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Discussing the book "Very much a lady" with the author-journalist Shana Alexander

BROADCAST: Apr. 6, 1983 | DURATION: 00:51:55

Transcript

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Studs Terkel And so it happened the headmistress of a fashionable, very posh school indeed, Madeira School out east, kills a renowned doctor whose book on diet is a best seller. Of course, Jean Harris killing Dr. Herman Town-- Tarnower. There are several questions involved here. How could she possibly be interested in this man, but it's more than killing. It's about two cultures, and a remarkable study. It's almost novel in form yet it's true, "Very Much A Lady", the title itself indicates Shana Alexander's sensitivity. Shana Alexander, whose work you know, her study of Patty Hearst was a remarkable one, too, has studied this case. "The Untold Story", subtitle "Jean Harris, Dr. Herman Tarnower", Little, Brown the publishers, and it's a remarkably revealing book, not simply of two people, but of two different cultures.

Shana Alexander "I saw her first on TV stepping out of a police car and thought, 'She reminds me of me. Same hairdo, same shoes, even the same college class.' Headmistress of a select girls' school, she had just been arrested for murder. The dead man, Dr. Herman Tarnower, was someone I used to know. Later when I began to dig back into her life story and his, striking similarities turned up between her life and my own. Her flourishing professional career had been devoted almost entirely to private school education and mine to journalism, but our chronologies are roughly parallel as to dates of birth, marriage, motherhood, divorce, and the experience of becoming what the Internal Revenue Service calls a "female head of household." Most important, we are women of the same era, the last generation of Americans brought up to believe that nice girls get married. The love affair between Jean Harris and Herman Tarnower had gone on for 14 years."

Studs Terkel You know, as Shana Alexander opened reading her author's note, it occurs to me certainly and to many readers the universal-- it is a unique case, we've read about it, every scandal sheet's had it, TV, radio, commentators. Yet it's remarkable in that it spreads out as far as implications are concerned, doesn't it?

Shana Alexander Yes, it does. These were complicated people. Jean Harris was 43 years old when she fell in love for the first time in her life with a man who was then 57 years old, a bachelor doctor who never married. And as it turned out, who never would.

Studs Terkel You know, I was thinking, we have to go back to beginnings of Jean Harris is what made her act as she did and Dr. Herman Tarnower who I see as one of the most grotesque oafs I've ever encountered in writing, whether fiction or nonfiction, and but

Shana Alexander You see him as a clown, but she saw him as a romantic prince on a white horse

Studs Terkel So we have

Shana Alexander And you must not, one must not come to conclusions about the people that other people love, because it's always grotesque.

Studs Terkel I agree, because now we come to the question of who is Jean Harris, how it came to be. I said in passing at the beginning of this, a study of two cultures: hers and his. And we have to begin with Jean Harris, don't we? We meet her first when she was headmistress at this very posh girls' school out east, The

Shana Alexander Yes, just outside of Washington. The Madeira School for girls is one of the finest women's preparatory academies in the nation, possibly it's the finest. Certainly up there with the top two

Studs Terkel Now we think of her, let's stay with her for a minute. Her beginning. She was always terribly bright

Shana Alexander Very pretty.

Studs Terkel Very pretty, but you knew something was in her being kept in, I guess, or very much a lady. We come to that.

Shana Alexander Yes, she was trained to be a lady.

Studs Terkel Now what does that mean?

Shana Alexander What did that mean? She was born in 1923. I think this story speaks particularly to people born in the '20s and maybe the first half of the '30s. That would certainly include me. She was a lady. In her generation it meant that she was always proper, well-behaved, never showed anger or rage, always tried to think about what was the other person's side of the issue, always took responsibility for her own acts, never behaved in an unseemly manner, was always gentle and charitable without thinking much about what this meant.

Studs Terkel Now, that attribute was her undoing in that courtroom, too, facing a certain kind of jury we'll come to. She showed no feeling -- the idea is not to show too much emotion or

Shana Alexander Of any kind. A lady doesn't rant and rave and scream and cry and tear her hair. Anna Magnani, whom we know from the movie, no lady.

Studs Terkel Yeah. So therefore she, the lady, is seemingly detached, and so when she's on that witness stand in her defense and there's a jury of middle America, for want of a better phrase, we'll come to that, blue-collar to some extent and [as if they?] they look at her as somewhat of an alien society. And who showed no remorse as far as they're concerned.

Shana Alexander No obvious remorse, because a lady does not show her emotions in public.

Studs Terkel So she's raised this way. Middle, middle-class upper, father -- how can you describe her father Al, who obviously plays a role

Shana Alexander Her father was the most important figure probably in her life. If she had had an analyst, he would have said. Her father was an engineer, a brilliant man. Upper-middle-class from the Middle West. He built dams, he built bridges, he built steel plants, he, he was very successful in that way. But as a father, as a husband, as a human being he seemed to be enormously lacking. He was a tyrant to his own children as well as the other children and everyone he knew. He was a bigot. He hated everybody: Catholics, Jews, women, men, and is a terrible snob and he wanted the best for his daughter, and at the same time he in no way encouraged her to come along, and she adored her father but could never be a good enough girl

Studs Terkel So we have something going on within Jean Harris, the young girl growing up: a bigoted, powerful father whose affection she wants to be a good girl to daddy. At the same time she's enlightened in matters so she's a liberal.

Shana Alexander That's

Studs Terkel So we have a split in her, don't we?

Shana Alexander That's right. She wants to please him and have his love, at the same time she wants to defy him because she sees the, the bad side of him.

Studs Terkel And so she marries an easygoing guy.

Shana Alexander Yeah, a nice fellow.

Studs Terkel A rather dull, easygoing guy.

Shana Alexander That's right.

Studs Terkel But something's going on in her all this time.

Shana Alexander Yes. She married him in spite of her -- her father sobbed, wept all through the wedding. Her -- it was in the teeth of her father's opposition that she married the boy next door. And he told her, "This guy will never amount to anything." He never even would acknowledge his grandchildren or give them any money because he despised their father so much. He was a tough, mean fellow.

Studs Terkel And so she, now something's happening to her about her own self-esteem, that's diminishing now.

Shana Alexander That, that is true. Her -- Jean Harris was a brilliant woman, a pretty woman, a good mother, a wonderful teacher, a fine later school administrator, a good hostess, excellent cook, marvelous housekeeper, socially very competent. Friends of her said, "If I had Henry Kissinger as my dinner guest, the person I'd seat next to him would be Jean Harris, which she could hold up her end

Studs Terkel Well, I like to think of somebody else sitting next

Shana Alexander Well, that was the example this person used. Maybe if I'd had Studs Terkel to dinner, you would also go to Jean Harris.

Studs Terkel However.

Shana Alexander In any event, but she never thought she was any good at any of this stuff. She didn't know she was smart.

Studs Terkel So

Shana Alexander Or pretty or capable or responsible. She knew she was good, but she didn't really think she was any

Studs Terkel And so you say there's a certain song she liked, interesting, we were looking for it before, that appeared in a movie. "Put the Blame on Mame".

Shana Alexander Yes. That's -- Jean Harris cries very easily and always did, even as a little girl. And the only way she could stop crying, because her emotions are held in because she's a lady, but she's also a very passionate creature. And so her emotions are boiling inside.

Studs Terkel So that's submerged.

Shana Alexander Right. So she -- the only way she could find to stop from crying, which was embarrassing, she'd cry at card tricks or puppies or anything, was to sing some song to herself loud, loudly in her head, and the song she finally settled on while she was in college was a song that Rita Hayworth sang in "Gilda", if you remember in the '40s, she played a kind of a strumpet and she came through in a slinky black dress twirling her black glove and singing, "Put the blame on Mame, boys. Put the blame on Mame."

Studs Terkel Sexy sort of song sung by an upper-middle-class woman who was very much a lady with all that stuff sitting

Shana Alexander Singing a low-down song.

Studs Terkel In a low-down song. By the way, we should point out that you spent a good deal of time -- you followed the case.

Shana Alexander I followed the case from the first day that it was on the news when we heard that the diet doctor, so-called, had been murdered, and I got to know Jean Harris very well in the course of my work.

Studs Terkel Of course, you offer the book, both of them are remarkable portraits of them and the societies they're in, although it's quite obvious that your sympathies are with Jean Harris.

Shana Alexander Well, they are more with her than with him, but I want to be clear that this is not in any sense an authorized biography. She's never read it. She never asked to read it. I never offered to show it to her.

Studs Terkel So continuing

Shana Alexander It's my version of

Studs Terkel It's your

Shana Alexander What happened to these two people.

Studs Terkel Because really it's Shana Alexander's version of it, your vision -- your vision of it, really.

Shana Alexander Yes.

Studs Terkel And so we continued with her, we come to him. She eventually -- it was inevitable, divorces Jim Harris.

Shana Alexander Right. And she is, she is the first person she ever knew who got divorced! A divorcee was a woman with scarlet fingernails and the long cigarette holder in her mind. Suddenly she herself is a divorcee. She's talking to her only other friend who's divorced, and they're saying, "What did we do wrong?" We had these children, we've been married for 15 or 20 years, well, we must have picked the wrong guys. Well her friend, also from the, from Grosse Pointe where they lived, said, "Well, who would be the right

Studs Terkel Grosse Pointe is the uppermost suburb of Detroit.

Shana Alexander Yes. It's where the Fords live and the other big moguls. But, but Jean Harris's group was not the moguls, it was the two or three levels down from that.

Studs Terkel But her guilt now is even more italicized now, with a divorce. How come?

Shana Alexander Her guilt, particularly toward the children and that she had failed in marriage and what had she done wrong, et cetera.

Studs Terkel So she meets Dr. Herman Tarnower.

