Life is divided into the horrible and the miserable.
Woody Allen in Annie Hall

It took just a single week of merciless tabloid headlines to redefine Woody Allen. For years Allen had been praised as our finest contemporary filmmaker. He was a combination of Ingmar Bergman, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx rolled into one package. It was too much praise. By the end of the week, he had been transformed into the vilest sort of dirty middle-aged man and child molester. It was too much vituperation. "Woody Loves Mia's Daughter," trumpeted the New York Post.

"It's Getting Ugly," said Newsday.
"Mia's Got Nude Pix," shouted the Post on another day.
There was much more. There will be more to come when the supermarket tabs get their mitts on this story of how Allen became sexually involved with a girl he and Mia Farrow had raised since the girl was 8 years old. To date, there hasn't been talk of an arrest. There hasn't been a single court appearance. In fact, the only court action taken so far is the one filed by Allen seeking legal custody of several of the 11 adopted children of Farrow, not only his former romantic companion but the star of a string of his most recent films.

Up until now, Farrow has had all the best of their relationship. Woody was the director who gave her steady employment. He also contributed to the support of her big Central Park West apartment and signed on as adoptive parent for her unusual brood.

Nevertheless, the verdict against Allen already appears settled in the public's perception.

A roughly similar situation destroyed director Roman Polanski, who was caught sleeping with a 13-year-old girl. Polanski was guilty and fled to Europe. In Woody's case, there is considerable cause for doubt, including the testimony of the girl involved, who is now apparently 21 years old.

One problem is that every funny line Woody ever uttered must now be examined to determine if it contains evidence that he always thought like a sexual deviant. It's all very sick.

"The lion and the lamb shall lie down together, but the lamb won't get much sleep," Woody once said.

What does this really mean? Is it merely a funny line or is this part of the evidence?

"I always thought he looked like a child molester," I hear women say about Woody. "Isn't it typical that he got himself into a situation where there were so many children? That's what they always do. They become scoutmasters or guidance counselors. They want a lot of kids around." But how does anyone know what a child molester looks like? I wonder. I'm not an expert. But I have watched quite a few child-molesting cases over the years and have seen the poor wretches sitting at the defense table in court. They come in all shapes and sizes. They bear no identifying marks. They all dress differently. Sadly, they have only one thing in common. No person accused of the crime of child molesting is ever granted the presumption of innocence.

Why is there no effort to uncover Farrow's motives for revenge in this instance? She and Woody broke up last January and she says she then discovered he was romantically involved with Soon-Yi Farrow Previn, the Korean refugee.

Farrow, like the classic woman scorned, lashed out at Woody and her adopted daughter. She accused the girl of being mentally incompetent and Woody of being a pervert.

It's a high-spirited attack and it's one that makes me think that Farrow is unbalanced. Her next step was to hire Alan Dershowitz as her lawyer. This is a dangerous, even murderous, woman determined to destroy her enemies. Charging sex abuse against a former mate in custody fights has become known as "the ultimate weapon." Sex expert Dr. Ralph Underwager of the Institute for Psychological Therapies in Northfield, Minnesota, says:

"The system is so biased in favor of the accuser, the accused should simply take a bus to prison, walk to the gate and turn himself in." Woody is not ready to walk himself through the front gates of any prison.

@body:"Showing up is 80 percent of life," he once said. True to his own code, he called a press conference, thereupon submitting to the indignity of publicly denying this most heinous of crimes.

"These totally false and outrageous allegations have sickened me. . . . The one thing I have been guilty of is falling in love with Farrow's adult daughter at the end of our own years together. Painful as that might be, I and certainly the children do not deserve this form of retribution." He closed with a typical Allen riposte about how rare it was to hold a press conference. "My first public appearance in years and it's all straight lines," he said.

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Tom Fitzpatrick