Some people (such as Ron DeSantis and former Gov. Rick Scott) just have no sense of humor

April 24, 2020 2:00 pm

The Moon, a Tallahassee venue connected to a long state history of politicians and politics. Credit: Peter T. Reinwald

In Tallahassee when folks talk about The Moon, they are usually referring to a nightclub just about a mile from the state Capitol.

No, I’m not suggesting that the state’s politicians are often on another planet…but they are often found inside a large building on Lafayette Street that is celebrating its 35th anniversary this week.

Owner Scott Carswell says he is most proud of hosting the Capital Press Corps Skits for the past 34 years. The skits raise money for the Barbara L. Frye Scholarship Fund which provides scholarships to journalism students.

The Moon has watched a lot of Florida history.

Politicians of all stripes have used the place for campaign events, fundraisers and the like, and the Capital Press Corps has used it year after year to make fun of governors, legislators and all of the crazy political events the state has seen.

Former Gov. Lawton Chiles. Credit: Florida Memory. State Library and Archives of Florida.

Former Gov. Lawton Chiles once donned a gorilla suit and pretended to pee on a pile of cigarette cartons – his way of declaring victory over cigarette company lobbyists who were snookered by a last minute amendment Chiles and former Sen. W.D. Childers slipped into a Senate bill that has allowed the state to file suit against cigarette makers and collect millions and millions of dollars to pay the health care costs of many Floridians.

Childers once walked out of the skits at The Moon – after watching reporters make fun of him in a skit that portrayed former Senate President Dempsey Barron as a puppeteer controlling the strings tied to Childers.

Not every politician can stand the heat when they become the target of a pretty public joke.  But most of us knew that before we watched it happen.

Gov. Bob Graham once dressed up in a white military uniform and led the FAMU marching band on to the stage before declaring himself “Governor for Life.”

Former Gov. Bob Graham and singer Jimmy Buffett in 1984 Press Corps Skits. Credit: Florida Memory. State Library and Archives of Florida.

Graham more than most other governors, loved the skits and always managed to pop a surprise or two.  Some years he gave out awards to reporters for their scurrilous deeds. Once he appeared with singer Jimmy Buffett and joined in the singing.  Margaritaville never looked so good.

Time and the loss of many reporters who once covered the Capitol have greatly diminished the skits in recent years and the last two governors — Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis — have been so thin-skinned they have refused to even appear on skit night.

Some people just have no sense of humor. You’d think guys who could withstand the slings and arrows of a political campaign would be tough enough to withstand a few jokes.

Beyond the skits, the Moon has over the years brought us music from the likes of Joan Baez, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Kenny Chesney, Bill Haley’s Comets, The Bellamy Brothers, Three Dog Night, George Strait, John Prine, Lee Greenwood, Kris Kristofferson, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Gregg Allman and his band, and hundreds of other performers.

The celebration is a bit more muted than you might expect from owner Scott Carswell due to the coronavirus that has closed the doors of many public places in the state.

Carswell says he is “hanging on’’ but isn’t sure when he’ll be able to once again open the doors. He’s using the time to spruce up the place with a new roof, floors and paint.

He’s especially glad the skits were early this year.  They are always scheduled for a night early in each legislative session, which often puts them in mid-March. But this year’s session began in January when the only Corona around was behind the bar.

Here’s hoping that someone like Willie Nelson will return when all of this is over to christen the renovations.

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Lucy Morgan
Lucy Morgan

Pulitzer Prize-winner Lucy Morgan was chief of the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times capital bureau in Tallahassee for 20 years, retiring in 2006 and serving as senior correspondent until 2013. She was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame and the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame. The Florida Senate named its press gallery after Morgan, in honor of her two decades covering the Legislature.