SMILE--You're on The Radio!
In 1983, I developed a flawless plan to save my dying hometown of Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
Determined to PUT THE STEAM-- OF THE 819-- BACK IN PINE BLUFF, I entered the 1984 Mayor’s Race.
Of course, based on Arkansas's long history as a Democratic stronghold, I never had a chance of winning but….I never walk away from a fight.
Today, the town is dead. Sure, there’s still some talk about “saving” Main Street or the Saenger Theater or an old hotel but….”words without action” is the very reason the town died in the first place.
I don’t waste time thinking about “what could have been”. I experienced the town's slow and painful death and know how it could have survived but...that's another book. Almost two years ago, when I wrote THE BEAUTY QUEEN, my first-book, I revealed some of the telling-events, nasty people, and frustrating emotions involved in my attempt to save a town from it's arrogant, above-it-all residents.
So, I've decided to share the following. Over the years, I've learned that laughter is the best medicine when struggling with difficult memories.
From My Book: THE BEAUTY QUEEN, Let No Deed Go Unpublished.
“About eight years ago, I connected with one of my daughter’s friends on Social Media. She messaged me saying, here’s a story you may appreciate:
"In 1984, when you ran for Mayor of Pine Bluff, my grandmother was absolutely infuriated when your ex-husband’s family took out a full-page Ad in the paper supporting your opponent. She also told everyone how disgraceful and disrespectful she thought it was when they called you a lesbian. It really boiled her blood! She voted for you, by the way.”
There were times during the Mayoral Race, whenn phone calls to my campaign headquarters questioned volunteers about my sexual preference. As the campaign progress, the calls became more and more frequent. It didn’t take a political analyst to know who was fanning the rumor flames. There was little doubt who was trying to discredit me, destroy my reputation, and attack my character. Between my ex-husband, his family, the Clintons, and the Democratic Party, the opposition had an organized team of paid haters—all determined to bring me down.
The day I was forced to stand on the steps of Pine Bluff’s Convention Center to declare I wasn’t a Lesbian, was a difficult day. My parents were the only people standing with me; my volunteers and supporters stayed far away.
No beauty queen, certainly no former Miss Arkansas, ever uttered the word “lesbian” in public, let-alone at a press conference. I issued my statement—late morning—with only two reporters present yet, by that evening, every radio and TV station in Arkansas carried my press conference as the lead story on the 6 p.m. news.
Several months later, I appeared on a talk-radio show. The call-in lines were packed with people wanting to express themselves...some who supported my run for Mayor--while others were adamantly denouncing me. Of course, the phone lines were overwhelmingly crowded with all-the-many waiting to bombard me with questions.
I wasn’t surprised when an older-sounding woman called to chastise me for daring to discuss the shocking word....lesbian. She proudly announced she had already contacted the Miss Arkansas Committee to “report” me and to demand they take-back my crown and my title.
After sufficiently beating-me-up with harsh words and threats, the older woman seemed satisfied and was about to hang-up when she remembered a question she'd forgotten to ask. These were her exact words: “Not that I’m really interested but tell me—how in the world can two women, with the same body parts, have sex? How can the two of you have an ORGANISM?”
Trying to be respectful yet not laugh, I said “Ma’am, as I told you before, I am not a Lesbian. I have no idea how Lesbians perform sexually but, I am curious. As a heterosexual, I’m familiar with an ORGASM but never once—in all my life—have I heard of anyone having an ORGANISM. Please, tell me what I’m missing.” The older woman screamed and hung up.
The show host, overcome with laughter, quickly went to a commercial.