City Reporter 

City Reporter

Unlocking the Castle

Prince Mongo plans to reopen his notorious nightclub.

By Rebekah Gleaves

For those of you who never had the chance to traipse the sand dunes, swim naked in the pool, or dance in the basement until 4 a.m, now's your chance. Robert Hodges -- better known as Prince Mongo -- may soon be reopening the Castle at Lamar and Central. Only, this time, the club will have decidedly less debauchery -- at least at first. For those of you who reveled in the revelry before the club closed two years ago and are now older, wiser, and maybe a bit more ashamed of your naked flesh, the toned-down version of Mongo's notorious nightclub might be just your thing for summer fun.

Last week, District Attorney Bill Gibbons announced the settlement of the case against the Castle by entering a consent order abating a nuisance and lifting the temporary injunction. The nuisance action was filed against the Castle in October 2000. The club has been closed since October 11, 2000.

Gibbons' entry of the consent order means the Castle can reopen, but in order to sell alcohol, the club's owners still must receive an alcohol license from the city of Memphis. Also, the D.A. says he has encouraged the police, fire, and health departments as well as codes-enforcement officials to regularly monitor the club to ensure that its owners do not engage in the same activities that got the Castle in trouble in the first place.

Specifically, Gibbons has said that the club's premises are to remain free of junk and debris and it must adhere to all environmental-code provisions. The order also requires that Hodges monitor the patrons and adopt procedures to prevent quarreling, drunkenness, and fighting. Hodges is also required to take steps to prevent underage individuals from being admitted or purchasing alcohol and to prevent acts of "lewdness, prostitution, exhibitions or possession of obscene or pornographic material with the intent to sell or distribute, unlawful gambling, and preventing any illegal drug sales from occurring at the Castle."

Lil Lowry, who lives in the neighborhood, is none too pleased with the latest developments. As the unofficial leader of the group of neighbors who encouraged Gibbons to bring the nuisance action in the first place, Lowry feels like she's back to square one.

"I'm hoping for the best and looking for the worst," says Lowry. "Someone like him doesn't change his spots overnight."

The Flyer was unable to reach Prince Mongo for comment, but his attorney, Leslie Ballin, says that the club will open soon.

Understanding the Law

New tapes will reduce language problems in courtrooms.

By Janel Davis

No longer will language be a hINDRANCE to adequate legal advice. A grant from the Office of Criminal Justice Programs will pay for a new tool to help eliminate language barriers in Tennessee courtrooms.

Professionally produced videos in English and six foreign languages -- Spanish, Arabic, Kurdish, Laotian, Russian, and Vietnamese -- have been issued to every courthouse in the state. The tapes cover the most common topics in the judicial system, including basic rights of defendants, obtaining orders of protection for victims of domestic violence, and the rights of parents in child abuse and neglect cases. The videos also discuss courtroom protocol.

"Because the state has become rapidly culturally diverse, there was a need to reach people who come to the courthouse for various reasons," says Sue Allison of the Supreme Court of Tennessee. "[The tapes] are meant to allay the fears of foreigners. We're leaving it up to each judge to find creative ways to use them."

The $100,000 grant allowed for 200 sets of the tapes to be produced with the Tennessee Foreign Language Institute and distributed to the presiding judge in each judicial district.

Judge James Beasley of the judicial district covering Shelby County says several agencies have requested copies of the tapes.

"I've talked with Legal Services and they want copies for their clients, and the public defenders also want some," says Beasley. He also wants to implement the tapes in a mandatory preliminary-information session which would be held for non-English-speakers upon their first contact with the court system.

Gold and Bronze

Memphis magazine wins two awards in national competition.

Memphis magazine brought home two major awards from the City and Regional Magazine Association's annual journalism competition, held May 20th in San Diego, California.