Shana Alexander So she, she's talking to her friend, yeah, and they're, and who would be the ideal husband? And the friend was astonished to hear Mrs. Harris say, "This ideal husband would be a Jewish doctor." That's quite bizarre to the friend and anybody, because there are no Jews in Grosse Pointe, they're not allowed to live there. And where Jean got this idea, she knew her best friend had married a Jew also in opposition to a powerful father. And so she knew the -- you might call it the mythology of, of the, of the Jewish husband being the best man to marry. And then she added to that the idea of a doctor, all-powerful, patient, careful, caring.

Studs Terkel In the meantime she's doing a good job at Madeira.

Shana Alexander Well, she isn't that Madeira yet. She's at the Springside School in Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia.

Studs Terkel But she meets Herman

Shana Alexander She's doing a superb job, yes.

Studs Terkel She meets Herman Tarnower.

Shana Alexander And she falls.

Studs Terkel Scarsdale.

Shana Alexander Scars-- well, he's now, is a powerful cardiologist and he's a bachelor, 57 years old. No "Scarsdale Diet" yet, but he's of Scarsdale.

Studs Terkel We'll hold off on Jean Harris, and now we come to the party of the second part.

Shana Alexander Okay.

Studs Terkel Okay. Herman Tarn--

Shana Alexander Herman Tarnower's parents came over through Ellis Island, humble people, Jewish people in Brooklyn, in the lower-middle-class. He's born in 1910, he goes to public school, he's very smart, very ambitious, puts himself through high school, college, medical school, and Bellevue internship. And as -- let me give you Jean Harris's word for him, he was "a good "Sammy Glick."

Studs Terkel Now, let's stick with that. "A good Sammy Glick." I think most listeners know the character of Sammy Glick, Budd Schulberg's creation. Sammy is on the make. No matter what, he's on the make, he'll get to the top no matter how. This is Tarnower.

Shana Alexander This is Herman Tarnower. He does it within the field of medicine. And there are two tracks you can take in medicine: either you go in academic medicine, you wind up head of a medical school or a research person, or you go to have the fancy society practice. He took that second

Studs Terkel Now, you have a description here that is so remarkable, of this German-Jewish society, for which country club, the Century Club, and he becomes their doctor. Now describe how he chose the tycoons as the ones whom he would serve.

Shana Alexander Yeah. He was a humble Russian Jew who could never even get into the club, let alone be their doctor normally. But he was fortunate enough, or determined enough, he found a number of elderly people who needed medical care. These "Our Crowd" German Jews had country homes in Scarsdale or Westchester County. He deliberately set up practice up there in order to become their weekend -- their country -- he called himself a humble country doctor. But he was a country doctor to the Loebs, to the Warburgs, to the Bronfmans, to quite a

Studs Terkel Now, he knew how to bootlick pretty well. I mean, he was there at all times, but I notice thing in your description of him: when it comes to those below him, he's somewhat of a bully.

Shana Alexander Yes, he's a great bully to those below him

Studs Terkel And to those above him he's a bootlicker.

Shana Alexander Yes, well, that goes together. And he did both very well, but he wouldn't -- were he sitting here with you, and I'd like to say that I wish he were sitting here with you, what I mean, Studs, is that a murder or a killing was committed here, it was an accidental killing, but people have to understand that somebody died, and it was, it was an accident, but somebody was shot and there should be some punishment for that, and I don't want to be thought of as somebody who

Studs Terkel No, I'm not saying you, I'm not saying it was justifiable homicide, though

Shana Alexander There are, though, there are those, most of them are women who say so, but I don't

Studs Terkel But now I'm thinking if ever -- well, in any event. He has a way of getting on, and there's a marvelous crack he makes. How is it again? To have a rich person

Shana Alexander Oh yes, this is wonderful. He said to her one time, "If you want to have a rich man's gratitude forever, save his life and don't send him a bill. If you want to own a rich man forever."

Studs Terkel So that was his technique. He became their doctor. "Doctor Lunch Hour."

Shana Alexander Yes. He always showed up before lunch, and ate the good food. His first big-time patient was Frieda Schiff Warburg, the kind of dowager empress of "Our Crowd" then, and she liked to make puns, she was a German-born woman, and she noticed that this charming young heart doctor who always came to her said, "Well, if you need digitalis, I won't give you the pill, I can give it to you by injection."

Studs Terkel Oh, some of his fellow doctors point out he wasn't that great.

Shana Alexander Well, now, he wasn't that great, but you don't need it by injection, it's a little better to give it by mouth.

Studs Terkel He also treated, he knew who to treat, too, whom, he also treated the dowager of "The New York Times" dynasty.

Shana Alexander Yeah, Mrs. Sulzberger, who, he and she -- he was her escort when they went to China with Seymour Topping and his wife to visit Chou En Lai, and ever after, Herman Tarnower, who was nothing if not a name-dropper, as well as a dame-dropper, come to think of it, used to speak about "my friend Chou En Lai."

Studs Terkel "My friend Chou En Lai." He dropped names, also here is the comic part that was taken seriously, "I read 'War and Peace' twelve times," he says at the dinner table, or "As Herodotus wrote."

Shana Alexander But it's important to know that he did read "War and Peace" twelve times

Studs Terkel -- Oh,

Shana Alexander And he did read Herodotus, he was a self-made man, and he did do it himself. He taught himself to speak, to shoot, to walk, how to dress, how -- and some people helped him of course. He educated himself in the social graces as well as reading all the books. He did it.

Studs Terkel And so we come to they meeting now.

Shana Alexander And this is why she liked him so much: his selfishness, his authoritarian qualities, his fascist qualities, if you like, are things that she found and many women found very appealing.

Studs Terkel Let's stay with this for a minute. She was attracted to that which would say, repel. Well, me, I'm not her,

Shana Alexander It would repel you, but

Studs Terkel It would repel a lot of other

Shana Alexander -- It attracted many women, but also a great many men, and it was very different from her husband. And you know, she just couldn't stand any longer being asked by her husband, "Where do you want to go to dinner tonight?" And then she, you have to -- you the woman say, "Well, I don't care where we go, dear, any place you want to go." All this stuff was nonsense. She preferred a fellow who said, "Tonight we're going to this place for dinner."

Studs Terkel Also he was her daddy, I mean she suddenly found

Shana Alexander He was a good daddy,

Studs Terkel And there you see, there was her father. So he in a way resembled to some extent in the authoritarian, bullying approach resembled her father, whose affection, I'm being now the amateur psychiatrist.

Shana Alexander Well, her actual psychiatrists came to the same conclusions when she was examined by the psychiatrist when she was in the hospital right after this happened, because you know this was a suicide attempt which went disastrously awry, and the wrong person got killed.

Studs Terkel That's so, before we come to the encounter and the four bullets and the killing, in the meantime she, this very much a lady, this gentile lady, the shiksa, she meets -- she enters what is to her it seems an exotic society.

Shana Alexander Yes, it did. She entered the world of the Century Club, which Herman Tarnower had now penetrated and made his own world, and she saw these powerful, intelligent bankers, Wall Street people, publishers like Alfred Knopf, all kinds of people that she would not as a Midwestern little schoolteacher normally have had a chance to meet, and how she found them exotic and glamorous and important.

Studs Terkel Now, his reputation is that of a Giovanni. I mean, he, he's, he's the ladies' man. He's known to have -- to have

Shana Alexander He's the club bachelor.

Studs Terkel The club

Shana Alexander Every club I suppose has one. He's known as the ladies' man because all the women are crazy about him.

Studs Terkel In his travels throughout the world, he's traveled, hunting, fishing, you name all the beautiful people, "jet set" joints, he's been there

Shana Alexander That's

Studs Terkel And he remembers talking to a Lebanese driver or someone.

Shana Alexander Yes, he was driving across North Africa with his previous mistress, Mrs. Steadman, a very cultivated German woman who dumped him cold when he took up with Mrs. Harris. At any rate, in the taxi, the cab driver says that he has two wives. Muslim law allows four, but the taxi driver can only afford two. "Well, why do you have two?" He said, "Because with two wives, each one tries a little harder."

Studs Terkel And of course this is his, he becomes the darling of all the guys, a macho approach

Shana Alexander They think that he is having a terrific time with the ladies. In fact, having talked to a number of the ladies with whom he had a time, he was not a particular Don Juan or Lothario or a great lover. But the men thought that he was, and the women found him

Studs Terkel Here she is now, and now she's enthralled.

Shana Alexander Yes, she's entirely

Studs Terkel She's enthralled him, as a matter of fact.

Shana Alexander She and he too is enthralled. He's in love. He -- I'm sure when they first met that he was deeply in love with this bright little blonde cute smart schoolteacher, a perfect WASP shiksa as you said. He gave her a giant diamond ring and begged her to marry him.

Studs Terkel She understands him, you say this, Sammy Glick -- she understands all the aspects that others may find her in, she understands all this, but she, now we come back to Jean Harris, could never become like him.

Shana Alexander I don't know if she understands him. I don't really think she does, but she loves him.

Studs Terkel He speaks in the present tense.

Shana Alexander With a blind passion, yes. But, but then, I would speak, I'm speaking about 14 years ago as well.

Studs Terkel I was wondering about now, I'll ask you that later, 'cause you know her, you followed, now, you followed her life pretty much to the prison.

Shana Alexander Yes, and I spent a great deal of time with her after.

Studs Terkel We've got to pick up on this, and now what happens as he seeks to dispose of her as he would Kleenex or whatever it might be, maybe not, this is more complicated

Shana Alexander Yeah, because he didn't dispose of her. With Kleenex, you throw it out. If he had disposed of her, he'd still be alive, but he, why didn't he get rid of her?

Studs Terkel Why didn't he? Being

Shana Alexander That's the mystery.

Studs Terkel Ah. "Very Much A Lady". We're going to pick it up with Shana Alexander. And it's a case you've read about of course, you've seen her picture and his picture, also the best-selling book "The Scarsdale Diet". The, no, the what Scarsdale diet?

Shana Alexander No, it's "The Complete"

Studs Terkel "The Complete"

Shana Alexander -- "Scarsdale Medical Diet".

Studs Terkel "Medical Diet". But the operative word is "Scarsdale."

