Washington Post Is Copping A Felt On Deep Throat

Before W. Mark Felt was conclusively identified as Deep Throat, he took on one last alias: “The Guy.”

That was how Mr. Felt-the former F.B.I. official who’d secretly leaked Watergate developments to Bob Woodward of The Washington Post-was known around the offices of Vanity Fair as the magazine put together a piece by Mr. Felt’s attorney, John D. O’Connor, revealing his long-concealed identity. The small circle of staffers who edited and laid out the story signed non-disclosure agreements, said David Friend, the magazine’s editor of creative development and the editor of the piece.

Mr. Friend said that he and editor Graydon Carter had dummied the piece into the July issue under the working title “Wig,” a semi-allusion to “Watergate.”

“Graydon and I would refer to it as ‘Wig,'” Mr. Friend said. “We would say ‘W’ for Woodward. We would say ‘The Guy’ for Felt.”

The true title-“I’m the Guy They Called Deep Throat”-was itself a bit of a dodge. Nowhere in the piece was there one moment at which Mr. Felt made a definitive, public confession that he was Deep Throat. There was no speech act, like a bride saying “I do,” to revoke the most fabled confidentiality agreement in American journalism.

Instead, Mr. O’Connor reported that Mr. Felt made a series of private confessions, often obliquely, to family and friends as he wrestled with the question of whether to come forward. The title quote appeared in Mr. O’Connor’s account as something “he confided to me.”

“I have written this piece,” Mr. O’Connor wrote inside parentheses, “in fact, after witnessing the decline of Felt’s health and mental acuity, and after receiving his and [his daughter’s] permission to reveal this information, normally protected by provisions of lawyer-client privilege.”

Mr. Friend said he had witnessed Mr. Felt signing the agreement to revoke lawyer-client privilege. And he had heard a confession himself firsthand. “I went out and saw him and he told me he was Deep Throat,” Mr. Friend said.

The trouble, Mr. Friend said, was that with Mr. Felt having suffered a stroke in 2001, it was difficult to tell “how together he was.” Three decades ago, Deep Throat’s credentials had given Post editor Ben Bradlee the confidence to send Mr. Woodward and Carl Bernstein battering ahead through the stonewalling of the Nixon administration. But The Guy, reluctant and fading, was an unreliable source.

“Who knew if he was inflating his role?” Mr. Friend said.

Similar doubt filled the Post newsroom at midday on May 31, after Vanity Fair released a PDF version of the story on the Web. “At first the feeling was, is this guy for real?” a Post staffer said.

There had been plenty of authoritative-sounding speculation before. But Mr. Woodward, Mr. Bernstein and Mr. Bradlee had always stuck to their position that Deep Throat’s secrecy agreement would last till the source was dead. Mr. Bradlee had on occasion alluded to a collection of pre-written Deep Throat matter, locked away on his personal computer, waiting for the eventual obituary.

For a few hours, the silence endured. “We weren’t responding at first,” the Post staffer said. “The sense was, who knows, this could just be an old guy saying something.”

But curious Post employees, checking the story budget for the next day’s paper, spotted a half-dozen pieces about Deep Throat. Among them was a 50-inch piece slugged “Felt.”

“When I saw that, I knew he had to be the guy,” the staffer said.

For Vanity Fair, the path to confidence in the story began two years ago, with a cold call to Mr. Carter from a man saying he was Deep Throat’s lawyer and his client was thinking about talking. The call was passed on to Mr. Friend. “I handle some of the crackpots and I handle some of the tough ones,” Mr. Friend said.

An on-and-off courtship followed, Mr. Friend said, as Mr. O’Connor and the Felt family considered working on a book project or taking the story to an outlet that would pay cash for sources. They wanted “a dignified publication,” Mr. Friend said, but they “also wanted money.”

Mr. Friend said he told them that Vanity Fair wouldn’t pay sources, but that it would give the story the stature they sought. And with Mr. Felt entering his 90’s and in failing health, he said, “You just keep going, and no one’s going to know who Mark Felt was.”

So Mr. O’Connor ended up serving as the writer of the piece-for “a standard fee,” Mr. Friend said, though he declined to specify what the magazine had paid-and Vanity Fair set about lining up enough circumstantial evidence and secondhand testimony to make Mr. Felt’s semi-confessions stick. “You really have to report it hard to figure out that he’s the guy,” Mr. Friend said.

