Memphisness

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

8 Places Elvis Fans Won't Visit but Probably Should

Posted By on Wed, Aug 9, 2017 at 10:33 AM

This was originally published here at FOTW back in 2013. It's still a good list and since so many Elvis-people are in town it seemed like a good thing to re-post. If you've never seen it before, enjoy. If you have, enjoy all over again!

#8: Alcenia's
, 317 N. Main

Free hugs with every meal. For real.
  • Free hugs with every meal. For real.

Alcenia's is a funky little soul food joint at the Southwest edge of Memphis' Pinch District where meals are cooked to order and every new customer gets a hug. Although neither the restaurant, nor the building has a specific Elvis connection, sidewalk tables provide guests with the best view of the I-40 overpass in town.

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Of course, when Elvis was a teenager living in the Lauderdale Courts housing project there was no scenic I-40 overpass. Instead, there was a cluster of African-American bars and in the evenings both the music and the crowds spilled out into the street.

Why Elvis fans won't visit: There's really not much to see, unless you count this sign marking the location of Memphis' first bar.


Drunk History
  • Drunk History


Why they should: The long demolished Green Owl, a working class African-American beer joint once located at 260 N. Main, just southeast of Alcenia's, was one of young Elvis' favorite neighborhood clubs. He was especially fond of a musician who played a homemade bass he'd fashioned from a bucket and a broomstick.

A view from the dark underbelly
  • A view from the dark underbelly

There's not much music along this somewhat lonely stretch separating the Pinch from the Convention Center, unless you count the song of all the cars and semis speeding by overhead. But these are the sidewalks where an impressionable teenaged Elvis mixed and mingled with blues players, and even though so much has been demolished, walking through Downtown's dilapidated but bouncing back north side, with its trolley line, horse stables and old shop fronts, is still like stepping back in time.

#7: The old Memphis Police Station, 128 Adams

These crumbling stairs...

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Lead to this locked, boarded-up door...

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That once served as an entrance to Memphis' Downtown Police Station.

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Why Elvis fans won't go: Unless you're a fan of weeds and urban decay, why would you?

Why they should: Elvis was fascinated by law enforcement. The lengths he'd go to collect a new badge knew no bounds.

Suspicious Minds
  • Suspicious Minds

But it wasn't all about the bling. Elvis was also genuinely in awe of policemen, and would sometimes ride along after making late night/early morning visits to the station. He even visited the downtown station one Christmas claiming that he needed something to do and it was the only place in town that was open.

Besides, who doesn't love to picnic near classical ruins?

#6: The Blackwood Brothers Record Store, 209 N. Lauderdale

The Lord is my bail bondsman
  • The Lord is my bail bondsman

Why Elvis fans won't go: Because the building, located just off Poplar Ave. near the Jail, has been converted into a bail bondsman's office in what might best be described as Memphis' bail bond district.

Why they should: Elvis was a huge fan of gospel quartets, and the Blackwood Brothers, with their fancy customized touring bus...

Elvis is gonna want one of these
  • Elvis is gonna want one of these

and their own private plane...

And one of these
  • And one of these

were, to put it mildly, complete badasses. Also, you can see the site formerly known as Lauderdale Courts from the front door.

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Today the only records being discussed at 209 Lauderdale are permanent ones, but when his soul needed a'rockin', this is where Elvis got his vinyl fix.

#5: Gulf Station, Second & Gayoso

On October 18, 1956, much ass was kicked near to this very spot
  • On October 18, 1956, much ass was kicked near to this very spot

I sometimes pretend that the above piece of public art is a monument built on the site where Elvis licked two gas station attendants then told the cops (jokingly) that his name was Carl Perkins.

Of course it's not and the the actual brawl went down across the street.

Cornered
  • Cornered

All three men involved in the altercation were charged with assault and battery, but Elvis had been struck first and the Judge ruled in his favor.

Why Elvis fans won't go: It's not an obvious landmark.

Why they should: Two reasons. This is where a scene plucked right out of an Elvis movie actually happened. Also, Elvis's life changed fast. This fight and the resulting day in court represent a dawning realization that life would never be normal again.

Continue reading »

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Dammit Gannett: "Where's Elvis" Edition

Posted By on Tue, Jul 25, 2017 at 3:07 PM

Maybe it's time to change Fly On the Wall's long-running "Neverending Elvis" tab to "Disappearing Elvis." This is from Saturday's Commercial Appeal. And it's starting to feel personal. 
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Friday, July 21, 2017

Artist Renderings for RDC Riverfront Seen as a Comic Book...

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 3:52 PM

First this happened. Then...

This happened...
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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

RDC Announces Plan to Raise Atlantis

Posted By on Wed, Jul 19, 2017 at 4:12 PM

Original Graceland?
  • Original Graceland?
At a press conference in their Front Street headquarters on Tuesday, the Riverfront Development Corporation (RDC) told an assembly of reporters and city officials of plans to raise Atlantis from the bottom of the Mississippi River.

The "continent" of Atlantis, home to an advanced civilization of peaceful citizen-philosophers, was described by Plato in 360 BC as lying “beyond the pillars of Heracleas" and for centuries, that was interpreted to mean the missing landmass was located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. But RDC researchers discovered that Plato’s words were mistranslated. “He really said that Atlantis was just west of Mud Island,” RDC President Benny Lendermon explains. “We were as surprised as anyone.”

Dressed in what he called “full regalia of Atlantean royalty,” Lendermon said the RDC's bold plan was developed after years of careful research by archeologists, engineers, and shamans. Using evidence from geological surveys, satellite imagery, crystal skull phrenology, and dusty tomes of uncertain origin found in the Memphis Room of the Public Library, Lendermon believes the RDC has finally pinpointed the legendary island's exact location in the deepest channel of the Mississippi River.
After determining Atlantis’ location, RDC members made psychic contact with the Atlanteans while in an ayahuasca-induced trance state. “They want to bring peace and prosperity to the Above World,” Lendermon says. “We think this is a great opportunity to connect Memphians and tourists to the riverfront.”

The plans, unveiled today in a polished Keynote pitch deck, require the use of “probably no more than five” small nuclear explosives in and around the area of the river where this astonishing race of enlightened supermen have been living in secret tranquility for thousands of years.

“We ran our plan past the Atlantean Council of Wisdom, and they’re totally cool with it,” says Lindermon, who expects the disruption to be minimal

Once the glistening jade spires of legend and lore are restored to their rightful place high above the Chickasaw Bluff, the RDC plan calls for a boardwalk with interpretive signs to be built along the riverfront next to a submarine taxi-stand and a rock climbing wall. So far the RDC has offered no response to further requests for clarification regarding a pentagonal section of the architectural rendering marked “Sacrificial Altar Complex."

Mayor Jim Strickland praised the plan, saying the city’s investment in the RDC was finally paying off. “You don’t really think we’ve shoveling money at these people for all these years just for a boat dock and a restaurant, do you?”

At press time, efforts to contact the Atlantean Council of Wisdom had not been successful.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Commercial Appeal Editor To Staff: "Work From a Coffee Shop."

Posted By on Mon, Jul 17, 2017 at 5:51 PM

Are you lonesome tonight?
  • Are you lonesome tonight?
Before cracking the latest, darkest chapter in a seemingly endless series of dark chapters, about the last dark days of the Commercial Appeal, it might be helpful to remind readers why the CA's parent company Gannett is exactly like one of the voracious, many-tentacled gods inhabiting the nightmare world of horror maestro H.P. Lovecraft.

Lovecraft's deities are terrifying because they aren't supernatural. On the contrary, like sprawling media companies in possession of properties in distant, disconnected markets, they follow a system of natural laws far beyond the scope of human understanding. They are essentially materialist, trans-dimensional beings originating somewhere else in the multiverse and, as such, they are indifferent to any  suffering or destruction caused by self-interested incursion into the human realm. So too, enormous media conglomerates pursue agendas that are so far removed from the basic needs of Jane and Joe Subscriber from Anytown USA, it becomes impossible to accuse executive leadership of malice, no matter the resulting chaos. The madness is evident in everything from Gannett's gutting of local news staff, to its reliance on unknown editors from far away places who can't be expected to know the landscape.

As bad as it all sounds, the worst was only prelude to unspeakable terrors lurking just beyond the horizon. See, The Commercial Appeal's a ghost these days — a ghost running on a skeleton crew. Its longtime home at 495 Union is for sale, and even when the enormous structure is occupied during much-reduced business hours, vast expanses lie empty, unused and unknown. Who knows what fell creatures lurk in the cold gloom of the parking lot, let alone the ragged wastes between circulation and the morgue? If I worked in a building possessed by some outside entity with interests so utterly unconcerned with my own, I know I'd probably dock my laptop at the neighborhood coffee shop instead of my cubicle. And judging by this actual, sad, verbatim memo from the CA's newly installed Executive Editor Mark Russell, that's what management suggests as well: Get Out!!!

"A few updates:

*Starting today (Monday), building security in The CA’s 495 building has been reduced to 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For this week, if you work after 5, and need an escort to your car, please ask a colleague to accompany you. If you are worried about working in your department alone after, say, 6 or 7 p.m., please consider leaving at 5 to work from a coffee shop, home or some other location that has what you need and where you feel secure. And the same thing goes for someone starting at 6 a.m. Please work from a coffee shop or home if you are worried about being safe coming in at 5:45 before security starts this week. Later this week, I will update you on the security plans going forward when I know more."
But does he really want to know more? Is it worth the madness to come?

(Click the vid to hear the memo read aloud in the style of Welcome to Night Vale)

Friday, July 14, 2017

Fancy Art Critic "Knocked Out" by Memphis Pedestrian Crossings

Posted By on Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 2:23 PM

Modern Masterpiece.
  • Modern Masterpiece.
Dolly Salvador says nobody could have prepared her for the raw, terrifying beauty of Memphis' colorful pedestrian crossings.

"It's an incredible play on the whole concept of street art," says Salvador, the longtime critic for Over the Couch Quarterly and founding editor of Fancy Art magazine. "The fact that it was created by "the Man," as they say, only makes it that much more subversive and so right now.'"

Salvador came to Memphis because she'd seen pictures of the crosswalks posted online and knew she had to see them in person. 
"They're even more magnificent than I expected," she says. "You can tell that there's rigid order here if you're looking down on it from above — that it was imagined as part of some real improvement. Then you drive up on it in your car and BAM, perspective transforms it into something disorienting, and a little chaotic. It creates this instant sense of paranoia, like all the nice, modern things invented to make life simpler are driving us mad. Such a perfect summation of our current techno-political malaise."

Memphis is hardly the first city to experiment with color coded intersections. "But it's so visually brutal," Salvador purrs. "I don't know how they did that using basic green and white strokes and those variously shaped patches of blue in the corners, but I love it so, so much."


Thursday, July 6, 2017

All Buttholes Considered: The Imagine Cafe Story in Tweets

Posted By on Thu, Jul 6, 2017 at 4:00 PM

Lifted from Imagine Butthole Cafe
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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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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. 
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