Fayette County

Col. Sanders’ sex life, Zsa Zsa’s julep — life in Kentucky as seen by Don Edwards

Actress and socialite Zsa Zsa Gabor with Preston Madden at the 1988 Kentucky Derby.
Actress and socialite Zsa Zsa Gabor with Preston Madden at the 1988 Kentucky Derby. Staff file photo

Columnist Don Edwards, who died Tuesday at age 75, wrote thousands of Herald-Leader columns over 22 years chronicling Bluegrass life and foibles. Here is a sampling:


Sunday, May 8, 1988

“I want a mint julep,” said Zsa Zsa Gabor. “I’ve never had a mint julep.”

She didn’t get it.

It was noon yesterday, take-off time for the helicopter to leave the Hamburg Place polo field and fly to Louisville, where Gabor was scheduled to present the winner’s trophy in the fourth race at Churchill Downs.

A few minutes later, she was 1,000 feet in the air over the undulating green landscape of the Bluegrass, working on her makeup.

“I’m petrified of helicopters, darling,” she said. “I’ve only flown in one before this, when Mr. (Chuck) Yeager took me on a ride at Las Vegas. Do you know him? He’s the one who broke the sound barrier.”

She talked about men. “When I was a baby, I am told, whenever a woman would approach my crib, I would scream. Whenever a man approached, I would coo and giggle.”

She showed two wallet snapshots that she always carries with her.

They were faded, black-and-white photographs of her and the late actor George Sanders, her third husband, who committed suicide in 1972, leaving behind a note that said he had seen all of life and was bored with it.

“He was my great love,” she said. “I adored him completely. He was a difficult man.”

By the time the helicopter touched down at Louisville, she had enjoyed the ride. “How much would this helicopter cost?” she asked pilot Scott Runyan.

“About $500,000,” he said.

“I want it,” she said. “Would you like to work for me?”

Runyan laughed.

“I want a mint julep,” she said, as a van took her and horseman Preston Madden, her host, to a waiting limousine with a police escort.

She didn’t get it.

She forgot about the julep the second she spotted a souvenir stand. The limo and police cruiser had to wait while she went shopping.

She bought Derby sweat shirts, key chains, sets of drinking glasses, sun visors — a pile of merchandise in a few moments.

“That’ll be $174.90,” said the vendor.

She had her money out when Madden stepped up, said, “Allow me,” and placed two $100 bills in the vendor’s hand.

“You are the first man who ever gave me back my money,” Gabor told him, smiling and batting her eyelashes.

“I’m just glad you weren’t standing at Tiffany’s,” said Madden.

Fifteen minutes later, the limo arrived at the Downs.

“I want a mint julep,” she said.

She didn't get it. She stopped to shop for Derby T-shirts instead.

Finally, just before the fourth race, she made it to the President’s Room of the Downs clubhouse.

“I want a mint julep,” she said. She got it. She stood on a balcony and took one sip as the crowd below screamed up at her: “Hey, Zsa Zsa, baby!”

Then she dashed off to present the race trophy.

When she returned, she put the julep aside. “Only one tiny drink, sweetheart, is all I can take. Now I want a no-calorie Coca-Cola.”

“Zsa Zsa,” everyone kept asking her, “who are you betting on in the Derby?”

“The filly, darling,” she said. “I want a winner.”

She got it.


Tuesday, January 16, 1996

How many white people were willing to get up before daylight on a cold morning to help celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day?

Well, there were about 40 among a total audience of about 325 at a ballroom in the Hyatt Regency Hotel at 7:30 a.m. yesterday.

It was Lexington's second annual “Unity Breakfast” honoring King. The event was sponsored by a fraternity, but it was open to the public -- anyone could buy a ticket.

The fact that so few whites did in a community that is 85 percent white says something. Actually, it probably says a lot of things. But the something I'm thinking of is this: To many white people, the King holiday is seen as a black holiday in which they have no stake. They tolerate it, but they do not endorse it. And of course, some bitterly opposed having it as a holiday in the first place.

Not everyone agreed with King when he said that Americans must learn “to live together as brothers or perish together as fools” — even though you can see the truth of that every day simply by glancing at the headlines in a newspaper.

Of course, if you had wanted to see a traffic jam going to that breakfast yesterday -- some real community unity -- try throwing in a couple of star UK basketball players and the coach and then see how many tickets you'd sell.

That's what Lexington is like. Basketball is more popular than unity (or almost anything else). But here's also what Lexington is like: Mayor Pam Miller and UK professor Carolyn Curry (wife of the football coach) spoke at the breakfast yesterday. Miller had been at the historic Washington civil rights march where King made his famous speech about judging people by the content of their characters rather than by the color of their skin. Curry had been at King’s funeral in Atlanta in 1968.

Interfaith Samaritan Counseling Center director Richard Landon talked about people who judge race relations based on “What will my friends think?” instead of based on “What will God think?”

Urban County Councilman George A. Brown Jr. challenged people to “not sit back and watch injustice . . . step up and speak out against it . . . save the children.”

Bank One Community Development Center manager Raymond Smith urged listeners to “look inward before taking a stance outward . . . and be a positive force for unity, peace and harmony in a non-violent manner.”

Kentucky State University President Mary L. Smith warned that “without education, we will revert to slavery — the difference is, this time, we will have enslaved ourselves.”

KSU professor Alvin M. Seals talked about how King's holiday is becoming “not a means to an end, but an end in itself.”

