The 49ers: Oral Histories of Americans Facing 50
2012 Column Contest Winner
Over some eighteen months, right up until the eve of his own 50th birthday, Rob Trucks interviewed more than 200 49-year-olds. This is some of what they said.
#136: Lynne Austin.
BY Rob Trucks
Lynne Austin was born on Tax Day, 1961 in Plant City, Florida, and now lives less than 60 miles to the west in Crystal Beach. Most of her life has been lived in between those two points. Austin was Playboy’s Playmate of the Month for July 1986 as well as the original Hooters Girl, the first face of the now international restaurant chain founded in Clearwater. She is the mother of four: a son from her marriage with former Phillies catcher Darren Daulton and three daughters with her current husband Ron Lacey. After serving as co-host of the now-defunct Hooters Nation Morning Show, Austin is now the Tampa Bay Rays correspondent for 98.7 The Fan.
We talked ten days before her 50th birthday, an occasion she tried more than once to ignore.
My mom came over last night. “What are you doing? You can’t tell me you’re not having a party.” I said, “I absolutely refuse. I refuse.” You know, it’s one of those things where it’s like, “Wow. Really? You’re that age?” I mean, you’re half dead. You’re halfway there. You’re more than halfway there. What is there to celebrate about that shit?
I’m very quiet at home. As a matter of fact, you know, my husband, that’s one of our issues. Every marriage has issues, but my issue is he says, “The listening audience from 7 a.m. to 9 am gets the best part of you. And then when you come home, you’re quiet. You don’t have any stories to tell. You don’t have anything funny to say. You just are quiet.” And that’s kind of true to an extent. It really is. If it’s my job, or I’m expected to, then I don’t mind being the class asshole, but if it’s not my job, I’m okay doing my own thing. And probably I have very few close friends. Maybe four girlfriends who are close. I hang mostly by myself. I’ve always been kind of a lone wolf. I spend most of my day by myself. I’d rather go to lunch with myself and go shopping with myself than hang out with anybody else [laughs]. So I don’t know. Maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s why I don’t want a birthday party. Or I just simply don’t care, you know. I don’t care. I don’t care what number I’m turning. It doesn’t mean anything. It means a lot and it means nothing.
My husband is a scratch golfer, so we spend a lot of time at the club. And if you had to ask his golfing buddies to describe me they would just say, probably, “Aloof.” I just don’t have anything to say unless it’s behind a microphone. I don’t think I’m that interesting unless I’m talking about my Rays, which is the love of my life, my passion, the Tampa Bay Rays.
You know what? If there’s one thing I wanted to do but I’m probably too shy to do it’s stand-up. I would love to do stand-up. Not because I think I’m greatly funny, but because I love to laugh. It’s my favorite thing besides breathing. I really want to breathe for a long fucking time to come, but I love to laugh. I’d love to learn how to do stand-up, but I don’t know. I don’t know if I could do it.
Here’s the deal. I’ll be honest with you. I like me better than I like most other people [laughs]. I entertain myself and amuse myself more than most other people do. I like me so much better now than when I was half my age.
I rarely talk about Playboy unless it’s brought up by someone else. I talk about Hooters because I’m on the Hooters Nation Morning Show. I just don’t really view myself that way, but there are still people that are amazed and taken aback, whatever, about the whole Playboy thing. They still just are, “Wow, you were a Playmate.” And I get that. I get that. There’s a very select few women out there that can claim they were in the center of Playboy magazine. I mean, if Playboy’s been around 50 years, do the math. Times 12. That’s how many women are around that have said, “I was a centerfold.” So I get that. A very small, select group of women. Also, there’s no other woman on the planet that can say, “These hams right here are the original Hooters [laughs].” There’s no other woman out there that can say, “I am the original Hooters Girl.” I was the very first hired out of this billion dollar company. So I get it. That’s a small selection, so that in and of itself makes people go, “Wow, that’s very, very cool.” But there are people that are stuck there. Just like in any walk of life, stuck in the ‘80s, stuck in the ‘70s, stuck in the whatever. And they’re stuck there in 1986, but they’re this tiny, tiny fraction. Most of the people think it’s kind of a cool thing, and then that’s it. It’s over. I’m just Lynne, you know. I’m just me now. I’m one of the boys.
I was at a dermatologist, I don’t know, six months ago, and I was talking to one of the girls, and I’m like, “Oh, I think it’s time to start getting a little tweak here and there.” And she’s like, “No, no, no, your skin’s doing good.” I’m like, “No, I really… I hate my jawline right now. I want to plump it up or something.” And she said, “Well, there was an 82 year-old in here yesterday getting Botox.” And my first response was, “What the fuck for? Who cares?” But then I had to step back and go, “Well, she cares.” You know what? Maybe she was a pretty woman and it’s just hard to put that gauntlet down. It’s hard to say, “I’m okay not feeling pretty. I’m okay not looking at myself in the mirror and thinking I look pretty.”
I think it’s harder. And this is not coming from a conceited thing, but I also was runner-up in Miss Florida USA. I was runner-up in Miss Playboy International. I won $10,000 over in Hong Kong one year. So it’s probably a general consensus, when I was younger I was pretty. So I think sometimes it’s harder for pretty girls that are celebrated for their prettiness to get older. It really is hard. When I look back at my old pictures I think, “Wow. What a baby face. I can’t believe I had that baby face.” But when I look in the mirror now I see a much funnier, more attractive woman. Certainly not from the neck down because I’ve had four kids, but I like my face better now. I like the shape of my face. I like my cheekbones that have come out. I’ve lost my baby fat. I’ve lost that “What the fuck am I doing?” look in my eyes. And I like that so much better. But that’s not cool, you know. It’s not cool to be 50. It’s not cool. It’s not sexy to be 50. Who wants to fuck a 50 year old? I don’t even want to fuck a 50-year-old and I’m married to one.
