San Diego Ex-congressman Bob Wilson, who died last week of Alzheimer's, was a controversial figure who made national headlines during the Watergate scandal and played a major role in the International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT) Co. affair of the Richard Nixon era. Neither that infamous incident nor Wilson's other more colorful San Diego endeavors made the Wilson obituary that appeared in Saturday's Union-Tribune, though they're a key part of the town's political history. In the spring of 1972, columnist Jack Anderson revealed that ITT, which owned the Sheraton hotel chain, had secretly paid $400,000 to the Wilson-dominated host committee to stage the Republican convention in San Diego that year. Anderson had gotten hold of an internal ITT memo in which the company's Washington lobbyist, Dita Beard, tied the donation to the Nixon's administration's quick settlement of an anti-trust case against ITT. Though Nixon and ITT denied any collusion, the convention quickly relocated to Miami Beach. Another big hole in the U-T obituary was Wilson's long-time relationship with fugitive swindler Clifford C. Graham. Since the mid-1960s Graham, the founder of Fotomat, a chain of photo-processing shops, had been a stalwart supporter of San Diegan Republican causes. But in 1984 Graham lost his Midas touch when Au Magnetics, an outfit he said had devised a process to extract gold from sand, failed to deliver. Facing federal indictment for fraud, Graham vanished, never to be seen or heard from again. Wilson -- along with his congressional buddy and ex-Charger Jack Kemp, another beneficiary of Graham's political largess -- had lent their considerable prestige to Graham's effort to convince hundreds of hapless La Jolla investors to sink millions of dollars into the gold-making scheme. "Wilson, now a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., made a $100,000 investment in Clifford Graham's gold-mining process two and a half years ago," the Evening Tribune reported in June 1984. "He has traveled to South Africa to investigate Graham's venture and feels it eventually could be worth 'billions, not millions.' " After Graham disappeared with his investors' money, the venture was proclaimed a sham.
When William "Crusty" Mahan, a sometimes "telemarketer" from San Diego, was hospitalized here for lung cancer last month, his secret life began to unravel. From his hospital bed, Mahan asked his boss to fetch his meager belongings from his fleabag motel room. Among the possessions: a Ross .38-caliber handgun hidden under the mattress and some old newspaper clips. As the boss dug further through Mahan's stuff, he discovered that Mahan had another identity: that of Dennis A. Field. The boss asked a friend to do some research using the Internet and soon discovered that Field, a.k.a. Mahan, was wanted for a 1991 murder in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Field allegedly shot an ex-employer, 58-year-old socialite Barbara McConnell, in the back, then made off with her 1978 Lincoln Mark V. The boss called the FBI's San Diego field office and agents took Field into custody. Florida cops flew west to interview him in his jail cell. They learned that shortly after Field arrived here eight years ago, he stashed the Lincoln away in an RV storage lot and hadn't used it since. On July 25, the 56-year-old Field, facing extradition back to Florida, was arraigned in federal court here. Less than an hour after returning to his cell, he fell dead. The story was told in last week's Palm Beach Post.
Yet another San Diego ex-husband is taking his lumps in print. Supermodel Christie Brinkley is taking shots at La Jolla developer Ricky Taubman, whom she met on the ski slopes of Colorado and married briefly. In this month's Redbook magazine, Brinkley says, "I remember bringing Richard home to meet my parents. The second they saw him, my mother called him 'Satan from Colorado.' They were like, 'What are you doing with this guy? He's weird.'" Brinkley also called her ex a "con man" and "control freak" ... That rowdy Harley-Davidson dealers' convention held at the convention center here two weeks ago has ended on a downer. Rudi Kutter, owner of a Harley dealership in Janesville, Wisconsin, was on his way home from San Diego last Thursday when the Harley he was riding collided with a vehicle on the outskirts of Minot, South Dakota, and he was killed.
Contributor: Matt Potter