Their pollster refused to give them their latest batch of numbers. Gorton piled all the furniture against the door in their hotel room to guard against intruders. His son, Steven Moore, helped. Their guards and cars changed. Gorton and Dresner settled on a place to meet in an emergency, Gorky Park.
He called home frequently and left messages with his own answering machine or with his ex-wives, describing where he was and what he was doing in case he was killed.
Word got out that they were there. They got a call from Michael Kramer, a Time magazine reporter in Moscow. The gig was up. He was going to run the story, so they made a deal with him: He got the full, exclusive story and they would sneak him into the hotel to show him everything. Kramer just had to sit on the story until the election was over.
Election Day came, the story stayed under wraps and it looked like Gorton’s worries for his own safety were for naught. Yeltsin won the primary election by 3 percent and later went on to win the runoff.
But maybe no one was in any real danger anyway. Shumate remembers things differently. He says he didn’t feel threatened like others did. “I never seriously felt fear,” he says.
Regardless, the Time story broke after the election with a front-page illustration of Yeltsin holding an American flag, and the consultants returned home stars. They hired a publicist and got ink just about everywhere. At first, denials came from Russia. Then, the consultants’ roles were minimized.
The New York Times offered up a skeptical account of the consultants’ story. The newspaper quoted Dyachenko as saying the Americans “did some work. None of it was central, either in terms of planning or strategy.”
Still, Hollywood came calling. In 2004, Showtime made a movie called “Spinning Boris.” Jeff Goldblum played Gorton, whose 400-page journal served as the flick’s foundation. The only order from Gorton: cut the sex scenes from the movie.
In a review of the movie, Time magazine painted an unflattering picture of the consultants. “The three Americans are not especially likable — it’s hard to tell their principles from mercenariness — but that’s the point,” it said.
“Spinning Boris” also hints at a playful, and plausible, side story. Gorton appears to have helped his cause by shamelessly flirting with a married Dyachenko.
A Battle with Disease | Gorton returned to the United States in 1996 a successful man, the eager and willing subject of a media circus.
But physically, he felt peculiar. His muscles were sore, which he attributed to six months of near-constant jet lag from flying so frequently between Sacramento and Moscow. His lips trembled.
He visited Barlin Gorton and A.J. She noticed he was carrying one side of his body with a slump, like someone who had a stroke. It was the first inkling of the disease that would cause Gorton to again radically change the course of his life.
He began to suffer from stabbing pains in his buttocks and face that would bring him to his knees. For a while, he was intimidated by everything, by social situations and occurrences he would never have given a second thought, like answering the door when the pizza guy came.
“What would people think would be normal for me to say?” he thought.
He developed a slight shake in his hand that made it difficult to lift a coffee mug and carry a briefcase. That’s when he went to see the doctor.
He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Parkinson’s is not itself a fatal disease, but as it progresses, it increases the sufferer’s chances of falling, choking or developing pneumonia and dying. Though no neurologist told him how long he had to live, Gorton found a mention of a nine-year life expectancy in the book in the library. He told himself that’s how much time he had left. Doctors aren’t sure where he got that from and say Parkinson’s patients aren’t given such a life expectancy.
Regardless, it took all of the positive-thinking techniques in his spiritual quiver to hold it together. Resigning himself to live his last years with Parkinson’s, he departed for Mexico.
For three weeks in Tulum, the site of the ruins of a Mayan walled city, Gorton prayed, fasted and meditated. Parkinson’s, he knew, would reduce him to a person who was needy, to a person who would elicit pity from others, to a person who would become unrecognizable to his family and friends and to his colleague.
There, in the Yucatan, was a man who had packed to the brim his 50 years with international intrigue and U.S. political importance, passionate relationships with powerful women, surprising relationships with two sons, and a dogged pursuit for spiritual enlightenment.
And there, in the Yucatan, that man was coming to grips with his mortality.
After three weeks, he called a woman he’d been dating, Kiki Holzen, an aspiring actress with a day job in political campaigns. Gorton called and asked her if she’d join him in Mexico; she did.
One day, as they walked along the beach. “I love you,” she told him.
“What do you know about love?” he said. “You’re 22 years younger than me.”
He told her he had Parkinson’s.
“It doesn’t kill you, does it?” she said.
“Yeah, it does,” he said. “I have nine years.”
“I’d rather have nine years with you than a lifetime with anyone else,” she said.
Her words melted Gorton. At a time when he feared that no one would be willing to take care of him, Holzen stepped in. She became his third wife.