By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Editor's note: In 1994, New Timesprinted Volume I of "The Best of Fife." The New and Improved Volume II incorporates the best of Volume I while adding all of Fife's greatest accomplishments since. And it's fat-free.
The Early Years
Best Pedigree: J. Fife Symington III
What can we say? The guy's a Frick. Symington's great-grandfather, steel robber baron Henry Clay Frick, amassed one of America's great fortunes. A century later, Fife tries to emulate great-grandpapa, becomes an Arizona real estate robber baron.
Best Family Tradition: Marrying Rich
Like his dad, who married Martha Frick, Fife III follows the family tradition of marrying rich. His wife: Ann Olin Pritzlaff, heiress to a multimillion-dollar chemical manufacturing fortune.
Best Coaster Degree: Dutch Art History at Harvard
If only the young Fife had had the foresight to major in business or accounting. . . . Perhaps he would not be headed for prison.
In 1990, the Symington campaign staff fudges the Fifester's war record by releasing a photo of Fife posing as a Vietnam war fighter pilot. Problem is, Fife wasn't a fighter pilot. He was an air traffic controller and a paper pusher.
Best Contribution to the Democrats:
Pulling Bill Clinton From the Salty Brine
Fife claims that as a college student vacationing on the Atlantic Coast, he rescued Bill Clinton from a "rip tide." No one in the Clinton camp recalls such an occurrence, but geez, you'd think Bill would be buoyant.
Best Reason to Divorce Fife: Lack of Funds
In the 1970s, Fife's first wife tells the court she wants a divorce because Fife is never gainfully employed and is in constant debt. She later marries a guy who works for a living.
The Arizona Years
Best First Date With Future Second Wife:
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Divorced and pecuniarily embarrassed, Fife hustles chemical heiress Ann Olin, then a college student. On first date, they see film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, about the love affair between a bank robber and an enabling schoolteacher. Ann later becomes a schoolteacher. And Fife will later plunder banks.
Best Drive-by by a Future Symington Aide:
After drinking too much wine, George Leckie slams his Oldsmobile into two innocent bystanders on the night of March 15, 1988. Victims John Faust and Maria Torregrossa are injured, but Leckie flees the scene. Leckie plea-bargains the hit-and-run charges down to a misdemeanor and settles out of court with the victims.
Best Financier: Fife
Symington scribbles an unusual item on his personal "To Do List" circa 1986: "Get checks to McCain."
Best House-of-Cards Real Estate Emperor: Fife
He submits wildly conflicting financial statements to various banks to get loans that are never repaid--and hits up friends, wife and mother for loans that are never repaid. The emperor boasts about the crown jewels of his development empire--the Mercado and the Esplanade--never letting on that the developments are in trouble or that he's lied to lenders. By 1996, 22 out of his 23-project real estate empire are financial failures. And those bogus financial statements come back to bite.
Best Loan Processor: William E. Miller
Desperate to obtain financing for the Mercado, developer Symington in October 1987 turns to a consortium of union pension funds managed by William E. Miller. Miller arranges $10 million in financing for the Mercado. As part of the deal, Symington pays Miller's company a $10,000 "loan processing" fee. Miller is later fired by the pension funds after they learn he is collecting loan processing fees. That is only the beginning of Miller's problems. He is later convicted on federal charges and sentenced to three years in prison for taking kickbacks. The $10,000 fee paid by Symington is later returned by Miller's bosses to the pension funds.
Best Wishful Thinking:
Fife's Presidential Aspirations
In one partnership agreement, Fife includes a clause that alters the agreement (reducing Fife's payments) in the event he is elected president of the United States.
Best Show of Audacity:
Symington for Governor '90
With his real estate empire secretly crumbling, Fife runs for governor posing as successful developer and businessman. The media and voters lap it up.
Before the election, New Times opines, "We need to know whether hard economic times have hit him [Symington] harder than most. If they have, we need to ask whether this state could endure a governor facing personal bankruptcy. If they haven't, we need the hard data to understand how he's managed to succeed in a market where others--straight shooters and hucksters alike--have failed."
We'll never say we told you so.
The 1990 Campaign
Best Lunch Date: Annette Alvarez
Alvarez, a beautiful young college dropout who sells radio ads, listens to motivational tapes and calls up the Great Real Estate Emperor and gubernatorial hopeful. Fife buys Annette lunch at the Ritz-Carlton. Impressed by Annette's finer points, Fife appoints her press secretary of his first gubernatorial campaign. Annette admits she has no idea what a press secretary does. Fife doesn't care. She can do other things.
Best Campaign Memo: "My Dear Fife"
In 1989, clueless press secretary Annette writes her famous "My Dear Fife Letter"--"I do know I love you, and it will be forever, but I don't think it's the kind of love I'm looking for. . . . I am slowly going under by allowing this heightened intimacy to continue."