North Augusta episode of 'My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding' was most 'revelatory,' producer says

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The producer of My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding said the episode filmed in and around North Augusta’s Murphy Village was by far the most difficult, but also the show’s most “revelatory.”

Bill McKown; his wife, Tamara; and their son, Jackson, will be appearing on the Sunday's episode of My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding at 10 p.m. on the TLC network.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/FILE
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/FILE
Bill McKown; his wife, Tamara; and their son, Jackson, will be appearing on the Sunday's episode of My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding at 10 p.m. on the TLC network.

“Murphy Village was the holy grail for us,” said David Herman, the executive producer of the TLC network show that claims to provide viewers a glimpse into the lives of American gypsies.

Almost all of the show’s episodes feature Romani and Romanichal families – those descended from European gypsies, whose origins can be traced to the Indian subcontinent. Sunday’s episode, however, focuses on a North Augusta couple with connections to the Irish Traveler community, a distinctly different culture from the Romani people.

“The Irish Travelers were the ones that were the most difficult,” Herman said. “The men didn’t want to talk to us at all.”

The episode tells the story of Tamara and Bill McKown as they prepare for their wedding, which took place in December at the Kerry Court home of Bill’s mother, Mary Jo McKown.

Tamara, who is originally from Tennessee, is portrayed in the show as an outsider who is intent on marrying into a Traveler clan. Instead of marrying a Traveler girl, her fiance has stepped outside the norm and decided to marry a “country person,” as non-Travelers are called.

Much of the episode is devoted to Tamara’s efforts to adapt to Traveler customs.

“The whole film is about that,” Herman said. “Will she be accepted?”

McKown said that although she did plan an elaborate wedding celebration in the Traveler tradition, the key to her acceptance was the birth of their son, Jackson, in July.

“They understand that he is our son and we intend to raise him as part of this community,” McKown said.

She said there has been mixed support of their involvement in the show. Although some of the Travelers helped with wedding preparations behind the scenes, almost all of them refused to appear on camera.

She said a lot of people in Murphy Village are nervous about how they will be portrayed. The insular community that straddles the Edgefield-Aiken county line rarely invites this type of attention. Members usually get notice from the media only when one of them has a run-in with the law.

McKown said her neighbors are hardworking people and she hopes the episode – which she hasn’t been allowed to see – will treat them fairly.

“I don’t think I can watch it,” she said. “I’ll just record it and watch it later. Then it will be over with and everyone will have already seen it.”

McKown said the next major step for her in becoming part of the Traveler community is to convert to Catholicism.

“That is definitely going to happen,” she said. “We are already working on having Jackson baptized in the church very soon.”

Still the couple doesn’t intend to fully embrace the Traveler lifestyle. Her husband, whose father is a “country person,” moved away from Murphy Village for several years and doesn’t go on the road to work as most of the men in the community do, she said.

“Bill is going to go back to school in the fall,” McKown said. “He has a choice in how he wants to live. Some don’t.”

A central part of each episode is having an expensive wedding dress designed by Boston dressmaker Sondra Celli, McKown said.

“I already had a dress for my wedding, but (the producers) said I had to get another one,” McKown said. “That was part of the deal.”

Herman said Celli plays a key part in the show because she was the person who introduced the show’s producers to most of the families featured.

Herman said they found Celli, who is known for making elaborate and outrageous dresses for gypsy brides, after about three months of unsuccessful attempts to get access to gypsy families in the United States.

“She started making introductions. She trusted me, and they trusted her,” he said.

McKown said when she renews her vows in December it will be in St. Edward Catholic Church, in Murphy Village, and in the gown she bought before getting involved with the TLC show.

“I will finally get to wear my own dress,” she said.

TUNE IN

My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding airs at 10 p.m. Sunday on TLC.

Comments (5) Add comment
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cruiser93
270
Points
cruiser93 05/26/12 - 05:01 pm
5
0
Who Cares....

