All right, let’s get this column started. Who wants to talk politics? How about a show of hands.
Nobody? Don’t you want to know why I think those runoff elections turned out as they did? You know, how one side encouraged people to go to the polls, and the other side said, “Nah, don’t bother, it’s all rigged.”
Don’t you want me to remind you that Georgia gets to do this all over NEXT YEAR, with the governor’s race and the Raphael Warnock senate seat on the ballot again? This means you have approximately 90 days of peace before the next round of toxic commercials begins.
Aren’t you curious about my thoughts on Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and why you have to be at least 75 to be a government leader?
Still no show of hands. I can’t blame you. We could all use a sanity break. Most folks just wish Congress would show up one day, vote to print more money, deliver our supersized stimulus checks directly to our recliner, and then take a lengthy, quiet recess.
In the meantime, some other things happened in recent weeks. In lieu of politics, I will use this space for other topics.
First, let me pay tribute to Charley Pride, the first Black country singer, who conquered all odds to hit it big in the 1960s. I am glad I met him, with one in-person chat, and one phone conversation. I once wrote a column about him, and a mutual friend was kind enough to send it to him. I had written that he was underappreciated, and I expressed amazement that no one had done a Charley Pride biographical movie.
His manager told me that he loved the column, so I requested a telephone interview with him. A few weeks later, I got the thumbs-up. I was told, “You can call him tomorrow at 1:30, but you only get fifteen minutes, because he will need to rest up for a show in the evening.” That worked out fine for me, because I would need to start working on my daily newscast at 2:30.
The next day, I called him at 1:30 sharp. He answered, and I immediately began thanking “Mr. Pride” for taking a few minutes out of his day to talk to a small-town yokel like me. He stopped me mid-sentence. “Well first, you have to call me Charley, there ain’t no Mr. Pride here.” He reminded me that yes, he did have a show that night, so he couldn’t talk for a long time, but he was happy to oblige.
What followed was one of my favorite interviews. My new friend “Charley” was eager to chat. His wife Rozene was nearby, and if he couldn’t remember a name or a song title, she was ready and willing to help. At the time of our conversation, he was 83. Officially, according to the Country Music Hall of Fame, he was 79. He filled me in on how he lied about his age when he was playing minor league baseball. He figured he would have a better shot at getting a contract if the team thought he was 17, instead of 21. He would have more “good years” ahead of him. That’s when we began identifying his birth year as 1938 instead of 1934, and the later date is engraved on his Hall of Fame plaque. As he told me with a laugh, “I guess that plaque will always be wrong, but it’s too late to change it now.”
He asked me a couple of times if I remembered a certain song, and I didn’t, so he would sing it to me. If I never achieve anything else, which is quite likely, I can always say that I got Charley Pride to sing to me, several times on the phone.
Our scheduled fifteen-minute chat grew to an hour and beyond, and I actually had to wrap it up due to my own time constraints. I think he really enjoyed it, and I know I did. By the way, he kissed the same angel good morning for 64 years, because Rozene was with him until he passed away on Dec. 12.
We also lost Dawn Wells, best known as Mary Ann on “Gilligan’s Island” just a few days later. I met her in 2005 at a Chattanooga high school where she was visiting with prospective young actors. She was charming and talkative. When my photographer said, “Young lady, just stand right here,” she said, “Thanks, and by the way, I’m 67!” She looked a few decades younger, and when we finished, she came in for a hug. I didn’t mind one bit. It’s always a pleasure to meet a celebrity who’s just as nice as you had hoped.