Every once in a while, especially during a slow news cycle, you can count on someone from the liberaleasternmediaelite to parachute into Arizona and look into natives' goings-on. These reports from the front invariably read like a bad anthropology field study, marked by cliche, condescension and misinformation.
Want proof? Check out the latest installment, in the May 5 issue of Newsweek. Fearful, perhaps, that its cover story, "The Brain's Last Stand," might put subscribers into a permanent snooze, Newsweek ran an on-the-scenes piece about Governor J. Fife Symington III's tribulations and impending trials.
The "intensely proud" Fifester, reports Newsweek, "is learning a tough lesson: on this hard land, hubris can be deadlier than a diamondback." What is it about Arizona that makes sophisticated East Coast scribes write like they've got a degree from the Zane Grey School of Literature?
The article sketchily traces the governor's twin problems--bankruptcy and federal indictment. But don't look for any reporting nuance or depth. After all, this is Arizona, "where scandal is a tradition and hating the Feds a way of life." And we all fry eggs on the sidewalk every day.
Naturally, Arizona's gap-toothed, banjo-strumming rural types make an appearance. The magazine found one Duke Ortmann, "swigging a beer in the trailer-park town of Apache Junction." Ol' Duke dispensed the rustic wisdom for which our state's population is famous: "Nobody's proved a damn thing," he said.
Finally, Newsweek gets some of the detail wrong. The Fifester's "crowning achievement," it says, is "the city's prime retail space, boasting Macy's, Planet Hollywood and the Ritz Carlton."
Only the Ritz was Fife's doing. No doubt the governor wishes he had developed Biltmore Fashion Park, which houses Macy's and Planet Hollywood. But he didn't.
Fife's a Hit in Pittsburgh
And as long as we're touring the liberaleasternmediaelite: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently published a major piece on our favorite indicted and bankrupt governor. The article suggests that the union pension funds contesting the Fifester's bankruptcy are retaliating against Symington for something his robber-baron great-grandfather, Henry Clay Frick, did in 1892: call in the Pennsylvania militia to crush the Homestead steelworkers' strike in Pittsburgh.
"You could probably make an argument for this being Homestead Two, only this time I'm running the gantlet. Maybe the roles have been reversed a little bit," Symington told the Post-Gazette reporter, who apparently was granted something most local reporters haven't gotten in years: access to the governor. Symington goes on, "Unions have very little effect in this state. They'd like to grab a foothold here and certainly anybody looking at the Mercado issue, for instance, would have to come to the logical conclusion that this is vengeance. This has nothing to do with a prudent business decision."
He said a mouthful there.
Other highlights from the article:
* Symington says of his current legal and financial woes: "The way we view this whole thing is that we're in a campaign. We are in a political campaign. One is against the normal opposition in this state; the other is a campaign in which the other side is represented by the federal government."
* Political consultant and former Symington aide Chuck Coughlin "remembers the day in September 1995 when the governor called his staff together and began to cry":
"'I have to do something today which hurts me a lot. I'm going to file for bankruptcy,' Symington told them. He talked about feeling he'd let the staff down. His voice started to crack. 'I just can't do this,' he said. Then he left."
* The Fifester's chief of staff, Jay Heiler, explains away those 23 criminal counts his boss faces: "'He's [Fife] not a detail person. I think he just wasn't paying attention,' Heiler said. If the government had indicted Symington for inattention, Heiler ventured, 'I think he'd plead guilty.'"
* Fife vows that he won't be run out of Arizona, even when he's dead: "'I'm going to be right here, in St. Barnabas on the Desert,' he said, pointing outside toward the Episcopal burying ground. 'But I'm definitely going to be under a paloverde tree. I've never liked the sun much.'"
(Insert spaceship sound here.)
Read Men Don't Wear Plaid
When the movie is made, The Flash wants to be played by Harrison Ford.
In the latest issue of Java, ex-columnist Barry Graham confirms rumors that a future novel, his sixth, will be based in Phoenix and will include a fictional newspaper, the Phoenix Flame, patterned after--you guessed it--us.
For months, Graham's columns have been the most interesting thing in Java, a sedate monthly apparently meant to soothe the jagged nerves of coffee-house regulars.
From his claims that he sucked the eyeball out of an attacker while serving time in prison to his recent campaign to stir protests over the shooting of Julio Valerio, Graham's anarchist views have won him a small but loyal following.
Last week, however, Graham quit, saying that he was unhappy with the monthly's editing.
Graham, a Scot, has won acclaim in literary circles for his previous works; his fifth novel, Before, hits bookstores later this month.
But he's already putting the finishing touches on his next manuscript, tentatively titled How Do You Like Your Blue-Eyed Boy?.
"In the book," he told Java in an interview, "there's a fictitious radical newspaper called the Phoenix Flame, and so my readers didn't confuse it with New Times, I refer to both. I also wanted to give New Times its due."
Graham kills off the editor of the Flame early on in the story, the apparent victim of a contract killing. The main suspect? Get this: The Fifester.
Genital Is the Night
While The Flash--true to name--occasionally satisfies the urge to caper about in the altogether, it's seldom with strangers inside a designated capering facility such as the Shangri La II Resort near New River.
According to a press release from Shangri La owners Horst and Gigi Kraus, their little smidge of paradise recently underwent phase one of a "resort improvement program." Evidently, there are new fences for the tennis and volleyball courts and a new outdoor fireplace area. The pool deck has been expanded, and "a general paint up, fix up, clean up program" is under way. And rest assured, Shangri La is a member in good standing of the American Association for Nude Recreation (which boasts 226 member resorts).
"In the '90s, nude and clothing-optional recreation is growing like never before," write the Krauses. The Flash has often wondered why few nudists are people you'd actually want to see nekkid--we're
guessing Horst and Gigi aren't going to be in GQ or Victoria's Secret catalogue anytime soon. But interest was nonetheless titillated by the accompanying photograph, which was clipped to the back of the Shangri La PR sheet. Yee-haw. That big ol' tank makes The Flash wanna rend his clothes and hop around on a pogo stick. That's probly the new Jahcoozie!
Feed The Flash: voice, 229-8486; fax, 340-8806; online, [email protected]