Which state is Kentucky in, again? Okay I've never actually been asked that question, but it's a wonder and probably only a matter of time. In the six years or so that I lived and traveled in Europe, I was continually struck by what was by far the most common image of our state: Kentucky Fried Chicken. This was the case, too, despite the fact that KFC had been sold eons ago to Pepsi, and Harland David Sanders, or Colonel Sanders, had little experience of Kentucky before his fortieth birthday.
Our little state seems to excel at flying under the radar, merrily going about its business making booze, breeding thoroughbreds, and actually, in the last decade or so, producing some of the highest-profile celebs in the country. Two of the five Oscar nominees for Best Actor in a Leading Role this year, for example, are Kentuckians: George Clooney and Johnny Depp, and another Kentuckian, Ashley Judd, is surely up for something, or probably should be. (Image of Clooney and Depp above is from People's best dressed of 2007 issue and fashionolic). Beyond that, Kentucky continues to thrive in the literary arts, a long tradition that includes Robert Penn Warren, Hunter Thompson, Wendell Berry, Barbara Kingsolver, Sue Grafton, Silas House, and Jane Gentry Vance, now Poet Laureate. Kentucky's Gurney Norman wrote the counterculture classic, Divine Right's Trip, and Ed McClanahan lives here as well as all McClanafans know, he was one of the colorful Merry Pranksters who lit up the psychedelic Day-Glo magic bus Further with his good friend Ken Kesey. There isn't time to recount all the music and arts figures in the area. Let's just say that many came, saw, and left, but others have stayed, like Star Trek's William Shatner, who lives right down the road.
Yes image and reality don't always march hand-in-hand, or at least in the ways we often suspect. It should be interesting to see which impressions of the region stick, and which ones change, if any, as thousands descend on the Bluegrass for the upcoming World Equestrian Games.