Mommie Dearest

Potholes, motherhood and high fashion mingle in Miller's populist campaign kickoff

At five minutes till 3, literally as the clouds part, Laura Miller arrives. She strides into the sunlight. She is wearing black pointy-toed, stiletto-heeled Donna Karans; a black pin-striped Richard Tyler suit with an American flag pin in its lapel; and a blue blouse, designer undetermined. She walks like a more feminine John Wayne, slightly bowlegged, swaggering, leading with her shoulders. Maybe it's the shoes. Television cameras and constituents beset her. She glows. Did she sit in her car, waiting for the weather to cooperate? She poses for a picture with Billy Jack Ludwig, towering over him, and, inexplicably, no one laughs.

Wolens takes the podium and asks "folks" to "mosey over." They mosey. Today happens to be Miller's 43rd birthday, so Wolens leads the assembly in singing "Happy Birthday." He shouts, "Mom for mayor!" in the pauses between lines. With Miller standing stage right, Wolens delivers an enthusiastic introduction. He shouts, "It's Miller time!" But the crowd is right there with him, and he leaves the podium hoarse.

And then, finally, after all, it is Miller time. She steps up to the podium. The crowd chants, "We want Laura! We want Laura!" "I want to thank you all for being here on short notice," she tells them, "especially on a day when there was a Cowboy game." This elicits a wan chuckle that suggests only a few present even knew the Cowboy was playing the Eagle today.

Dorit Rabinovitch

Miller's oratorical quarterback rating puts her somewhere between Jake Plummer and Elvis Grbac. She says, "I have a vision for Dallas. It's a big vision of small things that make a big difference in people's lives." She says, "In times like these, being a good mayor is not just about what we can do. It's about what we must do." But the crowd is right there with her, applauding at every pause, going wild after she says, "I've said things I shouldn't have said. I've spoken out of turn. But I'll always say it like it is."

Most striking is that Miller--wife of a state representative, daughter of a Saks Fifth Avenue chairman--somehow manages to come across as Avi Adelman's populist. She will say it like it is, even if that means haranguing certain members of the "establishment," as Miller puts it. Even if that means sometimes using colorful language, including, but not limited to, the word "motherfucking." And who, besides her enemies, wouldn't love such a woman?

After her speech, as Miller shakes hands and hugs people, the reporter reintroduces himself. Miller has met him exactly once, three years ago, but remembers he has a son. Then the reporter reveals the sad nature of his errand. "I know you have a policy against talking to people from the Observer," he says, "but I was hoping I could ask you a few questions." There is tension initially. She mentions unethical reporters. The reporter chooses to believe Miller is referring to other unethical reporters. But then she makes a move as if to pinch the reporter's cheeks and says, "It's only because you're such a sweetheart that I'll talk to you."

Most of the folks have moseyed home by now. Maybe 20 people remain. Miller and the reporter sit down on folding chairs, facing each other.

"The last time I saw you, you were wearing that same pin-striped suit," he says.

"I like this suit. It's the suit I'm most comfortable in, in life. My husband hates the shoes. He thinks they're so ugly because they're pointy, but they go with the suit."

"You had your kids up there onstage. They're sort of your brand now. You know, like, 'Run, Mommy, run.' Do you worry about using them?"

"The only way this works is to make my kids feel like they're part of what's happening. I want them to come to parades with me and learn from this experience and not just feel like I'm off doing something and not with them."

"So you have to resign your City Council seat to run, right?"

"Oh, yes," she says. "I'll write my official letter of resignation Monday and go in to pack up my office."

"What happens if you lose the election?"

"I don't think I'll lose. But if I do, that's OK. I'll spend time with my family. That's what I did for a year after the Observer, before the City Council, and it was one of the best times in my life."

"But that would only be..."

Her youngest, 6-year-old Max, interrupts with a plastic baggie full of sand. Its origin is unknown. Max has had one too many complimentary Cokes. He is wound up and wants Mom to take the sand home for him. This is very important. The baggie of sand must go home with him. He stresses this.

Then Wolens appears and reminds Miller that it is her birthday, after all, and she has a party to attend. She tells him to go on. She'll walk home. But the reporter doesn't have the stomach to make her walk. Plus, there's the issue of Max's sand. So he excuses himself, thanks her. As he drives away, though, she is still standing in Stevens Park, hugging well-wishers. And it's clear that Laura Miller will be hitting the streets, Donna Karans and all.

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