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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is known for his brash, direct manner. But since the Bridgegate scandal rocked his administration last September, it appears he’s gotten a little less accessible.
Christie was one of four men who were singled out as Fathers of the Year by the National Father’s Day Council Wednesday. But the politician’s advance squad made sure no reporters were allowed into the VIP reception, although photographers were permitted a whopping five minutes to shoot him with the other honorees before being shooed from the room.
This story first appeared in the June 5, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In introducing the governor to the crowd at the Hilton Hotel in Manhattan, emcee Norah O’Donnell of “CBS This Morning” referred to him as coming from “the place across the George Washington Bridge.” Christie scowled and squirmed a bit in his chair, but had recovered by the time he got up to accept his award, retorting: “We now call New Jersey the place on the other side of the Lincoln Tunnel.”
Christie, who has four children, was joined by Bloomingdale’s chief Tony Spring, Vince Camuto and former football great Curtis Martin as honorees at the lunch. Spring and Camuto were introduced by their sons, who lovingly poked fun at their dads. Camuto told the crowd how his own dad died when he was just a toddler, causing him, his mother and sister to wind up homeless in Queens. But while his early life was a struggle, he said his mom always reminded him that he could do anything.
Spring quipped that he needed an even bigger job than chief executive officer of Bloomingdale’s to pay the bills for his 20-year-old son, who is attending Cornell, and his 17-year-old, who’s getting ready to enter college. Spring said during his speech that becoming a ceo was “never on my radar. I just wanted to work and make a little money.” But now that he’s in that role, it’s his duty to mentor both his colleagues at the store as well as his children so they can make important “contributions to our society.”
Perhaps the most touching speech of the day came from Martin, who told the story of how he had a father but “never had a daddy.” His father was a violent man who took drugs and beat his mother. “He taught me how not to be as a father,” he said.
But at the end of his life, they reconciled. Martin visited his dad in hospice when he was dying of cancer and they spent two quality weeks together. “He taught me more in those two weeks than in the 30-plus years before.” Even so, he said he views the greatest accomplishment of his life to be the fact that he got his mother to forgive his father before he died. He said that even when there are “big divides” between kids and parents, “just forgive them.”
The luncheon also honored Robert Reid, vice president of a medical device firm from Massachusetts, as the Ashok Sani All-Star Dad of the Year, presented by GQ. Proceeds from the lunch went to Save the Children.