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Thirteen Thoughts

1. Charlie Keating finally took the great fall. These days the headline writers use words like "fraud" and "bilked" in writing about him.

Not too long ago, Keating was Senator John McCain's biggest backer. He did everything for McCain. He held fund-raising events. He flew the senator around on private jets. He took McCain and his family on vacations. He even brought McCain's wife, Cindy, into a lucrative shopping center deal with him.

But good-time Charlie turned out to be a crook.

So these days, McCain distances himself as much as he can from Keating. He wraps himself ever tighter within the folds of the American flag.

Obviously, the deep friendship McCain had for Charlie Keating was never quite real. It makes you wonder what is real about Senator McCain.

2. I find myself being embarrassed for Senator Dennis DeConcini. Doesn't he realize the game is over? There is no chance that he can ever win another election in Arizona.

Does he face reality? No. Instead, he has become Senator Photo Opportunity.

Here's Dennis, bowing before the monks at that Thai temple. Here he is, sitting in Phoenix and chairing a hearing.

Tune in to the radio, and Dennis will be on with any talk-show host who will guarantee him that unfriendly calls won't get through.

He desperately wants people to forget his role in the Keating Five.
But it will never go away. Never.

3.

Richard Speck, the mass murderer, died the other day. They said he had a heart attack.

I was a baseball writer covering the Chicago Cubs for the Chicago Daily News when Speck murdered those eight student nurses in July 1966.

In those days, the Cubs traveled on a private airplane. The writers from the four Chicago newspapers sat in a booth up front with a table in between the seats so they could either write or play cards.

The morning after the nurses were found dead, we were headed for a weekend series with the Pittsburgh Pirates. One of the four writers was sitting in the back interviewing Leo Durocher, the Cubs manager.

Ernie Banks had taken the empty seat with the writers. He was one of the few Chicago sports figures of that day--with the exception of Johnny Kerr--who actually enjoyed talking to writers.

The airplane took off and there was silence as everyone sat reading the grisly details of the murders.

Finally, Ed Prell, the man from the Chicago Tribune, broke the silence.
"My God," Prell asked, "were these girls white?"

4.

It's hard to figure the Phoenix Cardinals as a permanent addition. One thing we have to face is that it isn't all owner Bill Bidwill's fault. Phoenix really is too hot to play football. I don't mean for the players. It's just too damned hot for the fans--until December.

5.

I found it hard to swallow when they brought longtime hostage Terry Anderson before the microphones. It would be difficult to describe him without employing a word I never use. But he really did seem gallant.

6.

I have witnessed my share of criminal trials. I know about the long hours of boredom. I have seen insensitive lawyers and craven judges.

But this trial in West Palm Beach, Florida, of William Kennedy Smith strikes a new low. I have no sympathy for either side.

There is one memory I will take from it. That is the fuzzy picture of Smith's uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, snockered as usual. He becomes insulted by the floozy sitting next to him at a table.

Rising unsteadily to his feet, he pronounces in drunken disdain: "You know nothing about world politics?"

7.

The clock keeps ticking on Governor J. Fife Symington III. Behind the scenes, it is clear he must soon file personal bankruptcy.

His mother-in-law, furious over Symington's great friendship with his executive assistant for international relations, will not lend him any more money to bail him out.

The man who promised to run the state on business principles is in public disgrace less than a year into his term.

But the matter is being soft-pedaled. It is too dangerous for discussion. Everyone is afraid to see still another Arizona governor go down in flames.

8.

Prescott has the reputation of being a small, quaint town. In reality, it has become a modern horror story that could be a creation of Stephen King.

I am always amazed by what passes for good taste in such environments.
Also, I am intimidated by the sight of bearded men in pickup trucks with Buck knives strapped to their belts.

I sat on a bench along Whiskey Row last Saturday watching the annual parade that precedes the Christmas tree-lighting at the courthouse. The spectators were at no point more than three deep along the sidewalks.

In the parade were the following: A group of narcissistic Shriners spinning about in miniature autos; a contingent of Scottie dogs wrapped in tartan blankets; a procession of antique cars; and a high school band trudging out of step and playing out of tune.

Highlighting the parade was a float entered by a local fundamentalist church group. There was a man portraying Jesus Christ hanging from the cross in agony. He wore a crown of thorns. The wound in his side was painted on. He was dressed only in diapers.

This was followed by a contingent from a retirement home. It appeared the owner of the home had positioned each resident in a wheelchair so that each could be pushed down Whiskey Row by an attendant. Most of them did not even appear to know where they were.

9.

The John Henry Knapp murder case frustrates everyone. No one wants to see him set free if he set the house fire in 1973 that killed his two small daughters. But the situation is hopelessly muddled.

On the one hand, Knapp actually confessed to this crime, and then recanted. On the other, his former wife--just as good a suspect--was granted immunity. Since that time, she has lived in other places that have caught fire.

This latest mistrial, brought on by still another jury that could not agree, may end it all. No one will admit the truth. The state no longer has an appetite to continue trying this case.

10.

Sing no sad songs for Larry Marmie. He was a mistake from the start.
Marmie was never qualified to become the head coach of Arizona State University's football team. He was picked by an insecure athletic director who was afraid to make an attempt to hire a big-name coach.

So Marmie spent the last four years drawing $400,000 a year, while the football program went from Rose Bowl fame to mediocrity.

If Arizona State was an institution dedicated to academic excellence, the win-and-loss record would not matter. But the yahoos of this state believe the football team is the real reason for the university's existence.

And Lattie Coor is not the college president strong enough to educate them to the fact that they are wrong.

11.

I don't think anyone is surprised that Evan Mecham's newspaper now is revealed to be a figment of the former governor's imagination.

12.

Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons has had a good ride. He is a talented huckster and a great front man for television. But the next cold wind that hits the Phoenix Suns will take him out.

The problem is finding a way to get rid of Tom Chambers, who has clearly lost it as a basketball forward.

13.

"Can you hear me?" the voice asked.
"Is it over?" I asked.
"Yes. Everything went fine." "What time is it?" "It's one thirty in the afternoon."

I had gone under anesthesia about 7:30 a.m. The surgery, which was performed by Dr. Richard Zimmerman of Mayo Clinic, lasted almost five hours.

He had opened my right carotid artery, which had been almost totally blocked, and cleaned it out. So everything was now working fine. I felt no pain. Only relief that it was over.

Christina the Lawyer was there. She was smiling. I tried to smile back. I was in a bed in the intensive care unit, hooked up to a battery of monitors.

"You look like `The Bionic Man,'" Christina the Lawyer said.
After all the anxiety, it was over. As the days went by, I began to realize what a fine piece of work Dr. Zimmerman had performed.

We undergo surgery convinced that we are the focal point of the operation. Actually, we are only a part of the supporting cast.


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