Zen and the Art of Mayoral Maintenance 

Jacques Barzaghi is back at Jerry Brown's side after being sent to the woodshed following an embarrassing sexual harassment case. Officials say this should keep Barzaghi out of trouble and them out of court. But other experts aren't so sure.

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"Jerry hates yes men," says Bill Biamonte, a longtime friend of Brown's who was active in his 1992 presidential campaign. "Jacques challenges him."

Barzaghi was an unusual man with a sad past. He grew up in the village of Beausoleil in southern France, and his parents abandoned him to his maternal grandmother soon after they divorced. Life with his grandmother was marked by abject poverty in which Barzaghi often went hungry, according to Roger Rapoport, author of the book California Dreaming: The Political Odyssey of Pat and Jerry Brown. "He had a painful and lonely childhood," Rapoport says.

As a young man he joined the French army and served in Algeria where he took up arms and tended camels between 1958 and 1960. From there, he studied acting in Paris and eventually got into filmmaking.

His trouble with women has a long history dating back to France, where he created a public scandal by romancing a celebrated movie star's fifteen-year-old daughter. He met the girl, Tanya Krajewsky, daughter of the American-born French film star Eddie Constantine, at her home where he went to visit with a friend in the early 1960s. She ultimately became his first wife.

Several years after they married, the couple took off to explore the United States. During a visit to New York, Rapoport says, Barzaghi met a drunk in the men's room at Kennedy Airport who handed him a bottle of whiskey. The gift was to be a landmark event in his life.

"When he drank this whiskey, he decided he was in paradise and wanted to stay in the United States," says Rapoport, who traveled extensively with Brown and Barzaghi in the early '80s. "He remembered being hungry as a kid in France. He thought of this as a transforming experience."

Barzaghi and his wife moved to California and started working in the film industry. The pair rented a home with another married couple and, before long, Barzaghi was involved with the other woman. Barzaghi and his wife divorced a year later, but the bald Frenchman remained good friends with the man whose wife he stole, according to a 1992 story in The Washington Post. Over the years, Barzaghi would go on to sire seven different children with a number of women.

Barzaghi met Brown in the early 1970s, just as his visa was about to expire. Brown intervened and helped Barzaghi obtain a green card by writing to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. The Frenchman left a deep impression on Brown, who got him a job as a clerical trainee in the secretary of state's office. Barzaghi also began working on Brown's gubernatorial campaign.

Once Brown was elected governor in 1974, Barzaghi became his cabinet secretary -- and one of the most powerful men in Sacramento. Although he had no political background whatsoever, he was the governor's eyes and ears in office. He even got a concealed-weapons permit so that he could carry a gun to help protect his boss -- a status he reacquired once Brown became mayor of Oakland. His frequent conflicts with Gray Davis, who was Brown's chief of staff at the time, were legendary. Barzaghi developed what The Washington Post called an "uncanny ability to make bureaucratic end runs around ... the Machiavellian Gray Davis."

Barzaghi also became Brown's manservant; an aide for whom no task was too onerous. "There is not anything Jacques won't do for Jerry," Rapoport says. Barzaghi acted as Brown's chauffeur and helped him shop for clothes, decorate his home, monitor his food intake, and interview prospective employees for the governor's office. As someone who prides himself on having outstanding taste in everything from clothing to home furnishings, Barzaghi reportedly critiqued both male and female administration staffers on their appearance and sense of style. And his interviews were as legendarily offbeat as the man himself, focusing on things such as the job prospect's taste in luggage.

"This is tricky, and it's not going to come out right," one of Barzaghi's ex-wives once told a Washington Post reporter, "but Jacques is like Jerry's wife."

Poll those who've worked with Barzaghi through the years and you're as likely to find supporters as detractors. His critics say he is arrogant, ridiculous, and beyond-the-pale offensive when it comes to the opposite sex. "Jacques is way beyond normal outrageousness," says one former colleague from Brown's days as governor. "Part of that involves his treating women in a very hostile way. This is not somebody who's borderline. He is a flaming sexual predator. ... In staff meetings, he used to say things like, 'What use are women?'"

Barzaghi's admirers, meanwhile, describe him as brilliant, funny, and quite astute. Perhaps his most notable contribution to Brown's efforts as governor was helping Brown set up the California Arts Council, a statewide group that encourages cultural development efforts through artist-in-residence programs in schools, hospitals, and prisons. Barzaghi drafted Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder, actor Peter Coyote, and filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola to the board.

Over time, Barzaghi also has come to be seen as a kooky but brilliant political strategist. John Betterton, a former chief aide to Mayor Brown who now works for the Port of Oakland, recalls a time when he was in the mayor's office after a young Oakland child was slain. Some of the mayor's staffers were encouraging Brown to attend the funeral. Barzaghi, however, cautioned that the parents themselves may have killed the child and the mayor shouldn't get involved until the homicide was solved. Barzaghi, it turns out, was right: The murderers turned out to be the child's own parents. "He's got uncommon, good smarts," Betterton says.

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