Gephardt: "I Like Al Sharpton; I Think He'd Be a Great Mayor"

Unreal chats with Dick's daughter, then comes face-to-face with Playmates, zombies and a 66-year-old powerlifter

Mar 24, 2004 at 4:00 am
During Congressman Dick Gephardt's latest ill-fated campaign for president, the candidate managed to do the impossible: look progressive on gay-rights issues. This, despite his public opposition to gay marriage, a ballsy stance in light of the fact that his 30-year-old daughter, Chrissy, is a lesbian living in a committed relationship with a woman in Washington, D.C. Chrissy was the campaign operative considered most responsible for daddy Dick's homo-friendly image.

Unreal was fortunate enough to nab fifteen minutes of phone time last week with Chrissy, who was recently named grassroots campaign corps director for the Stonewall Democrats, a prominent, D.C.-based Democratic lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization.

Unreal: True or false: Senator John Kerry's position on gay marriage is the essence of politically motivated waffling.

Chrissy Gephardt: I think that is very much said correctly. It is the epitome of trying to be right on the issue when there is no one way or the other to please everybody. What's ended up happening is he's not going one way or the other on the issue, and he's upsetting both sides.

Who would win a Greco-Roman wrestling match between your dad and John Ashcroft?

I think my dad would win, because Ashcroft is a little weak now after his pancreatitis. He goes to the same hospital [George Washington University Hospital] that I've used. It sort of frightens me that he's been in the same hallways as I have. He's so extreme that he evokes very extreme emotions in me.

Now that your dad is freed from the shackles of having to run for office again, do you think he'll be more likely to come around on gay marriage?

Y'know, I've talked to him about it and I do think he's more likely to come around. He's never said definitely yes or no. But I think with a little pushing and persuasion, I can get him there.

How do you think your dad would react if you and your partner went to San Fran and got hitched? Would he be happy for you, or would he say, 'Chrissy, you guys should have gone to Vermont and gotten a civil union instead?'

No, I think that my dad would rather that I get married. I think that he would prefer that I did the real thing. He'd be very proud of me and very supportive.

So are you going to get married in the near future?

I'm not ready to get married. I think it's great that couples are going out and doing it, but I'm just not at that stage in my life. But maybe down the road. Once you have the right doesn't mean you need to run out and do it.

Reverend Al Sharpton supports gay marriage. Why, then, did prominent gay and lesbian advocacy groups not hop on the Sharpton presidential bandwagon before it was too late?

I think because, while they believe in supporting somebody who's aligned with their beliefs, they also want somebody who has the ability to beat Bush.

Early in the campaign, Al Sharpton was spending more time in your father's district in St. Louis than your dad was. Would you be supportive of a Sharpton candidacy for St. Louis mayor in 2009?

I like Al Sharpton. I think he'd be a great mayor. I think he's got great ideas; he's a very smart man, very eloquent. He talks a good talk, but people need to see him in action to give him credibility he needs.

In his heart of hearts, do you think Dick Cheney wants a constitutional amendment preventing his daughter from ever getting married?

I don't really know what Dick Cheney's thinking. I just know that he supports the president, that he probably loves his daughter and probably feels conflicted on the issue.

Who's the cuter Bush daughter, Barbara or Jenna?


Absolute Power

If Mike Martz were serious about filling the Rams' perennial hole at fullback, he'd camp out at the Creve Coeur Jewish Community Center and wait for the burly Jim Bourisaw. Last year, the five-foot-eight, 215-pound Bourisaw took the gold medal at the International Powerlifting Association's Men's Masters World Bench Press Championships in the Czech Republic by putting up 420 pounds. He's 66, mind you, and didn't get serious about power lifting until a mere eight years ago, turned on to it by his freakishly buff nephew.

"He's a strong man; he lifts boulders and pulls tractor-trailers," Bourisaw says of his nephew, Pat Rankin, who can often be found on late-night ESPN competing in one of those infectiously entertaining hulkamaniac competitions featuring guys with spiked, bleach-blond hair and names like Magnus von Hugenpecs. "My nephew said, 'For an old man, you're strong.' So I found out I was the strongest in the world."

Unreal is happy to report that Bourisaw walks his talk, too, after we witnessed him throw up successive bench sets of 225, 275 and 315 pounds at the Creve Coeur J, where he occasionally trains in preparation for the upcoming St. Louis Senior Olympics competition, set for May 29 through June 2. Not surprisingly, Bourisaw, who recently moved to a country home in the Hannibal suburb of Palmyra after 65 years in Maryland Heights, expects to prevail in senior powerlifting, a new event in the 25th annual St. Louis Games.

Clad in a tight blue tank top, white New Balance sneakers and Zubaz sweatpants, the barrel-chested Bourisaw appeared to sport a respectable amount of chest hair as he took frequent ganders at himself in the J's ceiling-to-floor wall mirrors -- a far follicular cry from when he shaved his chest for an appearance on Regis & Kelly. Thanks to a savvy nomination by his wife, Bourisaw was named one of America's seven hunkiest husbands and got to compete on Philbin and Ripa's show against a half-dozen younger beefcakes in front of a panel of judges that included Joan Rivers.

