New Beard, New Mysteries as Ehrlichman Surfaces in Santa Fe
One reason the nation continues—in the former President’s mordant phrase—to wallow in Watergate is that its colorful participants just won’t fade away. This time it’s John Ehrlichman, who surfaced in Santa Fe, N. Mex.—not far from where he proposed to serve his sentence among Indians rather than go to jail for his part in the Watergate coverup. (The court turned down his request, and so did the Indians.) Ehrlichman, 50, had more hair (a thick black beard flecked with gray), smaller prospects (his attempts to find a job have flopped), but about the same capacity for creating a stir (cornered by a TV crew, he snapped that they were messing up his vacation).
While staying at the one-story adobe home of friends and fellow Christian Scientists, Jon and Marijim McLaughlin, the secretive Ehrlichman kept the town guessing. First he and one of his sons, who arrived with him, traded in their scruffy Volkswagen sedan for a new white Thing—VW’s convertible, all-terrain car that sells in New Mexico for $3,000. The former Nixon aide tried in vain to lease a four-bedroom adobe house up for sale at around $100,000, giving the appearance that he was settling in, although he faces a two-and-a-half to eight year prison sentence now on appeal. Ehrlichman also was enjoying the occasional company of Priscilla Hoback, the owner of a local store, the Pot Shop (clay products, not grass), who called Ehrlichman “a friend of mine.” She said her friend was spending his time in Santa Fe “reading, resting and writing.”
Meanwhile, the rest of the Ehrlichmans were still living in the plush Seattle suburb of Hunts Point, and wife Jeanne was working at her new job as an education program coordinator with the Seattle Symphony. She qualified for the federally funded position as a member of a “lower-income family.” It involves setting up concerts for schools and pays $10,000 a year.
On prestigious Canyon Road in Santa Fe, Ehrlichman was living behind a six-foot fence, and Jon McLaughlin refused to speculate about his house guest’s plans. “John was drawing the other day and sketched our home,” McLaughlin confided. “He had the door open. I think that is how he thinks of our house, a place where he can get away from everything.”
Not everyone in Santa Fe, however, regarded Ehrlichman with such warmth. “I’m not happy about his being here,” said a prominent local photographer. “He’s not the kind of person I want for a neighbor.”