Hanging with the Deen Boys

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I actually have quite a few part-time jobs. Hey, times are tough. I had to give up my gig as the special teams coach for the Titans. Last month I had the opportunity to earn a little scratch as an author escort for the fils du Paula, the Deen Boys, Jamie and Bobby.

Actually, "escort" sounds either a little too formal or a little too lascivious depending on your maturity level. Author escorts are primarily drivers and schedule wranglers, but I have all the requisite skills for those jobs. Plus I figured I might be able to talk a little food with the guys.

After picking them up from their crack of dawn flight from Savannah via Atlanta, Jamie and Bobby were in need of some serious caffeine. We had a little time to kill, so I took them to my favorite coffee house, Crema. I didn't think twice about taking them the back way down Hermitage Avenue since I ride my bike that way as part of my commute to work. At least I didn't think twice about it until I heard Bobby riding in the back seat say to whoever he was talking to on his cell phone, "Hang on a minute. I'm going to duck my head below window level so I don't get caught in a drive-by." Oops. My bad.

To try to distract them from the neighborhood, I drove them by the scene of the McNair crime at their request. In retrospect, it probably wasn't the best move to assuage their concerns. Luckily, Rachel and the staff at Crema provided the perfect distraction with their perfectly pulled Pistola brew shots. Jamie declared it "the best cup of coffee he'd had in a long, long time" and talked about it to just about everyone he met all day. Not that he remembered the name of the place, but I reminded him every time.

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The boys first appointment of the day was a segment on Channel 5's "Talk of the Town." They were absolute pros, hitting every sound bite on the first take. They were personable and charming with everyone they met on the set and complimented the efforts of WTVF's food stylist as she prepared their recipes for instant assembly. Fastidious Bobby even Windexed the counters after they were done. Paula brought those boys up right.

They remembered each person's name when they left the studio and even asked Leland Statum if the weather would delay their flight out the next day. Like me, they didn't believe Charlie Neese was old enough to be a weatherman either.

The next stop was a corporate pep rally at Ingram Book Company in Lavergne. The Deen Boys charmed an audience of book telemarketers as they sat on two bar stools and regaled them with stories of their youth and growing up with Paula as a momma. One thing I noticed over the course of the day was that they were able to tell those same tales over and over with sincerity because they were based in a genuine affection for their family business.

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Even though they were running a little behind schedule (my bad again), Jamie and Bobby took time to talk with each Ingram employee as they signed copies of their latest cookbook, "Take it Easy." They were genuinely interested to learn what each person's role was in their book's success and even asked for a copy of a children's book that one of the marketing reps had published.

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Little did they know that the real Ingram book signing still lay ahead. We shuttled them across the street to a monstrous distribution facility reminiscent of the last scene in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." The boys were led into a small room where they were confronted by a mountain of books and a very efficient assembly line set up by the Ingram marketing staff. Fueled by a quick box lunch and bottomless glasses of fruit tea, Jamie and Bobby set into their task.

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Six Sharpies, an hour and almost a thousand books later, their work was done. They worked so furiously that Bobby actually wore a raw spot in his forearm from rubbing it against the table and didn't realize it until he started to bleed on the books.

Because they worked so hard and so fast, Jamie and Bobby had actually earned a little down time. They spent it talking to loved ones on their cell phones and working with publicists and assistants to constantly juggle their schedule for the next few days. The highlight of their day came when a lucky switch from plane to car for one leg of their tour actually freed them up to sleep past 5:00 AM the next day. They were grinning ear to ear at the prospect of actually being able to watch Monday Night Football in the bar at the Hermitage rather than room service and an early bedtime.

The final stop on their whirlwind tour of town was a public book signing at Davis-Kidd. They were excited to visit with their fans and stayed well beyond their scheduled time. As they repeatedly said during the day, "a book signed is a book sold." They never met a stranger all day long. Their public energy and spirit was amazing, but behind the scenes I saw two good old boys who were weary of the road and missing their families.

They definitely comprehend the product that they are selling is their personalities. The recipes in their new cookbook may be intentionally simple, but don't think the Deen Boys are simple at all.

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And Jamie sure loved that coffee...

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