Best of Phoenix 2014: Legend City / Baier, Beware

Maria Baier: She attended law school and passed the bar; worked for more than a decade in the Governor's Office writing speeches for, among others, Fife Symington; was a flack for Arizona's attorney general; was once commissioner of the Arizona State Land Department, and works now as vice dresident of development and communications for Great Hearts Academies, a charter school in the Phoenix area.

But for people who knew her in the '80s, back when she was Maria Khan, she's the former wildcat gal pal of the late Hunter S. Thompson. The story that's dogged Baier for decades starts out in different locales: In one version, she was a reporter for ASU's State Press sent to cover a speech by Thompson, afterwards disappearing with him for weeks. In another version, Baier met Thompson while she was a cub and he was a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner, and they began a brief but reportedly torrid affair. All versions of the story end with Baier, who reportedly came from a super-conservative background, getting a giant tattoo of a panther on her back before being dumped by Thompson.

Is it true? Well, Baier, the daughter of golf pro Frank Kahn and brother of fire chief Bob Kahn, does appear as a talking head in The Crazy Never Die, a 1988 documentary about Thompson. She features prominently in his story collection Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the '80s, published the same year, which the author dedicated to her and which includes his essay "Saturday Night in the City," a story that commences with the line, "I dropped Maria off in front of the tattoo parlor just before midnight."

Fact or fiction? You decide. Baier didn't return our calls. But we know people who know people who swear they've seen that tattoo.

Best of Phoenix 2014: Legend City / Little Green Men in Cave Creek

In October 1947, legend has it that a UFO crashed in North Phoenix. Many believe it crashed at what is now the site of the Dreamy Draw Dam and that the dam was built to cover up the crash.

That's not true, as the dam wasn't built until 1973, but believers have a different theory on what might've happened:

The Cave Creek version of the legend says that the UFO initially crashed a little to the south of where Carefree Highway is now. Considering that the location was relatively rural at the time, the government had plenty of time to come up with a cover-up, so they decided to place the Cave Creek landfill over the site of the crash.

Allegedly, large groups of government officials could be found in Cave Creek's hotels and restaurants toward the end of the 1940s, including groups driving along Carefree Highway to and from the landfill.

One possible combination of the two crash-site options is that some of the debris from the crashed spaceship was moved and buried under the Dreamy Draw Dam after more people began moving to Cave Creek in the 1970s, making it a less desirable place for the government to hide an alien spacecraft.

The landfill is now closed, and a recycling center servicing both Cave Creek and Carefree is located at the same site, but the landfill certainly had its fair share of questionable issues during its run. Reports of toxicity, water contamination, and radiation coming from the landfill for years surrounding its closing, and though many attribute these issues to normal trash buildup, those who believe in the crash say that the landfill closed after it was found to have been contaminated by fluids leaking from the wreckage approximately six decades after the initial impact.

While no one has proof that a UFO ever crashed in Cave Creek, it's never been debunked like its Dreamy Draw counterpart. That's good enough to be seen as a part of the area's history by most lifelong residents.

Best of Phoenix 2014: Legend City / White Christmas -- in Phoenix?

Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa

"White Christmas." It's the ultimate holiday song. But did Irving Berlin really write this standard while poolside at Phoenix's Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa?

Long the playground of the Hollywood elite, the Biltmore played host to Clark Gable, Bob Hope, Ava Gardner, and Marilyn Monroe, among a studio-full of other Tinseltown players, since its grand opening in 1929. Berlin was among the Biltmore's regular Golden Age guests, a fan, as he once told a newspaper reporter, of the sun that allowed him to write musical scores out-of-doors as early as 4 in the morning.

The story goes that Berlin was staying at the Biltmore in late 1939, having gone there to write a film score. Lounging by the pool one day, scribbling moon-in-June couplets for some Hollywood dame to sing, he began to feel homesick for New York. The weather here was gorgeous, toasty warm even in December, but nothing in the desert looked like Christmas to Berlin, who was a fan of the holiday.

If it's true that Berlin, a Russian Jew, was inspired to write the most famous and most-recorded Christmas song ever while lying poolside at our best-ever resort, then he must have either considered our cowtown too unglamorous to include in the song's lyric, or else he couldn't think of anything to rhyme with Phoenix. Thus, the song's oft-excised sectional verse, which rhapsodizes about warm winter weather and then laments, in part, "There's never been such a day in Beverly Hills, L.A. / But it's December the 24th, and I'm longing to be up north / I'm dreaming of a White Christmas . . ."

Laurence Bergreen's biography of Berlin, As Thousands Cheer, has the composer completing the song in New York, with no mention of his frequent trips to the Biltmore resort; in Edward Jablonski's American Troubador, the author claims Berlin wrote the song while in sunny L.A.

We like to think they're wrong.

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