The Wilsons. The service proceeded, concluding with the singing of “The Rose,” a Bette Midler standard, by Gayle, the governor’s blonde, vivacious second wife.
For a half-hour or so last week, almost all of San Diego's rich and influential people — along with many who wished they were — found themselves gathered in the Old Globe’s outdoor amphitheater, waiting for a late plane to arrive from Sacramento. Maureen O’Connor, the mayor, was seated in the front row with the rest of the city council. Far up in the back of the house, sitting next to his old friend Larry Lawrence, the millionaire owner of the Hotel del Coronado, was O’Connor’s husband, Robert O. Peterson, the wealthy but ailing founder of the Jack In The Box hamburger chain.
Maureen O'Connor and Pete Wilson aide Bob White . O’Connor, the mayor, was seated in the front row with the rest of the city council.
Across the aisle was the usually boisterous Al Jacoby, a former high-ranking editor of the San Diego Union, now slowed by age. Down from him was Ed Fike, the Union's retired editorial chief, once widely feared for his energetic attacks. Tribune deputy editor Bob Witty was seated about halfway up near ex-congressman Lionel Van Deerlin, a Tribune columnist. Close by was Union editor Gerald Warren, along with deputy editor Peter Kaye and managing editor Karin Winner.
Not far from Winner sat former police chief Bill Kolender, also a Union executive but currently said to be annoyed by front-page stories in the paper linking him to San Diego madam Karen Wilkening. Former Union employees included Larry Thomas, years ago an ambitious young reporter and today an important executive with a powerful development company that owns much of Orange County. The only Union representative conspicuous by her absence was the publisher herself, Helen Copley.
Ex-city manager John Lockwood, under a cloud for his involvement in hushing up the Susan Bray sex scandal at city hall, was there, as was John Fowler, a former deputy city manager now working for a civil engineering firm with connections to the city’s biggest developers. Standing in the back was Dean Dunphy, who once controlled the city’s downtown redevelopment program while turning a small company that assembled prefabricated industrial buildings into one of the city’s most prosperous general contractors.
John Davies, a well-heeled San Diego attorney and political power broker, who has come to be referred to by newspapers around the state as “Pete Wilson’s best friend,” sat next to the city council delegation. The theater is named for his late father Lowell, a lawyer who for many years was the Globe’s staunchest patron. Even George Mitrovich, a publicist whose brightest moments came during the fleeting reign of now-deposed Mayor Roger Hedgecock, had arrived.
Otto Bos, the governor’s loyal and indispensable aide, had suddenly died that Sunday. But before the services could begin, a late plane-load of legislators and political hangers-on from Sacramento was holding up the proceedings, and the assembled San Diegans were momentarily left to their own thoughts. Each had witnessed the crafting of Pete Wilson’s political machine. Most had prospered, to at least some degree, in the subsequent wheeling and dealing and the shaping of public opinion.
Under Pete Wilson, with the indefatigable assistance of a few close staffers like Otto, the city had grown enormously. Wilson had built a new downtown shopping center. He had finally assented to construction of a trolley line. Before the popular mayor left to become a United States senator, new subdivisions were marching across the hills in the northern part of the city, and the population was growing inexorably toward one million. For most of the assembled mourners, it had been a very good time indeed. But now Pete was governor, and Otto was dead, and so was a San Diego era.
The stragglers from the state capitol finally arrived: South Bay assemblyman Steve Peace, his radical Santa Monica colleague Tom Hayden, state education honcho Bill Honig, and many others. The service proceeded, concluding with the singing of “The Rose,” a Bette Midler standard, by Gayle, the governor’s blonde, vivacious second wife. She, too, was an old-time San Diegan who reportedly met her future husband while preparing a musical number for a Junior League benefit.
Then the assemblage moved on to the wake at the sculpture garden next door, where trays laden with rich roast beef were served and bottles of expensive imported beer sat on ice. The crowd slowly dwindled, and the remaining party of 20 or 30 was moved to the second floor of the nearby art museum. A few hours later, the governor and his wife were almost the last to depart.