Cool Things

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Elvis Week: Deep Cuts Playlist

Posted By on Thu, Aug 10, 2017 at 8:30 AM

Hey, how about an Elvis playlist made entirely of songs that almost never show up near the top of other Elvis playlists? Except for maybe "Little Sister." But I just can't make an Elvis playlist without "Little Sister." That would be wrong.



Thursday, July 6, 2017

All Hail the Voice of Welcome to Night Vale, Cecil Baldwin

Posted By on Thu, Jul 6, 2017 at 11:00 AM

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What in the world is going on in the sky high above the Arby's sign? Who are the mysterious hooded figures milling around in the town dog park? What's the real deal with Carlos, the beautiful — maybe too beautiful — new scientist in town, with his teeth so white and perfect like the gravestones in a military cemetery? And what's up with that glowing cloud moving in from the west? You know, the whistling, glowing, color-shifting cloud that may change in appearance from observer to observer. Perhaps some of these questions will be answered when Welcome to Night Vale, the enormously successful podcast and long-running experiment in dread, brings its touring show "All Hail" to Germantown Performing Arts Center. But probably not.
Welcome to Night Vale is a dark, listener-supported satire of community radio broadcast from a fictional desert town where ghosts, aliens, and all manner of odd characters and conspiracies are just a common part of everyday life. It's a surreal kind of place where math and English might switch names. It's a friendly spot where old woman Josie, who lives out by the car lot, might sell you a burned-out light bulb that was changed by an angel. She'll give you a real good price, too.

The format for "All Hail" is similar to that of a typical Welcome episode. Cecil Baldwin, the dulcet voice of Night Vale community radio reads news and PSAs while tense music builds in the background — hypnotic, terrifying, hilarious. Live shows also feature musical performances, special guest appearances and audience participation, if you dare.

And now, an interview with the voice of Welcome to Night Vale, Cecil Baldwin.

Cecil AKA Cecil.
  • Cecil AKA Cecil.

Fly on the Wall:
I know, for a while, you were doing Welcome to Night Vale and still performing with one of my favorite theater companies, the Neo-Futurists. Now that Night Vale has blown up with all these different components, do you still do both?

Cecil Baldwin: I do. I'm no longer a full-time [Neo-Futurist) company member. The traveling involved with Welcome to Night Vale is too intense to do both jobs simultaneously. But I try to go back whenever I can. I'm actually going back and doing a few shows with them later this summer, but it's more of an informal capacity kind of a drop in drop out thing.

That's such a creative and collaborative group. I know with Night Vale you work primarily as talent. I was wondering what you did these days when you had the urge to write or make something.

The Neo-Futurists is always a great place because you're kind of a writer. performer, and director. I try and do that whenever I can. When I'm back in New York I'm try to work on web series or other podcasts. One of the things I've fallen into doing Night Vale, I started guest hosting on NPR's Ask Me Another which is a lot of fun.

Everything about Night Vale started small. And now it's enormously successful with tours and publishing. Can you just maybe talk a little about the show's evolution?

 Joseph Fink had an idea. He was trying to make it as a writer and he was having a hard time getting published. Then he realized, "well I love podcasts." The threshold for entry is low. And it's low financially. It's like self-publishing you just put it out there. So he needed a narrator and he knew me from the net Neo-Futurists. And he really just started making a show. I think when you're used to working in sort of an off-off-Broadway mentality you just want to do the work. You hope people show up and you just continue to make things hoping something will be seen, some of it will be entertaining, and some of it will—  knock on wood — make you some money eventually. But mostly you just kind of keep plugging away at it and do it for the love of it. We may have gone for a good year-and-a-half before anyone, I think, outside of our friends and family started listening to it. And then it got more popular. And then, one summer, it just snowballed and became this overnight success, even though overnight took a year-and-a-half.
That's actually pretty fast for an overnight success. And so much of the success comes from having these really engaged fans making all this fan art and sharing it. Have you guys found ways to engage and encourage more of that or does it really just continue to happen on its own?

In the beginning it just happened on its own. It's one of those things. The kind of people who really discovered Night Vale were in the Tumblr,and  Reddit online communities, and a lot of those people spend a lot of time online finding things on the Internet and sharing  with their friends. When you're sharing a TV show or a movie or something like that there's a visual component to it already. With Night Vale there's not. So people would share quotes from the Twitter page but with nothing to give visual reference to these weird funny scary things. So people started putting visual components along with it and the best way to do that was to create it themselves. All of a sudden fan art became a thing.  Part of the popularity of the show was related to listening and deciding for yourself what you think of these characters. From there is got bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger until, by the end of that summer, we were the most downloaded podcast in the world — knocked This American Life off their number one spot for a few weeks, you know.

When you're making something and people express their appreciation by taking all your ideas and making their own responsive art or fiction — and there's so much of it — it seems like it would be really hard for it to not influence the original.

Joseph and Jeffrey specifically don't read fan theories. They don't read fan fiction. I think their point is that's for the fans, it's not for the creators to approve of their fan theories or to go, "Yes that could potentially happen in the world of Night Vale." I love looking at the fan art and I find it very inspiring to know that something I've helped make has inspired other people to, in turn, create their own kinds of art. That's interesting. I feel kind of the same about cosplay. Whenever people send me photos, or I see photos online of people dressing up as Cecil or Carlos going to Comic-Con. That's a kind of an inspiration. You've inspired someone to take a better part of their day to lovingly craft an Eternal Scout uniform from scratch and then go out and share it with the world. I find it very inspiring. 
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With its slow-burning narrative, and relentlessly dreadful, but also often whimsical tone I think Night Vale is kind of a Rorschach blot. People are going to see a lot of different things in it. And lie the glow cloud, it will change from observer to observer. What do you think fans are finding?

