A Four-Star Scandal


Today justice caught up with General David Petraeus. Officially, he's guilty of sharing classified information with former girlfriend and biographer Paula Broadwell, but I will always wonder about the strange role of Tampa in the affair. Yes, Tampa, that melting pot of Southern eccentricity, military brass, and social climbers like Jill Kelley and her twin Natalie. Against that backdrop Petraeus somehow seemed more pawn than predator. -Vicky Ward

The Gasparilla Pirate Fest is Tampa’s version of Mardi Gras. It’s perhaps the most eccentric — and politically incorrect — civic festival in the country. Every year, on the last Saturday in January, the men of Tampa, including those from the oldest, richest families, dress up as pirates and invade the harbor in “krewes,” while the poorer civilians let themselves be invaded, at least symbolically. The festival was founded in 1904 by the oldest krewe, Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla, which took its name from the legend of the courtly buccaneer Jose Gaspar, who, the story goes, eluded the United States Navy by wrapping himself in an anchor chain and plunging to the bottom of Tampa Bay. Ye Mystic Krewe’s membership is currently closed, at 760, and there’s a waiting list. “The old guard, the established hereditary class, they have not integrated their membership,” Amy Scherzer, the social chronicler at theTampa Bay Times, told me. Still, there are dozens of newer krewes that have embraced diversity, and Gasparilla, despite its aristocratic origins and social pretensions, isn’t exactly a redoubt of Tampa society — or a model of decorum. Women bare their breasts, drunkenness is rampant, and the police look the other way. “I kept an off-duty sheriff on my lawn,” said Norma Gene Lykes, whose family, which had holdings in steamships, cattle, citrus, and land, practically founded Tampa, in the mid-1800s.

In the midst of this intoxicating melee is the military. The current director of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla is a retired military man, as were three former directors, including the late James Tarbet, a 25-year Royal Navy veteran and former aide-de-camp to Prince Charles. Tampa’s chief link to the military is MacDill Air Force Base, which sits on a spit of land that juts south into Tampa Bay and is home to Central Command (Centcom), Special Operations (Socom), and the Coalition Forces. The base was put there in 1939 because the site is surrounded by water and was considered a safe place for test flights. Tampa and the military have always looked out for each other. “The military is a crucial part of the fabric of this community,” former mayor Sandy Freedman told me. Tampa has one of the leading veterans hospitals in the country. Generals Tommy Franks and the late Norman Schwarzkopf liked the town so much they retired there. Military dollars help keep the economy running, and military protocol and pageantry add heft, sparkle, and intrigue to Tampa society. It’s also well known that many military men are enthusiastic patrons of Mons Venus, a local strip joint whose founder is renowned as the inventor of the nude lap dance.



Every year the Gasparilla fest includes a Parade of Pirates, led by Ye Mystic Krewe, that winds through Tampa on a 3.8-mile route and, at one point, passes by the Bayshore Boulevard residence of Jill and Scott Kelley. More recently another kind of parade has made its way to the Kelleys’ mansion: Reporters and photographers have been streaming there since last November, in the wake of the scandal that resulted in the resignation of General David Petraeus as head of the Central Intelligence Agency. It was revealed that the general had been having an extramarital affair that came to light only because Paula Broadwell — the biographer with whom he’d had the affair — had written disturbing e-mails under the handle “Kelley Patrol” to Jill Kelley, warning her to back off from her relationship with Petraeus, the four-star general whom Broadwell liked to call “Peaches.” Similarly ominous messages were sent to Petraeus’s former second-in-command at MacDill, General John R. Allen, reportedly warning him to beware of the Tampa “seductress.” In the days that followed, Petraeus, Allen, Broadwell, Kelley, and a local FBI agent named Frederick W. Humphries II, who had been asked by Kelley to investigate the matter, were exposed to intense media scrutiny, as the baroque details of the affair trickled out, with devastating consequences for some national heroes.

As the tabloids camped out in front of the Kelley house, the 37-year-old woman at the center of it all quickly became notorious. She said nothing, but she seemed to revel in the effect created by the bright pink and yellow figure-hugging dresses she wore to parade in front of the paparazzi. At one point Jill Kelley called Tampa’s mayor, Bob Buckhorn, and requested “diplomatic protection” because she held the title of “honorary consul” for South Korea. (Since the title was honorary, the request was denied.) Onlookers couldn’t help wondering: Who is the woman at the heart of this tawdry tale, and how did she insinuate herself into the most exclusive levels of Tampa society, not to mention national power?