"She looks like she's got cement on her face," Bourisaw says of Rivers. "Those [six other hunky husbands] were my grandson's age, all of 'em. So I shaved my chest. I had to."

Hollywood Here We Come!

Yes, Unreal likes to project the image that we spend our spare time watching the films of Fellini and Tarkovsky. But truth be told, we much prefer the oeuvre of New York's Troma Entertainment Inc., makers of The Toxic Avenger and Surf Nazis Must Die. That's why we've been hip to St. Louis native James Gunn for a while. He was paid $150 to pen the 1996 classic Tromeo and Juliet, which Troma claims has "all the body-piercing, kinky sex and car crashes that Shakespeare wanted but never had."

But Gunn's gone mainstream since then and has two Hollywood pictures debuting this month -- the retro-themed Scooby-Doo 2 (he wrote the first movie as well) and a remake of the zombie flick Dawn of the Dead. Unreal caught up with Gunn between movie premieres to figure out just what the hell went wrong.

Unreal: You went from co-writing the micro-budget cult film Tromeo and Juliet to writing the big-budget Hollywood film Scooby-Doo. How did you fall so far, so fast?

Gunn: To me there's not that big of a difference between Scooby-Doo and a Troma movie. They both have strict formats. Just substitute dismemberment and naked breasts and toxic mutations with castles and ghouls and cowardly kids. Actually, I think Tromeo and Scooby-Doo 2 are my favorite two films [I've worked on] thus far.

What's the difference, in multiples of ten, between what Lloyd Kaufman paid you for your Tromeo script and what Warner Bros. paid you for Scooby-Doo 2?

Um.... Okay, here's an equation for your readers: 10,000 times Tromeo and Juliet equals Scooby-Doo 2. Not including royalties. Because Troma's not guild, I didn't get any royalties on Tromeo. Unless you consider getting laid by Belgian girls at horror-film festivals "royalties."

How did you feel rewriting a classic like Dawn of the Dead?

I had more fun writing that script than almost any other. I feel even better now that we're opening, and with any luck we're going to kick The Passion out of first place. I mean, really, we should. Who would choose to see one guy rise from the dead when you can see a thousand?

Writing the zombie parts, did you draw upon your experience with Freddie Prinze Jr.?

Hey, Freddie gets a raw deal because all our girlfriends and wives and daughters would fuck him if he nodded the right way. I've worked with and met far more zombiesque actors. Like Perry King.

But you did draw from your experience with hoosiers, right?

Hell yeah. Dude, I grew up next to Winchester.

You're hitting all the movie premieres, hanging out with celebrities and having two movies released in two consecutive weeks. That's an awfully hollow existence, isn't it? Don't you ever wish you had just stayed in St. Louis where people are real and you could earn a decent living with your own two hands?

I don't think anyone in their right mind would want me working at McDonnell-Douglas. St. Louis, and the world, should be glad I left.

Can I come wit' you?

Only if you don't mind me pretending I don't know you.

Bunny Love

"You have the Arch, right? What is that for?"

Thinking dry thoughts, Unreal is chatting up Ava Fabian, Miss August 1986, at last Thursday night's Playboy 50th Anniversary Club Tour while watching the line for the men's room snake around the balcony at the Kastle nightclub. The arduous task of learning how the other half lives is proving difficult, what with the prodigious quantities of Sprite and Chivas Regal (pronounced alternately by spokesbunnies as ree-gle and re-gal) Unreal is consuming. Why, we had to wonder, had so many cigar-toting wannabe playboy dudes bothered shelling out the weekly salary of a mid-level Argentine office worker to be here?

It strikes us then that trying to explain St. Louis' glories to someone who's been hit on by a sizable percentage of humanity is fairly pointless. Luckily the uncommonly bosomy Ava is quickly trapped by a fan wanting a picture, leaving Unreal to jawbone with PR flackette Jay Jay Nesheim, who informs us that Playmates must comply with many rules: No drinking, no smoking, no kissing in the club....

"Star in a Vivid video," Nesheim explains, "and you won't work for Playboy again."

Emboldened by such frank talk, Unreal simply has to know: Of the ten Playmates present, how many had likely done the Heffy? Nesheim swears ignorance and steers the conversation to the Playboy founder's gentle ways. "Think about how many women he's slept with over the years, and how you never hear any complaints about how he treated them," she says.

As she speaks, Unreal keeps craning around for a celebrity spotting amid the crush of 600-plus -- until a sad realization dawns: No celebrities live in St. Louis. Still, the evening is redeemed by a well-choreographed burlesque show, ending in the waste of an entire bottle of Champagne.

Now we've really got to go.