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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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Monday, November 6, 2017

Richard Ransom Announces Plan to Curb Violent Crime Reporting at WATN 24

Posted By on Mon, Nov 6, 2017 at 5:32 PM

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“Reporting crime all the time is not a responsible or accurate reflection of life in our city and I am proud to work with a news team that wants to inform you, not scare you.” — Channel 24 anchor/managing editor Richard Ransom
Richard Ransom, who left his position at Memphis' top-rated WREG, to join the news team at WATN Channel, 24 says he wants to break the cycle of "if it bleeds it leads" TV-journalism. In a brief but compelling interview with Smart City Memphis, Ransom described lazy “crime all the time” coverage, as  low-hanging fruit. "It also doesn’t reflect the city I know," he said. "It glorifies violence and can fuel racial stereotypes."

That all sounds good, and just about right, but can we expect real change?
"Based on our sample, WATN-24 (formerly WPTY) appears to have the highest percentage of mayhem in the Memphis market. In fact, among Memphis stations, Channel 24 seems to devote the least amount of time to news reporting." — Guns & Bunnies, a Memphis Flyer cover story from April, 2017.
  • "Based on our sample, WATN-24 (formerly WPTY) appears to have the highest percentage of mayhem in the Memphis market. In fact, among Memphis stations, Channel 24 seems to devote the least amount of time to news reporting." — Guns & Bunnies, a Memphis Flyer cover story from April, 2017.
Local Memphis 24 has little to lose with this experiment and everything gain.  Judging by the results of a  Memphis Flyer survey from earlier this year, it was the station devoting the largest percentage of its time to crime reporting while producing the least amount of non-crime-related news content. It has also been a perennial cellar-dweller in the ratings game and any attempt to generate more  relevant news programming would be a step in the right direction. A serious attempt to deemphasize crime in favor of useful news might even disrupt the local broadcast market.

Or it will prove once and for all that broadcast consumers prefer being entertained, enraged, and scared to being informed.





Tuesday, August 1, 2017

NewsMax CEO Worries About Sinclair Broadcast's New Acquisitions, Media Consolidation

It's a Conservative-Propaganda-Organ-Eats-Conservative-Propaganda-Organ World Out There. Be Careful Where You Step.

Posted By on Tue, Aug 1, 2017 at 2:15 PM

Boris Epshteyn — Coming to WREG soon?
  • Boris Epshteyn — Coming to WREG soon?
Industry trade magazine AdAge reports that Christopher Ruddy has asked the FCC to take time and carefully weigh any decision allowing the Sinclair Broadcast Group to go through with a deal that would bring the media conglomerate a total of of 233 local TV-news stations, including Memphis’ WREG.

Via AdAge:

"I am calling for delay," Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax, a conservative outlet with a 24-hour cable news channel, said in an interview. "I think it needs more vetting."

Ruddy, a friend of President Donald Trump, adds a conservative voice to liberal critics of the deal who are wary of Sinclair building a network of local stations featuring the company's pro-Trump commentary.

If you don't know who the players are here NewsMax is a frankly conservative multi-platform media company where TV hosts comfortably compare unflattering news reports about President Trump to “lynchings.” That comparison's no anomaly at NewsMax, which recently dipped its toe in the cable news business. Though marketed as Fox-light it's been a reliably safe space for Right-Wing cranks and conspiracy theorists.

Sinclair's been collecting local news stations. Holdings currently include ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX affiliated properties in an environment where local TV news has more reach than all four major cable news stations combined with NewsMax tossed in like a set of Ginsu knives. Frankly conservative and unapologetically Trumpist, Sinclair requires local stations to air segments by former Trump staffer Boris Epshteyn, the sixth person interviewed in ongoing probes into Russia's impact on U.S. elections.


For pretty much everything you need to know about Sinclair and Boris, and what might happen to Memphis' WREG if the FCC approves Sinclair's latest takeovers click here.