Jill Kelley’s twin sister, Natalie Khawam, was a Washington, DC, lawyer who often visited the Kelleys and became a fixture at their Bayshore Boulevard parties before she eventually relocated to Tampa. A photograph of the two sisters in matching designer suits was featured prominently in Kelley’s house, and guests quickly named the duo “the Chanel twins.” “They targeted the rich and powerful here very clinically,” said one society heiress, who explained that she “dropped them, like we all did, because they behaved so badly. If they thought someone was no one they just ignored them.” There were stories about Jill and her surgeon husband hosting lavish parties and receptions, even though their finances were a mess. Many a Tampa matriarch was left shaking her head, and the Chanel twins gained a new nickname: the Kartampians. The members of Tampa society would be damned if they were going to let the twins reduce them, and their town, to the level of tabloid and reality show sleaze. The Kartampians were something of a Gasparilla in reverse: arrivistes intent on swashbuckling their way through Tampa society, taking no prisoners. “I called probably 50 people,” Amy Scherzer, of the Tampa Bay Times, said. “They all had a Jill Kelley story, and none of them was flattering.” Sandy Freedman, the former mayor, told me, “This town has become too porous. That a bimbo like Jill Kelley should be given any kind of recognition or access to the military — it’s outrageous. Tampa needs to be more careful about vetting people. It cannot go on like before.”

Jill and Natalie could not have picked more fertile ground for “arriving” socially than Tampa, which Scherzer described as “a well-kept secret for almost one hundred years.” It offers easy access to the Northeast — the flight to New York takes only three hours — and the town’s relaxed Southern charm, slow pace, and balmy temperatures make it a target for those wishing for a wonderful lifestyle without the social and financial pressures — or restrictions — of Palm Beach. And parts of it are just as beautiful, if not more so. Bayshore Boulevard fronts the water and has the longest unbroken sidewalk in the world (four and a half miles). The houses on it are genteel Southern mansions that can be had for only about a million dollars. The area is welcoming in other ways, too. “There are fewer older families here than elsewhere in the South,” Norma Gene Lykes said. “Anyone with money can make it here, but you have to behave nicely. I hate to say that, but it’s the only rule.”

Tampa’s other founding families include the Fermans, Franklands, Lowrys, McKays, Culbraeths, and Howells. All are members of the Palma Ceia Golf & Country Club and the Tampa Yacht & Country Club, not far from Bayshore Boulevard. But those lines are dwindling, along with the old Latino families that made Tampa a North American capital of cigarmaking: the Corrals, Cuestas, Garcias, and Vegas. The town has many more professionals than blue bloods these days. “More doctors and lawyers than we need,” as Lykes puts it. Another breed that Tampa is known for: sports owners. In 1976, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner moved down from Cleveland; his two daughters, Jennifer and Jessica, grew up here and married locals. His two sons, Hal and Hank, also live here. Other Tampa sports owners have included the Glazers (Manchester United and Tampa Bay Buccaneers). Star players come too: Derek Jeter built a 30,875-square-foot house in the Davis Islands enclave that the locals have taken to calling “St. Jetersburg.”

All of this makes the town an eclectic, unpretentious mix, something its people are proud of. They like characters and intrigues — as long as they are “in bounds.” Another former mayor, Dick Greco (who served four terms), is married to Dr. Linda McClintock, a physician who has been married so many times people have lost count. They are popular, beloved figures. “Dick Greco is always the last to leave a party, and while he was mayor he was often to be found at 2 a.m. socializing in Ybor City with whoever happened to be there,” said Scherzer, referring to the town’s arty nightlife district. The road construction magnate Douglas “Diesel” Cone, a member in good standing at Palma Ceia, kept a mistress and a second family in an exclusive North Tampa neighborhood for 25 years. This fact was revealed only days after his wife Jean Ann died in 2003 and he quickly married the mistress, Hillary Carlson. For years Cone had apparently lived another life as “Donald Carlson,” devoted husband to Hillary and State Department employee. Tampans love this kind of story, and they are not prudes.

Jill Kelley arrived in Tampa in 2001. She had recently married Scott Kelley, a surgeon who had been offered the position of his dreams: a fellowship at Tampa’s H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, widely considered one of the top 10 cancer facilities in the country. They soon bought a three-bedroom spec house in the well-heeled neighborhood of Hyde Park, right behind Bayshore Boulevard.

Jill was born Gilberte Khawam in Lebanon of Syrian parents, on New Year’s Day 1975, and grew up around Philadelphia (where she was known as Gigi), along with her identical twin, Natalie; an older sister, Caroline; and a younger brother, David. Her parents moved to the United States in 1976 with nothing. In 1988 they opened a Middle Eastern restaurant called Sahara, in Voorhees, New Jersey. Jill and Natalie both attended Lower Moreland High School, in the suburb of Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania, where classmates recall that they were introverted and kept mainly to themselves. One of them remembers Jill announcing that everyone would think of them differently after they’d had nose jobs, which they eventually had — together — in New York, according to Tony Khawam, a distant cousin once married to their sister Caroline. A family friend recalls the Khawam household as being “traditional Lebanese” and very welcoming. But according to Tony Khawam, the mother, Marcelle, had a habit of overspending, and Sahara closed after only a year in operation because the family could no longer afford to keep it staffed. The family lost its home, and the father, John Khawam, returned to his previous occupation, selling insurance.

After graduating from Lower Moreland in 1993, Jill took a job as a researcher for a physician at the University of Pennsylvania, where she soon began dating Scott, a burly, affable surgical intern out of Columbia Medical School who had been an undergrad at Dartmouth. Scott had worked his way up from Boston’s middle class, and for Jill he represented, to use a phrase she would later often repeat, an “upgrade.” Tony Khawam remembers her laughing with Natalie about her success. “He’s going to be a surgeon!” she would brag, perhaps seeing a way out of the family’s financial straits. Jill and Scott married in a Catholic ceremony in Philadelphia in 1998. (The Khawams are Syrian Catholic.)

Meanwhile, according to Tony Khawam, the inseparable twins (who declined to be interviewed for this story) had come up with “a plan” that was focused on one thing: money. “They made up their minds they were going to use men to get money, and they discussed this quite openly in front of the family,” he said. He added that Natalie got engaged several times, and in each case would use the beau’s credit card for trips and clothes for Jill, Scott, and the twins’ parents, before dumping him. One of Natalie’s boyfriends was Lew Blum, 20 years her senior, who owns a well-known tow truck business in Philadelphia. “They’re mean. They’re just mean,” Blum said. “I couldn’t realize that they were nothing but cons.”

Blum claims that he lent Natalie the down payment for a Jersey Shore condo — $50,000 that vanished. “I probably invested in those people maybe about a hundred grand, like going on trips and paying for rooms. That was how they used me. I thought these people liked me. They didn’t like me. They took my money; they promised to pay me back. They didn’t pay me back.”

Of course, Tampa knew nothing of this. By 2004, all anyone knew was that the Kelleys and their two young daughters, with a third on the way, were living the high life in the $1.4 million Bayshore Boulevard brick mansion with columns and dormer windows they’d bought that year. “They started having large birthday parties for their children, with huge bouncy houses,” Norma Gene Lykes recalled. “They had these funny things at Christmas that blow up. That’s not something you usually see on Bayshore. Bayshore’s a little more subdued than that.”

The ostentatious young family appeared to want for nothing. The household staff the Kelleys hired at their new home included a live-in nanny and a housekeeper who wore a French maid’s uniform at Jill’s parties. The Kelley children were often dressed in matching outfits.

Many locals found the Kelleys’ behavior over the top. But the couple had started appearing in the pages of the Tampa Bay Times in 2002, and by 2006 they had established themselves as a social duo who loved to throw parties. They could always be counted on to have free-flowing champagne and a glittering guest list. “It started with the Grecos, who are just very welcoming,” Scherzer told me, referring to the former mayor and his wife. But soon there were the Steinbrenner siblings, whom Jill befriended when their children attended the same preschool, and, increasingly, the military. “Jill liked dramatic, floor-length halter-neck hostess gowns, even for a casual supper,” one former guest recalled. “She would sometimes wait until everyone was assembled and then make her grand entrance.” Jill knew how to charm and have fun. “People thought they were a riot,” Scherzer said. “People assumed they were from Lebanese money.”

Then, in November 2008, General David Petraeus, the popular commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, was transferred from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, to MacDill, upon being promoted to the leadership of Centcom, where he oversaw the troops in Afghanistan. The Kelleys arranged a dinner party for the general and his wife Holly, the daughter of the late general William A. Knowlton, when they arrived in town, to welcome them to the community and introduce them to Tampa society. The guest list for the event indicates how far the fun-loving Kelleys had ascended in only a few years. It included Tampa mayor Pam Iorio and Florida governor Charlie Crist.

