Welcome Y'all

I am so happy you are here! Now sit and visit with me for a while, visit all my pages and feel free to leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you! It's all just a SOUTHERN THING.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011


I have so often been told, "You are a true Southern Belle." I love that.  Feminine, classy and secure in our womanhood...inherently understanding just how powerful that is.  I get that.  And I am so proud of that.  Growing up down South, we Belles are privy to the secrets, the mysterious, magical stardust sprinkled over us at birth... of being a Belle.  And honey, we are the luckiest of all of our sisters.  We get to be powerful women, without EVER losing our femininity.  Why, lose our femininity???  We'd never dream of it!  The deep South might as well lose our ability to fry things!  Or take pound cake to a funeral!  NEVER!  It is the very essence of us.  Our secret weapon.  We embrace it, cherish it, and understand how to use it. Don't get me wrong, even my Northern sisters can be a Belle!!  It's all in the knowledge we possess and the power we wield.
Nearly Fifty years have passed since the days of Betty Friedan, and then Gloria Steinem, and all the bra burnings.  I have to say, I have common ground with both of them.  And I think most Belles understand that a REAL woman encompasses the powerful elements of the stances of both Gloria and Betty.  Women of today's generation understand this too.  A Belle basks in the sweet scented glory of both the simplicity and the complexities of being feminine.  I came of age in the 70s and 80s and I am certainly educated and have been exposed to women in the work place making equal money for equal work and having equal opportunities.  I was raised by a single mother.  I whole heartedly agree with all of that. But I don't need to burn my bra or toss my perfect red lipstick to prove that.  That is just nuts!  I love having red lips and I like my breasts securely snuggled in lace and silk, thank you very much!
I guess that's just it.  I never felt a need to prove my worth, to fight for my rights simply because I am a woman.  I am for EVERYONE'S rights.  And a man who thinks less of me because I am a female, well I just pity him, the poor fool.  He certainly does not matter.
I KNOW all of this because I worked in an almost totally man oriented world: TALK RADIO.  This industry is filled with men and very few women, all with old attitudes. It is a men's club, but I never felt the need to light a stogie or dip snuff to fit into it.  I was young and cute and I knew from the start they would not respect me but I never worried.  I had my secret weapon, tucked inside my designer hand-bag.  My femininity would soon be wafting through the halls, and into the studios and seep into the microphones. And I had my pearls dangling from my neck.  I was confident.  And I was right.  The men accepted me and soon loved me.  But my work stood on it's own.  Managing to secure interviews with Oprah, Bob Hope, and Monica Lewinsky, my tenacity, delivered with feminine charm, pushed me quickly into the spotlight.  Of course I ran into a few, ahem, asses, both male and female,  but I always wound up with all the publicity....and I never had to leave my perfume and mascara at home.
While I agree with the feminists positions, I have nothing to prove, and I am not angry.  Not angry at men...because I never feel insecure because of my femininity.  I love men ...why in the world would I want to fight with those precious honeys?   Women have all the gifts.  My sister Belles understand this as a birth-right.  I LOVE for a man to open my door, and offer me his coat!  To be held in the arms of a REAL man is a gift for sure!   A REAL woman KNOWS how to make a man feel like a man, and she gets the rewards of that.  Think about it!  To tell a man, "I can do it all without you" just castrates our men.  And is that what we want?  Men who aren't MEN!  A Belle would never ever want anything less than a Prince!  To be swept up into someone's arms and carried off to the castle....oh don't get me wrong....we Belles can OWN the castle...but we want to be CARRIED there by our prince!
AND, a Real man is never ever threatened by the success of his smart, ambitious wife.  He loves her and encourages her as she does him.
Maybe it's because I was raised in the South. I grew up mostly at my city grandmother's house and no doubt, she was one of my influences.  I saw my Nanny care for a huge family, a very sick bed-ridden grandfather, cook all the food, make all the money, all while wearing her red lipstick, her perfume and her pearls!  Being a woman meant I could have it all, do it all and always be a Belle.  My mother did it all too.  They were smart, powerful, classy, and feminine.
So, women need to relax and embrace being a woman.  We are unique...soft yet powerful with an awesome ability to lead from an exclusive rare perspective.  Let your feminine light cast a glow over your life and it will illuminate everyone around you.
That, my Dears, is the rich secret of being a true Belle...Do it all.... and never forget to wear your pearls!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


It's funny how Southerner's always say, "I'm going home," when they are going back to visit their family.  I have always said this, no matter where I have lived.  And I have lived all over this country! On both coasts, two great lakes, in the desert Southwest, and in the land-locked, sweet midwest.  Tuscaloosa will ALWAYS be HOME...it IS HOME. I have heard the saying, "you can't go home again," but I beg to differ.  Maybe some folks can't, but at least in Tuscaloosa I know it to be different.  I have always been able to go HOME.

 I learned this from my earliest memories.  We moved to Oklahoma when I was 10 and we lived there for about 4 years.  But we always went HOME for Christmas.  HOME was Tuscaloosa and my Mother always said, all year long..."When we go HOME...."  I knew what she meant, and from then on, no place else would ever be home....there was only one.  We would load up the tiny toyota station wagon and head East then South with a car load of presents, and on a few occasions, puppies in diapers!  Yes, puppies in diapers, with little holes my mother would cut out for their tales.  The puppies were Christmas gifts and believe me it was not that fun to go 800 miles in a tiny Toyota with THREE stinky rambunctious puppies!!!  Even in diapers!  I specifically remember how nuts I would go knowing I was going HOME.  It didn't matter that it was Christmas...I wasn't thinking of the presents.  I was thinking of Tuscaloosa!!  I would put on my Crimson Tide jersey and pack as fast as I could!  The days leading up to the big trip were a frenzy so hypnotic, I was, as they say, already GONE!  I was in such a place of excitement, without fail, every single year, as the time to leave grew closer, I would actually break out in hives!!!  My poor mother would not only have the puppies to deal with, she had to always keep the calamine lotion handy and always find a motel with a bathtub for the baking soda bath!  The "excitement hives" would disappear when we arrived at my grandmother's driveway...ahhhhhhhh HOME!

After I got married and began the gypsy life with my wanderlust affected husband, I always said to him, "I am going home..." He said, "Aren't you home already?"  Poor, silly Yankee.  He has never quite been able to grasp that HOME thing.  He is sweet and says "I" am HIS home...I love that.  I do.  But still, at the end of the day, HOME for me is Tuscaloosa!  Remember, I drove across the country pregnant, with morning sickness that lasted all day to make sure my only baby was born at HOME...Tuscaloosa! I don't really expect folks from other parts of the country to understand.  But to a Southerner...well, I don't have to explain.

I was talking to a fellow Alabamaian the other day, Yes, there are a few other transplants out here in
 LA LA land.  She is from Birmingham.  She said it's not the same for people from Birmingham.  She explained that her other friends from Tuscaloosa are just like me....in the midst of a true, life-long love affair with our sweet home-town.  She said it must be something about being from Tuscaloosa.  Of course it is!!, I told her. It is a magical place.  Only those of us in the little exclusive club who are from there know it's special secrets.  And it just can't be explained.  It has to be felt.

I can't wait to wander the old historic downtown again, filled with stories on every corner. And marvel at the growth and the newness.  It inspires every part of me.  I will gaze at the winding Warrior River and the misty liquid sunsets and the kudzu creeping and crawling over everything standing still. I am going HOME.

 YES!!!...I am going home in a few days!  No, I am not covered in hives, hopefully I have outgrown that, but the anxious excitement is overwhelming!!  I can't sleep and the thought of the great food I will be eating has me salivating like no tomorrow! Especially for some REAL fried green tomatoes!  Out here in LA LA land, they TRY to make fried green tomatoes, and I use that word TRY loosely...but they have never heard of corn meal here, so yeah....shoe leather is what's for dinner!  I am always embarrassing my Yankee cause I offer to go back to the kitchen to speak with the chef...c'mon...it's a simple thing...corn meal!!  I am seriously thinking of bringing back some Martha White and dropping it off to these folks with a note.

The excitement of The University of Alabama's Homecoming has me crazy!  Just knowing I will be in Tuscaloosa for a football Saturday, Oh I can barely breathe!!  The energy there on game day is electric.  I actually feel sorry for people who don't get to experience this at least once in their lives.  I swear it is like NO OTHER homecoming anywhere! Alabama Football is like no other FOOTBALL anywhere!   I have been to other games.  I speak with knowledge on this subject.  There is nothing like my Crimson Tide!

