Unhappily Ever After

New York!

Great gray city of misty dawns under bridges, of romantic taxi rides in the rain. City full of dreams, and psychoanalysts to interpret them. City of passions buried under the burdens of civilization like Croton water pipes, and bursting to the surface about as often.

New York the mysterious, where a white rag fluttering in a window high above Fifth Avenue may be just a white rag, or may be Woody Allen waving to Mia Farrow in her apartment across Central Park. New York lovers hide in plain sight, protected by the city's anonymous bustle. Where else but to a basketball game at Madison Square Garden could one of the world's most recognizable celebrities go to hold hands with his lover's college-age daughter, soon to become his new mistress?

And where else should all this come to light than in that Gothic shrine of old New York, the Plaza hotel? Making his first appearance before the press in years, the 56-year-old filmmaker acknowledged that he had transferred his affections from Farrow, 47, to her adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn; that he was suing Farrow for custody of their three children, and that he had been accused of molesting his adopted daughter, 7-year-old Dylan O'Sullivan Farrow-an accusation he called "totally false and outrageous." As a result, New York was probably the only city in the world last week where serious, educated, intelligent people were paying almost no attention to the topless pictures of the Duchess of York.

For that matter, Allen's troubles almost drove Fergie off the front pages of the London papers. Not to speak of the French, who regard Allen as virtually another Jerry Lewis, only more cerebral. "We smile when this happens in Monaco, but Mia and Woody are the model couple," said one French film promoter. For Republicans, the event was an irresistible illustration of what they were running against when they talked about "family values." "Woody Allen is currently having nonincest with a nondaughter for whom he is a nonfather," Rep. Newt Gingrich told a Georgia crowd last week on the president's campaign trail, "because they [Democrats? or just New Yorkers?] have no concept of families ... it's a weird environment out there." About the only world-class city that wasn't consumed with the affair was Los Angeles, where the domestic troubles of a director whose films gross under $50 million are regarded as beneath gossip.

New York, city of illusions. How could a metropolis with four daily newspapers have been so misled? New Yorkers thought they knew Woody and Mia, who were paradoxically among the most private and most visible celebrities in the city. Rarely sitting still for an interview or photograph, they were constantly being spotted out on the town or just on the street, schlepping Farrow's innumerable kids to museums, schools, ball games or lunch. The films they made together--13 in 10 years--were a virtual New York cottage industry. Almost all of them were set in and around New York. They dealt with New York themes, typically involving Allen (or a screen surrogate) as an earnest middle-class professional and Farrow as his wife, ex-wife or love interest. Some of them were hardly seen by anyone outside New York. In life as in art Allen seemed the perfect New York lover: successful in a creative field, earnest and funny,qualities that in New York carry the same cachet as "rich" in say, Dallas. He didn't get drunk or hit women, and if his character chased around now and then, at least he had the decency to feel guilty over it. Farrow was beautiful, maternal and somehow ethereal at the same time. Moved by the plight of orphans and waifs, she took them into her own home, adopting a total of seven children over the years. This was in addition to three natural children (now grown) with her former husband, conductor Andre Previn, and a son, now 4 years old, with Allen.

Their romance was singular, but it seemed to suit them well. Outlanders might have been baffled by an 11-year love affair in which the parties never married or lived together, but New Yorkers know that no one who can afford to keep his own apartment ever gives it up. One of the few journalists who has had a glimpse of their domestic life, Eric Lax, wrote last year that Allen would arrive at Farrow's apartment before the children were awake and return to put them to bed. "Few married couples seem more married," Lax wrote.