The Petraeuses and the Kelleys became fast friends, frequently dining at each other’s homes. Some of the Petraeuses’ more formal friends didn’t know what to make of the fast-rising Kelleys. When the general and his wife hosted a dinner, cooked by a private chef at MacDill, the whole thing was immaculate — except, some guests say, for Jill Kelley and Natalie Khawam. “First of all, they were dressed inappropriately,” one guest told me. “Miniskirts, boobs out — and everyone else looked elegant.” The girls’ full figures, along with their favored conversational subjects, only furthered the Kardashian-like impression they made on Tampa society. “Jill would yammer on about shopping and travel, while Natalie would discuss whistleblowers and class action suits and, especially, her divorce — she talked like she was going to collect billions of dollars,” the guest said. “Scott barely said a word except ‘Hi, how are you?’ ”

In 2009 the Kelleys hosted the Petraeuses for a Christmas dinner. The general sat between the twins at one end of the table, while the matronly Holly, a former debutante who graduated summa cum laude from Dickinson College (and whose father was the superintendent of West Point), was seated at the other end. Another guest recalled that during dinner one of the twins screamed, ” ‘Look at my new Manolo Blahnik shoes!’ and kicked up her legs for everyone to see. David Petraeus absolutely loved it.” Natalie joked to one of her friends, “I am Petraeus’s version of People magazine!”

It was all fun, for the most part. But some in Tampa society began to note a darker, conniving side. One matriarch I spoke to said, “Basically, my ex-husband and I weren’t getting along so well, and we’d be having dinner with Jill and Scott in a restaurant, and suddenly Natalie, who hadn’t been invited, would appear wearing a skimpy outfit. The next thing you know Jill would be in my then-husband’s lap.” Several society wives called one another and expressed their fears that Jill was setting Natalie on their husbands. Tony Khawam said that from his perspective the wives were entirely right to suspect this. The twins, after all, were quite clear about their plans behind closed doors. “They had their eyes on Hal Steinbrenner and his brother Hank,” Khawam told me. “They’d take trips on the Steinbrenners’ plane and brag about how they would split Hal up from his then-wife, Christina — and then the plane would be theirs.” Khawam went so far as to call someone who worked in security for the Steinbrenner family to warn them about what was going on. Hal Steinbrenner and his wife did ultimately split up, but not, according to a source close to them, because of Jill and Natalie.

As such exploits began to make the rounds of Tampa conversation, Jill and Scott Kelley’s marriage also became a subject of speculation. “Jill controlled Scott,” said one observer. Many people heard Scott complain about how, no matter how hard he worked, he could not make enough money for his wife’s spending habits. “Have you tried cutting up her credit cards?” one person is said to have asked. “She just orders more,” he replied.

In early 2008, Natalie had married a DC-based businessman, Grayson Wolfe; in the fall of that year she gave birth to Grayson Paul Wolfe II. Almost immediately afterward, she filed for divorce and moved from DC to Tampa, into a small house at the back of the Kelleys’ Bayshore Boulevard mansion, with her son. She claimed that Wolfe had been physically abusive. The claims were eventually ruled in a court opinion to be false, but over the next 17 months Wolfe was not allowed to visit his child. In the interim Natalie and the rest of her family began calling the infant by a new name — a fact his father realized only when he caught a glimpse of a photograph of his son’s one-year birthday cake, decorated with the words “Happy Birthday John.”

Scott Kelley’s expenses increased when Natalie moved in. He was now supporting not only his wife, three children, and a household staff, but also his sister-in-law and her young son. Troy Jimenez, who occasionally did Jill’s and Natalie’s hair, noticed that the sisters often didn’t pay for their Saturday afternoon appointments. “They just forgot to have their credit cards with them,” he told me.

Around this time Scott left Moffitt for a new job at the Watson Clinic in Lakeland, a 90-minute drive from Tampa. Fortunately, it came with a hefty pay upgrade, or so he told people. Dr. Kelley needed the raise. In addition to the pressure of having to support his wife’s sister and nephew, more financial trouble was brewing. Jill had bought an investment property in downtown Tampa for $1.8 million, but its value plummeted because of the economic meltdown. Natalie, a 2005 Georgetown Law School graduate, found work at the Tampa firm of Cohen, Foster, and Romine, run by the colorful Tampa lawyer Barry Cohen, but left within six months after making a sexual harassment accusation against a co-worker.

