Title: Kathy Sue Loudermilk I Love You
Author: Lewis Grizzard
Publisher: Warner / Peachtree
ISBN: none (but it's on Amazon here)
Length: 336 pages
Quote: “There was something special about Kathy Sue Loudermilk. Even at eight, she made a tight sweater seem much more than a woolen garment.”
Fun fact about this book: “Loudermilk” is a family name actually used by real people. Not all of them live in Georgia .
Kathy Sue Loudermilk I Love You introduces several repeating characters Grizzard caricatured in his comic columns over the years, giving them unlikely names like Weyman Wanamaker and Cordie Lou Poovey. It also introduces real people, some of whom are known to history only through Grizzard’s serious columns. For many readers, the publication of this book also introduced Grizzard.
At the time of writing, Grizzard was still supporting the railroad industry against the trucking industry, supporting Jimmy Carter against anybody, and, he claimed, sincerely shocked that anyone could question anything General Lee ever did.
Women were extremely touchy about anything that sounded sexist. Grizzard wrote some columns that deliberately started, exaggerated, an unenlightened point of view, apparently to generate controversy, attention, and sales. (Women who worked with him said he didn’t act that wary in the office, nor did he write that way in his serious columns.) On the other hand, his ex, Kathy Lewis, wrote a comic expose about “life with Lewis” called How to Tame a Wild Bore. The book did not portray Grizzard as either especially wild or as especially boring, but as your basic selfish, immature young man who is not really ready for a serious relationship.
Whereupon women who feel that there’s nothing wrong with being an immature young man—only with sharing any serious activities with one—took Grizzard’s books to our bosoms. The books, not the aging boy who wrote them. He died young, apparently without a bosom on which to lean.
In Kathy Sue Loudermilk, Grizzard claims that he was threatened with bodily harm after writing a column that blamed refrigerated biscuit dough for divorce and suggested that wives should get up in time to mix biscuits from scratch. Bodily harm? Well, yes...you see, it was still 1977; due to discrimination, women did not yet have the more feminine and empowering option of writing their own syndicated newspaper columns suggesting that husbands who wanted to stay married should get up in time to mix biscuits from scratch too.
And Southern Ladies, even those of us who were only ten years old at the time, just laughed and laughed. I mean, biscuits, people. Baking-powder biscuits were invented by people who didn’t have time to cook,. Baking-powder biscuits do not require the cook to have his or her eyes completely open. Just dump a reasonable amount of self-rising flour into a bowl, add milk until it feels like biscuit dough, press it onto a pan, cut out biscuit shapes, and bake it for fifteen minutes in a hot oven. Making biscuits from scratch is actually quicker than making them from refrigerated dough, since by making biscuits from scratch you can avoid getting biscuit dough on your fingers and taking the time to wash it off. Men can make biscuits. If you have a gas or electric oven, biscuits take no more energy or intelligence than cereal.
It’s this kind of confusion that makes Kathy Sue Loudermilk more than a nostalgia trip. Oh yes, there’s plenty of nostalgia in this book, with detailed inventories of the kind of traditional Southern-fried convenience store that still exists, in some communities, even now, and columns about the great ball games and Nashville songs of yesteryear, and bleeps. Does anybody over age 35 not miss bleeps? (Bleeps were electronic sounds used to protect the ears of the upper class from any trashy language uttered within range of a live broadcast; hence “bleep” could be, as on three pages of this book it is, substituted for any rude word.) Part of 1970s pop culture was missing 1950s pop culture. But Kathy Sue Loudermilk is not merely a sentimental look at the 1950s; it’s the way the 1970s actually were. Some things were nicer back then, and some were not.