The American dream lived in John Alessio. Son of an impoverished coal miner, he is a grade-school dropout and a onetime bootblack who became a millionaire with diverse interests in banking, real estate and restaurants in California and horse racing, dog racing and legalized bookmaking in Mexico. One of his enterprises was the erection of a twelve-story office building on the very same street in San Diego where he used to shine the shoes of C. Arnholt Smith, a fund-raising friend of Richard Nixon and Alessio's mentor and business associate. Alessio, named "Mr. San Diego" of 1964 by a...

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