As children, they were loners. Two were small-town girls, the third the adopted daughter of a Washington bureaucrat. Before they became the centers of scandal, all three used their beauty to earn a living and gain the friendship of men in Washington.
Soon after their private lives became public in the '70s, Fanne Foxe, Elizabeth Ray and Judy Chavez appeared on talk shows to promote their hurriedly produced paperback memoirs. Foxe called her autobiography The Stripper and the Congressman , Ray titled her thinly fictionalized book The Washington Fringe Benefit, and Chavez called her kiss-and-tell book The Defector's Mistress. Television crews camped outside their apartments, reporters from supermarket tabloids offered cash for interviews and, in the cases of Ray and Foxe, their congressional companions faced political ruin.
It was enough to make a girl's head spin.
But the television lights are off now. It was seven years ago that police stopped a speeding car in which Foxe and then-Rep. Wilbur Mills were riding, an incident that brought to public notice the affair between the stripper and the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, an alcoholic at the time.
It was 51/2 years ago that Elizabeth Ray--angry that then-Rep. Wayne Hays would not invite her to a reception following his marriage to another woman on his staff--told the world she received a congressional salary for serving as Hays' mistress.
And it was three years ago that Washington call girl Judy Chavez went public with allegations that the CIA provided Soviet defector Arkady Shevchenko $5,000 each month to pay for her company.
The women's stories shocked Washington, a city where image is all-important and scandals involving mankind's oldest weaknesses are greeted with self- righteous horror. Following the front-page headlines came resignations in disgrace, suicide attempts and after the downfall of the two congressmen, a realignment of power on Capitol Hill.
For Foxe, Ray and Chavez, life could never be the same. They moved to New York and tried to write second books. One of the trio, Foxe, quietly married and a year ago--at age 45--gave birth to a daughter.
Now, when new sisters in scandal emerge--Rita Jenrette posing nude for Playboy and telling of her husband's adultery or Paula Parkinson detailing bedroom romps with congressmen--the media seek out the veterans and the lessons of their lives. LIZ
Why, Elizabeth Ray often asks herself, does she always fall so hard for cold-hearted men? Why, she asks her psychiatrist, can't she love some nice guy who wants to pamper her--instead of the arrogant kind who is as cruel to her in the morning as he was sweet to her the night before?
"I always pick 'em," Ray says sadly. "My problem is that I always choose the bad guys. For one or two days they treat you right, but then ..."
Elizabeth Ray is alive and lonely in New York. At 38, she still has the petite, curvy figure that draws stares. And she still has her dream: to become a famous actress like her idol Marilyn Monroe. But stints such as the one in 1979 as a nightclub singer in the steel- mill town of McKeesport, Pa., are a long way from Hollywood. Overnight fame, she learned, earns you mentions in Johnny Carson's monologues, but it doesn't necessarily put your name on a movie marquee.
The action was fast and furious five years ago when Ray announced she was paid $14,000 a year in taxpayers' money to serve as mistress to Wayne Hays, the 65-year-old Ohio Democrat who had bullied, wheedled and clawed his way to congressional influence by becoming chairman of the House Administration Committee. Hays denied Ray's charge but eventually, after recovering from an overdose of sleeping pills, resigned the House seat he'd owned for nearly three decades.
A flimsy book Ray had been working on for years suddenly became hot property and was pasted together, packaged as fiction, and rushed to the nation's drugstore book shelves by Dell. A men's magazine called Genesis hired Ray to "cover" the Democratic National Convention and pose nude to accompany a monthly column that bore her name. She had a role in a suburban Chicago dinner theater play. Plans were made to produce a movie about her life, beginning with her hard-scrabble girlhood in a rural North Carolina house trailer and ending with her emergence as Washington's Bicentennial sex symbol.
To cash in on the attention and to try to break into show business, Ray decided to live in Manhattan. In earlier times in Washington, as she moved from car rental counter agent to fancy restaurant hostess to congressional secretary, Ray had cultivated men who could introduce her to their male friends higher on the status ladder. Her asset was a voluptuous body, and she says she used it in Washington the same way she used it to win the votes of small-town beauty pageant judges in her determined bid to escape life in a Carolina trailer. Everywhere she went, men with clout liked her looks, and things didn't start out much differently in New York.
