Wednesday, January 25, 2006

More Zucchini... If You Please

Gene Weingarten, who wrote the Great Zucchini article in last Sunday's Washington Post, participated in an online chat a couple days ago. A quick read of the chat transcript (thanks to Dean for the link) makes one thing perfectly clear. Readers hold strong, albeit varied, opinions on the Great Zucchini, the reporter and the article itself.

I found the whole thing really quite fascinating (just like the original article). Many of the initial comments expressed outrage because they felt Weingarten's feature would ruin the Great Zucchini's career. Some expressed concern that the reporter may have deceived or taken advantage of him, with the Zucchini not really understanding that the article could reveal potentially negative, personal information about him. Still others accused Weingarten of enabling the Zucchini's gambling problem. Some criticized the Great Zucchini himself, one describing him as a potential risk to kids' safety.

Of course that was just part of the story. Weingarten had his defenders (though I think he defends himself with ease) as well, and supporters of the Great Zucchini were making their own noise (he seems to have a very loyal group of clients and devoted friends). I was particularly touched by one comment:
Washington, D.C.: Eric sat next to my 6-year-old son in church on Easter Sunday. My son scribbled a note to him that said, "you are my best friend." Eric wrote back, "You're my best friend, too." My son beamed. Eric was even better than the Easter Bunny!
And of course, this comment from Eric Knaus, the Great Zucchini himself:
Bethesda, Md.: Hello, everyone -- This is The Great Zucchini. I realize I took a big chance with this article. The responses I have received from parents about this article have been very positive. Most parents tell me that everyone has issues, and that I was very brave to lay it on the line. What I can tell you with the utmost sincerity is that Gene Weingarten was completely honest and sincere every step of the way. There were no surprises when I read what was written. As the title of the article states, it has strangely inspired some people. I know where my heart is, and who I am, and I am going to a Gambling Anonymous meeting tonight. If I could have picked anyone to do my article, there is not a person in the world I would have chosen besides Gene Weingarten. I trust him, and this was all my choice. Eric Knaus.

Gene Weingarten: Ah. Here we go. And thank you, Eric. I've never written about someone who was as open and trusting and willing to take risks. You're makin' me misty here, dude.
My own opinion? The article was a great, well written piece. An insightful look into a rather interesting, real-life character. I liked it, and I liked the Great Zucchini. I'd love to meet him some day.

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