Now that we’ve gotten past the sensational early portions of Paula Deen’s MASSIVE SPECTACULAR fall from grace, the New York Times is doing what they do: Digging ever deeper into the story. I think the fact that Deen’s multi-million dollar empire has begun to crumble because of a couple of reported isolated incidences speaks volumes about what was not reported. Besides a select portion of her fans, there haven’t been many people at all to come out in defense of Deen, something that might have quelled the controversy. Why? As the Times digs deeper, it seems that they are finding that the reason no one is coming to her defense is because there’s probably even more to the story. That racism likely runs deep, and I suspect it’s as much felt as it is spoken by the people that have worked for her. That’s why they don’t want to defend her.
For instance, the Times profiles a couple of Deen’s former cooks, one of whom — Dora Charles — worked with Deen for 22 years. Deen called Charles her “soul sister,” and built her empire, in part, on the back of Dora Charles. Of Charles, Deen wrote in her 2007 memories, ““If I lost Dora, I would have been devastated.” What did Charles get in exchange? Ten dollars an hour and the promise that, one day, if Paula Deen were to get rich, so would Dora Charles.
Dora Charles now has a bum shoulder and lives in an aging trailer home. So much for that promise. However, when Charles filed a complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, SUDDENLY her salary was raised to $71,000. What great timing.
Meanwhile, altough Deen denies it, another former cook, Ineata Jones, with whom she was also so close that Deen nicknamed her “Jellyroll,” was reportedly asked to dress like Aunt Jemima, according to the Times.
Ms. Deen used Ms. Jones for restaurant theater. At 11 a.m., when the doors opened at the Lady & Sons, she stood in front and rang an iron dinner bell, something she had asked Mrs. Charles to do as well. An image of Ms. Jones doing just that was turned into a postcard sold at Paula Deen stores.
Ms. Jones was also in charge of making hoecakes, the cornmeal pancakes served to every guest. Ms. Deen had designed a station so diners could watch them being made. At both jobs, Mrs. Charles and other employees said, Ms. Deen wanted Ms. Jones to dress in an old-style Aunt Jemima outfit.
Jones, for her part, will not speak ill of Deen, having signed a contract of some sort stipulating that Deen had not discriminated against her based on race. I don’t often use my law license, but I believe in the business that is what we like to call a SHUT THE F*** UP contract, which usually comes with a wink a little spending money.