As she filled out an application for an apartment overlooking Central Park, Ray happened to mention she was considering a Caribbean vacation. The rental agent suggested she call a wealthy Manhattan acquaintance, a gambler and wheeler-dealer who owned, among other things, some Caribbean resort property. He sounded like Ray's kind of player: wealthy and older with a taste for the fast life. Ray met him and, to hear her tell it, he turned out to be something of a Manhattan version of Wayne Hays-- crotchety, self-centered, often uncommunicative and, at times, ruthless. She fell in love immediately.
"Playboys, gamblers and politicians," she says, "I always go for them. I'm spoiled. I'm used to staying in top hotel suites, having limos pick me up and flying to Atlantic City and having a Rolls Royce pick me up. But I really pay for it."
The coin of the realm this time was heartbreak. Ray says her lover vacillated between worshiping and despising her. The bad times, she says, were hell, all shouting, tears and insults. Then, in abrupt reversals, Ray's boyfriend would invite her to gamble with him in Atlantic City, where he enjoyed high-roller privileges.
Sometimes a casino would send a helicopter to Manhattan to airlift him and Ray to Atlantic City. There, a red carpet stretched from the airport taxiway to the open door of a limousine. The suites, shows and champagne were on the house, as befits a gambler capable of dropping $50,000 at the tables and returning next week to do it again.
Although Ray and her boyfriend first broke up a couple of years ago, they have had brief periods of reconciliation. And Ray says she still carries a torch.
"A friend called me," she said one afternoon last summer, "and told me about how he's taking a different girl every weekend on his gambling junkets." Her voice began to break. "It still hurts. A different girl every weekend. The holidays have always been so bad for me, but now they're even worse."
When times grew rough in Washington, Ray turned to her psychiatrist and a godfather figure, restaurateur Duke Zeibert. She still has the psychiatrist, and in New York she grew close to another godfather like Zeibert. He's 38-year-old Steven Greenberg, a wealthy investor, financial public-relations counselor and, until recently, owner of a trend-setting roller rink-cum-disco called Roxy. ("What," Ray asks, "would I do without a boyfriend with a playground?")
Greenberg, like Zeibert, is a bachelor, rotund with long, gray hair. Mutual friends had introduced him to Ray before she bacame famous, but they became close friends when she moved to New York.
"Elizabeth is someone who --in spite of a background that would havhe House seat he'd oe allowed many people to fail very badly --has succeeded in many ways of achieving a very interesting level of success," says Greenberg.
He helped her manage the money she earned from Washington Fringe Benefit, which sold over a million copies.
"She made several hundred thousand dollars on the book," says Greenberg, who put Ray in money market funds several years ago. "The interest on that kind of money at 17 or 18 per cent can bring a person a nice bit of money on a weekly or yearly basis. She also has done a number of television and public appearances for which she has been paid."
Just as Zeibert comforted Ray when she was depressed, so does Greenberg try to smooth over her life's rougher moments. As associate producer of the Broadway hit "Barnum," Greenberg is involved in New York's theater world, and he encourages Ray's acting career. It is his chauffeur-driven Mercedes or Rolls Royce limousine in which Ray rides around Manhattan. It is his car telephone Ray uses to arrange her day when she is stuck in Midtown traffic jams. And it is his shoulder Ray sometimes cries on when other men treat her wrong.
Ray's professional life is a series of fits and starts. For years now, she has wanted to write a nonfiction account of her life. After a ghost-writing attempt by a New York Post reporter disappointed her, Ray met with literary agent Swifty Lazar and writer Frances Spatz Leighton to discuss further prospects, but the project is stalled.
She devotes her days to acting lessons and wants to stage an off-Broadway show with herself in the starring role. If she's not acting or shopping, she is at her godfather's nightclub or visiting her psychiatrist ("The day that there's no more hope, he said he'd tell me") or at the office of her allergist ("Six shots a week--I'm even allergic to dogs and cats").
Ray's apartment is a modern, one-bedroom unit that overlooks Central Park. Her bedroom has wall-to-wall carpeting the shade of oatmeal. There are three plants on the floor. A floral quilt covers her double bed. On her walls are a picture of her grandmother, a nude portrait of Ray stretched on a white sheet with a rose ,a la Marilyn Monroe, and another shot of her in a diaphanous white gown. The living room has a corduroy sectional couch and in an adjoining room is a chrome-and-glass dining room table. The apartment has the neat look of a home no one lives in.