And maybe that was the problem, because instead of separating gracefully-the one presumed advantage an affair offers over a marriage-they blew apart with a ferocity that was awful to watch, yet surely hurt no one more than themselves and their children. For the most part, both Allen and Farrow held themselves above the fray. He spent the week in New York, working on his next picture, in which his onetime leading lady, Diane Keaton, will reportedly take the role that was to have gone to Farrow. Farrow was at Frog Hollow, her 65-acre country estate in Bridgewater, Conn., with six of her children, attempting to distract them with a new kitten from the ASPCA. After reading his brief statement to reporters at the Plaza on Tuesday, Allen did not speak to the press again until Friday, when he granted NEWSWEEK'S Jack Kroll an extensive interview (page 54). Farrow spoke to NEWSWEEK'S Lucille Beachy, but only in general terms about her family. But there were plenty of others willing to speak more freely. Farrow's son Moses appeared on television himself to denounce his father: "He was a 12-year boyfriend to my mom and then he started going out with my sister. How could he do that?" On each side, the same anecdotes appeared over and over, the same charges and defenses. (With one exception: Dick Cavett was the only person to say, "If Woody Allen is a child molester, I will publicly kiss Pat Buchanan.") Incredibly enough, of the innumerable friends, relatives and colleagues of this prominent couple, virtually no one found last week who didn't claim to be utterly revolted by the behavior of one or the other-but never both-of them. So we are left with a number of small factual disputes and one large question of taste and ethics, namely, why couldn't two such intelligent, sensitive and seemingly well-meaning adults have settled their differences over drinks at the Russian Tea Room?

Of course, if they ever could have, the chance was gone once Farrow charged Allen with molesting their young daughter. But that was only in the last few weeks of a relationship that had been disintegrating at least since Allen began his affair with Soon-Yi last December. Dylan, the blond 7-year-old girl was adopted by Farrow as an infant, and then by Allen eight months ago, at the same time he also adopted her 14-year-old brother Moses. Farrow alleges that the abuse incident took place on the afternoon of Aug. 4, when she and her younger children were at the Connecticut house. A neighbor, Casey Pascal, says she brought her children to Frog Hollow for a visit, and then she and Farrow took several of the children shopping, leaving the others behind with babysitters. When the mothers returned, according to Pascal's account, one of the sitters told Farrow that Allen had visited the house and gone with Dylan to the attic. Farrow questioned the child--and recorded her answers on a videotape, a copy of which somehow found its way to a New York television station last week. A reporter who viewed the tape said it appeared to show a "nervous and shaken" Dylan giving answers that "seem to support Farrow's allegations of abuse." But in one of the rare instances of self-restraint by almost anyone involved in the matter, the station elected not to broadcast it.

This is a very serious charge against Allen, of course. Farrow says she brought the child to her doctor and he-as required-reported the allegation to the state police, who in turn were required to investigate it. Except for acknowledging that he visited the house on Aug. 4, Allen denies in every respect the account provided by Farrow's friends. He denies being alone with Dylan, he denies molesting her, then or at any other time, and he denies ever even being in the attic of Farrow's house-pointing out that among his other well-known neuroses he is a claustrophobic. The police have refused to comment on their investigation; Allen's lawyers say he has taken, and passed, a lie-detector test.

One should certainly be wary of making assumptions about such serious matters. There are, though, two facts that might bear on the matter. One is obscure, perhaps no more than a coincidence. It concerns a record album written and recorded in 1970 by Dory Previn, who was married to Andre Previn before he left her for Farrow. One song on this album--"Beware of Young Girls"--"Beware of young girls, wistful and pale, of twenty and four")--has been taken by some critics as a reference to Farrow, who was 25 in 1970. But there is a more intriguing parallel to a second song on the album, eerily titled "With My Daddy in the Attic." The lyrics read, in part, "With my Daddy in the attic, that is where my being wants to bed ... and he'll play his clarinet when I despair."

Allen-who of course wouldn't even meet Farrow for another nine years, and as far as is known has no relationship to Dory Previn-is a well-known clarinetist.

More important, one should keep in mind that Farrow's charge of molestation was made in the context of a relationship that was coming to a bitter conclusion. Around this time, according to Farrow's friend Maria Roach, Allen brought Farrow a small gift-a T shirt-and was miffed when she failed to thank him. They were due to start shooting a new movie in the fall, he reminded her, and it would go more smoothly if she were nice.

"This is as nice as it gets," Farrow replied, in Roach's account.

"How are we going to play lovers?" Allen wondered.

"I can do it," Farrow answered. "That's why I'm an actress."

