Jeb Bush, the Paleo Diet and the Drag Queen: A Campaign Story

The campaign trail sometimes dishes up a few surprises.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush eats lunch with Zeus and Dana Rodriguez, the winners of his political action committee's "Lunch with Jeb" competition.

Photographer: Phil Mattingly/Bloomberg Politics

He doesn't follow politics that closely, that much he admits. But when the waiter at Burger & Beer Joint in South Beach was told to study up on Paleo diet options on Saturday night, he had a pretty good idea who was coming into the restaurant for lunch the next day. "I don't live under a rock," he told a few reporters waiting outside the sports bar as Jeb Bush continued to put his now well-documented diet to the test. 

Indeed, he doesn't. A few mentions on Twitter of Tommy Strangie and the feedback was immediate. He's actually a fairly well known drag queen—also known as Shelly Novack—who has been performing in Miami and Los Angeles for more than 20 years. He says he's met everyone from George Harrison to Madonna. 

On Sunday Strangie would add Bush to that list, as Burger & Beer Joint was selected as the spot to host "Lunch with Jeb," a contest sponsored by the as-yet-unannounced presidential candidate's political action committee "Right to Rise." 

Strangie's performances have tailed off in recent years, he said, because drag "is a young man's sport." 

Tommy Strangie, waiter at the Burger and Beer Joint in South Beach.
Tommy Strangie, waiter at the Burger and Beer Joint in South Beach.
Photographer: Phil Mattingly/Bloomberg Politics

The presidential election is more than 18 long months away, and any moment of levity along the sometimes tedious path is welcome. Strangie definitely provided that on Sunday.

"I don't know the first things about politics, so I definitely don't want to get into that," Strangie said, admitting he didn't know if he'd lived in the state while Bush was governor (he said he's been a resident for more than 20 years.)

As for Bush's food? Strangie said served Bush a bison burger wrapped in lettuce, with sautéed onions, sautéed jalapeños and chipotle ketchup. A chopped salad with vegetables and balsamic dressing came on the side. Still, that didn't mean it was all smooth sailing. Shortly after Bush sat down with Zeus and Dana Rodriguez, the contest winners, the restaurant's staff put beer battered onion rings in front of the former Florida governor. After offering them to a few reporters, Bush pushed them toward Rodriguez. The President of Hispanics for School Choice in Wisconsin, Rodriguez was one of more than 12,000 entrants in the "Lunch with Jeb" contest. 

Bush, Strangie said, "was very nice and very down-to-earth, a great tipper and actually very funny." The tip was 25 percent, according to Strangie. But that didn't mean he was going to join the patrons who lined up for selfies with Bush before he departed. 

"I'm gonna wait for Hillary," he joked, though he later acknowledged his real target: "I'm waiting for Oprah more than anything." 

 

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