LONDON – A New York magazine editor testified Wednesday that Roman Polanski (search) made "tasteless and vulgar" advances to a woman at a Manhattan restaurant shortly after the death of his wife, Sharon Tate (search).
Testifying in Polanski's libel lawsuit against publisher Conde Nast, Lewis Lapham, editor of Harper's magazine, confirmed that he was the source of an anecdote related in a 2002 article in Vanity Fair (search) magazine.
The article reported Polanski had tried to seduce a woman at Elaine's restaurant while he was traveling to Los Angeles for his wife's funeral. Tate, who was pregnant, was killed by followers of serial killer Charles Manson (search) in August 1969.
Polanski, who testified Monday by video link from Paris, called the story "an abominable lie" that "dishonors my memory of Sharon."
Lapham, 70, told the jury in High Court that he was with model Beatte Telle when Polanski sat at their table.
"He began to talk to her in a forward way. He began to praise her beauty and speak to her — romance her," Lapham said.
"At one point he (Polanski) had his hand on her leg and said to her, 'I can put you in movies. I can make you the next Sharon Tate.' He meant it as a compliment. He was attempting to impress her, wanting to express his admiration for her looks," Lapham said.
"I was impressed by the remark, not only because it was tasteless and vulgar, but because it was a cliche."
Conde Nast now accepts that the incident didn't happen before Tate's funeral, but says it was about two weeks later. The publisher maintains the article is substantially true.
Lawyers for Conde Nast have attempted to paint Polanski as a "fugitive from morality" and a fantasist incapable of telling the truth on important matters.
Polanski conceded during his testimony that he was unfaithful and has little memory of the weeks following his wife's death.
The director, now 71, has lived in France since fleeing child-sex charges in the United States in 1978. He was unwilling to come to Britain for fear of extradition.
On Tuesday, Mia Farrow (search), star of Polanski's 1968 film, "Rosemary's Baby (search)," described his sense of "despair and bewilderment and loss" after Tate's murder.
Farrow said she had been with Polanski that night at Elaine's and he had been "unable to talk about anything else ... He just kept saying over and over, 'Why? Why?'"
Conde Nast is based in New York, but libel actions concerning the international media are often brought in British courts because they are considered friendlier to claimants than U.S. courts.