Memphisness

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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Friday, June 9, 2017

Great Balls + Pay-Per-View = Mad Confusion

Posted By on Fri, Jun 9, 2017 at 2:16 PM

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How in the world did Fly on the Wall miss this one for so long?

Apparently there was confusion among WWE fans when a July pay-per-view event originally called Bad Blood was rechristened Great Balls of Fire which, in the context of a wrestling event, does seem to be an awfully specific and descriptive title. Of course Memphis figures into the picture. And Jerry Lawler. And Jerry Lee Lewis too.

A sample of delightful speculation engendered by the name change:

"My best guess? Given this is a Raw-exclusive PPV, Finn Bálor and Bray Wyatt will have an inferno match. Or some sort of match involving fire. Or hell, maybe Jerry Lawler will just pop in to toss one of his patented (patent pending, actually) fireballs. Let’s just get one very important thing clear: if Great Balls Of Fire doesn’t involve some match with fire in it, this is a massive failure from all involved.
Unless …
Oh god.
It’s going to be a match involving balls, isn’t it? Oh no. Oh no no no."

Friday, June 2, 2017

Free (Warm) Beer for Power

Posted By on Fri, Jun 2, 2017 at 6:03 PM

When you go without electricity for days, as many Memphians have, you go feral. You get desperate. You offer to bribe power crews.
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And if at first you don't succeed...
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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.

Reading the CA: This Column by I. Dunno

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 12:54 PM

Because I live in a glass house and everybody screws up sometimes and blogging without a copy editor is scary, I try not to get too hung up on the little things. But Goddammit, Gannett.
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When Local News Isn't Local: A "Guns & Bunnies" Slideshow

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 8:00 AM

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The Memphis Flyer's "Guns & Bunnies" issue measuring violence and fluff in TV news is on stands (and online) now. We didn't undertake a proper survey in this area, but it seems like most of the news content local stations pick up from other markets can be described as a Gun (violence, crime, disaster), or a Bunny (soft news, celebrity, trivia, novelty cute stuff). Here's a taste of what's out there. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Happy Easter from Fly on the Wall

Posted By on Fri, Apr 14, 2017 at 3:08 PM

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It's good Friday, and your Pesky Fly's got nothing to make you laugh. So I thought I'd share this Memphis church sign from Easter, 2009 (I think). It's a such a classic it deserves to be trotted out year after year like a Rankin & Bass holiday special: "Jesus Said Bring Me That Ass."

Please help your irreverent Fly keep an eye out for great church signs this holiday weekend. It's like an egg hunt for heathen grownups.

Friday, April 7, 2017

CA Gets Wrong Gasol, Ex-Reporter Breaks News

Posted By on Fri, Apr 7, 2017 at 10:01 AM

April 7, 2017 will be forever remembered as the day Memphis' Gannett-owned daily, The Commercial Appeal, teased news about Grizzlies player Pau (not Marc) Gasol...
While Phil Stukenborg, a reporter who lost his job in the most recent round of Gannett layoffs,  broke real sports news using Google docs. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

MAF Has a New Meaning: Memphis Ass Farm

Posted By on Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 12:04 PM

EMILY YELLIN
  • Emily Yellin
Sometimes captioning goes wrong. Sometimes a line like, "Hotter than Memphis Asphalt," becomes, "Hotter than Memphis Ass Farm." Okay, that only happened once, on an episode of Sun Records. Of course the Internet caught it right away. Thanks Internet

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.


Friday, March 10, 2017

Memphis Church Sign: Thou Shalt Stock Up on Peanut Butter!

Posted By on Fri, Mar 10, 2017 at 8:58 AM

Church signs are an endless source of joy. Summer Ave. is an endless source of joy. Church signs on Summer Ave. are, by definition, an endless source of joy squared.

If your Pesky Fly is reading this one correctly, it's time to buy more peanut butter. Or tea biscuits. Or maybe just a nice jelly spoon. 
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Or maybe they're just trying to turn us all on to this Classic Rock cover band from Ireland. Hard to tell.

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, January 12, 2017

Memphis Gets a Shout Out From Joss Whedon and a Beautiful Artist's Diary

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2017 at 12:47 PM

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Thumbing through Twitter last night I noticed a tweet from Mr. Avengers director, Joss Whedon that read, "this THIS this." It linked to a graphic essay about the contemporary political landscape, and lessons that might be learned from Memphis. So I clicked.

You'll want to click too.

Artist Christopher Noxon wasn't prepared for what he found at the Civil Rights Museum and was moved to share his experience.

What happened on Mulberry St. was foundation-shaking. What's grown up in the shadow of tragedy contains a blueprint of dissent — a map to freedom.  

It's still inspiring people.
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Friday, January 6, 2017

Pooping With WMC's Andy Wise

Posted By on Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 1:09 PM

Look how they follow you.
  • Look how they follow you.
WMC consumer investigator Andy Wise is many things — a survivor; a humanitarian; and a Christian martyr.  In addition to all of that, he's also an office pooper who knows how to deliver the "ew."

At least, in another tweet, Mr. "On your side," finally answered a question I've been asking for a long time — What kind of crime won't WMC over-report and sensationalize? Unless, you know, he IS the Riddler...

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