Friday, February 29, 2008

The Memphis Week That Was

Posted By on Fri, Feb 29, 2008 at 4:00 AM

No good deed goes unpunished. Beale Street promoters thought they would honor the Tigretts with a note on the sidewalk. But the gesture drew a scathing letter from Isaac Tigrett on the subject of self-promotion. Takes one to know one. Pat Tigrett deserves a note on Beale Street and another one on Riverside Drive and another one on the mall. I have never been to a Blues Ball, but I have seen her decorate old buildings, outdoor streets, the Mud Island River Park, and the train station; light the bridge; and put together an annual party that brings a lot of attention to Memphis music and gets people together downtown. The Academy Awards honors all kinds of people who aren't actors, and Beale Street should too. I'm all for Isaac getting a note too if he changes his mind.

If schools need metal detectors do the City Council and County Commission chambers need bullshit detectors? First Rickey Peete and now Bruce Thompson cop pleas to federal charges. Both should have known better and stayed out of politics. Peete had rehabilitated himself and his reputation after serving time on an earlier conviction. In Thompson's case, the telling indicator was that he had not voted in local elections prior to running for the commission. Voters elected him anyway. The cynicism indicator goes off the charts if Thompson keeps the $263,000 he got from H&M Construction. U.S. District Judge Jon McCalla will decide at sentencing whether there is any fine or restitution.

Joel Litvin says the Grizzlies aren't leaving Memphis. Rest easy. What's wrong with this picture? Everything. If sentiment trumped economics then the Dodgers would still be in Brooklyn. Litvin called Geoff Calkins to spread the good news. Calkins says he is "the No. 2 guy in the NBA hierarchy." So the No. 1 guy, commissioner David Stern, couldn't pick up the phone and dial Memphis? Or say something about Memphis at the NBA All-Star game? Or come to a game at FedExForum, ask for a microphone, walk to center court, and say a few kind words? The Grizz will end this season averaging nearly 3,000 fans below the projected 14,900 attendance that was the basis for the arena financing. Ticket guarantees are supposed to kick in after the eighth season in Memphis if attendance is below 14,900 including 70 suites and 2500 club seats. A "Save The Grizzlies" campaign in a recession in Memphis would be absolutely brutal. NBA reporters should pay their own way to five games a year and sit in the cheap seats. It might change their thinking.

It was a good week for Greg Ericson. See Jackson Baker's detailed report on this website about The Pyramid meeting. I wouldn't sell Ericson short. He has been around Memphis for 20 years, has a home and successful business downtown, and knows the concert business, the competition (Tunica casinos), and marketing as well as anyone. But the theme park strikes me as sleight of hand. First it was only The Pyramid, then it had to include Mud Island, then it was back to just The Pyramid, just like that. That's a huge difference, and a huge miscalculation about the difficulty of buying public land on the riverfront.

There was no second act for Venus Williams in Memphis. Or at least her second appearance at the tennis tournament here was a dud. Last year she won the Cellular South Cup and the affection of fans. Last week she lost her opening match to a qualifier, who promptly lost her next match. Then she bowed out of the doubles. She displayed a new second serve that could be returned consistently by most good club players. Venus was last seen at the Fox & Hound and did not appear to be unhappy about her early exit. Lindsay Davenport, the most consistent female player on the tour, becomes the heavy favorite.

An idea whose time has come: You Walk Away, LLC. As described in several media reports, including The New York Times on Friday, You Walk Away is a company that specializes in helping homeowners walk away from their subprime mortgages when they can't make the payments. The bank gets the property. The buyer, who was really more like a renter, gets another credit blotch on what was probably already a lousy credit record. Lenders who made zero-down loans are reaping what they sowed. In Memphis, which is known as America's bankruptcy capital, this sounds like a natural. See www.youwalkaway.com.

The media got banned from Hamilton High School last week. I can't get worked up about that. School board member Kenneth Whalum Jr., was giving a speech to students. I'm sure it was interesting. But as a reporter, former teacher, and former 15-year-old, I'm not keen on politicians using schools as a backdrop for speeches during normal school hours. If it's okay for one, then it's okay for all. And I can see it making the jobs of teachers and administrators harder, when they're hard enough already. Schools can be surprisingly difficult to gain access to if you are a reporter, but it's always been possible to get inside if you persist and follow the rules, which I'm willing to do because once you are inside the truth is pretty hard to hide.

Sears is on the skids. Fourth-quarter net income fell 47 percent. The Wall Street Journal reports "a growing likelihood that the retailer will be closing stores, selling real estate, and offering its core brands through other retail outlets." The biggest asset is the real estate. That would be no surprise to anyone who has shopped at the lackluster East Memphis store on Poplar. And the tornado-damaged store in the Hickory Ridge Mall would seem to have even less of a future.

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