Shirley Moore, who spent two years in Washington as Mike Deaver's secretary before returning to California, speaks with the perspective of a continent's distance. Of course the former deputy chief of staff changed in the White House, she says. "It would be very hard for anybody in the world to work there and not change.

"It's like a magic house -- or a magic hole," she says. "It's like walking into a time capsule or a vacuum or a different country."

In 1981, as the national press corps began to sort out the new administration, Deaver was identified as "the keeper of the body," the ultimate loyal aide -- "a glorified servant to the Reagans, with some doubt attending the adjective," as Lawrence I. Barrett, a Time magazine political correspondent, parodied the descriptions in his book on the early Reagan White House.

Without greatly changing Deaver's role of 15 years, Reagan's election increased his power exponentially. It is one thing to be a man who can always talk to the governor or the candidate; it is another to be the man who controls access to the president of the United States.

From the start Michael and Carolyn Deaver were "A-List" guests in Washington, and in all sorts of circles: political, diplomatic, media and what society-watchers call Establishment Washington. "He got wonderful reviews for the first three or four years," says one shrewd observer. "Mike Deaver was a huge catch," says another.

The Deavers took to the social scene with flair, sometimes going out seven nights a week. "They went everywhere," says a longtime associate. Adds Peter McCoy, who was Nancy Reagan's first staff director, "I think they were somewhat overwhelmed."

Within the year, Deaver, who had talked at first of returning to California, was hooked on Washington.

Speaking of Deaver

Deaver, whose trial on five counts of perjury began yesterday, declined through his laywer to be interviewed for this story. But, beyond the men and women who don't like Mike Deaver and never did, there are three kinds of people who will talk to a reporter about him:

The first are real friends who love and admire him, who speak of him as warm, irreverent and funny, a man incapable of guile. Says Pat Jacobson, a Fort Worth woman who has known him for 20 years and who chaired the 1980 Reagan-Bush campaign in Texas, "Mike is the most loyal man I ever met; I adore him ... I just wish I could talk to the judge or to the jury and say, 'This man just does not deserve this.' "

The next are from the more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger school: people who have clashed with Deaver, and who today will tell a wicked story or two. But they are loath to pour too much salt on the wounds left by the investigation that resulted in the perjury indictment, but no charges that he violated ethics statutes governing the lobbying activities of former officials. "You see, I don't think that basically Mike Deaver's a bad man," says former White House political director Lyn Nofziger, who is himself under investigation by an independent counsel for his lobbying activities on behalf of the Wedtech Corp. and others. Ed Rollins, another former White House political director, says, "I've tried to tell you as accurate a story as I can, but I'm not about to kick him. You know, two years ago, three years ago, you betcha. I'd have put a boot in his head just as quick as he'd have put one in mine. But today I just feel very badly for him, and wish him well."

In the third group are people who like -- or liked -- Deaver, but are damned if they'll let you leave with the impression that his day in the sun didn't change him. They describe a guy whose head was turned "360 degrees," as one observer put it, by the rush.

"He fell in love with the beautiful people," says one who had occasion to observe Deaver over his 4 1/2 years in the White House. "He began to believe that life begins and ends in Georgetown and Martha's Vineyard. He had dined with the queen. He had chatted with the pope. He forgot what staff people in the White House always seem to forget: It ends. It always ends."

Focusing on Finances

Every six months Deaver told Shirley Moore he was determined to leave the White House in six months. As he told Barrett toward the end of his first year in Washington: "Most of my adult life, and all of our married life, has been in Ronald Reagan's orbit ... Isn't it time that I became Mike Deaver?"

His restlessness made headlines in December 1981 when he told reporters that he could not afford to live in D.C. on $60,662 a year. "I have no money left," he said. "We are living on our savings."

The money issue stuck to Deaver throughout his tenure in the White House. In 1982, after a fitness campaign in which he lost 30 pounds, he contracted to write a diet book. His advance against royalties was to be $18,000 over two years -- the exact maximum allowed under ethics laws. Although Deaver never finished the book, the idea that he was eager to make more money had been planted.

The Deavers' financial picture brightened, to the tune of $50,000 to $60,000 a year, when Carolyn Deaver went to work in public relations, but the image worsened: How did a woman with no previous public relations experience snag such accounts as the Republican National Committee? critics asked.

In early 1985, Deaver and several other members of the advance team for the economic summit in Bonn used diplomatic privileges to buy luxury BMWs at a 15 percent discount, saving several thousand dollars. Again, no wrongdoing was found, but the incident perpetuated the impression that Deaver was a man concerned with his personal bottom line.

By coming to Washington, the Deavers had stepped on a financial treadmill. "He had a much better life style {in Sacramento} than he had here as an assistant to the president," says former Deaver deputy Joseph W. Canzeri, counting up the expenses dictated by Deaver's new life: "You can't go to meet with chiefs of state in a rented tuxedo."

