Friday, February 23, 2007

Elvis: Still King of eBay

The rights to Elvis' last recorded song sell for $30,000.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 23, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Search for Elvis Presley items on eBay, and you will turn up hundreds — no thousands — of souvenirs, photos, albums, magazine articles, 45s, LPs, CDs, and just about anything and everything someone could slap a TCB logo on.

But occasionally, something very rare and unusual turns up, and that’s just what happened recently when someone decided to sell the rights to Elvis’ last recorded song.

In 1973, the King of Rock and Roll teamed up with songwriter Paul Terry King to produce and record two songs. One of these, “If I’d Only Bought Her Roses,” was sold last year to Robert X. Sillerman, the current owner of Elvis Presley Enterprises for an undisclosed price.

But the other song, “Just Like Rolling Up the Hill,” has remained a secret until now, when Hill — not in the best of health — decided to sell the rights on eBay. What this means, according to eBay, is that the new owner can “produce, sing, or release it yourself.” It was promoted on eBay as “Elvis’ Last Recorded Song.”

Sounds like a risky venture, but hey it worked for Elvis, so it might work for the highest bidder, an unidentified (or in eBay’s terms, “private”) buyer who ended up paying $31,101 for the rights. The winner receives “copyright and all associated publication and performance rights, etc.”

Learn more about this unusual auction. — Michael Finger

Amy LaVere Gets Nabbed by Fashion Police

Posted By on Fri, Feb 23, 2007 at 4:00 AM

A picture of Memphis musician and actress Amy LaVere, shot at the New York premiere for Craig Brewer's Black Snake Moan, is now up at the site Go Fug Yourself. They aren't kind to Amy, but we kinda like it.

The Rest of the Story on the RDC

Posted By on Fri, Feb 23, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Better late than never.

Following up on its strong series of stories about sweet deals in city government and at MLGW, The Commercial Appeal finally turned its attention Thursday to city government’s kissing cousin, the Riverfront Development Corporation (RDC) and its staff of three former city division directors.

As The Flyer has been reporting for four years, the RDC, or “retired directors club” as some city council members call the quasi-government nonprofit, enjoys an enviable package of salaries and benefits for managing a small slice of the city – the riverfront parks – as opposed to an entire city division. RDC President Benny Lendermon, formerly city public works director, earns over $260,000 a year in salary, pension, and other benefits. The other two retired directors on the RDC staff are Danny Lemmons, formerly of general services, and John Conroy, former city engineer.

“The area’s biggest megaphone,” as CA columnist Wendi Thomas called her employer in her column Thursday, skated over or confused some key RDC issues in addition to doing some good work.

There was no mention of Friends for Our Riverfront, another nonprofit that operates on a shoestring budget and has fought the RDC to a standstill on the public promenade and done at least as much to promote user-friendly amenities along the river and parks in general. Two weeks ago the RDC and Friends, along with other groups, each brought well-known speakers to Memphis on different days to plug “green” issues. Virginia McLean, head of the Friends volunteers, has no ties to city government and gets no subsidy as the RDC does.

The CA story quoted Lendermon and city council members Scott McCormick and Tom Marshall who touted the efficiencies and accomplishments of the RDC and pooh-poohed the gibes about the “retired directors club.” Strange then, that the city council, chaired by Marshall, is making such a fuss about former mayoral aide Gail Jones Carson over at MLGW and her $126,000 salary and her pension.

McCormick is quoted saying the RDC does a better job of managing the parks than the Memphis Park Commission did. What the story did not say, however, is that such a comparison is difficult if not unfair. The parks division, as it is now called, is responsible for roughly 180 parks spread over some 300 square miles of Memphis. The RDC gets to concentrate on 10 parks along two miles of the riverfront.

McCormick told the Flyer this week he is satisfied that the RDC really is doing the job for less and baselined its budget against pre-RDC years. “They said they would operate and maintain the parks for $2 million in 2001,” he said. “They have operated the parks for five years for the same amount. Where in government does somebody maintain the same costs for five years? I thought that was outstanding.”

John Malmo, former chairman of the board of the old Memphis Park Commission, told the Flyer last year that he thinks such comparisons play fast and loose with the facts. Isolating the cost of running riverfront parks from the rest of the city is like trying to isolate the cost of running one room of your house or raising one of your children. Obviously, there are a lot of shared costs and overhead.

The CA story says there are new cobblestones on the riverfront. If so, they’re not the huge ones that many Memphians remember. The broad area at the end of Union Avenue and west of Riverside Drive where the tour boats dock is a patchwork of loose gravel and small cobblestones, with a few massive chain links that are a reminder of the city’s cotton and riverboat days. But “the cobblestones” are in no condition to qualify as a tourist attraction, and, after six RDC years, there are no markers calling attention to them or explaining their significance. To call this an accomplishment of the RDC is a stretch.

With plans to enclose the harbor scrapped two years ago, the RDC’s current big project is Beale Street Landing, a $27 million park and boat landing at the foot of Beale Street and Tom Lee Park. Friends for Our Riverfront and others have argued that modest user-friendly improvements could be made at the park for a fraction of that price.

The CA puts no heat on the RDC board, which includes a host of downtown and Memphis luminaries. Once again, Friends for Our Riverfront does the heavy lifting when it comes to accountability by attending RDC meetings and circulating their notes and minutes via their website.

