Monday, May 01, 2006

Felt or Garment

Reviews are coming in for Mark “Deep Throat” Felt’s A G-Man’s Life, but they are not particularly enthusiastic. Not surprisingly, since Felt himself reportedly no longer remembers the events of his life for which history will associate him with. G-Man is actually Felt’s The FBI Pyramid co-written with Ralph de Toledano, recycled with supplemental material from John O’Connor. According to the WAPost’s review by Richard Gid Powers, the book reads schizophrenically, as Felt’s 1979 passages deny his role as Deep Throat, while O’Connor passages affirms his historic leaks to Woodward.

Powers in his review speculates on the Felt family’s decision to uncloak the elderly G-Man as the most famous leaker in American history. He argues for “pride” in “their father’s signal service to the nation” as motivation. He scoffs at “The uncharitable, of whom there is never any shortage, immediately assumed that financial considerations had been paramount—that the family was, to borrow a phrase from Holbrook’s Deep Throat, following the money.”

Yet there is the inconvenient fact of the first co-writer conservative columnist and jazz critic Ralph de Toledano, who was brought in to make The F.B.I. Pyramid readable in the first place. Just before unveiling Felt’s secret identity, they bought out de Toledano’s share of Pyramid for $5,000. Follow the money indeed. Evidently, de Toledano and the Felts were never close. As he told CNBC (keep scrolling down): “he was not very happy about having somebody come in and say your book stinks. This guy is going to write it for you.” Now Toledano’s words are bizarrely repackaged. Big shock, I’m sympathetic to the conservative jazz writer.

If you want to read about Watergate, I recommend instead Leonard Garment’s Crazy Rhythm. Garment, a one-time member of Woody Herman’s band, was Nixon’s closest associate at Mudge Nixon, when both men were in private practice. Despite being a Democrat, Garment was a member of Nixon’s inner circle. In the White House he organized the 70th Birthday party celebration for Duke Ellington, and served as acting White House Counsel during the darkest days of Watergate. Although Garment was not privy to Deep Throat’s identity, his insights into the Nixon administration’s meltdown are fascinating. If you’re buying books this May Day, De Toledano’s Jazz Frontiers is still available, but for Watergate reading chose Garment over Felt.