Joining the administration also forced Deaver to sell to his partner Peter D. Hannaford his interest in the public relations firm they had built up over six years. For 50 percent of Deaver & Hannaford, which netted $845,000 in the year before Reagan's election, Hannaford paid something under $50,000.

Friends and former associates say Deaver believes that Hannaford took advantage of his need to complete the sale by Inauguration Day. "The only thing I know is that they both hate each other's guts today," says Rollins, whose office is down the hall from the reconstituted Hannaford Co. Inc. "Peter's made a lot of money since, and I think that Mike felt there was a much bigger pie to split up than it actually turned out to be."

"As long as Deaver was in the White House," says Nofziger, "he made sure that Peter never got invited there."

Hannaford, who moved to Washington in 1984, says that the price was fair. "I was puzzled and hurt when I learned {Deaver} had turned his back on our friendship," he says.

Says Rollins, "He watched his partner, Peter Hannaford, get very wealthy ... He watched Lyn Nofziger leave the White House after a year, go out and make lots of money. And so I think Mike sat there for two or three years saying, you know, 'I'm going to get out of here and I'm going to go make lots of money.' "

Assistant to the President William Henkel, whom Deaver recruited in 1982, says more gently, "As you got to know Mike, he was very conscious of the fact that he worked pretty hard for what he got ... In his midforties, Mike probably decided that he wanted to prosper. But hell, unless I hear differently, there ain't nothing wrong with that."

Looking to Move On

By 1984, Deaver's desire to leave had begun to show in his work, some say. As the reelection campaign heated up, Deaver -- formerly famous for his 14- and 16-hour days -- began working fewer hours, even disappearing from time to time, according to former colleagues.

"Mike Deaver just wasn't working as hard," says a former colleague. "His mind was somewhere else; he was playing tennis most of the time. I think he was going through a very difficult kind of struggle about when he had to make that break."

Another staffer says, "He would sit on the campaign plane and read a book rather than go to another event. He was just not engaged. Part of it was burnout. He was saying to himself, I think, 'I am tired of this. I am tired of being the baby sitter. I have done this for 20 years and I just don't want any more of it.'

"He was the man you went to with your problems" about Reagan, the staffer says. "His burnout wasn't the weight of responsibility for important policy and huge issues. His burnout was the weight of hearing, every day, people saying, 'You have to go in there {the Oval Office} and tell him he's screwing up on this.' "

"By 1984, even though he had been talking about leaving for a long time, something had changed and we all knew this time he really meant it," a former colleague says. "He was there in body, but not in soul."

The body departed the White House in May 1985.

The Private Problem

"Mike has a little bit of a shell around him, I think," says Henkel. "I mean, he had an aura maybe a little bit of -- I'm not going to say brusqueness, but this sense of protecting himself, or staying back a little."

Deaver's friends struggle to reconcile accounts of him as a man who ran through friends and forgot the "little people" he met on his way up with those of him as a warm-hearted extrovert who always remembered the White House operators at Christmas.

"People think he's oft-times arrogant or, uh" -- here Deaver's friend Jim Lake weighs his words very carefully -- "mean-spirited. He is not. I think he's an insecure person and that sometimes he comes across, because he's uncommunicative, as being arrogant."

Rollins observes, "He just kind of kept it all inside ... I think he's a shy, sensitive person, but I think he's far more complex than most people give him credit for."

The word "private" comes up often in conversations about Deaver. Despite a widely acknowledged capacity for charm and a lifelong involvement in jobs that call for social skill and force of personality, Mike Deaver has a side almost nobody knew.

That was the Mike Deaver who drank.

Last November, Deaver signed himself into a Maryland facility for eight weeks of treatment for alcoholism. Since then he has attended Alcoholics Anonymous, and taken what experts say is one of the most important steps in recovery: acknowledging your alcoholism to friends. One friend after another tells of getting a call from Deaver, meeting him for breakfast or lunch, and being astonished by what he had to say:

Shirley Moore: "I almost fell out of my chair. I had never seen him with too much to drink."

Joe Canzeri: "I never knew about that ... Never, ever had an inkling of it."

Others, while they say they hadn't known, were less startled. Says Jim Lake, "I was surprised but not shocked."

Lake had been aware for years that Deaver's father is a recovering alcoholic. The children of alcoholics are at four times greater risk of substance addiction than children from nonalcoholic homes, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Says Henkel, who worked closely with Deaver and often traveled with him advancing presidential trips: "Yeah, I was surprised. But yet, you know, when you're then confronted with the reality that he had a drinking problem, yeah, then I think you can look back and you can see certain things ... I mean, having a glass of wine or a couple -- you know, at what appeared to be a weird time."

