Hearne: Clay Chastain Accuses Star’s Gusewelle of Making Up Quotes

Gusewelle codger shotNow 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.”

claychastain2Hold 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.”

There’s more.

K7GTx.Em_.81“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.”

uncle_remus_stillColumnist 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.”

brisbane-articleInlineOn 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.”


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28 Responses to Hearne: Clay Chastain Accuses Star’s Gusewelle of Making Up Quotes

  1. Mark X says:

    Chastain is a flake. But that said, his story does seem credible. Haven’t subscribed to the Star in over 15 years. But when I did, never read Gusewelle. Surprised to learn he’s still kickin’ & workin’ …

    • admin says:

      He retired some years back and went to freelancing a Sunday column.

      I rarely even glimpse at his columns, let alone read them, but that’s just me. I suspect his readership is mostly bluehair but he’s always been too soft and fuzzy for me taste.

      Hey, different strokes.

      Lotsa people used to watch Lawrence Welk and Liberace!

  2. expat says:

    Hearne are you going to give us the scoop about your buddies at the KCBoT getting closed down by CME?

    • admin says:

      I was just thinking about that. I’ll give it a whirl in the morning.

      But here’s my early take. Those member dudes are getting a pretty hefty chunk of change on the sale price, so there’s that. Plus they know the handwriting is on the wall for open outcry trading and the alternative is maybe no money and irrelevance.


      The loss to Kansas City is kind of sad though. For decades people have come to the visitor’s gallery overlooking the trading floor and marveled at the insanity

      School kids, business out-of-towners, you name it.

      That said, those cable news shots of celebs ringing the bell above the floor of the NYSE are largely ceremonial these days since the actual floor action is pretty slim with computerized training.

      I remember all the customer and broker complaints though about getting sandbagged by floor traders. Doubt anyone will miss that.

      But the insanity and din of the trading floors at the Chicago Board of Trade and the Merc were unbelievable back when things were rocking. Movie-like madness.

      Hey, it used to be cool to tie up your horse outside the saloon and wera your six-shooter into the bar at one point in time too.

      Life goes on and times change.

      • chuck says:

        expat is right.

        If you have access to new and old stories on this subject, at least in my opinion, it would be very, very interesting.

  3. Rainbow Man says:

    Gusewelle would be aghast that a non-Brookside kid who went to DeVry is making $750K a year and taking trips Paris whenever the hell he wants.
    It may take some time… but Clay Chastain is right and he will be proven right.

  4. Blaster99 says:

    This old geezer works for free and his writing defines the word “irrelevent”.

    • Blaster99 says:

      “Irrelevant” sorry.

      • redge-wedge says:

        don’t forget the other piece of editorial flotsam floating at the Star. That worthless cartoon drawer called Judge. I’m sure he works for zero money and couldn’t get his crap in any other paper on earth.

  5. chuck says:

    Clay Chastain should go late in the 2nd Round of the 2015 Draft.

    He is 6’4″, 220 Lbs and has a hell of an arm.

    Listed amongst the best Junior College QBs, I think he has that underdog mentality that will serve him well in the Pro’s.

    He is at Georgia State and should fly under the radar for 2 years.


    He is the ONLY guy named Clay Chastain, I EVER wanna hear about here in K.C. again.

    Auburn is also looking at the kid and here is a big plus in my opinion.

    He is NOT a scientologist who finds out his past identities listening to a guy in another room through a paper cup and a string.

    He IS a guy who talks to his Offensive Coordinator on a microphone in his helmut.

    Both of those ideas seem crazy, but the guy with the helmut will NOT bust your balls outside of the Brookside Price Chopper and try to get your wife’s phone number.

    Clay Chastain, the Scientologist, is more persistant than Percy Fawcett and as annoying as Nancy Grace.

    Hopefully the s*n of a b*tch will get lost in the Amazon looking for Casey Anthony, she is pretty hot Clay and right up your alley.

  6. TJ says:

    You need to be more balanced in your assessment of Gusewelle. Just because he doesn’t take to fools does not mean he is not a kind man. My friend and I had season tickets to the Chiefs for years. My friend is an auto mechanic who became friends with Charles when he would bring his car in for repairs and they would discuss their love of hunting. Charles would invite my friend to use his property to hunt and my friend invited Charles to the Chiefs game. He was a lovely guest at the game and tailgate, very complimentary of his hosts and appreciative of the invitation and a very friendly and knowledgeable during the game with everyone around us.

    Chastain, I will admit, got a lot of conversation and work going early in his efforts. However, his insistence to remain in the spotlight in KC, while not living here for years is curious and seems to support Gusewelle’s view of him as a publicity hound. Plus he will always have the “ICK” factor all over him after his petition stunt.

    • admin says:

      I’ve looked at Gusewelle from both sides and my assessment is based on people who work with him, not people who come up to him as fans, heap praise upon him and share his views on dogs, cats, hunting and yard work.

