UPDATE, Nov. 1: Van Duzer gets a Presidential shoutout in US Weekly
UPDATE, Oct. 23: Van Duzer introduces the President at first post-debate rally
Boca Raton, FL: First Lady Michelle Obama sat with a special guest on Monday night as she watched her husband participate in the final debate of his presidential career: Scott Van Duzer. The Florida pizza maker, a power lifter, made international headlines when he picked up President Obama during a "surprise" visit in September to the Big Apple Pizza & Pasta Italian Restaurant in Fort Pierce. A Republican, the 46-year-old's story has become a Presidential favorite. Van Duzer's wife and four other guests also sat with Mrs. Obama at Lynn University as the President and Mitt Romney went toe-to-toe, ostensibly on foreign policy. (Above: Former US Rep. Robert Wexler (l) and Van Duzer (r) with Mrs. Obama) Van Duzer gets a Presidential shoutout in US Weekly
Mrs. Obama, who dined privately with her husband on steak and potatoes before the 9:00 PM debate in the Wold Performing Arts Center, wore a grey dress with a black lace overlay, created by designer Thom Browne, according to the Mrs. O blog. Her other guests included former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, former US Rep. Robert Wexler, former Miami mayor Manny Diaz, and US Army Veteran Lesley Walters. Van Duzer's wife, Dawn, is a registered nurse.
"Barack's steady leadership has made us stronger and safer than we were four years ago. That was clear tonight. –mo #ProudOfObama," the First Lady tweeted following the debate.
Van Duzer's restaurant suffered a boycott from locals and negative reviews on Yelp.com after the President's airborne visit, leading to a whirlwind media tour and fifteen minutes of fame. (Above: The headline-making lift)
The President discussed the charity-minded Van Duzer (he runs blood drives) during a visit to David Letterman's talk show in September, and also told his story at a lavish New York fundraiser hosted by Beyoncé and rap mogul husband Jay-Z. A photo of the Presidential lift was included in an email promoting the final Dinner with Barack contest.
Van Duzer is 6'3 and weighs 260 pounds, and says he can bench press 350 pounds. The pizza man had Secret Service permission to hoist the President aloft, he said.
"This guy, he started his own pizza company and is a Republican, but is somebody who thought that I shared with him a passion for doing the right thing," President Obama said of Van Duzer.
*Top photo by pool; second by Obama for America