What's more, Grant Woods has an outstanding sense of humor, said Tseffos.
The press secretary pointed out to Pasztor that when Woods did his recent fund-raising movie, it was called The Hound of Publicityville. "We have been one to kind of break the mold and just say, 'Look, nobody else will poke fun at themselves . . . we'll do some self-deprecating humor, just poking fun at ourselves.'"
As long as Grant Woods cracks wise, it's a stitch, but if anyone else makes a joke, it's too depressing for Woods and Tseffos to bear. "You kind of look at it and say, 'You know what, this job isn't worth it. Maybe we ought to go do something else with our time.'"
Pasztor did not contradict the press secretary.
Tseffos reminded the reporter that when Grant Woods agreed to pose for the cover photograph that would appear on 140,000 copies of New Times, he was doing the newspaper a favor.
"Let's go help them out.' That's exactly the attitude that they came down there with. 'Let's go help them out.' You know, nobody really likes to do a lot with them [the paper]," said Tseffos, describing the strategic thinking that went into helping New Times.
On the morning the paper was distributed, Attorney General Grant Woods was helping to prop up one of Arizona's most popular radio stations, KTAR.
Every Wednesday morning, Arizona's top law enforcement officer does an hourlong live broadcast. The show is not burdened with talk of dry legal issues facing Arizona.
At the top of the program, Woods informed listeners that the New Times issue that day was not funny. At all. The attorney general said it was his turn to walk around all day with a sign that said, "Kick me." He said it was like grade school. Woods then moved the discussion to a more adult plane. He introduced Johnny Carson's ex-sidekick, Ed McMahon, who had phoned the show to tell the audience that the attorney general was "one of my dearest and closest friends."
Woods and McMahon discussed Ed's family recipe for mayonnaise. They reviewed the military history of Ed's ancestors. They revived Ed's memories of the "You May Already Be a Winner" promotion by Publisher's Clearing House. They talked about the remarkable entertainment value of Star Search.
Woods plugged McMahon's upcoming visit to a Phoenix mall.
The attorney general's day was not entirely given over to show business. On the evening news, Woods charged that we were despicable scum, which wasn't very nice. There was vague talk that we had somehow aided and abetted a criminal, though Channel 3's Michael Hagerty said his legal sources had told him that in order for that charge to stick, we would have had to actually shelter the convict, not simply introduce him to the attorney general.
Apparently noticing parallels between his career and that of the slain Kennedy brothers, Woods assumed the attitude of a martyr about to be struck down by the assassin's hand. He told the press that New Times had endangered his life by posing him with an escaped convict.
People were seeing a side of Grant Woods never revealed in public.
The next day, the former publisher of the Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Gazette, Pat Murphy, went on the air and needled the attorney general.
Murphy ticked off the numerous times Woods has shed his dignity in the presence of popping flash bulbs. He reminded the attorney general of the time an aide to Senator John McCain had pimped Woods by claiming that 60 Minutes wanted to interview the prosecutor.
"You nearly scorched a path in the Capitol concrete rushing to the nonexistent cameras," chided Murphy. "Public officials who can't laugh at themselves eventually become the easiest of targets for ridicule."
The attorney general's press spokesman, Steve Tseffos, must have missed Murphy's toast.
Last Friday, an agitated Tseffos called the newspaper's attorney, David Bodney. The story about the lampoon had gone out on the Associated Press wire with a photograph and was popping up in papers around the country. Television producers from shows like Inside Edition were phoning the Attorney General's Office.
Tseffos informed Bodney that the attorney general and his staff had just about dropped the idea of suing the newspaper. However, this latest wave of national attention was simply too much. If anyone at New Times was caught fanning this publicity, then Grant Woods had no choice but to haul us before a judge.
And as far as Steve Tseffos was concerned, he would personally advise Grant Woods to sue us.
Just in case Bodney mistook the seriousness of their resolve, Tseffos pointed out that the attorney general would have nothing to lose by instituting litigation against New Times.