When I was 20 I wasn’t a conceited asshole, but when I walked in a room I expected everyone to look at me because I was me. That’s just what happened. I walked in a room. Everybody looked at me. In my 30s, I was still a pretty woman, but I was busy getting married and unmarried and having babies and making a nest, and so even though I was pretty I didn’t care because my brain was so gone beyond that. In my 40s, once my kids started getting up and into school, I started to reclaim, like, “Hey, wait a minute. I can still fucking rock this. I’ve got this. Are you kidding me? This is like breathing. I can do this.” But you walk in a room and nobody really… you just are one of the other older ladies, you know what I mean?
I don’t know. In the last ten years, maybe not even ten years, maybe like five, six years of my life, I’ve kind of turned that corner from being that pretty girl. And I still get people that’ll say, “You’re attractive,” or “You’re pretty for your age,” which I absolutely fucking hate. You know what? Do or don’t. You’re fucking pretty or you’re not.
I’ve thought a lot of, “What do I want to do?” But it’s not, “What do I want to do because my time is running out,” it’s just “What do I want to do?”
I’ve been lucky in that things have always landed in my lap. You know, I was a telephone operator when I was just doing bikini contests, at my mom’s urging, and Hooters found me on the beach. And then I quit my job as a telephone operator and became a waitress and then Playboy came calling. And then after Playboy I got married to Darren, who I was set up with on a blind date, and then it was like this whirlwind of being a major league baseball player’s wife, which is, you know, kind of fun. I mean, the steroid aspect and the hard drinking and the hard playing and the hard living and all that aside, you know, the other shit is fun. And so I was that, you know. And that, in and of itself, gets you attention. I mean, you are the player’s wife. Everywhere you go, you know, you’re little princesses. And so then I undid that, and got married and had babies just bam, bam, bam.
I’m not a crier. I don’t like sad movies. I don’t do girlie shit. I’ve never even seen Titanic. I don’t watch epics. I don’t do any sad shit. I don’t like to cry. My husband’s maybe seen me cry—I don’t know—ten times in our marriage. I just am not a crier. And I didn’t cry at my son’s high school graduation. And everybody’s looking at me like, “Oh my God. This is going to hit her. This is going to hit her.” And I’m like, “What?”
But like a week later, you know, after he had graduated, I was lying in bed at night, and I’m like, “Oh my God. That went by so fucking fast. That went by so fast.” And then it hit me. When I do cry, which is rare, I cry until I make myself sick. Like I’m going to throw up. But it hit me then, like, “Wow, that went fast. And if that is going that fast, then the rest of it is going this fast and I just don’t realize it.” And so maybe that’s part of the whole denial, unbirthday thing is, “Wow, that went really, really fast.”
I remember the first time that I cried over a birthday. I was 40. And I don’t know why because I had just had a baby. I had a baby at 37, 39 and 41, so I had just had a baby in November and then I turned 40 in April, and I cried. I was like, “Wow. This isn’t right. This is just not right, you know.” And I think I was maybe bummed out about it for a couple of days and then I was like, “Ah, fuck it. I’ve got this.” And since then I haven’t really cared.
But I know that it’s weird for other people. It’s weirder for other people for me to age, and maybe that’s because they have to face their mortality, you know, or their age, or they’re like, “Holy shit, she grew up so fast.” Because I grew up kind of. Not grew up, but I transitioned from, you know, a 22-year-old all the way up in the public. You know, you could watch it. Either on TV or radio or Playboy or whatever, you could watch it. So it’s really weird for other people.
I get to have fun every day. I get to laugh every day. I hate my hours. I have to get up at 5 in the morning to be on my show on time. I despise my hours. Every day when the alarm clock goes off, I want to quit. In my mind I go, “I fucking quit. I’m too old for this. I quit.” But by the time I get there at 6:30 and I plug in my computer and the boys start filing in, the next two hours are just shits and giggles. So I get that every day. And I think it makes a difference, you know, to get to do what you love every day. It makes a difference.
For Valentine’s Day my husband bought me a heavy bag and a speed bag because I wanted to learn to box. I got my gloves, I got my wraps, I got everything, and then it was just like, “I don’t know where that went. I don’t know where that thought went.” But I would love to box. I would love to learn to box. And, you know, somebody said, “Have you ever been hit in the face before?” I’m like, “No.” And they’re like, “Oh, shit. That first time, it’s stunning.” And I’m like, “I didn’t say I wanted to spar, asshole. I said I wanted to box. We’re talking two different things here.” But I’m not too old to learn to box. I don’t think there’s anything I’m too old to do.
I care more about women’s issues. I have several of my friends and family or my husband’s family that have either battled breast cancer or died of breast cancer. I have had a Hooters Girl die of breast cancer. I have a friend right now that can’t afford to get reconstructive surgery. And she’s a beautiful girl, a single mom, and just afraid to date because she’s like, “Who wants to look at this?” You know, so I more think about those kinds of issues, like, “Ah, that’s just fucking unfair, you know. Like, God, that’s so unfair.”
I might have, maybe have given Los Angeles… I went out there for a month and I did a couple of Married with Children, I did a couple of Star Searches. I did a couple of those things and I might have given it more than a month. After a month I was bored of walking into castings and seeing twenty girls that looked just like me: blonde hair, blue eyes and big boobs. I was basically kind of bored. I wanted to come home. I always felt more comfortable, big fish in a little pond.
Unless it’s my job, I don’t really need you to look over here.
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