Cashing in on the Family Tree
We have only sympathy and gratitude for Mark Felt, the one-time dapper FBI man who for more than 30 years was known by the decidedly not-so-dapper moniker of "Deep Throat." But we're less impressed with the Felt family members who have encircled the elderly patriarch, a bunch of hungry brats with a sweet tooth closing in on a 91-year-old pinata.
The poor old guy, who managed to keep his amazing secret for so long (reportedly not even fessing up to his family until only a few years ago) now has trouble finessing the talking points drawn up by his own kinfolk. Given to frail health and bouts of dementia, Mark Felt told journalists last week that he plans to "arrange to write a book or something and get all the money I can." Hmm. Something he's heard around the house, perhaps?
There is something just a tad unseemly about the Felt family's sudden slobberfest to cash in on granddad's Deep Throat action. A story by J. Todd Foster in the Waynesboro, Virginia, News Virginian added a bit of perspective to the current clamor. As a freelance writer for People magazine, Foster had been pitched the "Deep Throat" story by the Felts a few years ago but eventually bailed because the family wanted "a lot of money." Foster added that Mark Felt's dementia made him a precarious interview subject. A number of times, Felt even denied to Foster that he had ever been the infamous informant, going on to accuse Bob Woodward of "making a lot of that up."
Felt is still a precarious interview subject, as illustrated recently in a Washington Post story.
" 'Where are you going?' someone shouted to Felt. He must have misheard, for he showed the wad of bright green chewing gum in his mouth.
"Asked, on his return, how the doctor said he was doing, Felt quipped, 'I'm 92!' As if that says it all. (Actually, he is reported to be 91.) Indeed, he is frail, bent, perhaps hard of hearing, and he uses a walker with bright green tennis balls planted on the bottom, the easier to slide."
But hey, this is America, and by gum, one of our precious liberties is the right to make a buck off of someone else -- especially a family member. And there is something to be said for the notion of Felt's loved ones actually making some money off the ol' guy instead of Woodward, who has been waiting to cash in those chips for a long time now. His new book on the "Deep Throat" story comes out next month.
Seeing how much money and fame there is to be had from family secrets, those of us at the McInerney homefront have frantically been combing through our genealogy for some juicy revelations.
The pickings are meager. I had an uncle who purposely walked into walls and thereby earned the nickname "Bumpus." Oh, and one of my sisters used to root around in the garbage for raw bacon when she was a little girl. Both stories, I realize, have limited appeal.
Perhaps the best family revelation I can offer comes courtesy my late grandmother on my mom's side -- a small, round woman who wrote bad poetry and would tilt her head up in family photos, chin jutting out, under the misperception that it made her look taller.
Grandma Vera told me once that in the 1920s she was a secretary in a Manhattan office building when she was hit on (well, maybe she didn't use that exact phrase) by Arnold Rothstein, the notorious gambler believed to have "fixed" the 1919 World Series. Well, she turned him down -- or, so she told me the first time she related the story.
When Grandma Vera next told me about Rothstein's advances, the story was that she had gone out with him, but only once.
Several years later, my grandmother revisited the Rothstein anecdote, only this time she said she had gone out with him several times.
If my grandmother had not passed away before she got around to telling me the story a fourth time, I suspect I would've discovered that Arnold Rothstein was my actual grandfather.
So there you have it. I might just be the descendent of the guy who fixed the 1919 World Series. Shoeless Joe Jackson's banishment from the Baseball Hall of Fame might boil down to my corrosive family tree. Not too shabby, huh?
Hear that, Vanity Fair? Where's my f-ing money?