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Kiss and Telle

Trial's leading lady backs Polanski story

LONDON — The Norwegian woman at the center of Roman Polanski’s successful libel action against Vanity Fair has belatedly supported the film director’s claim that he never touched her or even spoke to her.

Beatte Telle, who refused to appear as a witness at the trial, told London’s Mail on Sunday newspaper that Polanski had stared at her but said nothing.

Polanski won £50,000 ($87,000) in damages last week from Conde Nast, publisher of Vanity Fair, over an article that suggested he had attempted to seduce Telle at the New York restaurant Elaine’s, just days after the murder of his wife Sharon Tate.

Lawyers from Conde Nast tried to contact her several times, as did her former boyfriend Ed Perlberg, a key witness for the defense. But she ignored all their requests to give her account of the evening in August 1969.

Had she come forward earlier, it might have spared Polanski from going through a protracted legal action in which his sexual mores were subjected to public scrutiny. Nonetheless, Telle welcomed the outcome of the case.

“I’m smiling. He didn’t touch me, he just didn’t. I’m so happy,” she said.

Polanski had come across to her table, she recalled, “and it was as if he tried to say something but he didn’t.”

“I was very young and wore my hair very long. I looked like a beatnik, I suppose. He never said that he would make me another Sharon Tate or that he would make me a star. He never spoke to me at all. Polanski just stood there. He just stared at me for ages. Perhaps I reminded him of Sharon Tate.”

Telle said she had no idea who Polanski was until Perlberg told her in the taxi home. Perlberg and fellow defense witness Louis Lapham testified that Polanski had sat next to Telle and promised to make her “another Sharon Tate.”

“I never spoke to him that night, and I never saw him again,” Telle told the Mail on Sunday.

Telle now lives with her sick mother in a one-bedroom flat in Oslo. Although she did not explain why she ignored requests to give evidence, she left the impression that the case was simply too distant from her life.

“At one point I said I was coming to London and I would see (Conde Nast’s lawyers), but I didn’t. I just wanted to put them off. Ed wrote to me, too. He wrote all about that night, saying, ‘Do you remember how Polanski came on to you. How he said this and that. I just thought, ‘If you remember so much about it, then you talk about it in court. It isn’t how I remembered it.’ “

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