There's a lot of different elements at play. I think part of it is the fact that Night Vale is this very dangerous place. It's sort of filled with existential dread — a place where normal things are terrifying and big terrifying things are considered normal. It's almost like Gilbert and Sullivan. In its topsy-turvy kind of way it has its own twisted dream logic. And it's presented with such hope. This is a world where ancient gods are out to kill everyone and where tiny civilizations that live under bowling alleys  attack people. Yet at the same time the people that live in Night Vale have such love for each other, and for their community, and their town. I think in a lot of ways it's very inspiring to people. Especially people who feel disenfranchised — people of color, or people that are gay or transgender etc. etc. etc. People who feel like they're somehow on the outside in the real world. They're like, "Wow, this world I live in is sort of topsy-turvy. We don't always have the best values or our own best interests at heart. But, at the end of the day, I still love the world I live in, and I love my neighbors. It's very inspiring.

We've talked about everything but the show. Which may be different from other shows fans might have seen.

We try to do a unique live show every year we take it as many places as we can and then we put in the vault afterwards. So every time we come back to your town it's a different show every time. This show is "All Hail." It centers around the Glow Cloud. It's one of our more fun shows and we're going to tour it through 2017 and into 2018 and then it will be locked away in the vault never to be seen again.

Which brings us back to the Neo-Futurists who are all about impermanence, and retiring work.

It's very much inspired by the fact that these are live shows. We acknowledge the fact we're in the room performing something live in front of you that cannot be repeated. Even if you do the show 75 times, each one of the shows is going to be different every single time. And I think it's that sort of commitment to the live experience that's very similar to the Neo-Futurists.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

John Daly Seen as a Renaissance Painting

Posted By on Thu, Jun 29, 2017 at 10:24 AM

The best thing that happened on Twitter yesterday involved a vintage photograph of Memphis golfer John Daly (Yes, he's still alive), and a streaker with the word "HOLE" painted over his bum. The shot's from the 1995 British Open at St. Andrews.

It started with this which, as the tweet suggests, is basically a Renaissance painting.
Discussion commenced. Convincing proofs offered.
Filters were added.
Oh brave new world that has such people in it... 
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Memphis in New Orleans: Visiting the Cecil's Hi-Hat Sign

Posted By on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 1:17 PM

An old Memphis landmark belongs to New Orleans now.
  • An old Memphis landmark belongs to New Orleans now.

Leaving New Orleans is hard, but Fly on the Wall has a tip for Memphians returning from the Crescent City.

Enjoy your last meal at the High Hat Cafe. It's a terrific little place where space folds creating a full convergence of Memphis and New Orleans.  Catfish is the star on a menu showcasing Delta tamales, all kinds of house-made pickles, barbecue shrimp, and some of the best pimento cheese (and pimento cheese grits!) your pimento cheese-loving Fly on the Wall has ever landed on. The Uptown diner's crowning glory: The old Cecil's Hi-Hat sign hangs above the bar.

Cecil's was a Memphis joint on the stretch of Somerville connecting Linden to Peabody. The building, which burned a few years back, was located next to the old Linden Circle movie theater and one-time home of the Mid-South Opry. The faded sign hung outside the abandoned site for many years. It was eventually acquired by Grove Grill co-founder Chip Apperson who partnered with NOLA restauranteur  Adolfo Garcia to open the High Hat Cafe in June, 2011. 
Grits for your grind.
  • Grits for your grind.

A last (NOLA) meal at the High Hat functions like a culinary and cultural air lock. You can have a last cup of legit gumbo with a basket of similarly legit cornbread. Heresy? Absolutely. But sometimes heresy is every bit as delicious as a proper baguette.

We went for the flat-top catfish, a watermelon and crab salad, a fat-stacked Reuben sandwich, and delta tamales, with an appetizer plate  full of deviled ham, deviled eggs, pimento cheese, and spicy pickled okra. It was a perfect way to say goodbye to a city famous for its food and return to a city that's no slouch in that regard, either.
Cold comfort food.
  • Cold comfort food.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

When Penguin & Mr. Freeze Came to Memphis: RIP Adam West

Posted By on Sat, Jun 10, 2017 at 12:14 PM

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Adam West had one heckuva ride in this Batmobile we call life. He was  88-years-old when he went out with a BANG, POW, and ZAP. West, most famous for his role as the Caped Crusader in the 1966 Batman TV series, enjoyed a second career as a voice actor, returning to Gotham City as The Gray Ghost in what's possibly the greatest episode of Batman: the Animated Series ever. He also voiced Mayor Grange in The Batman, and reprised his role as the Dark Knight in 2016's Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders.

And then there was that time he came to Memphis to thwart a plot by Penguin and Mr. Freeze and wound up face to face with Jerry Lawler in a Superman costume. The encounter is so Memphis it has to be seen to be believed, so here it is.


And here's a photo of Lawler in his own personal Batmobile.  
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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

City at Night: A Look at Memphis in Silhouette

Posted By on Tue, May 30, 2017 at 2:08 PM

The M-Bridge.
  • The M-Bridge.
This weekend's wind event didn't wipe out all the electricity in Memphis, but it took out enough to transform the nighttime city into a virtually unrecognizable noir landscape where every tree-lined street suddenly looked like the cover of a Stephen King novel. These photos were all taken in the immediate wake of the storm using only available light. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

You Look Like Money: Craig Brewer Teams up with the Memphis Comedy Community

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 3:54 PM

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I can't remember when I've been in a happier, busier room. Everybody was grinning wide, and laughing, except for the writers — a who's who of local comedy talent — who looked grave and anxiety-ridden, which is how you could tell they were in the zone and having a blast. Memphis' man in Hollywood, Craig Brewer, has a plan. He wants to transform Katrina Coleman and Tommy Oler's You Look Like comedy show/podcast, into digital content for streaming providers. The popular game of competitive comic put-downs has fantastic web-sharing potential. It's exactly the kind of thing the internet was made for.

On stage the comedy is vicious. Things change after the loser makes a filmed "walk of shame."

"You got robbed," the winner of one round says, chasing down his not terribly disgraced opponent. "I know, I totally beat you," he answers. Nobody's mad. Love is thick. They're all in this together.

