Clementine came up and said this to me this morning. I guess she’d seen the television news somewhere last night. I didn’t know where to begin…
In retrospect, I probably should have started by asking why Paula Deen’s death would bring her anything but sadness, but, instead, after taking a few minutes to process what she’d told me, and figuring out that she must have somehow confused the portly white-haired butter pusher with Phyllis Diller, who had just passed away at the age of 95, I launched into a long… and, I’m sure, unappreciated… lecture on how important Phyllis Diller was to the women’s movement, and how, according to legend, she used to live in Ypsilanti, and sing in the choir of our local Presbyterian church.
One of the few regrets I have in life is not pursuing an interview with Phyllis Diller mare aggressively. I’d gotten as far as her agent, and I’d set up a call about fifteen years ago, but, when it didn’t happen as planned, I kind of just let it slide. I would have loved to have asked her what Ypsi was like in the 40′s, and whether or not her brief experience here informed her decision to challenge the dominant paradigm of the day, and pursue a career in comedy in spite of her sex.
update: It looks like I may have read too much into Clementine’s “kind of happy” comment. We just had a long talk about it, and it appears as though she wasn’t talking about Deen’s death at all. According to her, she was commenting on the kind of rich, southern cooking that Deen was known for, and how it was bad for people. It may not have come out quite the way she had intended, but what she had meant to say was that while it was sad that Deen had died, that perhaps, if you had to find a silver lining, maybe healthier alternatives to the food that she was pushing would now make their way to television. So, she’s neither a “sociopath,” nor an “amazing, precocious soul,” as some of you have suggested. She’s just a regular little girl, with a still less than artful grasp of the English language… I just found it funny that she thought the 95 year old Phyllis Diller was Paula Deen.