"I feel so upset with this town sometimes," she says of New York, "that I have to get away to Miami or Washington or St. Maarten or Acapulco. But then I miss it."
Two summers ago, she attended "Evita" on Broadway. One of the musical's melancholy songs is sung by a young actress portraying Juan P,eron's mistress. Having been supplanted in P,eron's bed by the arrival of Evita, the actress sings "Another Suitcase in Another Hall," and Ray listened closely to the lyrics: I don't expect my love affairs
to last for long, Never fool myself that my
dreams will come true, Being used to trouble, I anticipate it, But all the same I hate it--
"That," Elizabeth Ray whispered to her companion, "reminds me of me."
Fanne Foxe didn't ask for the publicity in 1974. Foxe, whose real name was Annabella Battistella, was a single parent who lived with her three children in a suburban Virginia apartment complex, dated a married congressman named Wilbur Mills, and earned a good living as a stripper at the Silver Slipper nightclub.
But that October night seven years ago when she dived into the Tidal Basin, she knew she would surface to find trouble. The black-and-silver Lincoln in which Foxe, Mills and some friends were riding had been stopped by U.S. Park Police for speeding near the Tidal Basin with no lights on. A local television crew monitoring the police radio band realized they had a sensational story when they arrived on the scene to find an incoherent congressman and a woman who had jumped into the Tidal Basin in panic.
His bizarre behavior fueled by alcohol, Mills continued to startle his House colleagues, the nation, and Foxe when he appeared over Thanksgiving weekend on stage at a Boston burlesque house where Foxe was headlining under the name "The Tidal Basin Bombshell." Soon thereafter he checked into Bethesda Naval Medical Center, admitted he had a drinking problem and resigned his influential position as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
There was, by chance, another man at that Boston theater that night. Daniel Montgomery, who at the time arranged construction of indoor tennis courts on the East Coast, had come to the burlesque house to see a woman he knew, a friend of Foxe's from Washington. He was there when Mills staggered onto the runway, and later Montgomery's friend introduced him to Foxe backstage.
The star of the show was trying to figure out how she was going to transport her costumes to New York for her next engagement. Montgomery volunteered to drive them in his car. In New York, Montgomery helped Foxe wade through a crowd of reporters camped outside her hotel room and offered to introduce her to a friend he thought might help Foxe begin a career in legitimate stage and movies. Their friendship eventually turned into romance, and two years ago she and Montgomery were quietly married at a Congregational church in New Canaan, Conn. Their daughter, Melanie, is 1 year old.
Today Argentine-born Anna Montgomery still refers to her costar in the first of what would turn out to be a string of Capitol Hill sex scandals as "Mr. Mills." Habit, she says. Mills is a tax lawyer in Washington with the New York- based law firm of Shea & Gould; he did not seek reelection in 1976. He delivers speeches about his experience as an alcoholic, but he tells reporters who inquire about his romance with Foxe that he was prone to blackouts and can't remember the incidents that earned him banner headlines in the nation's press.
"I remember being very upset," recalls Anna Montgomery, "because he went on interviews and he'd talk about how he didn't remember what happened to him ... and, you know, that we were just friends, and he kind of denied the whole thing--without putting me down, of course. The only time he put me down was when he said, 'I learned not to drink with foreigners.'" Anna Montgomery laughs lightly at the memory. "That was kind of funny, but it didn't hurt ... But a lot of the other things he said did. I thought, why doesn't he keep quiet if he doesn't have anything nice to say about me?" As Foxe made clear in her book, The Stripper and the Congressman, she was in love with Mills and hoped to marry him when he completed his alcoholic rehabilitation program.
Anna Montgomery says she still receives offers to return to burlesque, and even in middle age her figure is shaped like the proverbial hourglass. At 5 feet 6 inches, she weighs 120 pounds. She speaks with the lilting accent and a frankness that disarmed interviewers who seven years ago approached her as if she were about to cause the downfall of the Washington political establishment single-handedly. She has avoided reporters for the past several years because the road to remarriage and motherhood has been rocky.
When the mortgage market collapsed in 1974, Montgomery's indoor tennis club business began to flounder. Five weeks after the Tidal Basin incident, Fanne Foxe retired from stripping, telling a Florida audience she didn't want to cause any more trouble for Mills. With Montgomery's help, she tried new avenues. Over the next couple of years she received $10,000 for playing a part in a movie made for cable television, played in an off-Broadway play, had another bit part in an undistinguished movie, earned about $5,000 starring in a movie made in Argentina and put together a cabaret act that had limited success as a curiosity act. She also went to work for a men's magazine called Cheri, posing nude and doing some promotion.
