Goldwater Uncut

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

August warns against applying the standards of today to a half-century ago. These contacts did cause Goldwater some grief, especially after the publication of The Green Felt Jungle, but it was really the Arizona Project that changed the way the mob was viewed in Arizona.

Goldwater was concerned enough by the Arizona Project to keep an extensive file of news clippings and notes on its activities, and he commissioned at least one poll on the subject, which concluded that his base of support in the state had not been eroded by the IRE's linking him to a rogues' gallery of hoods.

He was associated with other underworld figures besides Greenbaum and Bioff. In 1971, Goldwater signed a letter written on his official stationery endorsing a land-fraud scheme concocted by wheeler-dealer Ned "the Godfather" Warren, though Goldwater later denied any knowledge of Warren or the scheme. There was the revelation that Goldwater had interceded on behalf of convicted gambling boss Clarence Newman, who also happened to be an old Goldwater pal, to help him secure better prison digs. And Goldwater's best friend, jeweler and Arizona GOP Chairman Rosenzweig, was linked to prostitution and gambling.

Painted red: Goldwater as a Smoki warrior.
courtesy of Arizona Historical Foundation
Painted red: Goldwater as a Smoki warrior.

Unsavory charges also surfaced concerning Goldwater's brother Bob, and the stake he held in the Arrowhead Ranch citrus groves, though this wasn't really an organized crime connection. IRE reporters discovered that illegal aliens were used as labor, paid substandard wages and kept in primitive conditions. Border Patrol raids on the groves regularly netted illegals working there. When a United Farm Workers member confronted Senator Goldwater about the aliens used on his brother's farm, Goldwater's response was stinging.

"My brother is over 21, and he knows what he's doing," Goldwater's quoted as saying in a 1977 New West article. "If you people [Mexican-Americans] would get off your butts and go to work, he wouldn't have to hire [Mexican] nationals."

There's no reason to believe that Goldwater was in any way connected to the murder of Don Bolles, but Bolles' killer, John Adamson, lured Bolles to the Clarendon Hotel on the fateful day of June 2, 1976, with a bogus tale regarding Goldwater corruption. And speculation concerning Goldwater's involvement was so intense following the slaying that the senator was forced to issue a statement on June 15 denying any link to Bolles' murder or to the mob in general.

However, Goldwater did know Phoenix attorney Neal Roberts, a pal of John Adamson's, who met with Adamson immediately before and shortly after the bomb beneath Bolles' car exploded and fatally wounded the reporter in the Clarendon parking lot. Roberts' ex-wife alleged that she overheard a telephone conversation between Roberts and Goldwater, with Goldwater stating, "What the hell's going on, how far is this going to go, and how much is it going to cost to shut people up?" Phoenix police questioned Goldwater about this phone confab, and Goldwater said it was bullshit. End of story?

This was one of the topics tackled by New Times staff writer Paul Rubin in a 10-year anniversary opus on the Bolles killing that ran in 1986. Rubin's reporting uncovered the fact that the Phoenix Police Department conveniently buried a file on Goldwater that might have explained the connection between Roberts and Goldwater. The implication was not that Goldwater had something to do with Bolles' demise, but that he and Roberts were involved in other activities that they didn't want divulged.

About Goldwater's unsavory contacts, real and possibly imagined, ASU's August says they made him seem all the more daring: "At the time for him, they were something that made people admire him. He was his own man, he was not cut of the same political cloth as the others. He wasn't careful. He was this dashing, outdoorsy, flamboyant guy. And part of his flamboyance were these associations."

Goldwater's flamboyance extended far beyond his knowing racketeers, but C.C.'s film only scratches the surface of this sometimes just plain wacky part of her grandfather's persona. His passions for photography, airplanes, Native Americans and ham radio are all touched upon, but she didn't get into Goldwater's admitting to smoking pot, once visiting with gun-toting Black Panthers in D.C.'s toughest 'hood, and believing in UFOs. Or that he was an inveterate practical joker, and was practiced at the art of cracking a one-liner.

Regarding his sense of humor, C.C. does document the fallout from Goldwater's encouraging all good Christians to kick the Reverend Jerry Falwell in the hindquarters — this over Falwell's opposition to Sandra Day O'Connor's Supreme Court nomination. But better at revealing the ribald and funny side of Goldwater is Bill McCune's documentary, which includes some great clips from Goldwater's TV appearances. On The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, back when the show was in black-and-white, Goldwater comments on the fact that a member of the band had been in the Army Air Corps with Goldwater.

"He and I were in the ferry command, and don't misunderstand it," quipped Goldwater, straight-faced.

Also on Carson, he gave a tongue-in-cheek analysis of then-vice president Hubert Humphrey, a bud of Goldwater's despite Humphrey's being a Democrat.

"He talks so fast," Goldwater dryly observed. "I said, 'You know, Hubert, sitting there trying to listen to you reminds me of trying to read Playboy magazine with my wife turning the pages.'"

« Previous Page
Next Page »
My Voice Nation Help
Phoenix Concert Tickets