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[whitespace] David Straithairn
Evil on the move: David Straithairn plays a bad, bad man in 'A Good Baby.'

Bad Attitude

'A Good Baby' has a man who needs killing

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Writer David Templeton takes interesting people to interesting movies in his ongoing quest for the ultimate post-film conversation.

HERE I AM, sitting in the dark, all alone with Jill Conner Browne. I am a lucky man. Browne is the ringleader and founder of the infamous Sweet Potato Queens, Mississippi's unofficial grand marshals of Jackson's annual St. Patrick's Day parade since 1982. They dress in anatomically augmented green gowns to dance and wave to the ever-increasing crowds. Under Browne's guidance, they also act as role models for all "fallen Southern belles," literal or metaphorical.

They have their own website: www.sweetpotatoqueens.com.

Now, the fact that I get to share an otherwise unoccupied movie theater with Jill Conner Browne--we're here for a private screening of the moody Southern drama A Good Baby--will no doubt cause certain women to drool with unrestrained envy.

After all, ever since the release of Browne's outrageous self-help guide The Sweet Potato Queens' Book of Love, the Boss Queen has become an inspiration to thousands of females across the U.S. of A.

On the other hand, since I am a man, my close proximity to Jill Conner Browne may cause a few of my brothers-in-testosterone--those who've heard the rumors, anyway--to openly fear for my safety.

Well, fear not, my brothers.

Though SPQBOL does indeed contain a chapter titled "Men Who May Need Killing," and though Browne is fond of saying things like, "I love men. They taste just like chicken," the truth is, she's a card-carrying sweetheart.

It's a bright pink card with the words "Lick You All Over, 10¢." Upon arrival, Browne handed them out to the theater operators, then showed off a copy of her new book, the hilarious sequel God Save the Sweet Potato Queens, before distributing Sweet Potato Queen bumper stickers all around, smiling and flirting all the while.

Honestly. There's nothing the least bit murderous about this woman.

Until the movie starts.

A Good Baby is an eerie melodrama starring Henry Thomas (of E.T. fame) as Raymond Toker, a gentle hunter in rural North Carolina who stumbles upon an abandoned newborn and finds himself almost supernaturally attached to the child. David Straithairn (Passionfish; Dolores Claiborne) plays Truman Lester, a softly psychotic traveling salesman--he's as crazy as a soup sandwich, and evil to boot--who is hell-bent on getting his good-for-nothing hands on that good little baby.

Lester is bad, bad, bad.

"I hate him," Browne hisses, at one point. "I hate him. Let's kill the sonofabitch."

I agree. But how? Browne consults the screen, where Lester has been making a move on a defenseless country girl (who might have benefited from reading the Sweet Potato Queen books, by the way). Ooh, he's bad.

"Bludgeoning," Browne proposes. "One of us should hit him with something real hard." A few minutes later, after Straithairn has intensified his seduction, I suggest drowning.

"Oh, drowning's good," she replies. "Let's do that."

Thankfully, we don't need to. Something even better happens to bad old Lester.

"DAVID STRATHAIRN IS such a good bad guy," Browne says over a cup of coffee, after the show. "I hated him in Dolores Claiborne, too. You take one look at his face, and you just want to see him dead." Indeed.

Dolores Claiborne--the book was written by Stephen King--is one in a long line of stories about nasty Southern men who die or suffer at the hands of women who've taken a little too much crap. It's a genre Browne is very fond of.

One true-life example is the story of Curtisene Lloyd, which Browne relates in the first book, taking the details from the audiotape of a court case in which Lloyd testified against the man who tried to rape her.

"Curtisene Lloyd," says Brown, "is my hero."

When Lloyd--a middle-aged, African-American Sunday school teacher--woke up one night to find a naked intruder in her bedroom, intent on rape, she took the matter in hand.

"First, she realized that he had no weapon," drawls Browne, smiling slyly. "So she got his dick in one hand and his balls in the other and she twisted as hard as she could in opposite directions. It worked like a charm."

It certainly sounds effective. The would-be rapist fought to get away, but Miss Lloyd had the better grip on the situation. Dragging the whimpering miscreant out of the room and down the hall--pulling him along by his ever-shriveling maleness--she yanked him all the way through the house and out to the porch.

"Then," Browne tells, her expression growing ever fonder, "this itty-bitty woman says to the guy, 'Now, I'm gon' go back in the house and get my gun, and I'm gon' blow your motherfucking head off, you slimy, stanking, lowdown piece of shit!' "

The rapist loped off into the bushes, buck naked and barely able to walk. Back on the floor of Miss Lloyd's room were all his clothes, with his full name written inside every single piece. He ended up going to jail, and the tape of Miss Lloyd describing how she waxed a bad guy's ass has now been distributed throughout the world.

Stories like this have motivated a large number of men to denounce the Queens as man haters, with Browne being named the worst offender of the Sweet Potato bunch.

"Whenever some interviewer--usually a man--gets in my face and wants to know, 'What's this about men who need killing?' " says Browne, "I always say, 'You have any daughters? Do you have a mother? A sister?' If you've ever been close to a woman who was brutalized in any way, you would be the first to want that guy dead.

"Look. I've been a victim of domestic abuse myself," Browne reveals, growing quiet. "And I can tell you, I'm a strong woman. I lift weights. If somebody attacked me on the street, they might just wish they hadn't. But when it's in your home, and it's somebody who's supposed to love you and take care of you that suddenly attacks you, it's so stunning that . . . I . . . I . . . just . . . I was . . . I had no . . . "

Slightly rattled at the memory, Browne stops to compose herself. "Let's just say it stunned me. And after the fact it stunned me all over again that I didn't just murder him then and there.

"So women may joke about it," she continues, smiling once again, "and in the book we do have some fun with the idea of killing some men who really need it, but it's all done as an act of empowering.

"And listen," the Boss Queen concludes, "I've known plenty of women I'd like to run over in my car, too."


'A Good Baby' opens Friday, March 2, at the Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St., San Rafael. For details, see Movie Times or call 415/454-1222.

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From the March 1-8, 2001 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.

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