When it all added up, it was enough to convince The Post that the secret was out.

Around 2 p.m., Mr. Woodward made a rare appearance at the Post newsroom. Staffers said he looked pensive as he emerged from the fifth-floor elevator bank. He wore a blue shirt and tie, and had a trench coat looped around one finger and slung over his shoulder with Redford-like flair.

By late afternoon he’d been joined by Mr. Bernstein-tieless and in a white shirt-who was down from Manhattan. Mr. Bradlee, now vice president at large for The Post, arrived in between.

Mr. Woodward, Mr. Bradlee and Post managing editor Phil Bennett declined to comment on the day’s events.

At 5:29 p.m., it was over. William Branigin and David Von Drehle posted a story on The Post’s Web site, announcing that the principals had confirmed Mr. Felt’s identity. The Watergate journalists appeared in the middle of the newsroom, posing for pictures for the next day’s editions. In one, they reprised their famous foot-on-desk group photo-minus now-deceased publisher Katharine Graham.

By 7:20, Mr. Bernstein’s foot was resting on Mr. Woodward’s desk and the two were watching G. Gordon Liddy on CNN. Mr. Woodward, a witness said, appeared clicker-happy, zipping through the channels looking for different versions of his story.

-with additional reporting by Rebecca Dana and Gabriel Sherman

You want? The abs? The tight fucking abs-you want abs this fucking tight, you fuck? The abs! Best Life, the baby-boomer cousin to Rodale’s Men’s Health, is turning to David Mamet as a regular contributor.

In the upcoming July issue, the playwright and auteur spends some 2,000 words, in a piece titled “The Art of Leverage,” discussing his deft knowledge of jujitsu. In other manly pursuits, Mr. Mamet’s “The Magic of Women” appeared in the April issue.

David Zinczenko, editorial director of Best Life, said that he’s in talks with Mr. Mamet to write future pieces, and that using the Pulitzer Prize–winning dramatist is part of his campaign to bring an infusion of literary talent to the service-heavy title.

“I think Best Life could be like Art Cooper’s GQ, and in fact even better,” Mr. Zinczenko said by phone.

In a further display of Best Life’s new macho-lit stance, the July issue will also contain an excerpt from a previously unpublished Jack Kerouac play. The current issue, meanwhile, touts fiction by Nick Hornby. And, in a nod to both its writerly ambitions and its midlife-crisis core mission, it features a portfolio of photos of Padma Lakshmi-Mrs. Salman Rushdie-modeling lingerie.

On May 31, former Men’s Journal deputy editor Tom Foster arrived at Rodale, to serve as a contributing editor at Best Life and features editor at Men’s Health. Mr. Foster said he aims to bring more quality writing into the Best Life and Men’s Health folds.

“Ever since Art Cooper left GQ, there has been a void in the men’s magazine market,” Mr. Foster said. “Where is the really great food writing? The personal essays? The hard-hitting investigative stuff?”

So instead of wrapping quality writing inside fashion coverage-or soft-core porn à la Playboy-why not wrap it inside workout tips? “Here’s these magazines that are relevant to so many people,” Mr. Foster said. “Why shouldn’t they publish serious nonfiction?”

The literary bent, Mr. Zinczenko said, is made possible by double-digit advertising growth over the past several years. There are only so many sexual-fitness tips you can put in a single edition.

“When you add 40 edit pages, you’re in a position to say, ‘We have a lot of our core stuff covered; now let’s be ambitious. Let’s do things that will surprise readers,'” Mr. Zinczenko said.

So the shade of Mr. Cooper hovers above Best Life’s self-improvement-heavy cover lines (“6 Secrets of Eternal Youth”, “Sex: The Perfect Seduction,” “Power Up Your Life!”). Mr. Zinczenko was Mr. Cooper’s dining companion at the Four Seasons two years ago, on the day the GQ giant suffered his life-ending stroke. At the time, Mr. Zinczenko had been trying to convince the recently ousted Mr. Cooper to join him at Best Life.

Absent Mr. Cooper, Mr. Zinczenko has been rounding up the editor’s old staff. Last week, Mr. Zinczenko announced that he had signed on former GQ scribe and double ASME finalist Maximillian Potter to an 18-month writer-at-large contract. Mr. Potter is the latest in a string of Cooper-era GQ writers who’ve landed at Best Life and Men’s Health, following the trail of Jim Thornton, Bob Drury and Joe Queenan.

