ARIZONA'S LONGEST-RUNNING COMEDY

:I, for one, am going to miss Fife Symington.
When he's gone, there will be so many priceless and amusing incidents to remember.

Take the latest tale, the one about the governor's surprise birthday party. It was thrown for him by his wife, Ann, and his staff. It was set up in his office.

The party was a disaster. Most lamentable for Symington, it will probably be one of those marital memories that last forever.

Unfortunately for him, Symington had decided to spend part of his birthday with Miss Annette Alvarez, his former specialist in foreign affairs.

Miss Alvarez is a distraction in the Symington household. Unfortunately, the middle-aged governor has made no secret of his continued attraction to the coquettish younger woman.

The incident in which he sang "You're 16, you're beautiful and you're mine" to her at a recent crowded gathering from one knee has been oft-repeated.

Despite the governor's denials about their relationship, the story of his continued flirtation with Alvarez has even been noted in national magazines.

That's why this latest incident, coming on his birthday, was so . . . let us say . . . awkward.

Symington and Annette just happened to be spending some time together when he received word from his staff to come to his office on an urgent piece of business.

Naturally, Symington brought Annette along.
Symington and Annette walked into the office, arm in arm.
"Surprise!" shouted his staff.
They began singing "Happy Birthday to You."

No one could tell later who was most surprised. Was it Ann Symington, who was standing in the center of the group?

Or was it Fife, standing there with Annette on his arm?
Knowing Symington as we all do, it's predictable that he had a ready explanation for the situation. He always does.

@rule:
@body:Perhaps this constant bumbling and blundering is one of Fife's most endearing traits. He never seems to realize that anyone is on to him.

Miss Alvarez is, after all, the same young woman Symington transported around with him on his campaign, the one he fobbed off to potential voters as a campaign adviser.

Once he was elected governor, Symington named Annette his chief of international relations and put her on the payroll at a salary of $60,000.

It turned out that the extent of Miss Alvarez's international expertise consisted of the ability to travel with Symington to places like Japan, Hawaii and New York City and dine out with him.

During this period, Symington reportedly even considered appointing Miss Alvarez's father, a Douglas-based lawyer, to an opening on the state Supreme Court. It soon became obvious that Miss Alvarez had absolutely no skills in foreign relations. States like New Mexico were taking foreign business from Arizona.

Miss Alvarez's skills, of course, have always been in interpersonal relations.
When the heat got so hot that it became necessary to bid Miss Alvarez a fond adieu, she moved out of the capitol building and into a ninth-floor office in Symington's Esplanade property.

Miss Alvarez reportedly now has her own public relations business there.
Several months ago, she turned up doing undercover detective work for Symington. The unfortunate truth about Symington is that he's one of those men of inherited wealth who always attempts to avoid paying his bills.

The type is actually more common than one might suppose--especially in Arizona. It's not surprising that many of them turn into real estate hustlers, the way Symington did.

By now Symington has been revealed as a total fraud. He is beset on all sides by his toppling real estate investments.

Symington's latest financial peccadillo is trying to squirm out of the downtown Mercado project. On the hook for more than $1 million of his own money, Symington is attempting to reach out and have the City of Phoenix bail him out. When the details hit the newspapers, Symington was immediately on the telephone, calling Pat McMahon of KTAR Radio.

Symington complained that his Mercado project was killed by the nearby Arizona Center project.

"I warned Terry Goddard that would happen if they made that Arizona Center project too big," Symington said.

"Was it politics?" McMahon asked.
"You can't help it," Symington replied.
Not all of the headlines about Symington are about people trying to collect money from him.

There was the truly amazing story of James Feltham, Symington's own campaign manager.

Feltham was a vice president at the firm of Rauscher Pierce Refsnes, Inc., which made a clear profit of $700,000 in refinancing bonds for the state. Several days later, the officers of the company made contributions to Symington's campaign.

When the news surfaced, Feltham was forced to resign as Symington's campaign manager.

As soon as the story hit print, Symington raced for the nearest radio microphone to declare his total innocence.

"This is what I call 'gotcha' journalism," Symington declared.
He opined that the newspapers are "basically printing negative story after negative story about me and my administration.

"I'm just flabbergasted."
See what I mean about how irrepressible Symington can be? His own inflated sense of self-importance will never allow him to admit he's wrong. He struts about even when he's sitting down.

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