In promotion of his recently released book, Hillsider, Duluth Mayor Don Ness has repeatedly shared his story of “a gift not given.” It’s from pages 155-156, under the title “Clooney & Zellweger.” The abridged version of the story goes like this:
George Clooney and Renee Zellweger made a trip to Duluth in 2008 to promote the movie Leatherheads, the plot of which is loosely based on the Duluth Eskimos football team. Ness was in his first month as mayor, and obviously wanted to impress the celebrities and do Duluth proud in front of the national media. He assigned his staff to put together an appropriate welcome gift for Clooney and Zellweger. The process of hunting down an old leatherhead helmet for an impressive plaque turned daunting, however, and on the morning of the visit the mayor discovered the gift ended up being a rather pathetic-looking miniature leatherhead resting on a small wooden pedestal. Ness made the executive decision to present the customary mayoral proclamation instead. He concludes his story with the punchline: “Over the years I’ve reconsidered a lot of choices. This isn’t one of ’em.”
Ness told the story last night at the DECC, which reminded me that after he told the story a few weeks ago at the Red Herring Lounge I asked him what happened to the silly little leatherhead-on-a-stick. He said he had no idea. It’s not in his office, and he hasn’t really asked around about it.
Did it land in the trash? Is it on a city employee’s mantle? Inquiring minds want to know.