He’s also hoping to use the late Mr. Kerouac as a recruiting tool for serious writers. “What I want to do is to leverage the literary cachet from breaking the forgotten Kerouac manuscript,” Mr. Zinczenko said.

That doesn’t mean, however, going for more eggheaded cover lines. Thus Men’s Health’s June 2005 exclusive: “Fight Fat and Win! Red-Hot Muscle Tips from America’s Fittest Firefighters.”

“We’d lose our soul if we didn’t address those topics in the magazine,” Mr. Zinczenko said.

-Gabriel Sherman

The New York Times ran a rare editor’s byline on May 1 alerting readers that Daniel Jones, the editor of the popular anthology The Bastard on the Couch, was the contributing editor for the Modern Love column that appeared in the Styles section.

Above the piece, in The Times’ usual byline treatment, the name that appeared was Kerry Reilly’s. She wrote about growing up with an alcoholic father.

Then, at the foot of the piece:

“Kerry Reilly, who teaches writing at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is working on a novel. The contributing editor for Modern Love is Daniel Jones, who edited ‘The Bastard on the Couch: 27 Men Try Really Hard to Explain Their Feelings About Love, Loss, Fatherhood, and Freedom’ (William Morrow).”

Modern Love, which has increasingly become a venue for writers to rake over the musky details of 21st-century coupling and the family, started out this way, too.

In October 2004, when the column launched, his name appeared alongside that of his wife Cathi Hanauer, editor of the anthology The Bitch in the House. According to Times Styles editor Trip Gabriel, Modern Love was hatched from the success of their anthologies, and he signed up the two well-known editors to freelance-edit the new column. Attaching their names, he said, lent a certain cred to the pieces.

“It’s very unusual that an editor would have an expertise that’s understood in the reading population,” said Mr. Gabriel. “So we called attention to them, because this couple had each edited a book that was so distinctive-in Cathi’s case, a best-seller-and it seemed helpful information for the reader to identify an authority they’re bringing to the column.”

Mr. Gabriel added that for the same reason, “you give a contributing writer an author’s box when they write a column: It helps the reader understand the authority of a byline when there’s a connection between the writer and the subject matter.”

But not all the time. In fact, this is only the second time that Mr. Gabriel has run Mr. Jones’ byline, and he said he doesn’t have specific plans to promote his contributing editor.

“We don’t have a formula of how often it will run. It seemed like a long time had elapsed since we had run the author’s box, and it seemed worth reminding people,” Mr. Gabriel said. “I don’t have a plan for when to run it again.”

-G.S.

New York Times pundit standings, May 24-30

1. Matt Miller, score 17.0 [rank last week: tie-7th]

2. Thomas L. Friedman, 15.5 [4th]

3. David Brooks, 14.5 [3rd]

4. John Tierney, 12.5 [tie-7th]

5. Paul Krugman, 11.0 [2nd]

6. Frank Rich, 4.0 [1st]

7. (tie) Nicholas D. Kristof, 0.0 [6th]

Bob Herbert, 0.0 [5th]

Who needs woman Op-Ed columnists when you’ve got men Op-Ed columnists to write about women? Last week’s last-place pundits rallied on the strength of their masculine musings this week about the state of the fairer sex. Maureen Dowd’s temp body double, Matt Miller, grabbed the top spot with the aid of his May 25 column, which explained what his wife thinks about gender and opportunity. That piece was the No. 2 Most E-Mailed Times story overall; No. 1 was John Tierney’s “What Women Want” (while Mr. Tierney’s other column for the week, “Give Peace a Chance,” was a flop). In other underrepresented-perspectives news, David Brooks scored big by temporarily assuming the persona of an undead, liberal-baiting Karl Marx: “The educated class reaps the benefits of the modern economy-seizing for itself most of the income gains of the past decades-and then ruthlessly exploits its position to ensure the continued dominance of its class.” Also among the Most E-Mailed stories: “Golf Club Prices Are Up; Scores Are Not Down”; “Is Your House Overvalued?”; “With Irreverence and an iPod, Recreating the Museum Tour.”

-T.S