Shana Alexander I think it is.

Studs Terkel Yeah, because that deals with those better people. If they're, if they're slim and thin, what did Paley's wife say once? "The thing to be is"

Shana Alexander "You can't be too rich or" -- "No one can be too rich or too thin."

Studs Terkel That's it. And they all fit. By the way, the country, the Century Club people, these are the German Jews who look down upon the Eastern European Jews, that they are all pretty well thin

Shana Alexander They're wonderfully thin and superbly rich, yes.

Studs Terkel Little, Brown the publishers, very, by the way, it's been enthusiastically received as, you can't put the book down, incidentally, but more than that it's a remarkable double portrait, but portrait of two cultures. [pause in recording] And so we come to the moment when, okay, he did not dispose of her, Herman Tarnower of Jean Harris like Kleenex, but there was another -- he was interested in a younger woman who was associate, really attractive woman.

Shana Alexander Yes, the younger woman was Lynne Tryforos, who had worked for him in his medical clinic, his medical business really, that he founded, ever since she got out of high school. After that she married Mr. Tryforos, a florist, she had two daughters. We don't really know at what point she -- the relationship became more intimate between her and Dr. Tarnower.

Studs Terkel But something's happened to Jean now. Now she's

Shana Alexander But Jean for a number of years didn't know about the younger woman, but eventually in about 1976 she found out. There was incontrovertible evidence that -- she saw the doctor took off his cufflinks, and on the back there was an inscription: "Love to Hy from Lynne," and the date was three or four years previous.

Studs Terkel Well, we have to, oh, now go back to Jean Harris, this is as not a double life, but two dimensions to her life here. She is, now she's been chosen as sometime now as the headmistress of this school Kay Graham has gone to, and

Shana Alexander And Kay Graham's parents founded and give the money to, to start.

Studs Terkel And this is a high-rep girls' boarding school.

Shana Alexander That's correct.

Studs Terkel And here she is this -- lady. And here she is. Enthralled to this guy.

Shana Alexander She's supposed to be role model to three or four or five hundred, I don't remember how many girls are in this school, of the finest girls from the best families, not only in America but all over the world, because diplomatic people send their daughters to

Studs Terkel By the way, we haven't talked about age, have we? Also she's of a certain age, we've got to -- you point out here by the -- very perceptively I think that some of the most popular of the Silhouette books that you see the girls reading on the buses everywhere, you know

Shana Alexander I know, the romance.

Studs Terkel Are written by older women.

Shana Alexander They're only written by older women. Younger women can't write them, because -- the romance publishers tell me that younger women don't understand romance. You have to be over 30 and if you're over 40 maybe you understand it better, I'm not sure about that. To write this kind of misty pink gauzy stuff it's not, it's not overtly erotic, it's romantic. It's candlelight.

Studs Terkel I met Barbara, the English woman,

Shana Alexander Barbara Cartwright. Is that her name?

Studs Terkel Barbara

Shana Alexander Cartland! Cartland!

Studs Terkel Barbara Cartland not to be believed. Some day in some other program I have to recount the encounter. She is not to be believed, and she writes scores of these books.

Shana Alexander Not to be believed by you, but I believe her.

Studs Terkel No, I mean the person herself. Oh,

Shana Alexander Oh, I understand what you -- I understand what you mean.

M3 I gotta, have to tell this adventure someday. It's funny, it's horrendous and funny. She -- I was doing a T-- well, very quickly. It was a television series on the depression in London for Thames TV and they had me come there as the narrator/interviewer of [a certain?], the American book on the Depression, and among those was Barbara Cartland, how she helped Winston Churchill break the General Strike of the '20s. But then at the end -- and she goes on with these, at the end she gives the crew and me little jars of honey. First she's speaking very delicately, ladylike, and says "The honey is good for your sexual powers." And she gave it to every guy there. But in any event, that's the kind of woman who writes these books you're talking about, of a certain age.

Shana Alexander I, but these books are bought by hundreds of millions of women. So she must be speaking to something that's in modern women. And the lesson that I learned from spending three years on the Jean Harris story is that romance, the kind of feeling that she felt for Dr. Tarnower, is very commonplace. Women still today feel it, and the stuff, the Jane Fonda business about "I am woman, I am strong, I am powerful, I am invincible, I don't need anybody" is baloney. Most women feel less than entire without a man in their life, and I would include myself in that

Studs Terkel And so we come -- by the way, we have to speak of you. 'Cause here are you, Shana, an excellent journalist, you know, who has a certain sensibility and a certain awareness of the world and your coverage of, by the way the Patty Hearst book, that should have been far more widely read, it is remarkable, a study of the changeling, I remember when we talked about the title possibly, the mythic quality. But we come back to it again. You were caught in this case, weren't you? You were caught up

Shana Alexander Yes I was because, I felt I understood her, and as I got to know her lawyers, a terrible creepy feeling came over me that I understood her a great deal better than they did. And although I'm not a lawyer and I couldn't analyze the trial as it was taking place, I am able to analyze it in retrospect and see the many mistakes that were made, starting with the misunderstanding of the woman and her feelings and the situation by the lawyer who was hired not by Mrs. Harris, actually, but by the friends of the victim.

Studs Terkel We've got to come to that lawyer in a moment. Before that, the -- her colleagues at the school and the people of that society who were members of the board, who -- what was their attitude toward? Now, the case. We now know she went there a certain night, there was a long letter we'll come to, the letter. And

Shana Alexander The Scarsdale letter.

M3 The Scarsdale letter that was introduced in

Shana Alexander Which was written by a woman in a state of psychosis. A vengeful, obscene and rage letter, which never should have been shown

Studs Terkel -- But before we come to the letter and revisit and the killing itself, or the four bullets, before that. What was the atti-- no, it has to after that. I'm sorry. The killing occurs. What's the attitude of her world?

Shana Alexander The attitude of the, if you are asking about the trustees and the powerful women at The Madeira School, the motto of the school is "Function in Disaster, Finish in Style." Well, they did function in disaster. They appointed an acting temporary headmistress, the school went on, and in fact the school is in better shape today than it ever was, but they turned their backs completely, universally and entirely on the former headmistress. And the people who had brought her to the school, including people who knew that she was emotionally impaired already, they didn't know that she was addicted to a drug which Dr. Tarnower had put her on, but they knew that she was kind of emotionally fragile, to put it mildly.

Studs Terkel And so she followed that credo, "Function in Disaster, Finish in Style," she used that credo in the court, and that proved to be her undoing, too, that is, to her style as not showing feelings.

Shana Alexander I think perhaps you're right, and the women who were in charge of Madeira, I would say they functioned in disaster, they saved their school, they didn't finish in style. They were not exemplars of Christian charity which they talk about such a great deal. They didn't write to her, not one of them wrote to her. They didn't send -- the whole world wrote letters of compassion to Jean Harris, so did the girls from the school. So did all the girls and students and parents from the other schools that Mrs. Harris had taught in for 30 years before this happened. She heard from everybody, every rank of society, people she'd known, with the exception of the ladies who run The Madeira School.

Studs Terkel And so she was still very much a lady. And so we come to -- okay, she came there that night. You think she came to kill -- she went there to visit him at Scarsdale, emotionally distraught of course.

Shana Alexander She was not -- she was distraught, but I must tell you that she was a classic depressive. She was clinically depressed. She began asking her lover, Dr. Tarnower, for something to get over her exhaustion, he prescribed a powerful methamphetamine called Desoxyn. This was malpractice. There's no other word for it. She was on Desoxyn, the street name for that is speed, for 10 years. She never knew she was addicted. Accidentally she ran out of it; when she ran out, her whole world seemed to fall apart. She couldn't get hold of the doctor for a few days to get more. She went into a state of what the -- this is not me saying it, it is the doctors who examined her said it was temporary psychosis, she decided to commit suicide. She took the gun which she had bought 18 months earlier in case she had to commit suicide because she'd flirted with suicide in her own mind for years, she drove -- she made out her will, she left instructions about what to be done with her property and her body. She said, "I want to be cremated and immediately thrown away." Put that on top of her teachers' retirement policy, got in the car, got a bunch of flowers, drove up to see the only man she had ever loved one more time and say goodbye to him. This was what she called the script that was in her mind. When she got there, things didn't work as she had planned it. The doctor was not happy to see her. They got in a fight. She yelled. He struck her a couple of times. She said, "Go ahead and kill me yourself." He said, "Get out of here, Jean, you're crazy." And he walked away from her. She took out the gun and decided to kill herself then and there in the bedroom, no point in going on with the romantic script any longer. He attempted to interfe-- intervene and stop her from killing herself, he got shot in the hand. What happened after that is open to dispute. But they got into a fight over a gun. Over the gun. And it fired four more times. And the doctor died.

Studs Terkel And

Shana Alexander About an hour -- he actually bled to death, the cops didn't quite understand the nature of his injuries and so on.

M3 You have a passage here. We'll come to the case. That's a natural. It's not -- it's organically right in the book: "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." You italicize that. So runs the nutty and deadly slogan of the National Rifle Association. If there were any truth to this glib rubbish, Herman Tarnower would be alive today. The doctor is dead because on her third try at buying a gun, a sick and distraught woman happened to be in the right state with the right credentials, and the one instrument of death that was always [very loud? allowed?] became hers for the wave of a credit card." This case, by the way, is the best argument for anti -- for gun control laws ever I think. It's perfect, is it not, I mean

Shana Alexander Yes. You -- I'm so glad you understand. That's what I feel, it's a perfect argument for gun

Studs Terkel So now the case. By the -- you were quoting the doctors' reports, the medical exam, and now comes the case.

Shana Alexander Now comes she shoots him, and she runs to get help when she slowly realizes, it comes to her senses that he's not merely shot in the hand. Something a little more is wrong with him. Ran out in the rain and lightning. There comes a police car, it's on its way summoned by the servants. And it follows her back to the est-- Dr. Tarnower's estate. She jumps out, runs over to the car. "Hurry, hurry! He's been shot!" "Who's been shot?" "The doctor." "Who did it?" "I did." There was no denial that she did it, although she didn't know he was fatally shot. When she found out he was fatally shot, she fainted in the arms of the policeman.

