A Good Fella
Remembering Barry's Old Buddies.
By Tim Vanderpool
JUNE 22, 1998:
"Virtue consisted in avoiding scandal and venereal disease."
PHOENIX WAS AWASH in black earlier this month to mark the passing of Arizona's favorite shoot-from-the-lip, far-right political powerhouse, Sen. Barry M. Goldwater. Air force fighters screamed overhead as dignitaries from Nancy Reagan to Newt Gingrich poured out for serious memorial face-time.
Even a Native American flutist flitted about, offering his regards.
"My people will never forget you as long as we shall live," said a winded Robert Tree Cody.
Goldwater's younger brother, Bob, recalled a particularly mirthful moment in the family's retail empire, back when Barry designed a pair of boxer shorts. They were painted with big red ants, and became a smash hit. According to Bob, the marketing hook was "You rant and dance with antsy pants."
Barry, his brother said, "had a great taste for things that were pretty."
Sen. Jon Kyl then touted Barry Goldwater's much-vaunted integrity. "The senator from Arizona was not only a great patriot, he was as he wished to be remembered, a good and honest man," Kyl said.
Oh, the memories. Like those darned corners of our minds.
Unfortunately, nostalgia's gilded winds that day swept right over the sleazier corners so often frequented by Barry Goldwater and his brother Bob. Robert Tree Cody didn't mention how the political strongman pushed a 1974 congressional bill to forcibly remove hundreds of Navajo families from their homes and prolong the agonizing Navajo/Hopi land dispute. Or the gutsy plain-talker who once called the Yavapai Indians "nice," "very sweet" and "very lazy people."
But that's another story.
More telling is how Bob Goldwater skipped those charming tales of when he and his sibling hobnobbed with known Mafia thugs, ran shady citrus farms, exploited illegal aliens and were linked to land deals that stank to high heaven, in a state already reeking with real-estate scullduggery.
And maybe he just forgot about the pack of angry journalists that descended upon Phoenix 20 years ago, dispatched by the national Investigative Reporters and Editors organization to uncover facts surrounding the grisly assassination of Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles.
Bolles was dissecting the state's murky land fraud network when his Datsun was bombed in June 1976. Pieces of his flesh were found up to 10 feet away from the shredded car.
By the following February, IRE reporters had uncovered a shadowy trail of influence peddling and shady deal-making that started with the Bolles murder, weaved through the mob-laced terrain of Arizona's power structure, and landed smack on the doorstep of the brothers Goldwater.
Indeed, soon after the murder Barry Goldwater was interviewed by police about his ties to Phoenix attorney Neal Roberts, who in turn was linked to Bolles' death. A witness said that Goldwater made five phone calls to Roberts just before and just after the bombing.
At the time, Goldwater aide Judy Eisenhower denied that her boss made the calls. "We were in Washington when the bombing occurred," she told police, "and no telephone calls were made to Mr. Roberts or received from Mr. Roberts at any time."
She said Goldwater knew Roberts only from a joint appearance on a local Phoenix TV show, and possibly from "some later cocktail party." But Roberts' culpability was manifest, especially after he admitted arranging a flight out of town for one of the killers.
Either way, it was a portentous connection. In March 1977, the IRE reporters began publishing a series of stories incriminating the Goldwaters in newspapers across the country, including The Arizona Daily Star.
For his part, Robert Goldwater was longtime buddies with Moe Dalitz, a Cleveland gangster who made extensive investments in Arizona in the late '30s. A decade later, Dalitz confederate and Mafia underboss Peter Licavoli Sr. bought a Tucson ranch, while Dalitz set up shop in Las Vegas with the help of Licavoli and Mafia moneyman Meyer Lansky.
Before long the Goldwaters had opened a Vegas store exclusively placed in Dalitz' Desert Inn, and Robert Goldwater even went into the restaurant business with a tight pal of Licavoli's.
And that was just the surface. Ultimately, all these links go back to Harry Rosenzweig, the colorful onetime state Republican chairman, 1975 Phoenix Man of the Year--and Barry Goldwater's financial/political mentor. The night Barry Goldwater was crushed by Lyndon Johnson in the race for president, there was only man by his side: Harry Rosenzweig.
Rosenzweig in turn had close ties to Gus Greenbaum, a racketeer whose throat was slit in 1958 by former "business associates," and to extortionist and pimp Willie Bioff.
