Deborah Gore Dean
updated 12/25/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST
•originally published 12/25/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST
During the summer, the HUD scandal metastasized into a mess that rivaled Iran-contra. Dean (with demonstrators at her home, left) denies any wrongdoing and blames her boss, Samuel Pierce. He blames her. Otherwise both have retired into the provocative silence of the Fifth Amendment. As congressional hearings loom, Dean's lawyers are rumored to be seeking her immunity in exchange for—in her words—"one hell of a testimony."
The first question to ask her is, How in the world did you get that job? Well, power abhors a vacuum, and there certainly was one at HUD—Secretary Pierce, a Cabinet-level hologram, was often secreted in his office watching All My Children on TV. Into the breach stepped his executive assistant, Deborah Dean, who controlled the paper flow and knew how to use his autopen. The politically connected scion of Maryland blue bloods, she had taken eight years to graduate from Georgetown U, ranked 507th in a class of 509. Before springboarding to the top at HUD, she had mostly worked tending bar. Her only previous experience in housing was that she lived in one. Not since Tony Curtis in The Great Imposter has someone gone so far on so little. But Dean had great yuppie street smarts. Gregarious, adept both at flattery and backstairs ruthlessness, she became known among HUD staffers as the Duchess of Darkness.
Deborah Dean's mother, Mary, lived with convicted Watergate conspirator John Mitchell after he got out of jail. Deborah came to refer to him as her stepfather, or sometimes "Dad." So here's a mystery for a rainy night: how Dean, with Mitchell's notorious example before her, fell into the same sink—and even cut Mitchell in for $75,000 in consulting fees.