Shortly before 2 a.m. on June 17, 1972, security guard Frank Wills noticed a taped-open door lock in the basement of Washington’s Watergate hotel/apartment complex. Police quickly arrested five men who had broken into the sixth-floor Democratic National Committee headquarters. Two days later a White House spokesman dismissed the incident as a “third-rate burglary.” But during the next two traumatic years 58 people would be charged with Watergate-related crimes, 22 would go to jail, and for the first time ever a Presidency would be forcibly ended in disgrace. Wills (below, reenacting his discovery in 1975) appeared in All the President’s Men, then reverted to a series of punch-clock jobs before dropping out of sight. Like him, all the veterans of the Watergate drama have pushed on with their lives, with varying degrees of success. On these pages are reports on how some of the players have fared.
Rose Mary Woods, Nixon’s secretary, loyally argued she might have caused the “18½-minute gap” in a key Oval Office tape—by accident—while answering a phone. But since demonstrating her feat (left) in 1973, she has kept mum about the Administration’s final days, about which friends say she remains bitter. She followed Nixon to San Clemente but is now back in Washington, living at the Watergate and doing work for her old friend, publicist Robert Gray. Though reclusive nowadays, Woods, 64, does make meetings of the February Group, a band of former Nixon insiders who began holding informal reunions the February after the President resigned.
John Ehrlichman has admitted that he “wasn’t very pleasant to be around” when, as Nixon’s domestic affairs adviser, he and H.R. “Bob” Haldeman were “the Germans” controlling access to the President. But the ex-Seattle lawyer’s style has changed since Nixon forced him (and Haldeman) to resign in April 1973 as the cover-up scandal grew. Having served 18 months for his role, he leads a laid-back life in Santa Fe (top) with his post-Watergate second wife, decorator Christy Peacock McLaurine, 33, and their baby, Michael. His take from his three books has more than equaled his legal bills, which once totaled $400,000. Ehrlichman, 57, says, “Watergate changed my life for the better. I could reconstruct it because the slate was clean.” A familiar, though now bearded, face at Santa Fe parties, he is selling sketches that he made years ago of his old colleagues—most of whom he scorns. The chums he now values include poet Allen Ginsberg and Marlon Brando. He has even had occasion to socialize with newsman Bob Woodward, whose reporting helped trigger his fall. “No animosity there at all,” he insists.
Archibald Cox, the flinty special prosecutor whose persistence got him sacked in the Saturday Night Massacre, resumed teaching at Harvard Law and became head of Common Cause, the citizens’ lobby. Now 70, he lives with his wife in a country home near Cambridge, Mass., drives a pickup, still works his farm in Maine, and remains Yankee-proud of his role. “Who am I to be forcing a confrontation with the President?” he recalls asking himself. “But when I took the job, I took that on. Even now people tell me, ‘Thank you.’ That gives one warmth.” Judge John Sirica (right) agonized about ordering Nixon to release his tapes. “Me against the most powerful man in the world?” he remembers thinking. “If I’m wrong, I’m going to look like the biggest boob in the country. Luckily, I was right.” He got 19,000 mostly praiseful letters about the conspiracy trial he ran. Now 78 and semiretired, he lives in Washington with his wife and the Watergatiana in his “room of memories.” One thing still bothers him: the Nixon pardon, which he initially supported. “He should have been treated like anybody else,” Sirica allows. “The Watergate lesson is, ‘No man is above the law.’ ”
John Mitchell, the gruff “big enchilada” who became the only U.S. Attorney General ever jailed (for 19 months), fell hard. Nixon’s friend was disbarred, estranged from his wife, Martha (who died in 1976), had surgery on his hip and for an aneurism, and ran up legal debts of some $700,000. He left prison in 1979 snarling at reporters, “Don’t call me, I’ll call you.” Yet, says a friend, “There are two Mitchells. In private he’s warm and outgoing. He’s put the past behind him. He’s not feeling sorry for himself.” Now keeping company with a wealthy D.C. widow, Mary Gore Dean, Mitchell, 68, works for a firm that advises corporations on how to do business in various countries.
H.R. Haldeman, 55, the Los Angeles ad exec who became Nixon’s chief of staff, served 18 months but feels he’s doing life. “Watergate is like a vulture around your neck,” he told Joseph DiMona, co-author of his The Ends of Power. “You’ll never get rid of it.” Yet the book earned him $450,000-plus, and now he’s selling commercial property for a big L.A. developer. Says DiMona: “He doesn’t feel remorseful.”
