Primed and panting for the appearance of Lynee Tryforos, the Other Woman in the Jean Harris murder trial, the press and public have instead been forced to endure -- for the second day in a row -- the scientific meanderings of pathologists. "Is there a structure called collagen which is the major extracellular protein in the human body?" they are asked. "Where are the edges of collagen fiber?"
The reason for this -- the prosecution attempting to prove that Jean Harris shot her lover as he raised his hand in defense -- but it is not the dialogue the courtroom has come to expect, nor does it make the heart race. The foreman of the jury covers his head with his hand or stares dully at the floor; the crowds who had lined up outside the courtroom to get a peep at the country's foremost real-life soap opera have disappeared.
Lynne, she is the woman who'll bring this trial back to Standing Room Only; Lynne, her's is the name on the lips of the paparazzi downstairs. rLacking her presence at court, the local tabloids, The Daily News and The New York Post, send photographers to her home to find her, and courtroom regulars speculate on what she might best wear for her day in court.
Some vote for a white nurse's uniform with a red cross above the bossom; some see her in widow's black. Theo Wilson, veteran trial reporter of The Daily News, thinks her cause could best be served if she makes her entrance in a wedding gown, angel wings affixed, and hooked onto a pulley system that would permit her to hover or float.
And Murry Kempton, the columnist, feels that costume is moot.
The only way tryforos could lose this case for the prosecution, he says, is if she chews gum and call the judge "Toots."
With the prestigious headmistress, celebrity doctor, love triangle, drugs, sex, the Harris trial has been a windfall for all the papers, but none has seized onto the case with more gusto than Rupert Murdoch's New York Post, unencumbered as it has been with the leaden chains of fact.
When Harris' wry Christmas poem to her lover, with its playful allusions to fictitious women appeared ("On Hilda, on Sigfried, on Jinx, on Raquel/Brunhilda, Veronica, Gretel, Michelle. . . ."), the Post promoed the story with "Sixteen Names Named." When there cropped up, outside the courtroom, a story that Harris and Tryforos had met at their lover's grave, a Post photographer was dispatched to photograph the grave.
In deference to the season, the photographer brought along a Christmas wreath -- small matter that the doctor was Jewish.
Small matter also that, as it developed, the Post had photographed the wrong grave.
In the heat of battle, the principals in this case forget themselves with physical habits that may or may not reveal the soul. The defense lawyer, making a point, scratches his head repeatedly. The otherwise proper prosecutor, when going after the defendant last week, picked at his teeth.
The defendant, the most volatile of the principals, changes moods and body language moment to moment. The dark glasses go on when testimony becomes too painful or personal; when facing adversity she lifts the chin defiantly, and the expression is fixed -- a steel mask. Solace she takes in Hershey bars, wolfed down quickly during recesses.
This week, after her eight days on the stand, she seems less fragile, more in control. She seeks out reporters when she feels something is not as it should be ("This is not a circus!") and has gone back to taking copious notes, as she did when the prosecution was presenting its case.
In demeanor, this week, she seems to see herself as Barbara Stanwyck, the wronged heroine in a title role. She rests one arm on her chair, rolls her eyes at testimony that irks her, tosses her head here and there.
Who will, ultimately, play this lady when then make the film of her life? The press corps, which casts the movie in quite moments, sees Lee Remick as the young Harris; Elke Sommer as Lynne Tryforos. Bruce Dern for the role of George Bolen, the preppy prosecutor; in the role of Dr. Herman Tarnower, a vulpine and foreboding man, the German actor Klaus Kinski, as seen in "Nosferatu."
But the man to play defense attorney Joel Aurnou, a short, rotund, balding man, there's the problem. Marty Allen would be too cute; Karl Malden lacks the cutting edge. And Peter Lorre is deceased.
New Yorkers are supposed to be somewhat inured to crime, but the Harris trial has seized them, as it has seized the rest of the nation, a Rorschach test of the heart.
One local woman, who had long ago fixed up her college roommate with her brother, only to have her brother string the friend along for 11 years, called up her brother the day the story broke.
"It shoulda been you!" she said.
Another local, a comedy writer named Sybil Adelman who has followed the case in meticulous detail, drew another parallel.
"The only thing worse than being Jean Harris would be being Jean Harris' best friend," she says. "Y'know the one she felt free enough to call any time, day or night, for 14 years. I think I'm going to call Lynne tonight, I know it's late, but whaddya think?', 'Lynne gets $200,000; I'm getting $240,000 . . . do you think that's right?'; 'So I'm gonna drive to his place tonight . . . for the trip, whaddya think would be better, roses or daisies?'
"I mean, you can just hear the telephone ringing and see yourself telling your husband, 'Oh God, if that's Jean again, tell her I'm asleep.'"