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Hollis Gillespie and pals catapult themselves into the national spotlight

Every week, Hollis Gillespie chronicles the misadventures of her crazy-quilt life in the pages of Creative Loafing. If you've read her Moodswing column or heard her on National Public Radio, you already know she was the child of a bomb-making mom and a traveling trailer salesman, whose union was soured by drink and disappointment. She spent her childhood on the move from one rented house to the next: California, Florida, back to California, even Zurich for a while.

Gillespie's itinerant upbringing fueled in her a fear of being homeless, and one of her happiest moments was when she bought her first house. So what if the neighborhood was populated with drug dealers and prostitutes?

That's the premise of Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch: Tales From a Bad Neighborhood, Gillespie's debut book. A collection of columns culled primarily from Creative Loafing, the book is published by Harper Collins subsidiary Regan Books and comes out March 2.

Today, Gillespie, 42, is an international flight attendant and a translator who speaks three languages. She's the twice-divorced mother of 3-year-old Mae, a brown-eyed, curly haired girl who's as talkative as her mom. And she now owns several houses, including some rental properties around town, all in transitional neighborhoods.

Aside from her haphazard childhood, Gillespie's favorite column subjects are her three closest friends: lighting designer Lary Blodgett, artist Daniel Troppy and bartender Grant Henry. Their outlandish exploits have led some readers to suspect the fellas are fictitious -- products of Gillespie's sordid imagination. But they're not. One recent rainy morning, Hollis and her very real pals gathered in Grant's Telephone Factory loft to talk about their friendship, which informs so much of Gillespie's writing.

From reading Hollis' column, this is what we know about you, Lary. You live in a concrete alley. You like acid, cats and guns. You bed beautiful, exotic women, but Hollis secretly thinks you're gay. What can you tell us about yourself that we don't already know?

Lary: That I'm a caring, loving parent.

Hollis: Aaaaahhhh! Oh my God!

Lary: No, I like to keep below the radar. I like to operate in the gray zones.

Hollis: He's building an underground bunker right now. ...

Daniel: We have a bunker here. ...

Hollis: Yeah, the Telephone Factory has a bunker. This is where I'm coming with Mae if anything ever goes down, man. I'll be knocking on the door yelling, "Let me in, you fuckers!"

Grant, you call yourself the happiest man alive. According to Hollis' column, after you got married and raised a family in the suburbs, you discovered you were gay. You also have an alter ego named Sister Louisa who's an excommunicated nun and an artist. What can you tell us about yourself that we don't already know?

Grant: Probably that I'm the squarest man alive.

Hollis: What is this, lie to Creative Loafing day? Oh my God!

Grant: It's true. I'm a responsible parent. The most important thing to me in my whole life is my child. I live my life like I would like my child to live her life.

Hollis: That's why she lives off the coast of Mexico.

Grant: She likes Mexican men! I taught her well. I mean, there's a Navy base there!

Lary: You're an overachiever.

Grant: I'm a recovered overachiever. I used to wear a suit until I went to bed. I had a little gold pocket watch and a three-piece suit, short conservative hair ...

Daniel: Your shoes and your handbag matched.

Grant: It all matched. But in hindsight ... when I was married, we lived in this house for seven years and I redecorated it five times.

Lary: There were hints there.

Grant: Yeah, there were hints there. ...

Lary: Grant didn't discover he was gay, remember? We told him he was gay.

Hollis: I have seen the video from your second wedding reception. You were more gay when you were straight, let me tell ya. You are more macho now that you're out of the closet.

Grant: I never lived a double life, though. When I was married, I was married. ... I was the youngest deacon at the First Presbyterian Church in Marietta. I was on the board. ...

Hollis: (sings) We are the world, we are the world ...

Grant: I was the PTA president of the elementary school when my kids ...

Hollis: (still singing) We are the children. ...

Lary: So what saved you? What pulled you away from all that?

Hollis: He helped build libraries. ...

Lary: He dug ditches in Ghana. ...

Hollis: He went on missions to Borneo where he built mud huts. ... He dewormed puppies with his penis. ... I'm kidding, OK, I'm sorry. ...

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