Deaver's alcoholism became public in April when his attorneys filed confidential notice with the court that his defense may include a claim of mental impairment as a result of his combined use of alcohol and unnamed prescription drugs. But only Mike Deaver knows when his drinking became a problem -- whether it was before or after he left the White House.

Deaver's love of fine wine was one of his signatures, like his playing the piano and passion for gardening, and was one way he masked his problem. Another was by drinking alone.

William F. Sittmann, a former White House aide who left with Deaver and is still a vice president of Michael K. Deaver & Associates, says that Deaver "finally realized he was your classic alcoholic, if there is such a thing. And {that} he couldn't do it himself."

By all accounts, Deaver is dealing courageously with his illness. Friends have come away from those breakfasts and lunches impressed and clearly moved: by his nerve in facing and admitting the problem, by what they describe as his serenity in having chosen to deal with it.

"It's a hard to say," says Deaver's brother Bill, "but it's probably the best thing that ever happened to him at this juncture. To be in that kind of a situation with the support that he now receives" through AA.

Falling Out of Influence

Deaver's response last spring to the gathering criticism of his high-profile lobbying activities was offhand: "I wonder what people thought I was going to do when I left the White House -- be a brain surgeon?"

In fact, no one had been surprised that Deaver chose to strike out on his own in what he christened a public relations firm, nor that he attracted from the start an impressive roster of clients, most of whom paid at least a $300,000 annual retainer.

What surprised everyone was the apparent heedlessness with which he promoted Michael K. Deaver & Associates.

It is almost forgotten that the March 3, 1986 Time magazine cover with Deaver's photograph and the headline "Influence Peddling in Washington" did not in itself ruin Mike Deaver's career. The previous December, after reading a news report about Deaver's reported lobbying about acid rain on behalf of the Canadian government, Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) had requested a General Accounting Office investigation. Several journalists had also begun a relentless pursuit of the story. Yet the day the magazine hit the stands was the day it became open season on Mike Deaver.

"I think that people sort of saw him getting closer and closer to the edge in terms of hurting himself," says a former colleague. "But until the cover of Time magazine, I don't think anybody realized how bad it was."

A month later, President Reagan defended his friend publicly, saying, "Mike has never put the arm on me or sought anything or any influence from me since he has been out of government."

In May, the Justice Department requested an independent counsel. In August, a subcommittee chaired by Dingell voted 17-0 to request that the counsel consider whether Deaver perjured himself in testimony before the panel.

By that time, Legal Times reported, Michael K. Deaver & Associates had lost at least eight major clients, including Canada, Singapore, Mexico, Trans World Airlines, and Philip Morris Inc.

Deaver had been out of the White House for 16 months.

Into the Fire

"He may have stumbled," says Joe Canzeri, "but he had some people pushing him, I'll tell you that."

This is the "powerful enemies" explanation for Deaver's decline.

Canzeri, who now runs his own public relations firm, points out that resentment came with the turf Deaver dominated in the White House: "If 10 people want to go into the Oval Office, and one went in, you've made nine enemies immediately. And the one that went in isn't your friend, because he thought he ought to be there anyway."

Deaver's role and history with Reagan had placed him at the center of tensions between the true believers who had followed Reagan from California or through his campaigns and the numerous pragmatists he appointed to his cabinet and staff. And because Reagan trusted him, Deaver had a role in almost every controversy: When a decision was made that some liability -- Secretary of State Alexander Haig, national security adviser Richard V. Allen -- had to be eliminated, Deaver served as catalyst and messenger.

Thus the argument that the right wing -- what Bill Deaver calls "the extra-chromosome conservatives" -- blamed Mike Deaver when Reagan's policies failed to live up to his rhetoric. As soon as he was out the White House door, friends say, he was shark bait.

Lake and Canzeri both believe that he suffered for his loyalty. In the White House, Lake says, "He didn't conduct a campaign to make Mike Deaver look good, and to keep his friends ... He was looking out for Ronald Reagan, not Mike Deaver."

As the architect of Ronald Reagan's image, Canzeri says, Deaver also "ticked off" people on the Hill, "because Ronald Reagan drove those guys into the ground up there."

And then there is politics as usual: "Washington is a city that is still built on great struggles for power," Reagan speech writer Ken Khachigian reminds us. "You can't tell me if you're a Democrat in a city where achieving power is important, that an opportunity to bring down one of the president's closest associates isn't a chance to advance your cause and hurt your opponent's."

Ultimately Deaver's reputation for not getting involved in substantive issues also hurt. Another lobbyist might have tried to argue the merits of his actions on behalf of his clients, but Deaver, who said in an April 1986 interview, "I don't think to this day I could tell you what acid rain is," hardly seemed in a position to claim a deep concern about the issue.

