Once a month, an anonymous scribe takes pen in hand and signs "Zorro" to a sometimes scathing editorial column in Salt Lake City's in-house newspaper, The Official Rumor, and not even the mayor knows the mystery author's identity.
Zorro - sometimes a man, sometimes a woman, but always a secret - has opined in the Rumor since the paper's inception in City Hall seven years ago, said Barbara McRae, the paper's editor.This month, under a title reading "Dejected and Rejected," Zorro takes swipes at Vice President George Bush, Gov. Norm Bangerter, Jon Huntsman, Jr., the City Council's Gang of Four and the media, among others.
His, or her, identity is a well-kept secret despite the fact there have been five surrogate Zorros, McRae said, enabling the masked hack to speak freely in the four-page tabloid.
"Zorro can take a poke at people, and he does. He goes from the council to the mayor, to me and to everyone," McRae said.
McRae, employee relations coordinator for the city's Human Resource Management office,said Zorro is given "carte blanche" treatment, meaning no subject is taboo, within reason, for the anonymous writer.
In the past, Zorro has slung ink at Mayor Palmer DePaulis and the City Council, McRae said. In this month's Rumor, Zorro refers to the council's "Gang of Four," an unaffectionate euphemism for the conservative voting bloc on the council.
"Salt Lake has been so dull these days that even the Gang of Four's antics can't get me too excited," Zorro wrote. Once Zorro pointed his rhetorical sword at the city Fire Department, a sector of the city not known for taking things lightly. Some firefighters rallied in protest at the paper's publishing house, McRae said.
"But most people kind of laugh at him, because, if you take him too seriously, he'll come back and take a swipe at you again." Zorro is a responsible journalist, however, McRae said, "not a rabble-rouser." Nevertheless, Zorro considered little sacred in this month's Rumor, where Zorro chronicled his time at the Republican National Convention lobbying the vice president to permit him to join the Republican ticket.
"I figured that two wimps on a ticket would be unbeatable,' Zorro wrote, adding, "I groveled, I sniveled and I lied" in an effort to convince Bush of his "Veep" qualifications.
"I told him I could easily carry the `Pretty, Great State of Utah,' but George said that was the dumbest slogan he had ever heard of," Zorro wrote.
Rebuffed by Bush, Zorro sought solace from Gov. Bangerter, "but Narm wouldn't have anything to do with (me)," Zorro wrote.
"Jon Jr. wasn't any better when I tried to rub noses with him the other day. He was too busy denying and affirming that George was talking to his father about being secretary of something or another," Zorro continued.
So, who is Zorro? DePaulis guesses it's Elden Tanner or Charlie Quick, the representatives for the city's police and firefighters unions, respectively, with whom he has been sparring recently. Still others believe Zorro is secretly written by city employees on a rotating basis. Some say Zorro's really McRae.
But McRae just won't say for sure.