NORTH MYRTLE BEACH — Women - some supermodel tall and tanned - with flowing blond hair and legs longer than a country mile looked A-list party glamorous Saturday evening at The Alabama Theatre.
They looked as if they were going on a hot date, and they were.
Paula Deen awaited them.
"I thought she was the bomb," said Misty Singleton, a 40-year-old Myrtle Beach resident who brought along her husband, Bill. "She is just very happy, uplifting and a positive person, and I enjoy people like that."
About 1,200 people attended the event that started out with Singleton and 49 other VIP attendees having a private meet-and-greet with Deen before she took the stage around 7:15 p.m.
Becky Cooper, a 64-year-old Simpsonville resident, shelled out $600 for one VIP ticket and three prime seats for her son, daughter-in-law and 17-year-old granddaughter.
Cooper acknowledged she is a Deen groupie.
"I've never met anybody as down to earth as Paula Deen," said Cooper, who has seen the Food Network celebrity several times before. "I love her."
Before Deen hit the stage, Ted Lee and Matt Lee, award-winning cookbook authors with Charleston roots who are fans and friends of Deen's, warmed up the audience.
After Ted Lee called her "the best ambassador for Southern food," Matt Lee told the crowd Deen has definitely made Southern cuisine simply irresistible to the masses.
"She has made Southern food approachable, huggable, suckable," Matt Lee said. "Southern food is nothing you should be afraid of."
Then, the moment finally arrived.
Deen took to the stage and immediately started hamming it up with the audience.
While backing her bottom to her husband, she said, "Turn me on, baby."
She was referring to her wireless microphone.
Although the event was dubbed in part as a cooking demonstration, Deen didn't cook. As she talked, mingled and enjoyed her emotional snuggles with fans, her husband, Michael Groover, and Brad Daniels, executive chef of Croissants Bistro & Bakery in Myrtle Beach did the cooking.
The menu featured Deen recipes: peach sangria, spinach and strawberry salad with hearts of palm, chicken bog and peach cobbler.
Deen explained that she wasn't going to be cooking because it takes her attention off the audience.
"It isn't every day we can see each other face-to-face," she said.
She said she had just arrived on the Grand Strand on Saturday and was headed out as soon as the show was over because she is expecting a grandson.
"I don't want no birthing going on without me there," Deen said. "My daughter-in-law is about to drop my second grandson any day now."
Come June, Deen plans on taking a trip down to Birmingham, Ala., along with Smithfield Foods, to deliver two truckloads of food to the folks affected by the recent tornadoes. She will also be taking Paula Deen furniture, and Al Roker of the "Today" show will join her on the trip, she said.
Most times, however, Deen's subjects were light and she stayed on stage until 8:45 p.m., cutting up with the audience.
Her die-hard fans left satisfied yet wanting more.
Jackie Patton, a 63-year-old Surfside Beach resident, has a really big dream featuring Deen.
Patton was treated to Deen by her 69-year-old husband of 41 years, Bud.
Jackie Patton went to Europe in the summer of 2005 because Deen was there; got Deen's cookware as a gift from the hubby in 2009 and tickets to see her Saturday as a gift at Christmas from him.
"I've got Paula Deen's pots and pans, and I've been a better cook ever since," Jackie Patton said. "Next Christmas, I hope to spend the night with Paula Deen."
Contact JOHANNA D. WILSON at 626-0324.