American Pie 05.08.04

Has America’s most famous journalistic mystery – the identity of Deep Throat – finally been resolved? Maybe, maybe not. The death in a Mississippi hotel room, at the age of 75, of Fred La Rue, a Washington insider who was suspected in the 70s of being the notorious whistle-blower, created a flurry of news stories. During Watergate, La Rue, a special assistant to former US Attorney General John Mitchell was known as the ” bagman” who delivered payoffs to buy the silence of the participants in the Watergate break-in. Only the two reporters who broke the story, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, and Ben Bradlee, the editor at the time of the Washington Post, are said to know Deep Throat’s identity. All pledged they would never reveal it until Deep Throat’s death. Tantalisingly Woodward, Bernstein nor Bradley have confirmed – or denied – that La Rue was the tipster. He always denied it. Over the years attempting to identify Deep Throat has become something of a Washington parlour game – perhaps, because as Bernstein joked, it’s the only secret that’s been kept so long in American history.

Anyone who covered Haiti during the days of Papa Doc Duvalier, and his son Baby Doc, will be happy to hear that Haiti’s most famous journalist, Aubelin Jolicoeur, who was known as “Mr Haiti” ( and the person upon whom Graham Greene based the character M. Petit Pierre in his novel The Comedians) is alive and still in Haiti. For 40 years Jolicoeur, in his trademark white suit carrying a gold-tipped cane with two pet Afghan hounds at his feet, was a fixture at the bar of the famous Olaffson Hotel where, in those days, most visiting journalists stayed. For many years I sought to find out how he was. But no-one knew, or even where he was. A reporter from the New York Sun, in Haiti for the recent visit of NY Mayor Bloomberg, solved the mystery. She found him living quietly – although somewhat unhappy – in the small Haitian seaside town of Jacmel, having left Port Au Prince fearing for his life. “Haiti used to be paradise, now it’s paradise lost and I cry.”, lamented Joliecoeur. Is he still working? The story didn’t say, but it’s doubtful.

Having settled its industrial dispute with staff – which included an unprecedented byline strike – the Wall Street Journal is pushing ahead with plans to publish six days a week. Prototypes are being tested and a Saturday edition is expected to hit the news-stands next year. The new extra edition is expected to include more softer, life-style reporting. Already there is a fore-taste with a new weekend section, which will debut next month, and will include lots more news about movies, theatre, books and fashion.

The street corners of Manhattan are lined these days with give-away newspaper boxes, ranging from The Village Voice to The Onion. But no-where are there more giveaway magazines than in The Hamptons, the weekend retreat on Long Island of many New Yorkers. This summer has seen an explosion of freebies. More than a dozen at the latest count. It’s estimated that every week more than 500,000 copies of the publications are given away. Oddly, despite the proliferation, most of the freebies are profitable. Advertisers line up to take space, mainly because most of the readers are regarded as super-wealthy. At the same time there are tales of midnight forays in which some magazine staff have been spotted raiding competitors’ boxes and dumping magazines into bushes – or even into the sea.

By Jeffrey Blyth

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