So basically we've reached this weird patch of Spacetime where a company invested in a national cable news product promoting kooks and conspiracy theorists can run headlines like "Local Broadcast Wins as National Media Increasingly Distrusted" with a straight face.

Welcome to The New Fairness in a marketplace of ideas that's somehow even worse than it was when  irresponsible media narratives were seeded and tended by media organs with no agenda beyond basic profit motive.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Corker Describes Trump as a "Wrecking Ball"

Day Officially Ruined

Posted By on Mon, Feb 13, 2017 at 11:28 AM

Yes, “Wrecking ball.” That’s the expression Tennessee Senator Bob Corker used to describe President Donald Trump, in a recent interview for Politico. Corker’s intention was to describe the flailing President as a powerful leader wrestling with destructive foreign policy urges. He didn’t mean to make us all imagine what Trump might look like naked in a Miley Cyrus video.

Thanks, Bob. 
If that wasn't enough, Corker also wants to "massage" Trump's "nuggets." No, he actually said that.
  • If that wasn't enough, Corker also wants to "massage" Trump's "nuggets." No, he actually said that.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Rep. Jeremy "Pants Candy" Durham Merits Expulsion From Tennessee General Assembly

Posted By on Wed, Jul 13, 2016 at 9:13 PM

Jeremy Durham AKA "Pants Candy"
  • Jeremy Durham AKA "Pants Candy"
File under wow.

Rep Jeremy Durham (R-Duh) looks to be a special kind of icky creeper, and a report from Tennessee's attorney general finds his behavior merits expulsion from the General Assembly. Not that anybody's expelling him or anything. 

According to the AG's report Durham was nicknamed "Pants Candy" by one of the 22 women with whom he had inappropriate sexual encounters. His partners had been reluctant to complain for fear of losing their jobs. Lobbyists, interns and executive assistants also worried they's lose favor with the GOP caucus

How did Durham earn the nickname Pants Candy? He kept a dish of candy on his desk. When asked for a piece he reached in his front pocket and fished suggestively for an unwrapped mint. "You don't want those, I've got this," he was quoted as saying.

The legislator's political fate is being left in the discerning hands of District 65 voters. 

Shudder. 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Woman Stabbed for Spilling Cheese Dip; It Wasn't Even Pancho's

Posted By on Sun, Jul 3, 2016 at 12:21 PM

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There needs to be an addendum to the old saying, "Don't cry over spilled milk." Don't stab people over spilled cheese dip, especially if it's not Pancho's.



Seriously, don't do that. 



A 35-year-old Memphis woman was rushed into surgery at Methodist hospital this morning after she wrecked a car she was driving to the emergency room.  She'd been stabbed by another woman who, according to reports, became unreasonably upset after the victim spilled a container of Rotel the two women were sharing with an unidentified male.



Ongoing. 








Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Former Memphian David Gest is Dead at 62

Posted By on Tue, Apr 12, 2016 at 12:42 PM

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David Gest is dead. The American producer, and the former Mr. Liza Minnelli who became a British reality TV star, was found dead Tuesday morning in his room at the Four Seasons hotel in Canary Wharf, London. He was 62.

Gest is one of those special people who is primarily famous for being famous. He had been friends with Michael Jackson, and was still technically married to Liza when he took up residence not a stone's throw from the Flyer's Tennessee St. offices. Before jumping across the pond to try his hand at shows like "I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!" Guest lived in Memphis' South Bluffs community, and was often seen puttering about Downtown, or chowing down on fried chicken at Gus's. He could also be seen in Midtown, East Memphis, and other parts of the city where, in spite of a professed desire for anonymity, his face was blown up larger than life, and split into two halves on billboards promoting the man and his various initiatives.  

