“I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” President Clinton looked right into the camera. “There is not a sexual relationship.”
“Thank God,” said Mom.
“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is,” the President argued.
“Oh shit,” Mom shook her head. “He lied to us.”
And that was that. I’m not sure if it was Bill’s cheating or the lie. Mom had suffered through rumors of indiscretions against her when she was much younger that hurt deeply, yet she remained a fierce Kennedy supporter until she joined them on the other side. The lie may have been what broke her Democratic back. She had very low tolerance for untruths and demanded you admit your transgressions even if she insisted she’d only heard about them “on the bus.”
Or maybe Bill’s bad behavior coupled with the distasteful cigar story, the blue dress, her family of divorced women and unwed mothers and the fact that she thought the Gores were idiots became too much. One day while dialing the knob of her radio, she discovered a voice who was also very dissatisfied with Clinton. Rush Limbaugh.
Mom voted for George W. Bush. No amount of debating, arguing or cajoling by the entire family could dissuade her. She was mad at Bill lying. She was livid at Al Gore for cutting Clinton out of the campaign. She was mad at Tipper’s attack on modern music. “She must be stupid. She’s never heard a little Johnny Cash song called Folsom Prison Blues? ‘I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die?’” And she was still mad at Hillary for insulting Tammy Wynette in 1992.
The future First Lady famously defended her decision to stay with her husband after the Gennifer Flowers scandal by telling the press, “You know, I’m not sitting here like some little woman standing by my man, like Tammy Wynette.” Mom felt Hillary made fun of a woman she felt had suffered enough through her own troublesome marriage to country music legend George Jones.
The fact Mom hadn’t forgotten Hillary’s remark is my fault. A few years later, I did a TV show at the Grand Ol’ Opry that included Tammy and her husband, Tammy’s ex-husband George, his wife Nancy director Burt Reynolds, an old flame of Tammy’s. It could have been a ticking time bomb but was ultimately a testament to true adult behavior. Mom made me call every night to relate the details of shooting.
“Tell me all about Tammy Wynette!” Mom wanted to know. And it was worth the question.
A rockin’ chick, Tammy Wynette showed me her “beauty operator license” she’d renewed a few days earlier. Worth over 30 million dollars, I asked the former hairdresser why she kept renewing the license. “Because honey,” she drawled, “you never know. You just never know. If I lose it all tomorrow, I’ll know I don’t need no man to take care of me. I can get my own job.‘Stand By Your Man’ was just a dang song.’”
“Yes!” Mom said. “How cool is she? And who did Hillary think she was, talking so poorly about her!”
Dad loves county music as well as easy listening and the standards. Mom loved them as well but also bought CDs that ranged from Dino and Frank to Elvis and Eminem. “He has a way with words! I love that Slim Shady song! Women wave your pantyhose! Sing the chorus and it goes…!” That’s another blog. We did catch Dad the day after Mom died, sitting in front of the TV with their little dog on his lap, rapping along to Snoop Dog. He had shut everybody out so we left him alone.
They both loved Burt Reynolds and Burt’s kindnesses to my family will be written in the future. I will say his was among the very first calls my family received the day of Mom’s passing as well as a call from “Burn Notice” lead and fellow New Englander Jeffrey Donovan. Am I name dropping ? Absolutely. Yes I am. Because kindness needs to be noted and those calls were very special to my family. You only hear negative celebrity stories – that’s what sells papers and keeps TMZ in business.
Our family’s love for Burt Reynolds pre-dates my working for him. In the 70′s my parents got caught up in the CB craze when “Smokey and The Bandit” came out. They loved it, good buddies! And Burt was the sex symbol of the decade. Mom and I even had the infamous 1972 Cosmopolitan nude centerfold of him mounted in the back of my clothes closet and I charged my girlfriends every time I parted my sea of bell bottoms. It was scandalous!
Mom talked to anyone on the CB who would respond and my parents sometimes took day trips just to chat with other drivers.
One afternoon Mom was joking back and forth with black truck driver. Suddenly a gruff redneck cut in, wondering what a white woman was doing talking to a…you get the idea. My father shut off the CB and when they arrived home, he removed it from the car.
“Throw it away!” Mom said. It was tainted.
“Yup,” Dad replied. And the CB radio went into the rubbish. An even bigger deal as Dad hates to throw things away.
Mom was angry. “I don’t care how you feel! You will respect the President! And this new Democratic Party is NOT Poppy’s OLD Democratic Party!”
“Mum, you just called Hillary a skank!”
“She doesn’t even know what that means,” Dad said dismissively. “She heard that word from Baby J, who needs to watch her language by the way. Just ignore her.”
“I WILL NOT BE IGNORED!” Mom hollered the most famous line from “Fatal Attraction” and I couldn’t stifle my laugh.
“How disrespectful, you! You always make fun of me, just like you made fun of me for listening to Rush!”
She was right. I did. A few years later I began apologizing and didn’t stop even as she was in the ICU. By then she was way over Rush. And all of them.
But I wasn’t over what I had said. Who did I think I was, laughing at my mother for what she believed? I apologized so many times she finally said, “You have to stop. It’s FINE! He is not a nice man. I don’t listen to him anymore!” I still feel shame for deriding her. Miss Fancy Pants, that’s me.