If the twins were in turmoil, they hid it well. Jill and Natalie became close to the Petraeuses’ 30-year-old daughter, Anne, eventually attending her wedding, in 2012. They also became close to an expanding network of senior military personnel, including General John R. Allen and his wife Kathy, and a good-looking Navy SEAL, Vice Admiral Robert S. Harward, who arrived that year to become the deputy commander of Centcom. All of them, at various points, would show up at the Kelleys’ for parties, often in staff cars. Accepting local hospitality was a military custom. Everyone had everyone else’s e-mail addresses. The barriers were down.

When the Kelleys invited the Petraeuses to their Gasparilla bash in January 2010, of course the Petraeuses accepted. They’d never been before. The military couple arrived with a 28-motorcycle police escort, and they hobnobbed with state attorney general candidate Pam Bondi and David Laxer, the owner of Bern’s Steak House, a Tampa landmark. The four-star general described the proceedings as “awesome.” His financially challenged hosts apparently found creative ways to hold down champagne and canapé costs at their functions. “I have heard from several people that Jill used patriotism as her carrot and asked vendors to donate food and wine when she entertained the military,” Scherzer told me. The Kelleys also typically hired multiple security guards for Gasparilla, and there was a report of one guard using a Taser to shoo away the rabble that day.

The Kelleys’ money problems continued to worsen in the months that followed. Their home was foreclosed on in 2010 (they ultimately managed to hold on to the house), and they have been involved in numerous credit card disputes since then. These included a Chase Bank allegation over a revolving credit account debt of $25,088.56, which has since been dismissed, and a Regions Bank suit for $253,437.31 for unpaid credit card bills. (The couple has since agreed to a repayment schedule.) The couple have nine court actions on record involving debts, mortgages, and multimillion-dollar foreclosures. In 2007 the Kelleys set up a now-defunct cancer charity called the Doctor Kelley Cancer Foundation. Records give no indication of any funds from this foundation going to cancer patients, although the Kelleys claimed $135,423 in expenses and tax write-offs. “I think having Petraeus’s personal e-mail made Jill feel pretty special, like maybe she didn’t have to pay her mortgage and could fudge the numbers on a nonprofit,” Scherzer told me.

Natalie, meanwhile, made a bankruptcy filing showing that she owed $3.6 million to an array of creditors, including $800,000 to Scott and Jill Kelley. She and Scott had embarked on a strategem in 2009, drawing up a potentially big money lawsuit against the medical company Genzyme, manufacturer of an adhesive that covers and protects incisions after surgery. Scott believed that Genzyme had misrepresented its approved use by suggesting it could also be crunched up and inserted as a slurry into wounds. He and Natalie found two Genzyme sales reps who would be whistleblowers. But then Natalie’s departure from Cohen, Foster, and Romine complicated the initiative.

In March 2011 the Petraeuses hosted a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, awarding medals from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to four civilians for distinguished service to the military. All the recipients were members of the Petraeuses’ Tampa social circle; two of them were Jill and Scott Kelley. Jill’s “selfless contributions” and “willingness to host engagements” were cited as reasons for her receiving the military’s second-highest civilian honor.

Inevitably, Natalie was invited to the dinner following the ceremony, at Washington’s Prime Rib restaurant. Unlike the other guests, the twins made a point of changing outfits for dinner. Photographs show Jill in a floor-length pink evening gown, while Natalie is in black, leaning into Petraeus. They are both smiling.

But by November of that year Natalie had less to smile about. Despite letters of support from generals Petraeus and Allen, her ex-husband Grayson Wolfe was granted full custody of their son. Judge Neal E. Kravitz wrote a searing opinion, finding Natalie to be “a psychologically unstable person” with “an unsteady moral and ethical compass.” The judge reported that a court-appointed psychiatrist had found that her allegations against her ex-husband — which included his putting a gun to her head — were “part of an ever-expanding set of sensational accusations…so numerous, so extraordinary and so distorted that they defy any commonsense view of reality.” (Natalie is appealing the verdict.)

In 2012, Jill received her “honorary ambassador” title for her service at MacDill from Centcom and an “honorary consulship” from the South Korean government. (Neither title comes with any official rights or responsibilities.) The Tampa locals were startled to see “Honorary Consul 1JK” vanity plates on her Mercedes S500. She also bragged of visits to the White House and other high-level connections. She sent breezy e-mails to Tampa’s mayor, Bob Buckhorn, saying, “I’m up in DC having dinner tonight with Gen Petraeus & Gen John Allen,” and, “I was at the WH with my friends in the Administration this weekend — the stress was surreal!”

