MPR News  for Headlines, Weather, and Stories Dale Connelly Reporting Home
Dale Connelly Reporting
Dale Connelly Reporting
Return to Dale Connelly Reporting show index

There's more from Dale Connelly at The Morning Show


by Brick Walters, 4/21/00

DC: This is DCR, a news program that's not to be believed.
The final chapter is about to be written in the drama of the world's most famous six-year-old boy … a story which began with a desperate journey last November. As everyone knows by now, Elliott Gunderson and his mother, Jennifer, left St. Paul one night on a flight to Paris, where Jennifer hoped to start a new life. She left without telling her ex-husband, Michael. Tragically, as the plane began its descent into Charles DeGaulle Airport, the drugs that had controlled Jennifer's peanut allergy during the discount fare "snack only" trans-Atlantic flight, finally wore off, and in the confined atmosphere of the plane's cabin, she succumbed to an overdose of peanut rich air. Since that terrible day, her son has been living with his father's aunt and uncle, longtime expatriates who have fought vigorously to keep Elliott with them in France, rather than return him to what they say is a life of deprivation and misery. From Paris … Brick Walters reports.

[sfx: traffic noises, crowd noises w/European car horns]
(traffic - Sound Library D-2 / horns - sound ideas 1003 c 29,30)
(crowd - Sound Library B-11)

BRICK: For the last five months, this narrow street in front of Tom and Patty Gunderson's apartment building in the colorful 19th arrondisement has been choked with protesters, as the expatriate American community has turned out in force to support the Gundersons' struggle. Many Parisians have joined them, and the air has been filled with songs and speeches and colorful banners, such as "Land of the Brie, Home of the Suave," "Real Boys Need Real Bread," and, if my high-school French still serves, "The Great Nose is the Onion's Daughter." Strong words, indeed. Yesterday, I heard more of them from Tom and Patty Gunderson.

[sfx: traffic noises, crowd noises crossfade]
(sfx: café w/ accordion in bg)
(café - Sound Library b-7) (accordion - café accordion cd-10)

TOM: Patty and I moved here in '68 just in time for May Day. The real revolution was in Paris and we wanted to be part of it. Tear everything down, the whole rotten power structure, and start all over! But our Committee for the Realization of Social Change met in this little cafe that was also a bakery. Every afternoon when the baguettes came out of the oven this fantastic smell would just fill the place--

PATTY: --and we started thinking, Do we really want to tear this down?

TOM: And then at dinner one night, everybody had squeezed into one little flat, with cooking and arguing and candles and wine …

PATTY: … and it was raining outside and somebody put on a Django Reinhardt record and, and--

TOM: And here we are. And we've never looked back.

PATTY: What's to look back to? What kind of life would Elliot have back in the U.S.? Canned vegetables, televangelists, baseball caps with beer logos, elevator music, laugh tracks, handguns, HMOs--

TOM: He'll be taught that classical music is for nerds, jazz is for weirdos, Tom Clancy's a great writer, and a good painting has to match the sofa.

PATTY: We want him to grow up in a culture that isn't afraid of pleasure, or mystery or sensuousness. We want him to be a mature person, not some stunted man-boy who gets his thrills by cutting off Volvos with his SUV, and thinks that sex is this dark, alien pursuit that has nothing to do with everyday life.

TOM: If he goes back, he hasn't got a chance.

PATTY: You can't even get a decent croissant there, I don't care what they say!

(sfx: café w/ accordion in bg fade out)

BRICK: These sentiments have been echoed by several members of the National Assembly, including Pierre Bocage of Paris.

BOCAGE: [speaks in gibberish French, with echo of assembly hall. Fade down for Translator v.o.]

TRANSLATOR [very slight accent, if any]: We are only thinking of the welfare of the child. Where will he have the better future? In America, he will be forced to work in a succession of soul-destroying jobs in sterile, charmless offices that do not have beautiful views out the window or comprehensive dental plans. And without a mandatory four-week holiday he will be driven to exhaustion by the frenzied pace of life in the "speedy road." Either way, he will marry a woman who cannot cook and they will have fat children who speak too loudly. This cannot be.

(sfx: assembly erupts in applause, then fade)
(the applause begins at end of Bocage remarks, before translation is finished)

BRICK: But if the expatriate community and many Parisians are determined to keep Elliott here, polls indicate that most French citizens feel he should be reunited with his father. The French government, initially reluctant to intercede in what it considered a private matter, now agrees. Foreign Minister Sophie Barbarin.

BARBARIN: [heavy accent]: France will not separate a family.
If Monsieur Gunderson should ask to remain in France as a resident, then we will see. France cannot make the first overture, but at our meeting with him on Monday we will have champagne and a superb Camembert from the farm of my uncle, and perhaps he will think to do this. But if he wants to take his son back to the land of "cheese food," we must allow him the freedom to make this mistake, no?

[sfx: traffic noises, crowd noises w/European car horns]

BRICK: Thus, in spite of the efforts of Tom and Patty Gunderson and their loyal supporters, it appears that Elliott Gunderson will soon be in the arms of his father and on his way back to St. Paul.
Out in the field, this is Brick Walters.
sfx: traffic noises, crowd noises fade out]

DC: Joining me in the studio now is Elliott's father, Michael Gunderson, who is flying to Paris tonight, and Susan Sharpless of the U.S. State Department. Mr. Gunderson, what do you think of your Paris relatives' allegation that you won't be able to provide a fit home for Elliott in his native land?

MICHAEL: It's completely outrageous. Do they really believe that because we don't sit down every day to a hearty bowl of potato leek soup that we're barbarians? Just because our political system is utterly debased, is that child abuse? They're out of their minds!

DC: Ms. Sharpless, has the controversy hurt relations between the U.S. and France?

SHARPLESS: Yes, mostly in the area of trade. The protests here in America have led to a drastic decline in the consumption of French bread, French fries and French toast. Then there was Trent Lott's attempt to ban French kissing, which put everyone in a bad mood; and of course, the boycott of Gerard Depardieu movies has dealt a massive blow to the French film industry. Americans are angered by what they perceive as the French government's pandering to a few vocal reactionaries.

DC: Mr. Gunderson, there are rumors that you'll stay in France.

MICHAEL: Absolutely not. I want to raise my son as an American. I don't want him to be comfortable with ambiguity or existential despair. I don't want him to spend his life laughing through his nose and cheating on his wife and expounding at length upon Camus' influence on the oeuvre of Mickey Rourke. I think they've already done some damage to Elliott; I can tell from the videotape that he's developed a shrug.

DC: Michael Gunderson, the father of six year old Elliot Gunderson. The Paris relatives of Elliot say they will meet with Michael when he arrives, on the condition, of course, that the custody negotiations are carried out solely in the French language, an excellent pastry is served, and no meetings convene before 10 o'clock in the morning.
We'll keep you up to date as this story develops.

Dale Connelly Reporting Home


Minnesota Public Radio Home     Search     Email  
© Copyright 2000 | Terms of Use  |  Privacy