Thursday, January 16, 2014

Long Sam

Kays Gary
Kays Gary was probably the best columnist the Charlotte Observer ever had. His columns appeared  from 1956 until he retired in 1986.One of his stories that I remember best is the one about the "nature girl" that  Tom McKnight and photographer Fletcher Davis of the Mooresville Tribune found drawing water from a well next to her family's two room cabin.  She was 16 years old, barefoot, wearing a cotton shirt tied at the waist and her father's cutoff jeans. 

 Gary picked up the story and ran with it.  The legend of "Long Sam" was born.
Long Sam

That was in 1957 and I've wondered from time to Dorothy Brown's (her real name)  life turned out.

I recently found this January 2013 article by Sam Boykin published in the Lake Norman Magazine:

The first issue of Lake Norman Magazine featured a two-page spread about Mooresville resident Dorothy Brown. The 16-year-old high school dropout was propelled to instant fame in 1957 after the Mooresville Tribune ran a picture of her standing next to her family’s small shack along the Catawba River wearing a cotton shirt tied at the waist and a pair of black cutoff jeans.
Brown family 1957
The accompanying story described Brown, who was one of 10 kids, as “tall and lithe and willowy and very beautiful.” Shortly after the story appeared, Kays Gary, a columnist for The Charlotte Observer, wrote about Brown, comparing her to “Long Sam,” a comic strip character who, like Brown, was beautiful, raised in the country and wore black shorts.
The Associated Press picked up Gary’s column, and the national media was instantly smitten with the small-town “Backwoods Beauty.” She was inundated with offers from everyone from modeling agencies and clothing manufacturers to TV producers. A few weeks after the original Mooresville Tribune story, Brown traveled to New York and appeared on the “The Ed Sullivan Show.” National publications including Newsweek, Los Angeles Times and Life did stories about her.
But Brown, as the 1983 Lake Norman Magazine story recounts, didn’t care for
Ed Sullivan and Dorothy
the spotlight—she turned down requests to appear on the “Steve Allen Show” and to play a role in the Broadway musical “Li’l Abner”—and returned to Mooresville. She lived with Mooresville Tribune editor Tom McNight and his family until shecompleted high school. Charlotte businessman Ross Pruette paid for Brown to attend the Women’s College of Greensboro. After graduation she went on to teach at Idlewild Elementary in Charlotte and eventually married.
While Brown’s time in the spotlight was short-lived, both the local and national media occasionally did “Where are they now” stories about her, including The Charlotte Observer in 2003 and The Los Angeles Times in 2007. Today, Brown is 72, retired, and lives in a small house in northwest Mecklenburg County with her Chihuahua “Suzy.”
Dorothy Brown 2013

Brown says she rarely thinks about her brief flirtation with fame, but that it was a special time in her life that she will always remember. “I met some wonderful people and had some wonderful experiences,” she says. “But I like my life now. I still have some good friends left and there’s nothing more important than that.”

 I like happy endings!  -Old Ed

Read more here: