Goldwater Uncut

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

"We have beat the old 'trust' horse to death, and you have steadfastly said you will not break your mother's trust," Joanne wrote. "I have never understood fully why you are so adamant on the subject."

Goldwater responded shortly afterward with another refusal.

"It [the trust] continues till I die," he told her. "Then you kids can fight it out."

courtesy of Arizona Historical Foundation
courtesy of Arizona Historical Foundation

The level of Goldwater's frustration is evident in letter after letter. In 1991, he griped to one associate, "I don't know how the hell I can keep my children from spending money they don't have, and I don't have, unless I somehow can shoot all of them."

Barry Jr. was a particular source of worry. In 1983, the former congressman was the target of a Justice Department probe into drug use on Capitol Hill. The department concluded that there was "insufficient admissible, credible evidence to support criminal charges." But later that same year, a House ethics committee inquiry found that there was "substantial evidence" that Barry Jr. and two other former congressmen had used cocaine and other illicit substances. Apparently the problem got worse, and in 1990, according to correspondence on file at the Arizona Historical Foundation, the family did an intervention, and Barry Jr. entered the Meadows in Wickenburg for rehabilitation.

He had fallen far. When he arrived in D.C. in 1969, having just turned 31, Washington press touted him as D.C.'s most eligible bachelor. Young and handsome, he dated Tricia Nixon briefly, and enjoyed the attentions of numerous wanna-be Mrs. Goldwaters. He was a workaholic in Congress, and toiled on significant legislation regarding privacy and other issues. But the devil was in the white powder, and it brought him down. After his stay in the Meadows, he had trouble getting back on his feet, even with his dad's regular contributions to his well-being.

"I do hope you're able to get some kind of job," suggests the elder Goldwater. "I don't give a damn if it's just digging ditches, something that will require your setting a schedule, and getting it done, the money will take care of itself."

None of this was included in C.C.'s doc. Nor was there anything about the manner in which many of the Goldwater offspring tried to turn a buck off the name, no matter how tawdry the effort. Goldwater admonished them all at one point that he would write no more letters of recommendation, nor meet with someone just because one of the kids or grandkids sends them his way.

With his blessing, some of the children started Goldwater's Foods, hawking salsas and the senator's chili. And C.C. got her claim in, too, first as an aspiring actress and model, then with her own PR firm called the "Goldwater Group." C.C. penned several letters over the years trying to involve her "Paka" in various schemes, from a proposed talk show with C.C. as the host to a "Gourmet Gala" for the March of Dimes. Often the senator seemed to just shine her on, other times he'd gently admonish her. After all, he was her grandfather. But that didn't mean he'd go along with every idea.

"You see, we can't just use our names as Senators to endorse this, that or anything," Goldwater wrote her in 1980, this time concerning some deal involving Taiwan. "I just can't do what you have asked me to do, but I wish you the best of luck."

There's something sad about all this, the way this larger-than-life figure ends up getting pecked at over money and the use of the Goldwater imprimatur by family members. With every jar of salsa sold, every dorky nephew like Don Goldwater running for office with little to recommend him, the currency is further devalued. Unlike the Old Man, his progeny, for the most part, seem to have had a tough time making a name for themselves.

Some might argue that Goldwater did the same thing when he became a politician, banking on the rep of his family's stores. But he actually expanded the influence and reputation of the Goldwater name. When people now think of Goldwater, they think of Senator Barry M. Goldwater, the guy who ran for president, was called a warmonger, lost, but continued on as the conscience of the Republican Party.

Goldwater was extremely generous to his children, both during his life and after his death. Sources say his estate ran into the millions, and was mostly divided among his family.

The children, for the most part, were not happy about his second marriage in 1992 to then-Susan Wechsler, now Susan Goldwater-Levine. Both Mike and daughter Peggy told New Times that at the time, they wanted their dad to just live with Susan, who came to know the senator as his nurse. According to Goldwater's lawyer Bill Quinn (son of General William Quinn), charges of gold-digging were made by some of the kids, even though Goldwater had his second wife sign a prenuptial agreement.

Reached for comment, Goldwater-Levine declined to discuss her life with the legendary Arizonan, but she did say she was not upset at all over being left out of C.C.'s documentary. C.C. skips over Goldwater-Levine entirely, as if her years with the senator, who died in 1998, did not even occur. It's one of the more unusual lapses, especially considering that some Republicans believed she had a Svengali-like influence over the aged pol, a claim addressed in the Lee Edwards biography. Some argue she influenced Goldwater's swing to the left in his later years, and while that seems unlikely, it certainly would have been worth examining for a few minutes in a 90-minute biodoc.

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