I know Tuscaloosa looks different since the horrific tornado hit April 27th.  I know it will hit me when I get there how the landscape will never look the same.  I have prepared myself as best I can.  And I am bringing tissues.  But what I DO know, is that it will still BE the same.  Because the spirit of this magical, one-of-a-kind place can never be broken. Even when the big bad wolf tries to blow us down, NOTHING can break the spirit of this most treasured place.  It IS and will FOREVER be, HOME.
Maybe I can always go home, because truth be told, I never really left.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I love weddings.  They are such a big Pageant and you know how us Southern girls love our pageants! I even decided, that for my wedding, I would be wearing a tiara attached to my veil...but I did forego the sash!    I always loved going to weddings.  They are so emotional.  No matter who was getting married, I cried. Sometimes I have to admit I cried because it was taking too long and I was salivating for the fried catfish and hush puppies!  "Come on y'all, just say you will and kiss that girl so we can eat!" Wedding food is unreal in the South.  Peach Cobblers and Red Velvet cake, Cheese balls and sausage balls, rum balls and cocktail weenies in grape jelly and chili sauce...mmmm.   I just realized I am eating a lot of wedding food named Balls and Weenies...surely, no pun intended!  Can barely stand talking about it all, it makes me so hungry!

And then being a bridesmaid, yes that was exciting too. The blue dress that made swishing and scratching noises, and knocked over small children as I walked.  The Giganimous blue bow that sat on my shoulder like a peacock.  To this day I have no idea who I walked down the isle with.  I never saw him.  Never mind that I was thinking, why in the hell are you marrying this jackass anyway, as I smiled and helped carry her 12 foot train, Bless her heart.

But nothing compared to the day I was the bride!  I was marrying my Yankee and that in itself made for an...uh...interesting event.  And just to be especially sweet, I chose the HOT, sauna-fied month of JULY!  OK Y'all....just to help you FEEL the moment..JULY in Tuscaloosa, Alabama ...imagine being dipped, in winter clothes, in a bubbly hot jacuzzi, and boiling, soaking wet with your wool scarf tied around your neck, hot steam rising up for a week....without a cold drink.  It is MISERABLE, unbearable, and suffocating.   Welcome to the South, Yankees....we gonna have us a PAGEANT!  UHhhhh...Wedding.

Me and my Yankee
All the festivities leading to the big day began several days earlier...just so I could make sure the new Yankee family  would need to be here in my fair city not for ONE day, but for three, and they all FELT the wet heat and would never ever forget it...READ...never, ever, want to return. Not really, but it seemed to work out that way.  Since most of them expressed to me at one time or another that they could barely breathe, I was certain I could not even PAY them to visit us...awwww, that's too bad.  I'll miss y'all.
To make sure my wedding was an experience for my new Yankee relatives, I thought it would be a good idea to relive  GONE WITH THE WIND. Yes July , and formal tuxes with tails for an afternoon wedding should do the trick.  And TWO hoop skirts for me, and don't forget the corset!  No, Miss Scarlet would have nothin' on me!  All of the pre-wedding events were held in old Southern historic homes in Tuscaloosa, and several of the original pre-civil war buildings on the University of Alabama campus. The reception took place in the Gorgas House on Campus.  It is one of the four original structures that was left standing after Federal Troops burned the entire campus !  I was so proud to offer my Yankees such a rich history lesson!  Oh, and at the time, the Gorgas house had no air-conditioning.  Nothing but the most authentic re-creation of GONE WITH THE WIND for MY new relatives. No sir-ee!  We served the Southern meals in the historic homes, decked out with fried chicken, peach cobblers, and fresh watermelons.  I had to teach them all, of course, that the proper way to eat a watermelon is with a salt shaker.  Why, the poor dears never heard of such! We had the bridesmaids luncheon at the University Club and just the grandeur of that old home overwhelmed my new Yankee family.  It was meant to.  Miss Scarlet could live there.
"Oh we all live this way down here, didn't y'all see GONE WITH THE WIND?"

 And Lordy, don't get me started on the ability of our fine Northern neighbors to understand the sweet music of the Magnolia lilted accents....what accents?  Why, we don't have an ac-ce-unt!  I will never forget the time my very northern bred Mother-in-law had a flat tire while down South and she went into the mechanics shop to pay....here is the conversation.  TIRE MAN:  "I ain't never seen such a mess as that there tar...it was pure ol' D shredded.  That is one 'spensive tar so that's a gone cost ya 'bout fitty I'd say."  MOTHER IN LAW:  while looking at me with teeth and jaws clenched together so no one could see her mouth moving, like a ventriloquist...."I cannot understand a single word he just said...help me please."   TIRE MAN:  "M'am I ain't deaf.  Just cause you ain't a movin' yor mouth, don't mean I can't hear yew.  I spoke slow as I could....what yew need me to repeat?"  I stepped in and saved the day.
ME: "He said the tire is a shredded mess and will cost fifty dollars for a new one."  TIRE MAN:  That's jes ezack-e-ly what I jes say-ed....waddin it?"  Everyone just stood in the heat of the shop and stared at each other with an uncomfortable painful smile.  Add that to my new job description as wife of a Yankee....Translator!

In the gardens of the Gorgas House....
my Miss Scarlet Picture, on the lap of my Yankee
For the most part, the wedding went off without a hitch. If you don't count the fact that I got wound up with the photographer taking fantasy "Scarlet" pictures of me and my Yankee and was late to my own wedding by a whole half hour.  And my matron of honor's brand new baby insisted that her precious vocals become a memento for all posterity on my wedding video.  My long time priest had an emergency at the very last second and was a no show, and the priest that showed up had breath like a hundred year old rhinoceros who had just fed from a poop puddle! With every "H" and "P" sound , I thought I might faint.   Yep, other than that it was pretty smooth.  Then came the reception.

With the humidity hovering over us like the breath of a big dog, we arrived at the Gorgas House and of course the top of my mind was the pictures, all outside on that historic old beautiful staircase. Outside.  It was 99 degrees and 100% humidity.  With no air-conditioning.  And a bunch of light-headed, lily-livered Northerners needing a cool cloth.  And me in my double hooped lacy long train climbing up and down those stairs for the photographer.  While I was living it up as Miss Scarlet, my ice sculpture was rivaling Frosty after the mean magician stole his hat and locked him in the Green House.  Oh well, I knew it was my one and only day to be the bride and I wanted to live in the moment.  The poor men in their long tails were beat red and all volunteering to help remove the ice sculpture before it flooded onto the cakes.  ANYTHING to get out of the tails of the monkey suit and hold that ice nice and close.  "Is it always like this, one of the Yankee groomsman asked me.  Like what?  Hot?  Silly boy...I said, why, it IS July!
The wedding party
on the steps of the Gorgas House

When the Union and the Confederacy finally became UNITED was when all the men in the party got together to "decorate" our get away car.  Someone, surely a soldier/ groomsman from the Northern side thought it would be a fabulous idea to outfit the car with raw SARDINES!  Stuffed into the air vents, and all over the motor so they would fry up nice and aromatic for us as we drove all the way to Birmingham for our flight to the Bahamas!  Yes, it was quite unifying when we started the car and the smoke of the sizzling pungent fish began to cook on my engine! They all enjoyed it, pointing the fingers at each other shouting .."It wasn't me" as the smoke trailed through the humid air. They had also covered all the door handles in vaseline!  Those boys were all hugging each other and laughing and slapping high fives....yes is was tear jerking really...to see such family togetherness and a final unification of the North and the South!
Before we realized our getaway car
had been "sardined"