On November 20, 2006, the Flyer received a transcontinental phone call from the London Sun, a daily Rupert-Murdoch-owned tabloid that was looking to hire a fearless reporter who could get to the bottom of a hot story that was taking Europe by storm. Longtime Flyer columnist and reporter John Branston took the call but not the job. According to a blog post Branston wrote later that same morning, the Sun wanted someone to visit Gest's house to confirm a story he'd shared with the British media about a maid he kept on staff in Memphis named "Vagina Semen" — a name that was later revised to the slightly less graphic "Vaginika Semen." The Sun needed confirmation.

When reality TV gets real.
  • When reality TV gets real.
"We are so NOT making this up," Branston wrote. "Stay tuned."

Memphis has known its share of eccentrics, but few have been more wondered about than Gest, who upon growing weary of his life in big cities (and the tabloids), tried to escape all the notoriety by moving to our sleepy little river town where he fancied buying, "a very small, intimate luxury hotel with a ballroom on the top of it," but never did. 

In 2004, after weeks of trying to score an interview for an article about him and a charitable event he was planning, Gest told me to meet him at the Peabody Hotel. He kept me waiting for an uncomfortably long time, but he did show up eventually, and we chatted over a plate of batter-fried veggies and cheese.

Here's the original Q&A from Dec. 3, 2004.

The Two Faces of David Gest

"There's another David Gest, and I'd really like to meet him. The one you read about is fascinating, wild, weird, and wonderful, and I don't really think of myself in any of those ways. I never intended to be a personality. I went for years [behind the scenes] as a producer. Then [I produced] Michael Jackson's 30th Anniversary] special. That's when I fell in love and everything changed. Things changed after my wedding and after my life with Liza."

— David Gest, at The Peabody, November 29, 2004

He's on a diet and he's had cosmetic surgery. He's good friends with the King of Pop, Michael Jackson (who has had cosmetic surgery, is probably not on a diet, but has other troubles with which to contend). He's married to Liza Minnelli (whose diets, surgeries, and other troubles are well-known), but they are separated and suing one another. He says she got raging drunk and beat him to the point of disability. She says he swindled her knock-kneed.

These are the things you already know about music producer David Gest, if you know anything about him at all. And since these stories have been blown out in the supermarket rags and on tabloid TV, there's really no point in repeating any of it, now is there?

Gest lives in Memphis now, on the south side of downtown near the river. And he wants to make sure that every Memphian who is hungry, cold, old, infirm, lonely, or down on his luck has a nice dinner waiting for them at various Memphis restaurants on Christmas Day. He's promised participating restaurants money up front and is willing to fund it out of his own pockets. But he'd prefer to pay for the whole shebang by way of a star-studded shindig at the Cannon Center: David Gest's All-Star Holiday Extravaganza.

"So I'm only bringing 40 or 50 artists to town," Gest says, countering criticisms that many of the celebrities he's used to promote the event won't be attending. "Who else is bringing four?"

And who else is offering a free Christmas dinner to anybody who shows up and says "I'm David's Gest" at Corky's, Gus', Willie Moore's, the High Point Café, Westy's, Precious Cargo, Neely's, or Ray's? Whether you love to hate him or hate to love him, David Gest is in the house. He's roaming downtown Memphis, performing random acts of kindness, offering up the moon and determined to deliver some stars.

Flyer: Where were you and what were you doing when it occurred to you that you would be moving to Memphis?

David Gest: I was living in Hawaii and suffering from a brain concussion, and somehow I just dreamed about living on the Mississippi River. I always had an affinity for Memphis. It was something that I felt like I needed at this time in my life — to be away from the paparazzi and not to be someone who's always in the tabloids. I wanted to buy a home that was facing the river, and I did. In my life I've learned you've got to go with your gut. I wanted to live in the South. I felt that I could go to Memphis and make records and do things. I can always fly to L.A. or to New York. And I like living in a small town. It agrees with me.

But what was the specific allure of Memphis?

