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Saddest Ghost Lamp

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Lewis Lapham--Expert Witness

Lewis Lapham, the editor of Harper's Magazine, testified yesterday at Roman Polanski's libel trial against Vanity Fair--he offered an anecdote about having drinks with Polanski and a Scandinavian model named Beatte Telle at Elaine's in the Sixties--which is the sort of thing he was absolutely born to do. Lapham thinks himself to sleep every night with stories about drinks with Roman Polanski and a Scandinavian model named Beatte Telle at Elaine's in the Sixties. There's an 80 percent chance that, even if he hadn't been called to testify, he would have told an anecdote yesterday about having drinks with Roman Polanski and a Scandinavian model named Beatte Telle at Elaine's in the Sixties anyway. Here's what he said, according to the New York Times:
Lewis H. Lapham, the editor of Harper's Magazine, reached far back into the past on Wednesday, telling a British court about an encounter he says he saw in Elaine's restaurant in Manhattan in August 1969, between the filmmaker Roman Polanski and a Scandinavian model named Beatte Telle.

"He began to praise her beauty and speak to her, romance her," Mr. Lapham recounted, speaking of Mr. Polanski and Ms. Telle, strangers until that moment. "At one point he had his hand on her leg and he said to her: 'I can put you in the movies. I can make you the next Sharon Tate.'"

Vanity Fair repeated the anecdote in a story about Elaine's, and Polanski is claiming libel because he was on his way to Sharon Tate's funeral at the time.

I was an intern at Harper's Magazine almost 10 years ago, and got to put in some time as Lewis' assistant, transcribing his columns, which he dictates, typing correspondence, and answering the phone. It was more fun than it sounds (Hey! I just asked Carl Bernstein to hold!). Anyway, Lewis was exceedingly gracious to me, took me out for drinks, and declined to offer me a job I applied for, a kindness for which I will forever be grateful.

So I'll just say this: He's not exactly an unimpeachable witness.