But much more than a movie was at stake. Farrow and Allen, through their lawyers, had been negotiating for months over a coparenting agreement for Dylan, Moses and 4-year-old Satchel (named after the great Negro League pitcher Satchel Paige; his brother's name was inspired by basketball player Moses Malone.) Child-molestation charges are "a currently popular though heinous card played in all too many child-custody fights," Allen said last week, and experts agree. "Screaming sex abuse," says Dr. Richard Gardner, professor of child psychiatry at Columbia University's medical school, "is a very effective way to wreak vengeance on a hated spouse."

Allen's response to Farrow's charges was to stop negotiating and sue for full custody of the three children. This, in turn, will require a judge to consider Farrow's fitness as a mother, which gave rise to a whole set of pre-emptive leaks. Among Farrow's friends it was self-evident that she was the greatest mother this side of Mother Teresa. "Mothering is Mia's consuming passion" her sister Tisa said. "Her whole life is centered around those kids." "Mothering has been Mia's life's work," said her friend, the singer Carly Simon. "She makes the rest of us feel a bit like underachievers." But to Allen's partisans, Farrow is an eccentric and neglectful parent, too busy scouring the world for babies to save to care for the children she already has. The last two children-Isaiah, a crack baby, and Tam, a 10-year-old blind girl from Vietnam-were adopted just this year, in the midst of Farrow's crisis with Allen. There were reports she is considering several more adoptions. "When you scratch the surface, it's a nightmare [in Farrow's house]," says Allen's sister Letty Konigsberg Aronson. "She is a working parent who has a limited amount of time and she doesn't know what's going on ... She just adopts and adopts in a manic frenzy."

This is one charge that Farrow herself will answer, and her answer is that it's a crock ... or, as she puts it, "the thought that my family is some sort of haphazard accident thrown together, just concocted haphazardly, is so not what it is." She went on: "I just feel [that] if I didn't have any lawyers at all and no one said a word ... that if I just showed up in court with all my children there, that they would speak most eloquently for themselves. They are wonderful people. If I ever allowed myself a kernel of pride in anything I've ever done in my life, it's that [they have grown up to be] young adults that I respect and whose company enjoy... and whose social conscience I'm awed by." For the record, Gretchen Buckenholz, executive director of the Association to Benefit Children, an agency that has helped children for Farrow, said she finds no fault with Farrow's household. After visiting Farrow in Connecticut this summer and watching her help Tam to swim, Buckenholz said she knew "the truth: she [Farrow] really is loved."

The New York courts ultimately will rule on the custody issue, and the Connecticut police will investigate the allegation of child abuse. But on the question of Allen's romance with Soon-Yi, he must answer to a higher authority, consisting of talk-show hosts, columnists and the crowd at the next table at Elaine's. Here Allen was at a disadvantage, because he seemed not to realize-even after he had been tried, sentenced and executed by a jury of family therapists-that he had done something many people regard as reprehensible. As a legal matter, there was no issue of incest; Allen is not Soon-Yi's father. She was adopted in 1978 by Farrow and Previn, who is still very much alive. But Previn and Farrow divorced shortly thereafter and for most of the years since the only man in her mother's house has been Allen. This was a situation fraught with peril for Soon-Yi, in the opinion of numerous experts; the degree of peril seemed to increase in proportion with the experts' distance from the case. "The boundaries in any stepfamily are ambiguous, but there are still functional relationships and expectations," says Marion Lindblad-Goldberg, director of the Family Counseling Center for Divorce and Remarriage of the Philadelphia Child Guidance Center. Allen's romance with Soon-Yi "is very wrong, morally wrong. It's definitely violating a boundary." Says Los Angeles psychologist Arlene Drake, a specialist in celebrity-incest cases: "Woody grew his own victim."

Yet here, too, there are numerous doubts and questions. Even Soon-Yi's age is in dispute. Allen's lawyers claim she is 21, based on her adoption papers, but Farrow asserts that birth records for overseas orphans are frequently wrong and that a medical examination when Soon-Yi was a child indicated she was approximately two years younger. Either 19 or 21 would be over the age of consent. But is Soon-Yi competent to give her consent? Several of Farrow's allies implied she is not. "She has a double-digit IQ," Tisa Farrow said of her niece. "It's not like she's a drooling idiot, but she's very naive and very immature." In a statement to NEWSWEEK (page 56), Soon-Yi denied her aunt's assertion that she was "mentally handicapped." (She's a sophomore at Drew University, a well-regarded liberal-arts college in New Jersey.) On the key question of whether Allen acted as her father, or was viewed by Soon-Yi in that way, the two people best in a position to know-Allen and Soon-Yi herself-vigorously deny it. For what it's worth, Soon-Yi's yearbook from Marymount High School contains a tribute to "Mom and Pop"; her sister Lark, who is about the same age as Soon-Yi, said that "Pop" would have been Andre Previn.