Studs Terkel Ironically enough, that day another order of Desoxyn, this particular drug.

Shana Alexander Right.

Studs Terkel What does that drug do?

Shana Alexander It's speed, it's amphetamine. It keeps you awake it makes you cheer up, makes you feel great until it drops you,

Studs Terkel So that might have played a role, too.

Shana Alexander She was in withdrawal from the drug because she had run out and she couldn't get more for a few days.

Studs Terkel I mean, the drug descri-- prescribed by the man who was killed.

Shana Alexander Yes.

Studs Terkel And now we come to the cause. We have to come back to that society again of Dr. Tarnower. Calls came now. You know, these horrendous calls to people, friends, and there was someone named Schulte of that society, called Lynne, the other woman,

Shana Alexander Lynne, when she found out, when she was notified by the police that Dr. Tarnower was dead, she spent the next perhaps 24 hours on the phone calling everyone up to let them know what had happened before they read it in the paper. In some cases, they owned the newspaper. Mrs. Sulzberger owned the paper. She had to call her. She had to call the Schultes, who were the best, among his best friends, and the poor -- it's even hard for me to say this, but Arthur Schulte afterwards said, "Well, if he's already dead, why did they have to wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me?"

Studs Terkel We're talking about a certain -- the human comedy here, and also which were very revealing, of course, of people, certain people, and so now the Madeira -- all of a sudden "she's one of us," even though they ignored her, the lawyer -- now we come to the case, now the case, and there's Joel Aurnou hired as the lawyer.

Shana Alexander The case. They immediately scuffle around to find the best criminal lawyer in the name -- local man whom they could find, and they picked Joel Aurnou, who was the best local man, a very competent lawyer. But in this particular case he did a terrible job, starting -- now, why did he do such a bad job? He didn't try to do a bad job, he didn't intend this to happen. He thought he would win. He put on a "go for broke" defense. It was a very macho defense. He didn't understand his client at all. And he said, "Look there's no way those guys are going to be able to prove intent, you have to have proof of intent or else it isn't murder, they can never prove it." The D.A. said, "All I need to prove intent is a corpse and four bullet holes." Aurnou mounted a sort of "go for broke" defense. He was going to challenge the jury to find her guilty, and he felt that there was no way they could do it, and he furthermore, he would not give the jury the option of finding her guilty of manslaughter, which is the next degree down from cold-blooded murder.

Studs Terkel It could easily have been manslaughter. For, by the way

Shana Alexander It should have, it was, but she was extremely emotionally disturbed, and the correct defense here was one called "extreme emotional disturbance."

Studs Terkel And so when the jury found her guilty, the sentence is what?

Shana Alexander The sentence is, a minimum sentence in this crime, 15 years to life without possibility of parole.

Studs Terkel Now, had it been manslaughter

Shana Alexander It would be two to six.

Studs Terkel Two to six.

Shana Alexander And she, having no criminal record, would have only got the two and she would be out now.

F3 So she received the same punishment as Jack Abbott.

Shana Alexander Yeah, the same punishment but for a more severe crime. Jack Abbott is convicted of manslaughter. Jack Abbott the multiple killer lifetime convict threw himself on the mercy of the jury, and said that he was emotionally disturbed because he'd spent his life as a convict. The jury understood and said, "Okay, Mr. Abbott, you're only guilty of manslaughter." Jean Harris, too proud, too much a lady.

Studs Terkel So we have to come back to another reporter, and there's Joel Aurnou the defense. Something else was here. It became an advertised case, a media event. He was celebrated.

Shana Alexander He became a star. He became very famous, he had 200 or at least 100 reporters in his office at one time, hundreds of phone calls coming in every day, he went on a gigantic ego trip not unlike what happened to F. Lee Bailey in the Patty Hearst case. The media attention on these guys who were probably have a rather good ego in the first place or they wouldn't become criminal defense

Studs Terkel So that may have played a role in his going for broke. Acquittal of cause and make him "Wow," in his mind Clarence

Shana Alexander Yes, exactly.

Studs Terkel And therefore manslaughter is almost plea-bargaining in a sense. I mean, it's less,

Shana Alexander Well, yes. He had great confidence. But he, he himself used the word, it was a crapshoot. And he lost.

Studs Terkel Now we come why he lost and why she was found guilty of murder. We come to another aspect, the cultural aspect. The jury and Jean Harris. Who were members of the jury?

Shana Alexander The jury were a kind of blue-collar to middle-class people who, who didn't -- they'd never heard of a girls preparatory school. One of the women who was a spectator in the courthouse came up to me and in a recess and she said, "I see you've been watching the case." She said, "This school they keep talking about." She said, "Is that a high school or a college?" So there was no way to explain to her what a fancy girls' prep school

Studs Terkel And here she is, dressed very well indeed, elegantly.

Shana Alexander Yes.

Studs Terkel And they're dressed as working-class people are doing the best they can.

Shana Alexander Well, more imp-- even more important than that, as soon as she took the stand, which she should never have done, of course, but she believed her -- her lawyer told her, "Okay, Jean you're going on," and she went on, believing she would have to tell the truth, although she used to tell me, "I know they're not going to believe me when I tell this story." And that's the case. The facts in her case are unbelievable even if true, and that's part of what was wrong with the defense, but when, as soon as she went on, within 30 minute, 30 seconds, she was talking about meeting Dr. Tarnower and how she fell in love, and as soon as this 57-year-old woman started speaking about love, the jury started to giggle and smirk. You're not supposed to be in love if you're over 50, or even perhaps

Studs Terkel Yeah, this is a 14-year affair. And so 57, you don't do those, because these are very, these are people in small supervisory capacities, blue-collar people, very much what we call for want of a better phrase "middle America."

Shana Alexander They were Archie Bunker kind of people, yeah, good

Studs Terkel Here -- and good people. Here is she, also her language, but attitudes toward others, they saw a snob here, too.

Shana Alexander Yes. She behaved in a very snobbish way, part-- she denied all jealousy of Lynne Tryforos, the younger woman. Well, she was obviously extremely jealous. There was, put in front of the jury was the Scarsdale letter in which the other woman was called a slut, a whore, an adulterous creature

Studs Terkel That knocks out of the box her description of being very much a lady. Exactly.

Shana Alexander Exactly. It was completely at odds. So what you had to have in this case was the psychiatrists to explain Jean Harris to this jury. Jean Harris could not explain herself to the jury. She didn't understand herself. She hadn't understood herself for years. She was out of touch with herself, she was, she was -- bonkers, you know.

Studs Terkel And so also we have to come to her again, since she's very much the lady to go back to, no feeling to be shown, no emotion, that is, through disaster with style, and they see no remorse. These are -- they who see no -- in their minds.

Shana Alexander That's right. She didn't act like Barbara Stanwyck on the witness stand, or

Studs Terkel And nor is she plainly dressed, either.

Shana Alexander No.

Studs Terkel Nor is she the suffering put-upon woman.

Shana Alexander No, she wouldn't play a role like that.

Studs Terkel So, but she was basically honest! She was.

Shana Alexander She was entirely honest. If ever there was someone who was too truthful, who couldn't even tell a white lie, the record all through her life is

Studs Terkel I've made a note here, maybe I think maybe she only -- she had a biblical sense of right and wrong.

Shana Alexander Yes, she did. A very tough sense of right and wrong.

Studs Terkel Now, Aurnou, now she's conducting her own case to some extent.

Shana Alexander To some degree, yes. He, he didn't, he wasn't able entirely to control her, and nothing that she did work to her advantage. In the meantime he was showboating. He was indeed. And so now and he was he was advancing the wrong plea the plea that didn't go with the facts the facts were the four bullets. So to put on a suicide defense in the face of four bullets is unbelievable. Even if true the proper defense and the facts supported it was that she was extremely emotionally disturbed which she was she was psychotic she was drugged she was suicidal she was distraught and there was a great deal of evidence to support that.

