Democratic eye for the columnist guy

(Ed. note: Jeremy recently won second place in the online section of the 2003 Society of Newspaper Columnists Awards.)

Emboldened by the success of the new Bravo television program, "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," in which, as the entire world knows, five gay men give a makeover to the aforementioned straight guy's apartment, wardrobe, and general state of being, your intrepid columnist decided to give the whole process a try, and publish the results for your amusement and diversion.

With one little difference: instead of recruiting five gay men, I decided to ask the advice of the five leading Democratic presidential candidates instead. My reasoning was that if they wanted us in the electorate to trust them to remake the country, we should first see how they do with something small, like my apartment. You know, sort of like those high school classes where they make you carry around an egg so that you know how hard it'll be to take care of a baby. Except with home furnishings. And possibly more talk about healthcare.

Here is the conversation. I haven't changed a word.

(The candidates enter my apartment.)

JOE LIEBERMAN: I like the mezuza.

HOWARD DEAN: I think it's very nice, but you know who would really love that mezuza? My wife.

JOHN KERRY: You know, I'm descended from people who really like mezuzas, too.

JOHN EDWARDS: What exactly is a mezuza again?

DICK GEPHARDT: It's a small case traditionally placed on the doorways of Jewish homes, containing parchment scrolls with sections of the Bible written inside.

(Everyone looks at him)

GEPHARDT: What? So just because I'm not Jewish, I can't know from mezuzas?

ALL: No, no, of course not ...

GEPHARDT (shaking his head): Oy.

(In the living room.)

GEPHARDT: Those are some wonderful bookcases. Good, solid, hardworking, American bookcases. These bookcases deserve better leadership than what they're getting now.

DEAN: Can we move them a little to the left?

LIEBERMAN: No, no, right, to the right.

KERRY: As a veteran of the Vietnam War, I've seen plenty of bookcases. Normally, I don't like to talk about my military experience, but what I've found is when you're busy defending the American way from those who try to take away the freedoms we cherish so highly, you should really dust regularly, with a moist cloth, in order to bring out the natural warmth of the wood.

(An awkward silence.)

LIEBERMAN: And I'm not sure I'm crazy about the television.

EDWARDS: I bet "Law and Order" is on. Can we check?

ME: "Law and Order" is always on.

EDWARDS: That's my favorite show. Well, that and "The Practice."

(In the bedroom, after a brief "Law and Order" break.)

EDWARDS: You know, now that I see them up, I'm not sure about the curtains.

GEPHARDT: I agree. The curtains are much longer than I had ever thought they'd be.

KERRY: And they're more expensive than we had budgeted for.

DEAN: I had been against putting up curtains long before anyone else had been against the curtains! I want that noted!

LIEBERMAN: There you go again, Howard.

ME: Are we still talking about the curtains?

(In the kitchen.)

KERRY: Too much mustard, not enough ketchup.

GEPHARDT: How can you feed a family of four on this?

ME: I don't have a family of four.

GEPHARDT: It's because this administration's commitment to families isn't worth the paper it's printed on, right?

ME: Well, maybe, but I think it's just that I haven't met the right girl yet -DEAN: (rummaging through the cabinets): No maple syrup?

EDWARDS: Maybe it isn't kosher.

LIEBERMAN: Maple syrup is kosher, John. Usually, anyway.

KERRY: (whispering to me) If I set you up with someone nice, will I get better treatment in the column?

ME: Probably.

KERRY: I'll get right on it.

LIEBERMAN (who had been listening): A nice Jewish girl, right?

ME: Right.

LIEBERMAN: I'll make some calls.

(KERRY looks disappointed momentarily, then determined.)

KERRY: I'm not out of this yet.

(In the bathroom.)

ME: Hey, get out of there!

EDWARDS: Just looking at how you'd benefit from my prescription drug plan.

KERRY (glaring at EDWARDS): If there's one thing I care more about than healthcare, it's privacy issues.

EDWARDS: You want a piece of me?

DEAN: That's what we need - a real fight! I'll take you both on!

LIEBERMAN: Let's just take it easy, people -(A knock on the door.)

GEPHARDT: Were you expecting anyone?

ME: Maybe it's the gas guy. (I open the door.)

BILL CLINTON: I just thought you all could use some help. His apartment's not getting any better looking thanks to the five of you. Look, Dauber, why don't you move this here, that there, get rid of this, buy item 12 on page 36 of the Crate and Barrel catalog and put it over there, and then get a decent haircut? That should just about do it.

(An awed moment.)

ME: Um, yeah, sounds good. Thanks.

(CLINTON leaves. The other candidates watch him exit, enviously.)

EDWARDS: I bet there's another episode of Law and Order on.

So that was the story. I'm not sure whether I learned anything from the experience, but, on the bright side, I've got a date with a Kerry staffer this evening. I'll tell you how it goes.

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