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At the time of the wedding, Democrat Silberman -- a self-proclaimed influence-peddler and confidant of former governor Jerry Brown -- was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to get his new wife elected to the county board of supervisors. Golding, a Republican, had arrived in San Diego in the late 1970s with her husband, attorney Stanley Prowse.

Though she was the daughter of San Diego State president Brage Golding, she and her husband had modest assets. They were soon divorced, and Golding began her political career after striking up a close friendship with political consultant George Gorton, a key advisor to then-­San Diego mayor Pete Wilson.

With Gorton's assistance, Golding won an appointment to the San Diego City Council in January 1981. Two years later, in February 1983, Golding quit her council job to accept an appointment as a functionary in the administration of Governor George Deukmejian. Her council salary had been $35,000. The new job paid $50,784. She and Silberman were soon considering marriage.

"Susan talked to me on the phone about marrying Dick shortly after she had moved to Sacramento in the spring of 1983," her ex-husband Stanley Prowse recalled in a declaration filed in a child-support case Golding brought against him. "She told me that she thought she loved him, and that they were talking about getting married, but that she was nervous about it, particularly in light of their age difference and the fact that she was building her political career as a Republican while he was a prominent Democrat. I told her that I felt her fears were justified and that she should ask him to settle a substantial sum on her when and if they were married, so that she would feel secure and not dependent on him. She told me she thought my advice was sound. I did not doubt that she had followed it when she and Dick were wed the following year."

Golding went on to win her county-board seat, easily defeating a former Silberman protégée, Democratic lawyer Lynn Schenk. For most of her two terms on the board, Golding and Silberman were inseparable, personally and politically. Wiretaps, recorded during an FBI sting that resulted in Silberman's conviction on felony money-laundering charges, showed that Silberman was frequently in contact with Golding's office about arranging government contacts for Silberman's business friends.

Golding's ex-husband Stanley Prowse complained that Silberman was being overly generous to his two children, Vanessa and Sam. "They have both been showered with material things and have had so little interest in birthday and Christmas gifts we have given them that they have often ignored our invitations to visit and claim them." He added, "As I recall, Christmas of 1986 brought a bush plane tour of Alaska, while last Christmas brought a tour of the Far East, complete with surfing in Bali and bar-hopping in Bangkok -- heady stuff for impressionable teenagers."

Prowse was angered by what he charged were Golding's attempts to change the children's surnames. "Several years after our separation, I discovered that she had enrolled them in school as 'Sam Golding' and 'Vanessa Golding' without saying a word to me on the subject. By the time I found out, it was too late to do anything about it without embroiling them in a painful dispute. The sight of 'Golding' in bold letters on the back of Sam's high school letterman's jacket is painful to me, and for years I have received little or no acknowledgement from the children on Father's Day or my birthday. They do not treat [my wife] Joy or me respectfully. Susan has done her best to wipe the slate clean." Both Sam and Vanessa later went to court to make their name-change legal and permanent.

By the time Silberman was convicted on the money-laundering charges in June 1990, his business empire had been shown to be a massive fraud, based more on local myth of his financial infallibility than his balance sheet. A year later, Golding filed for divorce, and Silberman issued a statement from federal prison saying he had lied to his wife. "Unfortunately, I was not always truthful with her regarding critical and vital aspects of my life, and I know I am responsible for the changes in our relationship."

In November 1992, Golding was elected mayor of San Diego, narrowly beating Peter Navarro, the UC Irvine economics professor who was the bête noir of San Diego's establishment. Golding did not remarry, and, to outward appearances, lived a hermetic social life until leaving the public spotlight last year.

In contrast to Copley and Golding, Maureen O'Connor and Joan Kroc seemed to find post-spousal happiness. Kroc, a buxom blonde who at age 27 had met 53-year-old McDonald's founder Ray Kroc while playing piano at a bar in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 1957. For the next six years, they carried on a secret relationship. Ray Kroc divorced his wife, but Joan refused to divorce her first husband, who had become a McDonald's franchisee, and they didn't see each other at all for another six years. Meeting up with Kroc again at a 1969 McDonald's convention in San Diego, Joan finally ditched her husband and married the feisty billionaire.

After Ray Kroc died in January 1984, leaving Joan not only his fortune, but ownership of the San Diego Padres, she styled herself as a grand philanthropist, backing every cause from nuclear disarmament and world peace to the San Diego Zoo and Midwest flood victims. She tried to donate the Padres to the City of San Diego, a plan thwarted by her fellow Major League Baseball owners, who banned public ownership of teams.

Kroc's personal life, too, was more colorful than Copley's. She commissioned a sprawling house in Fairbanks Ranch and purchased a 300-foot yacht (the Impromptu), a helicopter (the Luvduv), a private Gulfstream jet, and a fleet of gold Cadillac Sevilles to provide transportation. She stopped driving the Cadillacs in October 1997 after she rolled one of the Sevilles on Interstate 5 near Clairemont Drive, suffering what were reported to be minor facial lacerations.

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