Miss Me When I'm Gone

Chapter 1

“I Still Believe in Fairy Tales”

Franklin Road

Nashville, Tennessee

This gem might be well known among seventies tabloid readers and longtime country music fans, but perhaps not to the general reader: Tammy Wynette once saved Burt Reynolds from drowning in a bubble bath. It was post–George Jones, a swinging-single period in Tammy’s life that I wish had lasted longer. She and Burt apparently had a friends-with-benefits thing going on in 1976.

And one night he came over feeling ill. She made him dinner and banana pudding and drew him a nice hot bubble bath. In the tub, he had what was later thought to be a hypoglycemic episode and lost consciousness. When Tammy knocked and he didn’t answer, she opened the door to find a mountain of bubbles—and no Burt! He had started to sink into the Vitabath.

Tammy rushed into the oversize bathtub fully clothed, struggled for several minutes to keep his head above the water, reach for a nearby phone (she lived pretty extravagantly at that time, remember—thus a phone in the bathroom within reach of one’s luxury bathtub), call 911, and eventually managed to pull him out and tug his jeans on to protect his modesty in case the National Enquirer arrived along with the ambulance. She claimed she was too panicked to think of simply yanking the stopper out to prevent Burt from drowning.

Besides, if she’d done that, she’d have robbed me of this precious mental picture: Tammy diving into the foam in a sequined gown, bouffant blond wig, false eyelashes, and full makeup—surfacing with the naked, excessively hairy-chested Burt Reynolds, his hair drenched, his thick mustache dotted with delicate bubbles.

Surely this is not what it looked like, but I like this picture of Tammy as a honky-tonk superwoman. Saving the sexy Burt not just for herself, per se, but for womankind.

Keeping in mind, of course, that taste in men, like cuisines, varies somewhat between the generations. The appeal of Burt Reynolds (even young Burt from films that predate my birth), like the appeal of a Jell-O mold, confounds me. He has nice eyebrows, I suppose, but I can’t get past the walrus mustache.

I can’t speak for Tammy’s taste in men—that’s a problem I can’t solve in a few pages, or perhaps a whole book. But I love the image of her rescuing the seventies’ sex cowboy from a sweetheart bathtub. She probably didn’t think she had it in her, this woman whose life and music were all about the romance that was supposed to save her from herself. But there she was, pulling this gritty, hairy man out of a warm, romantic bath of bubbles, back into life, back into cold, naked reality.

If only she could have done the same for herself.

—Gretchen Waters, Tammyland

Chapter 2


Willingham, NH — Gretchen Waters, author of the popular memoir Tammyland, was found dead in the town center Tuesday night, after falling down concrete stairs near the Willingham Public Library parking lot.

Waters, 32, of Kingsley, Massachusetts, was in town giving a public reading at the library. An hour after she left the library, at around 10 P.M. according to police, her body was found at the bottom of a ten-foot-high cement stairway connecting the library parking lot to the Greenfield Shopping Plaza.

“Looking at the steepness of these steps, it appears that Ms. Waters lost her footing and fell. An autopsy will be performed next week, but we believe that she died of blunt head trauma sustained during a fall,” said Willingham police sergeant John Polaski, who is leading the investigation.

A state police detective unit has also been assisting with the investigation. They closed off the library parking lot yesterday and appeared to be taking measurements.

“This is a very unfortunate event, and we’re doing our best to piece together what happened,” Sergeant Polaski said. “We’re looking into the possibility that a second party may have been involved. However, I can’t go into further detail at this point.”

Witnesses saw Waters leave the library at around 9 P.M. But instead of getting into her car in the library parking lot, she walked down the concrete stairs to the nearby 7-Eleven store. After making a purchase, she must have fallen on the way back to her car, Sergeant Polaski said.

The death of a prominent author in the center of town has put many people on edge.

“It’s just devastating,” said Ruth Rowan, library events coordinator who arranged for Waters’s visit. “Just a terrible, terrible thing to have happened here. She was a lovely, articulate young