He was the cool witness under the hot TV lights. She was equally crisp and calm sitting in the Senate chamber watching her husband weave a net of testimony that snared all the president's men.
Today John and Maureen Dean live in a canyon near Los Angeles. And just when it seemed that Watergate would be relegated to history books, the story of the Deans is being produced for televison. In May CBS will present "Blind Ambition," a "docudrama" based on material from John's book (Blind Ambition ) and Mo's book (No ). David Susskind paid about $100,000 for the right to produce the sagn in tow-hour segments on four consecutive nights.
"The strange phenomenon is that Watergate never really went beyond my testimony," says Dean, who adds that he finds the film he's seen so far "intense," its impact heightened by Hollywood's condensed, dramatic treatment. During the past months Dean and his wife have helped producers of the series with details such as the wall decorations in John's White House office. (They were, he told them, the usual political photographs plus his commission from Richard Nixon and his law school diploma.)
Martin Sheehan portrays Dean, Theresa Russell (who played opposite Dustin Hoffamn in "Straight Time") plays Mo, and Rip Torn is cast in the role of Richard Nixon.The scriptwriter, Stanley Greenberg, is no stranger to the genre: he also did the scripts for "Missiles of October" and "The Pueblo."
The Watergate affair forced both Deans into new careers. Disbarred from practicing law, John is a writer, and in an office above his garage he is working on a nonfiction book about politics for Simon & Schuster. Mo and a collaborator are seeking a publisher's advance for a nonfiction book about a nonpolitical subject. Neither will be more specific.
Dean gave up a syndicated radio commentary show last year because the money wasn't good enough ("I have to pay the mortgage, too," he says). And he only occasionally accepts lecture dates. "There's been some fair criticism of people for cashing in on Watergate," he says, "and I feel that criticism, so I'm trying not to abuse the situation."
Dean read Richard Nixon's autobiorgaphy RN and found his former boss "trying to be very candid" about some parts of Watergate, less candid about others. Mo says she "attempted to read it, but I just couldn't get into it."
Since leaving Washington, the Deans have not been reconciled with other major Nixon White House personalities, some of whom lost their jobs because of Dean's Senate testimony. But Dean and John Ehrlichman ran into each other by chance in the lobby of their New York publisher. They chatted amiably, though Dean says, "He didn't invite me to lunch, nor did I him."
Mo Dean says returning to her home state of California has meant a more relaxed life; gone are the hair in a bun and the conservative clothes she used to wear. Her husband recommends the West Coast weather but keeps up with Washington events.
"I don't have much to be uptight about these days," Dean says reflectively. "Life is dramatically different in that regard. Politics -- I only want to write about it. I'd much rather ask the questions than answer them."