      Having someone be nice to you when you kiss up to them is not the true measure of a person’s personality.

      • Irishguy says:

        Let me see. This guy’s friend gave Gusewelle Chiefs tickets in exchange for Gusewelle letting him use his property to hunt.

        The guy says that Gusewelle was pleasant to be around that day.

        That doesn’t fit your opinion of Gusewelle, so obviously the only reason Gusewelle was nice was because the guy was “kissing up” to him.

        And of course, you speak for everyone who ever worked with Gusewelle, don’t you? It’s impossible that somebody else who worked with him to have a different opinion. Unless, of course, they were “kissing up” to him.

  7. Les Weatherford says:

    I worked with Gus for nearly 22 years, and we got along fine.

    As for the spelling of his name, is it Gusewell, Gusewelle, Gueswell, Gueswelle, or what?

    • admin says:

      Ah, you got me on the typo in the headline as a good copy editor should.

      But I suspect you know that which I am talking about and find it odd that you had nothing to say about the copy desk and editors allowing Gus to manufacture damaging direct quotes like that with no backup or substantiation 22 years after the fact.

      We both know the journalistic way for Gusewelle to have skinned that cat would have been to say that was the impression he got from his recollection of the meeting, rather than pretend he remembered it word for word.

      I’m with Clay on the fact that if Gus remembered it photographically like that he should have also remembered Heaster bringing him in and introducing him rather than Clay barging in unannounced.

      • Les Weatherford says:

        You know nothing about what I know and are out of line to say that you do. And the list of things I find odd about you is nearly endless.

        • admin says:

          Thanks for sharing.

          But that still leaves unanswered my question about whether you think conjuring direct quotes from a 22 year-old recollection of an impromptu meeting were fair game? Quotes that made Chastain sound like a fool and a shallow airhead.

          You think that was fair?

          I know enough about you to know you played the journalism game at 18th and grand long enough to know better. However now I’m starting to wonder if I know more about you now than I did before you graced KCC with your comments (which I appreciate btw).

          That you don’t have the nads to answer my question, because you undoubtedly know any editor at the Star worth his salt would not have allow those direct quotes pass into print.

          How do I know this? Well, for one thing because some of them have told me as much.

      • Irishguy says:

        “rather than Clay barging in unannounced.”

        Well, if you are going to hold Gusewelle to absolute standards of perfect accuracy, that’s not exactly what Gusewelle wrote, is it?

        This is what Gusewelle actually wrote about how Chastain first approached him: ” . . . when a stranger arrived unannounced, knocked at the entrance of my cluttered little workspace and asked if I could spare a few minutes to hear his story.”

        That doesn’t sound like “barging in” to me, but of course, you are entitled to your own opinion as long as you label it as such and don’t try to pass it off as fact.

        • admin says:

          You don’t like my choice of verbs, IrishGuy?

          I’ll explain.

          It’s clear from Gusewelle’s column that it was an unwelcome, unscheduled visit. You may want to look up “barged” and re-read the column.

          And since the larger story is about Gusewelle manufacturing quotes, how about weighing in on that?

          Direct quotes are only supposed to be used in journalism if you actually procure those quotes.

          You think Gusewelle wrote those down, kept them and looked them up to include in his column?

      • Irishguy says:

        By the way, if you are now going to hang your hat on “unannounced” when Chastain’s story is that Heaster introduced him to Gusewelle, well, we don’t have Jerry arround to confirm or deny that, do we?

        And even if it is true, it would seem to support rather than refute Gusewelle’s essential point that Chastain that day was looking for a Star columnist, any Star columnist, to write about him.

        Sounds to me that it is very possible that Heaster handed Chastain off to Gusewelle to get him out of his hair. And that, of course, is if you believe Chastain’s story at face value.

        • admin says:

          No but I knew Jerry very well and I know Chastain well.

          And it’s highly unlikely that Chastain made that up.

          Nice reach on putting words and thoughts into Heaster’s mouth though. Did you even know Jerry? I mean, really know him?

          If Jerry wanted to get rid of Clay all he had to do was say, “I’m sorry” and go back to his work.

          Remember, at this point in time Clay didn’t have the baggage he’s since accumulated.

          I think the best evidence of that is Brisbane’s column. Might want to reread my excerpts from that too while you’re not doing anything.

          • Irishguy says:

            OK, here goes. All in one nice neat little packing.

            You may think readers are stupid, but I don’t. When I read Gusewelle’s column I didn’t presume to think he was presenting a verbatim transcript of a conversation with a loon from over 20 years ago.

            I thought he used the quote marks for emphasis. Columnists are allowed a certain license to do that, especially when recalling a conversation from two decades ago to the best of their recollections, but then again, what did you ever know about writing a column?

