If Charlie Crist Were A Dog ... | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

If Charlie Crist Were A Dog ...

... he'd be a poodle. Just one of the observations John DeGroot brings with his latest offering. It needs no introduction, other than to say it's about a Friday luncheon at the Riverside Hotel involving Gov. Charlie Crist and the Sun-Sentinel's "dueling columnists," Stephen Goldstein and Kingsley Guy. (Also, if you missed it check out Charlie's lie to JAABlog concerning appointing black judges to the bench. Sometimes ol' Crist is just too good for his own good). Enjoy.

---------------------------- Dulling Columnists Score Major Snore By John de Groot

Florida ’s Governor Charlie Crist was in Fort Lauderdale on Friday as the rest of the world teetered oTn financial ruin and more Middle Eastern innocents were slaughtered in the name of God.

But I digress.

The Governor had flown into Broward as the latest celebrity guest of the Sun-Sentinel’s celebrated Dueling Columnists.

Now, given the terrifying gravity of the apocalyptic events looming world-wide, both the people of Florida and the Governor would have been better served if Charlie had stayed back in Tallahassee to fold paper bags or wash his cat.

How so?

It would be inaccurate to dismiss the Dueling Columnists as harmless perpetrators of too frequent Close Encounters of the Trivial Kind.

They’re worse.

Now, for those who have not suffered the experience, the Sentinel’s Dueling Columnists appear above the half-page ad opposite the newspaper’s editorials once a week – as well as local radio.

The idea is to offer the newspaper’s readers a print serving of fresh and challenging points of view from the so-called Left and Right sides of the political spectrum – both locally and wherever else the columnist dare to stumble.

The Right is represented by Kingsley Guy, the Sentinel’s retired editorial page editor who – as he did with his editorials – too often confuses timidity with gravitas. (But then struggling to express an original opinion at the Sentinel can do cruel things to a man’s stones.)

The Left is represented by Stephen Goldstein, a clever man hopelessly addicted to the first person pronoun who, like Paris Hilton, has made a career of being well-known locally – although nobody really knows why. (Also, I’ve yet to meet anyone able to explain how Goldstein earns his living.)

Oh yes.

As writers go, Guy carefully leans towards stolid opinion supported by solid facts – while Goldstein is a noisy print master of hoo-hah, hot air and hype.

So much for their weekly presence in print – which I rarely read, an unfilled need for substance having led me to cancel my subscription to the Sentinel after 30-plus years.


Today’s Pulp offering stems from the Dueling Columnists’ venture into a kind of live dinner theater in which the two appear with a celebrity guest before an audience that’s paid $26 for lunch high atop Fort Lauderdale ’s Riverside Hotel, safely removed from anyone who gets their hands dirty for a living.

Now, having attended both the first and second of the Dueling affairs*, I am prepared to report my findings. (I use “affair” here because “well-fed Cluster Fuck” may be a

bit over the top.)


The first Dueling Columnist Luncheon was last June before all the people interested in such events took off for their summer homes in the mountains, leaving the Help to protect the Old Homestead come hell or hurricane.

So now, with everyone home from their summer vacation, Governor Crist flew in for the Sentinel columnists’ second catered duel last Friday.

Time now for a few generalizations about both events.

First, the Sentinel columnists’ choice in luncheon guests appears limited to men who are important political figures and extremely pretty.

Like the stunningly beautiful former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio came up from Miami-Dade to be the Sentinel columnists’ first guest last June. (*No shit! Marco Rubio is one of the most gorgeous men I have ever seen. The man could model half-unbuttoned blue jeans and skivvies for Calvin Kline. I mean, he’s really that hot. Plus he’s Cuban. Which means he’ll be Florida ’s next Governor. Unless Marco turns Jewish and becomes Florida ’s first All-Purpose, Ecumenical Pope.)

So first we got Marco with a choice of salmon, or chicken.

Then Friday last, the Sentinel columnists offered up the very fetching Governor Charlie -- who, as everyone knows, is a suntanned, photogenic beauty who makes chopped liver of the aging George Hamilton. (Rumor has it that the reason John McCain chose Sarah Palin over Crist as his running mate is that Charlie’s way too sexy.)

Please forgive if I overstep the bounds of Catty.

However, like Miss Scarlett, there are times I do go on.

And this is, as they say, a “critique.”

Next the food.

For steam table stuff, it’s surprisingly good. Same dueling salmon and chicken ala Marco. And served buffet, which lets you take all you want and go back. Plus I scarfed down three deserts which were excellent. Still, $26* is pretty hefty for an above average all-you-can-eat lunch. (*Credit cards are accepted.)

Usually, this much decent and expensable food brings out the media.

But there were none* – other than the Sentinel’s two Dueling Columnists overseen by the newspaper’s immaculately attired Editor Earl Maucker who came with his mustache and the decidedly less immaculate young man in charge of Earl’s shrinking editorials. (*OK. I was there for the Pulp. Which kind of makes me media. More or less.)

