Bob Bestler

Fuzzy feelings no more

I met Doak Fairey on the night of Jan. 19, 1997.

My wife and I were attending the South Carolina Ball in Washington, D.C., on the eve of President Bill Clinton's second inauguration.

Fairey was there with his wife and young daughter, and literally minutes after our meeting he invited me to join him at the National Prayer Service the following morning.

He said he had gotten two tickets to the prayer service from an aide to Vice President Al Gore. His wife could not go because she had to stay with their daughter.

It took about two seconds for me to say yes. I was writing about my inauguration experiences for The Sun News and I knew this would be a great experience, available to only about 300 members of the public.

The service, attended by Clinton and Gore and their families, was scheduled for 8 a.m. in the relatively small Metropolitan AME Church in downtown D.C.

Fairey and I had to be there at 5 a.m. We had to be seated before the Secret Service could secure the church. For the next few hours, Fairey would point out various Cabinet officials and other dignataries as they walked down the aisle. He seemed to know them all by sight. I was impressed.

Several months later, as part of a series of interviews I was doing on interesting Grand Strand people, I sat down with Fairey at a restaurant in North Myrtle Beach.

My primary interest, of course, were his three wins on "Jeopardy," arguably television's most challenging quiz show. I wanted to know how he got to be so smart and what he had been doing since winning more than $30,000 on the show.

It was a friendly interview and a friendly profile. He talked about his days as an Eagle Scout who got to meet astronaut Neil Armstrong, his days as an equipment manager for the Clemson soccer team, his high-placed political connections.

At the time, I had no reason not to believe all he told me. However, I do contain a few drops of cynical blood and a couple of things bothered me from the start.

One was the address he had given me. It turned out to be a mobile home and that seemed odd for someone with his background.

I also didn't understand exactly what he did for a living. He said he operated a computer consulting business out of his home. I didn't know what that meant then; I don't know what it means now.

Today, as we read about his myriad legal problems and the scams he is alleged to have concocted, it appears the Doak Fairey story has turned decidedly unfriendly. And with good reason.

Too bad, Doak.