Jon Dawson: Paulette Burroughs relishing role at Neuse News
Paulette Burroughs volunteering at an emergency gambling tent in Atlantic City in 2015. / Photo used by permission of Casino Grifter Quarterly
When I started writing columns during the Eisenhower administration, a woman by the name of Paulette Burroughs provided much grist for my mill.
Paulette and I used to work out of the same building, and during that time her exploits were the stuff of legend. Whenever readers asked if my Paulette stories were fact or fiction, I'd respond with a definitive "yes.”
For the cost of a grape Shasta, Paulette would regale everyone in the building with stories of her brushes with political figures, musicians, actors and the occasional carny.
Although Paulette’s local celebrity status made it easy for her to get a good table at Bojangles’, her influence on pop culture expands far beyond the Lenoir County line. Having once been employed as Rick James' muse and inadvertently causing Simon and Garfunkel to break up, she has altered the course of history more than once.
"I met Paul Simon while waitressing at Cafe Wha? in New York City," Burroughs said. "I fell in love with Paul Simon's songs, but shortly thereafter I met Art Garfunkel on the set of 'Catch-22' and his fro hypnotized me. Their musical partnership never recovered, and I didn't work in the music industry again until Rick James hired me as a backup singer on the Super Freak Tour in 1981."
At the conclusion of the Rick James tour, Burroughs found herself stranded in Nashville, Tenn.
"I was broke at the end of that tour," Burroughs said. "I made lots of money, but I spent all of it on Cabbage Patch Kids dolls. While I was in Nashville I decided to try my hand at songwriting."
After several false starts, Burroughs managed to publish one song during her time in Nashville.
"Being single at the time, I was hoping to soon meet the man who would become my husband," she said. "I created a fictional husband and set out to write about him, both the good and bad. I assumed he'd snore and drool while he slept, which I thought would resonate with the married women in the record-buying public.”
Burroughs’ song "Whitecaps On His Pillow" was recorded by Tanya Tucker in 1982. The song failed to chart, although it was featured in a deleted scene of Amy Heckerling's 1989 film "Look Who's Talking.”
After losing her life savings by investing in a recycled cigarette outlet in Smithfield, Burroughs relocated to her hometown of La Grange.
"La Grange is the place I should have been all along," Burroughs said. "Thankfully, B.J. Murphy asked if I'd like to be the ombudsman for Neuse News, and of course I accepted."
"The offer was made in jest," said a visibly frustrated Murphy. "I floated the idea at a meeting as a joke, but Bryan Hanks repeated it to Paulette, who took him seriously. The next thing I know, Paulette has claimed a desk at the office and has crammed the break room fridge full of Vienna sausages and Red Bull Ultra."
Burroughs has occasionally written features for Neuse News, including her award-winning but controversial six-part expose on Skittles in 2018.
“People think of Skittles as nothing more than a salad topping, but there’s more to the story,” Burroughs said. “I’m currently working on a story that details how the M&Ms concept was stolen from an Australian company who marketed W&W chocolate candies back in the 1920s.”
Jon Dawson’s humor columns are published weekly by Neuse News. Contact Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.jondawson.com.