THE BEST OF FIFE

HE BROUGHT US AN RTC LAWSUIT, A GRAND JURY INVESTIGATION AND A "CAR OF THE PEOPLE." NOT TO MENTION GEORGE LECKIE AND ANNETTE ALVAREZ. OH, WHAT THE HECK, WE'LL MENTION THEM.

Best impersonation of James Watt: Fife's a rugged outdoorsman who regularly communes with nature. "I have the carcinoma to prove it," he's proudly told legislative leaders. But he's also a man of the United States Constitution, and for him the amendments du jour are the Fifth and 14th, which guarantee a person's right to private property. At the coaxing of national conservatives like James Watt and Ed Meese, Arizona conservatives like Fife and House Speaker Mark Killian are championing measures to restrict government enforcement of environmental regulations in the name of protecting property rights. The latest such measure comes in the form of Proposition 300, the Private Property Rights Protection Act. Head cheerleader: Fife.

Best impersonation of publicity hound Joe Arpaio: Fife on victims' rights. Fife's no match for Sheriff Joe when it comes to national media attention, but the governor gave Arpaio a run for his money when he made three appearances on America's Most Wanted and one on 20/20 to congratulate himself for keeping a rapist in prison and out of a home-arrest program.

Best impersonation of Charlton Heston: Fife on guns. The guv recently took it upon himself to challenge the Brady gun law. Fife also once waxed poetic about his marksmanship, after his DPS bodyguards treated him to a session of target practice.

Best impersonation of Strother Martin, the actor in Cool Hand Luke who utters that immortal line, "What we've got here is a failure to communicate": Two words: chain gang.

Best impersonation of The Spy Who Loved Fife: Annette Alvarez donned her espionage garb and headed for the Nosh-A-Rye deli on East Camelback in April 1992. Inside, former Fife business partner I. Jerome Hirsch was meeting with two FBI agents to discuss the financial ins and outs of Fife's Esplanade.

Agent Alvarez grabbed a booth near Hirsch and the FBI duo and proceeded to eavesdrop on the conversation. She approached Hirsch as he left and scolded him for talking to the FBI, saying she thought Hirsch was one of Fife's supporters.

Hirsch went public, claiming Fife had dispatched his minions to follow him around town and spy on his meetings with federal agents and newspaper reporters. Fife heavy-hitter attorney John Dowd says nobody was following Hirsch. It was just coincidence.

"He's just had the misfortune of being seen and overheard . . ." Dowd explained.

Best impersonation of a Kennedy: (See also: Best girl Friday.)
Best impersonation of fellow GOP candidate Sonny Bono: Last year, Fife and Ann did the karaoke thing at a fund raiser they hosted. The First Couple sang the Sonny and Cher hit "I Got You, Babe."

Best of Whatever
Best pedigree: J. Fife Symington III. What can we say? The guy's a Frick. Symington's great-grandfather, Henry Clay Frick, amassed one of America's great fortunes, then built a monument to himself in the form of the Frick Museum on the upper east side of Manhattan. Fife himself studied Dutch art history at Harvard, then brought the Ritz-Carlton to Phoenix and surrendered it to Japanese bankers.

Best drive-by by a Fife crony: After consuming four or five glasses of wine, George Leckie drove off into Paradise Valley and drove his Oldsmobile into not one, but two innocent bystanders on the night of March 15, 1988. He suffered minimal repercussions. His victims weren't so lucky. John Faust, on a bicycle at the time of his encounter with Leckie, was skinned up and bruised. Maria Torregrossa suffered internal bleeding. "That man saw me standing right in front of him, and he came at me with his car like I was a piece of nothing. I jumped out of the way, but he got me good," Torregrossa told New Times.

Leckie fled the scene, but Torregrossa got his license-plate number. With two eyewitnesses, Leckie seemed doomed. Miraculously, Leckie was able to plea-bargain the charges down to one misdemeanor charge of "failing to render aid." Both hit-and-run charges were dropped. He settled out of court with Torregrossa and Faust.

Perhaps Leckie should have heeded his own words, uttered in 1992 just days before New Times broke the story of the hit and run, but meant to describe the political missteps of the governor's staff:

"We have a tendency to put our foot on the accelerator before we hit the brakes."

Best contribution to liberalism: In early 1992, New Times reported Fife's claim that, as a college student vacationing on the Atlantic Coast, the broad-shouldered Fife rescued Bill Clinton from a "rip tide." The Washington Times reported the story, as well. New Times is still waiting for a call back from Symington to confirm the story. No one in the Clinton camp could recall such an occurrence, but geez, you'd think Bill would be buoyant.

Best payoff for saving Clinton's life: Pundits suggest that Bill Clinton's own vulnerability in the Whitewater affair made it politically impossible for the Clinton administration to give a green light to the criminal indictment of Symington on charges relating to his involvement in the failure of Southwest Savings and Loan Association. A grand jury is still reviewing Fife's personal finances.

Perhaps Fife recognizes this, as well. In his first display of compassion for a Democrat since pulling Clinton from the foamy brine, last January Symington said of the Whitewater furor, "I feel for anybody who's going through that kind of nonsense. We'll just have to see how it all filters out."

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