"I'm not drunk enough to cry," Coleman says, as the camera crew prepares to shoot the last five episodes of a ten episode trial season. "But set your watches."
Katrina Coleman, Morgan Jon Fox
  • Katrina Coleman, Morgan Jon Fox
Coleman, who looks like the person most responsible for assembling the big tent of modern Memphis comedy, gestures to a ridiculous crown spinning on a turntable just offstage. That's the winner's prize. "It's still the You Look Like show," she assures the "studio audience," acknowledging her shoestring budgeted show's many physical upgrades. "I made that motherfucker in my living room," she says, with a catch in her throat. A machine pumps fog into the room, standing in for the P&H's famously thick cloud of cigarette smoke. Local writer/director Morgan Fox orders the cameras to roll and the games begin in earnest.

The rules couldn't be more simple. Two comics stand face to face trading appearance-based insults like, "You look like heroin might improve your life." That's mild. Comics being comics, and built the way they are, the meaner it gets the more respect you can feel radiating from the combatants. When a roughing session ends the audience chooses a winner and the loser has to gaze into a mirror of shame and play the game all over again with his/herself. Simple. Perfect. And Memphis insult hero Tutweezy makes for an affable master of ceremonies.
Comic Amanda Walker and Craig Brewer.
  • Comic Amanda Walker and Craig Brewer.
Brewer discovered the You Look Like Show by way of the Memphis Comedy Festival. He had no idea that such a mature comedy scene had grown up in the tavern at the center of his own origin story. "I felt like grandpa," he says of the revelation. 
Memphis Flyer cover art by Memphis comic/artist Mitchell Dunnam.
  • Memphis Flyer cover art by Memphis comic/artist Mitchell Dunnam.
It's epic deja vous seeing Brewer at work in the P&H Cafe. That's where I met him. He was working on his first feature film, The Poor & Hungry and had had come into the bar to screen "rushes" of  footage he'd recently shot. Seemed like would be filmmakers were everywhere, back then, but Brewer was different. He was devoid of pretension, and radiated so much excitement for the work he was doing there was no way to inoculate against the infection. When The Poor & Hungry was accepted into the Hollywood Film Festival, I followed him and the P&H Cafe's late great proprietress Wanda Wilson to LaLa Land to watch an emerging local talent be reborn as a hot commodity. And there he was, big as life, back at the old smoke-stained bar — the place where it all began — doing the kind of thing he fantasized about as a penniless beginner, driving around L.A. looking for a strip joint that might run his credit card and give him enough cash for dinner and parking.  
In the "writer's room" with Richard Douglas Jones and Hunter Sandlin
  • In the "writer's room" with Richard Douglas Jones and Hunter Sandlin
Brewer has always looked for opportunities to export Memphis talent and weirdness. In the 90's he shot the city's bourgeoning burlesque scene. His team-up with MTV on $5 Cover brought a semi-fictionalized version of the Memphis music scene to the masses. In some ways Brewer's plan to turn You Look Like, into a streaming success is enhanced by a largely united comedy scene that's already accustomed to collaboration. As soon as a comic advances to the next round he or she is in the back room working with a solid team of local comics including Hunter Sandlin, and Richard Douglas Jones.

"I get paid the same if I win or lose," keystone comic Josh McLane says, praising a spirit of collaboration that brings competitors together to come up with the best worst things they could possibly say to each other. It doesn't matter who wears the crown. All that matters: Is it funny? To that end the whole atmosphere feels a little like old-school Memphis wrasslin'. The outcomes aren't predetermined, but everybody's working together to bring serious pain from the top-rope.
Tommy Oler looks like a very handsome comedian. Hunter Sandlin looks like he shouldn't have coveted the lost Ark.
  • Tommy Oler looks like a very handsome comedian. Hunter Sandlin looks like he shouldn't have coveted the lost Ark.
For financing Brewer turned to past collaborator David Harris, an executive for Gunpowder & Sky, an LA based digital first studio  Harris had previously worked with Brewer on "Savage County," a horror web-series. BR2, the "digiflick" company originally founded to market The Poor & Hungry is producing, as evidenced by a pair of director's chairs printed with the company's classic logo.

"We didn't have chairs the first time," Brewer quips as a Memphis media super team including co-producers Fox and Erin Freeman, Editor Edward Valibus, and Director of Photography Sarah Fleming all work the room.

I wish I had an appropriate insult to end this post. But all I can say is, You Look Like looks like it was a lot of fun to make. It's bound to be a lot of fun to watch. Now it's all about putting the pieces together, and taking it to market.
Fake smoke, real comedy.
  • Fake smoke, real comedy.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Wiseguys Biggest Hits: Goodbye to a Very Funny Tradition

Posted By on Thu, Apr 13, 2017 at 10:06 AM

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After a long run filled with laughter and long, uncomfortable silences, The Wiseguys improv troupe is calling it quits. Sort of.

In addition to their twice-monthly shows members of this comic collective were also frequent contributors to Fly on the Wall for a couple of very funny seasons. This semi-retirement seemed like as good a time as any to roll out some of my favorite contributions. 
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When the state of Tennessee rolled out a poorly designed anti-DUI campaign all about how booze tricks dudes into having sex with unattractive women, The Wiseguys, and Fly on the Wall rolled out our own poorly designed campaign.

Once upon a time U.S. Rep Steve Cohen of Memphis suggested that White House security issues might be improved by digging a moat. He later claimed that he didn't mean a moat exactly, but some moat-like water barrier inhibiting access to the White Castle. It could be beautiful, he said. The Wiseguys, who are all crackerjack fake investigative news reporters, in addition to being fine comedians, discovered more of Cohen's alternative security plans.

The Wiseguys have written about social clubs, public incentives, Elvis, Trader Joe's, the weather, Jack Pirtle's gravy, pick-up lines that really work, the British Royal Family and Big Star fans. During the holidays, they even went caroling.



In addition to all the goofy stuff, The Wiseguys also broke huge news stories like the fact that Janis Fullilove is actually made of bees.

