Honey Boo Boo is our new BFF.
We trekked down to the Middle Georgia town of McIntyre in search of Alana Thompson and her family this week. They could not have been nicer.
“It’s been a blast,” said her dad Mike “Sugar Bear” Thompson, referring to the TLC show, airing at 10 p.m. Wednesdays, that has catapulted the family from their tiny town into the national spotlight. (Here’s my colleague Rodney Ho’s latest recap).
“Honestly, it’s still surreal to me,” said Alana’s mom June Shannon. Even though they had gotten somewhat used to life in front of the cameras from the TLC show “Toddlers and Tiaras,” from whence “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” sprang, she didn’t immediately jump at the opportunity.
“It took us a couple of months,” June said. “I was very reserved.”
The entire family has enjoyed the experience – especially Alana, she said.
“She will stop in the middle of whatever she is doing and watch the commercial,” June said, referring to the promo for “Honey Boo Boo” that airs on TLC.
“I will not!” Alana insisted.
The 6-year-old second grader bounced around like a ping pong ball during most of our visit.
“Can I have a Pop Tart?” she asked her parents at one point, having determined there were no Oreos in the house.
“I have some flip-flop high heels,” she announced a few minutes later. “You want to see them? My momma bought them for my birthday. They were expensive! One dollar.”
With that, Alana disappeared into the house and produced the shoes. Next she asked if we wanted to admire some of her sparkly pageant shoes.
“I don’t wear them to school,” she said. “You know why? They start hurting.”
Then she wanted us to take note of a school geography project her sister known as Pumpkin has been working on.
“See, they’re not stickers,” Alana said, pointing out the quality craftsmanship on her sister’s project.
Lauretta Hannon, author of “The Cracker Queen,” was good enough to join us on this little adventure. First, there is no quick way to get to McIntyre, so riding with someone makes the trip more fun. Second, we figured Lauretta would bring a certain je ne sais cracker to the endeavor.
Sure enough, when the family’s friend Tony Lindsey arrived (he’s the guy shown toppling over on a four-wheeler during the “Honey Boo Boo” credits) Lauretta immediately started figuring out who all they knew in common. Plus her mama ‘nem live down in Dublin, not far from the site of the annual “Redneck Games” event that was featured on a past “Honey Boo Boo” episode. We figure they’re probably distant kin somehow. Maybe kissing cousins.
“They personify some of the key points of my book, one of which is the resilience, beauty, love, bad choices, and good humor of people who don’t look so promising if you take them at face value and interpret them through your own biases,” said Lauretta, whose memoir includes anecdotes like roaring around in a butter-colored Cadillac her father won in a poker game with her mother, tossing cartons of cigarettes to inmates working on road gangs.
During our visit with the “Honey Boo Boo” clan, a number of people stopped by. A Fed Ex guy showed up with an envelope and asked to have his picture taken with the young star. After he left Alana tore into the envelope which contained a letter from Australian fans.
Then she read the letter to us. She is an excellent reader, tackling the word “Australian” with ease.
Another package contained more fan mail and an umbrella-hat, which Alana promptly clamped onto her head. She disappeared into the house again, then reappeared with a can of apple-scented Glade air freshener.
“It kills the flies,” she proclaimed, dousing the staircase railing.
We especially enjoyed visiting with June, an avid “coupon queen” who noted with dismay that she is unable to get the AJC’s weekly coupons in her area. She requested that we send her a copy of the AJC print article when it runs – we’ll throw in the coupon insert, too!
She was completely candid when discussing the attention her family has attracted – not all of it positive.
“Yes, I got locked up,” she said, referring to a contempt-of-court charge four years ago. “It was the worst four days of my life.”
“Yes, we really do have our Christmas lights up,” June added, referring to the strands bedecking the porch in the middle of summer. She also mentioned that last Christmas, she participated in a community food drive that assisted 108 families.
“The GoGo Juice was a one-time thing,” June continued, referring to the blend of Mountain Dew and energy drinks that an episode of “Toddlers and Tiaras” captured. Lots of pageant moms boost their kids’ energy with caffeinated drinks, she added.
So far the “Honey Boo Boo” shows have captured the family pretty accurately, she said.
“The only thing we did that was scripted was the etiquette class,” she said, referring to a segment in which an Atlanta etiquette expert tries to instill some decorum. Also, the family’s documented trip to the “Redneck Games” was their first and probably last, June said. They prefer spending time at a getaway she described as an “undisclosed mud hole.”
Alana, who turns 7 next Tuesday, does not meet a stranger.
“I have three boyfriends,” she confided to us. “I love them all equally.”
Well, maybe love is too strong a word.
“You think I love taking pictures with boys? I don’t!”
After a while Alana decided to inspect our camera and took some photos of herself. Then she got interested in our iPhone, but was disappointed because we didn’t have any game applications. She did get interested in the pedometer application, and marched around the yard for a while to see how many steps she could rack up.
While we were visiting a truck driver stopped just to meet Honey Boo Boo and a car full of people slowed down and shouted, “We love you Honey Boo Boo!”
“It does get crazy at times,” June said. Trips to Wal-Mart take longer now since other shoppers recognize them and often want pictures. After Alana has had enough her mom shoos them away.
“I am a parent, first and foremost,” June said. “I am my children’s best friend. If you actually sit down and talk to me, you realize we’re not crazy.”
- Jennifer Brett/The Buzzfirstname.lastname@example.org