Oz Griebel: Almost A James Bond Impersonator, Business Advocate, Wants To Run The State | Connecticut Public Radio

Oz Griebel: Almost A James Bond Impersonator, Business Advocate, Wants To Run The State

Oct 29, 2018

The plan was to attach Oz Griebel to a cable and then lower him onto the stage, to make it look he was wearing a jetpack and flying around. Jim Foye remembered asking Griebel to do it.

"He said, 'Why am I doing that?',” Foye said. “And I said, 'Well it's a 007 theme, we want to make a fake jetpack and lower you down, it won't cost us any money, and they can do it at The Bushnell.' And he was like, 'Fine.' It was like right away, fine."

It was a 007 theme because the year was 2007. At the time, Griebel was heading the MetroHartford Alliance. It's a business-advocacy group, and they were planning for their annual meeting.

Foye was on the company's communications team. Even though the James Bond stunt never went down, Foye said Griebel wasn't afraid to make fun of himself to support the alliance's work.

"If he had an ego, I never saw it. You know, it was like, 'Oz, you want to do it?' and he was like, 'Yes.' I don't think a lot of people would do those kinds of things."

Griebel has also acted in a “Back to the Future”-style video, where he -- like the character Marty McFly from the film -- jumps out of a Delorean after having returned from the future (in Griebel’s case, the future was Hartford’s). It was all done in support of his business advocacy work. These days, Griebel is an unaffiliated candidate for governor of Connecticut.

Foye also remembered the day he told Griebel that he was thinking about moving to California to pursue a career in screenwriting. 

"He looked at me and he said, 'Listen. This is what you want to do’,” Foye said. “‘Don't get into a situation where you're 80 years old and you go, 'Damn, I should have left the Alliance and done this. Go do it, it's the right thing.’ He was just very straightforward with me, and it really meant a lot to hear that from him."

Oz Griebel speaking to reporters about his plan to address the opioid epidemic affecting the state outside of the Wheeler Wellness Center in Hartford.
Credit Amar Batra / Connecticut Public Radio

Nadine West worked with Griebel for 15 years at the Alliance. She said he's a supportive leader, who is respectful when he expresses different views.

"When he disagrees with you, he will tell you why,” West said. “He will seek to offer you a different perspective on things. He will try to get two people into a room with differing opinions."

West recalled a time years ago when she was feeling upset that Al Gore lost the presidential election in 2000. She said that she and Griebel disagreed about some political issues, but he never rubbed it in when he was on the winning side, and she wasn't.

"When I was devastated over the outcome of an election, he came into my office and he said, 'The Republic will survive’,” she said, laughing. “And I remember looking at him and thinking, 'Seriously, dude? I'm crying right now.' You know, he'd make these declarations, and then he'd have this twinkle in his eye, and you could not help but to smile and think more positively about what was happening."

She recalled that advice again when Donald Trump won in 2016.

Griebel has run into some bumps during this election season. In September, the head of his campaign was arrested for embezzling about a half-million dollars from his former employer. Griebel also wasn't invited to earlier debates because his poll numbers weren't high enough.

Peter Arakas is a retired lawyer who used to work for Lego, and he occasionally worked with Griebel while Griebel worked at the Alliance. He said Griebel's strength is that he knows policy, but he could show his fun side more often.

"Oz sometimes comes across as a very highly-focused policy geek,” Arakas said. “And, you know, when you see him in the debates and you actually see him talking generally, it would be nice to see him smile or relaxing a bit, once in a while. But, he's very, very focused on policy."

Peter Arakas.
Credit Connecticut Bar Foundation.

Griebel has been invited to more recent debates, and his supporters said that's helped him get better name recognition. But Griebel doesn’t want to be known. He wants to be governor.

"I get this electability, you're a spoiler, blah blah blah. If I hear that one more time, I'll start throwing stuff at the wall,” Griebel said at a recent campaign event hosted by the Connecticut Retail Merchants Association. “I didn't make the decision last August to run for governor to enhance my obituary."

Some of his supporters have said he’s been a little too serious, but recently, he’s been loosening up. At an event in Hartford, Griebel laid out his entire platform and then started to emphasize the importance of working together. He tried to squeeze in some humor to lighten the mood.

"We need you to call the speaker of the house, we need you to call the senate president, we need you to call your state reps and senators,” he said. “This will not happen simply because I'm elected. I'm know I'm a genius, I know I'm good-looking, but by myself, I cannot do this." 

But he does have to get elected first. Lowell Weicker was the last third-part candidate to be elected to governor. That was nearly 30 years ago.

Griebel faces Republican Bob Stefanowski, Democrat Ned Lamont, Libertarian Rod Hanscomb, as well as Mark Stewart Greenstein, who created his own party to support his candidacy.