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Scandals and Scalawags


Madam Palfrey's revelations, once billed as a bombshell, appear to be fizzling out with no one higher than a "senior official" being fingered.

For the disappointed, let's take a stroll down memory lane.

Among Capitol Hill "sexploits" occurring in the Seventies are a couple of doozies that are hard to match for pure comedy, stupidity, and come-uppance. Nobody got impeached or harmed physically. It was just well-deserved exposé.

One involved the 65-year-old chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, Wilbur Mills (D-Ark). Nothing was spent in Washington without approval of the arrogant congressman, who once told reporters that he went home every night and studied the Tax Revenue Code.

Mills frequently hung out at the Silver Slipper, a strip joint, where he spent lavishly, often ordering magnums of champagne for friends and entertainers.

One morning about 2 a.m., Mills was stopped for speeding with his car lights off. His companion turned out to be not Mrs. Mills, but a 38-year-old stripper from the Silver Slipper, Fanne Fox, aka the "Argentine Firecracker."

In the heat of the moment, Fanne sprang from the car and leaped into the nearby Tidal Basin. Police later released Mills, but Fanne was hauled off to the local mental hospital for an evaluation. Now that's the kind of story that makes headlines and derails careers -- his, more than hers, as it turned out.

Although Mills was re-elected the following month, he was removed from his chairmanship and did not seek re-election. Capitalizing on her new fame, Fanne started stripping as the "Tidal Basin Bombshell," wrote a book, and eventually returned to Argentina.

When asked what he had learned from the embarrassing ordeal, Mills responded that it taught him to "never drink champagne with foreigners."

The spectacle finished Mill's 38-year career in Congress, but provided the Capital City some comic relief during the post-Watergate era.

A few years later, 64-year-old, Rep. Wayne Hays, (D-OH), claimed the headlines when it was discovered that he was paying a secretary, Elizabeth Ray, $14,000 a year, (a tidy sum in those days), although she seldom showed up at the office. Nonetheless, the blonde beauty queen rated a personal office in the Capitol with thick, red carpet, a red phone, and even a red typewriter.

During an investigation of her skills and services, the 27-year-old woman displayed her honesty, if not her political judgment, with the classic announcement, "I can't type, I can't file, I can't even answer the phone."

Hayes political career took a nosedive. The man who once aspired to be president retired, but later won a seat on his local school board. Ray published a book aptly titled Making Hays, modeled for Playboy, and tried her hand at stand-up comedy.

I'm betting that a woman with Palfrey's management skills and a forty pound Rolodex will find some way to launch a lucrative, new career. She might be able to turn a few bucks by writing a guide book for law school dropouts or possibly a manual on "Massage Therapy for Fun and Profit." I think a cosmetic line of matching nail and lip color for professional women also holds some promise.

For briefly distracting us from the other sordid and salacious affairs in Washington, the least we can do is to offer Ms. Palfrey some vocation guidance.