National Press Club

Mallon says Alice Longworth took John Dean's real estate in Watergate book

March 5, 2012 | By Heather Forsgren Weaver |

Thomas Mallon

Thomas Mallon

Photo/Image: Noel St. John

Although Thomas Mallon knew the story of his book, "Watergate," its characters and, thanks to the famous tapes, some of its dialogue, it didn't turn out as he expected he told the audience at a club Book Rap March 2.

He thought that John Dean, White House counsel under former President Richard Nixon, would be a prominent figure in the book and Alice Roosevelt Longworth, “Mrs. L,” would be a “fairly minor” player. When Mallon finished writing, Dean was the bit player and Mrs. L was a major figure.

“Maybe she took up Dean’s real estate,” Mallon said. “I just enjoyed writing about her. She ended up growing on the page.”

Another reason Dean’s stature in the book was reduced is that he is still alive, which Mallon said was “the most inconvenient thing about John Dean.”

“Watergate” is probably the first book Mallon has written for which he wished he had less information, he said.

Mallon spent a large portion of his presentation reading from a chapter in the book about June 23, 1972, six days after the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate office building.

“This is the day that the famous “smoking gun” tape was generated,” Mallon said in his introduction.

The excerpt was told through the eyes of Rosemary Woods, Nixon’s personal secretary. “We remember Rosemary Woods with one single awful photograph where she was stretching to show how the tape may have gotten erased,” Mallon said.

Mallon said the fates were probably always expecting him to write about Watergate since he lives in the Washington, D.C., neighborhood of Foggy Bottom, across the street from the Watergate complex.

In his introduction of Mallon, Joe Luchok of the Book and Author Committee said Watergate is “a tragic comedy. Nobody was killed, there weren’t great sums of money exchanged, (and) there weren’t any sex scandals involved with it. It was a break-in at a Democratic headquarters in an election that President Nixon had no chance of losing.”