So, I guess what I'm saying here is these are some funny, funny folks. And they're having their last show (before the inevitable reunions) this weekend. If you've never seen them before, goodbye is a perfectly good time to say hello.  [event-1]

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Remembering the "Miracle Child" Robert Raiford

Posted By on Wed, Mar 22, 2017 at 3:48 PM

The man, the myth, the legendary Robert Raiford - JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks
  • The man, the myth, the legendary Robert Raiford
I remember the first time Robert Raiford tried to retire.

"I don't know what your religion is like, and your religion may not be like mine," he told me, looking back over the 10,000 nights he'd spent in his own little garden of earthly delights on Vance Ave., where the words "No Discrimination" were painted on the wall for all to see. "But when I was in the club and it was full and everybody was having a good time, I couldn't help but feel that that was the way the world was supposed to be all the way back at the beginning of time." I was pretty sure then, and remain convinced that everybody who ever drained a quart of beer and danced the Electric Slide at Raiford's Hollywood Disco on one of those special nights when the club was packed, felt the exact same way.

Raiford moved to Memphis in 1962 and took a job pumping gas at Mabe's Esso on Poplar Ave.

In the '70s, he co-owned a body shop with his brothers, and his automotive skills took him from Memphis to Chicago and from Chicago to Wisconsin. But the cold weather didn't agree with his Southern temperament. In 1978, he returned to Memphis and rented the dilapidated building at 115 Vance and began transforming it into the most personalized disco in the world. His fingerprints were, literally, everywhere. And even with the colored lights, the thick cherry-scented smoke, and sex-o-matic dance competitions, Raiford's felt less like a club than the cozy private living room of Memphis' Avenging Disco Godfather. In the DJ's booth — and sometimes on the drum kit — Raiford reigned supreme in colorful suits, hats, and James Brown-style capes, spinning classic wax for the generations.

I first visited Raiford's place in the early 90's. It was around 3 a.m., and I'd just gotten off work and made my nightly stumble from Automatic Slim's, where I cooked and waited tables, toward Wolf's Corner on S. Main for a quick beer before bed. Wolf's was closed. Likewise, Earnestine and Hazel's.  If I was going to cap the night, Raiford's Hollywood, the lit-up little nightspot just up the street was my only option. I almost didn't go, because I'd heard it was a hooker bar, and not safe. I'm not sure I've ever felt safer anywhere else in the world. That night, which ended with me making a new friend, and a ride home in the back of one of Raiford's customized Caddies, was the first of many evenings I'd spend at the Hollywood, back when very few people lived in the S. Main district, and everybody knew everybody else. It became a kind of clubhouse. A late night refuge for all kinds of folks — blacks, whites, greens, purples and plaids, Drag Queens, and disco kings; anybody who could get along while they were getting down.

"I call myself the Miracle Child," Raiford told me once,  swearing he hardly ever had bad day. And when he was spinning records, it was impossible for anybody in the house to have a bad night.

RIP Robert Raiford. You made Memphis funky the way it's supposed to be. And weird the way it's supposed to be. And welcoming the way it's supposed to be. Flights of angels, and all that jazz...

For a fuller profile check out this great piece by Shara Clark.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Musical History of Labor Hero Joe Hill at First Congo

Posted By on Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 2:11 PM

Regular Joe.
  • Regular Joe.
And when Joe looked back at the sweat upon his tracks
He had nothing to show but his age
He
had nothing to show but his age - Phil Ochs - "Ballad of Joe Hill."

This week at First Congo, Nashville's Shelby Bottom String Band provides the music for a multimedia history of early 20th-century folk singer and union organizer Joe Hill and a discussion about art and activism in the Trump era.

Hill was an immigrant, but in the early decades of the 20th-Century there wasn't a native-born worker in America who couldn't relate to the stories he told in his songs. In addition to giving American labor its marching music, Hill became the movement's patron saint when he was cut down by a firing squad for a murder he almost certainly didn't commit.

Last words: ""Fire — go on and fire!"


It's a pay what you can event, Wednesday, March 15th at 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. First Congregational Church, 1000 South Cooper. For additional details, click here.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Little Gangsta Walker, Big Night: Dance at the Hard Rock Cafe

Posted By on Mon, Feb 27, 2017 at 1:40 PM

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Last week's issue of the Memphis Flyer alerted readers to Blood on the Dance Floor 5 at the Hard Rock Cafe. The annual event's a dance competition for serious Memphis Gangsta Walkers and Jookin enthusiasts. The name may sound a little edgy, but if you missed Friday's show, then you missed this fun family team-up.

This video of Memphis being Memphis has been viewed more than 30,000 times since it posted to social media Saturday.


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Everything I Learned About Arenacross from Miss Arenacross, Lindsey Alkire

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2017 at 3:30 PM

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The Internet makes everybody a know-it-all. But not your Pesky Fly. Because I know I'm clueless about so much stuff, I sometimes ask experts to enlighten me.  This is what Miss Americross, Lindsey Alkire had to say about her favorite motorsport.

Fly on the Wall: I can't lie to you Lindsey. I don’t know anything about Arenacross.

Lindsey Alkire: I can tell you anything and everything you want to know about Arenacross.

Can you tell me what I’ve been missing?

Right now?

Yes. Sell me on Arenacross. Make me a believer.

Well, Arenacross is the most intense motocross racing on the planet. We take the world’s fastest Arenacross competitors and we bring them into hockey-sized arenas like the Landers Center down in Southaven. What makes it exciting is it's condensed. We bring the thrill of outdoor motocross inside, so we bring the intensity up like 16 levels. Outdoor motocross tracks are about 2-3 miles. When you condense that down to an arena you go from 2-and-a-half minute laps to something like 20-to-25 second laps, but still keep all the same action. We have jumps, and turns, and a starting line and a finish line. You have a winner that's declared. And part of what makes it awesome is there are 16 riders out on the track at one time. A lot of racing that goes on, but no race is ever the same. There are always different competitors, and there's always gonna be different occurrences that happen — different crashes. These riders have a win-at-all-costs mentality. Because everything is a little bit more condensed there's minimal room for error. There's not a lot of places to make passes sticks so that's why passes can get a little aggressive.
So it gets pretty aggressive?

