Deep Throat's Daughter, The Kindred Free Spirit
Sunday, June 12, 2005
W. Mark Felt and Joan Felt are like many fathers and daughters. Their roles have been reversed by time. The 61-year-old daughter now takes care of the 91-year-old father as his health falters, his twilight deepens.
They have found familial common ground and emotional space together. A former home health aide for the elder Felt describes how he would light up with a smile while talking to his doting daughter. A friend and university colleague of the younger Felt describes how she would scramble to make sure her father had the proper care.
But as fathers and daughters are wont to be, they were estranged once upon a time, and a study in extreme contrast.
He was the FBI man, the company man hunting down and spying on radical or countercultural movements of the kind that attracted his free-spirited daughter. She lived in a commune back in the 1970s, and her father disapprovingly told her she reminded him of the radical activists his agency was chasing, according to the Vanity Fair article that revealed her father as Deep Throat.
One can easily imagine each being embarrassed by the other, so different were they then. The establishment father. The hippie daughter. And even more striking contrasts have emerged since Joan Felt became a public figure through her father's unmasking.
But who is Joan Felt? And where was she while her father was skulking in a Rosslyn parking garage confirming hunches about the Watergate scandal? Much remains unknown about this woman who has been catapulted into the national limelight at the center of the most riveting of political mysteries.
Some of what is known adds to the mystery: Joan Felt is a devotee of an unusual and controversial self-proclaimed guru who, in two California lawsuits and several public statements 20 years ago, was accused of sexual abuse, slavery, false imprisonment, assault and brainwashing that was said to include persuading people to give him all their money.
Asked about the guru today, Joan Felt says, "None of this has anything to do with the Deep Throat story." She won't talk about the guru's group, known as Adidam as well as the Johannic Daist Communion. Nor would she discuss the length and scope of her role within it. Earlier this month, when asked about it in a brief encounter outside her house, she said Adidam was like Buddhism.
Her name and home phone number are listed on the Internet as a contact for an Adidam Study Group in Santa Rosa, Calif., where she lives with her father and sons. Whether Joan Felt ever lived at any of Adidam's many communal households and sanctuaries throughout California and elsewhere is unknown.
Adidam is named for its leader, known variously as Adi Da Samraj, Bubba Free John and Da Love-Ananda, among several other names. He was born Franklin Albert Jones in New York in 1939 and founded the religion in 1972 in Los Angeles, according to news accounts of his life.
Since 1982, Adi Da has lived with several wives and his closest followers on the tiny Fiji island of Naitouba, according to defectors as well as news articles. He bought the island for $2.1 million from actor Raymond Burr, say news reports of that era.
The lawsuits and threatened suits that dogged the group in the mid-1980s were settled with payments and confidentiality agreements, says a California lawyer, Ford Greene, who handled three such cases.