We missed our flight.  But had a terrific wedding night in the bridal suite at the Hilton in Birmingham.  Got out at 7am the next morning. And I will always take credit for doing my part to help unify the factions and teach those Yankees a thing or two about the South... IT's   H O T!!!!!  And yes...we do talk pretty!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Deep down South, in the Heart of Dixie, Summers start in April, and last till October. The wrap around porches full of blue Hydrangeas and Honeysuckle, are set with white wicker tables holding sweet tea and freshly cut mint. Sipping slowly and feeling the breeze as it floats a fragrance of magnolia across the porch swing.   I used to love summertime when I was growing up down South.  No school, some visits from crazy relatives and a ride on the garden mule!  Yep, I said ride a mule.  ME!
My part of the Deep South was and IS a little bit country, where folks still grow tomatoes and cucumber and watermelons outside in the backyard.  When it came time to plow, we went to get the old mule and my brother and I would beg for a ride.  The folks that helped my Mother raise us after my dad died, the Ryans, lived out in Cottondale and they had a huge garden, the kind that fed you all Winter.  We had the best Summers when Floyd would bring home that mule and let us ride him as he plowed the garden. Keep in mind I was young and had not discovered the joys of Tiaras and make-up quite yet. We walked to the local grocery store and got a moon pie and an RC cola...what a treat!  We helped pick, and can, and make preserves, ate watermelon with a salt shaker in one hand...(just did that this morning...but watermelons are EXPENSIVE here in LALA land!)... Then I'd go visit my city Grandmother for a priss- pot makeover, and a trip to Gayfer's department store for a new summer shorts outfit. With the fragrance of Charles Of the Ritz floating throughout her home, and red nail polish in her bathroom, I could pretend all day to be the Princess of Glendale Gardens when I was at her house.  That's where I learned Southern women are to be adored...READ: worshipped.
As I grew up, the "Princess" life became a little more ME than riding that mule, but I still loved being at the Ryan's house and picking strawberries and making homemade buttermilk biscuits from scratch every single day!  The Ryan's were our family as much as any Grandparent and we were like their own too.  We went fishing with them some weekends and they were at our house every single holiday till the day they died.  I don't remember it ever being a rule that to be FAMILY you had to share blood.  Nope, that's not the way it works in the South. So far I don't think we have any prisoners in the fam!  But mother would feed them just the same!!
In laws and outlaws as my mother used to call everyone who visited.  We were a "Hodge-Podge" she said.
Summers were long and lazy and not filled to the bursting point with planned activities.  We had time to think, to dream, to plan, and to pretend.  Sad to say, but it's not like that anymore...anywhere.  The calendars are full of camps and summer school and trips, and the push to get better at something...to BE best.  But I like the hot, lazy summer days catching minnows in the backyard creek in a dixie cup under the shade of the hundreds of weeping willows. Watching Love American Style in the afternoons under the dripping window unit air conditioner and drinking Koolaid all day till  my lips and tongue were stained ruby red for a week. And making Koolaid Pops ourselves in the freezer.  The best!
We had a park and trails near my house when I was little and we would imagine being detectives and looking for a murderer, turing over huge rocks for clues, only to find us an unsuspecting, but surprised Water Moccasin snake!  I ran like the dickens outta there!  I remember swinging so high and singing to the top of my lungs, (cause nobody else was in the park but me) all the Carpenters songs and "Leaving on a Jet Plane" imagining I was flying off to somewhere exotic.  I had my first real kiss in the Summer of 76 in cutoff blue jeans under the honeysuckle.  Summers were for imagining and day dreaming and thinking.
I had lemonade stands with my friends in Glendale and played princess games in makeup and went on detective adventures in the park, rode a mule through a backyard garden, and was a rock star on a swingset.... all because I had TIME to do it.  I learned from my relatives, the in-laws, the out-laws, the elders and the crazies, all because I had TIME to spend with them and really get to know them. I wouldn't trade this for a million summer enrichment camps.  This is the most priceless of all enrichments; TIME.
One summer, my great grandmother on my Father's side, spent the Summer with us.  I was very young,
and she and my mother would laugh so loud, I just couldn't wait till I was old enough to know what in the world was so funny.  One day we had both of my great grandmother's out for a ride like we always did on Sundays, and we stopped at a gas station.  My great grandma Cummings got out to get a cold drink...like a Rootbeer, not a margarita, and as she was walking back to the car, her underwear made its way down to her ankles. And she was in a dress! But she was from another era and was discreet beyond words.  About half way back, she realized her undies were at her feet, as I watched from the back window of the car, she calmly looked around to see if anyone was looking, and she shook her leg and kicked off one foot.  Then just as calmly did the same with the the other foot making sure no one was watching her.  She then bent over and grabbed them, shoving them down into her purse.  My mother was laughing so hard, she couldn't catch her breath. So was my other Granny.  She rode the rest of the afternoon without any "Step-ins" as she called them.  The next Sunday, when we picked her up for the Sunday drive, my mother asked her..."Well, Bertha Mae, you wearin' your step-ins today?"  My great-grandmother arched one eyebrow up and said..."Well, Betty, maybe I am.... and maybe I ain't"  She winked and everyone laughed as we rode to Pure Process in the little shack on the river for our Sunday Ice Cream cone.
Those days were such a treasure. TIME allowed me to have these memories.  I was always with my relatives.  Maybe it's because we didn't have much money to send me away to camp, and the world was much less competitive. Whatever it was I liked it this way.  Time with relatives these days is too few and far between.
 My teen years began, and the summers were hot in a different way. Boys became the center of my universe and a hot summer and a cool swimming pool was the place to be. We had a house with a pool and many a make-out session heated up the already sticky Southern summer night swims.  One summer before we got the pool my friend Ellen and I went down the little paved path to the Hinton Farm and spent the entire Summer with a bottle of Hawaiian Tropic...SPF 0...and browned ourselves to a gorgeous bronze and listened to Boys of Summer on the radio.  I never hear that song that I don't think of the Hinton Pool, and my friend Ellen.  I was in my mid teens and still was unscheduled in the long hot Southern Summer days.  My "sister" Susan and I would lay out all day with baby oil slathered all over us at my pool the next Summer, then go out with our boyfriends reddened to a crisp at night.  We'd all hang out in the driveway under the humid damp night sky till the wee hours talking and kissing on the hood of their cars.  It was poetic.  A right of passage. Bruce Sprinsteen and John Mellancamp wrote songs about us.  We fell in love, and lived and laughed and connected in a way that really doesn't happen anymore: Talking face to face.  Having TIME.
Eventually, we grew up and had our own families but I think the very thing that makes us so connected today has stepped in the way of "real" connections.  Technology, and social networks and texting and emails...while keep us in touch, do not help us stay connected on a tactile level.  Our kids have a new normal and their kids will have a new normal.  But TIME ...with each other and TIME to dream and plan...and imagine will always be the center of my memories growing up down South.  We seemed to always have time to sit on the porch and chat with our neighbors. Summer evenings outside on the front porch, playing cards or Yahtzee with the neighborhood kids was a perfect way to spend a lazy humid Southern night.  Time to catch light'ning bugs in a jar on the first warm Summer evenings. And Playing hide-and-go-seek in the dark with flashlights, using literally cans and cans of bug spay to keep the mosquitos away just a little longer.  We would wait till late at night for the mosquito truck to come with their toxic spray so we could chase it down the street and get lost in the fog.  What the heck were we thinking?  We sure didn't know any better!  Time...thats what we shared and the feeling that it would all last forever.
I remember reading once that the best thing we can give our children is unstructured time.  Ahhh... if we only had time...right?
I always feel so lucky to have had my growing up years down South. It's slower there anyway.  And That's a good thing.  Summers in the South was my own living amusement park, filled with the rivers, and the mule, and the koolaid stands and detective games, snakes and make-up, and the tingles from those first kisses. It was the South...and you just can't get better than that!

Thursday, June 30, 2011


My years in talk radio were my favorite career years.  Of course my very , most hilarious, rewarding years have been being mom to my son, who will leave for college in August...( cue hysterical loud crying sounds and loads of Kleenex).  But even my years on the soap DAYS OF OUT LIVES never compared to my days on the radio.  There is something intimate...personal...just a sweet closeness that happens between a host and her guests...and especially a host and her audience.  I love the LIVE element of radio.  No going back and fixing it in post production.  Nope.  It's out there.  That made it real, and authentic and genuine for me.  I loved interviewing celebrities, showing them as just real people.  I seemed to always be able to disarm them with my Southern hospitality and actual manners we are raised on in the South.  A smile and hug hello and the ice was broken.  Well, all except the one time I flew all the way to LA from Birmingham to sit with ultra famous comedian and actor Bob Hope. And he forgot I was coming! And he was not happy to see me.
Me in front of the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
Nathan Purdee, Bill Harris, a Disney artist and Charles Shaunnessy

