By Baz Hawkins
Originally published on Advocate.com August 18 2009 11:00 PM ET
It’s T-minus two days and counting 'til the big Jubilee, Tupperware’s national sales conference held each year in Orlando, and Dixie Longate is frantically bedazzling the front of her gingham dress so that she sparkles when she’s invited onstage for her yearly sales recognition. After all, this is the classic food storage company’s version of the Academy Awards, and Dixie is one of its brightest stars. Even though she’s not number 1 in traditional party sales this year -- largely due to Dixie's traveling the country in her new one-woman show -- she still plans on racking up the awards. Being number 1 at anything has been a dream of Dixie’s since she started selling Tupperware brand products in 2001, and last year she was living that dream.
“Tupperware is a great company to work for,” exclaims Dixie through her lovable, slightly slurred Alabama drawl. “It’s nice that they recognize even somebody with a checkered past like myself. There I was last year, standing on the big stage with a shiny tiara, a bunch of roses, and a pearl necklace, while thousands of people cheered and shouted nice things. I felt like a Disney princess.”
Advocate.com:So how did you become the number 1 Tupperware salesperson in the country?Dixie Longate: By selling buttloads of bowls. You know, I started doing Tupperware parties all over L.A. and Orange County, and let me tell you, those O.C. housewives know how to have a good time. Anyone who thinks those hookers are conservative has never thrown down in Anaheim Hills on a Friday night with a margarita machine and a table filled with plastic bowls. But I started selling and worked my way up the ranks, from consultant to manager to director -- that’s a real big deal at Tupperware -- and challenged myself to break my own record every year. And last year I made it to number 1, by selling almost a quarter of a million dollars worth of Tupperware in a single year.
What do you anticipate your rank to be at the awards this year?Oh, I think I’ll be somewhere in the top 10. People haven’t been buying as much of my plastic crap since I’ve been on tour with my show.
But your show’s called Dixie’s Tupperware Party. Don’t you sell Tupperware onstage?Sure. But I don’t know if it’s the crappy-ass economy or if people don’t get that they can really buy Tupperware brand products at my performance, even though I hand out catalogs and order forms, and talk about it being just like a real Tupperware party; I can’t make it any plainer than I do. I just think people are stupid. I had a pretty good year, but nothing compared to last year.
The economy has affected a lot of businesses.I guess. What I have noticed is that the types of products that people are buying have changed. With folks trying to stretch their food dollars and not eating out as much, the cooking, storage, and microwave products have been selling like hotcakes -- I always thought that was a stupid saying. That’s like that saying “drunk as a skunk.” What the hell does that even mean? It should be “drunk as my neighbor, Georgia Jean.” Now that gal can drink even a troop of boy scouts under the table!
So what’s a Dixie Longate Tupperware party like?It’s a hoot! We’re having so much fun you don’t even have to have a blood alcohol level above .02 to want to buy crap at the end of the party. Most people think of Tupperware parties as boring and stale, but my parties, well... imagine a bunch of sorority sisters leaving the kids at home in order to practice rimming bowls and opening wine bottles with my #1254 corkscrew, and trying my Squeeze-it Decorator, item #828, that has more uses in the bedroom than in the kitchen. True story. But like I say, this ain’t your momma’s Tupperware party.
But how did you go from doing parties in people’s homes to doing it onstage?I have to give a ton of credit to my good friend Tom Caruso. He’s a director in New York, and after coming to a couple of my parties he thought millions of people would want to hear me talk about creative food storage solutions onstage. He helped me turn my little parties into a show and we took it to New York as part of the International Fringe Festival in 2004. It got a lot of attention there, and that led to an off-Broadway run at the Ars Nova Theatre in Midtown Manhattan in 2007, which launched it into a national tour.
What’s the difference between your home parties and your show?Well, the show is sort of like having me host a Tupperware party in your home, but in a much bigger living room, with a bunch more folks ‘round you that you don’t know -- at least not at the beginning. But everyone gets a name tag and a catalog, and there are games and prizes and raffles. I talk about myself and where I come from, and my kids and ex-husbands, and prison, and hopefully you’ll learn a bit about yourself and a few other people as well.
I can’t believe I’ve been on the road with the show for a year already, and we’re still going strong. That just shows you that when times are tough, people just really want to go out, forget their troubles, and laugh their asses off.
So what were you doing before you started selling Tupperware?Well, that depends on who on the parole board you talk to. I’ve had a couple run-ins with the law, nothing major. I’ve never been indicted for any of the big things, just a lot of little things that mess you up. Lord, if Winona Ryder can get off for stealing $5,000 worth of scarves from Saks, I don’t know why I got sent to the big house for jackin’ a Slurpee machine from the 7-Eleven for my kids. But anyway, when I got out of prison the last time, my parole officer suggested that I get some sort of a job so I could legally provide for my family. After a couple of false starts I found Tupperware, and I’ve been riding those plastic pieces to the top ever since.
That’s an inspiring story for anyone experiencing hard times and looking to make a change.My show’s message is all about personal empowerment and personal responsibility. As someone with very little education, I was always being told I’d never amount to anything, so it’s pretty amazing to be where I am today. I’ve earned more money, traveled more places, and had so much more fun working for Tupperware than I ever could working some nine-to-five job. Nothing against Dolly Parton, bless her heart. Sure I’ve had my ups and downs, but that’s life, hooker. I’m living proof that if you set your mind to something, you can achieve it. And living in such a great country, even with the state of things right now, there are still plenty of opportunities to make your life better, as long as you get off your butt and put in the effort. Otherwise, shut up and get out of my way. I ain’t got time to hear you whine; I got plastic bowls to sell.
