IF THERE WERE ANY DOUBTS REMAINING, the proceedings last week in a dingy courtroom in lower Manhattan confirmed that money, talent and fame—not to mention lots of pets, kids and psychotherapy—do not necessarily a happy home make. In dramatic back-to-back appearances on the witness stand, Woody Allen, 57, and Mia Farrow, 48, showed just how miserable their lives had become since their 12-year relationship ended last summer in a fire storm of charges and countercharges. They repeatedly savaged each other as they battled for custody of their biological son, Satchel, 5, and their two adopted children—son Moses, 15, and daughter Dylan, 7.
The trial began March 19, one day after a team of child-abuse experts from Connecticut’s Yale-New Haven Hospital found that Allen had not sexually abused Dylan, as Farrow had charged last August when her disintegrating relationship with Allen burst into the news. But according to a newspaper account, the hospital’s still unreleased study is only part of an ongoing investigation into the abuse charge, and it leaves troubling questions. Among other things, it reportedly states that Allen’s relationship with Dylan has a “sexualized overtone.”
But the raw, underlying issue of the trial was not whether Allen was a child molester. It was his continuing affair with Soon-Yi Previn, Farrow’s 21-year-old adopted daughter. On the opening day of testimony, as Farrow quietly wept in her seat just a few yards from the witness stand, Allen described how he and Soon-Yi began seeing each other in the fall of 1991 and started sleeping together that December. (Farrow’s side alleges that the affair began much earlier.)
On Jan. 12, 1992, according to Allen, he and Soon-Yi were fooling around with a Polaroid camera in Allen’s Fifth Avenue apartment when she asked him to take some nude pictures. “Lay back and give me your most erotic poses,” Allen recalled telling her. “Let yourself go.” The next day, Farrow discovered the photos. Until then, Allen (who is represented by Elkan Abramowitz) told Acting State Supreme Court Justice Elliott Wilk, he had believed he and Soon-Yi could hide their affair. “I felt nobody in the world would have any idea,” he said.
“Wasn’t it enough that you would know you were sleeping with your children’s sister?” the judge asked.
“I didn’t see it that way,” Allen replied. “I’m sorry.”
When Farrow discovered the pictures. Allen continued, she had a “hysterical” and “degrading” response. Not only did she accuse him of raping Soon-Yi. she threatened to kill him. And she sent him a Valentine with turkey skewers and a knife piercing photos of her children and herself. The handwritten message read “Once my heart was one and it was yours to keep. My child you used and pierced my heart a hundred times and deep.” When Farrow took the stand March 25, she described a harrowing confrontation she had had with Soon-Yi over the photos. She said her adopted daughter taunted her by saying, “The person sleeping with the person is the one with the relationship.” (Allen claims that he and Farrow had stopped having sex some five years earlier.) The comment infuriated Farrow. “I just kicked the phone into her leg,” she testified. “She kicked me, and I hit her on the side of the face and the shoulder. She hit me. I was just crying. I’m not proud of it.”
Over the next few days, Allen said, he tried to maintain a modicum of optimism. Despite Farrow’s threats, he testified. “my hope was that she would calm down. I wanted nothing more than to settle this.”
But from Farrow’s point of view, Allen’s signals were mixed. For example, immediately after she discovered the photos, she testified that Allen told her he was going to marry Soon-Yi. “I said, ‘Take her and go,’ ” said Farrow. “Then he completely recanted: ‘No, no, I’m in love with you.’ ”
In Allen’s version of events, he agreed to spend the night with Farrow twice, at Manhattan’s Carlyle Hotel, as a conciliatory measure. All he wanted, he said repeatedly, was to find some way to do what was best for the children. “I screwed up,” he conceded, about the handling of the Soon-Yi affair. “But don’t take the vengeance out on the kids.”
Farrow’s testimony painted a lurid picture of Allen as a man lost in his obsession with Dylan, whom Farrow had adopted as an infant. (Allen adopted her as well in 1991.) Despite Allen’s denials and the Yale-New Haven findings, the actress reiterated her charges that Dylan had told her Allen had touched her in a sexual manner. She also said Allen “acted inappropriately toward Dylan.” She told the court, “He was constantly wrapping himself around her, constantly hovering over her.”
Allen sees his affection for Dylan in a different light. The little girl, he said, had transformed him from a man indifferent to children to one who would race across Central Park every morning in order to have breakfast by her side. “I feel Mia will fight to the death in denying me anything to do with Dylan at all,” he told the court. He said he is also undaunted by the animosity toward him shown by Moses, who refuses to see his father. Last summer Moses wrote Allen a letter that read, in part, “I hope you get so humiliated that you commit suicide. Everyone knows not to have an affair with your son’s sister.” But Allen maintained on the stand that Moses’ feelings were transitory. “If [the children] are with me,” he said, “they will have a better life.”
Under questioning by Farrow’s lawyer, Eleanor Alter, however, Allen admitted he did not know such fundamental things about his children as the names of any of their friends or doctors. He admitted he had never attended a parent-teacher conference at Satchel’s nursery school, that he had never dressed Dylan and that he didn’t know if Moses liked baseball.
Though much of the testimony was wrenching, there were moments of surreal humor as well. Allen, in spite of his apparent poor memory, knew the date in 1980 when he and Farrow had met. How? “It was the day after Jean-Paul Sartre died,” he said. Farrow, for her part, revealed that Allen, who has been in psychotherapy for more than 20 years, did not like showering at her Connecticut home because “the drain was in the middle instead of on the side.” And she said he refused to stay in a guest cottage there because he was afraid of animals.
But this was no Woody Allen comedy. The stakes are high, and the courtroom battle could continue for some time, as a procession of his-and-her psychiatrists take the stand. Not that the public will ever know the whole truth. On Mia Farrow’s final day on the stand, talking about her actions last August, she offered testimony that speaks for everyone involved. “There were so many untruths, so many versions of what was going on,” she said. “A person could go crazy just trying to keep track.”
MARY HUZINEC in New York City