Do people really waste their time watching this junk ? Wait, never mind... I know the answer

kiwiinamerica
934
Points
kiwiinamerica 05/26/12 - 05:03 pm
0
0
Over the hill
Unpublished

She looks a little old for a Traveler wedding. Don't they usually marry when they're about 11 or 12?

crackertroy
540
Points
crackertroy 05/26/12 - 08:25 pm
8
1
Do the producers of this show
Unpublished

Do the producers of this show have any idea about what kind of people they are dealing with? The Irish Travelers have the worst reputation of any people in this area.

my.voice
4725
Points
my.voice 05/27/12 - 12:12 am
3
6
I think a lot of what's said

I think a lot of what's said here is folk lore, etc. I've had positive experiences with them in the community, ball teams, school, etc. Granted, I've never done business with them, but I think they are largely misunderstood. I have heard all sorts of outlandish things since I was a child, but nothing that ever had any proof attached to it. Live and let live, even if you don't understand them.

shelby547
255
Points
shelby547 05/27/12 - 07:48 am
6
0
let live

Maybe they aren't all bad but there are a bunch of thieves in it. In the past year I know my parents have read in the paper in North Carolina right above Charlotte where on 5 different occassions there were arrests from members of "Murphy Village" Then not too long ago you had the case in Athens with the guy pretending to be a city worker and he son climbing in a back window and burglarizing the house while guy one kept the old woman occupied. Luckily a neighbor saw what was happening and called police. A friend of mine owns a local restaurant and he has had them eat most their food, then make some outlandish claim and demand they not pay for it. I have also heard this happening at restaurants on Washington Rd too.

crackertroy
540
Points
crackertroy 05/27/12 - 10:26 am
7
0
my.voice
Unpublished

My.voice, you need to work in sales at a local restaurant, movie theater, or department store in the Augusta Mall. Your opinion will change by the end of the week.

marylou22
26
Points
marylou22 05/27/12 - 10:50 am
2
5
traveler wedding

better check and see where the husband comes from He's probably a Memhis traveler I know of no McKown last name at the village this might not be an accurate accounting of the way things are done I know a lot of travelers most are good Catholic gentelmen please do it right remember a lot of grandmothers left the farm to marry at a very young age I kinda like the idea of my son or daughter marrying some one thats going to work and provide If you don't know clanish people you wouldn't understand look on the hill in the Irish community like murphy village there is about 7 or 8 last names I know both sides of this comment fine people on both sides

JRC2024
8512
Points
JRC2024 05/27/12 - 11:12 am
3
1
Marylou, the The irish

Marylou, the The irish Catholics on the hill have different ideas about what is right and what is wrong. I will side with them any day.

Irish Traveler
4
Points
Irish Traveler 05/27/12 - 03:00 pm
2
2
Right or Wrong - Truth or Lies?

Irish Traveler

While it is true that the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) had an Irish Travelers Crime Task Force led by Attorney General Charlie Condon it turned out to be a failure. After several months of investigations concerning allegations of child abuse, tax evasion, underage marriages, and criminal activity in general, what were the results? Thousands of man hours, hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, for what? 5 Cases of truancy violations, no arrests for underage marriages and 4 tax evasion charges. The individuals charged with tax evasion owed less then $2,000 combined. An average of $500 each and were forced to pled guilty. They paid the $500 each in tax debt and served 12 months probation. Another insult to South Carolina taxpayers in that they paid thousands more in taxpayer dollars for their supervision. 5 Cases of truancy violation, $250 each, a total of $1,250. SLED and Attorney General Charlie Condon did prove that no underage marriages have ever taken place in Murphy Village. Are these the results that justify the thousands of man hours and hundreds of thousand of South Carolina taxpayer dollars? $3,250 compared to hundreds of thousands of dollars, SHAME.
Its easy to accuse someone of criminal activity, but lies are often difficult to prove

nnaugusta
533
Points
nnaugusta 05/28/12 - 12:35 am
1
0
A baby shower and nobody came

A baby shower and nobody came except the mom? Wow.....! Maybe the cameras went missing that were on the attendees.

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