In the newly decorated hilltop house of John and Maureen Dean, the calendar clock in the living room has been stopped. It reads “11:10, Wednesday, Jan. 8″—marking the moment that Dean, White House counsel to Richard Nixon, was released in 1975 from four and a half months in prison.
“During the time he was there, it was devastating,” says “Mo” Dean, 31, the most dazzling of the Watergate widows. “Life is good now.”
Financially, it is even better than that. The Deans have paid off all their debts and recently refused a $300,000-plus offer—three times what they paid—for their house in Beverly Hills. Her book, Mo, which received some unflattering reviews, sold by her estimate more than 30,000 hardcover copies and has been born again in paperback. Her advance—”something like $80,000″—was split with collaborator Hays Gorey.
Dean is newly rich on his own. The advance for his new book, Blind Ambition, was $300,000, and he continues to earn up to $2,000 a lecture. The book, which recounts Dean’s four years in the White House, was written in a comfortable office above their garage which has a sweeping view of the ocean. “It must have been painful for him going over all that again,” Maureen says. She found it so in her own writing.
She insists that the stress of Watergate has strengthened their marriage. “There’s an openness and support we didn’t know existed,” she says. “If he’s upset about something, he’ll sit down and talk to me about it. I don’t even have to say anything—like a psychiatrist. In discussing things he finds an answer.”
There were times during Watergate when their marriage crackled with tension. In his book Dean recalls that Maureen felt depressed and abandoned, and he worried that she might be suicidal. In early 1973 Maureen locked herself in the bathroom and threatened to slash her wrists. Dean says he broke down the door. “Basically, I was playing a game,” says Mo now of the incident. “I wanted attention. I pictured myself on the floor in his arms with him telling me he would never leave my side.” The scare worked: “It gave me the reassurance I needed at the moment, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.”
The Deans have ended most ties with Washington associates (“I’m not one who lives in the past,” Mo says, “I don’t dwell on unpleasantness”), although John does phone former White House aide Gordon Strachan and 1972 campaign “Dirty Trickster” Donald Segretti. She wants to raise a family; her two previous marriages were childless. “I’m grown up enough,” she says, “so I could be a good mother.” Dean has a 10-year-old son, John, who lives in Pittsburgh with his first wife, Karla Hennings.
Mo is writing a couple of nonautobiographical short stories and was offered a movie role a few weeks ago. She turned it down as unsuitable but clearly would like to be asked again.
Looking back on Watergate, she muses, “It’s easy now to say it was worth the pain. Any experience you can survive is worth it.”