Eugene Weekly : Viewpoint : 12.11.08

Fall of the Bagman 
Blagojevich’s tale could have been different
By Frederick R. Storm 

Just another week in Illinois politics it seems. Announcing the newest distinguished inductee for membership in the Pepperdine Hall of Shame Class of 2008: The Hon. Rod Blagojevich, governor of the great state of Illinois, and Official Bagman for the Blagojevich Federal Political Corruption Legal Defense Fund.

Every time over the past few years as the federal prosecutorial noose inevitably tightened around the squirming neck of Blagojevich, I couldn’t help but think back to one memorable April night a couple of years back down in L.A., at my Pepperdine Law 25th year class reunion celebration dinner.

Who can forget my classmate Charlie Norris’ great re-telling of the story back in 1980 of Blagojevich’s all too-brief sojourn for nearly a week, trying to crash the party as the new roommate of my Pepperdine Law classmates, Charlie himself, the venerable Thomas Francis Xavier Mascola, and of course, the one, the only, the inimitable “Sarge,” Robert Thomas Pfund.

Sarge had been my first year roommate at Latigo Bay Villas Student Apartments when we all first arrived on campus in 1978 to attend law school out at Malibu Beach.

Whenever we hit the bars of Santa Monica, and people asked Pfundo where he went to law school, Sarge’s fast reply was always the same: Pepperdine School of Law, the finest law school in all of Malibu! 

Late on Sunday afternoon of the weekend before fall classes were to start in 1980, after a Bacchanalian extended binge of partying, drinking and carrying on before the official start of the new academic year, future Gov. Blagojevich shows up unannounced at Sarge’s beachside suite, under the sadly mistaken impression that he was gonna be the fourth suite-mate at Latigo Bay for Sarge, Charlie and Masco.

Sarge sought to quickly and firmly disabuse young Rod as to the sheer folly of his unfortunate selection of roommates in the choice Pepperdine student housing locale out at Carbon Beach, just down the beach from where they filmed the Rockford Files.

The last bit of educational and career path advancement that Sarge so graciously shared with Blagojevich as he was about to launch his law school career, and assume that he was about to move into his room that lovely August Sunday afternoon went something like this: 

“Rod, it certainly won’t bode well for you and your future, with your parents and family back in Chicago, all counting on you to have a fine future of academic and career successes, should you sadly elect to persist in trying to stay and live here with the three of us seniors in our suite.

“You see, Rod, Masco, Charlie and me, we are your classic underachievers. We stay up late, we get up late, we party pretty much all the time, we screw off, we barely go to class, and we sure don’t maintain a good study environment for an up and coming first year guy like you.

“Besides, Rod, no matter what you end up deciding, one way or another, believe me, you ain’t livin’ here.”

At first, Blagojevich tried to just laugh it off, claiming that he’d “hoisted a brew or two at Northwestern.” Blagojevich thought that Sarge was just kidding around. Sarge was NOT kidding around.

Thus Sarge made it his mission to make poor Rod’s life miserable. He ate his food, stole his underwear, trashed his room, partied nightly till dawn, and so much more.

Blagojevich didn’t even last the week. By Thursday morning, he had had more than enough, and decided that much the better course was for him to pack up all his shit, admit his ignominious defeat at the hands of Sarge, and slink back to the campus law dorms where he belonged.

Charlie Norris gave credit where credit was due. He pointed with pride to Sarge’s sage and prescient advice to Blagojevich as quite possibly the genesis of Blagojevich’s stellar political career.

Who knows, it may turn out that Bob Pfund may have been the inspirational force, and at most only one or two degrees of separation away from hugely advancing the meteoric rise of not only Blagojevich, but now the political career of Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald as well.

After November’s Republican election debacle, Fitzgerald, he of fame for prosecuting Scooter Libby, seems to be one of the very few rising stars of the GOP, not only in Illinois, but nationally as well.

So if Fitz ever decides to aim for a higher political plumb, just like Blagojevich before him, he very well may have our very own Sarge to thank as the man who made it all possible for him!

My buddy Bob was never gonna let some goofy little Serbian dweeb like Rod Blagojevic from Chicago mess up the choreographed feng shui of Pfundo’s and Charlie’s and Masco’s sweet Malibu senior law suite digs.

But for Bob’s wisdom, his compassion, and his singular focus to assure that no matter what it might take, that Blagojevich would never live with him at the beach, who knows what different course Blagojevich’s life may have taken?

Now Blagojevic must deal with the utter ignominious infamy, moral travesty, and all encompassing self-inflicted personal failure that is now the impeding train wreck of his life, all played out under the bright lights and intense scrutiny of every media outlet known to humankind, for at least the next couple of weeks or so.

He is about to be proctologized with multiple blunt rusty implements 24/7, being the opening punch-line for Leno, Letterman, Conan, and all the rest, no matter what network or time slot, not to mention the dreaded “perp walk” today and for many days and months to come.

Without Sarge there to save his budding legal and political career at its very beginning, Blagojevic might be working away quietly somewhere, comfortably and anonymously ensconced in some little nondescript cubby hole office in a PI or criminal defense law office, looking up cases, or prepping witnesses, doing duplex closings, or maybe even working for the Cook County Victim’s Services.

After today, not even Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition will be able to find a job for poor Blagojevic. Thanks to my good friend and classmate, the federal prison system soon will have its next excellent jailhouse lawyer, the Hon. Rodney Blagojevich, the newest inductee into the Pepperdine Law Hall of Shame.

Hubris has no boundaries it would seem.

Frederick R. Storm is an off-and-on resident of Eugene and a graduate of the Pepperdine Law Class of 1981.



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