Ben Quayle's run for Congress, interrupted by Internet columnist Nik Richie

By Monica Hesse
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 1, 2010

PHOENIX -- He is a different kind of handsome than his handsome father. He takes after his mother, with dark, swirly curls, a lithe build and a loose way of walking, like a marathon runner. He looks people in the eye when he talks to them, as if he's both trustworthy and trusting, and he thinks -- as he made perfectly clear in a campaign ad a few months ago -- that Barack Obama is the worst president in the world.

Ben Quayle, the son of former vice president Dan Quayle and the Republican candidate for Arizona's 3rd Congressional District, is addressing the crowd at Politics on the Rocks, a monthly social gathering for Phoenix conservatives.

"We have a housing crisis in Arizona," he tells his rapt audience in the chichi hotel ballroom. "But I really do think there's one more foreclosure that needs to be made. Foreclosing on Nancy Pelosi's House of Representatives!"

His wife, Tiffany, wears a fashionable blue party dress and an adoring smile. She appears with him in ads and photos on his Web site, a world in which they are always volunteering, playing with their nieces, walking their rescue dog and talking about their values and hopes for an America they firmly believe in. They are nice people. Good people. Consistently unsurprising people.

In recent months, though, the niceness -- and the discussion of issues that affect voters here in this district -- has been upended by an Internet event that has called into question how much our online pasts (or alleged pasts) will impact our real-life presents.

This race has become haunted by specters: the specter of Dan Quayle, shadowing the only one of his children to seek public office. The specter of a gossip maven, haunting a vice president's son. The specter of a faceless columnist looming over the Scottsdale nightlife from which he disappeared more than three years ago.

Most people outside of Arizona would not give a flying fig about this race were it not for the parental connection and the sleazy allegations of one Nik Richie.

Dirty Scottsdale

Richie, the gossip blogger who legally changed his name from Hooman Karamian in homage to Nicole Richie because he wanted to be like Perez Hilton, the gossip blogger whose name pays respects to Paris Hilton, is giving a tour of downtown Scottsdale. His version of it.

"It's pretty much Vegas without the gambling," he says, driving past a stretch of velvet-roped clubs. "You have the ASU crowd, and a lot of pretty girls who aren't so bright. I call them 'bottle rats.' "

Richie is maybe 5-foot-5, and has the compensatory swagger that men of such heights and certain personalities sometimes acquire, one best described as Napoleonic. He has a soul patch. His voice is hoarse, which he explains is the result of partying, which he now does on a professional level.

"I don't even get up unless I'm being paid," he says. Later this evening he'll fly to Dallas to promote a club event with his wife, Shayne Lamas, the former "Bachelor" starlet and daughter of soap star Lorenzo Lamas, whom Richie married in Las Vegas after knowing her for less than a week.

Richie owns, a Web site populated with photos of the drunk and fabulous, a sort of Facebook for the club set. Back in 2007, before he founded The Dirty, he founded Dirty Scottsdale, a milder, local version. On weekend mornings the bleary-eyed partiers of Scottsdale would log on, worried their pictures would be there, terrified they wouldn't. Celebrities were made by Dirty Scottsdale -- people known by their online nicknames of "Smeagol" or "Brock's Chick."

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