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San Francisco's Mayor Joseph Alioto Gets the Not-So-Golden Gate

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San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto, the successful lawyer son of an immigrant Sicilian fisherman, has had a political career with as many ups and downs as San Francisco’s topography. The same goes for his marriage to Texas-born Angelina Genaro.

A year ago, during Alioto’s unsuccessful run for governor, Angelina, his wife for 33 years (they are both 59), mother of six and grandmother to 12, left their Palm Springs hideaway and simply dropped out of sight. In desperation Alioto finally leaked the word of her disappearance, which set off a multistate police search. Eighteen days later Angelina surfaced in Santa Cruz, Calif., in what Mayor Alioto wryly calls “Madame’s Grand Tour of the California Missions.”

Afterward she told the press that the point of her escapade was to “punish my husband.” Her complaint was the one endemic with politicians’ wives: she felt neglected. Alioto, she said, had left her alone in the house 25 nights in one month. “All I want is to be wanted,” said Angelina. For weeks she got most of the cheers at political rallies. Then rumors of marital trouble cropped up again.

As it turned out, the “Mission Tour” was just a warm-up. Like all aspiring politicians (his term as mayor runs out next January), Alioto likes to keep in touch with Washington—and there have even been rumors of a Ford cabinet post. On his return from his recent trip, a splendidly coiffed Angelina was at the San Francisco airport to greet him. The weekend before, hand-in-hand, the Aliotos toured city hall, then dined out together. The next day His Honor took off for work by bus—a part of his save fuel campaign. He arrived at city hall just in time to be served divorce papers, signed by Angelina while he was away.

For once the normally voluble mayor could come up with nothing better than, “Private relationships are not for public discussion. Let’s leave it that way and see what develops.” Angelina, active in several civic and cultural organizations, showed up next day at the San Francisco Symphony and announced, “I feel great, I feel fine.” And the mayor, having signed over temporary possession of their $350,000 French renaissance mansion, moved in with his daughter Angela, “until Angelina gets over this.”

That may be awhile coming. Explains Angelina’s lawyer, Lucille Athearn, “Mrs. Alioto is not a ding-a-ling. She feels she did what she had to do.” She also feels she must ask for a share of his $6 million law business and his estate, estimated at much more. “Naturally, family is more important than politics,” maintains Alioto. And if the two conflict? “What,” asks the mayor, “would you like me to do—stop working?” Which sounds as if things were right back where they started.