Montgomery ouse seat he'd oeventually began working as a commodities broker on Wall Street, and he and Foxe lived together off and on in suburban Connecticut. Money was tight, and at times Montgomery, Foxe and her three children had problems paying the rent, could not afford a telephone and worried about buying food.
"Toward the end of 1977, I was home alone, and my older daughter was supposed to have gone to a party," remembers Anna Montgomery. "But she said to a friend that I didn't look too happy that night and she wanted to come back home early. Danny was gone. They found me unconscious on the living room floor. I don't remember how many sleeping pills I swallowed. Maybe 30. I did it coolly; I wasn't drinking. I just took the pills with a glass of water and passed out immediately. They kept me in a psychiatric ward for a couple of weeks, then released me in the hands of Danny with the understanding I would continue therapy.
"That was my lowest point. I was really tired. Everything was just piling up, piling up. I guess the way (the Mills incident) was taken hurt--most people blamed me for what happened, and it wasn't like that at all. I don't really know what I was expecting from such a situation. I imagine I was expecting to be received better because it was a sad story."
She hit bottom again shortly after the birth of Melanie late last year.
"I was feeding Melanie exactly the day she was one week old, and all of a sudden I felt butterflies in my stomach ... I got short of breath and I started screaming 'Mother, mother!' My mother-in-law was there, and I said, 'I don't feel well, but I don't know what's happening.'"
Her mother-in-law took the baby, and Anna Montgomery ran outside crying. The next day her doctor told her she had a "touch of the postpartum blues." But that night in bed she couldn't close her eyes. After a couple of sleepless nights, she took some Valium. But a couple of nights later she awoke screaming. She checked voluntarily into a psychiatric ward. A mild anti-depressant eventually returned her to a normal sleeping schedule.
Daniel Montgomery works with only a partner now buying and selling commodities around the world, and he says business is good. The Montgomerys are planning to buy a condominium or co-op in Manhattan; they say they prefer to live in the city now that her children by her previous marriage are mostly grown. Grace, 24, is a West Coast model; Alex, 23, is training to maintain commercial aircraft at an East Coast school; and Mary, 22, is an art student in New York.
When she is not caring for her baby, Anna Montgomery works on a novel based on the saga of a young Buenos Aires woman who was executed in the early 1800s along with her lover, a Catholic priest. Typing with two fingers, she's written 600 pages.
Both the book and the baby separate her from her past.
"What happened happened, so that cannot be repaired completely," she says. "But sometimes things can be mended enough to allow you to live comfortably and not be completely ashamed of yourself."
For several years Judy Chavez spent her nights in Washington hotel rooms
getting paid for roughing up men she didn't know. The whips, handcuffs and leather tools of her trade are in a closet in her Soho loft now, retired from active duty after the ex-prostitute with the specialty in sadism went public three years ago.
Hers was a story that embarrassed one of the prime catches of the American intelligence community, a former high-ranking Soviet diplomat to the United Nations named Arkady Shevchenko. For six months after he defected from his $87,000-a-year post at the U.N., Shevchenko lived in a Washington apartment under FBI protection while the CIA debriefed him.
One night, according to Chavez, one of Shevchenko's bodyguards dialed the phone number of an escort service he found in the Yellow Pages and ordered a one-night stand for Shevchenko. Judy Taylor Chavez arrived, 22 years old with a translucent complexion, dark hair and a small, trim body. Her wardrobe featured tight black dresses with matching garter belts and stockings. Though she was wary of the clean-cut-looking American who answered Shevchenko's door, she did not know the identity of her client with the foreign accent.
The ex-diplomat was apparently so smitten by his first evening with Chavez that he arranged to pay her $5,000 for her company 10 nights a month. During their six-month relationship, Shevchenko confided his life story to Chavez. He also reportedly took her for a Virgin Islands vacation and gave her a check for $9,000 to purchase a sports car.
Chavez says the FBI's interest in her grew along with Shevchenko's fondness, and she began to fear for her privacy and safety. She worried that her life might be in jeopardy if Shevchenko decided he was tired of her.
