THE NAKED DESERT

UNDER EVERY ROCK? SCANDAL! A GUIDE TO OUR MOST TORRID TERRAIN.

Because the apparition was particularly effective after dark (when a WALK/DON'T WALK sign cast a glowing shadow of the image on the wall of a nearby Mexican restaurant), hundreds of curiosity seekers made nightly pilgrimages to gaze at the botanical oddity. Police officers were forced to reroute traffic through the area, while a fire marshal was dispatched to ensure that hundreds of blazing votive candles didn't destroy the "miracle."

Vandals took care of that. During the wee hours of January 22, police questioned two men who had been spotted snapping the stalk from the plant. The pair, a couple of self-proclaimed "renegade artists," claimed they planned to use the branch as the centerpiece of an art project.

The Mexican restaurant was razed last year, but the yucca continues to thrive. And the sacred stalk? It's now enshrined in Immaculate Heart Catholic Church.

Miracle yucca, northeast corner of 11th and East Van Buren streets.
Immaculate Heart Catholic Church, 909 East Washington.

CABIN FEVER On November 11, 1969, Phoenix FBI agents showed rock star JIM MORRISON the door when he was arrested aboard a jet that had just landed at Sky Harbor Airport. En route from Los Angeles to attend a Rolling Stones concert at Veterans' Memorial Coliseum, the inebriated singer and a pal reportedly ignored a stewardess's pleas to behave after they engaged in a food fight at 10,000 feet. Although Morrison was eventually cleared of all charges, he missed the Stones' show; he spent the night in a Phoenix jail cell. Jim Morrison arrest site, main runway at Sky Harbor, 24th Street and Buckeye.

FATHER OF THE BRIBE The news broke on February 5, 1991, but professional squealer Joseph Stedino did his damage months before by suckering numerous legislators into a political-corruption sting, later dubbed AzSCAM. Posing as pro-gambling lobbyist "J. Anthony Vincent" and handing out illegal cash in a bugged office on 24th Street, Stedino starred in the hottest political video footage ever shot in Arizona. His co-stars included legislators Bobby Raymond, Carolyn Walker and others too stupid to mention.

Site of Joseph Stedino's "office," 4742 North 24th Street.

STAIRWELL TO HEAVEN Dead men tell no tales. And that could explain why Phoenix accountant ED LAZAR was gunned down in the stairwell of a Central Corridor parking garage on the morning of February 19, 1975. The unsolved, gangland-style execution occurred the day before Lazar was scheduled to testify before a Maricopa County grand jury about his dealings with Ned Warren, the godfather of Arizona land fraud.

Rear parking garage (second underground level), 3003 North Central.

CLOSE CALL While local TV stations routinely promise to air opposing viewpoints, no viewer ever expected to hear the wacked-out manifesto that veteran KOOL newscaster BILL CLOSE delivered the night of May 28, 1982. Earlier that evening, a mentally disturbed cement finisher named Joe Billie Gwin forced his way into the downtown TV station at gunpoint, explaining that he wanted to deliver an urgent message on live TV. After Gwin held three employees hostage for nearly five hours, police finally agreed to Gwin's demands. At 9:30 that night, the station interrupted its regular programming for a TV first. As the gunman trained a pistol on Close, the newscaster calmly read Gwin's rambling treatise about racism, homosexuality and World War III. After Close finished reading the statement, Gwin relinquished his weapon and was immediately arrested.

Perhaps miffed because they missed the last half of Dallas, some viewers complained that the televised hostage situation was "boring." KOOL-TV studio (now KTSP-TV), 511 West Adams.

BUST STOP In March 1956, MARILYN MONROE rolled into Phoenix to shoot location scenes for Bus Stop, one of her better vehicles. And when she wasn't hanging around the old downtown Greyhound terminal, MM went ZZ (sans JFK) at the nearby Sahara Motor Hotel.

Site of Sahara Motor Hotel (now Phoenix Plaza hotel), 401 North First Street

DEATH OF A DOWAGER CrossLifestyles of the Rich and Famous with Unsolved Mysteries and you might wind up with something like the murder of 55-year-old socialite JEANNE TOVREA, a member of one of Arizona's pioneering cattle families. Although the Paradise Valley estate where Tovrea lived alone featured round-the-clock security, the wealthy widow was found shot to death on April 1, 1988. Her killer, believed to be a burglar, remains at large.

3500 East Lincoln, No. 26, Paradise Valley

MONKS' BLUES In the worst mass murder in Valley history, nine people were shot to death in the WAT PROMKUNARAM Buddhist temple on August 10, 1991. Four Tucson men were arrested and later freed. Two west-side teens now face charges in the blood bath, which received worldwide notoriety.

Wat Promkunaram, 17212 West Maryland.

NEW YEAR'S EVIL As one group of New Year's Eve revelers prepared to welcome in 1981, the sound of gunfire-not noisemakers-filled their North Central-area home. As they waited for party guests to arrive, Phoenix print shop owner William Patrick Redmond and his 70-year-old mother-in-law were shot to death. Although she wasn't accused of shooting the pair, JOYCE LUKEZIC, wife of Redmond's business partner, was charged with masterminding the crime. Several trials later, the long-running saga came to a controversial close when Lukezic was cleared of all charges. Some observers found the verdict every bit as implausible as actress Donna Mills' portrayal of Lukezic in a 1991 made-for-TV movie.

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