Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Neil Bush, former First Son and Coloradan, now member of Chinese Communist Party?

In celebrity-shy Colorado, a president's son definitely qualifies. While the first President George Bush was in the White House, George Walker's little brother Neil lived in Denver, where he got embroiled in an S&L scandal known as Silverado. But Neil's fame -- and infamy -- here is nothing compared to what he has now achieved in China. When Neil Bush was put on the board of Silverado, a savings and loan, in the '80s, his primary credential was his political family. Today, Neil Bush is co-chair of a Beijing-based real estate company, CIIC, and has a Sina Weibo account with more than 120,000 followers; when he set up that account on the micro-blogging site in August 2011, he introduced himself as "the unpolitical member of a very political American family."But a recent post by Bush -- complete with a photo of him wearing clothes from the Chairman Mao line with the caption "I'm thinking of joining the Chinese Communist Party -- What do you think of my accessories?" -- has launched a very political discussion, and rated an NPR story discussing the heated response in China, most of it focused on the Communist Party rather than Bush himself.

But a post on Beijing Cream reminded readers of Neil Bush's "high-profile divorce in which he admitted to consorting with hookers in Thailand and Hong Kong; he may or may not have contracted herpes from one of them." And a comment on that post comes from Justin Mitchell, the former Rocky Mountain News staffer who now works in China: "It's not just hookers 'n' herpes for that douche. Google Silverado Savings and Loan scandal and his name and you'll get an eyeful of corruption."

There were other, slighter blips during Neil Bush's time here in Colorado. In 1990, while the feds were trying to figure out how to settle the $1 billion Silverado bailout with a $200 million deal, the pre-web Westword reported on how Neil had taken his kids to the Old Spaghetti Factory -- and had to sign an IOU for the meal, because he'd forgotten his wallet and his Secret Service guard detail didn't have a credit card or enough cash to cover the tab.

Neil Bush came out of the Silverado scandal better than many of his colleagues. Michael Wise, the ringleader of the deal, who committed suicide three years ago. Get more details in "A Word to the Wise."

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun