Memphisness

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Memphis comic book creators launch Rise of the Golden Dragon

Posted By on Thu, May 3, 2018 at 4:52 PM

I was biking around South Main a few Sundays back when I spied some nifty-looking Afrofuturist art at Art Village Gallery. So I popped in to discover that wasn't the only thing going on. Artists/comic creators John Cooley and Erwin Prasetya were also giving away copies of a new, locally produced comic book titled Rise of the Golden Dragon.
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Who says you can't judge a book by its cover? This issue is cool.

The spreads are generous, thoughtfully broken down and nicely drawn. 
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The action's great. 
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And the details are nice.
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The story, which has a light tone and never takes itself too seriously, is focused around a pair of warrior "dragons" who are rooting out ancient supernatural evil wherever they find it. Think Deadly Hands of Kung Fu, and tracksuit Iron Fist meets John Constantine in an Enter the Dragon remake.

The lightly worn pop-culture references don't stop there. Issue 1/12 was action-packed and full of gags, but still managed to lay the foundations of a sprawling story and establish a compelling set of personalities. And c'mon— Ninja exorcists? That's got all kinds of potential.

The self-published Rise of the Golden Dragon is slated to come out once a month. Find out more about that and other titles at Fanboycomics.com


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wikipedia edit trolls the Tennessee House of Representatives

Posted By on Wed, Apr 18, 2018 at 2:40 PM

Klandy Holt
  • Klandy Holt
It's not hard to troll ol' Klandy Holt and a Tennessee legislature that can't quite bring itself to denounce white supremacy, but can always rise to the occasion of punishing a majority African-American city for removing the public statue of a slave trader, Grand Wizard, and Confederate general. How can it be so richly satisfying?

Hats off to the author of this edit. Though Wikipedia has removed your fine work, let it always be remembered. 
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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Great National Pancake Day Robbery + A Thirsty Burglar

Posted By on Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 11:55 AM

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Fly on the Wall's always looking to spot new trends in TV reporting and WMC's recent marriage of food and crime news looks promising.
From this list of headlines we discover two things: It's national pancake day (who knew?). Also, the International House of Pancakes in Midtown was robbed.

Good news/Bad news
  • Good news/Bad news

WMC has also alerted Mid-southerners to the activities of a very thirsty burglar who'll break into your house and steal all your Capri Sun. We bet this fiend would grab your SunnyD too, given half a chance. 
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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ameripolitan Awards, 2018: Winners and Music Clips

Posted By on Wed, Feb 14, 2018 at 5:41 PM

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Everybody who's a fan of honky tonk, western swing and rockabilly wins at Dale Watson's international Ameripolitan Music Awards. Sadly, only a few folks go home with trophies. The Tuesday night awards followed four days of showcases at venues like Loflin Yard, Blues City Cafe and the Guest House at Graceland and performances by dozens of artists like Whitney Rose, The Greenline Travelers, and Watson himself.

In addition to honoring the best new makers of old sounds the 2018 Awards paid tribute to Stray Cat Brian Setzer and, pedal steel wizard Lloyd Green who played on records by Johnny Paycheck, Charley Pride, and other Nashville hit makers. The night's top honoree was Sun studio founder Sam Phillips whose memory was honored with performances by contemporary artists backed by Sun drummers W.S. "Fluke" Holland and James Van Eaton. "She Thinks I Sill Care" songwriter Dickey Lee made an appearance as did the Blackwood Brothers.
And the winners were...

Honky Tonk Female: Brennen Leigh

Honky Tonk Male: Luke Bell
Honky Tonk Group: The Reeves Brothers

Western Swing Female: Sophia Johnson

Western Swing Male: Billy Mata

Western Swing Group: The Carolyn Sills Combo
Rockabilly Female: Bailey Dee

Rockabilly Male: Al Dual
Rockabilly Group: The Go Getters

Outlaw Female: Nikki Lane

Outlaw Male: Cody Jinks

Outlaw Group: Whitey Morgan and the 78’s
Ameripolitan DJ: W.B. Walkers

Ameripolitan Venue: Sportsmen’s Tavern
Ameripolitan Festival: The New England Shakeup-Up

Ameripolitan Musician: Chris Scruggs

Keeper of the Key: Reverend Horton Heat

Founder of the Sound: Lloyd Green

The Master Award: Brian Setzer

The Legend Award: Sam Phillips 

Friday, February 9, 2018

"Elvis Used to Live Here" - Honest Tourism Commercials, Memphis Style

Posted By on Fri, Feb 9, 2018 at 10:53 AM

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If you haven't seen this short parody of Memphis tourism courtesy of Ryan Hailey take a peek.

You can find out more about Ryan's Shorts by clicking here.

Happy Friday!


Thursday, February 8, 2018

RATS! Public Art that Doesn't Give a Rodent's Rump

Posted By on Thu, Feb 8, 2018 at 3:41 PM

A new art installation called “Barrier Free” now stands in the Hall of Mayors at Memphis City Hall. 
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It’s beautiful. It’s big…real big. The main piece has larger-than-life photos of families from across the city.
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That part of the piece represents “our beautiful diverse tapestry,” reads the artist’s statement from Yancy Villa-Calvo, hired to create the installation by Latino Memphis.
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Graphic shirts at the end caught my eye. What did they say? 
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The delightful little girl’s shirt reads “Follow Your Heart” and I hope she follows hers.
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The man standing behind her followed his heart when it came to choose his wardrobe. His shirt reads “I don’t give a….” Below the words, a cartoon rat leads a cartoon donkey.
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Reading between those twisty lines of high comedy, you know this shirt implies: “I don’t give a rat’s ass.”
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Then, you look up at the man wearing the shirt and you realize he really doesn’t. At. All.
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Good for you Rat’s Ass Shirt in a Big Public Art Display Guy. Much respect for you playing by your own rules.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Poop on Pees: A Commercial Appeal Headline Gone Wild

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 2:31 PM

Some names present special challenges for headline writers who have to pack a lot of information into only a very few words. Clarity can be especially difficult if the headline writer needs to identify a person whose name is also a verb. The sports section in today's Commercial Appeal provides us with a classic example of how  inconsiderate word placement can transform the meaning of a sentence.
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How hard would it have been to simply reverse the names? — "Titans Vrabel scores twice with Pees, LaFleur?"

Way too hard for Gannett. Dammit.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Commercial Appeal Illustrates Local Earthquake Story with Non-Local Disaster Photographs

Posted By on Wed, Jan 17, 2018 at 12:19 PM

Dear mom and dad,

I'm sorry I didn't check in safe on Facebook after the earthquake in Memphis and West Tennessee. But jeepers, I didn't even know there was an earthquake in Memphis and West Tennessee. Still, I can understand how you might be concerned after seeing pictures of collapsed buildings like this one published by the USA Today-owned version of The Commercial Appeal. It looks bad. 
Pretty bad, huh?
  • Pretty bad, huh?
But that picture's a video still somebody found on the web —  this video published in 2016 to be specific — and not a current picture from Memphis or West Tennessee.

Or maybe you saw this picture. It's super-scary, right? 
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It also wasn't taken in Memphis. Or Dyersburg. It's from...
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Anyway mom and dad, I don't want to be dismissive. It's possible that this quake (which I didn't feel) caused some damage somewhere. But near as I can tell no multi-story buildings from New Zealand collapsed in Memphis today.

Anyway, I love you and I'm sorry, and I promise to check in in the future. Stay warm!

Chris

PS: I think I'm creating a new tab for my Fly on the Wall blog called Dammit Gannett. I used to just file all this stuff under media but I think with this one the CA's parent company has earned its own special place in the cabinet.   

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Paint Memphis: So Much More Than Zombies

Posted By on Thu, Nov 30, 2017 at 5:50 PM

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Regardless of what we all may think about Memphis' big silly zombie murals, I think we can all agree on one thing:  The Memphis City Council doesn't really get public art, who makes it, or how. Hopefully most of us can also agree that it's in nobody's best interest to induce Satanic panic or base policy on superstition. 

Right Councilman Joe Brown?
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For better context you can follow the links above, and I promise to write more informatively on this topic later. Right now I just want to share a bunch of pictures and think out loud about my drive South down Willett, beyond all the stately Midtown homes and mansions, into the increasingly dilapidated and largely vacant zone where it hits Lamar. Here there be monsters.
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Murals like the ones currently causing a fuss are designed to have a relatively short shelf life. They are destined to become sun-faded or overwritten by fresh coats of paint. In a perfect world the empty buildings are filled, and freshened up accordingly. That's not a free pass on criticism — far from it. There are good reasons to question things like access, community input, how much may or may not have been done to include neighborhood artists and whether or not it's a good idea to paint a big reanimated corpse on a major thoroughfare. It may also be helpful to look at the entire result and not reduce an enormous project like this one to a single beastie.

Contextually, none of the art — not even the most extreme — seems all that out of place on a stretch of Lamar where skateboarders work out their tricks, graffiti-covered boxcars are parked along the elevated railroad tracks, and abandoned properties have been tagged for decades. Most of the work is positive, celebrating the music and moods of a moody, musical town. Some of it's quirky. Some of it's really lovely.
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As this conversation continues, pay attention to the whole street, and to street-life on a corner dominated by empty properties, a gas station, and a skateboarder's hideaway — just around the corner from a public school for the arts. There are lots of good conversations we can have about access, public input, and so on. But those conversations do need to acknowledge that projects like these are infinitely amendable, and undertaken in the absence of industry. Unlike Memphis' Confederate statues, there's no entrenched zombie agenda working to keep buildings vacant and spookily decorated. As one friend put it, "art's messy." And in this kind of temporary, low-stakes arena there's probably room for mistakes, poor judgment and even bad art. Because — barring some regrettable and reactionary policy — there's going to be a next time, and ample opportunity to listen, learn and do better. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Memphis College of Art in the 1960's-70's

Posted By on Thu, Nov 16, 2017 at 11:33 AM

Artists Ed Perry and Rockne Krebs worked together on numerous - urban-scale installations involving light and lasers. - COURTESY OF ROCKNE KREBS ESTATE
  • Courtesy of Rockne Krebs Estate
  • Artists Ed Perry and Rockne Krebs worked together on numerous urban-scale installations involving light and lasers.

Additional "Art of the Deal" web extras will be more closely related to MCA's closing. But I'd originally wanted to drop the whole story of the school's misfortunes into a bigger history, and look at the relationship between the art college and the city that helped to create and sustain it. It was classic biting off more than I could chew but hopefully unused interviews with Dolph Smith and Veda Reed, collected for this week's cover package, will provide readers with a snapshot of campus life in the 1950's, and as the school transitioned to Overton Park. And maybe this curiosity from from the Flyer's morgue will do double-duty, giving readers a taste of what MCA (still the Academy) was like in the 1960's and 70's — and also what kinds of things were going on more recently at The Nesin Graduate School downtown. It tells the story of Academy grad and art-world nobody Ed Perry, the amazing body of work he left behind, and the friends and former classmates who wanted to make sure he wouldn't be totally forgotten.

It may not capture highlights from the era. You'll have to go here to look at pictures from the time David Bowie showed up. But it's the best I had on hand!

The story originally published August 21, 2014.

The Life and Afterlife of Edward Perry
Who is Edward Hagen Perry, and why is The Memphis College of Art producing two shows of his work?

by Chris Davis

Ed Perry and Rockne Krebs unload one of their urban-scale installations - COURTESY OF ROCKNE KREBS ESTATE
  • Courtesy of Rockne Krebs Estate
  • Ed Perry and Rockne Krebs unload one of their urban-scale installations
Ed Perry isn't famous. He died, a complete unknown, of congestive heart failure in 2007, in the toxic environment of his cluttered home and studio in Stephensport, Kentucky.

"They say he died of congestive heart failure, but there was so much wrong with him you can't keep up with it all," says Memphis songwriter Keith Sykes, who met and became close friends with Perry in the 1960s. "Ed was relentlessly cruel to his body his whole life," Sykes adds.

At the time of his death, Perry's only source of income was a small Social Security check. He died penniless. All he left behind was a mean parrot named Jake, a filthy house overfilled with furniture parts, old wood, and electronics he'd collected for the creation of future projects. He also left an uncommonly unified body of work, much of which had never been exhibited due to Perry's deep mistrust of the commercial art world.
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Although he despised the gallery system, many of the large, meticulously constructed pieces Perry built, mixing painting and sculpture while skirting the boundaries of fine and folk art, were painstakingly labeled, with notes regarding size, weight, construction and, when appropriate, wiring schematics. Many pieces were boxed and stored, as if awaiting their invitation to gallery shows that were never booked. So they sat for decades, gathering mildew and parrot dung, like dirty brides left waiting at a shabby alter.

"Contaminated" is the word Sykes uses to describe his old friend's living environment at the time of his death. "He must have worked for two weeks to just make room for us to move around," he says recalling earlier, happier visits. It fell to Sykes to salvage, store, clean, and painstakingly catalog his friend's work. "If you were sensitive or had any kind of allergies at all, you probably couldn't go in there at all," he says. "We finally got stuff out with masks and gloves on. Because over the years all the nicotine and all the sawdust and all the moisture had conspired together to make it just pretty damn deadly."

So who was Ed Perry? What is it that sets his work apart from so many other artists who collect their MFAs and never exhibit again? And what did this completely unknown artist do to merit two simultaneous shows of his work at the Memphis College of Art (MCA)?
Ed Perry was a Pacifist but became enraged when diplomatic agreements resulted in the destruction of missiles he might have transformed into art supplies. - COURTESY OF MEMPHIS COLLEGE OF ART
  • Courtesy of Memphis College of Art
  • Ed Perry was a Pacifist but became enraged when diplomatic agreements resulted in the destruction of missiles he might have transformed into art supplies.
Judging by his resume and correspondence, Perry self-identified as a "Visual Engineer, MFA," and an "electro-optics engineer," whatever those titles may imply. He was also an abstract painter and an obsessive builder. He was a chain smoker, a self-made scientist, and a 1972 Memphis Academy of Arts graduate. In the late 1950s and early 1960s he trained as a figure skater in Lake Placid, New York, where he met and befriended Olympic medalist Peggy Fleming. He was also a radical pacifist, a drinker of strong libations, and a boundary-defying conceptual artist working with found materials, spray paint, and state-of-the-art lasers.

Ed Perry was a Pacifist but became enraged when diplomatic agreements resulted in the destruction of missiles he might have transformed into art supplies.

Additionally, the man collected in "Ed Perry: Constructions," and "Ed Perry: Between Canvas and Frame," was something of a stock character: the misunderstood genius, pursued by personal demons, uncompromising to the point of being commercially invisible throughout most of his semi-reclusive lifetime.

Perry was highly trained both as an artist and a laser technician. He shared studio space with groundbreaking artists like Sam Gilliam and frequently worked alongside Washington D.C.-based art star and fellow parrot-owner Rockne Krebs, to create massive, urban-scale laser installations. But he was an artworld nobody when he died in 2007. And it's unclear just how much the MCA exhibitions can do to launch an unknown alum's posthumous career, or give his elaborate, mixed-media constructions the happy afterlife Perry's friends think they deserve.

Remy Miller, MCA's dean of academic affairs and the driving force behind both Perry exhibits, thinks it's too easy to sensationalize the lives of troubled artists, and he worries that doing so takes emphasis off of the work. "People tell these horrible stories about a guy who was falling apart and struggling to live," Miller says, specifically referring to accounts of the life of action painter Jackson Pollock. "That's really what you want to talk about in the face of this beautiful work?"

But even Miller succumbs somewhat to the temptation of a good story, comparing Perry to Vincent van Gogh, the Dutch painter whose post-mortem success is partly responsible for the enduring myth that nothing increases the value of an artist's work like a difficult life and untimely death. But the van Gogh story, while relevant in so many ways, isn't an especially realistic impression of how the modern art world works. Perry despised the business side of art-making, and although his resume lists a handful of shows, for the most part he seems to have actively avoided public viewings of his work.

"I asked him if he'd ever thought about making a coffee table book, and what came out of him was another Ed I didn't know and didn't want to know," Sykes says, recalling a past dustup. "I just wanted people to see the stuff. He really hurt my feelings over that."

"I think Ed understood the work was really good," Miller says. "Why else prepare all of that other stuff? Why bother to box it up? Why keep it? Write all those notes on it? I think Ed just couldn't bear to sit through what was going to have to happen next."

Gordon Alexander shared a house with Perry when the two were still students at the Memphis Art Academy (now MCA). He remembers a visit from his friend some years ago, on the night before several larger pieces of Perry's work were scheduled to ship to Memphis' Alice Bingham Gallery for a show. "Ed just says, 'I'm not going to do it,' and he didn't. And that was it." The pieces never shipped; the show never happened.

In some regards, because he has no exhibition history or records of previous gallery sales, Perry might as well not exist. He has no place within the established art world. And even if gallery people find the work compelling, they don't really know what to do with it, because there's no previously established value.

"It's a kind of catch-22," says Ellen Daugherty, the art historian who led an MCA class on Perry and contributed an essay to the exhibit's striking catalog.

Art consultant John Weeden was enlisted to structure a logical value scale for Perry's work. He couldn't discuss the specific rubric, but he gave a general overview of how we might assess the worth of artwork created by a previously unknown artist.
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"Commercial history and provenance are two of the leading factors in determining the general value of an artwork," he says. "In the case of a largely unknown artist, the task becomes one of establishing a framework upon which an initial market for that artist's work may be constructed." Weeden also allows other considerations including the nature of the materials, the style of the pieces, the reputation of the artist, and the level of craftsmanship, labor, and design.

So finally, with two shows, a class, this story, and any other attendant press, Perry the artist finally has a public paper trail. His working relationship as an artistic and technical assistant to Krebs can be affirmed, and too late, maybe, an underappreciated artist gets his overdue recognition.

MCA's Miller doesn't equivocate: "I wouldn't be talking to you right now if I didn't think that this body of work can stand up next to any body of work created in the later half of the 20th century," he says. "I absolutely believe it's as good as any body of that work made by any artist during that time period." Miller's not alone in that belief. Sykes and Alexander, both close to Perry since the 1960s, have made a strong effort to ensure that their old friend's life work doesn't pass unnoticed.

Perry was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky. His father was a WWII vet. His brother Bill also went military. Perry, on the other hand, took classes at community college and trained as an ice skater before leaving for art school in Memphis in the fall of 1967. He was riding a Triumph motorcycle and wearing a flak jacket and WWII combat helmet the first time Alexander saw him pulling up to the Memphis Art Academy in Overton Park. The two young artists bonded early, becoming neighbors, first in the Auburndale Apartments, then housemates, when they moved, along with their friend Paul Mitchell, into an old house on Madison Avenue where Overton Square's French Quarter Inn now stands.

By most accounts Perry was a good but not stellar student who worked hard when he was interested and sometimes flummoxed faculty. He would eventually become MCA's student body president.

"I was in New York by then," Alexander says, speculating that his friend must have been drafted into student government. "He hated titles."

Always interested in technology, especially the artistic applications of lasers, Perry also took physics classes at Rhodes College (then Southwestern).

Alexander describes the Memphis Art Academy as being a creatively fertile environment and speculates that Perry was especially influenced by the work of three notable professors: Ted Faiers, who experimented with totemic "Indian Space" painting and 3D painting; Ron Pekar, the original graphic designer for Ardent Studios who worked in neon and designed the logo for Big Star's #1 Record; and acclaimed color theorist Burton Callicott, who painted false shadows in his work and created colorfields that seemed to glow with their own internal light. Because he was exposed to so much 20th-century art, it's difficult to call out specific influences, but it's not difficult to look at Perry's totem-like constructions and imagine all the ways they might be inspired by these mentors.

Alexander describes the house he shared with Perry as a mattress-on-the-floor den for starving artists. Work was always being made by someone somewhere in the house and painters, sculptors, and musicians were always coming and going.

"We didn't even lock the house," Alexander says. "I know it's hard to believe, but it's true." Musician and occasional actor Larry Raspberry was an intermittent visitor. So was Sykes and a young Alex Chilton, who would eventually move in next door. Somebody was always playing music. When they weren't, Alexander, an audiophile and music editor for the then-Dixie Flyer, Memphis' original underground newspaper, was spinning records on the turntable.

It would be years before Sykes would co-write the hit song "Volcano" and hook up with Jimmy Buffett's Coral Reefer Band. At this point he hitchhiked, pumped gas, worked the holiday rush at Sears Crosstown, and toured as a Dylan-inspired folkie on the Holiday Inn Circuit. He met Perry and Alexander when they were still living at the Auburndale Apartments and remembers being smitten by Ed's work from the very beginning.

"Once you see an Ed Perry, you'll always know his work," Sykes says.

Like so many great college friends, Sykes and Alexander became separated and immersed in their own families and careers. They lost touch with Perry for 20 years.

Perry took his MFA at the University of Cincinnati, where he subsequently went to work for Leon Goldman, a dermatologist and laser surgery pioneer sometimes referred to as "the father of laser surgery." Perry and Goldman co-created studies on laser surgery and published them in scientific journals. But when it was time to make art again, Perry moved on.

Krebs met Perry in 1974 at a laser safety certification class at the University of Cincinnati and almost immediately hired him as an art assistant with laser-safety training and advanced technical skills. This was the beginning of a decade-long working relationship with Krebs.

Perry eventually moved to D.C., where he kept an apartment and studio on the second floor of a warehouse co-owned by Krebs and noted color field painter Gilliam who, like Faiers, had been painting well beyond the frame.

Krebs had a cranky parrot named Euclid, and Perry acquired a cranky parrot named Jake. Studio visitors sometimes had to use trash can lids as shields to avoid a ferocious pecking.

Heather Krebs, Rockne's daughter, remembers Perry well. She says she had to pass by his studio whenever she visited her father's. "He was always in there working," she says, remembering his creations, like the decorated envelopes he made for her to use, but which she kept instead.

Heather suggests that Perry might have benefitted from his proximity to both her father and Gilliam. Clients coming in and out would have seen his work in Krebs' studio or in his own. She wonders if steady work meant he didn't feel pressured to show.


Ed Perry and Rockne Krebs unload one of their urban-scale installations
Krebs created large-scale laser and solar installations for the Omni International Building, now the CNN Center, and Perry consulted and assisted. "Omni was billed as the greatest premiere in Atlanta since Gone With the Wind," Perry wrote excitedly to Krebs, describing the 1976 opening.

"The stuff shirts oohed when Tony Orlando took the microphone," Perry continued in his letter. "And moaned when he announced he would not sing."

Perry moved back to his parents' farm sometime around 1986, and that is where he either built or completed many of the constructions on display in "Between Canvas and Frame."
Artists Ed Perry and Rockne Krebs worked together on numerous - urban-scale installations involving light and lasers. - COURTESY OF ROCKNE KREBS ESTATE
  • Courtesy of Rockne Krebs Estate
  • Artists Ed Perry and Rockne Krebs worked together on numerous urban-scale installations involving light and lasers.
Ellen Daugherty thinks that, for all of his training and expertise, Perry's work sometimes resembles folk art. "Ed builds this stuff that has a kind of similarity to some folk artists," she says, citing his approach to construction and his use of available, affordable materials like old fence boards and discarded Shaker furniture parts. "But when you look at the stuff, that ain't folk art," she says. "It's highly trained. And extremely visual and abstract."

A laser diffraction photo by Ed Perry given to laser artist Rockne Krebs
The backs of Perry's constructions are often as lively as the fronts. Electronic pieces include a full-sized drawing of the wiring plot. Many pieces include obsessive notes about what kinds of materials have been used, when the canvas was primed, and so on. He also makes diary entries marking everything from Halley's Comet arriving in conjunction with the first Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to notes about the Mississippi River flood of 1993.

The two Perry shows are the culmination of a sprawling buddy adventure that launched in Midtown in the 1960s and is now coming home to roost.

"In the late 1990s me and Gordon started talking," Sykes says. "We should go see Ed. You know he's going to be like he always was. Not taking care of himself. Working all the time. Forgetting to eat. Forgetting to sleep. If we didn't go see him, we thought we might not ever see him again." So the old friends went to visit their buddy in Stephensport. After the first trip, they continued to visit as often as possible. They helped their friend when they could, and they watched him fall apart.

"He made bird houses that looked like Frank Lloyd Wright designed them," Alexander says. Further blurring the lines between fine art and folk art, he also carved beautiful, realistic duck and fish decoys, and built majestic weather vanes.

Even at his folksiest, Perry never stopped surprising his friends. "We were sitting around one night and it was dark," Sykes recalled. "Ed says, 'Y'all watch this.' And before you knew it, there were laser beams running all around the house. He had mirrors set up here and there, and that light doesn't degrade."

After Perry's death, Sykes took charge of Jake the parrot and as much of the artwork as he could, with a goal of getting it seen. A veterinarian said it was normal for older parrots to be cantankerous, adding that Jake would be fine once he was weaned off the alcohol. Getting the artwork in front of people proved to be trickier, but Mark and Becky Askew loved the work and agreed to show it in the Lakeland offices of A2H architects.

Miller says he initially had no interest in viewing the work. "I figured it would be the couple of good pieces on the invitation and maybe some unicorns," he says. "But I went. And I've never seen anything like this in terms of a body of work. It was just amazing. So consistently good. So complex. So beautiful and so interesting. I immediately started bringing people out to see it." Now, with the two MCA exhibits, he's inviting the rest of Memphis to look.

One big question remains. What would Perry, who took such pains to stay out of the spotlight, think about his posthumous closeup? "Well, for starters, we're not taking a commission," Miller says, addressing one of Perry's primary complaints.

Alexander takes things a little further: "If he was going to be anywhere in the world, Memphis or Spain or wherever. I think he'd want to be at the Art Academy. Back in Memphis, where it all got started."
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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

More Architectural Renderings of Memphis Seen as a Comic Book

Posted By on Tue, Nov 7, 2017 at 10:03 AM

Previously on FutureMemphis...
In the hopes of inspiring other, better culture jammers to get on board and make the best from this rolling mess we call urban planning, your Pesky Fly has been transforming architectural renderings of FutureMemphis into a loosely told sci-fi saga about flesh-eating birds, zombies, and shadow people. If you need to catch up, here's all that's come before.

And here's an update.
(If you click the images will enlarge and behave more or less like a slide show).  
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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Vending Machine for Weaves Arrives, Memphis Now Officially a World Class City

Posted By on Tue, Oct 31, 2017 at 12:06 PM

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According to a report by WMC news, Memphis now has its very own vending machine for weaves. The Diamond Dynasty weave machine offers a variety of hair options ranging in price from  $55-80.

According to the WMC report the vending machine will be a convenience for people who may need to change their look on the go. Like spies, I guess.
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The obvious question: What kind of impact will easy access to hair have on Memphis' tribble-like infestation of tumbleweaves?

Thursday, October 26, 2017

WalletHub Knows Nothing About Memphis, Halloween, Study Shows

Posted By on Thu, Oct 26, 2017 at 1:03 PM

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The click-listical compilers at WalletHub ranked Memphis low on a survey of fun places to celebrate Halloween because of our high crime rate.
Source: WalletHub
Or does that make us the best place to celebrate Halloween, WalletHub? Muhahahahahaha!

Start Halloween Weekend Right With a Tribute to Sivad and Fantastic Features

Posted By on Thu, Oct 26, 2017 at 10:00 AM

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Every now and then Fly on the Wall likes to publish something "From the Morgue," which, in newspaper jargon, means an article we published some time in the past that's been filed away. But in this case the expression's especially fitting. It's late October — time to remember Memphis' original horror host Sivad. All links have been updated, so readers should be able to sample some of the movies that made Fantastic Features so fantastic. 

The horror first took control of Memphis television sets at 6 p.m. Saturday, September 29, 1962. It began with a grainy clip of black-and-white film showing an ornate horse-drawn hearse moving silently through a misty stretch of Overton Park. Weird music screeched and swelled, helping to set the scene. A fanged man in a top hat and cape dismounted. His skin was creased, corpse-like. He looked over his shoulder once, then dragged a crude, wooden coffin from the back of the hearse. His white-gloved hand opened the lid, releasing a plume of thick fog and revealing the bloody logo of Fantastic Features.

"Ah. Goooood eeeevening. I am Sivad, your monster of ceremonies," the caped figure drawled, in an accent that existed nowhere else on planet Earth. Think: redneck Romanian.

"Please try and pay attention," he continued, "as we present for your enjoyment and edification, a lively one from our monumental morgue of monstrous motion pictures."


In that moment, a Mid-South television legend was born. For the next decade, Sivad, the ghoulish character created by Watson Davis, made bad puns, told painfully bad jokes, and introduced Memphians to films like Gorgo...


The Brain That Wouldn't Die
...

and Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent.


Watson Davis' wisecracking monster wasn't unique. He was one of many comically inclined horror hosts who became popular regional TV personalities from the '50s through the '70s. According to John Hudgens, who directed American Scary, a documentary about the horror-host phenomenon, it all began with "Vampira," a pale-skinned gorgon immortalized by Ed Wood in his infamously incompetent film Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Although a Chicago-area host calling himself "The Swami" may have been the first costumed character regularly introducing scary movies on television, the big bang of horror hosting happened in 1954, when the wasp-wasted actress Maila Nurmi introduced her campy, Morticia Adams-inspired character on The Vampira Show, which aired in Los Angeles.

via GIPHY

In 1957, Screen Gems released a package of 52 classic horror films from Universal studios. The "Shock Theater" package, as it was called, created an opportunity for every market to have its own horror host. "Part of that package encouraged stations to use some kind of ghoulish host," Hudgens explains. "Local television was pretty much live or had some kind of host on everything back then."

Overnight, horror hosts such as New York's "Zacherly" and Cleveland's "Ghoulardi" developed huge cult followings. "TV was different in those days," Hudgens says. "There weren't a lot of channels to choose from, and the hosts could reach a lot more people quickly. Ghoulardi was so popular that the Cleveland police actually maintained that the crime rate went down when his show was on the air, and they asked him to do more shows."
Dr. Lucifer
  • Dr. Lucifer

Tennessee's first horror host was "Dr. Lucifer," a dapper, eyepatch-wearing man of mystery who hit the Nashville airwaves in 1957. Since Fantastic Features didn't air until the fall of 1962, Sivad was something of a latecomer to the creep-show party. But unlike most other horror hosts, Davis didn't have a background in broadcasting. He'd been a movie promoter, working for Memphis-based Malco theaters. His Sivad character existed before he appeared on television. At live events, he combined elements of the classic spook show with an over-the-top style of event-oriented marketing called ballyhoo. So Davis' vampire, while still nameless, was already well known to local audiences before Fantastic Features premiered.

"You've got to understand, things were very different back then," Elton Holland told the Memphis Flyer in a 2010 interview. "Downtown Memphis was a hub for shopping, and going out to the movies was an event. And back then, Malco was in competition with the other downtown theaters, so when you came to see a movie, we made it special.”

To make things special Holland, Davis, and Malco vice president Dick Lightman became masters of promotion and special events. Davis and Holland were neighbors who lived in Arkansas and car-pooled into Memphis every day. During those drives, Davis would float ideas for how to promote the films coming to town.

The studios only provided movie theaters with limited marketing materials. Theater businesses had in-house art departments that created everything else. What the art department couldn't make, Davis built himself in the theater's basement. When 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea came to town, he built a giant squid so large it had to be cut in half to get it up the stairs. He constructed a huge King Kong puppet that towered over the lower seats. For the film Dinosaurus, he built a Tyrannosaurus rex that was 20 feet tall and 45 feet long. It sat in the lobby, roaring and moving its tail.


"All movies were sold through exploitation," Holland explained. "And horror movies were the best ones to exploit. ... I remember when Watson first told me he wanted to be a monster. He was thinking vaudeville. He wanted to put on a show."

Davis' plan to create a scary show wasn't original. The "spook show" was a sideshow con dating back to when 19th-century snake-oil vendors traveled the country hawking their wares. Slick-talking performers would hop from town to town promising entertainment-deprived audiences the chance to see a giant, man-eating monster, so terrible it had to be experienced to be believed. Once the tickets were sold, it was loudly announced that the monster had broken free and was on a bloody rampage. The idea was to cause panic and create a confusing cover for the performers to make off with the loot.
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In the early 20th century, the spook show evolved, and traveling magicians exploited the public's growing fascination with spiritualism by conjuring ghosts and spirits. By mid-century, they developed into semi-comical "monster shows" that were almost always held in theaters. Today's "hell houses" and haunted mansions are recent permutations of the spook show.

When England's Hammer Films started producing horror movies that were, as Holland says, "a cut above," he, Davis, and Lightman took the old spook-show concept and adapted it sell movie tickets. They went to Memphis State's drama department and to the Little Theatre [now Theatre Memphis] looking for actors so they could put a monster on a flatbed truck in front of the Malco.

Davis dressed as Dracula, Holland was the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and another Malco exec played Frankenstein. The company also included a wolfman and a mad doctor.

