Now it can be told…
What did Clay Chastain think of antediluvian Kansas City Star columnist Charlie Gusewelle‘s recent hit piece on the Union Station and light rail activist?
“I was shocked,” Chastain says. “I’ve been shocked by some things but never in my 20 some year career have I ever been shocked like this. Gusewelle writes heartwarming stories about his animals and his time in Paris and I always thought he was just this kindhearted person.”
In his column Gusewelle harked back to meeting Chastain in 1991 and attributed the following direct quotes to him from that meeting:
“I have ideas,” Gusewelle quotes Chastain as saying in 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.”
Hold it right there.
“I’m thinking, ‘Mr. Gusewelle, how can you remember back 22 years to a conversation you had with someone you didn’t even know?’ ” Chastain asks. “And describe me as fidgeting – I’ve never fidgeted in my life.”
“Then he says I dropped into his office unannounced, but remember (Star business columnist) Jerry Heaster?” Chastain says. “The truth is I went there to talk to Jerry Heaster and Mr. Heaster said, I want to introduce you to somebody who might be able to help you. So he took me over and introduced me to to Mr. Gusewelle.
“So Mr. Gusewelle either forgot that or conveniently forgot it. The purpose being to make me look like I’m just this person who’s shallow. And so after more than 20 years, he finally writes something about me – something really mean and nasty. He just made this stuff up.”
Again, it was a bolt from the blue shocker to the Man of Clay.
“You know Gusewelle’s image is of this kindly Uncle Remus type guy who writes things about his dogs and cats,” Chastain says. “That he’s a beloved patriarch at the Star.”
Columnist insert: Most anybody who’s ever worked directly or indirectly with Gusewelle at the Star knows his kindly Grandpa image is a mirage. As little contact as I had with him over the years, I can tell you he’s looked upon as being majorly cranky or as one Star editor told me, “He’s always had a burr up his saddle.”
As for Gusewelle’s dissing of former Star columnist, editor and publisher Art Brisbane, “Yeah, Art Brisbane got taken in by me,” Chastain quips. “He was too stupid to realize that I was only in it for attention and my ego. That’s why I’ve spent $100,000 over the years – just for my ego. And that isn’t even counting my time.”
Back to those direct Chastain quotes that Star editors – for some reason or another – allowed Gusewelle to include in the column…
“I know Mr. Gusewelle is still very much mentally solid,” Chastain says. “So my take is he manufactured those quotes to make me look bad and fit his storyline. But Mr. Gusewelle has completely distorted what happened and for Mr. Gusewelle to completely reconstruct a conversation that happened 22 years ago is a stretch. If he can remember everything I said in that conversation, how come he can’t remember that it was Jerry Heaster that introduced me to him?”
So did Chastain utter those exact words?
“I can’t remember exactly what I said 22 years ago, but I’m sure I didn’t say it in a simplistic way like that. I remember that Mr. Gusewelle was a smoker and he told me he was going to have some sort of surgery or heart bypass operation and he was going to have to go under the knife pretty soon. And that he didn’t want to get into anything right then – he had more important things on his mind.”
Chastain’s message to the G Man:
“If I were talking to him right now, I would say, ‘Mr. Gusewelle, I was disappointed to read your thoughts about me. Why are you coming out with mean spirited column like this after 22 years?
“And Mr. Gusewelle, either you are losing it or you manufactured those quotes to make me look bad. Because I don’t talk like that in the first place and I don’t fidget.”
On Gusewelle’s dissing of Brisbane…
“He almost acts like he’s the great judge of us all. That he knows more than everybody else and whatever he says must be the truth. I thought Gusewelle was a man of the truth, but I don’t think that anymore.
“I don’t know, the fact that he brought up Brisbane gives me more credibility. He sort of lumps Art Brisbane with me, like we’re kindred souls. Based on that, it appears that Mr. Gusewelle is jealous of people who rock the boat to succeed and Art rocked the boat and succeeded. And I rocked the boat and have had some success.”
Chastain’s bottom line on Gusewelle’s column:
“He didn’t even comment on my issues, he was only interested in tearing me down. But it’s ironic. he says he didn’t want to give me any attention but by writing this column he does the very thing he said he didn’t want to do – he gives me attention. So he completely works against the purpose of his article in the article.”