s
s
Sections
You've read 3 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read 6 of 10 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read all of your free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting 99 cents per month and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for reading! Why not subscribe?
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting 99 cents per month and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Subscribe today!
Ooops! You're out of free articles. Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading all of our products and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?

Through the decades that Mark Felt worked his way up the ranks of the FBI, ultimately becoming one of the most mysterious figures in 20th century American politics -- the Watergate saga's "Deep Throat" -- Felt resided mostly in Virginia.

Today he lives in the moment.

At his Santa Rosa home the other afternoon, he sat in his favorite recliner and savored the glass of juice his friend and 24-hour attendant, Yara Tikoilakeba, served him. Felt was just back from Memorial Hospital, where doctors discovered that the good-looking and gracious ex-heir apparent to iconic FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover has congestive heart failure.

Felt was released from Memorial just in time to celebrate his 95th birthday at his family's house off Marlow Road.

As he took in a dwindled and simplified world from his recliner, his daughter and housemate, Joan Felt, took hold of his hand. "Aren't you glad to be home?" she said.

"I sure am," came the robust reply of the snowy-haired, blue-eyed man who 35 years ago whispered to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward the leads that helped bring down the corrupt presidency of Richard Nixon.

"Mark never complains," said Tikoilakeba, who bathes and prays and jokes with Felt. The high point of their day comes when they get in the car and Tikoilakeba drives them to the coast, into the hills, who knows where.

For the most part, Felt no longer can summon the memories of his long career with the FBI and the secret that endured -- from the early 1970s until 2005 -- as one of the country's greatest political intrigues.

It was three years ago that Felt, then a virtually unknown Santa Rosan diminished by a stroke, revealed that he'd been the high-placed informant whom Woodward and Post partner Carl Bernstein code-named "Deep Throat."

In the early days of the Watergate scandal, Felt was associate director of the FBI, No. 2 man to Director Patrick Gray, a longtime friend of Nixon's. Though some critics of Felt have charged that he leaked information to the Post out of resentment for having been passed over as director on Hoover's death in '72, his family maintains he was a patriot outraged at White House attempts to cover up crimes that originated in the Oval Office.

In fact, Felt told Woodward several times he didn't trust Nixon and his lieutenants, calling them "underhanded and unknowable." The heat was building under the White House when Felt left the FBI in mid-1973.

For a man who suffered a serious stroke in 2001 and turned 95 eight days ago, that was a very long time ago.

These days, Felt's life consists largely of his daughter and four grown grandsons, the spacious and airy room he shares with his Fijian helper, their daily drives and the healthy meals Tikoilakeba prepares for him.

Joan Felt said from near her dad's easy chair that he eats pretty much the same dinner every night -- organic chicken and vegetable soup, salmon and mashed potatoes -- and never tires of it. Her father tracked every word of the conversation.

"My mouth's watering!" he said, smiling broadly. Another time, Felt's daughter and caretaker were discussing a typical day at home when Felt piped up, "Today's a typical day.

"I love it here," he said with certainty. "It's very important."

At 64, daughter Joan recalls the long stretches when she felt short-changed by a preoccupied, important, buttoned-up father. He'd joined the FBI during World War II and chased Nazi spies and later the Weather Underground. For 30 years he wore the burden of the secret he shared with Bob Woodward and precious few others -- certainly not his family.

There were the years, too, that Joan was a California hippie -- she came west from Virginia in 1965 to attend Stanford -- and she and her dad, the pistol-packing G-man, largely disagreed.

No more. Joan said she and her father, mellowed by age and no longer preoccupied with protecting his country or guarding his secret, are now heart-to-heart.

"He's gotten more loving. We've just become closer and closer," she said.

Her father gazed over at her. "You're doing a good job," he said. Joan said he tells her that often.

Especially since his recent diagnosis of heart disease, Felt and his daughter and caretaker take on life a day at time. But if the topic arises, Felt does say that he'd like to see his movie.

Tom Hanks bought the rights to his story shortly after the big disclosure in 2005. Joan said she's been told a screenplay is finished and the project is still alive, though she has no idea when the film might be made -- or if Hanks will play her father.

Conjecture about the identity of Deep Throat was rampant from the mid-1970s, when Woodward and Bernstein published the best-selling book "All the Presidents' Men," until the day in 2005 that Mark Felt conceded it was he. Joan said she received the same denials as everyone else.

"I asked him (if he was Woodward's secret source) and he said no, and I accepted that," she said. She admits she had her suspicions when a chance meeting by her son, Nick Jones, and attorney and Watergate theorist John O'Connor led O'Connor to come to Santa Rosa in 2003 and urge her father to reveal that he was, in fact, Deep Throat.

Not long afterward, Felt at last told his daughter his secret and why he'd been determined to take it to his grave. She said he told her, "I don't want there to be any dishonor to the FBI and I don't want any repercussions for my family."

Joan agreed with O'Connor that her father deserved to be acknowledged for having helped Woodward and Bernstein dig out the truth about the Nixon White House. A tale of revelation written by O'Connor appeared in the July 2005 issue of Vanity Fair.

A surprised Woodward and Bernstein promptly confirmed that Felt was their "Deep Throat." Though Bernstein said "Felt's role in all this can be overstated," he and Woodward agreed that the Santa Rosan "helped us immeasurably in our Watergate coverage."

Woodward added, "He knew he was taking a monumental risk."

Today, Mark Felt will be perfectly happy to take lunch with his friend Yara, then an afternoon drive.