July 28, 1975 12:00 PM

The Bert Lahr grin and the telephone are unmistakable, but what’s Martha Mitchell doing in a dress shop trying to con that customer into buying? Martha is simply doing a favor for a friend, putting in two weeks as a nonpaid saleslady.

It was a good deal for the friend: business at the Pink House in Alexandria and Falls Church, Va. doubled with Martha Mitchell on the scene at both stores. But Martha herself suffered a net loss financially; taking advantage of the wholesale prices, she bought herself $200 worth of “the first new clothes I’ve had in years.” And, according to Martha, struggling along on her support payments from former Attorney General John Mitchell, it was money she could ill afford to spend.

“He’s paying me a thousand dollars a week, but that means I’m only netting $50,” she explains, because of all her built-in monthly expenditures for rent and utilities, among others. “Unfortunately, I never figured in my medical bills and other things,” she laments. “I just can’t live on $50 a week.”

Martha hasn’t seen her husband since he left her in September 1973, or her teenage daughter, Marty, for more than a year. “His lawyers tell mine he doesn’t want a divorce,” she says. “I can’t sell the apartment because it’s in both our names. He wants me to hang in limbo. He wants to torture me.”

Martha has supplemented her income with television appearances. She is also perusing two scripts from Hollywood, considering a possible appearance in a documentary film on Watergate, and maybe some TV commercials to keep her above the poverty level. In the meantime, she is busy writing her autobiography, after a falling-out with the writer who was going to ghostwrite it for her.

Clearly public interest in Martha Mitchell is still alive. People stopped by the Pink House to shake her hand and gab, while the stores’ owner, Martha Sweeny, explained away Martha’s famous collection of pointy shoes with spike heels. “They’re coming back, and on her they’re smart and look great,” she declared. “She’s coming to my fashion show in August. I guess I’ll need a couple of traffic cops.”

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