"Both of the things Arkady and I were into were hard to get out of," Chavez says in retrospect. "I mean, prostitution is real hard to get out of, and once he started giving secrets to the CIA, there was no way he could ever turn around and stop doing it."
But if Shevchenko was locked in, Chavez wanted out.
"But I knew I couldn't get out of the business unless I made some money," says Chavez. "I couldn't go back to work in Washington; I'd never know who was waiting on the other side of the door at the Washington Hilton."
So in the early autumn of 1978, Chavez arranged with an acquaintance, Washington lawyer Jack Buckley, to tell her story to NBC reporter Jim Polk. A few weeks later, Polk and a camera crew surprised Shevchenko at a Washington restaurant. The defector denied the money he paid Chavez was provided by the CIA, but the charge stuck. Shortly after the Chavez-Shevchenko story was reported, then-President Jimmy Carter joked at a press conference that if Chavez was telling the truth, her fee was highly inflationary and contrary to his economic policies.
After that, Chavez held a New York press conference to announce the signing of a book contract with Dell and to reprimand Carter.
"I do not believe the president of the United States needs to resort to locker- room humor," Chavez scolded. Then she moved into an apartment on East 29th Street (two floors above an apartment that was really a massage parlor) with an unlisted phone number. While she worked with a ghostwriter on her book, the CIA gave a new cover to Shevchenko, who was reportedly devastated by the publicity his private life had received.
Chavez says she spent some of Shevchenko's money and some of her book advance to buy a condominium in Panama City, Fla., that she now rents for $1,800 a month in the summer. She says she made some oil and gas investments as well as an investment in "subsidized housing units that don't pay off for 10 years." She formed her own corporation called Shattered Enterprises, named after a hard-edged Rolling Stones hit called "Shattered."
The adopted daughter of a civil engineer with the U.S. Forest Service, Chavez graduated at age 16 from Fairfax County's Oakton High School, married and separated a year later. She began working as a Washington call girl in the mid-1970s. Her mother, 53- year-old Marlyn Taylor, wondered how her daughter managed to afford a new Camaro and nice apartment without any visible means of support.
"I always had a feeling," she said later.
"I believe my parents thought I was in real estate," says Chavez. "I was evasive."
Today she owns, along with her parents, the Gold Mine Saloon in Panama City, where her parents moved when Chavez's father retired.
While she dated Shevchenko, Chavez's off-hours lover was a film editor and part-time bass guitarist in a rock band. They broke up when he moved to Los Angeles and she refused to leave New York. She liked the Manhattan punk rock scene and for $54,000 purchased a loft; she says she spent another $20,000 to renovate it. Earlier this year, Chavez began dating a dia- mond merchant from Madrid who, according to a friend of Chavez's, was "obsessed" by her.
"The last time I saw Judy," recalls Lucianne Goldberg, her friend and literary agent, "she was wearing snake from head- to-toe. How many pythons it took to make that outfit ... With her five-inch heels, she might as well as have had a whip in her hand. With that beautiful white skin and dark hair, what she telegraphs very subtly is pain--'I'm going to hurt you, tongue-lash you and cause you pain.' She's a survivor, a real survivor." Chavez's image is enhanced by her choice of pets: piranhas.
After an eight-month, around-the-world fling with the diamond merchant, Chavez and her 37-year-old boyfriend from her Washington years recently reconciled. Last month he began a commercial film production job in New Orleans, and Chavez says she's moving there to live with him and to continue the program of self-improvement she began in New York.
Chavez says at one time or another in the last three years she's taken classes in design, French, piano and synthesizer. A plan to write a book about how to understand and control different types of men--sort of an advanced course for Cosmopolitan magazine graduates --has fallen by the wayside for lack of interest. For Chavez, her moment of infamy is history, nothing to be traded on in the future.
"I have no regrets," says Chavez, 25. "It had its humorous points, the affair, but it had its very tragic ones, too. I remember I always used to make Arkady give me a bubble bath. And (just before it ended) he was telling me that women are always betraying men in history and that women are always traitors and that it would break his heart if he had one more tragedy happen in his life. And I had the feeling he kind of knew what was happening, you know?"
Shevchenko still lives in Washington, according to his lawyer, and is working to have a book published about his years as a Soviet diplomat. Chavez doesn't get a chapter, which is fine with her.
Says Chavez: "I'm such a good girl now.