Originally published October 19, 2006 in the Phoenix New Times
by Stephen Lemons
It's one of those yarns that reeks of cigarette butts, aftershave and spilt whiskey. The sort of titillating anecdote graying, well-connected boozehounds might swap while swilling whiskey sours at Durant's, El Chorro or the Pink Pony.
Here's the short version: Back when he was Bird-dogger in Chief, John F. Kennedy spotted a future conquest on the arm of some Swedish diplomat or general during a White House function. Determined to grant the curvaceous young thing a personal tour of the Oval Office, JFK had her tailed by a lackey, who later reported that he had followed the dame right to the digs of the archconservative senator from Arizona, Barry M. Goldwater.
It's said that Kennedy later ribbed Goldwater about the matter, a little peeved perhaps that this yahoo from Phoenix had topped the king of Camelot at his own skirt-chasing shenanigans. Goldwater, for his part, never denied or admitted to the liaison, answering JFK's charge with only a wide smile.
Apocryphal or not, the anecdote persists among Arizona power brokers who tell it — and tell it often — because it illustrates something about their hero they believe to be true: Barry Goldwater was just as much a Casanova as JFK, only he was more discreet about it. One of the story's principal tellers, a well-heeled Phoenix legal beagle who knew Barry back in the day, laughs loudly when asked about what it implies.
"You mean you want to know if Goldwater liked pussy?" he replies, chuckling. "Well, there's nothing wrong with that, now, is there?"
The ruggedly handsome Goldwater was married to wife Peggy from 1934 until she died in 1985. She was the mother of his four children, Joanne, Barry Jr., Michael, and Peggy. And, legend or no, the very idea that the senator might have had a sexual life beyond the matronly Margaret "Peggy" Goldwater is anathema to granddaughter C.C. Goldwater, whose acclaimed biodoc Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater continues on HBO until the end of this month. C.C. produced and narrated the effort, which portrays her grandfather as a crusty but lovable gentleman-politician who had no libido past fathering C.C.'s mom, Joanne, and Joanne's brothers and sister. Sure, her grandpa ("Paka," she called him) had gal pals, but would he have bedded one of them? Why, never!
To read more, check out the full article on the Wayback Machine.