By way of yet another apology, I sent her a Rusty Warren CD. Frequently called “the mother of the sexual revolution” in the 60′s, Rusty Warren is a stand up comedian who performed the anthem for young women of the era. Bounce Your Boobies is a slightly dirty, peppy song about burning bras and freeing yourselves from constraints the men of society tried to instill. It has a great intro…
You know girls, it’s great to live in a democracy today, where freedom is everywhere. But girls, we often take this freedom for granted: freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and freedom of action. Just because a bunch of men signed that Declaration Of Independence in 1776, doesn’t mean that freedom was for men alone. Oh no, take Tom Jefferson, Ben Franklin, John Hancock – helluva guy for you right there! All these men had wives. They probably had a few broads on the side too. These women wanted freedom just as much as their men did. But gals, I wonder, do we? Hell, I think it’s time we did something about it. So come on, fellow females of the 20th century! Be glad that you’re an American! Proclaim your freedom! Stand at attention! Pledge Allegiance! And…bounce your boobies, get into the swing!
If you’ve never heard her, I highly suggest you check her out. She was so ahead of her time that Rusty never received her just praise. Mom loved her.
“You don’t want to vote for Barack Obama because he’s black!” One of my Mom’s friends verbally attacked her.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The Sox had won the World Series – finally. All Mom needed was to see a minority president. This is only my feeling – Mom never said – but her dream leader was probably a handicapped African American lesbian.
She was so angry she got up from the luncheon table and went home. She had begun to really listen to the Republican message and realized it excluded the very people she championed. Her opinion of Barack Obama was simply that he did not have enough experience and even her beloved Teddy Kennedy stumping for the younger senator couldn’t change her mind.
John McCain was a war hero, but had a hair trigger temper. Yet the spectre of 9/11 was still with us and he was a soldier. The only thing she liked about Sarah Palin was that she was mother to a Down’s Syndrome baby. Downs folks were one of her causes, she called them God’s Angels. But she was unhappy with the fact Palin brought her infant son into the roaring RNC convention. ”His poor little ears!” Also Mom admitted Palin could not see Russia from her house.
My father was solidly pro-Obama and on election day they both entered the booths. I don’t know who Mom voted for and I never asked. It was her business. I know she did not answer the telephone the day after the election.
2011 And Beyond
The change Barack Obama touted came for Mom but it wasn’t exactly what he’d planned. Mom broke up, finally, with Rush after his remarks about Sandra Fluke.“Terrible!” Mitt Romney’s 47 per cent. “Most poor people can’t help it! They need a leg up!” Binders of women. “What the hell does that MEAN?” Redistricting. “That means black people can’t vote!” Planned Parenthood. “Women needs clinics and birth control!” Racial slurs flung at the first black president. “Respect The President even if you did not vote for him!” And gays.
My son is a carefree talented guy who happens to be gay. His coming out was handled best by my own mother and his 275 pound Southern father who embraced my son as if he had said, “I think I’m going to the store.” Me? I have to quote Cher, who said her response to her daughter’s announcement was less than Cher-like. “No you aren’t.”
I admit to you, I said the same thing. Despite my beliefs, I know life IS hard on the little things. It wasn’t the gay that I was afraid of, it was what comes with it. Fear of others who forget God created us all. With Mom’s help I moved past my fear. I thank her.
Mom was disgusted by things she read penned by far right activists. “Pedophiles are white straight men! What are they talking about? This is vile!” The worst for her was pundits putting words in the mouth of Jesus. “God is love, not hate. Love one another!” She just couldn’t stomach it.
Then came Trayvon Martin and the swell of GOP support for his killer. It was the last straw.
My father has always been a fisherman, hunter and gun owner. He has all of the required permits. Anything he ever hunted, we had to eat. Quail, deer, gross greasy duck – we had to eat it. Although he loved tromping through the woods with his dog Ringo, he would not shoot anything that would not be consumed and he never stuffed any trophy heads. He was the same when fishing on his boat. Many weekends he came home with few fish. He’d thrown the rest back because there was no room in the freezer. Dad respects guns, doesn’t glorify them. His weapons have always been locked in a cabinet, the bullets in a another location unknown to us even as adults. He is a firm believer in the Second Amendment. He does not belong to the NRA. He believes in Stand Your Ground should someone attempt to break into his castle. He does not believe in hunting humans.
Mom grieved for Trayvon Martin. “He was carrying Skittles!!!” – favorite candy of the youngsters in our family. And she could not get past the glorifying of his murderer.
Barack Obama told her it was time for a change. So Mom became a militant political party of one. She supported her basic causes of equality and respect for all. She never put words in the mouth of Jesus. She did not want to vote in 2012 despite my encouragement to privately cast a ballot for whomever she wanted – or to even write in a candidate. Always vote! “It’s not a right, it’s a privilege!” It was what she told me way back in 1980. I don’t know if she went down to the polls and carefully printed “Edward M. Kennedy” in protest. I’d like to think she did, because the dream will never die.
Shortly before her final surgery, she called to tell me about a shopping trip she took with her girlfriends. “I bought a new dress for Dad’s ninetieth. And some shoes. Oh, and a sweatshirt.”
It was a pink hoodie.