Moodswing - Encouraging word

How my influence made Hollis Gillespie a media star

“Good God, if I read one more damn column about Lary or Grant I think I’m gonna puke.” That’s how a recent lunch date with Hollis Gillespie began. Of course she fervently denied that she has been prostituting her two longtime friends in her weekly column, even though she’s been doing it for as long as I can remember. “Don’t you think some of your readers might be sick of them too?” I asked. “Half of my readers don’t even think that Lary and Grant are REAL,” she replied.

When I moved to Atlanta in 1991, I fell in with a crowd of local artists and art students. On Wednesday nights, we would get together for what we called the “Cocktail Club.” Basically, under the guise of discussing art and politics, we would meet at different people’s houses and get drunk. Very drunk. One night we all met at Lary’s house, so I can assure you that he is actually a real live person, albeit in a cartoon character sort of way. I have known Grant for about the same length of time, but to this day, I’m not entirely sure that he isn’t actually a hologram.

I had just opened my business, a tiny bar in Midtown. It was a hip little joint, and it was still a secret. Lary had a habit of bringing his cadre of young female playmates in to impress them with his coolness, and eventually he brought in Hollis. And just so you know, back then, Hollis was hot! So when Lary introduced us, I quite naturally assumed that later that evening he would be pulling her hair and giving her a good spanking.

That night Hollis was crying about her lot in life, being stuck in her corporate job as an air-waitress, when deep down she yearned to be creative. “What is it that you really want to do?” I asked. “I want to write,” she said. “So what the hell is stopping you?” I asked. “Do you have a husband? Children? An infirmed grandmother? Are you supporting a drug habit, or a wannabe rock-star boyfriend? I just opened this bar, and you know how much experience I have in this business? None! Come on Hollis, what’s your excuse?” That is exactly how it happened. I swear. Hollis Gillespie owes all her current success to me, and now you know why.

I didn’t see Hollis again until eight years later. I started reading her column in Atlanta Press, and I really enjoyed it, but I had no recollection of having met her. You have to understand, Lary brought a LOT of women into my bar. Then it happened. Lary, with one “R,” started appearing in her column. Odd, I thought. So I wrote Hollis a letter.

“We must know each other,” I explained. “I mean, how many Larry’s spell their name with one R?” I got a letter in response from Hollis, and she was incensed that I had forgotten her. “You big retard, we met at your bar, and I had a huge crush on you! I can’t believe you don’t remember me. Now I’m pregnant with another man’s child. You have the worst timing ever!”

We’ve been good friends ever since. Our friendship basically revolves around me buying her meals at various restaurants in the greater Atlanta area, and her telling me to stop making her feel guilty for being a bad friend.

“So what’s the deal with Lary and Grant appearing in every article you write?” I asked again. “You’ve been in a LOT of my columns,” she protested. “There was ‘Mr. Midas,’ ‘Freak like me’ and ... at least one other one.” “OK, two times, big deal. And for your information, that ‘Freak’ article disturbed my mother,” I said. “I need another margarita,” Hollis said, trying to change the subject. At which point the waitress suggested she try a train shot, which is made with grain alcohol, anti-freeze and maddog 20/20. Hollis had found her new favorite drink.

Five train shots later, Hollis finally dropped the bombshell that Lary and Grant were going to be writing her column while she was on vacation. I couldn’t believe my ears. The time had come to make Hollis feel guilty for being a bad friend.

“Do you think that I’m not clever enough to write your silly little humor column? Please. You like Lary and Grant better than me, don’t you?”

I’m not sure if it was the guilt or the train shots, but when I told her that I was going to write my own column, she broke down. “Fine, fine, fine, you can write a column,” she said. “Just make sure that it’s all about me.”

Michael Benoit, who owns The Vortex Bar & Grill with his siblings Hank and Suzanne, says Hollis Gillespie owes any success that she may ever achieve in her lifetime to the fact that she knows him. Hollis, who is on vacation, returns next week, thank God.??