But what of the impact on Farrow-who discovered the affair last January when she found nude pictures of her daughter in Allen's apartment? Her reaction when she learned that she was losing both a daughter and a lover at the same time can only be guessed at-because the accounts that have been made public by the two sides are so wildly divergent. Did she-according to a close friend of Allen's-erupt into a jealous rampage, throwing a chair at Soon-Yi and slicing her face out of all the photographs in her apartment? Or did she-in an account given by Priscilla Gilman, her son Matthew's fiancee-all a family meeting in Connecticut to discuss the situation in a calm and dignified manner? In Gilman s account, Soon-Yi sullenly refused Farrow's offer to talk and eventually ran sobbing to her room. "She [Farrow] reiterated how much she loved Soon-Yi, how dear Soon-Yi was, how this [affair) had devastated her," Gilman recalled. "Mia was much more angry at Woody and blamed him much, much more." Farrow declined to comment on the matter, saying only: "I love her very much. I'm heartbroken."

Yes, and what of Woody, a man who has made "guilt" the touchstone of his career as a director? What motivates him? "In the journals for social workers," says Drake, "men who do things like this just do it because they want to." Oddly enough, that is not that far from Allen's own assessment. He doesn't think he's hurting Soon-Yi, obviously. But his first confirmation of the romance, in a statement issued by his publicist, referred to her as "a lovely, intelligent, sensitive woman who has and continues to turn around my life in a wonderfully positive way." And her life? He didn't say. Secure in his own mind that he was doing nothing wrong, he seems not to have dwelt much on the implications for the people around him.

New York! City of high-school angels in their plaid skirts! Of earnest Hunter College undergraduates in love with Schopenhauer, looking for an older man to teach them how to pronounce it. They've always been Woody Allen's weakness. Back in 1978, in another interview with Kroll, he looked longingly at a teenage girl who had just sought his autograph and mused about what would happen "if my moral sense ever sinks as low as my other senses. But," he concluded, "it wouldn't look good for me to hang around the Dalton School with my coat collar turned up." He went on, a few years later, to make "Manhattan," in which he plays a 42-year-old man having an affair with 17-year-old Dalton student Mariel Hemingway. "Think of me as a detour on the highway of life," he urges her; but then he is heartbroken at the end of the movie, when she leaves New York to study in London.

We think with our hearts, or even less savory organs; no wonder we've made such a mess of our lives. That in short, is the plot of any number of Allens movies. "Hannah and Her Sisters," made in 1986, was widely viewed as a tribute to his relationship with Farrow; much of it was shot in her apartment and featured her mother (actress Maureen O'Sullivan, better known for her role as Jane in the Tarzan movies) and several of her children in cameo roles. And what was it about? The sexual attraction Farrow's two younger sisters hold for the men in her life. Michael Caine, playing her husband, has a tempestuous affair with one sister; Allen, playing her ex, winds up marrying the other. "For all my education, accomplishments and so-called wisdom," Caine muses at one point, "I can't fathom my own heart."

Who can, who ever can? Let us turn, finally, to the latest, and presumably last, Allen-Farrow collaboration, "Husbands and Wives," which was filmed over the past spring, just as the relationship was breaking up. Set (of course) in New York, Allen (naturally) plays a middle-class intellectual, an English professor at Barnard. His marriage to Farrow is shaky just as beautiful, young (what else?) undergraduate Juliette Lewis takes an interest in his thoughts on the modern novel. Anyone who has seen a dozen or more Allen movies-and most people have either seen none, or all of them-knows what will happen next.

New York! You trickster, you double-dealer! Allen goes back to his wife, leaving behind his dream of young passion. After living his fantasies in film for two decades, Allen finally does the right thing, at the precise moment in his life when he had betrayed a love affair of more than a decade. With the same woman!

That's New York for you.