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And Amelia Earhart Is Waiting in Baggage Claim

W. Mark Felt's surprise was just the beginning. Who's next?

June 03, 2005|Christopher Buckley

July 1, 2005 -- James Hoffa, the former head of the Teamsters union who disappeared on July 30, 1975, was thought to have been murdered by the New Jersey or Detroit mob for having cooperated with the FBI. But in next month's Architectural Digest, the 92-year-old union leader and ex-con appears not only alive, but tanned, rested and philosophical in his ranch-style hacienda in Valle de la Muerte Caliente, N.M., a remote area populated by poisonous reptiles and lost illegal immigrants.

"I won't say there haven't been some lonely moments," Hoffa says. "Thirty years in the desert with Gila monsters and the occasional half-dead Mexican, it ain't Paris, France, if you know what I mean. But it beats being on the bottom of a landfill. What can I tell you -- the good Lord has been OK to me. He's killed off most of my enemies, some of who died in real slow and painful ways, so life is basically good."

Hoffa's decision to "un-disappear myself" was a process. An intermediary identified only as "Big Joey" first approached Architectural Digest editor Paige Rense two years ago, offering an exclusive peek at the Hoffa hideaway in return for an undisclosed payment, which Hoffa said he would earmark for his grandchildren's tuitions and to fix his automatic garage-door opener, which jammed during a sandstorm in 1979.

Discussions, however, stalled when Rense objected to the Hoffa hacienda's interior decor, which included a number of black-felt paintings of poker-playing dogs and portraits of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin with naked women. A spokesman for Rense said she felt the tone was "not consistent" with her magazine's standards.

At one point, negotiations became tense when Big Joey threatened "to redecorate" the face of an interior designer Rense had dispatched to go over fabrics for window treatments. A compromise was finally worked out whereby Hoffa's lieutenant would not kill the magazine's interior decorators and Architectural Digest would pay for a basement shooting range, bowling alley and nine-hole Teamster-themed pitch 'n' putt golf course.

Aug. 1, 2005 -- The most intense manhunt in FBI history ended today when Conde Nast Traveler released an interview with the man known as "D.B. Cooper." Cooper became a legend in 1971 when he hijacked a Northwest Orient Boeing 727 aircraft and parachuted from the plane with 21 pounds of $20 bills.

Cooper says that "34 years of living out of a suitcase is enough" and that he's ready to "settle down." As for the hijacking itself, he says he never intended to blow up the plane, and he apologized to the people on board "for any inconvenience." His lawyer, Belknap Duffries, said he has been in negotiation for many months with Northwest Airlines and the Samsonite luggage company.

"They finally wore us down," he said. "D.B. is delighted and thrilled, not just because he can now stop eating out of dumpsters and sleeping under highway overpasses, but because he's looking forward to working closely with Northwest and Samsonite on some really exciting cross-promotions."

The interview appears in the magazine's September "Getaway" issue.

Sept. 1, 2009 -- Syndicated columnist Robert Novak exposed Valerie Plame as a covert officer of the Central Intelligence Agency back in 2003. He never divulged which "senior [Bush] administration official" revealed Plame's identity to him (ostensibly in retaliation for her husband having contradicted President Bush's claims that Iraq tried to buy nuclear "yellowcake" from Niger). But 17 reporters, none of whom actually wrote about Valerie Plame, ended up serving 20-years-to-life prison terms.

Now the senior official who spoke to Novak has finally come forward in an interview in next week's Weekly Standard -- former Vice President Richard B. Cheney.

Striking an unapologetic tone, Cheney tells editor William Kristol that he "frankly never lost a wink of sleep" over the Plame incident. As to whether he thought journalists should be jailed for protecting sources, he said he "hadn't really given it a lot of thought, one way or the other," but would consider it on an upcoming fly-fishing trip.

The former vice president said he was revealing his role now not for financial gain but "just to annoy the media."

Christopher Buckley, founding editor of Forbes FYI, is the author of many books, including "The White House Mess," "Thank You for Smoking," "Little Green Men," "No Way to Treat a First Lady," and, most recently, "Florence of Arabia" (Random House, 2004).

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