Last weekend, I was asked to cover the appearance of “Bayou Billionaires” Gerald and Kitten Dowden at Big MAK’s Pawn Shop in Jasper. They were here on behalf of an Illinois-based charity they support, Roses From Linda.
I have a 2-year-old who typically dictates the television viewing choices at our house, so I had never heard of the show.
I did a quick Internet search that morning to learn a little something about the couple I would be meeting.
It seems the Dowdens became wealthy after it was discovered that their property sits on the fourth largest deposit of natural gas in the United States.
CMT presented them to the world as a “modern day rags to riches story.” It seems to me they’re the real-life “Beverly Hillbillies,” although I assume that term is no longer politically correct.
To be honest, I wasn’t overly excited about this assignment.
I was planning to come into work several hours later that Saturday until this came up, and their celebrity status didn’t mean a whole lot to me because I really had no clue who they were.
Still, I went with a positive attitude since they had taken the time to come out to my neck of the woods for a good cause.
I was surprised when I arrived at Big MAK’s Pawn Shop and there wasn’t a line wrapping around the building. I presumed the rest of Walker County was well acquainted with the “Bayou Billionaires.”
I stepped inside to see where they had stashed the reality stars and was told that I had walked right past them in the parking lot. Gerald had been getting something out of his truck.
A few fans had gathered around the Dowdens by the time I got my first glimpse of them. I silently sized them up while I snapped some pictures.
Unlike other celebrities I have encountered, they seemed quite friendly. They didn’t have handlers and weren’t making demands or acting like they were being forced to make this appearance.
They were also easy to miss in a crowd. Although I’m no fashion expert by any means, I’m pretty sure I could have purchased their outfits for Zac and myself at any local department store.
A tent had been set up for the Dowdens to sign T-shirts and take photos out of the sun. Instead, they hung out at the front door of the pawn shop, hugging every person who stopped by to meet them.
Several minutes later, I was still waiting for a chance to get some quotes from them when a nice lady standing nearby informed me about an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction.
It seems that while trying to hustle Wyatt out the door that morning, I had forgotten to zip up my pants.
I took care of the situation and nonchalantly went about my business as if I hadn’t just been exposing myself to about a dozen people.
Then it occurred to me that CMT couldn’t script anything much better than that — Deep South reality stars, small town pawn shop, reporter with her fly down.
I’ll never know if the Dowdens were aware of my little problem, but they were lovely to me when I finally got a few moments with them.
Gerald was munching on a hot dog for most of the interview. One bite left him with a little bit of relish on his upper lip. I noticed, but who was I to judge.
Then Kitten reached over and wiped it off for him. “Stop eating, boy!” she joked and then winked in my direction. “I can’t take him anywhere.”
I was proud to get my picture taken with the “Bayou Billionaires” that day but not because they’re on TV.
I love that they don’t seem to take themselves or their 15 minutes of fame too seriously.
Families like theirs and the Robertsons of “Duck Dynasty” remind us that whether our collars are blue or white in the eyes of the world, people are just people.
At some point, we all end up with food on our face or walk around with our fly down.