Was it enough for Vanity Fair to reveal that former F.B.I. official W. Mark Felt was Deep Throat?
Indeed, Tuesday was a dizzying parade of disclosure: The Felt family came forward and, finally, The Washington Post’s Watergate reporting duo, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, followed suit.
Messrs. Woodward and Bernstein, in a gesture of bewildering chivalry, initially decided not to finger Mr. Felt, even though the former G-man-now 91 years old, retired and living in sunny California-had already outed himself.
Their lips were sealed, they maintained, until Deep Throat’s death.
By the end of the day, however, the noble quietude was abandoned, and the party had begun.
Except for Jacob Bernstein, son of Carl with writer Nora Ephron. The Women’s Wear Daily writer is now guarding his own sliver of the Watergate tale with a Sphinx-like silence.
It all started at Jacob’s old summer camp in Bridgehampton, according to Chase Culeman-Beckman, a fellow camper.
In July of 1999, Mr. Culemen-Beckman spoke with a reporter at the Hartford Courant, fondly recalling a political conversation with the junior Mr. Bernstein in which, he alleged, the latter had let the identity of Deep Throat spill.
It was, Mr. Culeman-Beckman claimed, a certain W. Mark Felt.
So did the precocious camper really know it was Mr. Felt? And did he reveal it to his friend?
The speculation since Mr. Culeman-Beckman’s story appeared hadn’t favored this obscure (relatively speaking) candidate for the true identity of the celebrated Watergate source, perhaps the most important newsmaker ever to be named after a porno. Names like Diane Sawyer, Pat Buchanan, Alexander Haig and L. Patrick Gray were all much more popular to bandy about.
Mr. Bernstein’s disclosure was largely dismissed on the theory that Ms. Ephron-she of Heartburn fame-had often favored Mr. Felt as her own best guess; the young Jacob was simply repeating his mother’s conviction.
Is that right?
“I can guess what you’re calling about, and I’m not really playing ball with any of this,” the younger Mr. Bernstein told The Transom. He was still in his office, fending off calls around 6:30 p.m. on The Day Deep Throat Was Revealed.
“I’ve turned down Good Morning America, the Daily News, Fox News. I’ve turned them all down.”
But did he really know, The Transom asked?
“I’m getting off the phone. I’m not commenting on this at all,” he said stiffly. “Bye.”
And then he hung up, never to reveal his secret.
Method to Kerrey’s Mad?
Needless to say, a few of the students from the Actors Studio Drama School did a fine job of playing angry after the New School announced last week that it was ending its relationship with the Actors Studio and replacing it with a brand-new theater department called the New School for Drama.
“In my humble opinion, I think their enrollment is going to suffer greatly. People don’t want to pay $25,000 a year to go to the ‘New School of Drama,'” said Will Blomker, who just graduated from the acting program. “It’s been a very difficult year. There hasn’t been a lot of learning in the dramatic sense, but there has been a lot of learning in the political sense.”
But, apparently, there was no need for more drama this year.
“The severing of the contract with the Actors Studio is one of most egregious things,” said Shireen Deen, a second-year playwright. “It’s why I came to the school and why a lot of people came to the school.”
Several students contacted by The Transom were furious over the handling of negotiations between the New School and the Actors Studio, which had been underway since last year, when the contract between the two expired. Students were also unhappy about the changes in leadership and curriculum that have been taking place at the school since Inside the Actors Studio host James Lipton resigned as dean in 2004 (although Mr. Lipton was regarded as fairly uninvolved in school issues, according to students).
The post-Lipton era has seen at least two new deans, and an atmosphere of tension has permeated the school for the past nine months, as students and faculty alike waited to learn the fate of the Actors Studio–New School alliance.
Mr. Blomker described it as “a hostile environment” and a “battle of egos” between the New School president Bob Kerrey and the Actors Studio.
Mr. Kerrey said that negotiations had been underway since last July, when the contract with the Actors Studio expired.
“I felt from my contact with the studio that it was going to be a pretty amicable relationship,” said Mr. Kerrey. “It was amicable-but there was a bridge that could not be crossed, centered on the question of governance: who hires the dean, and who decides the curricula.” Mr. Kerrey said the requirement that he grant authority to an outside entity on those two issues would put him in a weak position and made it impossible for him to sign a contract.
A recently graduated playwright named Aurin Squire said that he and a handful of other students were consulting lawyers to see whether they had any legal recourse to recover tuition they’d spent on a diploma they felt would soon be devalued. They have an upcoming appointment with Johnnie Cochran’s firm, among others, according to Mr. Squire.
“A lot of people say, ‘I want “Actors Studio Drama School” on my diploma.’ It’s like saying you went to Juilliard,” said Kerry Lee, an acting student who just completed her first year. “I asked for a BMW and I’m getting a Toyota.”
Regarding the possibility of a lawsuit by disgruntled students, Mr. Kerrey said: “We have met with students, and we’ll listen to any claim they want to make. They’re in very good company talking to lawyers; this is a very litigious society.”
The kerfuffle has also revived rumors that Mr. Kerrey was plotting to cut loose the esteemed World Policy Institute, a sort of think tank that has been part of the university since 1991. Mr. Kerrey said that although the institute doesn’t make money, it was “very unlikely” that the New School would shutter it or sell it, but that it was being “reviewed” along with all other divisions of the university. Similarly, Mr. Kerrey said that fears of an impending radical name change at Parsons School of Design were overblown, and that the words “New School” were simply being added to the Parsons logo. The new name-part of a university-wide rebranding already underway-would be “Parsons New School for Design.”
The acting students’ complaints point to the fact that, when someone is paying an eye-popping $25,000-plus per year in tuition for training to become an actor, playwright or theater director-or fashion designer, for that matter-relatively small changes can take on huge importance.
One modification that several students mentioned as a source of contention was the elimination of the dance course, which had previously been available to acting students and was held in conjunction with the Alvin Ailey dance company-a change that was implemented by one of the interim deans of the program over the past year. Another was the potential elimination of the repertory season, a series of productions that third-year students would collaborate on as a sort of master class.
“It was declared a disaster in its first week, and the proposal was to replace it with a bunch of readings,” said Mr. Squire. “Each of us would get one play-each director would get one play, and the actors would get readings … but the rep season is 12 weeks, a huge enterprise you build up three years towards.”
And Ms. Lee pointed to the fact that her registration for next year was advertising an increase in class size, which she said was outrageous.
“They’re proposing the maximum number of students for next year is 20,” said Ms. Lee. “Excuse me, but the maximum number should be 12 to do proper scene work!”
– Sheelah Kolhatkar