In the late 1980s, as the Texas economy was recovering from a real estate crisis, a friend of Paul J’s decided that, for Halloween, he was going to dress up as a wealthy Texas widow who had resorted to selling real estate after the death of her husband. This particular friend affected a gravelly voice to go along with this characterization. About this same time, a Texas-based magazine published a humor column about the rebounding real estate market which featured a tongue-in-cheek sampling of what real estate terms REALLY meant.
The collision of these two events exploded into an idea in Paul J’s mind, and one of his most long-lasting characters was born.
Rather than keeping the realtor a wealthy widow, Paul J. had it in his mind to make her a never-married, bee-hived, chain smoking character based in a working class neighborhood. Christened Nelda Pickens, the fictitious name was a combination of a first name which Paul J. felt was sufficiently working class, Nelda, and Pickens, after a vibrant realtor Paul J. had recently met. The chain-smoking idea was to justify the gravelly voice of the character. However, no ordinary cigarette would fit this character. Only “More” brand, those long, slender, brown cigarettes which, according to Paul J., are the “ultimate in white-trash nicotine flavor.” Taking the idea originally set forth in that magazine article, any appearance by Nelda Pickens features a discussion of her “book” Nelda Pickens’ Glossary to Real Estate Terms, whereby Nelda offers a few samples of humorous alternative definitions to real estate words, then in trust Paul J. Williams improvisational style, opens the floor up for any audience member to call out a real estate-related term and let Nelda give “her” definition of said term. Over the years, Nelda has been a hit in Paul J’s stand-up comedy performances because of the totally unscripted nature and excitement of the audience interaction.
Since Nelda’s creation some 25 years ago, the great Texas oilman, T. Boone Pickens, briefly married a woman named Nelda Cain. Paul J. would like to emphatically state that any comparison between his realtor character and the former Mrs. T. Boone (Nelda) Pickens is unequivocally coincidental.