her way into instant Laugh-In success via New York City's seedy go-go circuit. She won an Oscar nomination for her work in Cactus Flower in 1969 and helped launch Steven Spielberg's career with fine dramatic work in Sugarland Express (1974). But after Shampoo (1975) and Foul Play (1978), her shtick was her ticket.

"Laugh-In came in," she recalls, "when women were burning bras. And I came on as a wide-eyed innocent—some called it silly, stupid, vacant. A lot called it the dumb blond. Reporters always asked, 'Don't you feel what you represent is not good for women's lib?' Well, I always knew that I was smart. That I would never take money from a man—ever. I was already liberated. That was my answer to them. I don't live in a man's world. I don't have to ask anyone for lunch money. To maintain self-esteem, I always said, I'd pick up dog crap in the street to have a quarter in my pocket."

The Disney deal deepened her pockets significantly, and she feels no stigma about signing on with the studio known for hot-wiring stalled careers like those of Richard Dreyfuss and Bette Midler. Her first Disney project, set in Key West in 1969, is Crisscross, the story of a young boy who gets involved with selling drugs to save his mother from working as a stripper. "Disney wants me to stretch for my entire range," she says. "As you grow older, the parts get scarcer, and, yes, the question becomes, do I abandon that [image]? How valuable is it? I don't know, but yes, there is consternation about what I should do. Internally, please, I'd like to do Shakespeare. It can be terribly frustrating."

She has learned to deal with worse. Before Overboard came out at Christmas 1987, the Hawn-Russell comedy tested "off the charts"—then sank in theaters before turning into a top home video. "It was devastating, a huge disappointment," says Goldie, who also produced the movie. "We were both very depressed. But we've been in this business so long. I mean, we went on, and I made dinner, and we had a life."

Lately, she has been choosing fabrics and furniture for the new house they are building in the Palisades; they plan a December move. She calls her quaintly rustic style "upstate New Yorkish, very Eastern, traditional, turn of the century." They once split their time more evenly between L.A. and a retreat with two cabins on 70 acres in Old Snowmass, outside Aspen. "The kids fished and stayed out for hours," she says.

They moved back full-time to L.A. when Goldie's mom, who lives nearby, had a heart attack. Now they spend vacation time in the Rockies. They occasionally go out with friends but don't entertain at home much because it cuts into family time. "It sounds like we lead a boring life," Goldie says. "But we have a lot of fun. We want to stay put as much as we can and support the kids' activities. Oliver studied karate three times a week from age 6 to 9 and came home with trophies because he stuck with it. We want them to feel pride, to have a good feeling about who they are. That's all that counts."

Unmarried...with Children it isn't. She says Kurt wakes at 5:30 A.M. to take Ollie to hockey. He has a "fabulous" rapport with ex-wife Season Hubley, and he's "real buddies" with their son, Boston, whom little Wyatt "absolutely adores." All four kids call Kurt Pa. "Kate and Oliver have a 'Dad,' " she says.

Goldie and Kurt try to chauffeur the children to and from school and activities. She says it's a "priority" to be home after school and at bedtime. Good friend actress Gail Strickland (Protocol) verifies the close-knit picture. "I've spent cranky time and long wonderful family time with them, and Goldie is an amazing mother," she says. "I know [the situation with Hudson] is one of the saddest things in her life. But Goldie just won't live in anger and pain. She just lives joy, and the kids get to wallow in that joy."

So what happens when Goldie the mogul makes Hawn the homebody leave the nest to work? "Without the kids I'm lost," she says. Hawn remembers a three-day trip to New York City to meet screenwriters. "I thought, 'Oh, boy, this'll be great.' You know, Mommy time. The plane was gorgeous, I got notes written, got to think, listen to music, got stuff done. I was a pig in heaven.

"I got to the hotel room and I didn't know what to do with myself. I got depressed. I sat there and said, 'Where are my kids, where is my life?' I thought, 'Oh, God, it must be hard when the kids grow up and leave you, because there's that place inside you that is like a fountain—it just keeps overflowing all the time. It's always on, and you've somehow always got it to give. And then they go away, and you still have it but you've got no place to put it.' Anyway, I got over it. I had meetings. I had lunches. I was fine."