January 29, 2006

Unlike Everyone Else, The Great Zucchini Is No Phony

You know how sometimes you see a guy with an absolutely appalling combover, and you play out in our head how you--a complete stranger--are gonna do the guy a HUGE favor by walking straight up to him and saying, "Look, pal, maybe you should rethink the hair. I'm just sayin'"? That's the way I am with the Washington DC real estate industry every time I see the words "upper brackets" used to describe a house or a neighborhood. It's such a tacky term, you'd think The Preppy Handbook had never even existed.

Anyway [is it still an aside if you start with it?], if you go to any young child's birthday party in one of these "upper brackets" neighborhoods, you're likely to find a slightly dissheveled guy bossing parents around and holding every child present absolutely transfixed by making a fool out of himself--for $300, due in full at booking. That would be The Great Zucchini.

"How the hell does a guy get into this racket?" you might wonder from the back of the room "Sure, he's magical, like The Toddler Whisperer, and yeah, he must be pullin' down a hundred grand a year, working only two days a week, but what kind of guy can actually ENJOY subjecting himself to this?"

Well, clear your calendar, because The Washington Post Magazine's Gene Weingarten explains The Great Zucchini--in about 10,000 words. The story involves the IRS, Atlantic City, Jonestown, Starbuck's, and Holden Caulfield, and that's just for starters.

It's a looong piece, and the hyper-empathetic Great Zucchini might suggest that you'd be better off spending waking time with your kid, and save the article for the evening. Or read it on the train or wherever, but definitely keep reading it. Wow.

The Peekaboo Paradox
The Great Zucchini - "Washington's funniest and most magical


dear god, did all of the WP's editors go on strike? that article is tooooooo loooooooong

Jess, it was a magazine article; those are supposed to run long, and Gene Weingarten did a great job with the story. There are some more details and information in the chat Gene did about the article back on the 23rd.

[thanks for that link; I looked and couldn't find it. It's a very interesting followup/behind-the-scenes discussion -ed.]

I was wondering if you were going to post about this. It took me the better part of a morning to get through it and I just kept throwing CHeerios at my Dude to buy more time. I MADE my husband read it. So, (Caution-- potential spoiler) do you hire the guy knowing what you now know? Pay him $300 to transfix your kid and her friends when the money is going to be lost in Atlantic City with the roll of the dice? (I thought Gene did a great job by the way...and over in Arlington, pretty much everything is "Upper Brackets" these days when a tear down is $600k.)

[My takeaway was that whatever he is, TGZ is genuine genius with kids, and that there's a whole swath of parents who can't/won't connect with kids, and are are plenty desperate to outsource it. The killer quote was from the mom, "You could just have a party where you all played pin the tail on the donkey or musical chairs or something. But that is just not done in this part of D.C. If you did that, you would be talked about." -ed.]

Well, I actually know him (Eric... aka The Great Zucchini), and I can report that he has an absolutely uncanny rapport with kids. My objection to the piece is that he comes across as a total incompetent when it comes to his own life, and an arrogant ass to boot. Which, maybe he is, but does anyone really want all of DC to think so? I wish the article had less about Atlantic City and more about his routine and his kid-friendliness. He worked in my daughter's after-school program for years before doing the TGZ schtick, and I have to say, I always thought the guy was really uniquely gifted.

That being said, would I pay $300 to have him "do" a birthday party? Hell no, but then again, I still think pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey is cool.

[hmm, apparently, he's as big a mess as the story says, and he wanted MORE of the AC schtick in the story. That said, he's also getting more calls than ever. The TGZ Magic lives on. -ed.]

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