I was — I think — 17 and I was a journalist when I first came here. It was 1971, and I came to Memphis for a rock-and-roll writers' convention. Everybody got to go to Stax and to Hi Studios. There was a big reception at the Holiday Inn Rivermont, which was the hotel back then. You'd see Rufus Thomas walking around in hot-pants promoting "The Funky Chicken." You'd see all the great Memphis artists there. And all of this had a really strong effect on me, so I kept coming back. About two years later, I was offered the job of national public relations director for London Records. I was supposed to be 21, but I'd just turned 19. I lied about my age. I had a thick, thick Afro that went down to my butt and a moustache and a beard, so I looked older. You know when you're a kid you always want to look older. Then you get old and you want to look much younger. When you get to my age — which is 51 — you start to go, Unh-unh.

That was when you started doing PR for Al Green.

Yes, I did public relations and career guidance for Al Green. [He] was the biggest thing at the time. I did the publicity campaign for [Ann Peebles' hit] "I Can't Stand the Rain." You know, I was the one who had John Lennon come to the Troubadour [an L.A. club where Peebles was performing] on the night he wore the Kotex on his forehead. He was really drunk, and he was screaming, "Annie, baby, I love you! Annie, baby, I wanna, I wanna " And then he asked the waitress, "Do you know who I am?" And she said, "You're an asshole with a Kotex on your forehead." They kicked him out of the Troubadour that night. But he loved "I Can't Stand the Rain." It was his favorite record.

How often were you in Memphis back then?

I'd be here every three to four months. I'd fly in and work with Quiet Elegance, or maybe Ace Cannon, and others. I gave a party in 1977. It was called "Moonlight on the Mississippi in Memphis." It was a party on a riverboat for the Doobie Brothers. Jerry Lee Lewis was there and Rufus Thomas, Ann Peebles, Carla Thomas, the Memphis Horns. It seemed like everybody was on that boat, and it was a jam all night.

Is it true that you recently gave an elderly woman who was shopping at the MIFA thrift store $100 to buy a coat?


Yes. I loved this lady's face. She was 70 or 80. The sweetest little woman you've ever seen. She came up to me and she said, "I love you." And I said, "Well, I love you." She'd seen me on Larry King a few times, and she said, "I think it's wonderful what you're doing for the community." And so I asked her what she was doing, and she said, "I'm buying a coat." I said, "Let me buy you a coat." I went in with her to shop, but she couldn't find the right coat, so I said, "Here's a hundred dollars. Go buy yourself something." She was sweet. I have no idea what her name was.

When you moved to Memphis did you know that you would be producing a celebrity gala and trying to provide Christmas dinner for 100,000 disadvantaged people?

No. In fact, when I moved here, I'd decided that I really wasn't well enough to start working again. Then one day I saw this man on the street and he said he had no food and he needed $7 for shelter. He said, "I've got no place to go not even for Christmas." I asked, "What do you do on Christmas?" and he said, "I beg for food."

I thought, I'm going to put on a show. I'll call my friends and put together a concert so that on that one day a year people can eat for free. [Even with the benefit concert] it's probably going to cost me money to feed all of these people. I'll underwrite it. What's important is seeing results.

Is Memphis now your home or is it just a pit-stop?

Home. I'm going to buy a hotel. I'm in the process of buying a property and building a very small, intimate luxury hotel with a ballroom on the top of it. It's something I want to do with some of my friends. With all these artists coming in because of the FedExForum, there's a need for something like that here.

Have Memphians encouraged your plans to feed 100,000 people on Christmas, or have they been cynical?

A little bit of both. Some people are jealous. Some people would like to see me not succeed. But I will succeed regardless of any obstacles. I will thrive. People can say what they want, but the doubters are going to see this happen in Memphis.

There was recently news that many of the artists scheduled to perform at the benefit concert wouldn't actually attend. How many have confirmed?

