Watergate continues to be a sluiceway to riches, as well as to the penitentiary, for the henchmen of Richard Nixon. Practically everybody, including Nixon, is writing a book about how it was, or telling all for lucrative fees on the lecture circuit.
Recently, H.R. (“Bob”) Haldeman, Nixon’s master intriguer, picked up a fast $25,000 without ever leaving his own living room, for granting a five-and-a-half-hour videotaped interview about Watergate with CBS-TV’s Mike Wallace. A one-hour segment will be aired on March 23, and when the network carves a second hour from the tapes, Haldeman’s take will be doubled—almost $10,000 for each hour’s work. That’s not at all bad for a convicted felon who is facing a two-and-a-half-to eight-year prison sentence. But Haldeman needs every bit of money he can raise. “I am not wealthy,” he says. “I’ve got $400,000 in legal expenses.” Friends confirm his financial predicament and say he continues to run up bills traveling back and forth to Washington to confer with his lawyers about his appeal. A former ad man, he does not have a job now.
When the TV crew left, Haldeman closed the door on the outside world and returned to the deep seclusion he has maintained since he returned to Los Angeles from Washington 18 months ago. It is in many ways an eerie replay of the life-style of Haldeman’s old boss, 60 miles away in San Clemente. But Haldeman’s $140,000 Tudor-style house is no match for the Mediterranean splendor of Nixon’s Casa Pacifica, nor is the public kept at bay by high walls and guards.
“He is meditating and working on his legal case,” says one friend. Haldeman concurs: “I’m not sailing, I’m not playing tennis. I’m writing a book”—about the Nixon years, naturally. But so far he has no publisher.
Haldeman might have opted for a more sociable life, but for a welcome-home party turned sour, given him by his oldest friend, investor Z. Wayne Griffin, in November 1973. (Griffin is trying to raise Haldeman’s $400,000 in legal fees, but says he is “nowhere near” that amount.) At first the party was planned for the California Club, a bastion of conservative Establishmentarianism, but there were objections. “Nobody wanted to give a luncheon to welcome him home,” says a longtime member of the club. “It was the god-damnedest flap in the history of the club—they wondered if somebody wouldn’t lynch him on the spot.” The party was transferred to a restaurant, but Haldeman got the message and hasn’t set foot in the California Club since. Griffin has urged Haldeman to join the Los Angeles Tennis Club but admits, “Now it would be lost on him—he’s so absorbed.”
Nor have Haldeman and his wife, Jo, accepted the invitations of friends or done any entertaining themselves. “We would like to have them to parties,” says Griffin. “All of his friends feel the same way. But he never accepts.” Apart from his courtroom appearances, about the only time Bob Haldeman emerges from his cloistered world is on Sundays, when he and his family attend services at the Ninth Church of Christian Science.