When I was on WAPI in Birmingham, I interviewed so many celebs....all THE GOLDEN GIRLS, so many soap actors, broadcasted live from the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, interviewed famed celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, (he LOVED the Southern Belle that sat with him for Breakfast!..Me!)  I had a blast with the Hollywood royals, and decided before the big ones die, like George Burns and Bob Hope, and a few others, I MUST interview them.  So, being that Steel Magnolia that my Mama taught me to be, I never take NO for an answer...I decide I will do something....then ...just do it.  I had become fairly close friends with famous blind golfer, Charley Boswell.  Yes, I did say BLIND GOLFER.  That is entirely another story...especially when I tell you how Charley described DRIVING a car as a blind man while he was on the air with me!!  He was a sight...no pun intended.  Well, Charley held a huge celebrity golf tournament every year to raise money for the eye sight foundations and when I found out Bob Hope would be there nothing would do but I somehow needed to catch him and, you know, ask a few questions.  Translation: Get him in my studio!  The problem was, he was only there over a weekend and I was a Monday through Friday show.  I had to figure out something.  My husband the Yankee was a TV reporter at the time, but he was not about to be dragged into another "Great Idea" of mine.  But, he could drive the Get-away car!  My mind set to figuring how to get Bob Hope and quick.
Me with Wolfgang Puck at SPAGO in Hollywood
I called Charley's office and begged...(read: Bribed) someone to tell me some of his locations while he was in town.  The nice lady tried her best to make me understand that all of the events were invitation only and were screened by Mr. Hopes "People" to ensure security. "Ms. Albright, even if I tell you where he will be, you will not be able to get in at this late date."  Uh-huh.  I managed to get a few of the locations from her...all public knowledge by now, like where the banquet would be, the hotel, and of course the tournament itself.  But I knew just showing up and throwing a bag over Mr. Hope's head and shoving him into the get-away car driven by the Yankee probably wouldn't work. I had to think of something else.  This situation reminded me of when I was only 14 and I had the ultimate teenaged crush on Leif Garrett.  He was performing in Atlanta and nothing would stop me from meeting this guy...absolutley nothing!  So I, with my mother who taught me, of all things NEVER GIVE UP...devised a plan.  Make a press packet and a press ID and get over to Atlanta.  I did and I got to meet my dream man.  It was then that I made up my mind to be a REAL member of the press when I grew up. The power was intoxicating!.  Now, though Mr. Hope was not my heart throb, I was a legitimate member of the press. Thats It!!  Press packets, delivered with crossed fingers to the locations and only a tiny white lie to accompany them.  And with the Yankee driving the get-away car, I wouldn't have to have parking permits to do the deliveries.  I made up all the packets filled with info on me, WAPI, my show, the audience demographics, my picture, and we headed out to the venues that Saturday.  I walked straight up to the guards at every spot and said..."Mr. Hope is expecting this for a radio interview he is doing on Monday."  ( He just didn't realize it yet...that's all.)  I delivered five packets and said a prayer.
The very next morning I lay sleeping next to my Yankee, when the phone rang.  Yankee answers, and rolls over and wakes me and says it's for you.  A sleepy Hello....here is what I heard..." Hi, Beth, it's Bob Hope.... I almost fainted and at the same time wanted to say...yeah and I am the Queen of England...but OMG it was really BOB!!!
I quickly sit up and say in my best voice trying not to sound like the loser sleeping in on Sunday morning, "Yes, Mr. Hope, thank you for calling me."
"I got all five of the press packets and it looks to me like you wanna do a show.  How 'bout you come to my house in Toluca Lake next month and we will do it form there...that work?"  Pardon me Mr. Hope, I have just swallowed my tongue and am unable to speak...AAAGGGHHHHH....silent scream, followed by dignified voice...."Why yes, Mr. Hope, that would be wonderful!"  He follows with, "Okay, here is my home number, talk to my secretary and get it all arranged.  See you next month.  You certainly are persistent.  I like that.  Talk to you soon."  And he hung up and I sat dumbfounded in my bed, not sure if that had been a dream.
All of the arrangements were made.  All the ads, created for the Birmingham news, and placed. All set.  A month flew by and I had managed to arrange for my Yankee to go with me, and be the engineer and board operator.  I was thrilled my station let him go since he worked at a TV station and not the radio station.  We were newly married and it would be the trip of a life time for both of us.
I settled in at my hotel and called Mr. Hopes house.  My stomach dropped to the floor, along with my mouth.  WHAT?????  "He forgot you were coming and cannot see you." His secretary informed me. Yep!  Thats what I said...NOOOOOOOOO!  "I confirmed this last week,"  I said, in my thickest Southern accent trying to make her feel sorry for me.  This cannot be.  I have full page ads going in the Birmingham news and MY NAME is on them.  No way I am letting my audience down while ruining the reputation of my show, my station, not to mention myself, lady.  No! I will be there and someone will let me in that gate!  Of course this was my conversation in my head, not to the secretary.  I figured the threats and anger should be saved for when all else failed.  And that was looking like a strong possibility.
The secretary set me up with with another person to get it worked out.  I had been handed off.  I had one day to work this out.
This was back in the 80s and cell phones were rare and so every hour we were stopping at a pay phone to call Mr. Hope's house.  I became a sore in their side and I wasn't going back to Birmingham without this interview. They soon realized that!  I began to get sick.  My Program Director in Birmingham would die.  I decided not to call him until the last second.  It was 2pm the day before the interview.  Another call from a pay phone to the HOPE house.  Again, "We are still working on it Ms. Albright. Mr. Hope will have the house full of writers tomorrow planning for his NBC special and he is very busy."  It was not looking good.  My stomach began to swell.  When I get anxious, it swells and I look three months pregnant.  Not the best look for a girl who has had one too many fried green tomatoes!  To this day, when I am anxious and freaking out about something, my Yankee will say, "Are you okay?  You have Bob Hope stomach."  It's a joke now, but it sure wasn't then.  At 8pm that night, I decided I needed to let my boss know what was happening.  He was wonderful and encouraging and said it would be okay.  The ads could be pulled and to come home and not worry.  After that phone call I sat down on the curb of the convenience store parking lot and cried.  It was not in me to accept defeat.  I had to call the HOPE house one more time. The young male assistant answered.  It was 8:30pm.  "Okay Ms. Albright.  We have it worked out.  Mr. Hope will see you for 30 minutes tomorrow at 1pm."  AAAGGGHHHH...happy screams and jumping and more screams! I am in a convenience store parking lot and some homeless folks and hookers are wondering if they can get some of what I just had!  "Oh Thank you! Thank you so much!"  I hung up and called my boss.  Okay, maybe I can sleep now!  Are you kidding me????
 Me with Bob Hope during the Interview at his home
  We arrived at the Toluca Lake home and were passed through the gate.  We set up in Mr. Hope's office and waited.  He arrived on time and was in house shoes and everyday clothes, hands in pockets and not happy to see me.  Maybe I had pushed a little to hard for this.  He sat at his desk and the interview began...awkwardly at first, as I held the mic to his mouth.  I was a sick, nervous wreck, sitting in Bob Hopes home, and trying to be cool and remember my questions.  I decided to heck with the questions and to just do my usual, have a heartfelt conversation.  He reminded me more than once, he had NBC writers waiting for him in the kitchen and he was in a hurry.  It was not going well.  I suddenly remembered something I read in my research.  Bob, as a child, had to stand in line in the kitchen for a bath.  His mother lined up all her children in the order of whom had been the best behaved that day.  The best child went first, getting the clean, hottest water, while the one at the back got the cold, dirty water.  Bob was always playing pranks, so he would up at the back of the line.    Breakthrough!  Bob laughed out loud and started talking....TWO HOURS later, after what was supposed to be 30 minutes, with NBC writers waiting, BOB HOPE had just chosen to be with me, from Birmingham, Alabama!  I had done my station and my state proud!  When we were finished, he took me to his book shelves and pulled out his photo albums and showed me his mother.  "She was such a handsome woman, I look just like her," he said laughing.
He had softened and I had managed to put him at ease.  We took a picture that I have treasured forever.
The station ran the 2 hours worth of tape over a week instead of one day and we ran big ads for all of it.  I was the talk of Birmingham and I was so happy I did not let down my precious, priceless audience.
Needless to say, I had no trouble the next year getting into the tournament in Birmingham.  I hung with my man, Mr. Hope.

Me with Bob Hope at the Charley Boswell Invitational the next year

I know I am tenacious to a fault.  But, if you believe and work tirelessly, and never give up, anything is possible.  Anything.  even sitting in the home of an angry celebrity, and turning him into mush before it's over.  Thank God, he loved his Mother!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

THE MEN WE LOVE: Miss Scarlett and Cleopatra were onto Something!

