Hearne: Star’s Gusewelle Brags About Dissing Chastain & Disses Brisbane

gusewelleThis may seem a little cold, but you pretty much know you’re on your last legs when Charles Gusewelle comes after your butt…

The ever-cranky, senior Star scribe sank his bona fides into longtime Union Station and Light Rail advocate Clay Chastain last Sunday. And in the process, former Star columnist, editor and publisher Art Brisbane.

Something about the Man of Clay cornering him in the newsroom in 1991, Gusewelle having the good sense not to write about him and Chastain then suckering Brisbane into doing the honors.

“I have ideas,” Gusewelle claims Chastain said, in a 22 year-old recollection of their impromptu meeting. “I have a lot to offer. But what I need is some exposure. I need some press. I wonder if you would help me out…with a column. Write a piece about me. That could give me a start.”

Fat chance of grizzled journalist Gusewelle stooping to that.

“I was baffled,” Gusewelle writes. “How had the guy found his way to me? And how could he dream I’d do that? We were a newspaper. We weren’t a launch pad for off-the-street startups.”


“Art gave him the exposure he craved, and that was the beginning of Clay Chastain’s two-decade-long career as a gadfly and relentless public nuisance, determined to find a role in community affairs,” Gusewelle writes.

Brisbane remembers it somewhat differently.

“I don’t have any reason to doubt that Clay approached (Gusewelle) first and that he rebuffed Clay,” Brisbane says. “I do remember that Clay never came to me flatly asking for ‘help’ in the manner Gusewelle describes. He was simply a voice for a proper reuse of Union Station.

“As I recall he was saying the science museum should go into Union Station and that way provide a lift for the station’s rehabilitation. All the grand pooh-bahs of the town opposed him but the idea made sense and ultimately was the path that was followed. Too bad Science City was not better conceptualized. I saw Clay as a person with a decent idea for a problem that no one had been able to solve.”

That stands in marked contrast to Gusewelle’s characterization of Chastain as an undeserving, desperate, fidgety, unemployed single parent out to make a name.

a clayLet’s take a brief look at the Brisbane column in question – “A citizen, a station and a plan” –  and you make the call as to whether Chastain was a worthy subject:

Clay Chastain walked into the Union Station controversy like a lamb into a lion’s den. He sought naively to save the station, not realizing he would be up against an angry combine of frustrated politicians and burned-out station advocates. And those were the people on his side.

On the other side was Trizec Corp., a Canadian real estate corporation so rich it could afford to hire two or three sets of first-rate lawyers to fight Kansas City’s lawsuit against it well into the 1990s, if necessary.

Clay also didn’t realize that nobody in this town wants to talk about the deteriorating landmark right now. The powerful are mute, afraid to say anything that could undermine Kansas City’s legal contention that Trizec is to blame for not rehabilitating the station.

None of this has stopped Mr. Chastain.

He is the classic citizen without portfolio. He has no letterhead, no lawyer on retainer, no corporate backing, no tie on.

All he has is an idea.

There’s more.

“Joined by longtime station advocate Max Fearing, the 38-year-old electrical engineer has barged into just about every office that matters in this dispute. He has foisted himself on Kansas City’s philanthropic chieftains. He has buttonholed the mayor. He has jawboned Trizec’s counsel. He has picked the brains of finance experts and building contractors.

“Over the course of six months, he has tilted at every windmill in sight. And in that time, he has refined a plan that makes sense.

“It is a plan that could end the legal stalemate, save a cash-starved city millions in future legal fees and preserve the station.

Brisbane’s conclusion:

“Granted, Chastain’s plan has some rough edges. But surely the city and Trizec can assemble enough sharp lawyers, builders, preservationists and bond underwriters to polish those edges,” he summarized.

“Do it, ladies and gentlemen. Listen to the citizen without portfolio.”

The point that Gusewelle’s column bashing Chastain (and Brisbane) misses in declaring Chastain irrelevant is that at a number of points over the years many voters – not to mention the Star‘s own editorial board – did indeed listen to and agree with him.

