The last time I saw Doug Arey, he wasn't inviting William Donald Schaefer to lunch. He was sitting in a cell at the Baltimore City Jail and explaining he had nothing to do with any plot to kill Richard Nixon.
"That was all a joke," Arey said.
That Arey, what a joker. OK, the Secret Service didn't think it was so funny, and the U.S. attorney didn't think it was so funny. But everybody knows those guys. They don't have such a good sense of humor.
The latest joke from Doug Arey is his jail-house bid to do lunch with Schaefer.
Arey's currently residing at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup, where he somehow has a credit card and entered a winning bid of $1,750 in a Center Stage auction in hopes of dining with the governor of Maryland.
Schaefer said no. Maybe he's heard about starchy prison cuisine. Or maybe he has a thing about convicted murderers. Or maybe he just remembered Sam Shapiro.
Doug Arey's doing life for the 1973 murder of Sam Shapiro, a whimsical spirit who was always running semiserious political campaigns and deserves better than to be recalled this way.
Sam never won any of those campaigns of his, but he was always beautiful to watch. He ran for mayor in the late '60s, on a total campaign budget of $200, and handed out goldfish to everybody. He called it fishing for votes.
Toward Election Day, he bravely declared, "When I started out, I thought I might run a poor third. But now, I think I'm going to run a strong third."
Four years later, he ran again and decided he might hold a 50-cent-a-plate testimonial dinner at Polock Johnny's on The Block, a kind of parody of big-money political fund-raisers.
When he ventured down to Baltimore Street, he asked Polock Johnny Kafka, "Do you remember the guy who gave out goldfish four years ago? I was the guy with the goldfish."
"I remember the goldfish," Polock Johnny said, "but not you. I voted for the goldfish."
That's the way to remember people like Sam Shapiro: running his comic campaigns, trading glad banter, and not crossing paths with the likes of Doug Arey.
Arey says he offered his $1,750 bid on Governor Schaefer as a way to help Center Stage. He said he used to go there. Also, he admitted, he hoped to discuss his case with the governor.
He wants to talk about his case, OK, let's talk about his case.
Start with Arey and a fellow named Dennis Moon working nights as security guards at the Belvedere Hotel back in 1973 and working part-time at a parking lot Sam Shapiro ran.
They wanted to take over the lot. Moon lured Shapiro to the hotel one night with a story about some antique furniture he could buy. Arey shot Shapiro three times, drove his body to Pennsylvania and rolled it down a hill. Then he returned to Baltimore to get a shovel to bury Sam. But he forgot where he dumped the poor guy's body.
While this was going on, Moon called Sam's family and tried to get $100,000 in ransom, claiming Sam was still among the living.
Two city cops, Lt. William Kearney and Detective James Russell, questioned Arey a few nights later. "Why are you so concerned about him?" Arey said. "He was a Jew. I don't like Jews anyway, and Hitler should have killed them all."
In court, it was explained that Arey was only "mimicking" the police, that he certainly had nothing against Shapiro or any other Jew.
That Arey, what a joker. He was the joker and Moon was the exotic one.
They knew each other from a few years earlier, when they'd done time together. All the prison brass knew Moon. He was the one wearing lipstick and a slip.
Late at night at the Belvedere, Moon would spread model soldiers across an entire banquet room, atop blanket-covered pillows and furniture. Or he'd go to a deserted place in the hotel and take target practice. Arey kept a revolver under his bed. It was the same model used to kill Sam Shapiro.
At City Jail in the spring of '74, Arey wanted to talk about none of this. He said he had a jail-house diary detailing abuse by guards. He said he'd talk about it for money. I said I wanted to talk about something else: tips I had about a one-time plot to kill Richard Nixon.
"Oh, that," said Arey. He admitted the Secret Service had interviewed him twice, talking of a $100,000 scheme involving Arey as trigger man. He talked about a plan involving Nixon's flying from Washington to Camp David.
"It's a straight line and it's a short journey," Arey said. "And he probably wouldn't have many Secret Service guys with him. He'd be vulnerable."
"So you did have a plan?" I asked.
"Nah," Arey said, "it was just a joke. You know how guys talk out in the yard. This was no real plan, it's just somebody's attempt to bury me. I couldn't kill the president. It's a joke, that's all."
That Arey, what a joker. I wrote a newspaper story about him. Arey wrote me an angry letter, saying I was trying to embarrass his family. Beautiful: Arey murders a man, and his family's embarrassed over a newspaper story?
This time, the joke's on Arey. A lot of people might have forgotten him, but now they'll remember again.
They'll remember not just an invitation to lunch in prison, but the horrifying act that put Doug Arey there in the first place.