Power-lifting GOP pizza maker gets Secret Service clearance to pick up President...
Making Sunday's second off-the-record stop during his bus trip through Florida, President Obama dropped by Big Apple Pizza & Pasta Italian Restaurant in Fort Pierce, arriving at 2:55 PM. The President got a special greeting from muscle-bound owner Scott Van Duzer, who lifted him up in a bear hug as about ten patrons--and members of the press corps--watched. Yes, there was Secret Service clearance for the special greeting.
"Scott, what's going on man," the President shouted as he entered. "Scott, let me tell you, you are like the biggest pizza shop owner I've ever seen."
Van Duzer, 46, stands 6'3 and weighs 260 pounds. A resident of nearby Port St. Lucie, he can bench press 350 pounds, he said. He also happens to be a Republican who voted for Candidate Obama in '08, when he won the Sunshine State.
"Everybody look at these guns," the President said, pointing to Van Duzer's monstrous pectoral muscles. "If I eat your pizza will I look like that?"
The President is 6’1, and weighed 176 pounds at his last physical. He's described himself as "skinny but tough."
After Van Duzer finished lifting the President, he was still in awe.
"Look at that!" the President exclaimed. "Man are you a powerlifter or what?"
Van Duzer then gave the President a tour of the restaurant, which he said is the only place he's worked since he was 16 years old. His family owns thirteen outlets across Florida.
The President spoke to the power-lifter about his work getting blood donations, for which Van Duzer has received commendations from the White House and the Surgeon General's office, which were hanging on a wall of the wood-paneled eatery.
"One of the reasons that we wanted to stop by is that Scott has been doing unbelievable work out of this pizza shop in promoting the importance of donating blood," President Obama told the press corps after his tour.
"And so he has set some records here in Florida. He has received commendations from the White House, the surgeon general, he has galvanized and mobilized the local community and he's educating kids and folks all across the country on this issue. So here's an example of somebody who is doing well but he's also giving back. So we just want to say how proud we are of him."
"I still wonder how he got these biceps, but what we know is that the guy's just got a big heart along with big pecs. So we're very proud of him and we just want to say thank you for all the great work."
The President then went to work in the dining room, speaking to the customers on hand while Van Duzer, meantime, spoke to the press. He said he got word that the President was coming 40 minutes before his arrival and rushed from the driving range--wearing grey workout shorts and a grey t-shirt. He described himself as "a big political person, watch the news" and said he was "just overcome with excitement," which led to him lifting the President of the United States off the ground. He plans to vote for the President in November.
"I don't vote party line, I vote who I feel comfortable with, and I do feel extremely comfortable with him," Van Duzer said. That's music to the campaign's collective ears.
Of the Secret Service agents possibly flipping out over Van Duzer lifting the President, he said: "He said I was alright as long as I didn’t take him away."
The President, meantime, schmoozed with an elderly couple siting at a table, Carolyn Bilotta Mcneil and her husband Jerry McNeil. Asked by the President how long they'd been married, Mrs. McNeil responded "51 years."
"You're a wonderful couple," the President said, and just as he did over breakfast, he said he and his wife have "been married 20 years. Our anniversary coming up in October."
Then he went to next table, where a young couple, Jorge Ambriz and Crystal Luna, sat.
"You guys married? Boyfriend and girlfriend?" the President asked. "Oops, I didn't mean to put any pressure on you."
The President has inserted marriage advice into the most recent version of his stump speech, advising young men to "marry up."
The President was back in his tour bus and on the road at 3:13 PM; by 3:36 PM he'd arrived at the OFA field office in Port St. Lucie, where he answered the phone with volunteers. (Above: A photo tweeted by the campaign)
The President ends his two-day bus tour today, and returns to Washington in the evening. CLICK HERE for links to all posts about his food stops.
Info: The Big Apple Pasta & Pizza Restaurant the President visited is at 2311 S. 35TH ST, Fort Pierce, FL, 34981-5511. Phone: 772-466-8303.
*Top and bottom photos by Obama for America; others by pool