And that Chastain’s credited – grudgingly at times – by many for helping save Union Station by keeping it in the news and helping to shape many of the specifics that were ultimately included in its renovation plan.

It’s also true that many subsequent Chastain efforts were met with criticism and that he apologized at times for his behavior.

Still, when Grandpa Gusewelle takes you to the woodshed, you know you’re in a rough patch.

Chastain could not be reached for this column.

However if the intention of Gusewelle’s column was to serve as an “I told you so”  – that Chastain was never worthy of news coverage then or now – it falls well short of the mark.

Twenty-two years of history offers a different view.





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6 Responses to Hearne: Star’s Gusewelle Brags About Dissing Chastain & Disses Brisbane

  1. Ape Man says:

    Why use a picture of Dr. Zaius in this article?

    Dr. Zira: What will he find out there, doctor?
    Dr. Zaius: His destiny.

  2. chuck says:

    Clay Chastain lives if Bedford fu*kin Virginia and is a Scientologist.

    Scientology’s most basic tenet is “Auditing.”

    “Auditing” is sometimes seen as controversial, because auditing sessions are permanently recorded and stored within what are called Preclear Folders. Scientologists believe that the practice of auditing helps them overcome the debilitating effects of traumatic experiences, most of which have accumulated over a multitude of lifetimes.”

    AUDITOR: “Clay, what do you see yourself doing in future lifetimes?”

    CLAY: “Driving people in Kansas City completly fu*kin nuts.”

    AUDITOR: “Do you see yourself living in Kansas City in your future lives.”

    CLAY: “Fu*k no, have you been there?”

    AUDITOR: “If you don’t live there why would you keep going there?”

    CLAY: “Well, I can’t imagine a time in any of my future lives where I will be worth anything more than pizz in a boot, so I will have to find validation for my metphysically meaningless existance by fu*kin with people in Kansas City.”

    AUDITOR: “That actually makes sense. The people in Bedford probably hate you too, but only in passing. If you pulled this sh*t in Virginia, your fu*kin neighbors would probably string your dumb azz up to a tree.”

    CLAY: “This Scientology sh*t really works!”

    AUDITOR: “Go in peace my son.”

  3. smartman says:

    Only in KC can characters like Gusewelle and Chastain exist.
    Poor Gusewelle, is probably distraught at the daily peril in his beloved Mother Country of France.

    Clay will always occupy a spot in my heart for the notes he made on petitions to remind him of the women he might want to “date”. Even Craig Glazer has to give props to that technique.

    Don’t knock Scientology Chuck. That KSW doctrine is wicked stuff.

  4. paulwilsonkc says:

    I came across Charles one night, unexpectedly, at a Barnes and Nobel book signing. I had both just seen his PBS documentary and completed William Least Heat Moon’s, River Horse; his story about crossing America by boat.

    Moon writes that when he reached the most dangerous part of the trip, St Louis to KC (during the 93 flood), he took on a passenger, a reporter from the KC Star, who wanted to make part of the trip to KC with him and write about it. I’d always assumed it was Guswelle.

    So I approached the table, after his paying customers were finished (1 person) and retold the story I just explained above. Then I asked, “….was that you?” His reply caught me off guard as he bristled and replied, “NO SIR, it WASN’T! I have NO USE for Mr. LEAST HEAT MOON! Would you like to know why?”

    At that point, it was difficult to just say, no, just wondered if it was you…thanks anyway!
    So I responded that I’d simply love to know. With that, and in the same tone of voice he exclaimed, “Because he’s NOT AN INDIAN! His father was a scout leader, and that was the name his FATHER used at scouting events where he dressed in Indian garb for scout outings!”

    Well, where do you go at that point? So I responded that I’d read Blue Highways and River Horse and that he makes multiple references to that background, where by Mr Charles interrupted me and once again exclaimed; “…and THAT’S why I have NO USE for the man!”

    It seemed I’d greatly disturbed him, so I left without providing critical insight into his wilderness documentary. I just extended my hand, thanked him, told him my name was Paul Giant White Cloud and I appreciated his time….and went to Starbucks for a cup of coffee.

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