Astaire & Manson Add Some Humor To Ellsberg Trial


LOS ANGELES--Yesterday's revelation in the Pentagon Papers trial--that John Mitchell, while attorney general, illegally put wire taps on the telephones of ten White House aides and two New York Times reporters--is not amusing. But recent days have provided some lighter moments in the long trial.

Daniel Ellsberg '52, talking with an acquaintance during a morning recess on Wednesday: "My son just got into Harvard. On his application they asked for his father's occupation, and he wrote 'for the past three years, my father has been engaged in a conspiracy the nature of which has been classified by the Defense Department.' And they accepted him."

A reporter, after disclosures connected President Nixon and John Ehrlichman to the investigation of Ellsberg which resulted in the burglary at his psychiatrist's office: "Did you see the headlines today? 'Nixon Guilty, Manson Declares.'"

Wednesday was a big day for star gazers at the trial. Journalist I. F. Stone was there, for example, sitting in the defense section with his wife, whose brother-in-law is Ellsberg's chief defense lawyer. And there were movie stars, too: George Segal, Eva Marie Saint and Jane Fonda, all sitting with Ellsberg's wife Patricia in reserved front-row seats.



After three months of often mundane testimony, the Watergate angle may have given the trial enough sexiness to hold Hollywood's interest. And Hollywood is definitely interested in Watergate. On Tuesday, Daily Variety, "the show business Bible" not known for its national news coverage, carried two Watergate articles.

First, the paper reported that dancer Fred Astaire ducked a question at a press conference when asked if he could envision a musical about the Watergate case. The story's headline was vintage Varietyese: "Astaire Creates Watergate Dance/'The Side-Step', at N.Y. Press Parley."

The second story reported that "The FBI" television series will drop former FBI director L. Patrick Gray's name from its credits, effective this Sunday. The show has always thanked the FBI and its director for their help. But now that Watergate has dragged Gray under, his name will be erased from all reruns and Hollywood will write him out of history.

A reporter noted that Judge Matthew Byrne looked disheartened and gray after a series of bombshells exploded in his courtroom. "Last week," the reporter said, "the headlines read 'Gray Burned.' Now they'll say 'Byrne Gray.'"

Another reporter: "I'm running out of watery leads for my stories. I've already said, 'The Watergate affair again washed over the Pentagon Papers trial,' and 'The Watergate Affair keeps flooding the Pentagon Papers case.' What else can I say?