Early this week I got a text from my husband telling me to call Buddy Kamin because he needed a photographer. Kamin's Furniture was organizing a book signing with Paula Deen. I called Buddy and he said they needed a photographer for Friday's event, could I come to the store and discuss? Ahh - yes - I can be right there!!! So I went and acted all professional, like I photograph celebrities every day. Inside I was exploding. So he told me what his vision was and what time he needed me there. I skipped like a little girl all the way to my car.
Couple of days later Buddy calls me again. Said he wants me there earlier because he wants me to go to the airport with me to photograph her arrival. He has planned a fabulous arrival for her with a 20 motorcycle Harley escort. So again I played it cool with Buddy - yeah, sure - I photograph celebrities getting out of their private planes all the time. Ha! Now I'm internally shrieking.
Friday morning I arrive at Kamin's at 11:15 and the line has already formed - people waiting with excited smiles. I see my sister-in-love Pat Smith in the line grinning from ear to ear. I meet with the Kamin family and we head out in two SUV's to the Victoria airport to wait for Paula to arrive. We drove in to the entrance that leads you to where the private planes land. We waited about 30 minutes until her plane arrived. I start taking pictures as several people start to exit the plane - first the pilot, then 2 body guards, 3 assistants, Paula's husband Michael and then we see her - she is holding a Whataburger cup and say's "Hi Ya'll!" She steps out and starts to say hello and hug everyone. She is introduced to all of the Kamin family. I can't get over how tiny and how beautiful she is. On the other side of the fence is a crowd of people. Paula said "who are they?" Buddy tells her that was the Harley group that would be escorted them back to the store. He decides to take her to them. So we go out and all the Harley people circle around her and her husband Michael. Turns out Michael is a Harley man! After taking time to chat and pose with each person, Michael & Paula get real interested in one of the rider's trike. She climbs on explaining she injured her knees while on Dancing with the Stars. The owner turns on the motorcyle. She laughs and says "This feels so good between my legs!" Everyone laughs. She gets off and Michael climbs on. The owner says - wanna take it for a spin? Michael said "yes!" and tells Paula to climb on. She gets on the back and they take off. They take a short spin around the area and come back smiling. Paula said "I'm gonna have to talk Michael into trading in his bike for a 3 wheeler. I feel so much safer on the back of that and I didn't have to pinch Michael near as much!" Again - more laughter. It was fun but time to get going to the store.
I rode in the Suburban with Buddy's son Clayton along with one of Paula's body guards and the three assistants who were all so very nice. Behind us was the Sheriff's SUV, the line of Harley's and lastly Paula & Michael with Buddy and his wife. It was so exciting to pass the store and see the parking lot overflowing and the line wrapped around the store.
Our SUV drove up to the store first. Everyone was smiling with their phones ready to take pics - they thought Paula was in the suburban but it was just us. Ha! Then they start to come in like a parade. First the Sheriff's vehicle with all the lights on, then the motorcycles who were playing loud music and then finally - Paula. When she gets out of the car, she is immediately met by the daughter of Jade Manning, owner of Liberty Coffee Haus, who presents Paula with a dozen yellow roses. Then and she and Michael immediately head for the crowd. She starts shaking hands and hugging people.
They finally come in to the store where County Judge Ben Zeller presents her with a Proclamation announcing that the day was Paula Deen Day. She was so touched and said she was excited that Paula Deen Day was the same day as National Cookie Day. She was then given a moment to go upstairs, meet the rest of the Kamin family as well as the staff who had snacks set out. She got so excited about the spice bars! After a quick break she heads back downstairs and before she sits down to start signing she goes back outside with a spice bar in her hand to assure the crowd that she will be signing books until the very last person. She finally sits down and starts signing while one of her body guards uses every person's cell phone to take pics. The rules were no personalized signature, no conversation, just hand her your book, smile at the camera and move along. They announced this loudly over and over. Everyone was trying to follow the rules except Paula. She loved to chat, she asked questions, she invited people to sit with her on her chair, she hugged all the babies and flirted with the men. You could tell she loved every minute of this. One lady told Paula "Please sign this for my mother. She was in line but didn't feel good so she went to sit in the car". Paula got up and said "well I will go to her!" The bodyguards announce "We're walking!" Paula goes outside and waits for the lady to go get her car and drive her mother up to the store. While they were waiting another older lady walks up and Paula's body guard tells her "Your shoe is untied". This lady laughed and said "oh well!" The bodyguard then bends down and ties the lady's shoes! The sick lady is driven up to the store and Paula goes to the car, poses for pictures and hugs her. Can these people get any nicer?? All the while Paula's husband Michael was outside signing his autograph and chatting with the people in the line. Everyone was smiling. Everyone was happy. Everyone was start struck. Including me. Especially me.
I had to be a photo shoot in Corpus at 6:00 pm so I had to leave around 3:15. I didn't get to have my photo taken with Paula but it's ok. I left there feeling content and fulfilled.
I want to say thank you to Buddy Kamin for this wonderful opportunity. It will forever be one of the favorite days of my life. He was so nice and it was evident he took lots of time to make this a smooth, well planned wonderful event for everyone. His family and staff were all equally as nice and accomodating. I am filled with gratitude.