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He was once somebody, but who?

A friend sent me this ''unsolicited column idea": ''There's a guy who lives here in Methuen, Atty. Greg Hyatt, who was, I believe, one of the principal architects of Proposition 2 1/2 and nearly the Republican nominee for governor back in the mid-1980s.

''These days, Hyatt is practically a street person, roaming downtown dressed in a soiled suit and running shoes, etc. He has a website called Never saw it, but hear it's bizarre."

It has indeed been a roller-coaster ride for Greg Hyatt, whom the general public more or less remembers as the young Republican fellow who didn't run for governor against the ascendant Michael Dukakis in 1986 because a secretary said he had odd habits, like taking off his clothes in his office. (Hyatt countered that he was simply changing garb.)

Hyatt was leading the race going into the convention and won the Republican primary, before -- as he explains it -- being forced to step aside by the centrist Andrew Card/Andrew Natsios faction in power. A Republican consultant who was around at the time says Hyatt is exactly right: ''Everyone was terrified by Greg Hyatt," because of his eccentric behavior.

The public probably does not remember that Hyatt was indeed ''the principal architect behind Proposition 2½," according to his friend David Brudnoy. I doubt anyone knows that they pay 60 percent less in automobile excise taxes, again largely thanks to Hyatt, who was the executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation 25 years ago. If you rent an apartment, you can deduct half your payments on your state income tax, and once again, you have Greg Hyatt to thank for that.

''Nobody has had a greater impact on the recent history of the state" -- a wonderful testimonial, if only it didn't come from Hyatt himself.

At 51, Hyatt, a graduate of Yale College and Boston College Law School, has pretty much hit rock bottom. He no longer practices law; he survives on very occasional political or media consulting gigs. He is currently on probation for making hostile threats. He doesn't have a car or a computer. His health is not good. Asked if he is homeless, he replies: ''I bounce around," and declines to provide an address.

Hyatt has become a curious American specimen: the paranoid who has real enemies. Many of them are of his own making. At a generally pleasant hour-and-a-half lunch last week, Hyatt rattled through his embarrassing, downward slide, inveighing against public figures, former colleagues, and directing my attention to his belligerent, off-the-wall website,, which he updates from the Nevins Memorial Library in Methuen.

A portion of his website rails against officials in Methuen, where Hyatt has twice run unsuccessfully for mayor. Another portion of his website has been taken down, pursuant to a judge's order. Hyatt's detractors have launched an anti-Hyatt website, with a name that can't be printed here, that includes an unflattering video and ''testimonials" of the kind one would rather have suppressed.

In a bizarre sidelight, Hyatt reminded me that we were college classmates, although we didn't know each other. While I was learning the French inhale, he was apparently making something of himself. ''I was the floor leader of the Party of the Right in the Yale Political Union," he told me. ''You know, John Kerry had been the floor leader of the Party of the Left. And he went to Boston College Law School. Our careers are a mirror image of each other." Well . . . yes and no.

Greg Hyatt suffers from the same disease that many of us have; he can't see himself as others see him. The problem is that he has a worse case than most. He thinks he is a logical candidate to anchor a talk show, or provide political advice, but that seems like a long shot, to put it gently.

Hyatt has apparently rekindled his religious faith, which can't hurt, and he is hoping for a modest settlement from a family inheritance that has been the subject of yet another dispute. ''I'd like to start my life over," he says. ''I need an angel."

Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His e-dress is

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