Woodward and Bernstein Back in the Day
(UPI / Bettmann)
"Carl’s a phenomenal jitterbugger. At parties in high school, we danced together. Chances are if I saw him in the nursing home and somebody put on Bill Haley, we could get up and do it again." Annie Groer, Washington Post reporter
I've led a pretty interesting Been There Done That life. (So far. It's not over yet.) My experiences, especially with the Great and Near Great, have ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime to many fascinating spots in between.
My pal Beth just sent me a piece on a new book called "Belushi: A Biography" by John Belushi's widow Judy Belushi Pisano, taking Bob Woodward to task for trashing Belushi in his own book "Wired." It started me thinking of the good old days when I knew Woodward and Bernstein. As usual, there's a story there. It's really about Bernstein, but what the hell, that's the way my mind works.
In the early to mid 70s, working in journalism and politics, I spent a lot of time commuting among Harrisburg, Philly and Washington. My LZ in DC was CJ's great little house facing the Georgetown campus. Remind me to tell you sometime how we watched The original movie The Exorcist being filmed there and snagged roles as extras.
A lot of well known journalists and pols were frequent visitors to the house on P. Street. (More about some of them another time.) Carl Bernstein was too, though he wasn't famous. Yet.
Bob Woodward showed up a few times. Frankly, Bob was a tight ass then, as he gives every indication of being now. Carl, on the other hand, was a party guy -- when he wasn't slaving at the Washington Post trying to make a name for himself.
If you're a Boomer, you know what's coming.
Carl started working more and showing up less. He and Woodward were onto something big. When he did fall through the door late at night, he was bursting with stories about break-ins and cover-ups and sleazy wheelings and dealings in the Nixon administration.
We should have listened more and partied less, but what can I say, we were young and--in retrospect--dumb. (And if we heard who Deep Throat was, we were too wasted to remember.)
After Woodward and Bernstein broke the Watergate scandal, they wrote "All the President's Men" which subsequently became a movie. Carl came to Philly one day to flog the book on The Mike Douglas Show, a Westinghouse syndicated talker taped locally at KYW TV.
I picked him up at the airport and took him to the studio. We were both excited that the topical comedic team The Smothers Brothers were also among the day's guests.
Carl, new to the Fame Game, wondered over and over if it would be tacky to ask for their autograph. I urged him to go for it. We walked into the Green Room and there they were. Carl's sweaty hand grabbed mine as he fumbled for words, clearly star struck.
Tommy Smothers stood up and said, "You're Carl Bernstein."
"Uh, yeah," was Carl's articulate answer.
Tommy turned and picked up a book from the end table. It was, of course, "All the President's Men." He looked somewhat sheepish as he held it out toward Carl. "I hope you don't think this is tacky," he said, "but would you autograph it for me?"