At least six D.C. drug stores, most of them in Georgetown, are refusing to sell the February issue of Life magazine in protest of the publication's decision to purchase photographs from Bernard Welch, the accused slayer of cardiologist Michael Halberstam.
"We just felt this is a terrible thing to pay a guy and make him look like some kind of hero," said Harry (Doc) Dalinsky, who banned the issue from the magazine rack at his store, the Georgetown Pharmacy at 1344 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
"There's enough sensationalism, we don't need this," said Marty Levin, the owner of Sugar's Campus Store at 3500 O St. NW. Other stores refusing to sell the issue included Dumbarton Pharmacy at 3146 Dumbarton Ave. NW, Morgan Pharmacy at 3001 P St. NW, Pearson's Pharmacy at 2448 Wisconsin Ave. NW and MacArthur Drug at 4883 MacArthur Blvd. NW.
However, the boycott appears to be limited to a small group of independent drug stores -- some of them operated by people who knew Halberstam. Spokesmen for three major chains of drug stores serving the Washington area, Dart Drug, Peoples Drug Stores, and Drug Fair Drug Stores, said yesterday they have no plans to discontinue selling the issue.
The protest of the independent drug stores is the latest element in the controversy that has surrounded Life's decision to pay Welch $8,000 for the right to publish exclusive personal photographs of him with its story, entitled "The Ghost Burglar and the Good Doctor." Halberstam's brother, author David Halberstam, has called Life "an accomplice" in the killing, which occurred Dec. 5 when police say the physician and his wife surprised a burglar at their Northwest Washington home.Welch was arrested in the slaying a short time later.
Life has denied the charges of "checkbook journalism," and a spokesman said the magazine did not pay anything for the exclusive interview Welch granted the magazine at the D.C. jail.
"I had everything going for me," Welch is quoted in the article published yesterday, "and he [Halberstam] had everything going for him. But now he's dead and I'm in prison. They say I destroyed his life, but he destroyed mine."
"That's wonderful. I love it," said Elliott Jones, Halberstam's widow, of the magazine boycott. "That's what should be done."
Dalinsky's pharmacy has been a Georgetown fixture for 44 years.
"I just had to do it," Dalinsky said of his decision to pull Life off the shelves. "If I didn't, I'd feel lousy about it."