Investigative Classics is a weekly feature spotlighting past masters of the reporting craft.
Great investigative stories bring hidden things to light. Usually it is greed, corruption and incompetence. Sometimes it’s a society’s emerging fault lines. Those stories are especially resonant because they crystallize feelings and ideas that readers had only intuited.
Such was the case with J. Anthony Lukas’ 1967 New York Times story “The Two Worlds of Linda Fitzpatrick,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for Local Investigative Specialized Reporting.
Through unadorned yet powerful prose Lukas describe the final months in the life of a young woman who split her time between her parent’s privileged home in Greenwich, Ct. and the drug-fueled, flower power streets of Greenwich Village. As he switches back and forth between these very different worlds – whose inhabitants do not know about much less understand each other – Lukas suggests wider cleavages in America itself.
Here’s how he opens the article:
The windows of Dr. Irving Sklar's reception room at 2 Fifth Avenue look out across Washington Square. A patient waiting uneasily for the dentist's drill can watch the pigeons circling Stanford White's dignified Washington Arch, the children playing hopscotch on the square's wide walkways and the students walking hand in hand beneath the American elms.
"Certainly we knew the Village; our family is at 2 Fifth Avenue," said Irving Fitzpatrick, the wealthy Greenwich, Conn., spice importer whose daughter, Linda, was found murdered with a hippie friend in an East Village boiler room a week ago yesterday.
Mr. Fitzpatrick spoke during a three-hour interview with his family around the fireplace in the library of their 30-room home a mile from the Greenwich Country Club.
For the Fitzpatricks, "the Village" was the Henry James scene they saw out Dr. Sklar's windows and "those dear little shops" that Mrs. Fitzpatrick and her daughters occasionally visited. ("I didn't even know there was an East Village," Mr. Fitzpatrick said. "I've heard of the Lower East Side, but the East Village?")
But for 18-year-old Linda--at least in the last 10 weeks of her life--the Village was a different scene whose ingredients included crash pads, acid trips, freaking out, psychedelic art, witches and warlocks.