In Lacey’s mugshot, he looks wearily at the camera, like a mob boss coolly calculating his revenge.
When I saw that mugshot online, I almost felt sorry for Arpaio; he didn’t know what he’d unleashed.
On September 26, I got an email about my swaggering old über-boss, Mike Lacey. Mostly from a distance, I followed his exploits: the muckraking stories, the bare-knuckled fights, the awards, the threats, the wild gouts of praise, the epic flights of profanity.
His lawyers, Becker & House, wrote that their client, Lacey, was “attempting to develop a database of former employees of the New Times and/or Village Voice Media for communication purposes.” I wasn’t sure: Did he want to send us all Christmas cards? Houston wasn’t Lacey’s main focus -- that was Phoenix, where he’d founded his empire; and San Francisco and Los Angeles, which were way more glamorous — but occasionally, he’d blow through like a hurricane. IN 1970, Mike Lacey was a Vietnam protester, an Irish kid from Jersey who’d dropped out of Arizona State.
If he didn’t like you that day, maybe you’d be fired. A few days later, I got a ,000 check in the mail. They asked only that I mail back a form with my birthdate and signature. As an alternative to the ultra-conservative Arizona Republic, he started the Phoenix New Times — a paper that would cover politics, culture and music for the sex-drugs-rock’n’roll generation. Lacey’n’Larkin, we called the editor-publisher duo who, over the decades, bought and started alternative weeklies across the country; at their empire’s peak, they’d amassed 17 newspapers, including the venerable Village Voice.
A gift from Michael Lacey, the lawyers’ letter said. On Facebook chat threads, a handful of Houston Press alumni and I obsessed over what had gotten into Lacey, why some of us but not others received that unexpected gift, and what, in general, was going on. The legal assistant who was handling the checks said that she couldn’t give me Lacey’s contact information, but that she could forward an email to him. The papers were uneven, but at their best, they were terrific.
Supposedly, a New Times story had violated a grand jury’s secrecy -- though, among other things, that grand jury had never convened.
I watched as the internet sucked away alt weeklies’ readers and display ads -- ads that the free newspapers depended on even more than did daily newspapers, which at least had subscriptions to fall back on.
As details of the arrest came out, the sheriff looked ridiculous.
Eventually Lacey and Larkin won a .75 million settlement from the sheriff’s office, and donated million of it to Arizona State University’s journalism school -- specifically to increase coverage of Latino and border issues.
Had he joined a 12-step group and was making amends? They won tons of awards — sometimes for writing, sometimes for investigative stories, sometimes for stories that Lacey had written or edited himself.
They bought the cash-starved, four-year-old Houston Press in '93.