Since she fled Asheville, N.C. 13 years ago (she once was a runner-up in a town beauty contest), the 32-year-old Elizabeth has earned a checkered reputation in her pursuit of fun. "She wanted the whole world to be a North Carolina beauty contest forever," said a source familiar with Ray's forthcoming novel, The Washington Fringe Benefit, which will be published in Dell paperback next month. The book deals with sexual hijinks among the nation's lawmakers. Hays and other prominent politicians are expected to be listed on the "acknowledgments" page.
Liz's father, an itinerant Country and Western musician, died in an auto wreck when Liz was only 2½. "But even before that we'd moved out on him," says her mother, Mrs. Norman Roberts. "Her daddy just cared more about music playing than he did about us."
When her mother remarried seven years later, Liz, known then as "Betty Lou," was living with her grandmother. "Betty Lou reminded me of all the bad times I had with her father," says Mrs. Roberts. "Besides, her grandmother wanted to keep her. Oh, she'd come stay with us some weekends and part of the summer, but I had five other kids so Betty Lou and me never were close much. But she told me she loved me. She would say, 'Mama, maybe some-day you and I could live together again.'
"Betty Lou always said she wanted to be an actress so I was pretty shocked when I heard how she'd been carrying on. She was raised in a good Christian home. She carried the Bible most everywhere. At night she would sleep with it next to her on the pillow. She often told me, 'It's the only thing that keeps me going.' "
Although Ray says she decided to write her novel last January when she learned that Hays was marrying another member of his staff, Pat Peak, Dell Publishing disagrees. It says it contracted with her for the book a year ago. "This is well orchestrated. She even has tapes," says former Illinois Congressman Kenneth Gray, who was the first on the Hill to hire Miss Ray and who also is listed on the "acknowledgments" page.
As the scandal heated up and the investigation into congressional girlfriends widened, Representative Hays, 65, said he would fight efforts to take two committee chairmanships away from him. Dell meanwhile is rushing Liz's book into print. She has high hopes for it. Once the manuscript was completed, Liz Ray asked her editor, "Am I going to be a movie star now?"
Stretched across her red velveteen sofa, Elizabeth Ray talked about her "relationship" with Rep. Wayne Hays of Ohio. "He would threaten me during intimate moments," she said in her North Carolina hill country drawl, "telling me to do this or that or 'I'll kick your teeth in.' " Pausing for a moment, she leaned forward and added teasingly, "But you know, I'd much rather be having fun in the bedroom instead of doing all this talking in the living room."