I just found the picture again and smiled again and I don’t want to lose the flush of wonder and purpose and ThankyouGod like I lost the photo, so I’m just going to start writing. Well, I didn’t lose the photo, I misplaced it. Which is one reason it took me so long to get around to this, but also because since the story behind the photo is so long and weird or maybe boring—the kind of weird or boring that you think maybe makes you not boring or even special or at least charming, but that maybe only the people who really know you well could appreciate—I though it’d take forever to write. But I told Kevin, yes, I’d definitely write something about it to thank him for brokering such beautiful serendipity. (And of course I knew I would actually have to write it one day, because though I’ve never met him, according to his Twitter account, Kevin’s a guy who plays the guy in the movie you don’t want to disappoint.) So here goes.
Maybe it’s weird, but I watched the hell out of Matlock growing up and would even like, skip class to watch it during the day, or not skip class, really, but fake being sick in order to stay home–this is like 9th or 10th grade or so–and order a pizza and watch I Love Lucy, the Andy Griffith Show (the greatest), and Matlock. And there was this one episode that just seemed to come on a lot about this girl who was pregnant and who was going to give her baby away to this nice couple in the Atlanta suburbs as soon as she had it, but then changed her mind after she did, and then of course got killed for it, and the would-be parents were framed for the murder, and of course they happen to be friends with Michelle*—and for whatever reason, when I look back on it on why this episode stuck with me, I guess it was because I just remembered the way that girl looked. She had this kind of really unique face (and maybe even voice), like maybe it felt familiar or something… like you could tell from her face that there was no way this girl or woman could not have been cool, like with a face like you wish your babysitter looked when you were a kid in the 80s.
But apparently it wasn’t that unique of a face, because my freshman year at Auburn I’m standing with some folks (Auburn hipsters, all of us, though I probably would have said scenesters back then — this is late ’97 or early ’98), kind of in that walkway between Haley Center and Foy, and I look up and there was this girl walking in our direction (but across the street) that someone knew and pointed to or shouted to or something, and I looked up and I think I actually said ‘whoa, it’s Matlock Girl’ out loud. And from that point on, that girl, to me, was Matlock Girl. Because at least at the time, I thought she looked just like that Matlock girl.
I didn’t see her much. She would come to shows some, but I don’t think I met her met her until 2001 or so. She dated and then married another Auburn scenester, Russell, one of the older guys, straight edge, but like, not the hoodie-costume Earth Crisis kind or anything–he was in to, like, old punk, and good, real emo, the house show kind, back before it was a punchline–Car vs. Driver and Crownhate Ruin and Spirit Assembly and Dischord kind of stuff. And so in 2000 or 2001 or so, we’re all together in Birmingham at another friend’s wedding–J.M.’s, actually–and Matlock Girl is there and so I think that’s when I finally really introduced myself and told her ‘Yeah, I’m Jeremy, and I always called you Matlock Girl because there was this girl on this episode of Matlock, there was this girl on Matlock, there was this girl on Matlock…’ (We all became friends later when they moved back to Auburn– play dates with the kids, etc.)
So 12 years later, I’m scrolling through Twitter—and I follow a lot of people and you get to know them by their avatar things which is I guess the point—and there’s this @MorningVent dude, Kevin Broughton, who was an Auburn grad, pretty politically outspoken I guess you might say, always ranting about local government oppression in his part of Mississippi, but also talking a lot about the short films he’s in–which is weird, because you wouldn’t think he’d be an actor, but he is… a go-to, grizzled Heat Of The Night cop kind of guy… and one day his avatar thing changed. Instead of whatever it used to be — some sort of logo I think–there’s this grizzled Heat Of The Night cop kind of guy pointing a shot gun at me (oh, it must be a shot from one of his movies), and behind him, kind of in a crouched, can’t-believe-my-boyfriend-is-a-serial-killer-please-protect-me-officer kind of stance, is this kind of really unique face, like maybe it felt familiar or something, like you could tell there was no way this girl or woman could not have been cool–like with a face that looked that way she could never not be cool, maybe like the way you wish your babysitter looked when you were a kid in the 80s.
It was her. I knew it instantly.
I DM’ed him: That wouldn’t happen to be Matlock Girl, would it? He told me her name. I Googled. It was Matlock Girl. This dude I followed on Twitter was playing a grizzled Heat Of The Night cop kind of guy in a short film (Grasshopper – trailer here) with Matlock Girl, i.e. the original Matlock Girl: Christine Elise McCarthy. (Ah, yes, I know — you most likely know her as Brandon’s girlfriend from 90120. But I never watched 90210, I was too busy watching Matlock. And I’ve never seen a horror movie, so I obviously didn’t know she was in Child’s Play 2 or whatever.) Once confirmed, it was only natural—I would ask Kevin if he was still in touch with her and if he was on autograph-this-for-a-friend terms with her and if maybe, just maybe…
A month or so later or maybe more, on a Saturday, after being CC’ed on a few emails—”I also have a friend from my alma mater (Auburn University) who has a 2-decade crush, not from your 90210 days, but from your performance as Jill Lambert on Matlock. (Go figure.)”—about how she’d be more than happy to, “especially for a Matlock fan!!!! ,” and after I Googled her some more now that I knew her real name and learned that in addition to all of her IMDBs she was actually really into the early 80s Boston punk and hardcore scene and was even freaking straight edge (‘oh, so that’s why he talked so much about the straight edge friend’), my daughter and I walk out to the mailbox, and there’s this envelope, and this is what was inside: A photo of Christine Elise McCarthy — older than Jill Lambert from the 1991 Matlock episode “The Parents,” younger than Kevin’s new avatar photo, right in the middle –signed “To Jeremy: War Eagle & Love Always, Your Matlock Girl, Christine Elise.’
Basically, the point is that we live in a weird, wonderful world, full or Matlock Girls and miracles and if you ever feel like things will never change for you, think about all the dreams and breaths and steps and seconds and emails and interstates and life choices and friend-of-a-friends and butterfly wings that had to happen for me to get a freaking “War Eagle” from Matlock Girl. God moves in mysterious ways. (I mean, the character she played in Grasshopper is named Jill!)
War Eagle to you too, Matlock Girl.
*I have a personalized, autographed photo of Nancy Stafford, too. War Eagle, Nancy Stafford.
* Auburn football radio broadcast in punxploitation classic
* Did an Auburn fan contribute to the teenage delinquency of Courtney Love?
* The Ron Swanson Pyramid of Auburn
* The Auburn plaque in 1984′s Tank