LOOKS AREN'T EVERYTHING by Valerie Eitzen
In a stream-of-consciousness trance, my fingers flew over the typewriter keys while my family relaxed in front of the television. The term paper for my Psychological Anthropology class at CSU Northridge was due in three days.
Loud laughter ringing from the den broke my concentration as my parents clapped and shouted “How-dee!” They loved watching the antics of Dad’s client, Minnie Pearl, on Hee Haw.
Cousin Minnie Pearl, the undisputed queen of country comedy, wore her usual floral, flour sack dress and her famous straw hat with the dangling $1.98 price tag. She had just shouted to her TV audience, “How-dee! I’m just so proud to be here!”
In the 1960s, my father was Minnie’s’ financial officer when he was Assistant Manager on the main floor of the First Bank of Beverly Hills. One day, Minnie swept into the bank all aglow. She had a number of her staff with her as she asked Dad if he would help her with a Cadillac purchase. Dad was familiar with Cadillac dealers in the San Fernando Valley, so he drove her to Studio City, where they arrived at one of the two dealerships situated across from each other on Ventura Boulevard.
By Nashville standards, Minnie’s family was relatively affluent, but she dressed in a down-home style and didn’t put on airs. She and Dad waited patiently in the Cadillac dealer’s sales lounge for an hour or so. Dad sat, handcuffed to a security briefcase, packed with stacks of one hundred dollar bills, balanced on his lap. Once or twice during their long wait, salesmen glanced at them with smug, condescending looks. All the employees of the dealership blatantly ignored the plain, homespun woman in the unstylish country dress seated with her companion. No one even offered them a cup of coffee.
Finally, tired of waiting, Dad told Minnie that it appeared the salesmen were too busy to help them. He suggested they go across the street to the other Cadillac dealership. The sales staff there quickly made them comfortable and lavished the country lady with attention.
Minnie Pearl bought twelve brand-new Cadillacs that day. After she signed all the necessary paperwork and Dad handed over the money, she had a final request. Smiling, Minnie asked for twelve Cadillac employees to drive her new cars off the salesroom floor for a quick turnaround. She said she wanted the men to drive the cars across the street, and through the main driveway of the Cadillac dealership that had spurned her.
Minnie created quite a sensation as the long, stately procession of gleaming new Cadillacs of every color and style, drove in the other Cadillac dealership entrance, and parked across the front of the building. The salesmen, who had neglected her, dropped everything and came running outside to see what all the excitement was about.
Minnie Pearl greeted the breathless group of men who clustered in front of her. “How-dee! I thought y’all would like to see how much commission you lost.”