If you follow Jason Dottley on Twitter or his page on Facebook, you have seen him quote his Grandmother, Jessie quite often. Like this one he posted tonight, as I am writing this: “you can’t hide old when you get old. And she looks old.” (Referring to Betty White). I interviewed Jason last week about his upcoming album, Take This, and his Kickstarter campaign to raise money to produce it. During one of our exchanges, he was quoting his Grandmother and I had the idea to interview her as well. She always has something to say about what is going on and her own story is quite fascinating. What I didn’t know at the time was how much of a pioneer she was for her time. Talk about women’s movement! She graduated from Junior college at a time before it was popular for women to do so. As a young woman, she played basketball and even picked cotton. She and her husband owned a very successful business and she raised two children. She has shown amazing support for her grandson, Jason and for he gay community as well. She even has her own Facebook Fan Page!
Jessie Simmons is one of two daughters from a small town in the country in Mississippi. She was born in 1925 and was married to her one and only husband James for nearly 60 years. She went to junior college in Senatobia, Mississippi, a level of education that was rare for a woman to achieve at that time. Her family did not have electricity or running water until after she was married and had left home. She and her husband, James, started a grain bin storage company called Simmons & Belk in the early 1970′s and transformed it from a small state-wide business to one of the largest grain storage companies in the world. She and James retired in Cleveland, Mississippi, in the early 1990′s. She was asked often to model for the high end clothing stores around the area and she always refused. She gave birth to one son, Jimmy, and adopted Sherry (Jason’s mom) in the mid 1960′s. She has three grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren (“about three too many” she says). Jason blames his taste for expensive things on his grandmother, and thanks her for letting him borrow her diamonds whenever he wants!
Simmons & Belk Grain Bin Storage Company
Jessie has been to Jacksonville Gay Pride, Jacksonville’s Club Metro where she saw Jason’s filthy one man show then hung out till 1AM to see him perform Pop It. She has been to Delta Burke’s 50th Birthday party at the famous drag show/lounge The Rose Room in Dallas where she saw her first drag show and loved it! She has seen Jason on stage in Lisbon Traviata, Sordid Lives and performing his music. She also visited the set of Sordid Lives the Series so to see him film his first TV show.
Q: Tell me a little about you, where did you grow up?
A: Ripley, Mississippi, a town of about 3,000 people. There might not have been over 2. It was a small town.
Q: What were some of your hobbies/interests as a child?
A: Playing ball, basketball and softball in high school and junior college. I started working for my daddy when I was about 9 picking cotton. I would pick 250 pounds of cotton a day.
Q: Your grandson, Jason Dottley is a very talented performer and actor. Does talent run in the family?
Q: Did you always know Jason would be a star?
A: I knew he could be.
Q: Who are some of your all-time favorite musical acts or artists?
A: I love ol Clark Gable about as good as any of them.
Q: In the interview I recently did with Jason, I drew a comparison of him to Elvis. Do you see a little of Elvis in your grandson?
A: I sure do!
Q: What do you think of Madonna and how about her new perfume?
A: I ain’t so crazy about Madonna.
Q: I heard that you flew to Los Angeles to help Jason find something to wear for Madonna’s party for her album Music, where he met his idol. What was that like, watching him get ready and find the perfect outfit?
A: Jason was very hard to please. I ended up getting him some black Gucci pants and an Yves St. Laurent shirt at Barnie’s – the day of the party. When we got home with everything tailored, Jason didn’t have one single pair of black dress socks!
Q: If Jason could work with any artist, past or present, who would you choose for him to do a duet with?
A: I’m excited for him to work with Tammy Wynette’s daughter Georgette on his new album.
Q: Thoughts on gay marriage?
A: I think it should be legal. (Jessie was one of 4 of Jason’s family members in attendance at his 2003 wedding to Del Shores in Malibu).
Q: What is your opinion of Sarah Palin and the rest of the Palins?
A: I’m not fond of her.
the invite to see madonna
Q: How about those Kardashians? Any thoughts on them?
Q: Thoughts on President Obama?
A: I’m not fond of him.
Q: Who is your all-time favorite US President?
A: Ronald Reagan about as good as any of them.
Q: Any advice or wisdom you would like to pass on to the readers?
A: You have to work hard at it, life. You have to stay with it.
I would like to extend my thanks to Jessie and Jason for agreeing to do this. I had so much fun and learned a little something about the woman behind the quotes I read online. I am sure she would LOVE it if you liked her Facebook Page (Drop by to say hello and tell her I sent you ) and visited her Grandson’s Kickstarter page