Goldwater Uncut

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

Later on in years, he appeared on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and proclaimed, "I'm getting a tattoo of a lipstick pucker right on my ass."

Another Goldwater bon mot of unknown origin: "Sex and politics are a lot alike. You don't have to be any good at them to enjoy them."

The McCune film also has a terrific clip of Goldwater on Dinah Shore's program, with Goldwater accompanying songstress Shore by making trombone-like noises into his hand. According to Judy and Earl Eisenhower (Earl is the late president's nephew), both long-serving members of the senator's staff, Goldwater also once rode a motorcycle onto Shore's show that he had made himself from a mail-order kit.

courtesy of Arizona Historical Foundation
courtesy of Arizona Historical Foundation

Goldwater also loved to pull pranks or do something outlandish for laughs.

"We were in Mexico for Christmas, and dad was touting the blessings of peanut butter," recalls Michael Goldwater. "One of us said, 'Well, you can't shave with it,' and he said, 'Yes, you can.' And he did. He smelled like elephant breath for the rest of the day."

Then there's the famous story about the 18th hole at the Phoenix Open.

"He was in charge of the microphone, you know, announcing players going off to tee," relates Michael. "Weeks before when they reseeded the green on the 18th hole, he ran a wire and a speaker to the location the hole would be on the final day. And the story is that Sam Snead reached down to pick his ball out of the hole, and dad said over the microphone, 'Get your hand off my balls!' Scared the hell out of Sam."

A similar rib-tickler appeared in Goldwater's '88 memoir, in which the senator explains how he rigged a device in the toilet bowl of the guest bathroom of his home, so that when someone sat down, it triggered a recording of his voice that carped, "Hi, Honey. How ya doin'? Can I be of any help?"

Family friend John Dean, who's currently working on a book with Barry Jr. about the senator tentatively titled Pure Goldwater, tells of how Goldy's dresser drawers were full of "antsy pants," gag boxer shorts with big red ants all over them that Goldwater had developed for the Goldwater department stores. Dean was a classmate of Barry Jr.'s at Staunton Military Academy in Virginia, and often visited the senator's D.C. apartment, where Dean was the butt of at least one Goldwater gag.

"I was having a snack at the senator's apartment with Barry Jr.," remembers Dean, chuckling. "The senator said, 'Son, give John one of those peppers there, he'll like those.' So I bit down on this goddamn pepper, and it was like fire. The senator just roared when I reacted. Brought tears to my eyes. Didn't give me a hint of what I was getting into."

Goldwater's sense of humor was ribald, often crude. Like that of a back-slapping traveling salesman. During her appearance on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show to promote the HBO special, C.C. acknowledged as much, talking about how grandpa liked to pull the classic "pull my finger" joke on her. The fart joke never made it into her film.

Nor did C.C. have much time for the nutty, boyish side of her grandfather, which seems so much more interesting than the tales of teary-eyed staffers and offspring. Once again, McCune captured more of this in his flick, like the time Goldwater was asked by a reporter of his interest in flying saucers, and he replied, "I'd like to see one sometime — sober."

More than just joking about it, Goldwater told Larry King in 1988 that he believed the U.S. government was withholding information on UFOs from the American people and their elected representatives. He informed King that he'd once attempted to gain access to the room at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where the Air Force had supposedly collected UFO evidence, and maybe even the bodies of aliens who crash-landed in the Roswell incident. But when he asked his friend USAF General Curtis LeMay to help, LeMay gruffly advised him to "go to hell."

Goldwater's interest in extraterrestrial visitors persisted, and there are some oddball docs saved in the Goldwater files at the Arizona Historical Foundation, including some sent to Goldwater purporting to be once top-secret memos on Operation Majestic 12, an alleged super-secret committee looking into flying saucers. There are additional nutty documents suggesting that alien visitations are connected to the discovery of the Earth's hollowness, an inner world one can enter through the North Pole called the Enchanted Continent. There's no indication of why Goldwater retained these daft dossiers. Maybe he just forgot to throw them out.

But then, Goldwater was open to new ideas and experiences, including a lil' wacky weed. George Seitts, a legislative aide to Goldwater in his youth and currently director of the Arizona Department of Weights and Measures, says the senator admitted to a flock of pages that he'd tried marijuana in his youth, but that it didn't do much for him. Goldwater speechwriter Karl Hess — an iconoclast, welder and eventual hippie — mentions in his autobiography Mostly on the Edge how Goldwater caught him smoking hash in the Goldwater guest house at Be-nun-i-kin (Navajo for "house on top of hill"), the senator's Paradise Valley home.

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