A controversial House committee ended its hearings on drug abuse here today after hearing testimony from only two actors, one of whom suggested that all drug laws be abolished.
Members of the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control took the actor's statement calmly but expressed anger and bewilderment at the informal boycott and charges of "witch hunt" which crippled the two-day look at widespread drug use here. One actor, "Vegas" television show star Greg Morris, denounced the hearings to reporters before he testified but later expressed good feelings for the committee members' effort and told them he had never been offered drugs in 20 years of show business.
The other testifying actor, William T. Gray, who played Bud in the television series "Father Knows Best," contradicted Morris. He said drug use was widespread but could not be stopped by legal penalties. "I don't know what parties Greg has been to, but it goes all the way to the top," he said of drug use in the entertainment community.
Gray, 43, who said he was jailed briefly for marijuana possession in 1960, said the only way Hollywood's -- and the country's -- drug problem could be solved was through education and personal counseling.
The committee also heard testimony from Alan Horn, president of the company that produces "Archie Bunker's Place," among other shows. He said his program attempted to change public attitudes and tell people with drug and alcohol problems how to get help.
"I believe television series are especially effective in this area because, as in real life, we are more tempted to listen to a friend than we are to a stranger," he said. "The characters on television series really are people who are invited into the viewers' home each week through the course of the year. The public comes to know and trust them."
He described several of his company's shows that dealt with drug abuse, including one episode of "Archie Bunker's Place" in which the character Veronica discovers she is an alcoholic and aggravates the problem by taking tranquilizers. After pressure from Archie, she enrolls in Alcoholics Anonymous. Horn said hundreds of people wrote to praise the show and many asked for videotapes of it to use in community meetings.
The most outspoken of the committee members, Rep. Robert K. Dorman (R-Calif.), a former television broadcaster himself, gently chided Horn for an episode of one of his company's former shows, "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman." In the episode, someone asks for Valium for a woman being held hostage and everyone in the crowd outside, including police and a newsboy, pull out some to offer. "It's not so funny when you see people dying of mixing Valium and liquor," Dornan said.
Dornan used the beginning of the morning hearings to denounce statements yesterday by television actors Edward Asner and Cathy Lee Crosby, who have both been publicly critical of the hearings as a "witch hunt" and a "media hype." Dornan said, "It's not hollywood saying this, it's just two people."
But committee chairman Leo C. Zeferetti (D-N.Y.) acknowledged in his statement that many Hollywood personalities had been frightened off by expose an industry which, a recent article in TV Guide magazine suggested, operates in part through use of cocaine in sealing entertainment contracts.
Gray said he retired from acting years ago and lives off the earnings and investments from the "Father Knows Best" series, so Morris was the only working actor to appear at the hearings.He was not initially scheduled, and appeared very agitated when reporters who saw him standing in the back of the room asked his attitude toward the hearing.
I think that damn committee is full of crap," Morris said. "I resent the fact that they are indicting a whole industry."