Tons have confirmed. It's going to be phenomenal. We're going to have the full band from Michael Jackson's 30th Anniversary special. And to give you some idea [of what's in store], Kim Weston, who had a hit with "Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me)" in the '60s is going to sing that song with the Doobie Brothers who also had a hit with it in the '70s. They are going to be accompanied by a 200-member gospel choir. It's really going to be phenomenal."
vaginica.jpg

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Rejects New Tennessee Logo

Posted By on Thu, Jun 18, 2015 at 6:17 PM

tnlogo1774038742_t755_h69f5db96dcc99611b4e0e073569d994a8f5864a6.jpg

Not only is it crude and a little embarrassing, the controversial new Tennessee logo doesn't meet criteria for trademark. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office the red and blue box with the state's Tn abbreviation is too "geographically descriptive." That means a trademark could grant the holder exclusive rights to design elements that other parties need for general identification and use.

The offending element, in this case, is the state abbreviation:

TN is an abbreviation for Tennessee (see dictionary definition attached). The applicant is the State of Tennessee and the place of business is in Tennessee. Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that the services come from and are offered in Tennessee.

Like the USPTO says in the FAQ :

Under U.S. trademark law, geographic terms or signs are not registrable as trademarks if they are geographically descriptive or geographically misdescriptive of where the goods/services originate. The theory is that other producers in that area would need to be able to use a geographic term to describe where their goods/services are from and that one person should not be able to prevent others from using that term. 



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ole Miss Student Gored by Spanish Bull

Posted By on Wed, Feb 18, 2015 at 12:34 PM

Mother Nature has equipped bulls with a secret weapon scientists call the bootie sensor.
  • Mother Nature has equipped bulls with a secret weapon scientists call the bootie sensor.
In case you missed it, a 20-year-old Ole Miss student named Benjamin Milley was gored by a fighting bull during the Carnival del Toro festival in Ciudad Rodrigo, Spain.

The key quote here comes from the surgeon who says the injury wasn't the worst he'd ever seen, but it was the largest he'd ever had to operate on: "The operation took three hours to repair damage to thighs, sphincter, and back muscles." 


While this is not a video of the actual event, it may give readers some sense as to what just such an encounter between bull and human might look like. 


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Johnny Cash's Son Strips at the Airport

Posted By on Wed, Oct 29, 2014 at 5:02 PM

autograph-john-carter-cash.jpg
It's been a long time since country music fans have been treated to a news report that included the line, "Cash will be released when sober." But like they say, history repeats. 

They also say the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Goodness knows Johnny Cash could raise a little hell when he was on a bender. It looks like his son, John Carter Cash, has an exhibitionist streak and occasionally allows himself to be overserved as well. According to various reports Cash was arrested in Deer Lake, Newfoundland, for stripping down to his underwear in the airport.

Thankfully nobody was struck blind and security successfully convinced Cash to put his clothes back on.

In a tell-all book the younger Cash wrote about his family's various battles with substances, including his own. . 


No charges were brought against the 44-year-old singer. And so far there's been no word as to whether or not this life event will result in a song called "Monday Pants Coming Down," or "Newfoundland Drunk Tank Blues."






Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Authority Song: Gibson Guitar Sticks it to the Man

Posted By on Tue, Feb 11, 2014 at 5:21 PM

Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz got his wood back and now he's showing the Obama Regime his middle finger by issuing the Government II series Les Paul crafted with exotic woods previously seized by the U.S. Government because, as the DOJ put it, the company failed to comply with rules "intended to limit over-harvesting valuable wood species from Madagascar, a country which has been severely impacted by deforestation.” 

A SCREENSHOT CELEBRATING AN INFAMOUS MOMENT IN GIBSON HISTORY
  • A screenshot celebrating an infamous moment in Gibson history



As you can see, it looks like a regular Les Paul, but with a "Government Tan" finish that just screams tyranny!

