Everett graciously answered my questions and allowed me to see her voluminous hat collection. I explored her approximately 12-by-12 foot closet, where more than a hundred hats are stored in tidy boxes. But rather than have me relate what we discussed that afternoon, I think it’s best told in Everett’s own words:
"I don’t feel comfortable without a hat. It has become like part of my body. This is the Western one. I love it. It’s just the style, the feel of that hat. It’s sassy. That’s what it is, it’s sassy.
"I have all kinds. Some are made by a hatmaker in Las Vegas. She makes the captain’s hats too. If I have nothing to wear and my hair looks terrible, I will go to the captain's hat because that’s my safety net. It’s very comfortable. They cover my head and they look chic. No matter how bad I may look, the hat does it. People just look at it and they go, ‘that’s authority there.’ And they often wonder who I am.
"I have been wearing hats since I was a child. I’m an only child. My mom and her sisters wore hats. My father wore hats too. I grew up in a house he built in Brush Park; he was a bricklayer. The house is no longer there. I took the address sign down when the city claimed it. And when I got into office, I put it above my office door. It’s symbolic of how my father worked to see that I made it.
"I got on City Council in 1991. I wanted to make some changes in what’s happening in the city of Detroit from a school level. I am an ex-schoolteacher, I taught 10 years in junior high school. My son is an English teacher. He wears hats on occasion. My daughter does not take to hats.
"Many times people mistake some of my friends for me because they wear hats like I do. Or someone will have a captain’s hat on and they will go, ‘you got a Kay Everett hat on.’ So it sets the standard and I like that.
"If I feel down, I go out and buy a hat — Henry the Hatter, Neiman Marcus, Mr. Song on the boulevard. I haven’t been feeling well, really under the weather, and I said, ‘let me go buy a hat.’ And I bought that hat and I felt a hundred percent better." (She points to a large, white, floppy hat with a carnationlike flower sitting on the brim. Silver sparkles line the petals.)
"I’ve bought hats in every city I’ve been in. I could be in Timbuktu and buy a hat. I don’t just go out and buy a hat to go with an outfit like some people do. The hat comes first. I go into a store, I may go to Neiman’s and just when I walk in they know I’m coming. They say, ‘here she is.’
"People can’t really buy me hats. A hat is a personal thing. It’s hard to explain. It really is. After the fashion, some of them are more like friends.
"The night before (going to work) I visualize what I want to wear and visualize the hat. Sometimes I forget what I have and have to go through the boxes. I don’t know how many hats I have. I love all these hats; I don’t have favorites.
"I wear them so much that people are accustomed to seeing me with them on and they sometimes are resentful when I don’t have a hat. They ask me, ‘where is your hat?’ And that tells me, ‘I don’t want to see you unless you have a hat on.’ So I just wear it as an everyday part of my outfit or costume. I can’t shake it." Ann Mullen is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail [email protected]