Feature Articles

July 2002

Barry Goldwater: Friends In Low Places

By John William Tuohy

      Just when you think they're out, they pull themselves back in again.

      The mob has come close to setting up camp in the Oval Office more then once, through Truman, Kennedy and Nixon, but their ultimate dream never actually comes to fruition, for one reason or another.

      But, I almost admire their tenacity. And I stress the word almost.

      Take the recent example of Senator John McCann, Presidential candidate and Senator from Arizona.

      Very few people outside the world of organized crime realize that the father of the Senator's second wife is James W. Hensley.

      And who was James W. Hensley, you ask.

      He was an Arizona businessman who fell in with the wrong crowd a while back, and ended up taking the rap for a wheeler-dealer named Kemper Marley, Sr. over a liquor violation case back in 1948.

      Although Hensley was represented by the best defense Arizona cash could buy, the services of future Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Justice William Rehnquist, he got slammed away for a whole year.

      But it all worked out. When Hensley strolled out of the joint, Marley bought his silence with a lucrative Phoenix-based Budweiser beer distributorship.

      So, who is this Kemper Marley Sr?

      To answer that you have to go back to a sweltering summer day in 1976 when Don Bolles, a reporter for the Arizona Republican Newspaper, stepped into his Datsun, put his foot on the peddle and was blown to bits. Parts of the reporter's body were found ten feet from the burning car.

      Bolles had been poking into Arizona's local and state governments and discovered a land fraud ring, influence peddling, and shady deals that appeared to lead to the very top of Arizona's power structure and to Senator Barry Goldwater's doorstep.

      If the purpose of murdering Bolles was to cover a series of crimes, it was a big mistake. An enraged news media descended on Arizona, determined to uncover the facts behind the Bolles killing.

      The investigation led to a Phoenix liquor magnate and one time Bookie named Kemper Marley Sr., who had ties to Arizona's resident Mafia Prince, Peter Licavoli.

      Marley was a major financial and political power in the state and wanted to take back his seat on the Arizona Racing Commission. He had already been appointed to the post in 1976 by the Governor, only to resign several days later when his ties to organized crime surfaced.

      The reporter who made the connections between the mob and Marley was Don Bolles.

      Although never charged with the murder, most reporters on the scene believed that Kemper Marley ordered Bolles' murder. Their suspicions were confirmed when John Adamson, an alleged burglar and arsonist, confessed to blowing up Bolles.

      During the trial, a witness named Howard Woodall testified that Adamson told him Bolles was killed because he'd uncovered evidence of a loan swindle involving Marley, Barry and Robert Goldwater and Harry Rosenzweig.

      The Bolles-Marley connection to the Goldwater brothers was only one of the many associations made over the years between the Senator and the underworld.

      Robert Goldwater, the Senator's brother, was a longtime friend of Moe Dalitz, the man who truly built Las Vegas.

      Dalitz was present at the Atlantic City crime conference in 1929, and at the all important 1943 power summit at the Waldorf Astoria.

      Dalitz was an early investor in Arizona real estate, with some of his first deals going back to 1933.

      In 1943, it was Dalitz who introduced mob underboss Peter Licavoli, Sr. to the state.

      Licavoli loved the place and purchased a massive Tucson ranch and he and Bobby Goldwater eventually went into the restaurant business, with Licavoli putting up the financing.

      Another pal with a questionable background who was close to the Goldwater camp, was Willie Bioff, labor extortionist, paid goon, pimp and government informant.

      In 1943, Bioff testified against the top leadership of the Chicago mob about their role in a massive Hollywood extortion scandal. That testimony resulted in convictions for mob boss Paul Ricca, Johnny Roselli and others.

      In exchange for selling out his partners, Bioff walked away from prosecution a free man and got to keep the millions he had stolen as well.

      Willie moved to Arizona, where he lived under the name Willie Nelson, Nelson being his wife's maiden name.

      Contrary to what's usually written, Willie Bioff wasn't hiding out in Arizona. In fact, he worked at the Riviera Casino in Vegas as the entertainment director for Gus Greenbaum, Chicago's man in Nevada.

      Outgoing, likable and very rich, Willie was a natural for politics, and was soon popular within the golden elite of Phoenix society, which is how he met Barry Goldwater, in November of 1952.

      The two men became fast friends.

      Goldwater, a brigadier general in the Air Force Reserve, flew Bioff and his wife all over the state to attend various parties, and Willie landed a steady flow of cash into Goldwater's political campaign chest.

      Willie even loaned Bobby Goldwater $10,000 for a farming investment in Southern California.

      They were close.

      A month before the Mafia killed him, Willie Bioff and his wife, Barry Goldwater and his family, vacationed together in Las Vegas.

      In 1955, Peter Licavoli, Moe Dalitz's old pal, and Paul Ricca, boss of the Chicago mob, started to shake Bioff down for cash.

      Willie paid off for a while, but then he started making noise about going to the feds through his new pal, Barry Goldwater.

      The next morning, Bioff stepped into his Ford pick up, stepped on the gas, and was blown to kingdom come.

