WAITER, THERE'S A SPY IN MY SOUP
July, 2010--The recent exposure of a Russian spy ring in the U. S. reminded me of how I met my future wife through a Communist spy. I should not have been surprised that during my career as a journalist I would have stumbled also into other Cold War fallout. But I am still puzzled by my minor involvement in the British Philby-Maclean-Burgess spy scandal.
First things first
In 1949, Elizabeth Bentley, called the "Red Spy Queen" in the more exuberant newspapers, had repented of her role as courier for a Communist spy ring that included some government officials. She confessed all to the FBI, was converted to Catholicism by Monsignor Fulton J. Sheen and found a job teaching at Mundelein College, a woman’s college now part of Chicago’s Loyola University.
Acknowledging intense media interest in all this, Mundelein scheduled a press conference. I covered it for the Chicago Daily News. I found Mundelein’s public relations director, Margery Rowbottom, charming as well as helpful. Four months later we were engaged.
A couple of years later, one of the other Daily News staffers said he was quitting a part-time assignment as a stringer for the London Daily Express. I agreed to take over. The work wasn’t demanding. Once in a while, their New York bureau would phone for help tracking down a story that was inconvenient to cover by phone–usually because the subject wouldn’t return calls.
On one occasion I staked out the office of a Chicago man involved in a big British resort-chain deal that the Express was interested in. I could do this because at the time I was working a late shift. I never got in to see him, but a couple of weeks later he phoned me at home to explain that he couldn’t talk to me before because the deal was still pending. All the papers had now been signed, and he was happy to give me the details. He apparently appreciated my perseverance.
Then, in 1953 I received a call from the Express that still puzzles me. They wanted me to call a Chicago bank and inquire whether the bank had transferred out any funds belonging to Melinda Maclean, the wife of a British diplomat named Donald Maclean. She was an American citizen from a wealthy Illinois family.