Everybody who was anybody in Phoenix has a favorite story about Charles H Keating Jr., who died this week at 90. Here's mine. By the time I came back in 2000, Keating, the disgraced imprisoned former S&L kingpin, was once again a fixture around town. I would run into him at Durant's, where he was cordial but declined my invitation to sit down sometime and tell his story.
One day the restaurant was packed and Keating couldn't get seated. He confronted the day manager, the fabulous Mari Connor, and said, "Do you know who I am?" Without a second's hesitation at a restaurant that had hosted governors and mobsters, Connor said, "No, but I'm sure they can seat you up the street at Alexi's. Otherwise, the wait is thirty minutes."
Time wounds all heels.
I was gone from Phoenix during Keating's glory days of the 1980s. He developed Dobson Ranch in Mesa and Estrella Mountain Ranch in Goodyear among many other projects. The most impressive physical monument he left behind was the Phoenician resort. The name says much about the time: Phoenix was still the center of "the Valley's" economic universe. It would never happen today; the resort claims it is in Scottsdale, even though it in the city. And for all the criticism heaped upon it, the Phoenician to me remains a beautiful place — built within the existing urban footprint — with an apt, evocative, allusionary name.