Sunday, July 1, 2012

Funky Worm, Ohio Players (1973)

Certain historical events are gifts that just keep on giving. Coming of age in the 60s and 70s, Watergate holds that distinction for me; call me a Watergate junkie if you want to. It happened at a time when music seemed headed for places I didn't feel like going. Example: Funky Worm by the Ohio Players, which was topping the charts in May of 1973.

That same month, my budding interest in public affairs and journalism was galvanized by the live theatre that was the televised Senate investigation of the Watergate break-in. I lived briefly after college graduation in Washington, and will never forget opening my apartment door the morning of August 9, 1974, greeted by the beefy Washington Post emblazoned with the momentous 2-inch headline, NIXON RESIGNS.

Sens. Howard Baker, Sam Ervin getting it done
Watergate's dramatis personae have always been a source of fascination to me. So Thomas Mallon's historical novel, Watergate: A Novel, fictionalizing some aspects of the scandal as it unfolds from the perspective of selected characters, was high on my reading list. Like other Mallon works I've read, it did not disappoint.

They're all there, from Nixon on down, including two with whom I've had actual interactions - Jeb Stuart Magruder and John Dean. Magruder, who found redemption in becoming an ordained minister after doing time for his role heading up the aptly-named CREEP (the Committee to Re-Elect the President), became the pastor of a church in Columbus, Ohio, where I was once a member of the flock. I'd been thinking of leaving, but no way was that going to happen with a Watergate conspirator giving the Sunday sermons!  I also commiserated about investigative journalism then and now with John Dean, the hapless White House counsel, when he spoke to the City Club of Cleveland about his book Worse Than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush a few years ago. Like me, he couldn't understand how the media had fallen asleep at the switch during that entire administration.

Mallon's flair for both dialogue and narrative meticulously weaves together the stories of Rose Mary Woods, Nixon's ultra-loyal secretary and eraser of tapes; Pat Nixon, his long-suffering wife; Fred LaRue, one of the least well-known but most embedded cover-up conspirators; E. Howard Hunt, one of the "plumbers," and Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the ancient daughter of Teddy Roosevelt who was a major Washington wag. The overwhelming sense I get is that, as with so many things, actions that could just as easily not have been taken led to calamity that ruined lives. Tragedy in the best Shakespearean tradition ensues.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wendy, your posts are such a pleasure to read; I could never emulate the substance and quality of the writing that is found here on your blog.

My only complaint? More please!