            Next: I would imagine that people showing up unannounced in a news room is quite a common occurrence. I would define “barging in” as a guy who won’t take “go away and leave me alone” for an answer.

            And nowhere does Gusewelle accuse Chastain of doing that. Instead, he defines Chastain’s self-introduction as being quite polite. So while you accuse Gusewelle of “manufacturing” stuff, you feel quite free to say that Gusewelle accused Chastain of “barging in.” Physician, heal thyself.

            Next: I don’t know that Heaster introduced him to Gusewelle or not. But I have learned not to take anything that Chastain says as the Gospel truth. (And yes, I know Clay Chastain.) And the only person who can corroborate that story isn’t here. But never mind that. You BELIEVE Clay Chastain. Every word. At face value. No wonder you’re now a blogger.

            I am also not saying that Heaster shoved him off on Gusewelle, but I am saying it is quite possible. Regardless either way, it does support Gusewelle’s point that Chastain was roaming around the newsroom searching for anybody to tell his wonderful ideas to and put them in print until he finally found Brisbane.

            Finally, Gusewelle must have bitch-slapped you but good for you to carry on such a vendetta.

            The bottom line is this: Gusewelle is 100 percent correct in calling Chastain a publicity-seeking gadfly.

            Of course, you don’t want to address THAT! After all, you are onto the incredible revelation that Gusewelle couldn’t possibly remember verbatim a conversation he had 20 years ago.



            You quite evidently don’t understand the way journalism is practiced. You either have the quotes recorded in your notes or on audio and transcribe them, or you don’t use them.

            If you didn’t “presume” to think those quotation marks meant something other than they were supposed to be read as direct quotes, then I don’t know what to tell you. Other than columnists are not allowed to make up direct quotes w/o actually being in possession of said quotes.

            Gusewelle is usually a softee and doesn’t get the attention he might once have as a full time working journalist. That said, somebody fucked up by letting those quotes into the paper. I’ve talked to other editors and they totally agree on this point.

            Again, look up barging in. There’s nothing in the definition that includes your, uh, interpretation of it.

            What did I know about writing a column? Oh, nothing. Unless you count writing more columns than any other Star columnist over a 16 year period – controversial columns often. With no lawsuits – granted some errors – and the highest read (or close to it) column in the newspaper for 16 years. Oh and going from $25 grand a year to six figures.

            And being invited back by the department head to freelance my column just over a month after the layoffs for about 40 cents on the dollar. Which McClatchy wouldn’t allow because I took my severance pay in 2009 instead of 2008 and had to sit out the calendar year.

            That deal went away when I began to critically cover the Star layoffs, DUIs, assault convictions and other prickly subjects.

            Btw, never has a run-in with Gus. He was working out of his home mostly by the time I arrived in 1992. Although the thot of Gusewelle bitch slapping somebody – even me – is quite amusing.

            Nice one.

  8. Robertoe says:

    August 1991. Gueswell happened to be in Russia when the attempted coup against Boris Yeltsin was launched. He was holed up in the White House- the Russian Parliment building. The ‘Gang of Eight’ were trying to sieze power from the Kremlin. It was history in the making. What does Gueswell do? Booked the next flight outa there like a scared rabbit. What kind of journalist does this? I lost all respect for him. Yeah he’s strictly yard work and pet dogs.

    Hey I worked for a Russian oil company during those early post-commie days. Hermes Planeta was getting Moscow gas stations blown up by Chechens in turf wars. I didn’t turn tail and run. They ended up becoming the first Russian company to buy a seat on a U.S. commodity exchange (NYMEX). I did the business plan and application process for them.

  9. admin says:

    BTW, former Star copy editor Les Weatherford (rightly) called me out for being a little odd. I had to check because I didn’t work much with the newsroom copy desk, but…

    I am reminded of the fact that Weatherford was the copy dude with the shoulder-length plus, scraggly hair that dressed like a well-heeled homeless person. Which I must admit, even at the Kansas City Star, seemed a little odd.

    Odder yet, he (rightly again) had the brass to defend Gusewelle using his real name. Plaudits for that.

    However his journalistic credibility is greatly diminished by his refusal to address the heart of this column. That composing from memory very specific, disparaging quotes from a 22 year-old impromptu meeting and brief conversation is not something that should have passed an editor’s desk.

    A copy editor’s even.

    There’s more to copy editing than punctuation and Weatherford undoubtedly knows better.

    Am I wrong?

  10. snappietom says:

    Chastain has a good idea that most, midwest thinking, Kansas Citians just can’t grasp the idea of light rail transportation. We always say it won’t work here or it cost to much, how will we pay for it? Just ask other cities how they fund it.

    Early on, there were a group of business people that labled him as a kook and it stuck. The man is smart and has done all of his work without much help. I truly think he loves this city.

    He has a forward-thinking idea, (that many cities are already doing) but he is the wrong guy to deliver the message. Most younger voters want this. It’s time has come.

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