Goldwater Uncut

You've seen the G-rated HBO documentary on the Arizona legend, but there was so much more to Goldy than that

Another off-color reference to his bawdy salad days came in a 1967 letter Goldwater dictated in Kyoto, Japan, while he and his wife Peggy were visiting there. Apparently meant for his son Michael, it included odd details, odd at least for a letter from father to son.

"Mommy talked me into visiting one of the famous Japanese baths, really a combination of Turkish bath and a rubdown by a girl," stated Goldwater. "I was kind of shook up at first when this nice young thing in shorts ushered me into a dressing room and indicated that I should remove my clothes, which I did down to my shorts. And when she indicated that I should also remove those, I kind of reddened in the face. The last time that happened to me there was a brass bed in the room and it cost me two dollars."

In his 1988 autobiography Goldwater, the senator describes a loose, carefree organization that he and wife Peggy belonged to with three other couples called "The Grand Canyon Hiking, Singing and Loving Club." During outings at different Grand Canyon lodges in the '40s, '50s and '60s, the couples would party, tell dirty jokes, drink and generally raise Cain.

Harry Rosenzweig: Goldy's lifelong friend and onetime Arizona GOP chairman.
courtesy of Arizona Historical Foundation
Harry Rosenzweig: Goldy's lifelong friend and onetime Arizona GOP chairman.
UFO no: U.S. Air Force General Curtis LeMay refused Goldwater's request to view sensitive UFO data.
courtesy of Arizona Historical Foundation
UFO no: U.S. Air Force General Curtis LeMay refused Goldwater's request to view sensitive UFO data.

Their 18th canyon excursion in 1966, as described by Goldwater, sounds like a real doozie. Goldwater went to bed early only to be awakened by a drunken cohort playing "Taps" over and over. Another pal was "pounding out whorehouse piano," with others singing. Friend Ollie Carey, wife of the actor Harry Carey, was "spread-eagled on the floor, passed out with a stale cigarette butt between her lips." Goldwater finally addressed his fellow sybarites with this admonition: "All right, you've finished the hiking and singing. Now go to bed and make love!"

These seem hardly the activities of some free-love, wife-swapping organization, though the title could fool you. More intriguing is the suggestion in C. David Heymann's The Georgetown Ladies' Social Club, a gossipy 2003 tell-all about D.C. wives, that Goldwater may have been in love with Bette Quinn, wife of his close friend, Army General William "Buffalo Bill" Quinn, and mother of reporter/socialite Sally Quinn, who is married to former Washington Post executive editor Benjamin Bradlee.

After wife Peggy left D.C. for health reasons, Goldwater basically moved in with the Quinns, traveling and going to parties with them. Heymann quotes Goldwater biographer Robert Alan Goldberg as admitting that he was privy to letters from Peggy to Barry admonishing the latter about the relationship. Goldberg, who omitted info on the affair from his 1995 Yale University Press bio Barry Goldwater, claims General Quinn let him listen to a tape-recording of Goldwater reading love poetry — reputedly to Bette Quinn — with "Moon River" playing in the background. Goldberg states that Goldwater and Bette Quinn "were in constant communication" and "had a very, very close, intimate relationship that was a matter of common knowledge."

Reached by phone in Washington, Sally Quinn was characteristically matter-of-fact.

"Oh, right, that was a rumor that went around a lot in the old days," says Quinn. "I think just because he lived in the same apartment with them. And so, people started talking about it. All I can say is, if it's true, I don't know about it."

Don't crap where you nap. That's advice Goldwater offered his son Barry Jr., which Barry Jr. recounts in C.C.'s documentary, one of the few times the film admits that Goldwater may have been worldlier than it otherwise lets on.

"When it came to the romantic side of my life, he said, 'Son, keep it out of town,'" Barry Jr. said in C.C.'s doc. "He also told me — if you can't get it by midnight, go to bed."

Asked if he believes his dad stepped out on his mother during their marriage, the former California congressman, who served in the House for 14 years while his father represented Arizona in the Senate, shrugged that he has no idea. "If he did, he didn't get caught, I know that."

As an aside, it's interesting to note a letter Goldwater wrote to Senator Gary Hart one day after Hart dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination because of the 1987 Monkey Business scandal, wherein the married Hart's dalliance with model Donna Rice was exposed.

Goldwater advised Hart, "Forget about it, let it blow over as it will. I am not going to vote for you, but you have my compassion."

Also left untouched by C.C.'s cable flick is the question of Senator Goldwater's abiding enthusiasm for Kentucky firewater, specifically Old Crow bourbon, a relatively cheap bottle of rotgut at which the fancy-pants bourbon connoisseurs of today would likely turn up their noses. C.C. does concede that her grandfather drank, but she almost makes it sound like it was strictly for medicinal purposes.

"He would drink a shot of Old Crow now and then," she admits, then warns, "but that would be one shot of Old Crow."

Numerous sources, as well as Goldwater's own words, contradict C.C.'s view of the senator as a rather moderate tippler. Sally Quinn, for instance, categorizes Goldwater's and her father's prodigious thirsts as "unbelievable." And she describes watching the C.C. documentary — in which she appears briefly — with Senator John Warner of Virginia.

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