 I have NEVER been one of those independent women.  You know, the ones who want to always go dutch on a date, and be all independent?  No!  I love a chivalrous old fashioned man who will ride up on his white horse and grab me and whisk me off to the castle.  I have never been one of those women that HATE men.  Even when my Yankee and I are at odds and on the war path, I NEVER feel I want to be independent of my men.  I actually like being dependent.  I get pretty spoiled that way.  And a good Southern Belle just LOVES to be spoiled and fawned over by her men. Think of Scarlett and the scene on her front porch.
     With Father's Day and Graduation being all in the same week, it had me thinking about the men in my life; my Yankee and my brilliant, talented son, who is only PART Yankee.  On a daily basis, these men make up my little Universe here in California.  My Daddy has been my guardian angel since I was just four, and my brother, who is blessed to still live in my beloved Alabama, to my stepfather of over thirty years,  all take care of me and my mom in some way almost daily.  And my two precious nephews whom I wished lived near me, are stars in my night sky!  These are my men, the men I love.
     My son, my only child, graduated from high school last week and I thought I would need a sedative!  I did pretty good.  Only wound up needing a few tissues.  I love this young man so much it hurts!  From the day that fat little bundle was placed in my arms, I became mama Bear.  Ain't nobody messin' with my boy! And he is such a good young man!
As I watched him receive his diploma, with so many honors, last week, and a teary me sat beside my Yankee, holding his hand, as he was tearing too, it occurred to me that the men in my life are primary...primal too, but primary all the same!  We are a family of men, lots of men.  My mother and I are the only two females.  Maybe that is why we are so close.  No, we are close because I can't LIVE without my Mama, like most Southern Belles.  But men dominate the family...in numbers only, as anyone will tell you, the WOMEN, my mother and me, rule the roosts!  It has taken a lot of patience to live ensconced in so many of the male species.  A lot.  My mother and I, well, we are the IN CHARGE type... some....most, might even call us BOSSY.  And whom do we boss?  The MEN of course! It's just our nature...we don't do it on purpose!  Our men are our crew.  My mother has my brother, my step father, and even my nephews!  See, no nieces, just men...and more men.  I have my Yankee, and my half Yankee son.  As women, we come by it honestly.  It is our very nature to be bossy, ...ahem...to... ORGANIZE, to handle the details of life, and to pull off daily living and turn life into a fine-tuned machine that just hums along without too many glitches.  We can do it if the men would just do what we need them to do.  Sometimes they do.  But they are a tough bunch to get them to do what we want WHEN we want them to do it.  MEN!
"Honey, take out the garbage."  THREE HOURS LATER....."Honey, why is the garbage still here?"  My yankee gives the proverbial, "uh huh" and maybe in a couple more hours it will finally get out the door.  He must decide WHEN is the right moment for the garbage to go out. This must be second nature to men.  They DON'T want to be bossed.  They don't really like to be told what to do, but we have an incessant need to tell them what to do!  Isn't that a funny little trick from the universe?  As women, we MUST boss, but our men can't stand to be bossed.  Yet we need each other on so many levels!  Good one, Universe.  Ha, that is so funny.  So we end up being NAGGY.  Sometimes, just to get me to shut up, my yankee will put the garbage right on the front porch..."yes, it's OUT now,"  he will say. And I think I have already told the story of how he, in a hurry to shut me up, one day took out all the laundry by accident, instead of the garbage.  The towels and baby clothes went to the curb, and I was left to FOLD the garbage!  MEN!
     What would we do without the men we love?  I am about to find out as my baby boy leaves for college in August.  I will be cryng rivers and buckets all the way back from dropping him off.  So will my Yankee.  My son,  who has always called me his rock,  has grown into a rock of his own.  He is exceptional.  I know, the most exceptional part of him HAS to be the ALABAMA in him!  Ok, that was intended as a joke. Well,  maybe a half truth.  He is strong and good and out to change the world and he will do great.  It's me I am worried about.  What a strange house this will be without him here every day.
He is the little man in my life, now all grown up and ready to grab his own life and run with it.  And I will be running behind smiling and clapping for him as I always have.  Eventually, I won't be able to keep up and that is ok.  He will become someone else's man.  And she better be good to him, cause MAMA BEARS NEVER die!  Sorry to scare you, future daughter- in- law.  Not really.  But I raised this man myself.  He is chivalrous, and kind and will give you his shoulder and dry your tears and well, I trained him.  He DOES respond to my, ... SUGGESTIONS,... faster than my Yankee! All of us raising boys should remember that.  Someday, some young woman will take his hand and his heart and hopefully we have raised a real man, that loves his wife and family .....and will take out the garbage right away!  She will be counting on it.
     The man I first loved was of course, my Daddy.  Like all Southern Belles, our Daddy's are the center of the universe when we are little girls. Though my daddy died in a car accident when I was only four, I still remember him in great detail.   He was a big man, 6'3" and had big blue eyes and deep dimples.  He was my first knight in shining armor.  When he got home everyday, I had to sit in his lap and tell him, in chattering detail, about my day.  Especially if anyone had upset me.  He was ready to ride the white horse to get them for me.  He was patient and loving and told me I was his princess.  He REALLY was the MAN!
     My brother and step father have helped me move so many times.  When I yell  "Help", they have come runnin'.  Most of the time they aren't smiling, but they come runnin' anyway.  I remember my brother literally hauling a washing machine on his back up a flight up stairs for me.  He played tackle on his football team, so he was up for the job.  I bossed him even when we were little.  One day, after my ballet lesson, I wanted him to learn to do the splits.  So I took him into the kitchen where we had plenty of floor space, and showed him the position.  He couldn't quite get down far enough and fast enough to my satisfaction.  So, I gave him a hard shove, and nearly stopped my nephews from being born!!   That is NOT his favorite childhood memory!  But he still came to my rescue more than once in my life.
 My step dad just drove 2200 miles for my mother and me, to get my mom, who is unable to fly, to my son's graduation.  And countless times he has helped me fix something in my life, from a broken light socket to a broken car, even a broken heart.  He almost never understands the broken heart thing, but he tries all the same. And we could not live without my gorgeous nephews.  They rode their white horses 90 miles to my mother's rescue and took her to the doctors and did her  house work and yard work and helped her survive almost daily  last year as my stepdad had to work out of state.  Oh, I love those two boys like they are my own.  I am MAMA BEAR to them too.
     We ask, and they do it...eventually.  MEN!
     Without the men I love, I would have no crew.  I would have no one to fuss at, no one to cry to, no one to BLAME!  How in the world could I survive without my men? I am much like our Miss Scarlett.  I like to think I can do it all by myself, but I relish in the fact that I NEED my men.   As I said, I have never been one of those independent, I'll take care of myself, women.  I love to be spoiled and to be fussed over and taken care of sweetly. My daddy trained me to be this way.  As I have trained my son to be a knight in shining armor.  I was talking with a woman recently and she was telling my son that women in college will want to pay for themselves we they go out.  They will want to be independent.  My son spoke up saying, "No," he will want to pay.  "I am the man," he said.  I sat listening so proud and thinking that I have raised him to be chivalrous and take care of women and always be the MAN.  I can only hope I have done the right thing.  Definitely give women their space to  be awesome at anything they want to do, of course to be paid equally, but to be treated as women.  To have the door held, and the chair pulled, and the coat given on a cold night.
     I think Miss Scarlett had it all figured out.  She would attempt doing something herself, then look all forlorn and become the damsel in distress...and the men would come running.  Yes she was crazy...like a fox!
     I am part Scarlett...and part CLEOPATRA!  Think I'll lie back now and be served by all the scantily clad men while they fan me and feed me grapes.  I do love my men!  And I need my men.  And I KNOW they need me to give them their daily lists, and schedules and organize them.  Even if they don't  quite realize it themselves.
Ahhhh yes, how does the saying go?  So many men, so little time.


Monday, May 23, 2011


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! 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

SUMMER DAZE: THE DAY I DRANK PART OF THE WARRIOR RIVER! (And while lovely to look at, does not make for a tasty beverage)

I have to admit, in the aftermath of the tornado that ravaged one seventh of my home town, it has been difficult for me to think of what to write. I am not one to EVER be at a loss for something to say. EVER. And I wasn't.  I just did not want to write.  I had to grieve. I had blogs planned for the next several weeks until April 27th changed things.  I have grieved and raised money and talked about Tuscaloosa to my friends and family here in LA, but to most, I am sure, they don't get it.  I am part of Tuscaloosa in a way that is hard for them to relate, since I don't live there anymore.  Ahh, but see, that's where they are wrong.  I still live there.  My heart is there every minute.  I have looked at videos and pictures and talked daily to friends and family there.  I am there.  And I will be there physically, soon, to help in rebuilding and putting us back together. And as we have all suffered a terrible, seemingly insurmountable loss, life DOES go on.  And that in and of itself is why WE ARE TUSCALOOSA. We Know this.  We will rebuild and go on and count our miracles. And Summer is coming!
The heat, the bugs, the lakes and rivers, all still right where we left them before April 27th changed the landscape. And we do need to laugh.  It makes life bearable, after all.

