Goodman will be signing the books July 20th at noon at Jasper Drug Store on Main Street.
By David R. Altman
Books & Writers Editor
If you’ve ever been a fan of Elvis Presley or wondered what it would be like to a part of his inner circle, you’ve got to read the new book co-authored by former Jasper resident Diana Goodman. [You can catch Diana Goodman McDaniel at a book signing July 20th at noon at Jasper Drug Store on Main Street.]
Hollywood Lights Nashville Nights is an engaging new book by Goodman and former actress and colleague Victoria Hallman. It takes the reader on a magical ride through the intimacies of life in the high-energy fast lanes of Hollywood and Nashville.
The book is set in the seventies and early eighties.
Both Goodman (some in Jasper might know her by her married name, Diana McDaniel) and Hallman worked together on the hit series Hee Haw, and much of Hallman’s sections of the book deal with her relationship with Hee Haw star Buck Owens.
However, it’s Goodman’s narrative which steals the show in this book.
The book reads like a cross between a memoir and a deeply personal diary that details the former Miss Georgia’s romantic relationship with Elvis Presley near the final stages of his career.
“There was something supernatural about Elvis,” Goodman wrote. “It was like everything had disappeared except us. I could almost see our souls flowing into each other on the connection between his eyes and mine. He felt it, too. I could feel him feeling it.”
The first five chapters of this book are riveting, written in conversational style, almost anticipating what the reader wants to hear about one of the world’s all-time biggest celebrities.
The book begins with Goodman attending her first Elvis concert and, through a series of nearly unbelievable occurrences, being invited to a movie matinee with him the following day when Elvis had bought out the entire theatre for his entourage.
Goodman was seated behind Elvis and he turned and talked to her. She writes, “I have no idea what he said and I may not have known at the time, because as soon as I looked in those eyes I was gone. I mean gone.”
The Elvis stories in this book seem almost surreal, as this young woman who grew up in Forest Park, Georgia had this intensely intimate, sometimes tumultuous relationship with ‘The King’.
She writes about how she was given what not to do when being around Elvis, such as “don’t take pictures of him, don’t grab him, no sudden moves, stuff like that.”
The outrageous Elvis stories will make you laugh in disbelief—but they are also filled with love and compassion, especially as Goodman could see, near the end of their relationship, what medications were doing to Elvis’ body.
Goodman tells that part of the story with poignancy and sadness, and you get the feeling she wished she could have personally changed the direction his life was headed—but he was on a collision course that she could see coming.
The roller-coaster ride that was Elvis’ life eventually caught up with their relationship, but Goodman’s stories—told by a young woman in her early twenties dating an aging American icon, were entertaining to read. And, like any love story, be prepared for some details of their intimacy—not anything that would embarrass a teenager, but quite descriptive, none the less.
It wasn’t just Elvis that this book details—as Goodman tells a great story about her meeting with Clint Eastwood, where she was asked to present him a $7 million check while wearing a costume (I won’t give that one away) and her unusual but changing friendship with Ricky Nelson.
There were other stories, too, about soap opera stars, astronauts, former pro football stars and millionaire playboys in Hollywood.
Much of this book deals with Goodman and Hallman’s days as “Hee Haw Honeys”—that’s the way the show’s producer described them—when they were involved with skits featuring the shows many guest stars, including the likes of Johnny and June Cash, Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, Mickey Mantle, Sammy Davis, Jr., Richard Petty “…and even Big Bird from Sesame Street.”
Wrote Goodman, “…for a star-struck kid from Georgia, Hee Haw’s Kornfield was my personal little piece of Paradise.”
For those of you who never saw it, Hee Haw, a country music variety/comedy show, ran for nearly thirty years in syndication, after a three-year run at CBS beginning in 1969. Buck Owens was the show’s primary star, later replaced by Roy Clark.
“They flew us first class to Nashville for one month a year,” Goodman told the Progress. “They put us up in the best hotel in town and gave us a car to use for the month. It was first class all the way.”
Goodman wrote that her portions on the show were somewhat limited—since all the Hee Haw honeys were always vying for time in the skits. But, she said the group has stayed close over time.
Despite the fact she lived in L.A. and spent only a month a year in Nashville, it’s where she would meet her future husband, Roger McDaniel, while in Nashville taping Hee Haw.
“He wasn’t Elvis and he wasn’t Rick Nelson, he wasn’t anybody famous at all. But Roger McDaniel was the one. I got into his car that night and rode with him into forever.”
The couple moved to Georgia and lived in several locations, including Jasper, while Roger built his HVAC business. Roger passed away last year after battling cancer.
“God blessed us and our commitment to build a family. We were the picture of grace.”
Many Jasper residents might remember the McDaniels, who created a unique athletic opportunity for kids who were home schooled, as their sons were. The McDaniel’s created special leagues where home schooled kids could play football—as well as other sports. Their team, called the North Georgia Falcons, have provided opportunities to kids for more than 15 years. Roger coached the boys. Now, Diana directs the organization, and her son Jordan McDaniel is the coach.
One final note: even though she enjoyed the life of a TV star, one of the things that keeps Diana coming back to Jasper is her hair stylist. She says (laughing) that Lana Bruce (of Salon 84) “can never retire”! That’s high praise coming from someone who has lived those Hollywood Lights and Nashville Nights.