Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Kellie Pickler's Mom: Shame And Regret
Photo originally posted at: Clyde's All Purpose Corner
Choking back tears on the stage at Raleigh’s Walnut Creek Amphitheatre earlier this month, former “American Idol” sweetheart Kellie Pickler sang a song of questions to the mother who abandoned her.
In a church sanctuary not five miles away, Pickler’s mother, Cynthia Malone, prayed once more for the strength to fully forgive herself for deserting Pickler as a toddler.
What was once a mother’s private shame has become national intrigue as Pickler, 21, a budding country music vocalist, penned a song about a little girl’s longing for a vanished mother. “I Wonder” is climbing the Billboard Hot Country Songs list, hitting No. 15 this month.
Malone said it was hard to hear the first words her daughter had spoken to her in a decade uttered in a song on the radio. The lyrics are more mournful than angry, more pitiful than judging, but Pickler poses painful questions:
“Did you think I didn’t need you here/To hold my hand/To dry my tears/Did you even miss me through the years at all?”
The song – and Pickler’s discussions about her tough childhood – unleashed a range of emotions for Malone. Embarrassment faded to anger, which turned to hurt. Now, Malone is using the conversation that Pickler started in a song to speak to strangers about her struggles.
Malone, 38, spoke earlier this month about leaving her daughter and her efforts to escape abusive relationships. She said she is finally free and healthy and wants to help other victims of domestic violence. She has joined with Interact, the domestic violence support center in Wake County, N.C., to assist victims and hopes her unwelcome fame as Pickler’s estranged mom will make them listen.
“I can’t change anybody’s mind or their perception of me,” said Malone, widening dark eyes that match her daughter’s. “But, if I had a dream, it would be to help one girl. To let her know that you don’t have to do it by yourself.” Pickler declined through her publicist, Wes
Vause, to comment for this story. Vause said Pickler’s song captures her thoughts best.
Pickler sings in part: “Forgiveness is such a simple word/But it’s so hard to do when you’ve been hurt.”
Pickler’s father, Clyde “Bo” Pickler Jr., 42, whom Kellie has described as an alcoholic often jailed during her childhood, is behind bars again. He was convicted last week of stealing cars and pawning them for scrap metal, a Stanly County, N.C., Sheriff’s Office official said. Clyde Pickler is also on probation for assaulting his current wife with a steak knife. His attorney did not return calls.
Malone was 16 and a country girl living in Stanly County when she fell for Clyde Pickler. He pulled up to her window at a local McDonald’s drive-thru. She was smitten, and quickly they became a pair.
“He told me everything I wanted to hear,” Malone said. “He told me he loved me, that I was pretty, that he wanted to be there and protect me from my dad. I wholeheartedly believed him.”
Soon, Malone got pregnant with Kellie. She said she resisted family pressure to have an abortion and married Clyde Pickler instead. That was when the trouble started.
The beatings came fast and furious, Malone said. She tried to shield her bulging belly and had to take medicine to temper premature contractions.
Kellie’s birth in 1986 seemed to unleash even more violence in their home. Malone said she called police so many times that officers knew her by name. Once, she said, her husband threw her through a glass shower door and choked her before vanishing. For three days, Malone said, she wrapped Kellie in blankets and hid her behind their bed, in case her husband returned in a rage.
Court and police records from these years are scattered and incomplete. Clyde Pickler was convicted of assault by pointing a gun in 1986; the victim was a family member of Malone’s. Malone described the abuse as far back as 1988 in custody and divorce records.
Malone said she has never known her former husband to harm Kellie.
“He wouldn’t,” she said. “She’s blood. His princess.”
By the summer of 1988, Malone had had enough. She had shut down and could think of little more than survival.
“When you’re in that place, you have to make a decision: her life or yours,” Malone said during an emotional five-hour interview. “I’d given her life, but I didn’t want to lose mine.”
The morning after an immobilizing beating, Malone said, she dropped 2-year-old Kellie off at her in-laws’, stuffed a few items in her car and headed off to hide with family. She grabbed a few baby pictures, Kellie’s baby blanket and the outfit she brought her home from the hospital in.
Malone told no one she was leaving.
A year later, Malone showed up at a custody hearing to try to preserve some custody rights to Kellie. Clyde Pickler’s parents, Clyde Sr. and the late Faye Pickler, asked a judge for full guardianship. Malone said she disappeared again after her husband threatened her life if she reappeared.
Malone stayed gone for many years. She would drive by her former in-laws’, though, and park near the road to catch a glimpse of Kellie playing in the yard. She looked happy, Malone recalled.
In 1995, Malone got herself together enough to reunite with her daughter. A judge granted her custody. Kellie was in the fourth grade.
Malone said it was good for about a day; the two baked cookies and played checkers.
Soon, their relationship unraveled. Malone said Kellie desperately longed for her grandparents. She threw fits and threatened to kill herself, Malone said. Kellie’s grandparents alleged in court records that Malone abused Kellie; a judge found her not guilty of child abuse.
Eventually Malone surrendered, heartbroken. She turned Kellie back over to the Picklers and took off again.
“I don’t know what was hardest,” Malone said — “watching her from afar or having her wrapped up beside me.”
It has been 10 years since the two have met. Malone said she lived for the glimpses of her daughter on “American Idol” in 2006. She recorded each episode and watched it again and again. She raves about Kellie’s voice.
In the years since they have parted, Malone has struggled. She said she survived a series of violent relationships and barely escaped with her life in 2002. An estranged husband lay in wait for her, Malone said, and attacked her. She suffered major brain damage and had to learn to walk and talk again. She has had eight surgeries to rebuild a shattered face and replace her teeth.
Pickler landed a recording deal with BNA Records and 19 Recordings and left to launch her career. She fills her mom in on her adventure in the last verse of “I Wonder.”
“And just in case you’re wondering about me/From now on I won’t be in Carolina/Your little girl is off/Your little girl is off/Your little girl is off to Tennessee.”
Source: The Buffalo News as reported by Mandy Locke.
I wonder why it is all of the female idol contestants feel compelled to train wreck the national anthem.
When I found this video on YouTube, I found the following comments on Kellie kind of interesting.
dipatti (9 hours ago)
Kellie, who is "THEY" that "kicked you off" and might get "you in trouble"? I thought so HIGHLY of you until hearing this junk! It was your fellow citizens who voted other contestants on ahead of you--not the Idol staff "kicking you off." And IF you are "in trouble" then it's because YOU violated the terms of your contract with them. IF you badmouthed them, you were revealing your own negativity. For the sake of the Kellie Pickler that we love, please be more reasonable!
aimeechrister (5 days ago)
Of course Kellie Pickler is better than Kelly Clarkson, and quite a lot more famous than Kelly is as well, that's why Kellie has been the most searched person on the web so many times while Kelly "whats her face" never is. But it's not fair to compare Kelly "whats for face" to Pickler because when it comes to personality Kellie outshines most in the entertainment business. That's why she is the most searched while the others "aren't".
aimeechrister (6 days ago)
Where is Kellie now, right now she is singing on the hottest tour in country music today, not that I'm surprised that it became the hottest tour since Kellie is performing on it. And where is Kelly Clarkson? The last I heard she cancelled her tour this summer because she couldn't get anyone to buy her tickets. Doesn't sound too promising, but hey, if things don't work out for Clarkson maybe Sanjaya will be nice enough to hire her as a backup singer or something.
I didn't realize that Pickler fans are so jealous of Kelly Clarkson's career that they would make such ridiculous comments as the last two. It seems that their attitudes are as nasty as Pickler's singing. The first comment, well, I just found it funny.
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