By Lynne Duke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 3, 2005
SANTA ROSA, Calif., June 2 -- A teenager sits on the curb, clutching a copy of "All the President's Men" and rehearsing what she'll say when she gets up the courage to knock on Deep Throat's door.
A motorist passes and wants to know: "Where's the Deep Throat house?"
He's asking the news media, which have been planted outside a house on Redford Place since Tuesday, since the news broke that the quiet and rarely seen white-haired old man at this nondescript rosy-beige stucco-and-wood home, vintage 1970s, is W. Mark Felt, Deep Throat himself.
Some looky-loos stop, at least a few of them to leave bouquets on the porch -- lilies and carnations, with little American flags. Most just drive by in slow-motion to see what they can see. Some history? Some intrigue? It's all inside this house.
The storm of publicity and the media glare have descended on this erstwhile quiet and little-known family since the news broke, and this is apparently just as they'd hoped, just as they'd wanted.
Call it the Felt family strategy, hatched when they told their story to John O'Connor, the San Francisco lawyer who wrote the blockbuster article in Vanity Fair magazine that revealed the secret of Deep Throat's identity. The hush of this sleepy, middle-class subdivision called Appletree, normally interrupted by the bark of the Felts' Rottweiler named Carlos, now is shattered by the constant hum of satellite trucks and loud reporters.
The Felts have been told not to talk, not to share their story with anyone just yet, until the prospective big interview deal, big book deal or big movie deal is secured. This is the advice of both Vanity Fair, whose July issue has yet to hit the stands, and O'Connor, who was paid $10,000 by the magazine for the story. ("No one got rich on a Vanity Fair story," said David Friend, who edited O'Connor's story about Felt.) With his office still inundated with phone calls and interview requests, O'Connor remained in New York as of Thursday afternoon, still working on what Joan Felt, Mark Felt's daughter, calls "the next step."
She explained apologetically that they couldn't discuss anything "until John gets back and we confer."
She speaks with a smile, for it seems she and her son, Nick Jones, aren't rude types, aren't used to just brushing people off. So as they come and go each day, they banter awkwardly but pleasantly with the press contingent that has turned their little street into a virtual video and photo studio.
As if wanting to keep feeding the media something, anything, Jones, a law student, emerged from the house Wednesday to hold up a copy of his grandfather's 1979 book, "The FBI Pyramid," for the cameramen to shoot.
So the next twist in the story of Deep Throat is unknown. The former G-man extraordinaire who rose to be the FBI's No. 2 man and fed information on the Nixon administration that helped bring down a president -- he and his family are under someone else's control, it seems.
Frankly, Deep Throat himself seems to be enjoying it all.
"You hang in there," he said to the press Thursday from the passenger window of a car driven by his caregiver, Fereimi Boladau. Boladau and his wife, Taina Boladau, regularly take Felt out for rides a few times a day.
"Where are you going?" someone shouted to Felt. He must have misheard, for he showed the wad of bright green chewing gum in his mouth.
He was asked again: "Where are you going?"
"To the doctor," he replied.
Asked, on his return, how the doctor said he was doing, Felt quipped, "I'm 92!" As if that says it all. (Actually, he is reported to be 91.) Indeed, he is frail, bent, perhaps hard of hearing, and he uses a walker with bright green tennis balls planted on the bottom, the easier to slide.
He's lived here on Redford Place about 15 years, having joined his daughter's household, said Bob Scoffern, 82, who's got a little sign in front of his house identifying him as the "Mayor of Redford Place."
Scoffern lives several houses away from the Felts and knew Deep Throat only as a "waving acquaintance" back in the days when Felt was more mobile and seen more often in the neighborhood. But Scoffern said he hadn't seen Felt in about four years and thought maybe he'd passed away.
Scoffern said he knew all along that the friendly Felt was Deep Throat, because a local paper wrote about it back in 1999, the 25th anniversary of Nixon's downfall, and lined up the facts convincingly.
Still, Scoffern said, the media storm was shocking.
"The only surprise to us was all the media. I couldn't believe it was going to be this big a thing," said the former Navy corpsman.
But Joan Felt has responded good-naturedly to it all, even joking that she ought to serve lemonade in the yard, where evergreens tower over the house.
A thin woman of 61 with a big smile, she could be mistaken, from a distance, for the latter-day Jane Fonda, what with the similar blond haircut and chiseled features. According to Vanity Fair, she'd once been an actress, too.
She pushed to get her father's story told and, according to Vanity Fair, suggested that the story would help the family "make enough money to pay some bills."
A sign of Joan Felt's keen interest in how the story was playing came from Cathy Christy, a close friend, who arrived at the house Wednesday to drop off a bag of tapes of news shows she'd recorded at Felt's request.
Since 1990, Felt has been an adjunct faculty member in Spanish at Santa Rosa Junior College, said Stephanie Benedict, who is in the college's human resources department.
Felt also has been a lecturer in Spanish at Sonoma State University, where some buildings on the bucolic campus here in wine country are named Cabernet and Beaujolais, since 1992.
There, she is known as "caring and compassionate, enthusiastic and encouraging and inspiring," said Jean Wasp, a university spokeswoman, quoting Felt's boss, Suzanne C. Toczyski, chair of the modern languages and literatures department. Felt also was a Fulbright scholar in Chile in the mid-1960s, Wasp said.
The only sign of a breakdown in the Felt family strategy came when Felt was informed that her father had told reporters he'd "arrange to write a book or something and get all the money I can."
Surprised, she said with a smile, "Dad speaks for himself."
Out on the street, meanwhile, Laci Moore was rehearsing her approach to the Felt house. Moore, an irrepressible teen with a thick, braided ponytail and braces on her teeth, had been amazed to learn that Deep Throat lives in her neighborhood. She couldn't be stopped, once she got going in her 17-year-old, rapid-fire, California-accented way, describing how she screamed, "Mom, Mom, Mom! He said who he is! He said who he is!"
"I was, like, ahhh! I just screamed. I don't know, it's just something I'm excited about. People think I'm crazy. I am into music and movies, but, I mean, history is my thing."
And here it is, "history!," right on Redford Place, just a few blocks from her home. She wanted Felt's autograph in her copy of "All the President's Men." She would knock on the door and say, "Hi. My name is Laci Moore. I'm an AP student from Piner High School and I've been studying Watergate."
And she did it, though to no avail. Felt's grandson told her to come back after all of the hullabaloo had died down. Even autographs, it seems, aren't yet part of the plan.
Down the block, Charles Watkins watched the scene. The retired California Highway Patrol officer said he and others had been shocked to learn that Deep Throat was in their midst.
He had humanity on his mind, though, not notoriety.
"I think the poor old guy probably doesn't have a lot longer on this Earth and maybe everybody ought to just leave him alone," Watkins said.
But that doesn't seem to be the Felt family strategy.
Staff writer Paul Farhi contributed to this report.