But there were signs that the military leaders were growing tired of the Kartampians. In the spring of 2012 General Allen’s wife Kathy called Mark Rosenthal, a sporty member of Tampa society known for the “train room” in his converted garage, to complain about the e-mails Jill and Natalie were sending her husband. Rosenthal, in turn, called Jill and left a voicemail suggesting to his friend that it was inappropriate to pester members of the United States military’s high command and their wives. Jill apparently did not respond. Vice Admiral Harward’s office, meanwhile, started to make calls to civilian friends to see if they could somehow get the twins to leave the admiral alone. Last fall, before the Petraeus scandal broke, MacDill’s chief officer of protocol canceled a dinner that Jill Kelley had organized in DC that Centcom’s new commander, General James Mattis, was to host.

No one knows precisely how Paula Broadwell, Petraeus’s biographer, first heard about Jill Kelley and her sister. But since she was having an affair with Petraeus, one can speculate about the source. Some of the general’s friends wonder if he began to express irritation and Broadwell went too far in trying to protect him, or if it was, as others have suggested, a “catfight.” (No one I spoke to would venture to say whether the friendships the twins enjoyed with Petraeus, Allen, and Harward had crossed the line to become romantic affairs.)

Either way, Broadwell’s “Kelley Patrol” e-mails started a train wreck. The FBI agent to whom Kelley went to air her concerns about cyberstalking, Frederick Humphries, was a friend of all concerned. He was also a national hero, having helped foil the planned Al Qaeda attack on Los Angeles International Airport in 1999. Humphries immediately reported the threats to his superiors, who in turn asked to see all his e-mail correspondence with the Kelleys. Two years previously he had e-mailed the couple and other friends a spoof photograph of himself topless and flanked by two target dummies. He became a laughingstock when the story got twisted by the media into his “posing shirtless” for Jill Kelley, and the innuendo went viral. He e-mailed a friend saying he was miserable and could not believe what had happened to him.

Petraeus, of course, resigned from his post as Director of Central Intelligence on November 9. General Allen then became the target of an investigation into the appropriateness of his extensive e-mail correspondence with Jill Kelley. President Obama has put Allen’s nomination to become supreme commander of NATO on hold as that investigation continues.

And Tampa’s famous twins? Jill initially hired Monica Lewinsky’s publicist, Judy Smith, the inspiration for ABC’s Scandal, and John Edwards’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, who has filed a series of complaints in every direction: against the FBI for leaking information about his client; against Natalie’s former employer, Barry Cohen, seeking damages for revealing privileged information; and against a New York businessman, Adam Victor, for defamation. (Victor alleged that Jill had asked for $80 million in commissions to put together a business deal with the South Korean government and that she had used Petraeus’s name to get in the door.) Natalie hired the celebrity attorney Gloria Allred and gave an attention-grabbing press conference that left the press corps scratching its head. She is still pursuing her sexual harassment case against her old employers.

The question remains: How did General Petraeus ever get mixed up in all this? Amy Scherzer shared a theory with me: “I know people wondered why David Petraeus was so taken with them, and I couldn’t help thinking that maybe he wanted an escape from the world” — and, as Centcom commander, the world and its security were essentially his purview. “These girls were the perfect escape. They are fun, effusive, hospitable.”

Norma Gene Lykes had some insight into the fast rise and even faster fall — if that’s what it is — of the Kartampians. “They tried social climbing in a place where there’s a very short ladder,” she told me. “And the fact that they couldn’t do that, I think, says a lot about them.” She believes Tampa’s reputation may have suffered irreparable damage. “Frankly, it is an embarrassment. Tampa is now known for the seedy underbelly of MacDill.” Mayor Buckhorn declared the whole affair “a circus” in the Tampa Bay Times. “Hopefully, this thing will go away soon,” he said, “and we can all get back to business.”

Indeed, the Kelleys’ inflatable Christmas decorations went up as usual on Bayshore Boulevard, and they spent New Year’s Eve partying in New York. There was no sign of any bruising, even though Jill was stripped of her honorary consul title and is no longer allowed through the checkpoints leading into MacDill. As Gasparilla 2013 approached, Tampa society wondered if the Kelleys would go ahead with their annual front lawn blowout. In any case, the city is longing for the day when it can open a newspaper and no longer read the words Jill and Natalie.