This is a truly memorable tale about Governor J. Fife Symington III and his dearest friend in government, the voluptuous Miss Annette Alvarez.
It's bizarre, loony, absurd-even silly. It's also quite zany.
Up to now, we've thought about Symington and Alvarez only in terms of romance. This latest tale adds a touch of the Marx Brothers, the Pink Panther and Alfred Hitchcock to the story of the Symington administration.
We should be forever thankful to them. They have given us a vision of romance, comedy and melodrama all wrapped into one package.
The Scene: Nosh-A-Rye deli is a dingy little eatery in a shopping center at 40th Street and Camelback. The specialties of the house would appear to be bagels and lox, chicken-fried steak and a product known as Dr. Brown's Cream Soda.
The deli is located in the same shopping center as an Italian restaurant called Chianti Ristorante, which has known better days, a Baskin-Robbins store and Reay's Market, where yuppies buy the health food and facial moisturizers they hope will keep them looking forever young and vibrant.
In Nosh-A-Rye, there are a dozen booths set along two walls. The booths are covered in dark-brown plastic. The walls are decorated with forgettable prints.
You can get a breakfast of lox with bagel and cream cheese for $2.95, and it will come served on a dishwasher-safe plate with silverware bent and bruised from overuse.
There's a sign over the cash register warning that bounced checks will result in a $10 service charge.
There are two things you would never expect to occur in Nosh-A-Rye. First, it's not the place in which a restaurant critic would arrive incognito to review the food and check out the ambiance.
Second, it's not the location for a trench-coated John le Carre melodrama to unfold.
But thanks to Symington and Alvarez, espionage activities are precisely the activities that came to light in Nosh-A-Rye last week.
So this, believe it or not, is a tale about spies busily at work in Symington's employ.
And once again, the focus is on that mysterious and always inscrutable femme fatale Annette Alvarez.
Until recently employed by Symington as a $60,000-a-year specialist in international affairs, Alvarez does a cameo this time as a daring undercover agent.
In her maiden voyage in this capacity, Alvarez spied not only on one of Symington's former business partners but on two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation as well.
The target of Alvarez's sleuthing was Jerome Hirsch, Symington's former partner in the multimillion-dollar Esplanade project. Hirsch was being interviewed by the FBI agents in the rear booth of Nosh-A-Rye at the time.
The reason for Symington's interest in the outcome of such a meeting stems from the fact that the FBI has said that it is investigating the possibility of a criminal action against Symington stemming from his Esplanade deal.
Hirsch, who is best known as the owner of Rawhide, once owned the plot of land at 24th Street and Camelback before becoming Symington's partner in the Esplanade. He has always been a wild card in the equation. If anyone can upset Symington's alibi, it is Hirsch.
Reporters have been eager to talk to Hirsch for months about his dealings with Symington. He has always refused. All that anyone has known is that Hirsch had written a letter highly critical of Symington's role in the Esplanade.
It is also known that he has told close friends that he is angry at himself for ever getting involved with Symington. For Hirsch, known as a shrewd operator, he feels mortified because he allowed Symington to con him.
The first reporter who actually sat down and talked with Hirsch now appears to be John Dougherty of the Mesa Tribune. The two met two weeks ago in Nosh-A-Rye. And this meeting was also spied upon by one of Symington's minions.
Here's how Hirsch describes what happened to him last week over the two-day period while breakfasting at Nosh-A-Rye.
Preface this with the understanding that Hirsch apparently trusts no one. His written statement was delivered to the Tribune, which covered the story, and also to the Arizona Republic, which did not. The Republic printed a story that was based only on Hirsch's letter.
But no matter. The letter is marvelous and good enough to stand on its own.
Even with the advantage of its reporting and superior knowledge of the incident, the Tribune somehow saw fit to print the letter in agate type so that it became virtually unreadable.
The Republic didn't even use the letter.
Helping Hirsch to write this statement were his lawyers, Paul Meyer and a former state attorney general, Jack LaSota. As you can see, Symington has finally met up with an adversary who knows how to play the expensive lawyer game just as well as he does.
For the past ten years I have been Governor Symington's partner in the Camelback Esplanade project," Hirsch begins.
Several months ago, Governor Symington called and told me that the FBI was conducting a criminal investigation of his involvement in the Esplanade and that he learned the FBI intended to interview me.
Governor Symington asked that I meet with his attorney, John Dowd, prior to talking with the FBI. I advised him through my attorney that this might appear improper and I refused to speak to Mr. Dowd." Hirsch agreed to meet with the FBI at Nosh-A-Rye at 8:30 a.m. April 8.
I arrived a few minutes early," Hirsch says. The restaurant was more than half empty, and I picked the last booth in the back.
Two FBI agents arrived promptly at 8:30. A few minutes after we began talking, I noticed a woman enter the restaurant holding what appeared to be a newspaper and a notepad. She sat in the first available booth next to ours, which was two booths away.
I thought nothing further about her, and I spoke with the agents for the next 45 minutes. We then got up to leave and went to the counter to pay our bill.
At that moment, the woman got up from her booth and approached me and asked me whether my name was Jerry Hirsch.
When I replied in the affirmative, she told me that her name was Annette Alvarez and that she had heard a lot about me.
She then looked at me with a perceptible glare and said she had thought I had been one of Fife Symington's supporters.
I was totally taken aback and attempted to talk to her further, but she said she had to leave and quickly walked out." Suddenly, everything clicked in Hirsch's mind. He put together what had been taking place.
She had been observing our entire meeting and probably heard my discussions with the FBI," Hirsch wrote. It was also apparent that either the FBI or I or both had been followed or otherwise spied upon.
I went to my office. An hour later, I was in a business meeting when my secretary told me that Governor Symington (whom I had not spoken to for two months) was on the phone. His secretary demanded that I interrupt my meeting to immediately speak to him.
I then decided to consult with my attorney, Paul Meyer, who represented me on the Esplanade project. I spent the next few hours with him and one of his partners, Jack LaSota, trying to figure out what to do.
Early that afternoon, I called Governor Symington back but he didn't accept my call and never called me back." What comes next is most revealing:
At approximately 3 p.m., John Dowd, Symington's Washington attorney, called Mr. Meyer.
Mr. Dowd stated that he had been informed that I had spoken to the FBI that morning and he wanted to know to what extent I was cooperating with the FBI.
Mr. Meyer asked Mr. Dowd about the presence of Annette Alvarez. Mr. Dowd claimed that it was just a coincidence that she was there but acknowledged that she had overheard at least parts of my conversation.
Mr. Dowd then told Mr. Meyer that he and Governor Symington were aware of a confidential meeting I had Tuesday morning [the day before] with a newspaper reporter. Another of Governor Symington's lawyers then contacted my lawyer and actually recited parts of my conversation from the Tuesday confidential meeting with the reporter.
Knowing that I had been secretly watched made me feel very vulnerable and defenseless. I even became concerned about my family's safety. I also began to feel a sense of outrage at this situation; a sense which soon became more powerful than my fears." Hirsch explains why he thought it necessary to go public:
I am making this statement with the hope and expectation that any publicity generated might deter further harassment and lessen the need for concern for my family's well-being.
Secondly, I want to make clear that I will not tolerate any further invasion of my privacy, nor will I be deterred by harassment, intimidation, or any similar type of pressure."
As we all know, Alvarez recently resigned from her job with the state and is being paid for accrued vacation time until April 23. These events would indicate that she has apparently switched from being a member of the Arizona diplomatic corps to acting as an incipient Mata Hari.
There is no way that Alvarez accidentally dropped into Nosh-A-Rye at such an early hour. She was there for a purpose. She fulfilled that purpose. Her report was delivered to Symington, posthaste.
This became clear when the Tribune contacted Symington's Washington, D.C., mouthpiece, John Dowd.
Dowd attempted to explain away the fact that Hirsch had been shadowed by two separate Symington undercover operatives in two days.
Dowd insisted they were merely citizens of Arizona" who happened to be in a public place and happened to be friends of Governor Symington.
Ms. Alvarez was sitting in a public facility and Mr. Hirsch was holding forth about Mr. Symington."
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Dowd's explanation does not account for the fact that Ms. Alvarez came armed with a notepad.
What is especially intriguing is that Hirsch's meeting with Dougherty of the Mesa Tribune on the day before was also closely covered by one of Symington's operatives.
It is all very mysterious. And, in a way, touchingly romantic. We are left with a picture of the lovely Annette Alvarez still risking all to do the governor's bidding.
Moral: If you happen upon Nosh-A-Rye for bagels and lox, do not speak ill of the governor.