The one element in the case that upset Gulf Shores more than anything was the way the press handled the story. Maples said, "I got 17 long-distance phone calls at home the first night after the arrest. Penthouse magazine called. I got clippings from a paper in the Panama Canal Zone. I was the most famous police chief in the country. But I don't think those people printed one thing I told them. And if you believed what you read in the papers, you'd think this whole town was nothing but guys fighting in the street outside bars."
At one point, it was reported that the whole community was angered at Stabler and his friends for bringing negative publicity down on the region. This, too, proved to be exaggerated. Mayor Jones says flatly, "No, sir, we don't think the publicity was all bad. Sure, they blew it way out of proportion, but we believe that any publicity helps—good or bad—just so they spell our name right."
Jesse Winder, who covers Gulf Shores for The Onlooker, which is published in nearby Foley, says, "Most of the reporting about the incident was by people who seemed to have learned everything they know about the South from seeing In the Heat of the Night"
The term Redneck Riviera was used frequently in reporting about the incident, and the Gulf Shores city council became so agitated by this that it was prepared to pass a resolution condemning the label. At this point, common sense came into play in the person of Madison (Shine) Powell, 40, a former marine biologist turned country-music performer, who with Norma Donaldson now runs a Gulf Shores restaurant called Sam 'n Shine's. In the midst of a council debate over the resolution, he pleaded for wisdom and a sense of humor. He said the town could easily turn its publicity about being the Redneck Riviera to its advantage. He then proceeded to recite the lyrics to a zippy piece of progressive country music he and some friends had just written. The title was Redneck Riviera—of course—and some of the words were:
It suits my taste, this laid-back place but it ain't no Monaco
It's souvenirs and ice-cold beers where blue Gulf waters flow.
We got redneck bars and football stars who would rather drink than fight.
It's Alabam', where we give a damn about magnolia summer nights.
It's easy style and a friendly smile to lift you when you're low.
That's the Redneck Riviera where the sand is white as snow...
As Powell says, "There are two definitions of redneck, you know. One is the troublemaker, the scum of the earth. The other is just hard-working people, farmers and blue-collar people who get red on the neck from working in the sun. Well, all I can say about the kind of rednecks we got down here is that people are maybe going to come to Gulf Shores because of this Padecky thing, and when they get here they are going to be real impressed with how friendly everyone is, and the contrast to what they've been reading is going to be really astonishing."
You can't tell Bob Padecky that.