You have to make your pass count and don't have a lot of time to do it because we have a 20 to 25 seconds a lap. You're only talking a couple of minutes for the main event. These guys’ adrenaline is through the roof. They have a very high heart rate when they're doing this. And one of the cool things about being inside these arenas that you can actually hear the fans cheering you on. As a fan, what I like most is you feel so close to the action. It’s right in front of your face. You can see absolutely everything is happening out on the track, and sometimes you wish you actually had three sets of eyeballs just to maintain every proportion of the track because there's so much happening.

I always wish that, actually. So what's your Arenacross story?


My story is pretty awesome. This is my life. I don't know anything other really then Arenacross. I started riding when I was eight years old. I'm 28 now, so it's been the majority of my life. 20 years, I've been involved. For me, it started off as a hobby. My dad and I both entered our first race when I was 11. I started traveling to amateur national races when I was like 14, then turned pro when I was 16, and toured the country racing in the women's professional series. When I was 19, I saw there was an opportunity to become the next Miss Arenacross. She’s the official spokesperson for the series. She did interviews. She was the floor announcer, and technically just the face of Arenacross. So I applied for that, and I got the job. I’ve been involved with Arenacross ever since. I'm so passionate about it.
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Arenacross Racing at The Landers Center in Southaven.  Friday, March 3, Saturday, March 4, Sunday, March 5 – Amateur Day
Tickets start at $15. For details, here you go.


Friday, February 10, 2017

16 Magicians Can't Be Wrong

Posted By on Fri, Feb 10, 2017 at 2:10 PM

Magical people.
  • Magical people.
Fly on the Wall had to share this photo from a recent meeting of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, Ring 16. Apparently everybody showed up with their very own copy of the Flyer from the week when clown/comedian/magician and all around entertainer Larry Clark was on the cover.

I can't say for a fact that none of them disappeared later, or were used to pour milk into, or any of those other things magicians do. Magical either way.

Little Joe Gives It Away: A Conversation with Joe Dallesandro

Posted By on Fri, Feb 10, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Joe
  • Joe
So you're not that into Warhol, and the name Joe Dallesandro is unfamiliar? That's his crotch on the cover of The Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers LP. More of a Smiths fan? That's his torso on the cover of the band's first record. Lou Reed called him "Little Joe" in his hit song, "Walk on the Wild Side." You know Joe, or parts of him anyway.

Dallesandro, the only Warhol superstar to have any significant film career outside the factory, is coming to the Brooks Museum of Art to talk to fans. Fly on the Wall talked to him first about the Warhol/Morrissey trilogy Heat, Trash, and Flesh. working with Louis Malle, and Serge Gainsbourg, and what it means to be told you changed male sexuality on film forever. .

Fly on the Wall: When you first started working with Paul Morrissey, part of the allure — as I understand it — is Paul told you these films would still be shown in museums in a hundred years. I know it’s not been that long, but what’s it like living through the hype, and watching that promise, more or less prove true.

Joe Dallesandro: No, no surprise as it started appearing in the way he had said. It was kinda for me something I believed to be true back then, and it was beginning to happen. There was nothing I thought was real special because I always expected it to be that way. Having seen all the different work Andy had. And even back then he was doing tours at universities and things.

I felt that what he told me was the truth, and they were already doing tours at universities. So the next step was these things went to museums.


I read somewhere a quote by John Waters. Something about how you changed male sexuality on film forever. And so much else has been said in that regard. What’s it like living with those kinds of comments?

I always thought of Paul Morrissey as my mentor. Paul told me early on, I can't look at the press because if I take to heart the good and the appreciation, I have to take to heart the bad things, too." It was enjoyable to hear all that. But it was just the many opinions and sayings of people who were out there. I love John Waters. Anything he said was appreciated. I look at him as a personal friend. It’s not like I’d expect him to say something bad about me like Paul or Andy.

Why were they talking bad about you?

Back in those days, after I finished the trilogy with them I was pretty much kind of fed up for a while because they started to say bad things about me. I was being looked at in productions that were bigger and different than there’s in the real world. I remember reading somewhere that Andy’d said, “Oh, I think he does drugs.” And Paul told someone, “I don’t believe he could learn a script. So, when I went to do Frankenstein and Dracula with them, I made them write every line I had to say. Because it pissed me off they didn’t think I could do a script. I was never offered to do a script with them before.


But you hadn’t had experience with that kind of film. Or any kind of film, you just fell into it. Unlike a lot of the others who started this way, you put together a career.

It was Paul’s saying, he thought I’d be good at it. And just to do it. And everything he’s telling me— He’s like a book on cinema. He knew everything about actors and the movies. You could call him up and ask him anything and he had the information on it. So, when he’d say he thought I’d be good at it, I trusted what he was telling me was the truth. Back then I was a real young kid so people made impressions on me back then. Back then I wanted to be a cook and make pizzas. I wanted to own my own pizza shop one day. That was my big dream back when I was a kid. But things change.
I trusted what Paul was saying to me was the truth and I was getting a lot of press.

There were the movies I did with Paul and the movies that I did with Andy. Andy’s movies, whoever talked the fastest and the most was the lead in the movie. There was no story to it, it was just whatever was interesting to Andy that went in the movie. The first time I met him he was sitting behind a camera reading a newspaper and we couldn’t see him because he had the newspaper up. And he was turning the camera on and off. And you’d hear a giggle or a laugh from behind the newspaper, and then his hand would come out and he’d switch the camera on and off. Really strange, peculiar guy.

And an odd artistic partner for Paul, a number of people have noted.

Paul always was trying to shift him in a different direction in the way he made his films. To put more of a story to it. To use the people in a more interesting way. This is back when Paul had the greatest eye for casting, because he’d pick these peculiar people, and they were very interesting, and they had a knack for being able to tell stories and stuff. Until we went to Europe and he’d get people who just spoke to him briefly in English. Then, come to find out, they didn’t speak well enough to improvise their lines. So it was kinda good I said I wanted things written for me. They had to write things for the other people too.

And he’s shooting in an environment he doesn’t approve of.