Lobbyists are the other group frequently blamed in Deaver's downfall. It's not known whether he was making more money than other lobbyists (Sittmann says the firm billed about $3.5 million in its first year), but he was perhaps making it more quickly. And after it was learned that the London firm Saatchi & Saatchi was negotiating to buy Deaver's firm for $18 million, he was certainly making it more visibly.

Most of all, he was drawing unwanted scrutiny. In the words of one lobbyist, "Everybody is held up to issue."

Powerful Publicity

"It was an unwritten rule that everybody knew that it was okay to be a power broker, but one of the things that made you a power broker was that you didn't advertise it," summarizes a former colleague, putting his finger on what many say was Mike Deaver's fundamental mistake.

John P. Sears, Deaver's former rival for control of Reagan's 1980 campaign, is a Washington lawyer who says he sometimes lobbies for longtime clients. "Politics by nature -- and that's what you're into here -- it's a very private business," he explains. Sears' novel surmise is that Mike Deaver failed to figure this out because he was from California, where, "if you got your picture on the cover of Time magazine riding around in a limousine and an article about yourself, that would be good news."

But it is possible that Deaver had an even more profound misunderstanding of his business. It is possible that he did not know he was a lobbyist.

"I think Mike Deaver still thinks he created a PR company," says a former colleague. "I think he didn't know the difference between a traditional PR company and what he put together."

People who talked to Deaver about his plans shortly before he left the White House confirm that what he had in mind was a "strategic communications" firm. To this day Sittmann, who has been with the company from the brainstorm stage, says that it is wrong to call Deaver a lobbyist because "we never lobbied on the Hill in our lives."

Sittmann describes the firm's startup: "And so Mike left the White House ... and things just started to happen. I mean, we would sit there at night {saying}, 'My God, will we ever make it?' And then the clients started to come in and I think we were both shocked ... It was very exciting. And then Mike and I realized we couldn't do it all; we were getting involved in trade, and I knew nothing about trade, so then we just started hiring other people."

In other words, the clients were defining the nature of the business, rather than the business determining the nature of the clients and the services. As John Sears says, "You have to have enormous discipline to resist what happens when you leave government" -- the influx of clients who believe that an ex-official's inside knowledge can help them.

Observers return, again and again, to the question of Deaver's self-confidence, and the man they finally describe is the Sally Field of lobbyists: "You really like me!"

To believe that this is the source of Deaver's problems is to believe in an astonishing naivete'. Evan Thomas, who wrote the cover story for Time last year, says he at first thought Deaver as cynical as any man ever to spin the revolving door. But by the end of several interview sessions with Deaver this spring for Newsweek, where Thomas is now Washington bureau chief, he had come to believe "that a big part of it was a genuine gullibility."

The Public Trials

"You feel like some kind of drug dealer," Deaver has told an acquaintance about the ordeal of prosecution.

For now, Michael K. Deaver & Associates occupies a three-story town house in Old Town, where it moved in May from its too-expensive quarters in Georgetown's Washington Harbour complex. From a peak staff of 18, it is down to six.

Bill Deaver, who joined the firm in February 1986 as a consultant, is managing the office, which still represents "a few clients who have been nice enough to stick with us." He and Sittmann both decline to name those clients. Both say that when -- if -- all this blows over, they intend to build the business back up.

Deaver has delivered to William Morrow & Co. a manuscript about his years with Ronald and Nancy Reagan for which he contracted before his troubles began; some of the $500,000 advance went for the services of a professional ghostwriter. Now, Bill Deaver says, he talks of writing about the slings and arrows of his recent past.

He may need to: His legal fees, said to have reached $600,000, are still climbing. Some good friends -- including Jim Lake, Joe Canzeri, longtime friend Nancy Reynolds and (until he returned to the White House this year as deputy chief of staff) Kenneth M. Duberstein -- have worked to raise a defense fund. But in Lake's words, "It's been very difficult."

All scandals eventually fade, giving way to newer ones. It is ironic that, when Mike Deaver's fall from grace was finally eclipsed, it was by a crisis in the presidency Deaver served so well. That, too, was a debacle he might have forestalled; his friends like to think he would have.

One of the smaller lessons of the Iran-contra affair was that the president still needed Mike Deaver. When Nancy Reagan and others wanted Reagan to fire Donald T. Regan as chief of staff as the first step in damage control, it was Mike Deaver who assembled a council of elders to call on the president and urge a clean start. He had as much as ever of the rare commodity that had promised him riches: access.

"Mike is no babe in the woods," says Bill Deaver. "He's not totally innocent, he's made some mistakes. {But} not enough to be in the situation he's in today.

Joe Canzeri is content to let it rest at this: "I think if he had it to do over again, he would probably have handled his media differently."