July, 1973: The Senate Watergate Committee had been investigating the details of the break-in at the Watergate complex and at the end of June had called former White House counsel John Dean to testify.
At the same time, the leader of Soviet Russia, Leonid Brezhnev, came to the U.S. to meet with President Nixon to discuss disarmament. A lot of activity was in the news.
Although we the public didn’t know it at the time, in 1971 a Nixon’s Enemies List had been devised by aides working in the White House.
It was formed to sabotage GOP political enemies by using any federal means possible. The break-in at the Democratic National Committee offices located in the huge Watergate Building Complex was the culmination of secret plans originating in 1971 not too long after Nixon’s first inauguration!
Shortly after that first inauguration it was decided to form a group of trusted insiders who later came to be known as The White House Plumbers. These were the ones who did the dirty work!
In late March, 1973 John Dean met with Nixon and told him that there was a “cancer on the presidency”!
In June of 1972, Bob Woodward of The Washington Post had discovered and written that there was a connection of the burglars to E. Howard Hunt and thereby to Nixon’s special counsel Charles Colson, who was also called Nixon’s “evil genius/hatchet man.”
Woodward had learned this from someone he called “Deep Throat” who was finally revealed decades later as being — after the death of J. Edgar Hoover in May of 1972 the actual Associate Director of the FBI — Mark Felt.
Woodward and Carl Bernstein would go on to play a large role in the uncovering of the scandal as Nixon and Vice President Agnew would continue to disparage the media’s reporting as being merely politically motivated because of McGovern’s losing the election.
Senator Sam Ervin was named to chair the Senate Watergate Committee which then began nationally televised hearings. With his folksy delivery and southern accent, “Senator Sam” became an instantly popular television personality!
On the day that Alexander Butterfield announced to the committee and therefore the world that Nixon had had secret voice-activated tape recorders installed in his offices, I had received a commission from FORTUNE MAGAZINE to illustrate an article on soybeans and found myself going to White Plains and Rye, New York to get some relevant information.
It was a quick trip but I got all the information I needed and in no time was back in Manhattan where I met friends for a late dinner at The Red Baron and learned what new revelations the Watergate investigation might have revealed!
I had only been away for a day and wondered whether the smaller cities didn’t care about the growing scandal or if it seemed so calm because I was only there for such a short time and so engrossed learning about soybeans.
I was also thinking about how I’d illustrate the article as it didn’t appear to have many graphic possibilities. I began to think that it would not be one of my more personal works.
I spent the weekend at the farm on the Delaware River and Saturday night we walked down moonlit Creek Road to that dark river through clouds of luminous fire flies and on Sunday were invited to dinner at Connie Bartel’s large stone house where her daughter Bonnie was spending the weekend.
Then, on Monday back in Manhattan the screening of Disney films was still happening and Paul Bartel and I went to see a whole program of Disney shorts!
And as usual we had our post-screening visit to The Ginger Man.
Afterwards Paul and I went down to Reno Sweeney, the cabaret that had some of the panache of the old days of cabaret when we were all so young and nobody was famous yet.
I had seen and immediately become acquainted with a performer, a young woman so overflowing with wit, slapstick knockout funniness and plain talent that I had to share her with Paul. She could also rip your heart out singing a searingly sad ballad. She reminded me so much of Barbra although they were in no way similar — other than both being Jewish and immensely gifted!
Her name was Marilyn Sokol!
We sat enthralled through several performances, each just a bit different but with a disciplined timing and control of her audience that made us aware that this effortless ease and casual spontaneity could only be achieved with tremendous work and skill. She was a talent that could never be unrecognized and I marveled at my good fortune to meet another potential world class performer!
After an uproarious monologue she sang a particular song — one I’d never heard that was written by Peter Allen who was not yet that famous!
Don’t ask me if it’s over
Don’t ask me if I’ve changed
Don’t ask why I keep playing
Such exciting games
Won’t you be “a little soldier”
I know your tears well enough
Maybe it’s just growing older
Maybe it’s knowing a bit too much
It seems my heart just stopped caring if it beat like before
It’s lost its love of seafaring
I’m not your harbor anymore.
She began the song in a restrained somewhat contemptuous tone which continued until the very last line — when the spotlight framing her face dimmed down and just before going dark, big tears rolled from her eyes and down her cheeks!
We were dumbfounded as the audience after a pause, erupted in applause! I wondered what she was going through to have become so affected by the song.
As the lights came up and smiling, she continued with more funny stuff, and that’s when we decided we were staying for the next show.
The next performance was just as spontaneously funny and then came that song again.
And one more time there was the worn out contempt at the beginning ending with the last line and to my amazement, the same tears right on cue until the dark fade out!
After the show she sat with us and I couldn’t help but ask her about how she controlled herself until that very last line!
She smiled and said “technique”!