Down the wide halls of the Rock Hill Galleria on Friday strode the gorgeous lady in the smart clothes with the brown hair worn up and the flag lapel pin and those small glasses over high cheekbones.
She smiled and waved. Heads swiveled. Finally, a guy named Tony Brown walking past the lady and stopped short. He stood gape-jawed. Unlike those peekers over shoulders over by the cell phone seller, or the peepers from the clothes racks, Brown stared. He pulled off his baseball cap, rubbed his face, then pointed.
"Sarah Palin?" Brown asked. "Naaah."
The lady didn't answer right away. This has been going on for a month everywhere she goes. But she finally said, "No, but I do like her."
This Rock Hill lady is not Sarah Palin. She is Dale Sanders. But Sanders really does look so much like Palin, the Alaska governor running on the Republican ticket for vice president whose looks and candidacy is so much different from politics as usual that anybody who looks like Palin is certain to be stared at.
Sure, Palin has been lampooned by those who claim she is too inexperienced or clueless about stuff from the Supreme Court to Iraq, and she's been taunted by TV comedians and hammered by most of the media including many conservatives. One poor lady in Maine, an anchor on TV news who looks like Palin, has even gotten hate mail.
Now that is lousy. Sure, many believe Palin may not be qualified to be vice president of Ecuador, Uzbekistan or Luxembourg. But that's no reason for hate mail.
But politics aside, Palin the outspokenly conservative moose-hunting lady candidate has made people take notice. Nobody I saw at the mall Friday looked like Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden. Not a single person at the mall Friday yelled out "Looks like Joe!" and snapped photos of a stranger like people did when calling out "Looks just like Sarah Palin" and staring at Dale Sanders.
Sanders has embraced her brush with fame. A ham at heart, Sanders even has the politician/ parade beauty queen wave down perfectly. She stood in front of Showmars where the place was jammed and almost everybody stopped mid-bite.
"Palin?" said one guy, out loud. The gyro-like thing he was eating fell right back on the plate.
Sanders walked by vendor Allan Edwards who said, "Incredible! I just watched you on TV last night!"
A foursome of saleswomen at Kay Jewelers stood behind their display cases and started making hushed sounds to each other. They pointed. All whispered behind cupped hands. Only when Sanders came close, face to face, did the four know for sure it was not Sarah Palin herself.
Then they took pictures with Sanders so they could play a practical joke on their boss. Sanders loved it and posed. Anybody who loves playing jokes on bosses who deserve jokes must be great.
"It really is wild," Sanders said. "I do look like Sarah Palin, so I might as well enjoy it."
At Sanders' job at Peoples First Insurance, co-workers couldn't believe it when Palin was first introduced to the country. "That's Dale," said Frankie Pitmon and everybody else at the office.
And get this -- Tony and Dale Sanders have five children, just like Sarah and Todd Palin. The past month of stares has been a blast for Sanders' family.
"Most people are subtle, but a few of them just can't help but stare and then talk to Dale," said Tony Sanders, Dale's husband. "Usually they look and whisper to whoever they are with. We were at Panera Bread having lunch and the people in the line were whispering and staring, and we looked around and the whole place was silent, looking straight at her. It's her moment in the spotlight, and really it is fun."
The topper might be that Sanders is a voter and proud of it. She needs no focus groups, appreciates Palin's conservatism. That is her thing. But unlike the rest of Palin's supporters, Dale Sanders gets to look in the mirror and say: "I'm voting for you."