Davis sometimes joined Lightman on inspection tours of other Malco properties. On one of those tours, the men saw an antique horse-drawn hearse for sale on the side of the road. They bought the hearse that appears in the Fantastic Features title sequence for $500. It also appeared in various monster skits and was regularly parked in front of Malco theaters to promote horror movies.

"One time we had this actor made up like a wild man," Holland said, recalling a skit that was just a little too effective. "While Watson did his spiel about the horror that was going to happen, the chained wild man broke loose and pretended like he was attacking this girl. He was going to jerk her blouse and dress off, and she had on a swimsuit underneath." One 6'-3", 300-pound, ex-military Malco employee wasn't in on the joke and thought the actor had actually gone wild. He took the chain away, wrapped it around the wild man's neck, and choked him until the two were pulled apart.

Music to Sivad to...
  • Music to Sivad to...

The proliferation of television eventually killed ballyhoo promotions and all the wild antics used to promote movies. At about that time, the studios started "going wide" with film distribution, opening the same film in many theaters at one time instead of just one theater in every region. This practice made location-specific promotions obsolete. By then, the Shock Theater package had made regional stars out of horror hosts all across the country. WHBQ approached Davis and offered him the job of "monster of ceremonies" on its Fantastic Features show. The show found an audience instantly and became so popular that a second weekly show was eventually added. Memphis viewers apparently couldn't get enough of films like Teenage Caveman...


and Mutiny in Outer Space...


Joe Bob Briggs, cable TV's schlock theater aficionado who hosted TNT's Monster Vision from 1996 to 2000, says that "corny" humor was the key to any horror host's success or failure. "Comedy and horror have only rarely been successfully mixed in film — although we have great examples like Return of the Living Dead, Briggs says. "But comedy surrounding horror on television was a winning formula from day one. In fact, it's essential. If you try to do straight hosting on horror films, the audiences will hate you."

In 1958, Dick Clark invited New York horror host Zacherly to appear on American Bandstand. "This wasn't the year for the comedians, this was the year for the spooks and the goblins and the ghosts," Clark said, introducing "Dinner With Drac," the first hit novelty song about monsters. Four years later, Bobby "Boris" Puckett took "Monster Mash" to the top of the charts. In the summer of 1963, Memphis' favorite horror host hopped on the pop-song monster bandwagon by recording the "Sivad Buries Rock and Roll/Dicky Drackeller" single.


Novelty songs such as "What Made Wyatt Earp" became a staple on Fantastic Features, and Sivad began to book shows with the King Lears, a popular Memphis garage band that influenced contemporary musicians like Greg Cartwright, who played in the Oblivians and the Compulsive Gamblers before forming the Reigning Sound. Although "Sivad Buries Rock and Roll" never charted, Goldsmith's department store hosted a promotional record-signing event, and 2,000 fans showed up to buy a copy.

In 1972, Fantastic Features was canceled. And though Davis was frequently asked to bring the character back, he never did. Horror movies were changing, becoming bloodier and more sexually explicit in a way that made them a poor fit for Sivad's family-friendly fright-fest. In 1978, Commercial Appeal reporter Joseph Shapiro unsuccessfully tried to interview Davis. He received a letter containing what he called a cryptic message: "Sivad is gone forever" is all it said.

Davis, who borrowed his name-reversing trick from Dracula, Bram Stoker's blood-sucking fiend who introduced himself as Count Alucard, died of cancer in March 2005. He was 92 years old.
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* A version of this article appeared in the Memphis Flyer in 2010 —- but with out all the nifty links and embeds. 


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Go to Helvis

Posted By on Wed, Oct 25, 2017 at 5:38 PM

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If you're planning to check out Mike McCarthy's Destroy Memphis documentary, about the failed effort to save Libertyland, or at least Elvis' favorite rollercoaster, the Zippin Pippin, you might also want to grab a copy of McCarthy's recently complied comic book HELVIS No. 1 (Millenia Comeback Special).

This erratically-published story of a pop-eyed zombie Elvis walks a weird line between personal and regional mythology, and a kind of underground journalism, chronicling the death and decay of a Memphis at the heart of American pop culture. 
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McCarthy created HELVIS in 1988 when he was still living with his parents, seventeen miles outside of Tupelo. The first (unfinished) version of the comic wasn't published for 24-years though the ghoulish, trash-rock horror story served as an inspiration for McCarthy's first film, Damselvis, Daughter of HELVIS, and its influence can be felt on in other films like Teenage Tupelo, The Sore Losers, and Superstarlet A.D.


The new, "complete" Helvis, currently available at 901 Comics, reflects McCarthy's interests from  Sexploitation films, Mad magazine,  and rock-and-roll to historic preservation. One sequence finds Helvis disoriented, mad, and riding the Zippin Pippin in Green Bay, WS. Although it reflects a less than happy ending for Memphis, the comic's a sweet Halloween treat for your favorite trickster, and the perfect companion piece for Destroy Memphis.

Worth it for the centerfold . 
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