One potato, two potato . . .
A little over two years ago, Jill Conner Browne was a one-on-one weight lifting instructor at the Jackson, Mississippi YMCA. Then she got an idea for a book titled The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love. The book was an instant bestseller, establishing Browne as the voice of . . . well, that's hard to say with any degree of precision, but the practical effect was to elevate Browne to the exalted position of Boss of all Sweet Potato Queens.
"Getting that first book published has ruint my life," she laughs. "I don't like to be busy, as anyone who knows me will tell you, and I have been inordinately busy for the last two years. I have met thousands and thousands of people. But I'm paying bills, and that's good. I'm starting my plastic surgery fund."
Now she has written a sequel titled God Save the Sweet Potato Queens. It is every bit as bawdy and irreverent as the first book, with more stories about the "Promise," the magic words guaranteed to get any man to do what a woman wants. I would explain more about the Promise, but to do so would be illegal in 35 states.
If you didn't read the first book, you should know that the Sweet Potato Queens are a small group of Mississippi women (all dear friends) who dress up each year in outlandish costumes with severely augmented busts to participate in the annual Mal's St. Paddy's Day parade in Jackson.
"Last year there were people from 22 states at the parade," Browne said in a recent interview. "They were from New York, Connecticut, California, North Dakota - all based on the strength of the first book. It was pretty bizarre."
The Queens are not necessarily the types of women the average male would want to marry and take home to mother, but they are exactly the types of women any male in his right mind would like to get drunk, hopefully to dance atop the nearest table.
This new book is every bit as funny as the first - and contains loads of beauty shop talk about sex and the foibles of male behavior - but it has surprises as well, such as poignant passages about the deaths of two close friends.
Browne is already working on ideas for a third Queens book. Its contents are a closely held secret, but she did suggest that an idea for the book's cover came from two male visitors from Amsterdam she entertained in Jackson.
"When they got back home, they sent me an e-mail saying they had loved seeing the South, but one of the things that struck them was how fat everyone was, so they started taking pictures of people with big butts everywhere they went," Browne says. So, on the cover of the third Sweet Potato Queens installment, presumably out sometime next year, be prepared to see a whole n'other side of the Queens.
Meanwhile, make yourself a drink - or a nice sweet tater pie with whipped cream - and enjoy God Save the Sweet Potato Queens, for it will take you into the twisted mind of a woman who knows how to mess with you real good.
Mississippi-born author James L. Dickerson knows all about parades. He once learned to play the trombone solely for the purpose of marching, mile after mile, directly behind the cutest majorette in the band.