Robert Zimmerman had always felt like something of a disappointment to his parents. Or the way he tells it — “Unemployed. College dropout. With a DWI and a boyfriend.”
But in 2012, he did have one thing going for him. He didn’t shoot and kill an unarmed black teenager like his little brother, George.
And that ended up being an unlikely ticket to the fifteen-minute spotlight for Robert, as he appeared on scores of media outlets, playing the part of soft-spoken family savior. The “Zimmerman re-brander.”
In a recent profile for GQ, we get a sense of what the Zimmermans life has been like in the years since the shooting. And let’s just say the piece doesn’t do them any favors.
But it’s his gay brother Robert that really had us doing double-takes. Much of the reporting reads like satire (except for the fact that it’s all true), painting a pretty dark picture of the mind of a true opportunist.
For instance, Robert was hell-bent on turning George into a reality TV star:
“[Robert’s] models were John Walsh, who began hosting America’s Most Wanted after his 6-year-old son was abducted and killed, and the Kardashians, whose fame was launched by Kim’s leaked sex tape. “I learn a lot from watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” Robert told me. “Like, use the shit you’ve got.” One idea was for George to be the focus of a Candid Camera-style program. One episode, for example, might feature a professor teaching a class about self-defense, and at the end of the episode it would be revealed—surprise!—that George was one of the students.”
Which sounds like a good idea compared to his plan to turn George’s “brand” into a line of home-security tools marketed to women. Yes. Really.
“They all start with Z,” Robert explained, walking me through an imagined product line. “There’s the Z Bar, the Z Rock, and the Z Beam. They’re all targeted to women. One is to secure sliding doors. One is to put in the front door. The light is to carry and is designed by George. It has a little alarm—you know, Help me, help me!”
Other horrific quotes include Robert explaining why he and his brother couldn’t travel on February 26th, the anniversary of the shooting. Or as the Zimmermans call it — “the incident.”
“It is like 9/11 for my family! We can’t travel together that day—it’s like having the whole royal family travel together!”
Then to really round out the picture, there’s this simultaneously sad and horrible account of Robert after the family had racked up a $3,600 bill at the Ritz-Carlton Miami during a CNN appearance. They thought CNN would cover the costs but the network instead accused them of “splurging shamelessly on [their] dime.”
“Alone in his room, Robert started shaking. He wrapped all the blankets around him, ordered shrimp, chain-smoked cigarettes, got roaring drunk. Nothing helped. He called his mother in a panic. “I can’t get warm,” he sobbed. “I just can’t get warm.”
…Eventually CNN agreed to pay the bill, and the next morning Robert returned the only purchases he could: a bottle of Mercedes-Benz cologne and a Ritz-Carlton wallet that George had bought him to say thanks.”
You can read the full profile on the intensely paranoid Zimmerman family in GQ.