Wow, you’re a spitfire. Audiences must have a blast at your show.Not everybody. I’ve had one or two people take one look at me, fold their arms, and shut down without giving me a chance. I could be selling little slices of heaven and they wouldn’t want none of it, know what I mean? I just don’t get that; it makes me want to beat people in the face. As I see it, no one is so above their raising that they shouldn’t give someone else a chance. Just ‘cause some six-and-a-half-foot tall -- I’m counting my hair -- redheaded Southern she-devil gets in your face and starts smiling and hollering doesn’t mean you have to be all uppity. In one city there was a woman who had never even seen the show determine that I violated some obscenity laws and got the city attorney to try to shut me down. Well, let me tell you, when he came to see the performance for himself he laughed his friggin’ ass off, and told all his “mature” friends to come see me. Sorry, can I say friggin’?
So what is your favorite piece of Tupperware?There’s so many it’s hard to pick. I love my can opener, item #1289; it’s sweeter than poop on a stick if you ask me. My Jell-O shot caddy, item #787, has made me the most popular mom on the block. And the E-series corkscrew, item #1254, just lives in my car; so handy when you get stuck in traffic.
And with everyone going green, is Tupperware good for the environment?Of course it is, because unlike all those other disposable plastics, you don’t throw away Tupperware; it lasts forever. Your grandmother probably still has her Tupperware from when she was a young bride, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get it when she dies. Plus there is a lifetime warranty, so if something happens to your Tupperware, you can get it replaced for free -- not if you set it on the stove and melt it like a stupid jackass -- but if it cracks, chips, peels, or breaks, your local Tupperware rep will take care of replacing it for you.
Have you done a lot of Tupperware parties for the gays?I’ve done one or two, but surprisingly, although the homosecticles always smell real good and dress so nice, they don’t buy as much of my plastic crap as I would like. But they’re fun to party with. It’s strange, gay men are so into name brands, but a lot of times they’ll lift their noses at Tupperware, thinking it’s not sophisticated enough. Tupperware has been in business for 60-plus years, and is still going strong. They’re constantly reinventing themselves, like that Madonna. Let me tell you something, I challenge anyone to find a product as amazingly technicological that has withstood the test of time, and comes with a lifetime warranty. Prada wouldn’t do that with your shoes.
What about lesbians? They seem like they’d want to be prepared for any food storage emergency.Well, my parole officer was one, and this gal who was my bunkmate in prison. I’ve had a couple of lesbian Tupperware parties, and let me tell you, aside from the “no men” thing, which is a little confusing to me, they have been lots of fun. Word on the street is that they don’t use much of it in the kitchen. Obviously, we have a lot of stuff designed for food storage and preparations, but you can use it in any room of the house. I have a collection of modular mates, item #164, that I store under the bed, filled with accessories that get my no-no patch all excited and start the weekends jumpin’.
Are you still residing in Mobile, Ala.?I packed up my trailer and hit the road when I started the tour. It’s sitting in Florida right now and I’m just praying to Jesus that it don’t blow away in one of them hurrycanes that they get down there. But I’ve been all over the country on this tour and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be ending anytime soon. As a matter of fact, after the Jubilee I’m heading to Scotland, which is somewhere not in America, for the month of August to take the show internationally for the first time. I don’t even know if they got food in Scotland, so the whole thing might go badly, but I’m excited anyway.
Any plans after that?Well, I’m lucky enough to be performing on one of those Atlantis gay cruises, which is how I found out about homosecticles in the first place. I’ve done 26 of them now. I feel like a nun when I go on them, though; all those men and none of ‘em wants to shoot his cruise missile into my bomb shelter, if you know what I mean. But it’s nice to see how the other half live, and by “other half” I mean the people that the Bible makes such a fuss about, along with shrimp and pork. I guess the Bible writers never knew how much crazy fun the gays can be. And I love me some BBQ pork ribs and shrimp cocktail just as much as the next good Christian.
I’m sure since you spent some time in California, you’re familiar with the gay marriage issue. Any thoughts on that?As someone who was born and raised in Mobile, Ala., we’re just a little more conservative. Meaning, we’ll smile and say nice things to your face and damn you to hell when you walk away; it’s part of our endearing Southern charm. But at the end of the day, I really can’t understand for one second why people are workin’ so hard to destroy the little bit of love people seem to have left for one another in this world. If a consenting adult wants to get crazy in the bedroom with a midget, a dog, a jar of peanut butter, a trampoline, and a 40th-anniversary collector's DVD of The Sound of Music, well, that’s between them and the dog… and the midget, ‘cause I’m sure he’s going to be holding the camcorder. If I can do it, you should be able to. It just don’t make sense to me, but then again, neither did the ThighMaster.
Well, thank you, Dixie. How can our readers find out where they can see Dixie’s Tupperware Party?Go to my website, DixieLongate.com, and that’ll tell you when my show is coming to a trailer park near you. Or if you need food storage right away, just buy crap securely right through the website. Either way, you’ll feel like you have a little piece of me every time you open your Tupperware and say, “Dang, this still tastes good!“