Sunday, July 21, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
TED Gunderson, former head of the FBI office in Los Angeles, lives in a rented Las Vegas condo, where he watches over piles of boxes, sells diet pills and smokes foreign cigars.
The condo, near Twain Avenue and Swenson Street, is Gunderson's headquarters in his bid for the U.S. presidency.
He's also a candidate for the congressional seat held by Rep. John Ensign, R-Nev.
Gunderson is running as an Independent American, a party whose candidates often express paranoia about the government, a strange turn for a G-man.
How this came about helps in understanding who some of the faceless names are that appear on ballots every election.
More than a few of these candidates thrive on the periphery, but for Gunderson, that hasn't always been the case.
The son of a Lincoln, Neb., NAPA auto parts salesman, Gunderson, after graduating from the University of Nebraska, peddled Hormel hams in the Midwest.
Then on Nov. 27, 1951, he received a telegram from J. Edgar Hoover saying he'd been hired by the FBI at an annual salary of $5,500.
That launched a career that landed Gunderson in exciting duty locations, including, for a brief time, the LBJ White House.
Gunderson moved up the management ladder, and in the '70s he was transferred to Los Angeles, where he became chief of the Southern California district.
When Gunderson retired on March 30, 1979, more than 600 people attended his sendoff.
Gunderson opened a private-eye firm and even wrote a book, "How to Locate Anyone Anywhere," published by Penguin, a leading paperback company.
The book includes promotional blurbs from Johnny Carson, Mike Ditka, Jack Lemmon, President Ford and Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
Peter Ueberroth wrote, "Ted Gunderson is a professional investigator with outstanding abilities and integrity."
For Gunderson, praise like that is in short supply these days.
Seventeen years after retiring, Gunderson, whose expertise is finding other people, seems himself to be lost in a single-minded quest: exposing government cover-ups.
That's why he's living in that rented condo, selling pills, smoking cigars and studying the contents of those boxes.
The diet pills, called New Image, go for $29.95 a bottle.
They include Korean ginseng, licorice root and bladderwrack, touted as a natural iodine that "stimulates blood circulation and eases obesity."
The profits help finance Gunderson's attacks on the government.
The cigars, made in the Dominican Republic, add a whiff of international intrigue to Gunderson's story.
He believes bankers and other powerful men are trying to take over the world and jail dissidents like Gunderson.
Which leads to the boxes.
They contain papers that Gunderson says prove the government is trafficking in drugs, covering up the existence of satanic groups and selling American children overseas as sex slaves.
Gunderson, 67, has been preaching this line since 1980, a few months after his retirement, when he says the FBI started spreading the word that he was a homosexual, dealt in drugs and was forced to retire.
"That got me boiling mad," he says.
Why did the FBI try to smear him?
Gunderson says it's because he found out, as a private eye, that the government was covering up a satanic cult that murdered an Army officer's family in 1970. The officer went to jail, even though Gunderson says he had the goods on the real killer, a devil worshipper.
When the FBI came after him for snooping around in that case, he went after them, he says.
Now he has 90 boxes with papers about the Oklahoma City bombing, the Vince Foster suicide, Waco and more. All were government cover-ups, he says, usually involving money, drugs or sex.
The government is even kidnapping children and busing them to Area 51, a military facility north of Las Vegas, Gunderson says.
He says the children are brainwashed and sold as sex slaves.
A closer inspection of what's in a few of the boxes reveals numerous papers that theorize about wrongdoing but offer little solid evidence.
"Where are the names of the people kidnapping these kids?" Gunderson is asked. "Who's behind all these conspiracies? Name names."
"It's all there," he says, pointing to stacks of boxes.
He has more boxes in California, where his wife lives.
All these boxes, packed full of incomplete revelations, have come to represent not only Gunderson's life, but, to many voters, the kind of candidates operating outside the political mainstream.
More than a few anti-government people, including a growing number in the West, think Gunderson and others like him are on to something. Others think he's way off base.
Either way, there aren't enough voters, even among those who feel constrained having to choose between two major parties, to vote for the Ted Gundersons of the world.
He doesn't care. He'll keep fighting, even though everybody's lining up against him.
Even this month, the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI wrote to tell him they would hold a hearing Aug. 2 on whether to expel him.
He's says it's a done deal that they'll give him the boot, and that's too bad, because he likes some of the veteran warriors, the honest guys from the old days.
"It really hurts to be kicked out," he says, lighting a Dominican cigar.
LARRY HENRY is political editor of the Las Vegas SUN. He can be reached on the Internet at [email protected]