Governor Crist arrived 40 minutes late, which caused the audience to destroy the desert table – and sent the two Dueling Columnists into a Category Five Frenzy.

“Stephen should entertain everybody with his songs while we’re waiting for the Governor,” said an older woman at the desert table. (Goldstein, it seems, is one of those men ALL older woman are adoringly moved to call Stephen – not Steve.)

”Goldstein sings?” I asked.

“Oh yes,” the woman gushed. “He writes his own songs which are all very clever and cute and he plays a wonderful piano.”

Which is how I discovered the Liberal half of the Sentinel’s Dueling Columnists promotes himself as a kind of WalMart Noel Coward out of Hadassah – playing and singing his own material like “Face-Lift Lady, Botox Gal”, “Different Diets” and “Screw You” for money.

Fortunately, the Governor arrived before Goldstein broke into song.


A word about style.

Nobody does affable better than Governor Charlie. Except maybe George Hamilton. Or Richard Gere. But they’re not running the nation’s fourth largest state.

Kingsley Guy has the “objective” stage persona of a man who could watch the CIA water-board a Muslim child with a straight face. But then he spent years writing Sentinel editorials where true outrage was summed up by a closing paragraph suggesting, “This merits further looking into by (insert other party)…”

Stephen Goldstein, on the other hand, dominates the stage like a tinkling yappy-dog overwhelmed by an excess of adoring company. In addition, Goldstein does not suffer from a lack of either self-esteem or lengthy opinions. Nor is he verbally challenged.

So much for the characters.

Now for the drama.

Act I began with Goldstein announcing he would personally “grill the Governor.”

Trouble was, Goldstein had failed to first introduce the Governor. There was no puffing about Crist’s background, no welcome, not even a thank-you-for-coming, Charlie.

Instead, Goldstein the opening scene was all about Stephen. Sans Crist.

Ever gracious, the unabashed Crist actually welcomed himself, thanked the audience for coming and then addressed Goldstein’s question about health care for Florida’s 3.8 million uninsured residents by noting:

1) It’s a problem.

2) We have a bi-partisan plan.

3) Private insurance companies will take care of all our poor sick Floridians for $150 a month – including a suitable profit.

Now, it’s pretty well-known that Florida ’s private insurance companies say they are losing money, and they're charging individuals way more than $300 a month for their health insurance.

However, not bothering with that sort of context, Goldstein happily moved on to his next first-person-infested question for the governor – while his counterpart Guy did his gravitas thing.

Which suggests that Goldstein sees life as about the question and not the answer – just as Gert Stein decided on her death bed.

Thus, as Duels go, Friday’s event was the Stephan Goldstein Show featuring HIS guest Governor Crist, with Kingsley Guy as a rather anal Ed McMahon.

For example:

I timed the Sentinel’s two Dueling Columnists during the first few minutes grilling the governor and it worked out to around:

- Eight minutes for Goldstein

- Five minutes for the Governor

- Three minutes for Guy

So much for the real Star of the show.

True, there were several times when Guy struggled to curb Goldstein as he continued to interrupt the Governor with yet another lengthy, self-referenced question.

“Is there a question in there?” Guy politely asked Goldstein several times, causing Stephen to gush and giggle an eye-rolling, unspoken OH-YOU-BIG-SILLY in response.

Not that Guy was all that successful.

Because if ego were oil, Stephen Goldstein could end the world’s energy crisis overnight – backed up by his original lyrics and music.

True, and to his credit, Guy tried to ask the Governor several direct and un-self-referenced questions several times.

Did, for example, the Governor support selling Alligator Alley to a private company?

“We’re looking into it,” the Governor said.

Guy persisted with the same question.

And received the same evasive answer from the Governor.

And so it generally went.

All with great affability, grace and good fellowship – except the few snit-smiling times when Crist dared to interrupt Goldstein interrupting him, which clearly vexed The Stephen.

But for the dramatic impact and overall significance of the Governor’s “grilling” by the Sentinel’s two Dueling Columnists Friday …?

Imagine three grown men hurling marshmallows at each other from a distance of 50 feet. But with considerable bonhomie. Plus Goldstein’s lengthy personal opinion about each marshmallow thrown Crist-ward.

Naturally, the audience applauded politely when time and marshmallows had expired.

Which reminds me of Nietzsche’s strange encounter with a horse toward the end of his life.

But then the Sentinel’s Dueling Columnists could do with a bit of the old Kraut.


Yet again I digress.

Trouble is, I am a strange old man and the Sixties were a heavy drugs bitch.

Like during the Governor’s recent encounter with the Sentinel’s Dueling Whatevers.

And I got to wondering if these there guys were dogs, what kind would they be?

You know?

Like Crist, of course, would just have to be a poodle.

While Kingsley Guy’s a perfect hound. Bassett, most likely.

But Stephen Goldstein?

Mother of God!

He’s a tough one.

Schnauzer’s too easy.

Then it comes to me.

Goldstein’s a classic rough-coat Jack Russell Terrier.

So you better watch the fuck out.