Who is Helga Wagner?
People have been wondering ever since a Washington Post story on May 18, 1978, which said that her name had been linked with Sen. Edward M. (Ted) Kennedy's in documents seized by federal agents in raids on the Church of Scientology offices here and in Los Angeles.
There was nothing in court records at that time to say who she was, or where she lived, or what her connection was to Kennedy.
Now she has surfaced again. She and Sen. Kennedy both admit that she was one of the people he called long-disstance in the critical hours following Chappaquiddick.
Wagner told The Washington Post last week that she had received a previously undiscolsed call from Sen. Kennedy the morning after his car had gone off Dyke Bridge. But she declined during the course of several interviews to say why he had called her or what they had talked about.
She had made up her mind, she said, "never" to talk about Sen. Kennedy or Chappaquiddick "with anyone."
Yesterday, The New York Times quoted Sen. Kennedy as saying that he had called Wagner to get a telephone number for his brother-in-law, Stephen Smith, who was vacationing in Europe.
According to The Times, some records of Sen. Kennedy's long-distance credit-card calls after Mary Jo Kopechne's death were withheld by the telephone company from the inquest and have now been destroyed. His call to Wagner was among those he made in the 10 crucial hours between the accident and the time he reported it to the police.
Wagner, a mystery woman to all but the closest Kennedy insiders, has been friend of the Kennedy family since 1962. She had a special romantic relationship with Sen. Kennedy, according to three of his friends.
Separated from a wealthy shipping tycoon, she was one of the "beautiful people," the international jet-set entourge that followed Sen. Kennedy in the late 1960s.
Wagner, an Austrian-born, slim, tanned blond now in her 30s, studied art at the Du Pont Royal Academy in Paris and the Art Students League in New York. She has lived in 12 different countries and speaks five languages.
She first attracted media attention in May 1968, when Sen. Kennedy was in California, campaigning for Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's presidential bid.
Wagner was in Los Angeles at the same time Ted Kennedy was, according to a mutual friend in California. When his itinerary took him to San Francisco, Wagner was invited to be the house guest in San Francisco of longtime Kenedy loyalist John Carl Warnecke's wife, Grace.
There were several days of partying, scheduled around campaign events and a society wedding. The group also "went out to dinner a lot" that week at San Francisco's restaurants, according to one source involved.
One of the parties at which Wagner and Sen. Kennedy were both guests was an "East Indian" evening given by Pat Montandon and covered by the press.
Wagner, who went abroad to live in the early 1970s, now lives in Miami where she designs a line of jewelry made of seashells and a coral which sells in the most expensive stores here and abroad.
Wagner was a close friend of the Princess Lalla Nezha, who is a sister of the King of Morocco and wife of the Moroccan ambassador to the United States that served here from 1967 to 1970.
Wagner lived with Lalla Nezha "for a time in Morocco," according to someone who knew them both, and came to Wshington for parties at the embassy.
Wagner is also a close friend of Mrs. John Tunney, wife of the former senator from California, who is one of Sen. Kennedy's oldest and closest friends.
According to a press release put out by Saks Fifth Avenue, which carries her jewelry, she was once a member of Austria's ski racing team. While living in Oxford, England, she learned to fly a helicopter and got her license.
She has been written up in the French, British and German editions of Vogue magazine. She has appeared on the "Dinah Shore Show" and the "Merv Griffin Show."
The Miami Herald carried a feature story on her designs with a photograph two weeks ago in the living section of the paper's Spanish edition.
Wagner returned from Europe to New York in the late 1970s and moved to Florida theree Ears ago.
Wagner is upset that stories on the Scientologists linked her name with Sen. Kennedy's.
According to The Post story in 1978, Scientologists, in efforts to fight back at those they perceive to be their enemies, had investigated and kept files on a cross section of important Americans, including Sen. Kennedy.
The Post story said the subpoenaed Scientology documents include, cording to a government inventory, "a five-page investigation" of Sen. Kennedy and references to "an acquaintance of Kennedy's named Helga Wagner," who is a Scientologist.
Wagner is an advanced practitioner of the philosophy. She was featureed in a spread of photographs in a recent issue of the bimonthly "Source" magazine, which is publshed by the Scientology headquarters in Clearwater, Fla.
Wagner says she has taken the Scientology-sponsored business administration course and credits it with the success of her rapidly expanding jewelry sales.
Wagner said last week that she feels it was a "mistake" for the Church of Scientology to keep files on her private life, but argues that nothing in the files would ever have been used to pressure or embarrass Sen. Kennedy.
Nine ranking leaders of the Church were convicted last December for their roles in a massive plot to plant church spies in government agencies, steal government documents and bug at least one government agency. An appeal is pending.
Wagner is adamant about not discussing her friendship with Kennedy or Chappaquiddick.
"It was so long ago and it really has nothing to do with anything . . . it is finished and closed," she said last week.
"It is a terrible thing what the papers have been doing to that person [Sen. Kennedy]."
As someone who knows Sen. Kennedy well, Wagner says that she admires him "a lot."
"He is a very deep person. He really wants to help . . . really wants to do something about this country . . . . really feels about it and wants to bring it back again to a good level."
As for Chappaquiddick, she said:
"People have to forgive and forget."