July 19, 2005

Polanski phones in his defense . . .

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Filmmaker Roman Polanski, who fled the US for France when he was convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977, has been allowed by a special ruling of Britain’s highest court to testify via a “live video link” from Paris in his libel suit against Vanity Fair magazine, the first time anyone has been allowed to testify without being there in person in British history. As Sarah Lyall reports in a New York Times story, Polanski feared that if he left France for Britain he would be extradited back to the US to serve his time in the rape case. As for the charges, Polanski is suing the magazine over an article about the restaurant Elaine’s by A.E. Hotchner that included comments made by author and Harper’s Magazine editor Lewis Lapham about Polanski. Polanski says the article “dishonors” his memory of his wife, Sharon Tate, who was murdered by Charles Manson in 1969, because Hotchner quotes Lapham saying that “Elaine’s famous customers are spectacularly unimpressed by one another and that the only time he had ever seen ‘people gasp’ in the restaurant was in August 1969 when Mr. Polanski visited the restaurant while on his way to Hollywood for Miss Tate’s burial. Mr. Lapham was sitting at a table with some friends, including ‘the most gorgeous Swedish girl you ever laid eyes on . . . Polanksi pulled up a chair and inserted himself between us, immediately focusing his attention on the beauty, inundating her with his Polish charm. Fascinated by his performance, I watched as he slid his hand inside her thigh and began a long, honeyed spiel which ended with the promise, ‘And I will make another Sharon Tate out of you.'” Lapham will be testifying in person, says Lyall.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives

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