The Power — and — piousness — and — frustration — and — sorrow of One
How Cheryl Johnson became C.J., the most infamous Journalist in Minnesota
(page 1 of 4)When you're the only gossip columnist in town, even in a town without much gossip, there isn’t a lot of down time. So on this Saturday night in late April, Cheryl Johnson—better known as C.J. to Star Tribune readers, FOX-9 viewers, and FM-107 listeners—is working. She’s at Trocaderos Nightclub & Restaurant in the Minneapolis Warehouse District to attend a concert by Bobby Brown. The singer, recently divorced from pop star Whitney Houston, is in the Twin Cities trying to revive his career after years of little work and a lot of bad publicity. C.J. is here because she needs material for her next column.
Upon arriving, the 53-year-old writer is whisked into a roped-off VIP section to wait for the show. There she encounters a strange mix of Twin Cities high rollers: a self-styled “celebrity dentist,” a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, and a host of scantily clad young women. She chats with Trocaderos’s CEO, Shane Segal, who offers her a drink, which she refuses. Eventually, when the show is delayed, Segal takes her backstage so she can interview Brown. As soon as she begins asking the singer questions, however, members of Brown’s ridiculously large security detail start yelling, “No interviews before the show!” When Brown steps outside to smoke, C.J. tries to follow, but a diminutive woman blocks the door.
“Are you his girlfriend?” C.J. asks.
“No, his personal manager,” the woman replies.
C.J. lets out a chortle.
In her column, C.J. tends to cast herself as an outsider, an impolitic truth-teller in a land of superficial civility, and tonight, as usual, she makes little attempt to fit in among the trendy crowd. She’s wearing black jeans, a purple shirt, and sunglasses. As she walks back through the club’s main floor, murmurs of “That’s C.J.” follow in her wake. Many seem to consider a C.J. sighting as proof that they’re at the hottest event in town, though as many people run from her as approach. When a man calls out, “Hey C.J., you know me!” she replies, “Unnnnn-FOR-tun-ate-lyyyyyy.” Then she asks whether the woman he’s with is his wife.
When her column about the concert appears two days later, C.J. will write that the show had the feel of a “rather nasty state fair,” and compares Brown to a dog, albeit a famous one (Lassie). She will also note that Brown’s skinny “manager” looks a lot like the woman some celebrity magazines have pegged as his new love, an ex-friend of his ex-wife.
But now, as the concert finally begins, C.J. stands off to the side, water bottle in hand, arms crossed. “I say Bobby, you say Brown,” chants the singer. “Bobby..., Bobby...” C.J. does not chant, but when Brown pulls a woman he charmingly describes as a “fat girl” from the audience and encourages her to undress him, she does note, “I’ve never been to a live sex show before.”