The Local “Somebody”

May22/ 2008

Every burg, village, crossroads or “metro area” in America has it’s Local Somebody. ….. In West Plains, Missouri it’s Preacher Roe. …. In Poplar Bluff it’s #50 …. Smithfield’s is Ava Gardner of course.  This civic celebrity phenomenon, the “local somebody”, is a quite cool thing to be.  My hometown’s is either screen siren Jaime Pressley or Amphibious Shackleford or ME (nahhh, just funnin you …)….

“BobLee, this one should get you on Leno’s couch …”  That was typical of the off-the-chart reaction to that last column – Randy @ The Umstead.  YOU LOVED IT!  I am  humbled by the awesome reader responses to that column …. Yeah, I know.  What have I done for you lately?  Here goes. ….

Of all the groups I am privileged to speak to, none are more enjoyable than local Chambers of Commerce. I especially like the small towns of 25,000 or less.  BIG cities pay a lot better but they’re not as much fun to do.  Bring in BobLee for your local Chamber’s Annual Dinner. I am cheaper than BCS Butch.

The local folks always make self-effacing putdowns about their community.  I classify it as “The Mayberry Factor”.  I get angry if they insist in apologizing for their NoWhereVille.  I interrupt to point outall the wonderful aspects of small town America.  If the damn C of C folks are not thumping the local tub no wonder their one Dairy Queen just closed up!

EVERY SINGLE town has a Local Somebody and every single man, woman, boy, girl in town knows who it is.

The criteria for an official Somebody is pretty much universal although not written down anywhere.  The Somebody has to be a person living, dead or in exile who achieved some sort of distinction in some field of endeavor for doing something memorable.

The easy categories are sports, entertainment or politics.  My favorites are the more obtuse ….. serial killers and inventors of semi-irrelevant stuff like Silly Putty or Dippin’ Dots.  (NOTE:  “Politics” is becoming so universally repugnant that hometowns of 85 Senators and over 300 Congressman vehemently deny any connection with them.  These numbers are expected to rise over the next nine months.)

The Local Somebody is tied to my companion theory that Everybody Comes From Somewhere.  The people in that Somewhere take a vicarious pride in their burg’s being a Somebody’s Somewhere.

The Local Somebody outranks the Local Something such as “the world’s largest sinkhole” or “an elm tree in the likeness of Commodore Vanderbilt”.  Such silliness gets waaay too close to where the loonies dwell.

The Somebody might have been born there, went to school there, did their “thing” while there or happens to live there now, or died there.  The Where A Somebody is Buried is a category all its own …. As in Grant’s Tomb. A Somebody can be more than one place’s Somebody.  The “We share a Somebody” concept.  Aunt Bea (Frances Bavier) and Thelma Lou (Betty Lynn) moved to Siler City and Mt Airy respectively in their later years immediately becoming the Local Somebody.  Aunt Bea was a b*tch but Thelma Lou is much loved in Mt Airy.

Not all Local Somebodys are much loved.  Some are irascible coots and not that appreciative of tour buses stopping out front and snapping their cell phone cameras.  The Local Somebodys who are the town drunks or round-heeled skanks are celebrated nonetheless.  A roguish Somebody is revered with a wink and a giggle.

I told this story 4-5 years ago as Jaime Pressley officially became my hometown’s most renown “She’s from here”.  Prior to the “Earl” centerfold star, our “She’s from right here” was the gal who married Lee Iaccoca after his first wife died.  Lee was in his late 60s and she was in her early 30s. !!!  She had been “a stewardess” and we all know about “them”.

Anyhoo, Mr December and Miss June only lasted matrimonially 2-3 years.  There wasn’t even time for the local Chamber to get a sign painted out on the by-pass “Welcome To The Hometown Of Old Lee’s Young Wife”.  They tried to paint an “Ex” in front of the Young but could never quite find the right color paint.  Probably for the best.

Jaime creates a bit of a moral quandary being a soft-core porn star.  Some of the locals brag about her and have their favorite Jaime pose “ala Riley Skinner” posted by their cash register.  Others simply deny her risque road to The Red Carpet and tout her as the next Meryl Streep or Katherine Hepburn.  The rules for your Somebody allow lots of latitude in such matters. ….. (Jaime and I have not met yet ….. but by all reports she is a cool dude-ette.)