He was always trying, in some way, to change those people. Get them to go in a different direction than what they were doing. He’d get really upset with Andrea [Feldman]. He wanted her to be normal. But Andrea was just Andrea.

And Andy...

Andy wouldn’t know my name when I came into the office. My brother was his chauffeur and drove him around all day long. Would come back telling me all these stories and conversations they talked about in the car. He chose who he talked to, who he spoke to and listened to. People I guess he thought were entertaining. And there were people that he didn’t. I was one of those people he didn’t speak to very much. I used to think he was just afraid of me. That’s why they had me up there guarding the door or something. I always got the impression they wanted me almost like a bodyguard, or somebody that scared people away: “Andy’s not here today.” When he’s here in the back.

But of everybody, you kept on making movies.

I went over to Italy with the idea I’d come back Clint Eastwood, but it didn’t happen that way. I was too short for a horse.


But you made some action movies.

I made all these shoot ‘em up films.

Did you know you were going to stay in Europe when you went over to do Frankenstein and Dracula, or did all that happen while you were there.

They were already offered to me by the time I finished Frankenstein and Dracula. Paul set it up so I’d do movies over there.

And I don’t know a thing about them— about the Italian films. They were like gangster films, right?

Bad boy gangster films. I’m the guy who was selling cigarettes for the higher ups, but then wanted to take over and do it for myself. They made a bunch of those lower budgeted ones over there. They would shoot them pretty fast. They were all like that, back to back. I swore off artists when I got to Italy. But the manager who helped me over there because Italian wasn’t my language, and I had to have somebody to interpret for me. I remember telling them I didn’t want to work with art directors. I just wanted to do shoot-em-ups/And he said, “No, no, no, no, you came from working with Andy, you have to continue working with art directors. So I continued working with art directors in France.

Louis Malle. Serge Gainsbourg.

Who?

Serge Gainsbourg.

Oh, yeah, Serge.

He was already established as a musician, but Je t'aime moi non plus  was his first film, and he’s writing, and directing. And it just looks like everybody is comfortable, and having a great time. Is that just my impression, or is that accurate?

That’s accurate. I believe it was Serge. He had an openness about him. I didn’t know if it was because he drank a lot or what, but we all had a really great time doing the film. I became a good friend of Serge after that. I don’t usually stay connected, I move on. It’s family when you’re doing it, then you move on. That’s how it is in a film, you’re family. But Serge was a great guy.

sticky.jpg
Do you have a favorite film.

Oh, Je t'aime. When it was done, Serge wanted a bigger showing here [in America]. Not sent out to some odd theater. He wanted a big release. I believe it was a little too early. People weren’t there yet. But the material was great material. And it was beautiful to look at.

Yes, with the aerial shots. A really playful camera.

When I did Louis Malle film it was great to work on that too. When I saw the film, my son, who was still young, loved the it. He just loved it. So I saw it a couple of times. But I didn’t see the colors. We spent a lot of time with the lighting, and it wasn’t what I expected from his talent. But it was a fun film.

Je t'aime  was certainly colorful. I think of the truck.

They asked if I drove a truck, and I was thinking a little pickup truck. I get there and it’s this big Mack truck with two gear shifts and air brakes. Holy shit. And the first shot they want me to drive up to a plate glass window with her behind and stop. And I thought everybody’s gonna run away because they don’t know if I’m going to stop in time. Our cameraman was one of the craziest, bravest guys I ever knew. There was a shot he wanted to do from a plane and he was hanging outside the plane to get the shot. That was just his way of doing things. And I loved Gerard [Depardieu]. He was doing a movie in Italy and would fly in on the weekends to shoot these small scenes with us. And he was so much fun. Everybody walked the extra mile to make the film look good, like it was in the midwest and shot in America.

It would be wrong of me to not ask something about. Sticky Fingers. The Smiths. Lou Reed and “Take a Walk on the Wild Side.” You didn’t even know Lou when he wrote about “Little Joe,” is that correct.


That’s correct. None of those things had nothing to do with me. With the Smiths album, [Smiths singer Morrissey] was a fan, and I don't think he asked anybody for permission. He just used the picture. Sticky Fingers, the crotch shot could have been anybody. The only reason I know it was me is because of my belt. With "Walk on the Wild Side," that was Paul Morrissey telling Lou he should watch some films they'd been doing and write about the people in them. He wrote about the character he saw on screen. It wasn't like he was socializing with us."


Thursday, February 2, 2017

Vicki Lawrence Talks Carol Burnett, One-Hit-Wonders, Miley Cyrus, and Touring with Mama

Posted By on Thu, Feb 2, 2017 at 2:25 PM

Mama and Vicki
  • Mama and Vicki
Vicki Lawrence doesn’t want Vicki Lawrence and Mama: A Two-Woman Show to be just a retrospective. The Carol Burnett Show alum, who had a hit single with, “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” and a hit show in Mama’s Family wants to bring her most famous character into the 21st-Century and let her comment on current events. She also wants to give fans everything they expect from Mama, and maybe a little bit more.

Fly on the Wall: I was a tour guide at Graceland, and know what It’s like to be asked the same questions over and over again. Are there questions you get so often you want to answer, “Can’t you just ask Google?”


Vicki Lawrence: Ha! Maybe. But maybe it’s like your kids wanting to hear the same story over and over again, you know? Or maybe they don’t believe it, so they really want to hear it from the horse’s mouth, if you will. That said, what’s the question?

Oh, that WAS the question. As an interviewer, I’m a little bit obsessed with how people experience interviews, particularly the questions that come up again and again. And between The Carol Burnett Show, which is iconic, Mama’s Family, which is ubiquitous, and having this career anomaly one-hit-wonder with “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” I suspect you get a lot of repeat questions.

Well, you know, when I put this show together I knew all the questions people asked me over and over again, so I made my half of the show — because I call it a two woman show — I made my half largely autobiographical, because it’s the questions everybody always asks. I know if we turned up the lights — I do questions like Carol — this is everything everybody would ask. So, the first thing I answer is how I met Carol and how I got started, and how I became a natural red head, how I only had one huge hit record, how I met my husband, how Mama happened. I think by the end of the Vicki half of the show people know more about me than they probably ever wanted to know. I don’t know what they’d ask.

