He’s the ‘toast’ of the community

The jokes were on Kemper Freeman Jr. as the Washington News Council hosted its annual Gridiron West fundraising dinner at the Bellevue Westin on Nov. 9.

Kemper Freeman subject of zingers

at fundraiser

The jokes were on Kemper Freeman Jr. as the Washington News Council hosted its annual Gridiron West fundraising dinner at the Bellevue Westin on Nov. 9.

The Harley-loving development mogul appeared on stage wearing biker leathers and an American-flag bandana as he endured a roasting that turned his perpetually-blushing cheeks a tinge rosier.

Guest speakers at the event included King County Executive Ron Sims and Bellevue News columnist John Carlton, who did some light-hearted political sparring while they presented together.

The pair found common ground in their dislike of Sound Transit’s recent expansion measure and their willingness to make jokes at Freeman’s expense.

“No matter who you are or where you come from, you know you can come here to make fun of a Republican businessman,” Carlson said.

Filmmaker Warren Miller also spoke at the event, chiding Freeman with the trademark voice that’s become familiar to fans of his annual ski and snowboard movies.

Highlights of the roast included a photographic retrospective and a cabaret group that performed Johnny Cash parodies.

The musical troupe made light of Freeman’s name by singing “a boy named Kemper” and later referenced the developer’s opposition to tolling with: “them toll booths are a comin’, and that’s what tor-tures me.”

An earlier rendition of The Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack” featured the line “The P-I always puts the guy down, but with-out him there’d be no down-town.”

Freeman found little refuge from his family and closest friends during the roast.

Steve Day, a companion since kindergarten, reminisced about a time he and Freeman ditched studying at the University of Puget Sound to drink beer and eat burgers. They’d grown frustrated while trying to spell a homophone word.

“We didn’t care about it after that,” Day said.

Freeman’s daughters, Amy Schreck and Suzy McQuaid, talked about their father as a consummate salesman, explaining that he once sold them on the idea of taking a road trip to Las Vegas for a mall-developers convention.

“Those stories were a lot of fun,” Freeman said. “Too much of it was true.”

Premier tables at the fundraising event cost between $1,250 and $10,000.

Guests bid over $2,000 for items that included travel packages and a miniature of the “Endless Celebration” sculpture, while developer George “Skip” Rowley forked over $1,500 to have Freeman mow his lawn – a service valued as “priceless.”

Many attendees also entered a raffle by purchasing $20 bobbleheads that featured Freeman’s likeness.

The statue showed a man with chiseled facial features, silver sunglasses, and a full head of brown hair.

“They made me look like a younger man,” Freeman said. “It was a conservative image.”

Joshua Adam Hicks can be reached at jhicks@bellevuenews.us or 425-453-4290.