Studs Terkel

Shana Alexander

F3

Shana Alexander And so it happened the headmistress of a fashionable, very posh school indeed, Madeira School out east, kills a renowned doctor whose book on diet is a best seller. Of course, Jean Harris killing Dr. Herman Town-- Tarnower. There are several questions involved here. How could she possibly be interested in this man, but it's more than killing. It's about two cultures, and a remarkable study. It's almost novel in form yet it's true, "Very Much A Lady", the title itself indicates Shana Alexander's sensitivity. Shana Alexander, whose work you know, her study of Patty Hearst was a remarkable one, too, has studied this case. "The Untold Story", subtitle "Jean Harris, Dr. Herman Tarnower", Little, Brown the publishers, and it's a remarkably revealing book, not simply of two people, but of two different cultures. "I saw her first on TV stepping out of a police car and thought, 'She reminds me of me. Same hairdo, same shoes, even the same college class.' Headmistress of a select girls' school, she had just been arrested for murder. The dead man, Dr. Herman Tarnower, was someone I used to know. Later when I began to dig back into her life story and his, striking similarities turned up between her life and my own. Her flourishing professional career had been devoted almost entirely to private school education and mine to journalism, but our chronologies are roughly parallel as to dates of birth, marriage, motherhood, divorce, and the experience of becoming what the Internal Revenue Service calls a "female head of household." Most important, we are women of the same era, the last generation of Americans brought up to believe that nice girls get married. The love affair between Jean Harris and Herman Tarnower had gone on for 14 years." You know, as Shana Alexander opened reading her author's note, it occurs to me certainly and to many readers the universal-- it is a unique case, we've read about it, every scandal sheet's had it, TV, radio, commentators. Yet it's remarkable in that it spreads out as far as implications are concerned, doesn't it? Yes, it does. These were complicated people. Jean Harris was 43 years old when she fell in love for the first time in her life with a man who was then 57 years old, a bachelor doctor who never married. And as it turned out, who never would. You know, I was thinking, we have to go back to beginnings of Jean Harris is what made her act as she did and Dr. Herman Tarnower who I see as one of the most grotesque oafs I've ever encountered in writing, whether fiction or nonfiction, and but -- You see him as a clown, but she saw him as a romantic prince on a white horse -- So we have to And you must not, one must not come to conclusions about the people that other people love, because it's always grotesque. I agree, because now we come to the question of who is Jean Harris, how it came to be. I said in passing at the beginning of this, a study of two cultures: hers and his. And we have to begin with Jean Harris, don't we? We meet her first when she was headmistress at this very posh girls' school out east, The Madeira Yes, just outside of Washington. The Madeira School for girls is one of the finest women's preparatory academies in the nation, possibly it's the finest. Certainly up there with the top two or Now we think of her, let's stay with her for a minute. Her beginning. She was always terribly bright -- Very pretty. Very pretty, but you knew something was in her being kept in, I guess, or very much a lady. We come to that. Yes, she was trained to be a lady. Now what does that mean? What did that mean? She was born in 1923. I think this story speaks particularly to people born in the '20s and maybe the first half of the '30s. That would certainly include me. She was a lady. In her generation it meant that she was always proper, well-behaved, never showed anger or rage, always tried to think about what was the other person's side of the issue, always took responsibility for her own acts, never behaved in an unseemly manner, was always gentle and charitable without thinking much about what this meant. Now, that attribute was her undoing in that courtroom, too, facing a certain kind of jury we'll come to. She showed no feeling -- the idea is not to show too much emotion or feeling. Of any kind. A lady doesn't rant and rave and scream and cry and tear her hair. Anna Magnani, whom we know from the movie, no lady. Yeah. So therefore she, the lady, is seemingly detached, and so when she's on that witness stand in her defense and there's a jury of middle America, for want of a better phrase, we'll come to that, blue-collar to some extent and [as if they?] they look at her as somewhat of an alien society. And who showed no remorse as far as they're concerned. No obvious remorse, because a lady does not show her emotions in public. So she's raised this way. Middle, middle-class upper, father -- how can you describe her father Al, who obviously plays a role in Her father was the most important figure probably in her life. If she had had an analyst, he would have said. Her father was an engineer, a brilliant man. Upper-middle-class from the Middle West. He built dams, he built bridges, he built steel plants, he, he was very successful in that way. But as a father, as a husband, as a human being he seemed to be enormously lacking. He was a tyrant to his own children as well as the other children and everyone he knew. He was a bigot. He hated everybody: Catholics, Jews, women, men, and is a terrible snob and he wanted the best for his daughter, and at the same time he in no way encouraged her to come along, and she adored her father but could never be a good enough girl for So we have something going on within Jean Harris, the young girl growing up: a bigoted, powerful father whose affection she wants to be a good girl to daddy. At the same time she's enlightened in matters so she's a liberal. That's So we have a split in her, don't we? That's right. She wants to please him and have his love, at the same time she wants to defy him because she sees the, the bad side of him. And so she marries an easygoing guy. Yeah, a nice fellow. A rather dull, easygoing guy. That's right. But something's going on in her all this time. Yes. She married him in spite of her -- her father sobbed, wept all through the wedding. Her -- it was in the teeth of her father's opposition that she married the boy next door. And he told her, "This guy will never amount to anything." He never even would acknowledge his grandchildren or give them any money because he despised their father so much. He was a tough, mean fellow. And so she, now something's happening to her about her own self-esteem, that's diminishing now. That, that is true. Her -- Jean Harris was a brilliant woman, a pretty woman, a good mother, a wonderful teacher, a fine later school administrator, a good hostess, excellent cook, marvelous housekeeper, socially very competent. Friends of her said, "If I had Henry Kissinger as my dinner guest, the person I'd seat next to him would be Jean Harris, which she could hold up her end of Well, I like to think of somebody else sitting next Well, that was the example this person used. Maybe if I'd had Studs Terkel to dinner, you would also go to Jean Harris. However. In any event, but she never thought she was any good at any of this stuff. She didn't know she was smart. So Or pretty or capable or responsible. She knew she was good, but she didn't really think she was any good. And so you say there's a certain song she liked, interesting, we were looking for it before, that appeared in a movie. "Put the Blame on Mame". Yes. That's -- Jean Harris cries very easily and always did, even as a little girl. And the only way she could stop crying, because her emotions are held in because she's a lady, but she's also a very passionate creature. And so her emotions are boiling inside. So that's submerged. Right. So she -- the only way she could find to stop from crying, which was embarrassing, she'd cry at card tricks or puppies or anything, was to sing some song to herself loud, loudly in her head, and the song she finally settled on while she was in college was a song that Rita Hayworth sang in "Gilda", if you remember in the '40s, she played a kind of a strumpet and she came through in a slinky black dress twirling her black glove and singing, "Put the blame on Mame, boys. Put the blame on Mame." Sexy sort of song sung by an upper-middle-class woman who was very much a lady with all that stuff sitting -- Singing a low-down song. In a low-down song. By the way, we should point out that you spent a good deal of time -- you followed the case. I followed the case from the first day that it was on the news when we heard that the diet doctor, so-called, had been murdered, and I got to know Jean Harris very well in the course of my work. Of course, you offer the book, both of them are remarkable portraits of them and the societies they're in, although it's quite obvious that your sympathies are with Jean Harris. Well, they are more with her than with him, but I want to be clear that this is not in any sense an authorized biography. She's never read it. She never asked to read it. I never offered to show it to her. So continuing she It's my version of -- It's your version. What happened to these two people. Because really it's Shana Alexander's version of it, your vision -- your vision of it, really. Yes. And so we continued with her, we come to him. She eventually -- it was inevitable, divorces Jim Harris. Right. And she is, she is the first person she ever knew who got divorced! A divorcee was a woman with scarlet fingernails and the long cigarette holder in her mind. Suddenly she herself is a divorcee. She's talking to her only other friend who's divorced, and they're saying, "What did we do wrong?" We had these children, we've been married for 15 or 20 years, well, we must have picked the wrong guys. Well her friend, also from the, from Grosse Pointe where they lived, said, "Well, who would be the right husband?" Grosse Pointe is the uppermost suburb of Detroit. Yes. It's where the Fords live and the other big moguls. But, but Jean Harris's group was not the moguls, it was the two or three levels down from that. But her guilt now is even more italicized now, with a divorce. How come? Her guilt, particularly toward the children and that she had failed in marriage and what had she done wrong, et cetera. So she meets Dr. Herman Tarnower. So she, she's talking to her friend, yeah, and they're, and who would be the ideal husband? And the friend was astonished to hear Mrs. Harris say, "This ideal husband would be a Jewish doctor." That's quite bizarre to the friend and anybody, because there are no Jews in Grosse Pointe, they're not allowed to live there. And where Jean got this idea, she knew her best friend had married a Jew also in opposition to a powerful father. And so she knew the -- you might call it the mythology of, of the, of the Jewish husband being the best man to marry. And then she added to that the idea of a doctor, all-powerful, patient, careful, caring. In the meantime she's doing a good job at Madeira. Well, she isn't that Madeira yet. She's at the Springside School in Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia. But she meets Herman Tarn-- She's doing a superb job, yes. She meets Herman Tarnower. And she falls. Scarsdale. Scars-- well, he's now, is a powerful cardiologist and he's a bachelor, 57 years old. No "Scarsdale Diet" yet, but he's of Scarsdale. We'll hold off on Jean Harris, and now we come to the party of the second part. Okay. Okay. Herman Tarn-- Herman Tarnower's parents came over through Ellis Island, humble people, Jewish people in Brooklyn, in the lower-middle-class. He's born in 1910, he goes to public school, he's very smart, very ambitious, puts himself through high school, college, medical school, and Bellevue internship. And as -- let me give you Jean Harris's word for him, he was "a good "Sammy Glick." Now, let's stick with that. "A good Sammy Glick." I think most listeners know the character of Sammy Glick, Budd Schulberg's creation. Sammy is on the make. No matter what, he's on the make, he'll get to the top no matter how. This is Tarnower. This is Herman Tarnower. He does it within the field of medicine. And there are two tracks you can take in medicine: either you go in academic medicine, you wind up head of a medical school or a research person, or you go to have the fancy society practice. He took that second [type?]