How did I get here? I often (Daily) ask myself this question. I am one of those people that never said, "I can't wait to get outta here," when I was growing up. I always loved my home town of Tuscaloosa. I saw myself maybe living in Birmingham...you know, going off to the big city...but never, ever saw myself, living in Los Angeles! GOOD HEAVENS! That is just way too far from my Mother, and my Crimson Tide! I never dreamed of Hollywood, or yearned for the bright lights of this big city. Yes, I wanted to be an actress, and a talk show host, but I figured I would be so rich there would be no question that I would always have a house in Tuscaloosa! So how has it happened that I have lived here not once, but THREE times. Imagine a push-me-pull-you..you know the mythical creature for Dr. Doolittle. That creature is me and my Yankee husband. As all true Southerners know...a yankee is anyone not born and raised in the South. It doesn't matter where you are from, as long as it is not the South, you are a Yankee! And it is a constant battle, that no matter where he takes me, I always want to go home to my Tuscaloosa. Even if my town has changed a bit from the recent tornado, it is still the same at the heart of it...and all the things, and people I love about it are still right there. That is my spot on Earth...and everyone who knows me knows about Tuscaloosa, for it stays on the tip of my tongue and at the front of my mind everyday. So how can I survive living here without losing my mind? I use my "southerness" and sweet-talk my way through it. And of course all the beauty-pageant traing comes in handy!
I know y'all know how friendly the South is. Why, we never met a stranger. I am talkative anyway, but to a person from the huge city of LA, well I am almost a freak of nature! I go in stores from Walgreens to Nordstrom, saying, "Hey Honey", and offering a big hug to anyone I know. At first I heard some people thought I was on drugs. Between my friendly chatter, and the way I drive, I am sure they were placing bets on that. But one day at the ice rink several years ago, (my son has been a competitive Pairs ice skater for over 10 years) I actually heard a woman explaining for me, "Oh no, she's not on drugs, she's from the South and they're just really friendly." Then it was like, suddenly I was so popular, but kinda like a zoo animal...people wanted to come view me and ask me questions so they could hear my accent. What accent?
Years ago, when I was auditioning all the time, I always remembered I was from the pageant world of the deep South. I knew this was an advantage over practically everyone here, and I tried in vain to use it as such. Sometimes it just didn't quite play out like I had hoped. During my early days here in Hollywood, I got a bunch of "Under Fives"...thats when the role has less than five lines but you are very necessary to complete the scene. It's a good place to start. So I got a part on my very favorite soap..it was the whole reason I wanted to be on a soap...The Young and The Restless. I was playing a college student! My ego was psyched because I was in my late 20s. I am, and have always been, a teeny bit...plump...ahem...and so, I bought a special girdle for the occasion. On the day of the shoot, I arrived at CBS with my "underwear" in my bag...I mean I couldn't wear it for long , you know, because I had to breathe and all.
I checked in and was assigned to my dressing room and given my call time. Okay, time for the girdle. I had been to make-up and hair, had waited till the last second to get into it so I wouldn't appear blue on camera. I began to push and prod myself into this magical transforming garment. As I began to perspire, because, as you know, Southern Belles don't sweat, ....we glisten...I realized I had never put one of these on by myself before. I had my Yankee trained well to "help miss Scarlet with the corsett" HELP!!! How will I make my call time...my dress would not FIT without my pressure cooker of a foundation piece! I stood on the couch and tried for physics to help me...it did not. I laid up-side-down on the couch and tried for gravity...nothing...OMG! I am about to be called to THE Young and The Restless set, and I am naked! I pulled a chair over and pushed and pulled and prodded, holding one foot at a time, up on the wall, till all of me was in this garment that looked like it was made for a poodle. My face needed dabbing off...okay, my make-up needed to be completely re-applied. I had brought my caboodles kit! A good Pageant-trained Southern Belle is never without her caboodles! I was ready....not breathing well...but ready. And vowing to join Jenny Craig when this was over!
I was called to the set, in my beautiful dress and high heels. I was given a couple of books to look like a student, and shown my mark.
ACTION.....I began to walk out on camera, rounding a corner of the hallway, just as I made my turn...my grand entrance, I felt my girdle SNAP...and my right boob flop to sweet freedom....the girdle just couldn't take the pressure. It broke WHILE the camera was rolling! I did what any well-trained Southtern beauty pageant girl would do, I slowly, gently, eased the text book up over my flopping boob and covered my girl right up! And a big pageant girl smile certainly didn't hurt! No one ever knew. Then the director yelled, "Again, from the top."...I kept the books in place, and that's the way it aired. I knew why those books were being held so high that day!
When I got back to my dressing room, I realized at least I wasn't blue, my right lung had been set free. So it all worked out. My Pageant training came in quite handy that day durning my wardrobe malfunction!
I use my Belle-ness all the time. It helps me survive the traffic out here as well. Twelve lanes of stopped traffic can drive a person to use some pretty fowl language...not me, I just stick my head out the window and actually say to the driver next to me,, in my thickest accent, "Hey would you be a Sweetie- Pie and let me over?"...How can they be mean and impersonal when I am so, well,... SOUTHERN? And Sweet! My Yankee and my son are always pushing me to do this, but for some reason, they scootch down in the car when I do...hmmmm.
I have seen that it is just good to be a Southerner, no matter where I am. Good manners, a taste for good food, a friendly way, a discrete manner, a wonderful lullabye of an accent. I am so proud of my Southern roots, and thank the good lord above for all my pageant training!