That was my sense of the show.

Well, I also think my life has been pretty comical, and pretty serendipitous, so it’s kind of a funny half of the show. It’s pretty incredible what happened to me. It’s nothing I ever intended. And it’s funny, because I grew up in very close proximity to Hollywood, my dad worked in Hollywood, at Max Factor, the entire time I was growing up. That’s where I hung out and went to dance classes and worked. I was lucky enough to go see the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl when they first came around. It’s where I hung out. But it never occurred to me to go into show business. I was going to go to college, study dental hygiene, learn to clean teeth, marry a rich dentist. I kind of feel like I got kidnapped by show biz.

But you were always a performer, weren’t you? How old were you when you were doing [teen singing group] The Young Americans?

High school. And yeah, I do have all that too. I auditioned when I was a freshman. End of Freshman year and sang with them all through high school.


So it was always there but just for fun?


It wasn’t anything that ever occurred to me as something I might do for a living. Or maybe I didn’t think I was good enough. Or, I don’t know. So the whole thing has been a wonderful, strange adventure.

Thelma Harper is such a complete character. So distinct from you, and you have shared a body for a long time now. Do you turn Mama on and off like a light, or is she always lurking? I’ve always thought it would be great to have a little Mama — like a cartoon angel — that just rode around on my shoulder, complaining about things.

I know her so well. It’s very easy to pop in and out of that character. And I do find, as I get older that I probably think a lot more like she does. You earn the privilege to not waste as much time anymore so you just say what’s on your mind. And I kinda understand that as I get older. It’s like everything that’s going on in Washington right now. Do you think I’m going to live long enough to see the movie? It’s going to be a helluva movie.

I feel like I’m not as prepared for this interview as I should be because instead of doing my homework I keep having to check the news to make sure all of that’s real and not the result of a bad potato before bedtime.

Right?


But back to you. You do get sucked into Show business young. Were you doing Carol Burnett while you were going to college, is that right?


My dad was a UCLA grad, and it was always his dream that I would go there. We lived near UCLA and the deal was, “Of course you can go to college as long as you’re at the studio by 11-o'clock in the morning. So I took everything I could take at 7 a.m. and didn’t have much of a college life. I made it through two years and had to declare a major. Decided I’d declare theater arts because it looked like that was what I was going to do. Started studying that, but once you sign up they expect a quarter of crew work, and they expect you to audition for shows when they come up, and that’s when the Burnett show was the busiest. In the beginning we blocked on Friday, pre-recorded Friday night, shot on Saturday. So I couldn’t do it. I was hiding from everybody. I was the kid who would dash around the corner when the professor would say, “hey you!” So I went to my parents and said I needed to change my major, and so I changed it to dance. And that was so depressing in college compared with what I’d been learning in Hollywood. I used to take jazz classes from guys who were the Jets in West Side Story. It was cool. So I dropped out of that. So I went to my favorite theater professor and said, “What am I going to do?” He said, “You’re where every kid in this department would give their right arm to be. My advice: Get a pad and pencil and go learn from the best people in the business.” And that just broke my parents’ hearts. My mom never went to college so it killed her. Till the day she died she said I needed to go back to college and get a degree so I’d have something to fall back on if show business doesn’t work. But I felt like I had no choice. And it was hard not to learn from Harvey [Korman] and Carol just by osmosis. Just sitting and listening.

I bet. Was it unusual to everybody that you were doing school and the show at the same time?

Well, I didn’t do a whole lot on the Burnett show when I first started. Going to school and getting to the studio wasn’t a problem. People do it all the time now. You hear about movie stars that went to Harvard and Yale — I guess they weren’t doing a weekly television show.

Yeah. Time off between movies is a whole different dynamic.

But in the beginning I was hired to play her kid sister, and that’s really all I did for at least a season and a half. Then they slowly broke me into other sketches. So it’s not like I had a ton to do.

And Carol and Harvey were your mentors. They took you under wing.

Well, Carol had a show to run, so she had a lot to do. But Harvey, just being the team player he was, took comedy very seriously. And he was a trained dramatic actor. So he decided he would take me under his wing and make me a comedian. He would say, you can’t find stage right, stage left, you can’t even find the toilet. So he set about to train me. He’d work with me on dialects, and my props. And he’d explain to me who I was in those movie takeoffs when I didn’t know. It was great to have Harvey Korman for a tutor.

People make so much of Tim Conway’s antics. But the secret weapon was Harvey…

He made it work.

So you were 24 when you start playing Mama?

Uh-huh.


A Hollywood youngster, playing a much older Southern lady from circumstances very different from your own. How did you find her?


First, I played a lot of older women on Carol’s show. Mama wasn’t the first, she’s just the one that stuck. But you’ve got to remember, it was Carol’s show. So, when Carol was playing Shirley Temple, I was playing the mean old school marm. And, while she was playing Rebecca, I was the wicked old housekeeper. She was Snow White, I was the wicked witch. She was Red Riding Hood I was… I don’t know. Who was I in that? Anyway, I played a lot of older women on that show. So Mama wasn’t the first. She was written for Carol, and I tell this story in the show. I call it another gift from Carol. Because she didn’t want the part. She said, “It doesn’t speak to me, I want to be Eunice.” The writers were very upset. She went to Bob Mackie and said, “Don’t you think we should make Vicki Mama? He said absolutely and the writers were doubly upset. Then we got to rehearsals and she said she wanted to do it Southern. The writers literally walked out the first time they saw it. They said, “You’ve ruined it.” This was their baby. They came from dysfunctional upbringings, and they wrote this beautiful homage to their families and Carol ruined it. Of course, what we know is Carol really didn’t ruin it, she was right. Carol and I were doing an interview together, for extended features on a DVD, and, because some of our sketches could get pretty dark, she said she always thought it would be a good exercise for an acting class to take one of our sketches and play it seriously first, then go back and add the accents. I think that’s why she added the accents. She always said it was like Tennessee Williams on acid.

