With the city abuzz over the news of an impostor inside Sheriff Joke Arpaio's sanctum, The Crime Avenger's chief spinmeister, Tom Bearup, took to the airwaves December 7 to ease the fears of an anxious public.
The highly paid "public affairs coordinator" told listeners of KTAR that the sheriff couldn't be blamed for not checking the background of David Pecard, who was given complete run of Arpaio's jails, offices, confidential files and female inmates. Since a legitimate Army officer had introduced Pecard to them, Bearup said, the sheriff could hardly be faulted for not thoroughly checking Pecard's past.
An astute listener called in and asked about Bearup's own background, and what Arpaio knew about it.
Bearup didn't mention that he had been a political hack in local Republican circles, only to be fired in 1989 by the Housing and Urban Development department after an investigation found that he had failed to make payments on a HUD-assigned mortgage while a manager at the agency.
Instead, Bearup told the listener that he was a 1981 graduate of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Academy, which entitles Bearup to a badge and other privileges. Such as run of Sheriff Joke's jails, offices, confidential files and, one assumes, inmates male and female.
The Flash doubts, however, that Sheriff Joke will bother to call the Los Angeles County Sheriff's personnel division, where staffers will gladly relate that they have no record of Tom Bearup as either academy cadet or employee.
The British Are Combing
Sheriff Joke craves the media spotlight, which has shone on him from all corners of the globe. But his novelty factor has worn off; as far-flung journalists examine his record, they discover there's a dark side to the hyperbole. Consequently, The Crime Avenger is increasingly being portrayed as an international laughingstock.
Take, for example, a November 24 cover story in Night & Day, the Sunday magazine of the London Mail. The lengthy piece is beautifully written by Robert Chalmers, who introduces our esteemed sheriff as a "small man whose bulging waistline and crass bravado make him strangely reminiscent of the more primitive British stand-up comedians."
Chalmers describes Arpaio as "[i]rrepressively communicative on the subject of his own achievements . . ." and possessing "an almost unbelievable repertoire of anecdotes illustrating his bravery in the many years he spent as a drug enforcement officer in Mexico and Turkey. When, I wondered, had he been most afraid? 'Afraid . . .' Arpaio repeated the word as if it were some half-remembered Balkan seaport where he might have earned a minor decoration. 'Well, sometimes in these gunfights you get kinda . . . excited. But I don't know about afraid. I can't remember an instance.'"
Chalmers writes that Arpaio's curriculum vitae, "which he handed me within minutes of our meeting, says that 'Arpaio spent three years (1950-53) in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.' America's Toughest Sheriff [Arpaio's autobiography] notes that he enlisted 'as the Korean Conflict exploded'. . . . So how was it in Southeast Asia? 'Actually, I didn't go to Korea,' said the sheriff, who eventually confessed to having served the nation in the more temperate environs of Metz, Northern France, where his work was 'mainly administrative.'"
Chalmers goes on to dub Arpaio the "Lion of Metz," and implies that the sheriff lied when he "told me that he had slept, unprotected, in one of the male tents" in Tent City. (New Times first reported that special units were on high alert those nights, in case Sheriff Joke needed rescuing.) That claim is immediately contradicted by a quote from a former subordinate who told Chalmers, "They had a Tactical Operations Unit observing him [Arpaio], and a canine unit within close distance. . . . They had a sharpshooter on the roof. The only tough things about Joe Arpaio are his breath and his dandruff."
Chalmers seemed especially touched by our frontier atavism when an elderly woman, "taking me for one of Arpaio's confidants, tottered over to inquire about the possibility of introducing public flogging. 'Soon,' I told her."
Two Good Things About the Republic
The Flash yearns for nothing more than to be a cultural bellwether. So The Flash was extremely pleased when Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Steve Benson unleashed a cartoon on December 11 portraying "'Sheriff' Joke Arpaio."
And stop the presses for this: The December 10 Arizona Republic contained a fascinating op-ed piece that explored the genesis of wacky conspiracies surrounding the crash of TWA Flight 800. The authors of that op-ed piece are Jonathan Vankan and John Whalen. Whalen also happens to be editor of New Times' online publication (phoenixnewtimes.com). He and Vankan co-wrote a book, The 60 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time. Their piece on Flight 800 originally ran in the New York Times Mazagine.