Hank's Half Acre

Former UA President Henry "Hooters" Koffler Is About To Fulfill His Dream Of A Safe Habitat For Faculty Lounge Lizards.

By Jeff Smith

WHOEVER SAID THE idle mind is the devil's playground obviously had more to occupy his brain than Henry Koffler has.

Smith While it might be argued that time spent dreaming up aphorisms would better be applied to doing crossword puzzles or taking out the trash, evidence suggests the former University of Arizona president could have kept himself more creatively occupied in scratching his nuts and picking his nose. But, as presently we shall see, academics of Koffler's stature may not have to resort to scratching their own nether regions nor mining their own nostrils: These brute functions can be subbed-out to the sweating classes, while the intellectual elite are freed to let their superior minds wander whither they will. Like gas. Make of this what you will.

Koffler, known to many as "Hooters" after a malaprop he once made regarding the comeliness of certain of his female faculty and administration members when clad in snug-fitting sweaters, has spent the past couple of years in real estate speculation. This in itself is nothing remarkable--half the cashiered old crocks in the Sunbelt wind up peddling land and foothills homes to upscale invaders from both coasts. But what is notable about the Koffler scam is the sheer, hilarious hubris of it.

Hooters is fronting a board of the community's putative finest in something they call the Arizona Senior Academy. What it is, in words we of normal intelligence can understand, is the latest iteration of Brook Farm, Wellville, the Elysian Fields, Mt. Olympus, or any utopian community you can summon from memory and populate with the best and the brightest your imagination, selective breeding, serious scrutineering, and exquisite perusal of curricula vitae can afford.

The Senior Academy's raison d'être is construction of a retirement community. Ah, but such a community! Not only will this proposed real estate development have the requisite location, location, location, plugged into a corner of legendary land speculator Don Diamond's Rocking K Ranch, it also will have on-site healthcare facilities for its homeowners. Not only facilities, but lifetime medical care. Not only that, but meals, insurance, maintenance, housekeeping and transportation...and the Arizona Senior Academy. Oh boy.

And what's so oh-boy about that? Are we talking shuffleboard, synchronized swimming, golf, computer-dating service for surviving spouses left with free Saturday nights by the inevitable high rate of attrition? Nope. We're talking research facilities and support. So the citizens of whatever the hell they name this place can continue to impress us mere mortals in the outside world with their staggering intellectual accomplishments.

Because--here's the beauty part--mere money won't get you into Henry "Hooters" Koffler's Home for the Humility-Challenged. You've got to convince the board that you meet their criteria for membership, based on brainpower and success in your professional and/or academic field. Can you dig it? Is this cool?

Does the word "elitist" come bobbing to the surface of this pool of cess?

Answer carefully: Your future desirability as next-door neighbor to these pampered professors and professional putzes may hang in the balance.

Me, I could give a shit. I'm already in a homeowners association, based solely on the members' ability to come up with the down-payment, and it's a huge pain in the ass. Trouble enough dealing with people whose self-image is rooted in their ability to pay 29 percent of a thousand bucks an acre, let alone allow them the fantasy that their brains are bigger and better than everyone else's.

But this is Hank Koffler's way of rationalizing a life spent in the rarefied air of academia. And evidence of the oxygen-starvation to which denizens of that lofty aerie are prey.

You may wonder how such a scheme took root and grew. How it has come within but a few months of ground-breaking with so little public fanfare. So did I, but then I do not read the Tucson Citizen on a regular basis. The Citizen is not circulated to my part of the world, and but little even in Tucson. But a kindly reader spotted a front-page story from a couple of months ago, and saved it, hoping I had noticed and would take umbrage or make sport. Finally she mailed it to me and caught me by surprise. I checked to see if the Star had taken note, and the only clip my mole inside the morgue could find was a couple grafs in MoneyPlus earlier this month, saying the Academy was getting ready to build.

But the Citizen story was something else again. It had all the earmarks of what we in the trade call a Front-Office Special. Basically a blow-job for a bunch of the boss' buddies. F'rinstance the board of directors:

• Lawrence Aldrich, president of Tucson Newspapers Inc. (Surely his brain can't be very big.);

• Manuel Pacheco, outgoing UA president. (ibid.);

• Helen Schaefer, UA Foundation type and wife of ex-prez of UA John;

• Roy Drachman, Mr. Connected. Mr. Old-Time Tucson Upper-Crust. And until Don Diamond came along, Mr. Real Estate;

• Darryl Dobras, another UA Foundation character, and yuppie-age developer. Darryl and I were in the Army Reserves together back in the '60s, and it has amazed me how, out of nowhere, he became this huge mover and shaker, like somebody's dad. It also amazes me that anybody named Darryl would be allowed inside a gated community.

• David F. Peachin. UA Foundation, blah, blah, blah. It would be indelicate of me to illustrate Peachin's ties to the Tucson Citizen, but trust me: They're in bed together.

Anyway, the Citizen made this large, effusive deal about how wuunferful the Arizona Senior Academy's pasture for dried-up old studs and broodmares will be, and how it will be equivalent to a $90-million-a-year industry employing 925 people, and how 400 construction workers will find jobs building it (after which, presumably, they will be slain and buried in the rubble, like the wogs who built the pyramids), and how much disposable income the 500 superior beings who populate the place will bestow upon the local economy.

If I could genuflect, by God I would. And I wonder: Does Citizen publisher Don Hatfield have dreams of retiring from his stewardship of that failing newspaper, and living among the elite he has so carefully cultivated? Can Don pass the IQ test? Or, failing that, does his status as publisher of Tucson's only nearly daily newspaper qualify him for membership? Can running a newspaper into the ground, running off half the reporting staff, losing circulation and eliminating news coverage--while returning a fatter profit to the out-of-town owners--count as success by the standards of the Arizona Senior Academy?

And what happens if, say, Don passes the intelligence test or gets a corporate waiver, but his wife, Sandy, can't make the cut?

Could she get a job there helping Hooters and the other old farts, for example if their bidets break down?

I hate to see a family split up. TW

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