According to the description of the Government II at Gibson.com, "Great Gibson electric guitars have long been a means of fighting the establishment, so when the powers that be confiscated stocks of tonewoods from the Gibson factory in Nashville—only to return them once there was a resolution and the investigation ended—it was an event worth celebrating." 

And by celebrating we guess they mean "fighting the establishment." And by fighting the establishment they mean paying $300,000 in fines and making a $50,000 contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

First Blood: Did the High Point Owl send a jogger to the ER?

Posted By on Tue, Oct 15, 2013 at 10:20 AM

When owls attack!
  • When owls attack!


Yesterday Fly on the Wall asked readers to submit High Point Owl fan fiction. While we would still love to post the best of your owly fanfic, the first piece I'm sharing is a true account told to me by a reader who asked to be identified as Mimosa Ave:

"I left my house located right in the Highpoint neighborhood around 9 PM for a jog. I had my headphones in, jamming to the latest R&B techno remix on pandora and not 10 steps into my run I felt a smack on the right side of my head—- along with something sharp. I screamed bloody murder, and I mean, I screamed, because for about 3 long seconds I thought I was getting mugged. The thought 'this is what you get for repeatedly running at night in the dark against your better judgement' even went through my head. I looked up and all around and I didn't see anything. No scurry, no flash of movement, nada. I reached up to my head and felt and immediately could tell I was bleeding. I ran back inside my house and looked in the mirror- took the aforementioned picture, and immediately looked up the date of my last tetanus and pondered the thought that the SOB could have been a bat- and contemplated the possibility of rabies.

As might be apparent, I am well acquainted with healthcare- which, in many ways, can help and hurt you. Ignorance can be bliss. I called my friend working her shift in the ER tonight to ask if I needed to boost my tetanus etc. She ran it by some attendings through a lot of laughter (naturally, this story is absurd, you have to laugh). They and other people working in ER tonight immediately asked what neighborhood I lived in—— when my friend disclosed Highpoint they immediately referenced this infamous owl. Hence, my journey to you and submitting this ridiculous story."

email your High Point Owl Halloween fan fiction (or non-fiction) to davis@memphisflyer.com. Write "Owl Fiction" in the subject field. I'll publish the good ones and award some MALCO movie tickets to my completely subjective favorites.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Memphis Soon to Have Two Gas Stations

Posted By on Thu, Aug 15, 2013 at 10:45 AM

Right next door to S&M Welding
  • Right next door to S&M Welding
According to The Voice reporter Barb Pert Templeton, "Not having a gas station in town has been a hardship for Memphis residents for a couple of years now, but it seems they may have a pair of places offering petrol soon."

Whoa. Two gas stations? Clearly it's time for all right-thinking citizens of Memphis, Michigan to learn from their West Tennessee namesake and get out before the inevitable fights over fuel consolidation.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

They Aren't Chew Toys But Dogs Love Them!

Posted By on Tue, Jul 30, 2013 at 1:55 PM

Kudos to Channel 5 reporter Jason Miles for showing so much restraint with this Tweet...

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Which directed followers to this headline.

Continue reading »

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tennessee Woman Diagnosed with "Ghetto Booty." Seriously.

Posted By on Tue, Jul 16, 2013 at 9:47 AM

Lumbar Lordosis, or, as medical professionals call it,  Ghetto Booty.
  • Lumbar Lordosis, or, as medical professionals call it, "Ghetto Booty."
Terry Ragland of Jackson, TN filed a complaint with the Tennessee Department of Health following her doctor's diagnosis of her chronic back pain.

From the WREG report:

“I think I blacked out after he said ghetto booty. I think my mind was just stuck on the phrase because I couldn’t believe he said that,” said Ragland.


Dr Sweo explained to WREG that he'd used the term to explain a condition called lumbar lordosis, "a fancy name for the curve of the lower spine that makes the buttocks protrude more."

"In trying to explain that I said that she had ghetto booty and she didn’t like that apparently," Sweo was quoted as saying.

Read the whole report here.

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