E. Howard Hunt, the CIA veteran who helped plan the burglary, has done his time (33 months) and paid his legal bills ($400,000) with the help of his novel writing (Quarry, his 56th, is just out). Widowed in 1972, Hunt, 63, now lives in Miami (above) with a new wife, Laura Martin, 36, and a son, Austin. But his Christmas card list, down from 400 to “about 30,” doesn’t include the Miami Cubans who bungled the break-in: “We probably have had enough of each other.” As for Watergate’s loftier perpetrators, he says, “It was a shock to see the leaders running for cover. Nixon was a moral failure.”
Charles Colson, 50, Nixon’s counsel, scorned churchmen as folks who “couldn’t make it in the real world.” But after seven months in jail he became a minister; he now visits prisons like California’s Soledad (left) for an inmate-aid group.
Ron Ziegler (with his daughter, Laurie, 15), who as press secretary made “inoperative” a Nixon Administration byword, is now a president—of the National Association of Truck Stop Operators. As the Washington lobbyist for the folks who run highway truck service stations, Ziegler, 43, earns (and weighs) a lot more than he did in his White House days. He is proud that he has “not attempted to capitalize” on his experiences with Nixon. But for the sake of history, he is writing a book of “personal observations,” which he hopes to publish someday. For now, though, Ron tells people who ask about his ex-boss only that “he’s alive and well and living in New Jersey.”
John Dean, 43, the presidential counsel who blew the whistle on the cover-up (and got four months for his involvement), doesn’t care that he’s hated by old Nixonians. Operating out of a Beverly Hills home with Mo, now 36, he has been raking it in from his book Blind Ambition, a radio production outfit he runs (its credits include a Kenny Rogers series), and the duo dates he does on the lecture circuit with Bob Woodward for up to $9,500 per. Dean’s brochure cites his “aura of tranquillity,” but he still feels “shame” about his Watergate role.
A rundown on the supporting cast
G. Gordon Liddy, 51, the ex-FBI “Sphinx” who kept silent during his trial about his role in planning the burglary, served 52½ months—the most of any Watergater. To help erase his $346,000 debt, he wrote a spy novel and his best-selling 1980 autobiography, Will, in which he did finally discuss the break-in. He lectures with, of all people, drug guru Timothy Leary (they split their $8,000 fee). Liddy says he would do a Watergate again—”but with a much heartier crew than those weaklings.” After their prison stints (up to 15 months), the four Cuban exiles involved in the burglary have returned to Miami. Virgilio Gonzalez, 56, is a locksmith. Eugenio Martinez, 60, is an auto dealer. Bernard Barker, 64, is a zoning consultant. Frank Sturgis, 57, has a TV movie cassette-renting firm. He visited Africa as a “consultant” for Angolan guerrillas and says, “Of all the Watergate personalities, I am the only one who still fights.” James McCord, 57, the fifth burglar, whose revelations about White House involvement prompted the Senate Watergate hearings, now runs a fuel oil business in Fort Collins, Colo. Sam Ervin, 85, who chaired the hearings, retired to Morganton, N.C. in 1974; he made an American Express TV commercial and now lectures with, among others, John Dean, Bob Woodward and E. Howard Hunt (fee: up to $5,000). Anthony Ulasewicz, 63, the Runyonesque ex-New York City policeman who passed $219,000 in hush money to the burglars, lives on a farm in upstate Day, N.Y., has finished a manuscript about life as a cop and Nixon’s gumshoe, and is “proud to be the first private detective to a President—though it may have been the wrong President.” Jeb Stuart Magruder, 47, the Administration aide once called “smooth-talking but weak” by H.R. Haldeman, spent seven months in prison. Having experienced “intensification” of his religious beliefs, he entered the Princeton Theological Seminary and this fall will join a Presbyterian church in Burlingame, Calif. Sadly, Richard Nixon’s loyal Irish setter, King Timahoe, died at 11 at San Clemente in 1979, shortly before his master moved East to New York City, then to Saddle River, N.J. Ironically, one of Nixon’s fellow New Jerseyans is Rep. Peter W. Rodino Jr., 73, the comfortingly bland, silver-haired Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which finally voted articles of impeachment. Now running for an 18th term, Rodino feels that if the ex-President had not abdicated, “he not only would have been impeached, but also tried and found guilty. The system worked.”
Jill Wine-Volner, the prosecutor known for her miniskirts and tough interrogation of Nixon biggies, went through a divorce and wed a high school flame, antiques dealer Michael Banks, in 1980. On a lark last March she and her bearded husband went to Malaysia for a second wedding in a tribal rite (below). But Wine-Banks hasn’t gone native. At 39, she’s a partner in the Chicago law firm of Albert Jenner, who was the House Judiciary Committee’s GOP counsel. Watergate helped her career. Someday, she laughs, “I’d like to be U.S. Attorney General.”