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Worlds Away From Watergate : Mo Dean Writes a Steamy but Savvy Novel While Redefining Her Kewpie Doll Image

October 28, 1987|NIKKI FINKE | Times Staff Writer

John Dean, meanwhile, has decided not to apply for readmission to the bar as other Watergate figures have done. Instead, he says he is "quite content" arranging for the buying and selling of medium-range Southern California companies through a network of contacts he has developed over the years. Still, he had a hard time adjusting to what he thought was going to be a laid-back California business climate. "I thought most of the men my age were into gold chains and fuzzy shirts. Then I discovered there was a Brooks Brothers in Century City," he says.

'People Leave You Alone'

Today, the couple are L.A.-based for good. "I can't visualize living anywhere where I have to buy snow tires," John Dean quips. But what the couple cherishes most about Los Angeles is that it gave them back their privacy. "You close your door at night and people leave you alone. If you want to live a quiet life, you can," Mo Dean says. "But the phone still rings off the hook when some event happens or if Nixon says something."

The Deans are a hit on the Beverly Hills social circuit, especially Mo. "She was so strikingly beautiful for one thing that people were very taken with her," one friend notes. Their financial problems behind them, the Deans entertain grandly at home, and she shops on Rodeo Drive, so much that friends joke she virtually lives in Giorgio. And every so often, she wonders what her life would have been like if Watergate had never happened and she and John had stayed in Washington.

She was able to live out that fantasy when she began writing "Washington Wives." The idea for the book originated with Hollywood producer Larry Gordon, who wanted material for a movie. He took the project to Arbor House, who suggested Dean should write a novel.

At first, the publishers provided her with a writer, but Dean dismissed him because his first chapters were "tawdry. I didn't like the characters that I was reading about. They were not sympathetic. They were hard, tough, bitchy people I would not want to know." For the next 2 1/2 years, she penned the book herself--with John's help. "I was in charge of verisimilitude," he explains. 'After all, I wrote my senior thesis in college on 'Verisimilitude and the Political Novel.' "

The book--about the death of the President's chief of staff in a hotel room during an affair with a rich beautiful woman, and the three Washington wives who might have been his lover and yet are married to the top contenders for his job--gave Dean a chance to ponder the advantages as well as the pitfalls of life in the political fast lane. The ambition. The loneliness. The alcohol, drugs or extramarital affairs used to make life bearable. The sheer emptiness of it all. And, most of all, the city she left behind. "I don't have any bitterness anymore toward Washington. I've gained a totally different perspective, and I'm happy. I have moved on with my life."

Too bad she can't say that about the Washington wives she knew and left behind. Every so often, she talks to them. "They're not happy," she confides. "They indicate that everything's fine. But you can tell by talking to someone that there's no spark or excitement in their life . . . They're just going through the motions every day. I try to encourage them to find something to do for themselves. But they've lost all confidence in themselves.

"It's like they've given up."

Not Dean. Right now, she's training to host a financial talk show aimed at women. And she fully intends to weather the current stock market crisis. She is so busy, in fact, that sometimes she forgets she's famous and that people still recognize her from Watergate. "It happened to me yesterday, and I was really surprised," she says. "I was in Robinson's looking for shoes, and a saleswoman came up to me and said, 'I've admired you for years.'

"And I looked at her and wondered, 'Does she really know who she's talking to?' "

'I don't have any bitterness anymore toward Washington. I've gained a totally different perspective, and I'm happy. I have moved on with my life.' --Mo Dean

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