Judges presented a first-place Gold Medal in Feature Design to art director Murry Keith for "Those Who Would Be the King," the magazine's July/August 2001 cover story (left). This photo essay, featuring images by Los Angeles free-lance photographer Vern Evans, paid respectful tribute to a diverse group of Elvis impersonators. "Who are these people?" the story asked. "The ones who idolize someone so much that they turn to impersonating their hero." Subjects included El Vez, billed as "the Mexican Elvis"; Toni Rae, one of the few female Elvis impersonators in the world; and Imran Rana, a blind Elvis impersonator from India.

Second- and third-place awards in this category went to, respectively, Indianapolis Monthly and Los Angeles magazine.

The magazine also won a Bronze Medal for General Excellence in the under-30,000 circulation category -- the second year in a row Memphis has received this honor.

This year's competition drew more than 800 entries from the U.S. and Canada. The annual contest is coordinated by the University of Missouri School of Journalism and the City and Regional Magazine Association.

Trying To Get His Ear

Activist hopes to set Mike Tyson straight.

By Mary Cashiola

In one corner is heavyweight Mike Tyson. In the other is not Lennox Lewis but featherweight Brit Peter Tatchell.

Tatchell, a human-rights activist who once attempted a citizen's arrest of Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe (and got beaten up by Mugabe's security guards for his trouble), is in Memphis wanting to talk with Tyson.

"I'd like to have a dialogue with Mike Tyson to discuss the concerns of the gay community about his frequent use of homophobic taunts and insults," says Tatchell. He's hoping, first, that Tyson will agree to meet with him and, second, that Tyson will stop making homophobic remarks.

During the January pre-fight press conference for Tyson and Lewis, Tyson used the words "faggot" and "coward" in response to a journalist who said Tyson should be in a straitjacket.

"I'm being reasonable," says Tatchell. "My motive is to set up a dialogue and get Mike to realize that homophobic outbursts reinforce prejudice."

When asked whether it was reasonable to expect a convicted rapist and an ear-biter to stop making prejudicial remarks, Tatchell paused.

"No one is beyond redemption, not even Mike Tyson. Maybe he doesn't realize the offense and hurt that his comments have caused the gay community worldwide ...We can't sit back and allow prominent sports stars like Mike Tyson to vilify gay people without impunity," says Tatchell.

In the event the fighter doesn't want to meet him, Tatchell says there will probably be protests, but he's not focusing on them right now. His first order of business is to contact Tyson's training camp in Tunica. Tatchell also wants to meet with the International Boxing Federation (IBF) to discuss a new policy.

"The IBF comes down very hard on racism. I want it to adopt the same tough stance against homophobic abuse," he says. He would like to see the IBF introduce guidelines condemning future instances of any type of bigotry, as well as fines and other penalties in those cases.

As for a repeat of the Mugabe incident, Tatchell says that he doesn't think Tyson or his security people will harm him.

"I'm under 130 pounds," he says. "That would be most unsporting."

By the Numbers

U of M receives grant to study crime.

By Simone Barden

The Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Memphis has been awarded a grant of more than half a million dollars for a three-year research project. The Mid-South Social Survey Program will be based on a study similar to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The money will be officially awarded to the department on July 1st.

The NCVS tries to identify how many people in the U.S. have been victims of crime. The information is gathered by conducting telephone interviews with a sampling of 1,000 people every six months for a period of three years. The NCVS is different from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, which only measure reported crime. This method doesn't provide an accurate picture, because many crimes are not reported to police.

The program's goal is to document the extent of victimization in Memphis, the use of Memphis' criminal justice system, people's perception of their neighborhoods, and other neighborhood issues. The program will work in conjunction with the Memphis Shelby Crime Commission, and each survey will be directly comparable to the NCVS.

"Important for the study is that we have a representative sample and not only people who use the criminal justice system," says David Forde, director of the program and former director of the Winnipeg Area Study, a similar project that took place in Canada.

Local crime research projects such as the Mid-South Social Survey Program are rare.

"The Detroit Area Study and the Illinois Survey are two of the very few similar studies in this country," Forde says.

The first survey will start in September. Forde expects to have the first data available in November.

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