Summers in the South, like everything else down here, are a little different.  The heat  is wet.  Like a prickly wool blanket just from a hot tub, it is thrown on top of you as you go out into it, from a nice cool air-conditioned room.  Or, it can feel like the inside of someone's mouth.  It is just purely uncomfortable.
And it would be unbearable if not for the lakes and of course the wonderful Warrior River.  On any given hot Summer day, the lakes and rivers are busy with folks cooling off from the intense Southern sun. And there's always the annual trips to the gulf. More on that in a future blog.
One Summer, years ago, when I was just a teenager, I was on my uncles boat on the Warrior River.  We were down near Greensboro where he lived.  It had been a wonderful day, cloudless sky and bright sunshine....and the endless river stretched out before us toward the horizon and kudzu.  It was so hot, my skin was stinging with sun drops within the first 20 minutes.    My uncle was very well-known in Greensboro.  We rode the river and everyone waved to him and called him out by name.  We had loaded the boat with lots of food and snacks.  I slathered myself in what was probably pure baby oil with a hint of delicious coconut scent, and took my perch along the very front of the boat, like I was a pageant winner in a parade.  I waved at everyone too, like I knew them, but didn't. 
 I was the only girl on the boat that day.  My brother, and my two uncles and me.  They decided it would be a great idea if we water-skied.  Uh...No....I am happy just sittin' here wavin' at folks, thank you very much.  The skiing might mess my hair all up, then I wouldn't look pretty while I waved.  No, thanks, I'll just stay here. 
 Men!  They didn't give up.  My brother decided to show me up.  Nothing new.  He volunteered to give it a try.  I think he was 12.  We had just moved back from living in Oklahoma, and at this age he thought he was macho, about to start middle school.  He knew he could get up on those skiis and he then could tease me the rest of the day, or the rest of my life.  It was a ploy.  A manipulation.   My uncle threw him the skis and after a couple of tries, he was up!  And I was getting agitated.
"Hey look at your brother," my uncle said.  "It was easy for him.  Come on you know you don't want him to be the only one."  Uugghhh.  Really!  Ok fine.  I was 14 and not to be out done here.  To say I am competitive is to put it rather, mildly.  I left my perch.
First of all I really didn't even want to get into the water.  It was dark and deep and I knew I wouldn't be able to touch the bottom.  Ok, I am not a great water baby like my brother.  He is now a trained and certified diver.  Whoopee.  So I slid, gingerly, off the back of the boat. The water was so warm.  Hot almost.  Like bath water.  My uncle dropped the skis into the water.  They SAID they explained to me what to do, but,I beg to differ.  So I leaned back in my life jacket, trying to figure out how in the world I would reach my feet to get those skis secure .  In leaning backwards I accidentally rolled over...backwards into the water. Like a water ballerina doing a turn.  I surfaced and tried again.  They were all laughing at me from the back of the boat.  "Where'd you go, Beth" My uncle said.  "Doin' a little dance for us?"  I did not find this amusing in the least!  I finally got the skis on and looked for the ropes.  This certainly did not feel very lady-like.  I was missing my perch.  
"OK, my uncle shouted, "you ready?"  I felt my heart stop and my stomach drop like I had been pushed out of an airplane.  "Here we go.  I'm gonna speed it up.  Just hold on and pull up." Oh Goody!
 Yeah, right.  Uh Huh.  Just push me out of the air plane now.  It would be easier.  In that moment, I was so filled with fear, and such anger at my brother, whom I could see at the back of the boat, standing there laughing at me.  
The boat sped up, the water rushed by and within seconds, my skis  were off.  And the boat kept going, faster and faster....and I WAS STILL HANGING ONTO THE ROPE FOR ALL OF DEAR LIFE AND LIMB!....like I would most certainly die if I let go.  My uncle who was trying to "coach" me , and I use that word very lightly, was screaming something to me but with the waves and rush of water washing over my ears and face and eyes I could not make out what he was screaming.  I was in my moment of death and had switched to survival mode.  I do remember seeing my brother doubled over. At the time I thought he was weeping hysterically for me to be saved.  I learned later he was hysterical....but not actually WEEPING.
The unbelievable thing, well beside the fact that I did not, in my moment of death, have sense  enough to LET GO OF THE ROPES, is the fact that my uncle KEPT DRIVING THE BOAT!!!  Faster and faster.  No one told him I was skimming, at lightening speed on my stomach, down the Warrior River!  I drank a lot of river that day.  And while I LOVE that river, it really does not make for a delicious beverage.  After what seemed like an eternity of body surfing, being dragged behind a boat holding onto ski ropes like death would be imminent if I let go, my uncle finally cut the engine.  I was alive.  Coughing and full of the river, but alive just the same.  My uncle, the "coach",  jumped into the river and swam over to me, shouting,"Good God, why didn't you just let go? What the hell?"  I could not answer at the moment.  I was coughing my head off and saying a prayer of thanks that I was actually alive.  My uncle finally got over to me and, after seeing I was OK,  said, "Beth, this might be proof that you have to be the stupidest person on earth!  he was still laughing as he swam. Why did yo not just LET GO?  I was yelling at you didn't you hear me tell you to let go?" I'M SORRY, I WAS BUSY DYING AND COULDN'T THINK!  I know he meant well as he dragged me through the Warrior River back to the boat.  They all had a fabulous laugh, and I returned to my perch, drenched with messy hair and, a very bruised ego.  
Needless to say, I am not a skier to this day!  
And I still love the Warrior River.  Especially looking at it, writing about it, and watching it roll on by me, as the sun sets in all its misty, liquid, brilliance....while I am dry, and safe upon its shores.  

Don't forget, Tuscaloosa sill needs your help.  http://givetuscaloosa.com
Please give generously 

Monday, May 2, 2011


My Grandmother's neighborhood last summer
It's the trees.  To the naked eye thats what we notice first.  In a city whose moniker is THE DRUID CITY, Druid meaning trees, thousands of trees missing changes our view that we loved forever. Trees hundreds of years old, snapped in half like matchsticks, now jutting up like spikes from the ground. It looks like a wasteland.  Hundred year old homes, small homes from the 40s and 50s, neighborhoods that are on the National Historic Registry, like my grandmother's in Glendale Gardens, wiped out like an atomic bomb went off.  Future generations will have a different Tuscaloosa to look at.  It will be a NEW normal.

My nephew Corey and me last summer
In the minutes following the F5 tornado that ravaged my precious special home town, the one who plays muse to all my writing, my literary inspiration, I called my nephews and heard horrific stories.  One of them went to check on a friend and found him dead under rubble.  He is only 20.  My other nephew described how he will never ever forget hearing the piercing silence, then the dead air filling with the screams.  A deadly deafening silence falling over the once bustling city of about 90,000, home to my Bama Crimson Tide, and for miles around, only the screaming could be heard.  That's what he said he will never be able to get out of his head. The broken bones, broken bodies, and broken hearts will mend over time.  But we will never be the same... the landscape has changed, and we are missing family members.  Neighborhoods shaded for hundreds of years in tree tunnels are gone. Lakes are drained as the search for bodies thrown intensifies. I am heartsick.  I cried for several days, weeping for my city and  called frantically and checked on my friends.  Thank God for FaceBook...it helped keep everyone in touch when the phones went down. Tuscaloosa is home to The famous University of Alabama, the Crimson Tide, and is filled with college students from all over the world.  Some of them still among the missing, though the campus itself was spared. Some of them beautiful smart young adults with graduation coming, and their lives stretching out in front of them reported among the dead. And some, calling Tuscaloosa home nine months out of the year have blessedly decided to stay and help rebuild.  They get it.  Tuscaloosa is special.  The youth and strong bodies, now so appreciated.  The students of The University help create the magic of this town. They are woven in the fabric.  The hospital was spared major damage, with windows blown out, but ran out of body bags the first night.  I have friends working all over town.  Just because I don't live there, doesn't mean Tuscaloosa doesn't live in me. It does.  Every minute of every day.  I have friends who are police officers, nurses, teachers all who worked round the clock in the immediate aftermath helping trapped victims and injured people.  I love these people.  They are the salt of the earth.  I heard accounts from them and some so horrific, it would be impossible to re-tell.  I think of them every minute now as they work tirelessly still trying to make sense of it all.  Why?  Someone told me not to ask why, just know we will get through it...together, like always, side by side, shoulder to shoulder, neighbor to neighbor and strangers to stranger.  No one is a stranger now. We are all each other's keeper.  My sister in law has worked and cooked and delivered and bagged snacks and not slept....in days.  She does what she does best, feed people. And heal people.
My sister-in-law Joyce