. Now, you have a description here that is so remarkable, of this German-Jewish society, for which country club, the Century Club, and he becomes their doctor. Now describe how he chose the tycoons as the ones whom he would serve. Yeah. He was a humble Russian Jew who could never even get into the club, let alone be their doctor normally. But he was fortunate enough, or determined enough, he found a number of elderly people who needed medical care. These "Our Crowd" German Jews had country homes in Scarsdale or Westchester County. He deliberately set up practice up there in order to become their weekend -- their country -- he called himself a humble country doctor. But he was a country doctor to the Loebs, to the Warburgs, to the Bronfmans, to quite a -- Now, he knew how to bootlick pretty well. I mean, he was there at all times, but I notice thing in your description of him: when it comes to those below him, he's somewhat of a bully. Yes, he's a great bully to those below him -- And to those above him he's a bootlicker. Yes, well, that goes together. And he did both very well, but he wouldn't -- were he sitting here with you, and I'd like to say that I wish he were sitting here with you, what I mean, Studs, is that a murder or a killing was committed here, it was an accidental killing, but people have to understand that somebody died, and it was, it was an accident, but somebody was shot and there should be some punishment for that, and I don't want to be thought of as somebody who thinks No, I'm not saying you, I'm not saying it was justifiable homicide, though -- There are, though, there are those, most of them are women who say so, but I don't agree. But now I'm thinking if ever -- well, in any event. He has a way of getting on, and there's a marvelous crack he makes. How is it again? To have a rich person -- Oh yes, this is wonderful. He said to her one time, "If you want to have a rich man's gratitude forever, save his life and don't send him a bill. If you want to own a rich man forever." So that was his technique. He became their doctor. "Doctor Lunch Hour." Yes. He always showed up before lunch, and ate the good food. His first big-time patient was Frieda Schiff Warburg, the kind of dowager empress of "Our Crowd" then, and she liked to make puns, she was a German-born woman, and she noticed that this charming young heart doctor who always came to her said, "Well, if you need digitalis, I won't give you the pill, I can give it to you by injection." Oh, some of his fellow doctors point out he wasn't that great. Well, now, he wasn't that great, but you don't need it by injection, it's a little better to give it by mouth. He also treated, he knew who to treat, too, whom, he also treated the dowager of "The New York Times" dynasty. Yeah, Mrs. Sulzberger, who, he and she -- he was her escort when they went to China with Seymour Topping and his wife to visit Chou En Lai, and ever after, Herman Tarnower, who was nothing if not a name-dropper, as well as a dame-dropper, come to think of it, used to speak about "my friend Chou En Lai." "My friend Chou En Lai." He dropped names, also here is the comic part that was taken seriously, "I read 'War and Peace' twelve times," he says at the dinner table, or "As Herodotus wrote." But it's important to know that he did read "War and Peace" twelve times -- Oh, And he did read Herodotus, he was a self-made man, and he did do it himself. He taught himself to speak, to shoot, to walk, how to dress, how -- and some people helped him of course. He educated himself in the social graces as well as reading all the books. He did it. And so we come to they meeting now. And this is why she liked him so much: his selfishness, his authoritarian qualities, his fascist qualities, if you like, are things that she found and many women found very appealing. Let's stay with this for a minute. She was attracted to that which would say, repel. Well, me, I'm not her, I'm It would repel you, but it It would repel a lot of other -- It attracted many women, but also a great many men, and it was very different from her husband. And you know, she just couldn't stand any longer being asked by her husband, "Where do you want to go to dinner tonight?" And then she, you have to -- you the woman say, "Well, I don't care where we go, dear, any place you want to go." All this stuff was nonsense. She preferred a fellow who said, "Tonight we're going to this place for dinner." Also he was her daddy, I mean she suddenly found -- He was a good daddy, yes. And there you see, there was her father. So he in a way resembled to some extent in the authoritarian, bullying approach resembled her father, whose affection, I'm being now the amateur psychiatrist. Well, her actual psychiatrists came to the same conclusions when she was examined by the psychiatrist when she was in the hospital right after this happened, because you know this was a suicide attempt which went disastrously awry, and the wrong person got killed. That's so, before we come to the encounter and the four bullets and the killing, in the meantime she, this very much a lady, this gentile lady, the shiksa, she meets -- she enters what is to her it seems an exotic society. Yes, it did. She entered the world of the Century Club, which Herman Tarnower had now penetrated and made his own world, and she saw these powerful, intelligent bankers, Wall Street people, publishers like Alfred Knopf, all kinds of people that she would not as a Midwestern little schoolteacher normally have had a chance to meet, and how she found them exotic and glamorous and important. Now, his reputation is that of a Giovanni. I mean, he, he's, he's the ladies' man. He's known to have -- to have -- He's the club bachelor. The club bachelor. Every club I suppose has one. He's known as the ladies' man because all the women are crazy about him. In his travels throughout the world, he's traveled, hunting, fishing, you name all the beautiful people, "jet set" joints, he's been there -- That's And he remembers talking to a Lebanese driver or someone. Yes, he was driving across North Africa with his previous mistress, Mrs. Steadman, a very cultivated German woman who dumped him cold when he took up with Mrs. Harris. At any rate, in the taxi, the cab driver says that he has two wives. Muslim law allows four, but the taxi driver can only afford two. "Well, why do you have two?" He said, "Because with two wives, each one tries a little harder." And of course this is his, he becomes the darling of all the guys, a macho approach -- They think that he is having a terrific time with the ladies. In fact, having talked to a number of the ladies with whom he had a time, he was not a particular Don Juan or Lothario or a great lover. But the men thought that he was, and the women found him attractive. Here she is now, and now she's enthralled. Yes, she's entirely -- She's enthralled him, as a matter of fact. She and he too is enthralled. He's in love. He -- I'm sure when they first met that he was deeply in love with this bright little blonde cute smart schoolteacher, a perfect WASP shiksa as you said. He gave her a giant diamond ring and begged her to marry him. She understands him, you say this, Sammy Glick -- she understands all the aspects that others may find her in, she understands all this, but she, now we come back to Jean Harris, could never become like him. I don't know if she understands him. I don't really think she does, but she loves him. He speaks in the present tense. With a blind passion, yes. But, but then, I would speak, I'm speaking about 14 years ago as well. I was wondering about now, I'll ask you that later, 'cause you know her, you followed, now, you followed her life pretty much to the prison. Yes, and I spent a great deal of time with her after. We've got to pick up on this, and now what happens as he seeks to dispose of her as he would Kleenex or whatever it might be, maybe not, this is more complicated than Yeah, because he didn't dispose of her. With Kleenex, you throw it out. If he had disposed of her, he'd still be alive, but he, why didn't he get rid of her? Why didn't he? Being what That's the mystery. Ah. "Very Much A Lady". We're going to pick it up with Shana Alexander. And it's a case you've read about of course, you've seen her picture and his picture, also the best-selling book "The Scarsdale Diet". The, no, the what Scarsdale diet? No, it's "The Complete" -- "The Complete" -- "Scarsdale Medical Diet". "Medical Diet". But the operative word is "Scarsdale." I think it is. Yeah, because that deals with those better people. If they're, if they're slim and thin, what did Paley's wife say once? "The thing to be is" -- "You can't be too rich or" -- "No one can be too rich or too thin." That's it. And they all fit. By the way, the country, the Century Club people, these are the German Jews who look down upon the Eastern European Jews, that they are all pretty well thin and They're wonderfully thin and superbly rich, yes. Little, Brown the publishers, very, by the way, it's been enthusiastically received as, you can't put the book down, incidentally, but more than that it's a remarkable double portrait, but portrait of two cultures. [pause in recording] And so we come to the moment when, okay, he did not dispose of her, Herman Tarnower of Jean Harris like Kleenex, but there was another -- he was interested in a younger woman who was associate, really attractive woman. Yes, the younger woman was Lynne Tryforos, who had worked for him in his medical clinic, his medical business really, that he founded, ever since she got out of high school. After that she married Mr. Tryforos, a florist, she had two daughters. We don't really know at what point she -- the relationship became more intimate between her and Dr. Tarnower. But something's happened to Jean now. Now she's But Jean for a number of years didn't know about the younger woman, but eventually in about 1976 she found out. There was incontrovertible evidence that -- she saw the doctor took off his cufflinks, and on the back there was an inscription: "Love to Hy from Lynne," and the date was three or four years previous. Well, we have to, oh, now go back to Jean Harris, this is as not a double life, but two dimensions to her life here. She is, now she's been chosen as sometime now as the headmistress of this school Kay Graham has gone to, and -- And Kay Graham's parents founded and give the money to, to start. And this is a high-rep girls' boarding school. That's correct. And here she is this -- lady. And here she is. Enthralled to this guy. She's supposed to be role model to three or four or five hundred, I don't remember how many girls are in this school, of the finest girls from the best families, not only in America but all over the world, because diplomatic people send their daughters to that By the way, we haven't talked about age, have we? Also she's of a certain age, we've got to -- you point out here by the -- very perceptively I think that some of the most popular of the Silhouette books that you see the girls reading on the buses everywhere, you know the I know, the romance. Are written by older women. They're only written by older women. Younger women can't write them, because -- the romance publishers tell me that younger women don't understand romance. You have to be over 30 and if you're over 40 maybe you understand it better, I'm not sure about that. To write this kind of misty pink gauzy stuff it's not, it's not overtly erotic, it's romantic. It's candlelight. I met Barbara, the English woman, the Barbara Cartwright. Is that her name? Barbara Cartland! Cartland! Barbara Cartland not to be believed. Some day in some other program I have to recount the encounter. She is not to be believed, and she writes scores of these books. Not to be believed by you, but I believe her. No, I mean the person herself. Oh, I understand what you -- I understand what you mean. I gotta, have to tell this adventure someday. It's funny, it's horrendous and funny. She -- I was doing a T-- well, very quickly. It was a television series on the depression in London for Thames TV and they had me come there as the narrator/interviewer of [a certain?], the American book on the Depression, and among those was Barbara Cartland, how she helped Winston Churchill break the General Strike of the '20s. But then at the end -- and she goes on with these, at the end she gives the crew and me little jars of honey. First she's speaking very delicately, ladylike, and says "The honey is good for your sexual powers." And she gave it to every guy there. But in any event, that's the kind of woman who writes these books you're talking about, of a certain age. I, but these books are bought by hundreds of millions of women. So she must be speaking to something that's in modern women. And the lesson that I learned from spending three years on the Jean Harris story is that romance, the kind of feeling that she felt for Dr. Tarnower, is very commonplace. Women still today feel it, and the stuff, the Jane Fonda business about "I am woman, I am strong, I am powerful, I am invincible, I don't need anybody" is baloney. Most women feel less than entire without a man in their life, and I would include myself in that group. And so we come -- by the way, we have to speak of you. 