      Barry Goldwater showed up for the funeral and denied, with a straight face, knowing who Willie Bioff really was.

      Later, when the pressure continued, the Senator justified his relationship with the onetime pimp by saying it was an attempt "to gather information about labor racketeering for a government study."

      Yeah, Okay.

      After that, came the Newman scandal.

      Mike Newman, was a childhood friend of the Goldwaters and operated a huge gambling racket, completely unhindered by the law, in Phoenix.

      Police suspected that Newman's money man was Gus Greenbaum, but the connection was never made.

      The building he operated out of was owned by Harry Rosenzweig, who was a close friend of both Gus Greenbaum and Willie Bioff. Rosenzweig was also the state Republican chairman, Phoenix Man of the Year, and Barry Goldwater's financial and political mentor.

      When Newman's gambling operation was eventually closed down and charges were brought against him, Barry Goldwater used his considerable political power to get Newman a lenient sentence and outstanding prison conditions.

      Goldwater's troublesome brother, Bobby, was said to be Newman's best customer.

      Another friend of Barry's was Gus Greenbaum, an old time Chicago hood who ran the Flamingo for the outfit.

      Greenbaum hosted the Goldwaters at the Flamingo and Riviera casinos on a regular basis, and when Greenbaum and his wife were murdered, Harry Rosenzweig became the unpaid appraiser of Greenbaum's estate which was being held in trust by the Valley National Bank where Bobby Goldwater was a director.

      That would have been all right, but Greenbaum was a hood who went back to the old Capone mob. The Chicago outfit had sent Greenbaum to Arizona in 1928 to manage the Southwest division of its wire service, Trans-American.

      In the early forties, he was moved to Vegas where he took over the Flamingo after the Bugsy Siegel murder, and put the place in the black within the first six months of his management.

      By 1950, Greenbaum was widely recognized as the driving force behind the success of the $50 million Tropicana, as well as being known and respected in the underworld as a reliable source of information on Las Vegas real estate.

      Like Willie Bioff, Greenbaum lived in Arizona, part time, and was close to Barry Goldwater, then a Phoenix Arizona Councilman. In fact, Goldwater's family operated a branch of Goldwater's Department store inside the Desert Inn, which was the excuse Goldwater used for visiting Vegas so often.

      After his phenomenal success at the Flamingo and the Tropicana, Greenbaum was called in to put the Riviera Casino in the black after the place lost five million dollars for its original investors.

      Greenbaum didn't want the job, but, Tony Accardo and Jake Guzak, the Chicago mobs money manager, and technically, Greenbaum's boss, personally flew out to Phoenix to try to persuade him to take the position at the Riviera.

      Greenbaum heard them out, but turned the job down, because, he told them, the strain of correcting the outfit's stupid mistakes was starting to take its effects on him. After seven years on the hot seat, he had enough. He was tired, he was rich and he wanted to retire away from Vegas to Phoenix.

      Accardo and Guzak said they understood and returned to Chicago.

      One week later, Greenbaum's sister-in-law was found murdered in her bedroom, her throat split. The message was received. Greenbaum moved back to Vegas to run the Riviera for a 27% interest in the place.

      This time he lasted only three years.

      In 1958, Johnny Roselli, who was close to Greenbaum, and knew Barry Goldwater as well, was told by Accardo to order Greenbaum to step down. He was addicted to heroin, drunk when he wasn't high, running around with women half his age who stole from him, and was deeply in debt from gambling at the tables, losing up to $20,000 a week. Worst of all, he was skimming from the joint "Beyond," said Roselli, "what the guys back in Chicago considered reasonable."

      Roselli went out to Vegas and gave Greenbaum the order, he was to sell his share in the Riviera to one of the outfit's front men and leave town. Do that, he could live. All past sins forgiven.

      But Greenbaum refused. "This town is in my blood, Johnny," he told Roselli, and went right back to stealing from the skim.

      On December 3, 1958, the police found Greenbaum, dead, in bed, his throat was cut so completely that his head was almost falling off.

      Down the hall, Greenbaum's wife's throat was cut as well. She had been knocked out with a heavy bottle which caved in the right side of her eye. Newspapers were piled around her to keep the blood from staining the carpet.

      The Chicago outfit, which, by mob standards anyway, normally showed a loyalty to those who served it, would have let Greenbaum's sins go. After all, he had made them a fortune, but Meyer Lansky had a piece of the Riviera and pushed for Greenbaum's demise.

      Or at least that's the official mob explanation for Greenbaum's murder.

      The true story, is that when Paul Ricca found out that Greenbaum was stealing from the skim, a skim split between Chicago and the five New York Families, he sent word down to Greenbaum, that he expected a cut.

      Like Willie Bioff, Greenbaum paid Ricca, about $300,000 in 1957, alone. Then he got stupid and stopped sending in his payment. That's when Marshal Caifano, Chicago's enforcer in Vegas, showed up.

      Once again, Senator Barry Goldwater showed up for the funeral.

      Special thanks to investigative writer Dan Moldea for his help in preparation of this story.


Mr. Tuohy can be reached by writing to

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