A disaster like this could wipe some cities off the map. Not my city.  When I say Tuscaloosa is like no place else on earth, I'm not joking.  Remember, I have lived nearly every place else and it's Tuscaloosa that pulses through my veins.  Why?  Most of my family is long gone from there now. Could it be the meandering Warrior River and it's misty liquid  sunsets?  The historical BAMA campus and their National Champion Football Team? The lyrical downtown, with it's fabled old movie palaces are the stars twinkling in this bright magical city.  But it's none of these things that keep me falling in love and now weeping for my town. Though all of these are stars in it's crown, what keeps me so mesmerized is the people here.  Filled with different races, different political beliefs and different religions, hell it's even got a few Auburn fans... its a diverse small town.  You don't find that very often unless its a world renowned college town like Tuscaloosa.  And as different as everyone is, the very fabric, the nature of Tuscaloosa is to exhibit great togetherness.  We help each other no matter what.  So they will not be down for long here.  No, Tuscaloosa is resilient to put it mildly.  And filled with grace under fire. A quiet Southern grace.   They have set up, organized and neighbors are helping neighbors.  Church volunteers riding through the ravaged neighborhoods and handing out power bars and water bottles to people who were total strangers last week...that's my Tuscaloosa.  Tuscaloosa is not just any city. The people who call it home and those who have left and still call it home, like yours truly, know this.  I find it hard to describe to outsiders.  It's the fact that generations of families have all lived here for a hundred years and so what for me is a thing of pure myticism, we have all become FAMILY.  And what do families do when one is in need or hurting, we all hurt together, and then we pull together like nobody else on earth.  So I know we will not be down for long.  It is not the way of Tuscaloosa to accept defeat on any level, not just on the football field. It will take time...and hundreds of millions of dollars...but the people that call Tuscaloosa home..ALL of us, will do anything in our power, to put us back together...as best we can. Because we understand the speacialness of this place.  The businesses will rebuild, probably in the same spots.  The homes lost will be rebuilt, new subdivisions will form.  AND FOOTBALL SEASON will come like a beacon in a darkened sky to give us all something to cheer for,  to smile about, something to help us feel normal again. Never before will football season be looked forward to like it will  be this year!   I saw Coach Saban visiting fans in the hospital in some pictures the other day.  They needed that more than he knows.
The helplessness one feels when so far away is painful beyond description.  I wanted to run home immediately and volunteer. Flights out were the most expensive I have seen.  I decided to raise as much money as I can and I will come home soon and be part of the re-building. I have to.  I am running home to hug and soothe and be soothed and help.  My job of raising my son is changing as he heads to college in August and when I kiss him goodbye, I will drive the 2300 miles to my sweet home Alabama and help Tuscaloosa.  Because I love this place like no place else on Earth.
The Alabama Crimson Tide "A" hangs is window of a destroyed car near campus
Please help Tuscaloosa rebuild.  Here are some places to send donations http://www.givetuscaloosa.com and another http://www.helptuscaloosaschools.com
Please give generously.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


To the naked eye it might look like Southern food and I just don't get along.  My ample rear end and extra pounds look like I am in a battle with food. Well, nothing could be further from the truth.  The extra lumps and bumps I possess are like trophies I display to the fantastic Southern food I grew up on and treasure like a fine delicacy to this day.  The food in the South is part of the rich heritage and the slow simmered way of life there. We aren't slower there, we just like to savor the moments.  Its a rich sweet part of the life I loved and still love when I am home to visit, which isn't nearly often enough.  Food in the South is part of the character there, like an actor in a well loved play.  Not a supporting actor, but more often than not it's the star attraction for every kind of event imaginable.  Food takes center stage for everything from tailgating to summer BBQs to weddings, birthdays, Labor Day, Fourth of July, Christmas, and Lordy, don't even get me started on funerals.  Funerals are a big deal in the South anyway, but in my entire life, I have never ever seen the food arrive by the car loads, for weeks and weeks, like it does when someone has passed.  It is a continuous parade of cars filled with potato salads, deviled eggs, homemade corn bread, peach cobblers, carrot salads, casseroles, hams, and the trusty staple of all funeral foods; the Pound Cake.  And BBQ, well that is a synonym for pork, both pulled pork and pork ribs. To a true southerner of the DEEP SOUTH, nothing else qualifies as BBQ! Sauces, well that is up to the individual, and the region they come from.  For me, I just love the spicy sauce of Dream Land, the world famous BBQ place in my hometown of Tuscaloosa!  I order it by the case, sent to my home here in LA.  My pantry isn't complete without it my jars of Dream Land Sauce!
All the women I grew up around could cook, except my mother, bless her heart. She loved to sew, not cook, so I grew up with a lot of KFC, and beautiful original pageant gowns!  My grandmothers, great grandmothers, my soon to be sister-in-law all cooked delicious Southern food though, so I stocked up pretty often. They all cooked differently, but it was just the Southern way.  The women are handed down recipes and cast iron skillets in wills left by generations before them.  Yes, those skillets have been seasoned with years of cooking and they are like gold in the South.  Family feuds have broken out over who gets Grandma's skillet after she has passed!  
Sunday dinners are a thing of pure legend in the South.  The amount of food there nearly rivals a funeral.  My grandma's Sunday dinner, (the meal at NOON in the deep South) would always include at least two kinds of meat, a ham, and some beef or fried chicken, and so many home grown garden vegetables...well I just know I got more vegetables in me growing up than my yankee husband.  Ok, well, they were fried or soaking in fat back, but hey, they were real home grown vegetables that I helped pick and freeze myself!  And I ate lots of them too, so that has to count for something!  My country grandma  put a spoonful of lard and a spoonful of sugar in nearly all of her cooking.  And it was mouthwatering, to die for, delicious. Fried Okra, black eyed peas, cornbread, and my all time favorite Southern special, fried green tomatoes!  I can ashamedly eat those by the platter-fulls,  all by myself. 
A good Southern breakfast is good enough to last all the way till lunch, (dinner) and then we get to start again.  And GRITS, Oh my goodness, what a delicacy of the South!  For those who have never had grits, first, I'm sorry, second, my description of this fine fare could never do it justice. Grits are the tiny white center of corn after it's ground up. You can buy grits ready to make in a package like you buy rice. We don't have to ground them up ourselves anymore. That went out the door about the same time we got indoor plumbing!  Grits can be served with cheese, a favorite of many a Southerner, but my favorite is with loads of butter and salt, for the health conscious, real butter, no chemicals that way, and sea salt works just fine.  Put that with some eggs, sausage and bacon, buttermilk biscuits with sausage gravy and you've got a Southern breakfast feast!  
And then there's the drinks!  We always say, "Want a Coke Cola?", Even when we aren't offering coke. A cold drink is a "Coke" to a Southerner.  Like "Soda" or "Pop" is to someone from somewhere else.  Whenever we went to my Nanny's house, (Mother's mother) she barely let a second go by without offering us a coke, a real coke, from the back porch fridge, along with other treats and snacks from the snack corner of her kitchen.  We had lemonade and of course sweet tea...The house wine of the South.  No Southern home was ever to be without Sweet Tea, or fresh lemonade in the hot humid Southern summers.  It is against the Law!  And then there's the well-stocked Southern bar, filled with the men we all revere down South: Jim (Beam) Jack (Daniels) Mark, (Makers Mark) And throw in a little Mr. Bailey for our rich Irish heritage, and a bit of Wild Turkey, and the bar is open, am I right?  We love our Southern men!
Eating in the South is as important as the kitchens we sit in to eat.  My Nanny had an eat in yellow table in the center of her coffee scented nook and it was the busiest room of the house.  Something always on the stove or in the oven, I cannot remember a single day ever of arriving through the back door into the warm kitchen and something not cooking on the stove or in the oven.  In the South the kitchen table is the center of life. My favorite memories of growing up are centered around that table.  This included so much laughter that I actually did spit takes as a kid, usually all over my poor uncle or aunt which I insisted on sitting in between at all times. I remember bursting into loud giggles with coke cola spewing out through my nostrils, and my uncle shaking his head, wiping off his face with a handy dish towel.  In times of sadness, of hilarity, holidays and deaths, we were always sitting around that table.  Life....was at that table. I now have it and feel I have a masterpiece.  The kitchen tables of the South are where we eat, yes, but it is also where we share and bond and love and listen, listen to the stories of our families.  Southerners are unique in telling stories.  We are all natural born story-tellers, and we have an entirely unique way of handing down these stories to generation upon generation of wide eyed children in the family.  And the stories are always told around food.  Gathered around an old aunt or grandfather, biting into crisp, dripping, watermelon, always with a salt shaker nearby.  Or sitting around the kitchen table over warm peach cobbler with a side of homemade vanilla ice cream, we listened to the the stories from the hilarious to the scary, for every good Southern tale has a ghost or two. 
So I wear these extra lumps and dimples with pride.  I was fed well, both with the food and the love that came with it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Albright Writes: Albright Writes: MINT JULIP ANYONE? AND THE OUTHO...

