To the manners born

Tom Malin, aka advice expert Tammy Manners, puts the Q in ‘etiquette’ book

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DEAR TAMMY | In her roundabout way, drag queen — er, advice columnist — Tammy Manners culls her wisdom and wit into suggestions for a better life.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

Maybe your grandmother wrote in to Dear Abby for some sage advice about life’s little obstacles. Or big ones even. She probably got some common-sensical suggestions with clichés like “Wake up and smell the coffee!” or “There are other fish in the sea.”

Well, the days of ladylike advice are over — or at least, they’ve taken a sharp turn — at least as Tammy Manners sees it. Tammy is well on her way to becoming this generation’s go-to gal for pearls of wisdom.

At least, that’s the plan with the new book Ask Tammy Manners.

From YouTube to Facebook and her own website, Manners — the alter ego of Dallas writer Tom Malin — takes on all life’s issues from turning a hot, straight neighbor into a gay conquest to naming your new pet snake. She’ll slightly derail to include stories about her own background but brings it full circle to tie up her advice to help the distraught. Some might call it a tangent, Manners calls it necessary.

Before leaving for Maui, Malin sat down with us (with Miss Manners doing the talking) and revealed the path that has led her to this calling, her quest for fame and even offered some self-help words to you, her gentle readers.

Dallas Voice: What’s different about you from the usual Dear Abby kind of advice column?  Tammy Manners:  Well, I’ve read a lot of those other columns and you know, it’s good advice, but no one can find the humor. It’s a lot of fun to have my own. I can use my life experiences to help people with theirs.

How did you get into the advice-giving business?  It all began down in Puerto Vallarta. I fell in love with a driver from Ohio. Limo or taxi, I don’t remember. That led me to writing out my thoughts when a friend said I should put it out there. And so I started a blog.

Wow. That’s a genesis.  Yes! My writing wasn’t too smooth in the beginning but I made it more autobiographical and questions started to come in.

Speaking of autobiographical, where were you born? I was switched up in the hospital but born to a lesbian mother here in Dallas.

Where did you go to school?  I went to North Mesquite High School but was asked to leave the district. It was so boring I probably should have been in advanced placement. I would go to Town East Mall across the highway and shoplift. But I graduated from Woodrow Wilson. I had a full-paid scholarship to SMU, but I wanted to party so I went to the University of North Texas.

Who was the first person to ask you for advice? Tom Malin! But my dad wrote in with a question. That was nice.

Your advice isn’t brief. In fact, it’s pretty long in both written and video form. Is that intentional?  Well, I make the reader work a little bit for it. My written responses always come in at 1,100 words. You never know how I’m going to answer. I’ve imparted my own experiences and interesting excursions into my responses, but it’s with a purpose. I’ve even deferred to Edgar Allan Poe or Homer’s Iliad for help.

Ask Tammy Manners is on YouTube and now has the book coming out. To what do you owe this drive to get your name out there?  I’m a horrible actress and not even a good singer. But I had lunch with [film director] Joel Schumacher … and he just told me, “Write your own material. You are a star.” And that’s been playing in the back of my mind for a while.

And I always remember a former teacher of mine telling me, “Don’t let the insensitivity of others block your success.” Nobody was saying “it gets better” when I was a kid, so I was lucky to find humor to cope against bullying and rise to who I am now. I’d love to run a regular column and I foresee an acting venture. Tammy Manners is right for the screen, big or small!

Wait, didn’t you just say you were a horrible actress?  What?

Nothing. So what general piece of advice do you have for people just learning about you?  I get to touch people everyday through my network. But with my life, I know that people can turn theirs around at any point. Successful people listen to their surroundings and then make decisions based on fact. We all start there. All the higher power does is create and that’s all I know to do. I just can tap into it.

What do you think it is about Tammy Manners that resonates with your readers and YouTube viewers? I think people like that it’s a little wild and that I can find the humor in being able to survive.

Oh, hey, I got an itch on my backside — any advice on that?  Email me.

………………………….

Tammy talks! Some advice from a meddling Dallas diva

Dear Tammy: I have a son who I suspect may be gay. My daughter has pictures in her bedroom all over her wall of Zac Efron, Josh Hutcherson, Taylor Lautner, Nick Jonas, Channing Tatum and Chad Murray. My son Preston? Same thing and Abercrombie and Fitch shopping bags tacked on the ceiling over his bed. I am worried sick and wonder if he is gay, and if so, how do I turn him straight?

Dear friend: You have too much time on your hands. You are obviously a Republican housewife who has never worked a day in her life. I think you should get a part-time job so you can have educated conversations with your husband about matters that are important to American women today.

Dear Tammy: I just can’t shake this depression. What should I do?
Dear friend: I too am prone to bouts of the blues — not to be confused with the Moody Blues, which I do like and I look good in white satin on a cool night in Spain. … Have you tried Calgon? It will take you away.

Dear Tammy: Is it proper to invite male members of the society, straight or otherwise, to a baby shower?
Dear friend: The purpose (not to be confused with a porpoise, which is a very social animal) of a “baby shower” is to send out a list of wanted gifts to shower the expectant mother with for the upcoming arrival of the new child. Do you live in a trailer park? Are you white trash? Why can’t you afford your own gifts? Get a job.   

— Excerpted from Ask Tammy Manners

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 1, 2012.

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