From his white and brown cowhide cowboy boots to his black leather jacket atop a tucked-into-jeans black t-shirt to his rhinestone-encrusted cat-eye sunglasses to his buzz cut, George Ewing exudes health and confidence. Emblazoned on his t-shirt: "On no … let me handle that"—Spud Stud Magic Words that typify his take on life.
A Clinton native, Ewing, 45, is Jackson's landscape architect. Among mundane duties, Ewing uses his Mississippi State degree to design fun for folks of all ages. He's particularly fond of the changes made to Poindexter Park. "It's across the street from my parents' first apartment. The newest structure was a WPA pavilion. We put in benches, a water fountain, lights, a good framework for future improvements," he said. "The rewards are not monetary."
Ewing's good health was earned the hard way: with Jill Conner Browne as his personal trainer beginning 10 years ago, then in May 1996 when he entered treatment for alcoholism. "Jill's a ball of fun. Her message 365 days a year is that it's OK to have fun so you can go back and deal with whatever you're dealing with." She was there for him when he went into recovery, too.
Being sober has been freeing for him. "I don't have to worry about what people think; they're not paying my bills. I have permission to have fun." And he's discovered he's a lot more fun sober than drunk. "It was an epiphany."
Since he first got involved with the Sweet Potato Queens, Ewing has evolved into Head Wannabe. It was a couple of years before his mama sewed him some green sequin shorts. "You know you're loved when your mama will sew sequin material for you," Ewing told me, grinning.
For several weekends prior to the St. Paddy's Day parade, Ewing and the queens and their entourage work on their float, out at his parents' 10 acres. The structure hasn't gotten any bigger, just the foam body-part enhancements encased in green sequins. Ewing doesn't get to ride, though, like he did in his first parade 10 years ago, in a fire-engine red Camaro. "They're building the float at my house, and they won't let me ride on it. I've tried, but guilt doesn't work on Sweet Potato Queens."
Hey, but no one else got to have a strip of masking tape on their dressing room door at Warner Brothers in Hollywood that said "SPQ Drag Queen." Ewing smiled slowly and said, "And it wasn't anything I did other than be a friend."