Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mary Kay Stout

It's amazing the number of places a person can live in during college days. . .dorm rooms with six people, dorm rooms with two, apartments off-campus, hanging off of hillsides or just around the bend, basement apartments in old brick homes, and nice duplexes a drive away.

I did all of that, at one time or another, harvesting a number of fascinating roommates.

I won't soon forget the first day I met Mary K. Stout. She was living already in an apartment where I moved in, sort of a basement for five, six if you really pushed it.

She had a room filled with shoes. Imelda Marcos truly had nothing on her. And she had a yellow duvet cover on her twin-sized bed, with butterflies on it. The room smelled of shoes and duvet. She seemed an unlikely candidate for any particular fame, but she was clearly a lovely person, a few years older than I, working on an advanced degree in organizational behavior and business.

I didn't take much particular notice until another roommate told me that I should pay attention to Mary Kay's purse.

Her purse?

It was a Coach bag. I'd never seen one before, being a neophyte from the sticks of Wyoming, where I'm sure at that time Coach bags were a fairly endangered species. Wait. To be endangered they'd have to have been there at all. Pretty sure that wasn't the case. Wyoming was then a Coach-free zone, I can almost with surety swear.

Anyway, roommate #2 said Mary Kay's father had been someone famous, part-owner of the California Angels, a famous attorney, and Mary Kay was reasonably well heeled.

I wouldn't have known it. I was lost in a maze of shoes and duvet.

But, as I said, Mary Kay was lovely, salt of the earth. Would take her shirt off for you if you were cold. Would pay for an airline ticket for you if your father was dying, and not expect repayment.

Yes, Mary Kay. I haven't forgotten.

Mary Kay never really seemed Provo. She was really all East Coast meets California, but not the places in-between. Washington, D.C.? Yes. LA? Yes. But not Provo.

Well, I had a lot of adventures with Mary Kay, and she was very much like a big sister to me for the time I knew her. But that was a lifetime ago. I learned a lot observing her. She wrote the numbers on her own checks, so not to pay a monthly service charge. She was the first person I knew who had a money market account. She knew who was consulting for Mars, and how they were paying for their homes. She had a brother-in-law on the Anthropology Department faculty at BYU, for whom she frequently housesat. And paid bills in their absence. She worked on handicapped accessibility for businesses. She was a good friend to those who knew her.

Mary Kathryn Stout.

There's a scene from the movie "About a Boy" that always reminds me, in the oddest of ways, of Mary Kay. It's the scene where Hugh Grant's character admits that his claim to fame, and his means of support, is that his father wrote a very famous Christmas song, "Santa's Super Sleigh."

I randomly associate that fictitious anecdote with Gene Autry, who was for all practical purposes Mary Kay's godfather, since her father, attorney Clair Stout, was Gene Autry's personal attorney and business partner, famous in both D.C. and L.A. at one time or another, vice-president of The Autry Foundation.

Mary Kay disappeared from my life. Last I knew she was in L.A., doing consulting. Her mom had built a huge new home.

But perusing the pages of a Salt Lake City newspaper some months ago, I came across this article, about a woman, celebrating her 100th birthday: "Spry, Stout Lady Marks Milestone." The story was later picked up by USA Today.

It was my Mary Kay's mother, Iris Stout. Mary Kay, if you're out there, I wonder, like I do about the star, where you are. I'm here. And I'm okay.

Oh, and I know a lot more about Coach bags now. A lot more.


Leslie said...

Mary Kay had a big effect on me, too, and I'd love to find her. I worked with her at the consulting firm you referenced, and I ended up pursuing a career first in consulting and now in leadership development. I've tried to find Mary Kay through social networking sites to no avail.

Anonymous said...

Mary Kay magic continues in Southern California. She still lives in West L.A./Santa Monica which her footprints have left wide smiles on the faces of many.