Don’t let me be misunderstood: On Christine Beatty’s ‘Essence’ interview

Christine Beatty in Essence November 2013I hopped in my car, put on my shades, plugged in my iPhone, put my playlist on shuffle and took off down the road.

My mission: To get my hands on the November issue of “Essence” magazine as soon as possible. I just had to read every word of Christine Beatty’s tell all – the joy, the pain, the love, the loss – before any of my friends. This story was guaranteed to be Detroit’s, “50 Shades of Local Politics.” It was going to be good.

The first song blared through my speakers: Bobby Womack’s version of, “Nobody Wants You When You’re Down and Out.” The bass line and his soulful delivery made me lean back in my seat and get into the groove. He sung about living high, falling low, struggling to get back on his feet again, and realizing his friends were only around as long as things were good. It sounded just like a line I read in a sneak peek report outlining Ms. Beatty’s confessional where she talked about what she went through after serving time in jail for perjury.

“I had nothing,” she intoned, adding, “… my requests and subsequent follow-up calls (to former friends for job leads) were usually met with a hollow, ‘Let me get back to you.’”

Next came the old school slow jam, “As We Lay,” by Shirley Murdock. I eased off the gas, feeling my mood become melancholy as Shirley’s sweet but sorrow-filled soprano told the story of a woman dealing with stolen moments with a clandestine love, not thinking about the consequences until it was much too late. It was just like another line I read in that story, describing what it was like when she and Mr. Kilpatrick had their first intimate encounter.

“I knew immediately that we had crossed a line, but there was no turning back,” Beatty said, adding she was “totally consumed” by the affair but she insisted she “did not sleep her way” into her appointment as the mayor’s Chief of Staff.

“Siri,” I asked my phone when I pulled up to a red light.
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“Have you read Ms. Beatty’s story already? These song choices just seem too coincidental.”

“I do not understand your question,” she responded as the light turned green.

I went back to my playlist and the next song queued up. A mournful guitar came through the speakers, followed by the plaintive voices of k.d. lang and Roy Orbison singing the classic, “Crying.” Clearly, Siri had a sense of humor.

I couldn’t help but remember another line from that sneak peek – the moment Ms. Beatty had to tell her now ex-husband Lou (the man, according to this report, she says is the true “love of  her life,” not Mr. Kilpatrick as she says many may assume) about her affair.

“I could barely breath,” she said. “As I explained and tried to apologize, he walked over to the liquor cabinet, poured himself a drink, and downed the entire glass. It would be years before he would be able to forgive me.” She then went on to describe how she went to her pastor, falling to her knees, sobbing as she begged for forgiveness and her shame over “the hurt (she) caused Kwame’s wife and children.”

By this time, I’d reached the parking lot of my favorite bookstore, but I didn’t get out of the car. As Peggy Lee pleaded, “Is That All There Is,” I decided I wouldn’t spend one thin dime on Christine’s “journey of self-forgiveness,” a journey for which Ms. Beatty was paid an undisclosed amount of money. Who needed a melodramatic magazine article when I had my iPhone playlist?

As I pulled out of the parking lot and headed home, “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” came up next. It was as though Christine was using Nina Simone in a last ditch effort to show me how good her intentions were, how she’s becoming whole again.

“I’ve come to understand that while you can’t help how you feel,” she’s been quoted as saying, “you are in control of your actions.”

Better late than never on those life lessons, right Chris?

Within minutes, I was back at home. If I was going to be entertained by political machinations, I at least wanted it to seem genuine. I put on my favorite pajamas, popped some popcorn, and watched poor, misunderstood Lonesome Rhodes beguile then bedevil poor, misunderstood Marcia Jeffries in, “A Face in the Crowd.”

Tracey Morris

Tracey Morris is the author of, “You Said You Wanted to See Me Naked: An Autobiographical Poem Cycle.” Her work has recently been published by Rust Belt Chic Press, and she was a finalist in the 2013 Springfed Arts Writing Contest.