Why did Mike Lacey give me $5,000? The short answer is, I earned it.
Here's what happened:
Several weeks ago I got a request from my former boss, Mike Lacey, through a law firm: Becker & House, and in the request they asked for my contact info, so I emailed them my mailing address. A week or so later, I got a check for $5,000 made out to me with this message:
It is my pleasure to inform you that you have been named as a
beneficiary of a gift from Michael Lacey. Mr. Lacey has asked us to
convey that this gift is a small token of his appreciation.
In order to fulfill the statutory requirements for gift tax purposes,
please fill out the attached form to confirm your date of birth and
current address information. You will not be liable for any tax (in
bold) as a result of this gift. However, Mr. Lacey is required to
report the gifts he is making.
For security purposes, please mail the attached form via the enclosed
self-addressed postage paid envelope. If you have any questions or
concerns, please contact my office (myself or Nicole Casaus) for
Yours very truly,
John R. Becker
End of letter. I signed the attached piece of paper and sent it back with a note of thanks. And, of course, cashed the check and gave half of it to Kathy because, as I told her, "this is a community property state." I also sent Mike a copy of my book "The 66 Kid" with another note of thanks.
Did my opinion of Mike go up after the gift? Absolutely. Has the gift "conflicted" me about talking of the sordid charges against him and Jim Larkin, my former bosses at the Phoenix New Times?
First of all, I would never even mention any of this if certain online bloggers hadn't made the claim that Lacey is using these gifts to silence journalists from doing their job on reporting the Back Page controversy (Google it). So I'm talking about it to show I have not been silenced, and, just for the record, Lacey and I had a contentious relationship, to say the least. But he's a smart guy and, from my viewpoint, he has absolutely nothing to gain by giving me this money. I accept it just as his lawyer presented it: "this gift is a small token of his appreciation."
Frankly, I deserve the money. I started at New Times Weekly for $110 a week in 1978 and my take home was around $85, and, I held down three jobs there: art director, weekly column writer (Scoops) and comic strip generator (Honkytonk Sue and, later, The Doper Roper). Full disclosure: I got an extra $25 for the comic strip. I worked very hard to make New Times a successful newspaper. In my view, Lacey is merely acknowledging my hard work all those years ago when we were both young bucks trying to make our mark in the media world. We were all poor. When I first met Mike Lacey he had just had his car repossessed. Our first office in the Westward Ho had bums lying outside the door and we had to step over them to get in the office. I used to joke that the only way to tell the difference between the homeless and the New Times employees (all five of us) was that the bums had better taste in pants.
I accept the gift with a clear conscience: it is fair payment for work done and I do appreciate the gesture and the gift.
"He was an unpredictable, capricious boss."
—Dick Reavis, former writer for The Dallas Observer, on working for Lacey