'Cause here are you, Shana, an excellent journalist, you know, who has a certain sensibility and a certain awareness of the world and your coverage of, by the way the Patty Hearst book, that should have been far more widely read, it is remarkable, a study of the changeling, I remember when we talked about the title possibly, the mythic quality. But we come back to it again. You were caught in this case, weren't you? You were caught up in Yes I was because, I felt I understood her, and as I got to know her lawyers, a terrible creepy feeling came over me that I understood her a great deal better than they did. And although I'm not a lawyer and I couldn't analyze the trial as it was taking place, I am able to analyze it in retrospect and see the many mistakes that were made, starting with the misunderstanding of the woman and her feelings and the situation by the lawyer who was hired not by Mrs. Harris, actually, but by the friends of the victim. We've got to come to that lawyer in a moment. Before that, the -- her colleagues at the school and the people of that society who were members of the board, who -- what was their attitude toward? Now, the case. We now know she went there a certain night, there was a long letter we'll come to, the letter. And -- The Scarsdale letter. The Scarsdale letter that was introduced in -- Which was written by a woman in a state of psychosis. A vengeful, obscene and rage letter, which never should have been shown -- But before we come to the letter and revisit and the killing itself, or the four bullets, before that. What was the atti-- no, it has to after that. I'm sorry. The killing occurs. What's the attitude of her world? The attitude of the, if you are asking about the trustees and the powerful women at The Madeira School, the motto of the school is "Function in Disaster, Finish in Style." Well, they did function in disaster. They appointed an acting temporary headmistress, the school went on, and in fact the school is in better shape today than it ever was, but they turned their backs completely, universally and entirely on the former headmistress. And the people who had brought her to the school, including people who knew that she was emotionally impaired already, they didn't know that she was addicted to a drug which Dr. Tarnower had put her on, but they knew that she was kind of emotionally fragile, to put it mildly. And so she followed that credo, "Function in Disaster, Finish in Style," she used that credo in the court, and that proved to be her undoing, too, that is, to her style as not showing feelings. I think perhaps you're right, and the women who were in charge of Madeira, I would say they functioned in disaster, they saved their school, they didn't finish in style. They were not exemplars of Christian charity which they talk about such a great deal. They didn't write to her, not one of them wrote to her. They didn't send -- the whole world wrote letters of compassion to Jean Harris, so did the girls from the school. So did all the girls and students and parents from the other schools that Mrs. Harris had taught in for 30 years before this happened. She heard from everybody, every rank of society, people she'd known, with the exception of the ladies who run The Madeira School. And so she was still very much a lady. And so we come to -- okay, she came there that night. You think she came to kill -- she went there to visit him at Scarsdale, emotionally distraught of course. She was not -- she was distraught, but I must tell you that she was a classic depressive. She was clinically depressed. She began asking her lover, Dr. Tarnower, for something to get over her exhaustion, he prescribed a powerful methamphetamine called Desoxyn. This was malpractice. There's no other word for it. She was on Desoxyn, the street name for that is speed, for 10 years. She never knew she was addicted. Accidentally she ran out of it; when she ran out, her whole world seemed to fall apart. She couldn't get hold of the doctor for a few days to get more. She went into a state of what the -- this is not me saying it, it is the doctors who examined her said it was temporary psychosis, she decided to commit suicide. She took the gun which she had bought 18 months earlier in case she had to commit suicide because she'd flirted with suicide in her own mind for years, she drove -- she made out her will, she left instructions about what to be done with her property and her body. She said, "I want to be cremated and immediately thrown away." Put that on top of her teachers' retirement policy, got in the car, got a bunch of flowers, drove up to see the only man she had ever loved one more time and say goodbye to him. This was what she called the script that was in her mind. When she got there, things didn't work as she had planned it. The doctor was not happy to see her. They got in a fight. She yelled. He struck her a couple of times. She said, "Go ahead and kill me yourself." He said, "Get out of here, Jean, you're crazy." And he walked away from her. She took out the gun and decided to kill herself then and there in the bedroom, no point in going on with the romantic script any longer. He attempted to interfe-- intervene and stop her from killing herself, he got shot in the hand. What happened after that is open to dispute. But they got into a fight over a gun. Over the gun. And it fired four more times. And the doctor died. And About an hour -- he actually bled to death, the cops didn't quite understand the nature of his injuries and so on. You have a passage here. We'll come to the case. That's a natural. It's not -- it's organically right in the book: "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." You italicize that. So runs the nutty and deadly slogan of the National Rifle Association. If there were any truth to this glib rubbish, Herman Tarnower would be alive today. The doctor is dead because on her third try at buying a gun, a sick and distraught woman happened to be in the right state with the right credentials, and the one instrument of death that was always [very loud? allowed?] became hers for the wave of a credit card." This case, by the way, is the best argument for anti -- for gun control laws ever I think. It's perfect, is it not, I mean Yes. You -- I'm so glad you understand. That's what I feel, it's a perfect argument for gun control. So now the case. By the -- you were quoting the doctors' reports, the medical exam, and now comes the case. Now comes she shoots him, and she runs to get help when she slowly realizes, it comes to her senses that he's not merely shot in the hand. Something a little more is wrong with him. Ran out in the rain and lightning. There comes a police car, it's on its way summoned by the servants. And it follows her back to the est-- Dr. Tarnower's estate. She jumps out, runs over to the car. "Hurry, hurry! He's been shot!" "Who's been shot?" "The doctor." "Who did it?" "I did." There was no denial that she did it, although she didn't know he was fatally shot. When she found out he was fatally shot, she fainted in the arms of the policeman. Ironically enough, that day another order of Desoxyn, this particular drug. Right. What does that drug do? It's speed, it's amphetamine. It keeps you awake it makes you cheer up, makes you feel great until it drops you, and So that might have played a role, too. She was in withdrawal from the drug because she had run out and she couldn't get more for a few days. I mean, the drug descri-- prescribed by the man who was killed. Yes. And now we come to the cause. We have to come back to that society again of Dr. Tarnower. Calls came now. You know, these horrendous calls to people, friends, and there was someone named Schulte of that society, called Lynne, the other woman, called Lynne, when she found out, when she was notified by the police that Dr. Tarnower was dead, she spent the next perhaps 24 hours on the phone calling everyone up to let them know what had happened before they read it in the paper. In some cases, they owned the newspaper. Mrs. Sulzberger owned the paper. She had to call her. She had to call the Schultes, who were the best, among his best friends, and the poor -- it's even hard for me to say this, but Arthur Schulte afterwards said, "Well, if he's already dead, why did they have to wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me?" We're talking about a certain -- the human comedy here, and also which were very revealing, of course, of people, certain people, and so now the Madeira -- all of a sudden "she's one of us," even though they ignored her, the lawyer -- now we come to the case, now the case, and there's Joel Aurnou hired as the lawyer. The case. They immediately scuffle around to find the best criminal lawyer in the name -- local man whom they could find, and they picked Joel Aurnou, who was the best local man, a very competent lawyer. But in this particular case he did a terrible job, starting -- now, why did he do such a bad job? He didn't try to do a bad job, he didn't intend this to happen. He thought he would win. He put on a "go for broke" defense. It was a very macho defense. He didn't understand his client at all. And he said, "Look there's no way those guys are going to be able to prove intent, you have to have proof of intent or else it isn't murder, they can never prove it." The D.A. said, "All I need to prove intent is a corpse and four bullet holes." Aurnou mounted a sort of "go for broke" defense. He was going to challenge the jury to find her guilty, and he felt that there was no way they could do it, and he furthermore, he would not give the jury the option of finding her guilty of manslaughter, which is the next degree down from cold-blooded murder. It could easily have been manslaughter. For, by the way -- It should have, it was, but she was extremely emotionally disturbed, and the correct defense here was one called "extreme emotional disturbance." And so when the jury found her guilty, the sentence is what? The sentence is, a minimum sentence in this crime, 15 years to life without possibility of parole. Now, had it been manslaughter It would be two to six. Two to six. And she, having no criminal record, would have only got the two and she would be out now. So she received the same punishment as Jack Abbott. Yeah, the same punishment but for a more severe crime. Jack Abbott is convicted of manslaughter. Jack Abbott the multiple killer lifetime convict threw himself on the mercy of the jury, and said that he was emotionally disturbed because he'd spent his life as a convict. The jury understood and said, "Okay, Mr. Abbott, you're only guilty of manslaughter." Jean Harris, too proud, too much a lady. So we have to come back to another reporter, and there's Joel Aurnou the defense. Something else was here. It became an advertised case, a media event. He was celebrated. He became a star. He became very famous, he had 200 or at least 100 reporters in his office at one time, hundreds of phone calls coming in every day, he went on a gigantic ego trip not unlike what happened to F. Lee Bailey in the Patty Hearst case. The media attention on these guys who were probably have a rather good ego in the first place or they wouldn't become criminal defense attorneys. So that may have played a role in his going for broke. Acquittal of cause and make him "Wow," in his mind Clarence Darrow. Yes, exactly. And therefore manslaughter is almost plea-bargaining in a sense. I mean, it's less, you Well, yes. He had great confidence. But he, he himself used the word, it was a crapshoot. And he lost. Now we come why he lost and why she was found guilty of murder. We come to another aspect, the cultural aspect. The jury and Jean Harris. Who were members of the jury? The jury were a kind of blue-collar to middle-class people who, who didn't -- they'd never heard of a girls preparatory school. One of the women who was a spectator in the courthouse came up to me and in a recess and she said, "I see you've been watching the case." She said, "This school they keep talking about." She said, "Is that a high school or a college?" So there was no way to explain to her what a fancy girls' prep school was. And here she is, dressed very well indeed, elegantly. Yes. And they're dressed as working-class people are doing the best they can. Well, more imp-- even more important than that, as soon as she took the stand, which she should never have done, of course, but she believed her -- her lawyer told her, "Okay, Jean you're going on," and she went on, believing she would have to tell the truth, although she used to tell me, "I know they're not going to believe me when I tell this story." And that's the case. The facts in her case are unbelievable even if true, and that's part of what was wrong with the defense, but when, as soon as she went on, within 30 minute, 30 seconds, she was talking about meeting Dr. Tarnower and how she fell in love, and as soon as this 57-year-old woman started speaking about love, the jury started to giggle and smirk. You're not supposed to be in love if you're over 50, or even perhaps Yeah, this is a 14-year affair. And so 57, you don't do those, because these are very, these are people in small supervisory capacities, blue-collar people, very much what we call for want of a better phrase "middle America." They were Archie Bunker kind of people, yeah, good people. Here -- and good people. Here is she, also her language, but attitudes toward others, they saw a snob here, too. Yes. She behaved in a very snobbish way, part-- she denied all jealousy of Lynne Tryforos, the younger woman. Well, she was obviously extremely jealous. There was, put in front of the jury was the Scarsdale letter in which the other woman was called a slut, a whore, an adulterous creature -- That knocks out of the box her description of being very much a lady. Exactly. It was completely at odds. So what you had to have in this case was the psychiatrists to explain Jean Harris to this jury. Jean Harris could not explain herself to the jury. She didn't understand herself. She hadn't understood herself for years. She was out of touch with herself, she was, she was -- bonkers, you know. And so also we have to come to her again, since she's very much the lady to go back to, no feeling to be shown, no emotion, that is, through disaster with style, and they see no remorse. These are -- they who see no -- in their minds. That's right. She didn't act like Barbara Stanwyck on the witness stand, or -- And nor is she plainly dressed, either. No. Nor is she the suffering put-upon woman. No, she wouldn't play a role like that. So, but she was basically honest! She was. She was entirely honest. If ever there was someone who was too truthful, who couldn't even tell a white lie, the record all through her life is -- I've made a note here, maybe I think maybe she only -- she had a biblical sense of right and wrong. Yes, she did. A very tough sense of right and wrong. Now, Aurnou, now she's conducting her own case to some extent. To some degree, yes. He, he didn't, he wasn't able entirely to control her, and nothing that she did work to her advantage. In the meantime he was showboating. He was indeed. And so now and he was he was advancing the wrong plea the plea that didn't go with the facts the facts were the four bullets. So to put on a suicide defense in the face of four bullets is unbelievable. Even if true the proper defense and the facts supported it was that she was extremely emotionally disturbed which she was she was psychotic she was drugged she was suicidal she was distraught and there was a great deal of evidence to support that. In He And And