In the '40s, Bioff had testified against members of Al Capone's gang. He later moved to Arizona under the alias William Nelson, and soon carved himself a niche in Phoenix high society, becoming fast friends with the Goldwaters and Rosenzweig. He even traveled around the state with Barry Goldwater on the senator's private plane.
At first, Goldwater denied knowing of Bioff's past. Later, when it became public knowledge, he justified his continuing relationship with the gangster by saying it was an attempt to gather information about labor racketeering.
Bioff was blown to bits in 1955, by a bomb hidden in his pick-up truck. He was reportedly killed by the mob after dallying with $300,000 earmarked for racetrack investments. That money belonged to Peter Licavoli and his hoodlum pals.
A month before he was killed, Bioff and his wife, Barry Goldwater and his family, and Harry Rosenzweig vacationed together in Las Vegas. At one point, Bioff even loaned Rozenzweig and Robert Goldwater $10,000 for a farming investment in California.
Bioff also contributed to Barry Goldwater's first senate campaign, and the Senator paid his respects by attending the funerals of both Greenbaum and Bioff.
Next in this sublime parade comes a childhood friend of the Goldwaters named Mike Newman. He grew up to take over Greenbaum's gambling racket, and operated unhindered in Phoenix.
The web thickens further: Greenbaum regularly hosted the Goldwaters gratis at his mob-owned Flamingo and Riviera casinos. Following Greenbaum's murder, Rosenzweig became the unpaid appraiser of Greenbaum's real estate, along with an official from the now-defunct Valley National Bank. At the time, Robert Goldwater was a bank director.
When Newman's gambling operation was eventually busted--in a building owned by Rozenzweig and frequented by Robert Goldwater--Sen. Goldwater used his power to get Newman a lenient sentence and prime prison conditions.
The IRE investigation also led to liquor magnate Kemper Marley Sr. Before his death, Gus Greenbaum had established the Transamerica Wire Service, a racing network for Arizona bookies that Marley and Peter Licavoli later took over.
A major state powerbroker, Marley was soon playing hardball to land a seat on the Arizona Racing Commission. He was appointed to the post in 1976 by then-Gov. Raul Castro, only to resign several days later when his ties to organized crime surfaced.
It was Don Bolles who had brought those connections to light.
Though never officially charged, it's widely believed that Kemper Marley ordered Bolles' murder. He was fingered by John Adamson, a suspected burglar and arsonist who had confessed to carrying out crime. Adamson also named two co-conspirators, James Robison and Max Dunlap. Both were later were convicted of killing the reporter.
During the trial, surprise witness Howard Woodall, himself a convicted land scam-artist, testified that Robison told him Bolles was killed in part because he'd uncovered evidence of a loan swindle involving Marley, Rosenzweig--and Barry and Robert Goldwater. One of the convicted killers made the same claim in a police affidavit.
Finally there's the Arrowhead Ranch, a huge spread of Phoenix citrus groves established by a pair of Detroit Mafia bosses, and later owned in part by Harry Rosenzweig and Robert Goldwater. Barry Goldwater was also rumored to have a stake in the business.
Besides the operation's Mafia-laced past, Arrowhead also hired illegal aliens from Mexico, and housed them in subhuman conditions. At the time, the United Farm Workers Union was pushing hard to infiltrate the ranch, where pickers were regularly beaten by guards and told that the Border Patrol would be called if they escaped.
At one point union official Lupe Sanchez crashed a tribute party to Barry Goldwater, confronting the Senator firsthand about his brother's hiring practices at Arrowhead.
In The Arizona Project, Michael Wendland's book about the IRE investigation, Sanchez recalled his encounter with the Senator: "Well, right there, in front of all these people, Barry looked me right in the eye and said that if all my people, the Mexican-Americans, weren't so lazy and would get off their butts and work for a living, his brother wouldn't have to hire wetbacks. And he was cheered."
Barry Goldwater consistently dodged interviews with IRE reporters, and referred to evidence of his links to Bioff and Greenbaum as "trash." He labeled the exhaustively researched stories "totally false and libelous." Robert Goldwater likewise dismissed the evidence gathered against him as "poppycock."
And so it went. Now, some 20 years later, Don Bolles has become little more than a historical footnote. Kemper Marley has a UA building and an Arizona Historical Society museum named in his honor. Barry Goldwater is dead, and his brother eulogizes the Senator's fondness for kitschy underwear.
Just goes to show that time, dosed with selective recall, is a very curious and comforting thing. Perhaps British humorist William Trevor summed it up best. "The nice thing about having memories," he said, "is that you can choose."
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