And he drew a lot of applause when he talked about the need for “8,000 to 10,000 permanent new jobs, a magnet school at every school site and a liberation theology in every pulpit, temple and synagogue.”

These were all reasonable people. They were intelligent, they were concerned, they were spiritual and they want to do something constructive about the divisions in Lexington that are leading more and more to hatred and violence.

Only one thing was missing.

I’m sorry to break it down along racial lines, but if you looked at all of the people sitting in that ballroom yesterday morning, the question that couldn’t help but come to mind was:

Where are the rest of the white people?

You will know when unity has arrived in Lexington. You’ll see it at the Unity Breakfast table.


Sunday, March 15, 1992

“What I want to know,” said Barbara Jean, “is what are all those Secret Service agents protecting Bill Clinton from? The draft’s over.”

“Don’t pay any attention to her, darling,” said Buffy Bleugrazz, our pseudonymous social arbiter. “She’s been watching far too much television.”

“What I want to know,” said Barbara Jean, “is after Tammy Faye Bakker gets divorced and starts dating again, what’ll she say when some guy says, 'Tell me all about yourself'?”

“Really, darling, who cares?” said Buffy.

“What I want to know,” said Barbara Jean, “is why our tax dollars are going to be dumped into the campaign of some doofus running for governor of Kentucky? Why in the world are we giving working people's money to politicians?”

“She also watches KET, darling,” said Buffy.

Barbara Jean is Buffy’s rural cousin. I asked her what she thought about the economy.

“The depression's ending in my hometown of Duckville,” she said. “I was there last weekend and saw three cars in a row with all four hubcaps. Plus the mayor just bought a new mobile home with his gold card.”

“That’s encouraging.”

“It sure is, but what I want to know is how many checks do I have to bounce to get into the U.S. House of Representatives?”

“Some questions are unanswerable, darling,” said Buffy. “That’s what late winter is, you know — the season of unanswerable questions.”

“Such as?” we asked.

“Oh, you know,” said Buffy. “Which kind of hair conditioner should I try next? Is it time to worry about osteoporosis? How can I meet men who don’t want to borrow my clothes?”

“Don’t let her kid you,” said Barbara Jean. “The only men she doesn’t want to meet are in the cemetery.”

“Do you two have any insights on what’s chic this spring?” we asked.

“The accent will be on recovery, darling,” Buffy said. “If your farm has been sold at auction and your spouse is in jail, don't mention it. Make happy talk.”

“What I hate about this time of year is that it makes me feel so old,” said Barbara Jean.

“How old are you?” we asked.

“Are you kidding?” said Barbara Jean. “I can remember when Calumet had money and Keeneland didn’t sell T-shirts.”


September 24, 1996

OK, four words:

Colonel Sanders’ sex life.

If those four words won’t keep you reading this column, what does it take?

The real question is: Will they cause you to spend $25 for a new 376-page book called “The Colonel’s Secret”? The book is subtitled: Eleven Herbs and a Spicy Daughter.

That’s because the author is Margaret Sanders, eldest daughter of the late Harland Sanders, originator of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

But the colonel’s sex life?

The grandfatherly, white-haired old gent in the TV commercials?

Yep, it’s one of those books about an American icon where family skeletons come out in public.

For example, Margaret Sanders writes about her father’s mistress, a divorced woman with two children, who Sanders (what a salesman!) actually talked his wife into hiring to “help her with the housework.” The book relates:

“It was evident from the beginning that her presence would create turmoil...The peace of our whole family was altered by their affair.

“Mother refused to accept that she alone could not satisfy Father’s physical needs, which from the very beginning of their marriage had seemed excessive to her...”

Later, she writes, Sanders divorced his wife and married his mistress - and then took both women to Washington, D.C., with him to attend a presidential inauguration.

(Hey, would this guy have fit into the Clinton administration or what?)

And that was just the beginning. Here, as written by his daughter, is a snapshot of the colonel toward the end of his life:

“Noah Dietrich, the famous associate of the even more famous Howard Hughes, lived across the street from me (in Palm Springs).

“Noah’s wife, Mary, the grandmother of Bridget Fonda, brought Noah over to my house... Father was approaching 90 and Noah was 92. They sat with their canes shoved down beside them...swapping tales with loud guffaws.

“Suddenly, during a lull in our conversation, we heard Father say, ‘Noah, I had sex until my 83rd birthday. How long did you have sex?’

“We ladies gasped, waiting for the answer. To Noah’s great fortune and Mary’s relief,the doorbell rang...”

Well, well. Maybe there IS some secret ingredient in that fried chicken, after all.

But some readers of the book might disagree with Margaret Sanders’ description of herself as the “spicy” daughter.

Perhaps “flaky” would be a better adjective. This is, after all, a woman who searched for the lost continent of Atlantis, tried to add to Einstein’s theory of relativity, takes credit for “the revolutionary concept” of take-out fried chicken stores and was married five times.

She is a talented artist. It’s her sculpture of her father that overlooks his grave in a Louisville cemetery.

And she’s a pretty good storyteller. The book is full of family photos, personal revelations and memorable anecdotes, such as the time Colonel Sanders spotted a hard working table buser in a fried chicken restaurant in Indianapolis and predicted that the kid would be a big success one day.

He was right. The table buser turned out to be Dave Thomas, who later founded Wendy’s and, like Sanders, starred in his own ads.

Margaret Sanders, 86, who once lived in Lexington, is scheduled to return next month and autograph her book at Joseph-Beth Booksellers on Oct. 5.

And please. No finger-lickin’-good jokes.