Mr. Personality brings smiles and roses to Newnan
by Bradley Hartsell
You’ve seen him dancing on the corner of LaGrange and West Broad. Or passing out roses while strolling down the Court Square. He’s Mr. Personality, Newnan’s self-professed “Goodwill Ambassador.”
Many have wondered about Mr. Personality — his origins, his motives. Though he’s downtown every day, waving and dancing, and willing to talk to anybody, Mr. Personality has remained somewhat of an enigma.
So who is he? Who is the man who dances with a cane, a rose in his mouth?
Mr. Personality is William Odell Crenshaw. He came to Georgia by way of Florida, where he lived for 20 years. He served 14 years as an Army supply sergeant, going all over the world from Germany to Korea.
The moniker “Mr. Personality” began as a wry joke in 1995. He says “Mr. Butthead” would have been more apt back then. He claims he was insensitive and conceited, prone to making jokes at others’ expense and over vices such as smoking and profanity. He had a friend he asked to make him a “Mr. Personality” button purely out of fun.
Mr. Personality began to sense his off-putting ways and thought, “What if I really was Mr. Personality?” What ensued was a slow transformation from William Odell Crenshaw and into the full-on Goodwill Ambassador.
He explains that the name tells you what you can expect. If he went around using profanity, he points out, that wouldn’t be “Mr. Personality.” Nor would he be “Mr. Personality” if he were to gossip. Most people see things in shades of grey, but Mr. Personality says he now sees things in black and white, which makes it easier for him to identity the proper way to behave and present himself.
“I call myself Mr. Personality, because I’ve given that name to my highest self. And I want to be my highest self 24/7,” he explains. “By putting the name tag on, I can stay focused on being Mr. Personality as opposed to being William O., because William O. can get in trouble.”
“If I do everything according to Mr. Personality, I’m a much better person.”
Mr. Personality worked as a night watchman at a motel in Florida until the motel owner retired, but he kept his uniform. Inspired by his sister’s advice, he moved to Georgia in January.
He first moved to Fayetteville, dressed in a dapper khaki outfit with a derby.
He made the move to Newnan in April because it was closer to his VA clinic, but he soon found Newnan more of a natural home.
“This place is wonderful. Everybody is nice, friendly,” he says of Newnan. “I made friends here real quick.”
Since coming to Newnan, Mr. Personality, who celebrated his 64th birthday on Aug. 5, has dressed in his patented black dress clothes and top hat, red cummerbund and corsage. He’s well-spoken and can reach for two-dollar words when he wants. He waxes philosophical and carries scholarly texts (this day, he’s reading “The Inner West: An Introduction to the Hidden Wisdom of the West”). Copies of his allegorical poem “The Bus” have made their rounds around town.
Mr. Personality dedicates himself to making people smile and brightening their day. “I believe it’s a calling, in a way. I’m making people happy, people are smiling.”
“I’m on a really big, wonderful adventure now.”
He passes out a rose once a week to a woman he “senses” needs it. That’s the most striking aspect of Mr. Personality — his awareness. He knows some people dismiss him as a “weirdo” or a crazy old man. When people ask what his “deal” is or act negatively toward him, he always falls back on the fact he’s a “street performer.”
When he tells people that, they understand.
He is even aware people accept him as a street performer but look at him sideways when they know he truly is Mr. Personality. He also knows he’s still new to the community and, thus, knows when to tone down his colorful friendliness. Despite the rotten few, Newnan collectively has taken to the magnetism of Mr. Personality — and though they wonder exactly who he is, they sense the purity of his purpose.
Mr. Personality, however unwittingly, is helping fill the void left by the passing of Danny “Boomer” Bishop in April. In a completely different way, Boomer was Newnan’s original Mr. Personality.
Small towns need people like Boomer, and Mr. Personality.
“I believe it’s a calling, in a way. I’m making people happy, people are smiling.”
We need a reason to smile on bad days or a chance to talk with someone who wants to talk with you. Mr. Personality is promoting his vision of kindness and friendship and we can only hope that we’re half as aware as he is.