Albright Writes: Albright Writes: MINT JULIP ANYONE? AND THE OUTHO...: "Albright Writes: MINT JULIP ANYONE? AND THE OUTHOUSE IS OPEN! MY ... : 'For me, growing up down South had a very unusual feel. See, there..."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Albright Writes: MINT JULIP ANYONE? AND THE OUTHOUSE IS OPEN! MY ...: "For me, growing up down South had a very unusual feel. See, there are two kinds of South...the city version, and the country version. I wa..."

Monday, April 18, 2011


For me, growing up down South had a very unusual feel.  See, there are two kinds of South...the city version, and the country version.  I was lucky enough to experience both.  My Dad's mother was my country Grandma, and my mom's mother was my city Nanny, as I called her.  Visiting them each had its own feel and it was nothing at all alike!  For those of you not lucky enough to be from the South, the two flavors are distinctly unique. Each having the flair of the wonderful South but a taste all it's own.
My country Grandma was one of a kind anyway, loud, opinionated, and loved to work in her garden.  My city Nanny had a large house in a well appointed neighborhood and was married to a lawyer who had practiced in front of the Supreme court on the Rights to Privacy. Frank Bruce was my grandfather and he was also the Play-by-play announcer for the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 1950s.  His picture, to this day, hangs in the Bear Bryant Museum on campus!
 My country Grandma loved to have all the grandkids over in the summer to work in the garden.  I usually really hated this.  It was hot, and damp with humidity, sweat just dripping from my face, as I picked and pruned.  I was beet red at days end both from over heating and a stinging sunburn.  I hated picking the okra the most.  The tiny little prickly parts that would stick in my hands for days, made it the worst of all the vegetables to pick.  So I paid my brother to do it!  Her garden was big and filled with everything, from tall corn stalks to the smaller bean, and field pea patches. And the home grown tomatoes and watermelons were the best I ever had!  She canned and made preserves out of figs and strawberries, and blackberries, and had a huge freezer she kept everything in for the winter. Cucumber, cantaloupes, it was all there.  She could have owned a good roadside stand with all her plantings.  She was efficient and hard working.  We would sit for hours in the hot afternoon sun, sometimes on her porch swing, shelling peas and shucking corn. We had the picking and shucking and peeling all timed around her "stories"...her soap operas. "Y'all I ain't a gonna miss my stories now." That's where the idea that I needed to become an actress on a soap opera was born.  I wanted her to be able to watch me one day, cause I sure KNEW I wasn't gonna work in a garden for a living!  The very first time I was ever on a soap was when I did a bit part on her favorite show THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS.  She was so proud of that.  And that was the best part for me.  My Grandma would be able to see me on her "story"!
She had a window unit air conditioner so the "cool" was only in one room. When you left that room and walked into another, the HOT would hit you like a wet warm blanket.  It sometimes made you feel like you'd pass out from the abrupt extreme change.   We had to take turns standing in front of the window unit to cool off.  When we all spent the night in the Summertime, we'd have to pile in the same bed, a pull out couch in the living room so we could sleep by the air conditioner.  There's no sleeping in the deep South in the summertime without cool air...but to be honest, it was hard to sleep four or five of us in one bed too.  When we'd fight, which my brother and I did constantly, she'd say, "Go out and cut me a hickory", which for those who never had a "Hickory" is literally going out in the yard and getting a limb off a tree or one fallen to the ground and taking it to her so she could slap your legs with it!  And it STINGS!....we knew then we had stepped over the Grandma line.  I would always go get the tiniest little new limb growing, flimsy and green, so it had no "STING" when she switched the backs of my legs with it.  My acting skills began about then as I screamed in agony so I would not have to get another limb for her which would be stiffer and cause much more REAL pain.  No the flimsy..."HURT" just enough! And I would fake cry until she thought I could not take anymore.  I am sure now she knew I was "Acting." That's why she was laughing at me.
My Nanny never asked me for a switch or a hickory...but I did see her chase my uncle down the hall with a frying pan one day...all 115 pounds of her, her pearls just flying. She was tiny and sold make-up at Lewis Weasels down town, then Gayfers at the mall.  She was prissy and loved perfume and nail polish.  I remember her dressing table was a place of pure fascination for me when I was little girl.  It was a place of magical transformations.  And I cannot recall her house to this day without the fragrances she wore drifting in my head. Sometimes when I am missing her I spritz her last bottle quickly into the air.  I keep that precious fragrance on my own dressing table now.  She was not a country cook either.  My grandfather was from NY and she learned to cook for him.  Corned beef and cabbage, Salisbury steak, were the main fare when I was at her house.  She was from Mississippi but a debutante type of lady.  She did the make-up for the Miss Alabama contestants from Tuscaloosa when I was growing up.  I loved it when the girls would come over for make-up lessons.  I was really young but I sat in on the lessons and was in a heaven I cannot describe. Perfumes floating through the house, custom mixed powders, lipsticks in every shade and blush, and fluffy make-up brushes, it was just a little girls paradise. She always included me in the lessons too, saying, "Now Beth, remember whatever you do to your face do to your neck line. Blending is the secret."  And my Nanny was funny too, hard working as my grandfather had taken ill in his later years and it was my tiny Nanny that ran the house and made the money, selling make-up.  She was my teacher for skin care which I employ all of her lessons daily. She had wonderful parties and served lots of fascinating hors d'oeuvres , like bourbon balls and rum fudge! She also taught me the double use of a strand of pearls... beauty of course, and just in case you need to wring someone's neck you just remove and use!!
Sometimes when I visited my country side of the family there would actually be a mule in the yard, ready for plowing.  I loved to ride the mule too.  Couldn't do that at my city Nanny's house!  But at Nanny's, I loved all the prissy evenings I spent with her painting my nails, and playing at her make-up table. There was such an extreme difference between the houses!
When I was really little my country grandma still had an outhouse!  Oh Lordy, I hated that thing!  Had to walk clear out to the far back yard, with a flashlight!  Just to go to the bathroom at night! If you have never had privy to an outhouse, allow me clue you in.  It is a big hole in the ground with a wooden seat built over it.  The seat is inside a little wooden closet that sits alone outside.  You open the closet door and there you are.  Kind of like a wooden port-a-potty...but this potty was not going anywhere!  And the hole filled up with...uh huh...just what you're thinking!  That smell was straight out of hell.  I was terrified to go in it, especially at night!  And the splinters in you rear end...well that was just a given. You had to remember to put down the newspaper down if you didn't want splinters. Newsprint on your rear was better than splinters in it.  The most horrific part was the paralyzing fear of falling in.  My mother had a story from when she was a child that her aunt had slipped while helping her to the potty and dropped her in!  My Nanny said when she got there to answer  the screaming, all she could see were hands and tiny feet sticking out.  That awful vision was burned into my poor little head as I trekked outside with my flashlight.  I was rejoicing the Lord above when she finally got rid of that awful smelly thing!
Her cooking was maybe the very best I ever had, with a little chunk of fat back or lard, and a spoonful of sugar in  nearly every single thing she made.  Her Sunday after church dinners were the concoctions of legend. That's the kind of Southern food I love! Ham and butter beans and potatoes and onions, and corn bread and fried green tomatoes, fried okra and pecan pie!  Oh I am dying here just thinking of it!
  I had such an extreme dichotomy of Southern life growing up this way.  And I wouldn't trade it for anything!
Both of my grandmothers were quintessential Steel Magnolias.  Both were the breadwinners when I was growing up, both were hard working and they were great friends to each other. I watched them closely and modeled myself after both of them...in different ways.  I hope I am doing them proud as they are both my angels now. Yes, I am truly, a little bit redneck, and a little bit debutante, and that's a true Southern Belle, wearing our pearls, but we can kick your booty if we need to. Especially if you are hurting our babies! You never saw a Belle go redneck faster than to mess with our babies!!  I can just pull my pearls off and strangle somebody!  Aren't all Steel Magnolias this way?