Consider how many active players are in MLB, NFL, NBA.  Consider how many have gone thru the various leagues over the past 70 years.  Every mutha-lovin’ one of’em came from somewhere and is somewhere today.  Preacher Roe was a MLB pitcher for the Dodgers in the 50s.  West Plains has a “Home of Preacher Roe” sign out by the Wal-Mart. …. AND a Preacher Roe Boulevard.

Preacher Roe is to West Plains, Mo what my dear pal Clyde King is to Goldsboro.

Sometimes if the Somebody lived outside of town (aka “in the country”) then each nearby town will claim him/her.  Lewis Grizzard (aka The pre-BobLee) is claimed by both Moreland and Newnan Georgia.  Where he went to school is often the legal residence but the Supreme Court has yet to rule on a Who’s Somebody Is He case.

Some towns base their total fame on their Somebody.  I say Hannibal MO and you think _____ .  I say Menlo Park NJ and you think _____ .  I say Waukegan Illinois and you think _____ .  Hoboken NJ = ______ .  Cabin Creek WV = ______ . …. Valparaiso IN = ______ .  WWII Hero Audie Murphy was from Addison TX (a Dallas suburb).  Don’t ask me how/why I know that.  I just do.  Artis Gilmore is from Chipley FL.  Former Floyd Patterson opponent Roy Lee Harris was from Cut And Shoot, TX.

It is easier to be an official Somebody if you come from a small town.  The #s are in your favor versus all the Somebodies coming out of Brooklyn or Chicago or Hollywood High.

Somebody Etiquette requires that when a proud local resident tells you about their Somebody you must make a Big Whoop about it even if you’re not sure if their aforementioned Somebody was an astronaut, a Pip, or a shortstop for the Phillies.  Never give a blank stare and utter the ultimate insult of “who”.

I am a total dunce in the music category.  I have heard of Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen and do know they are from New Jersey.  I know the Beatles (before Dean joined them!) started in Liverpool.  I know The Statler Brothers are from Staunton VA …. or is it the Staunton Bros from Statler VA ???

I draw the line at obscure civic boasts such as Bonnie & Clyde Robbed Our Bank or George Washington Slept Here.  That crap cheapens the whole gendre.

If a town bestows the Ultimate Compliment …. The _____ Museum that is as great as it gets.  Ava Gardner has hers in Smithfield.  Close behind one’s own Museum is the ubiquitous “street named for ____ “ or the local ballfield.  Lesser Somebodies get an imbedded plaque somewhere or their name on a brick.  I miss the tradition of a statue in the town square.  Pigeons miss those too, unless their aim is pretty good.

My momma always told some urban legend about statues of Generals mounted on horses.  How many of the horses feet were off the ground indicated whether the general died in battle or in bed.  She never could remember the code though.  She reckoned that Stonewall Jackson died standing on his head while eating a tangerine.  My momma was a yellow-dog Democrat and became easily confused in other areas too.

I recall her once pointing out the childhood home of Melvin Purvis.  Melvin was the FBI agent who shot John Dillinger.  But, of course, you already knew that. Right?

Bet you didn’t know that Anna Sage (aka the infamous “lady in red”) that fingered Dillinger for his fatal ambush was actually wearing an orange dress that night in 1934.


   Both UNC and WFU had an Elkins as its QB at some point in the 70s.  Rod and Mike were Greensboro Somebodies.

   Every one of you is dying to tell me the Somebody that your town brags about.  I’m not interested in every High School Harry or Miss Apricot Queen or crooked Congressman.  I will accept serial killers, Medal of Honor winners or Olympic Luge Champions ….. or stunt double for Patrick Swayze in RoadHouse.

   PS:  I guarantee you that Robbins SC does NOT have a HomeTown Of ApplesCheeks sign on the bypass.

 Obligatory ACC Sports comment ….. With three minutes to go in regulation vs Clemson, the Loonie Lynch Mob already had an effigy of Ol’ Roy ready to hoist up the flagpole outside The Legend’s Lair.  Two overtimes later the effigy was put back into it’s carrying case subject to the next “L” …… gotta luv those loonies !!!


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