Studs Terkel You know, it's interesting, you're talking about the act the lawyer was putting on, the state's attorney, hard-driving guy. There were eight boners pulled by the defense you point out, eight of them, different one -- but the part about the honesty of Jean Harris that was her undoing. "It is conceived -- why don't you read that?

Shana Alexander "It is conceivable then that the one person in this entire tragedy who had no hidden agenda was Jean Harris, the woman who would not play the grieving widow, who would not wear the Peter Pan collars of her childhood, who would not fake it in any way. The woman who seemed to want absolution or vindication more than acquittal, the woman who to that end had let everything hang out: her pride, her privacy,, her weakness, her shame. Of course it's not conceivable. Jean Harris had admitted everything but one thing, the main thing: she was too much a lady to admit that she was jealous of the office girl. That was her hidden agenda. She would rather go to prison for murder than acknowledge it, and she did."

Studs Terkel She was too much of a lady to admit she was jealous of the office girl. So we have again the split in cultures, and of course the jury dug that immediately to her disadvantage, and al-- you had -- you see, I call this a book of cultures, really, the two big ones, hers and Tarnower's, but also the others, too, playing this.

Shana Alexander Well, she was of the WASP Northeastern establishment, boarding school, well-bred lady-like world. And he was a champion social climber, and he made it to the top of his top-most

Studs Terkel Her father's reaction, "Oh, she's going to ruin us. She ruined us." Something like.

Shana Alexander Yes, her father was a very mean [unintelligible].

Studs Terkel We haven't talked -- oh, meantime, he had become celebrated, that is, Tarnower did, because of "The Complete" -- the

Shana Alexander "Scarsdale Medical Diet".

Studs Terkel "Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet". This was the diet he was prescribing for

Shana Alexander He was a cardiologist. So this was his straight old heart diet that he gave all his heart patients who tended to be overweight. Lean meat, fish, vegetables, no carbohydrates, no booze, no desserts. You know, standard diet. He wrote it on one page. Well, he got tired of writing it and then he mimeographed and he used to hand it out. One day a beauty editor in "The New York Times" wrote a little squib about it, everybody read it, it was a rainy Sunday in the springtime. It said, "Six weeks to bikini season, and the beautiful people of Scarsdale are now the skinny people of Scarsdale thanks to a diet some doctor named Tarnower has them on up there," and by nightfall of that Sunday 10 publishers had called, suggesting that he write a diet book. Jean Harris was with him that Sunday. She was very against

Studs Terkel Did she help write the book?

Shana Alexander Eventually she did help write it, but she was against the whole project because she thought it demeaned him and made him a cheap, vulgar diet book writer, when she saw him as an eminent distinguished cardiologist. But once he determined to write the book and started working on it with his co-writer Sam Sinclair Baker, a marvelous character who has co-written practically every diet book you ever heard of, and he's the fellow who took this one page diet and expanded it into an entire book. That's quite a feat of what I call expando-journalism

Studs Terkel What -- what -- on the subject of the book and the doctor, what did his colleagues think of Tarnower? He had this clinic.

Shana Alexander He had a clinic which he started and owned and he had four or five or a total of six doctors who were his colleagues in it. Well, they wanted to share, if he was going to write a diet book and got, and get rich on it, they wanted to share in the revenue because they felt they had helped develop the diet. He didn't want to share the proceeds with them, and at the time, oh, for about a year I think before his death, they had all stopped speaking to him. At one point they had tried to sue him to prevent his taking all the gravy from the book. He worked that out with his partners satisfactorily. And I think what they got out of the agreement, which, which precluded any lawsuit, was they got the rights to the next book. If there was a kind of "Son of the Scarsdale Diet," they could own that book, you see.

Studs Terkel He was the also, he was -- so running this clinic he was an authoritarian pretty much, see.

Shana Alexander Oh, yes. He wore a long white coat, and what he said -- what he said went. And there was no arguing.

Studs Terkel But some of them were saying he wasn't that much of a doctor, that he never kept up with things, he wasn't that [good?].

Shana Alexander His doctors with whom he worked at his -- at the three hospitals where he was affiliated, were -- it's hard to get doctors to talk against -- or even to talk openly about another doctor, as it is with lawyers. But finally when I -- when they were promised anonymity, a number of medical "Deep Throats" so to speak appeared.

Studs Terkel You got to go back to Tarnower, why I personally loathe him. In the Army, Army doctor, he was a fink. That he'd play with cards, he'd betray some of the guys, the other doctors who said a bad thing about the supervisor.

Shana Alexander Well, they had a weekly poker game, and the point was these doctors were -- they weren't soldiers, they were doctors, but they'd been put into the Army Medical Corps, and what they didn't want was to get shipped overseas to bad places like Borneo, New Guinea. So somebody was always getting the word back to the colonel about what the dialogue was in the poker game. And the other doctors later decided it was Herman Tarnower, and that's why they all went to New Guinea and Borneo, and he went to Louisville followed by another military hospital in Texas. I don't know if that's true, but that's what they

Studs Terkel And so we come to Jean Harris. Now she's in prison.

Shana Alexander She's a different woman than she was when you saw her on trial. She now takes the appropriate drug for depression. She doesn't take Desoxyn any longer. She's functioning very well. She works in prisoners' rights, she helps the other women with their problems that involve their relations with their children. She's lost all the appeals that she had, two in New York state and one to the Supreme Court. And so it looked for a while as if she'd have to be in prison until she was -- until 1996, but recently a new

Studs Terkel -- Is that -- yeah, go ahead, I'm

Shana Alexander That would be the 15 years. But recently a new attorney came into the case, one of the many people in the legal profession who are outraged by this verdict, and by the conduct of the defense, and he agreed to take on the case. And he feels that he has sufficient new evidence to get her a new t-- a new trial. I don't know what all the new evidence is, but a central part of it is the fact that she was on Desoxyn, on this drug during the trial, and therefore would be considered legally incapable of understanding what she was doing and of cooperating in her own defense.

Studs Terkel In fact, wasn't there an appellate court that was furious at the defense lawyer Aurnou?

Shana Alexander Yes! Both appellate courts, the first in particular, there were I believe 12 grounds for the appeal, all of which were unanimously turned down, and on 11 of the 12 points the court severely criticized Joel Aurnou. Poor -- I feel sorry for Mr. Aurnou because he lost his objectivity, he exhausted himself, he had a couple of semi-breakdowns just from fatigue in the course of the trial, he tried to do it all himself as a legal one-man band and he couldn't do it, but the real loser was his client. Didn't matter to him, he's got plenty of cases now, and as soon as he lost the case, the next phone call that came into his office was to address the ABA meeting in New Orleans.

F3 Yeah, you said she's handling other prisoners rights. You know, she's prisoners' rights, other women prisoners. She always had that feeling way back, didn't she, was -- when once the rich students of the school were furious at some of the teachers and called them names, "Why, you," she lets these kids have it. "They're working at nothing wages for you spoiled" -- remember

Shana Alexander She had enormous loyalty to her sister people, the other teachers in the school, and now the other women in the prison. And I think if there's a lot of public attention to this case because of my book, it will help not only Jean Harris, who really doesn't need too much help, but it will help hundreds and in fact thousands of nameless women who are in prison for helping out guys or for falling -- essentially for falling in love with no-good guys. And if every woman in America who had been -- thought she'd been done wrong by some man would send me a dollar, or send it to you, there'd be enough money to defend

Studs Terkel Isn't it amazing, how someone of a certain segment of society, upper, though she wasn't that rich, upper, is found guilty of killing a guy, upper, hanger-on, climber, who may help those who are of much lower economic and social stratum, strata, you know.

Shana Alexander Yeah.

Studs Terkel Which is rather ironic. The very end you say "Sometimes the prisoner, Jean Harris, thinks her failure to heed her mother's old warning is the real reason she's in this place. She thinks she's being punished for playing Miss Infallible. That's the point also with her lawyers and psychiatrists. It doesn't occur to her that she did listen to them, that she was a good girl right to the end."

Studs Terkel That's right.

Studs Terkel It's a remarkably good book, too. "Very Much A Lady" by Shana Alexander. Little, Brown the publishers available and excellent. Thank you very much.

Shana Alexander Thank you, Studs.