On something. I remember being young and seeing those sketches and they upset me. Everybody seemed so unhappy and angry. It wasn’t until I was a little older that I got how funny they are. I remember sitting down with the family to watch Carol Burnett — this was family entertainment. But in retrospect, a lot of it was pretty dark. Like a dwarf crushed by an elephant during an act of lovemaking. It was pretty adult stuff.

It was. And those were arguably Carol’s favorite characters. The writers couldn’t write those sketches fast enough. It was al very close to real life. Much more than anything else we did.

Mama’s costume — it’s almost like a uniform — is there one part you put on that makes you feel complete? I’ve always guessed the support hose.

The socks I rolled down because it reminded me of my grandma whose socks were always sagging. It is like a uniform. I can’t imagine not doing it in any part of it. I did go out without my glasses one time though. I reached up to touch them and was like, “Holy cow!” I didn’t say anything and the audience didn’t say anything. Maybe nobody noticed. But I felt naked after that.

I bet. These characters — Chaplin’s tramp, Groucho’s Groucho — you take away the cain or the cigar — you take away part of the identity.

Yeah, I know. And I get pictures every year of people who dress up like her for Halloween.

Did you feel right away, when you started doing this, that it was special?

We did. The writers walked out and did not. Said we ruined it. But you can tell when something’s really rolling when you’re doing it and it’s funny. They wrote it as a one time sketch, but it got so much positive fan mail.

Over time did the writers warm to the changes?

I’m not sure. I guess they did. We took the writers when we went to do Mama’s Family and they didn’t warm to those changes at all. We did two episodes and I said, “This is not funny.” This doesn’t feel right.” And I shut the show down and said, please, please bring Harvey in. And so we did and I asked Harvey, “How do we fix this, it doesn’t feel funny?” He said, “Well, it’s a sitcom now, sweetie. It’s got to be silly. You can’t expect people to pop a beer, come home every week, throw up their feet and watch this old lady scream at everybody for a half-an-hour. She’s got to become a sitcom star. She’s got to laugh.” I said, “But I don’t think she’s ever even smiled.” He said, “What have I taught you — you ARE her. She is YOU. Anything you can do, she can do.” He was really responsible for turning her loose, and turning her into the peacock she became. And there was nothing the writers could throw at me that she couldn’t do, anything. From running for mayor to learning to drive to dirty dancing to falling in love. Anything. She did it all.

I’ve got to talk about “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.” I’ve got a friend who’d be upset if I didn’t. A 51-year-old man. Works out to your record— The first one. Knows every word to every song.

Oh. My. Well, you know I was married to the songwriter for like 10-minutes and “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” was the only good thing that came out of it. That and I got to keep the dog.

Does the fact that it was a troubled relationship change your relationship to the song?

No, the song took on a life of its own and was the ultimate demise of an already doomed marriage. It became this big huge juggernaut of a hit from the 70’s and you know— If you have one of those you have to sing it. And I feel okay. I got the last word, I was right. It WAS a huge hit. And I lobbied long and hard for the guy that arranged that record. His name was Artie Butler and he was on the charts with a number of other songs that I loved at the time. He was not the producer’s go-to arranger and they didn’t get along so great. But he was totally responsible for the way that song ended up sounding, but wasn’t called back in to do the album. I look back and think, “You don’t break up the winning team!” So the album I’m not proud of at all.It got done because it had to but it wasn’t the great experience of doing, “Georgia.”


How did you fit the music career in around the TV show?

I didn’t really have a music career. Back then, when this happened to me, you didn’t cross pollinate like you do now.

Unless you were like the Brat Packers.

But record stars didn’t really do Television, Television stars didn’t make records. Movie people were never on the small screen, ever.

And most of the ones that did happen, didn’t work.

Right. Now, if you’re not doing it all, and a line of makeup and clothing, you’re not doing it. Back then I’d do interviews in conjunction with the record and people would say, “Vicki Lawrence, where have you been?” I’d be like, “On the Carol Burnett Show for six years.” Or I’d have people call me Vicki Carr. “No.”

It seems so very separate. I wondered if, even then, people didn’t make the connection.

People come to the show who say, “I had no idea that was you.”


You mention that nowadays you have to do everything or you’re not doing it. You’ve obviously done the Disney thing working on Hannah Montana with Miley Cyrus. As a former youngster who had such incredible mentors, did you feel the urge to step into that kind of role?


Those producers on Hannah Montana set about to surround her with actors who were really good. Brooke Shields. Dolly Parton played her other grandmother. There were a lot of big stars on that show. And they would say. “She’s like a little sponge. We want to let her learn, so please impart your wisdom. It was a very nurturing environment. I remember the first day on the set we had a kitchen scene with a lot of props and we had to get something done during the scene. I used to love those scenes on Mama’s Family because our director would choreograph them like a dance. By the end of the kitchen scene you’d have something made, or in the oven. I’d associate my lines with my props, and it made it so much easier to learn. So we were having trouble getting something sorted out and I said, “Make your props your friend, Miley.” The first thing Harvey ever taught me. So we made it a little dance and it worked fine. Flash forward, four years later, I’m doing the last episode of Hannah Montana I ever did. And Mamaw and Miley are at a Tea Room and we’re all dressed up in our high heels. And I set my purse down in the middle of the table, and it just wasn’t working. I asked Miley what she did with her purse and she said, “I hung it on the back of my chair Vicki. Make your props your friends.”

We haven’t talked much about your show.

I'll share one of my favorite stories. When we first started doing it, we got booked in Laughlin, Nevada, which is about 90 miles from Vegas, and a world away. It's on the Colorado. Mobile homes. A much older crowd. So we're working this big casino there, and the fella that booked the show came down on the second or third night to say hi. We were all sitting in the dressing room talking — me, my husband, who produces the show, and my son, who directs it — and he asks, 'Would you like to know what the word is out on the casino floor?' And I said, 'Sure, what is the word on the casino floor?' He said, 'The word is, wear your Depends.' That's probably the nicest compliment I've ever gotten.



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