The quality of the RDC’s work on Mud Island and along the riverfront speaks for itself. The parks, bluff, and Riverside Drive, in the opinion of this 25-year downtown worker and fan, have never looked better. There may indeed be big efficiencies at the RDC versus the public sector. In that case, the agency would be best served by embracing complete financial transparency, explaining its magic formula without fear or favor, joining forces with Friends for Our Riverfront when practical, and expanding its expertise and thrifty business model to other parts of Memphis on a scale commensurate with those salaries.

Egyptian and Chinese Events on Saturday

Posted on Fri, Feb 23, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Get some culture this Saturday. Chinese Family Day, a Chinese New Year celebration, at the Belz Museum, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. will include Chinese music, dance performances, puppet shows, a traditional lion dance, as well as crafts, storytelling, and more.

Over at the Art Museum of the University of Memphis, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., it’s , where you can sign up for the “School of Scribes” to learn how to write your name in hieroglyphs and design your own Egyptian jewelry.

Heber Spring's Swan Song

Posted on Fri, Feb 23, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Heber Springs, Arkansas. Every weekend, dozens of spectators congregate around Magness Lake to oh and ah and point and marvel at the 130 trumpeter swans who showed up right before Thanksgiving. But if you want to look and listen, too, you’d better hurry because the swans are ready to head home for the lakes and tundra of Minnesota....

“This year they should start leaving on March 3rd,” says caretaker Dick Herget, who feeds the swans every afternoon. “They always leave in family groups once the lakes up north start to thaw.”

A trio of swans first arrived in 1992, settling in for the winter on the 30-acre lake located on Hays Road a few miles east of town. Since then, the majestic birds with snow-white wingspans up to seven feet have returned every year to the lake, located on the edge of the E&W Wildlife Refuge.

“They keep coming back, and they bring their family and friends,” says Herget. “Last time I counted, we were up to 137.”

Typically, the swans – whose trumpet calls sound more like an old car horn than a musical instrument - don’t venture so far south. In fact, the gathering of swans at Magness Lake is the largest in the Southeast and has attracted considerable attention from national media and conservation groups.

The best time to view the birds is late afternoon, when they fly in for feeding at 4 p.m. “Just remember to only feed them shelled corn,” Herget says. “Never feed them bread because too much can kill them.”

by Pamela Denney

MLGW Responds to Edmund Ford Controversy

Posted on Fri, Feb 23, 2007 at 4:00 AM

On Friday, officials from Memphis, Gas, Light & Water released a statement regarding city councilman Edmund Ford's utility bill. Read the letter here.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Memphis Fugitive Operation Nets 47 Arrests

Posted By on Thu, Feb 22, 2007 at 4:00 AM

It’s the end of the line for 19-year-old Demarious Tuggle, a southeast Memphis man who’s been on the lamb since shooting someone in the leg and stomach late last month.

Tuggle and 46 others were arrested in the past 24 hours. About 175 Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies spent the night and day saturating county neighborhoods in search of people wanted on outstanding warrants.

Eight of 47 arrests were for felony crimes. Yesterday evening the officers combed the North Shelby County area, where they netted 23 criminals. In southeast Shelby County last night and early this morning, 13 people were arrested. Eleven were taken into custody from Cordova this afternoon.

“We want to send a clear message to those wanted on charges: Turn yourselves in or expect a visit by deputies,” said Shelby County Sheriff Mark Lutrell. - Bianca Phillips

Harold, call us!

Posted By on Thu, Feb 22, 2007 at 4:00 AM

While his relatives are busy making headlines here on the home front, Harold Ford Jr. made a boldface appearance in the New York Post's infamous "Page Six" this week. According to the gossip gurus, Jr.'s salary as senior policy advisor for Merrill Lynch is a whopping $3 million per annum.

What to do with such largesse? For starters, he could purchase, say, a replacement Rolex for John, a stint in rehab for Tamara, and help Edmund out with what promises to be a staggering MLGW "make good" bill. And after he's done helping out the fam, we know a few single ladies around our office who'd love to help you spend those paychecks! Harold, call us!

Check out all the Page Six dish.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Is the City Back in Black?

Posted on Wed, Feb 21, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Memphis Finance Director Roland McElrath gave members of the City Council good news Tuesday: 2007 revenues are expecting to exceed expenditures by over $23 million. That’s an almost $13 million improvement from the city’s last forecast, a change due to local taxes, state taxes, and transfers from MLGW outperforming early estimates.

Long story short? “From a revenue perspective,” said McElrath, “we’re having a very good year.”

The "Lying M-F" Defense

Posted on Wed, Feb 21, 2007 at 4:00 AM

When the late football booster Logan Young went on trial two years ago, the core of his defense was that Young was a free-spending drunk and a braggart. When John Ford goes on trial in April, his defense may well be that the former senator is, as he might put it, a lying motherf-----.

Tuesday’s federal court hearing was a reminder that expressions that might be considered fighting words in another context can be an alibi in the courtroom. The hearing on the admissibility of a $46,000 Rolex watch gave some hints of Ford’s defense strategy. There was no jury, but Ford’s attorney Michael Scholl and assistant U.S. Attorney Tim DiScenza each presented a sliver of their case to U.S. District Judge Daniel Breen in a preview of the trial scheduled for April 9th.

DiScenza’s first witness, FBI agent Mark Jackson, said Ford got the watch from developer Rusty Hyneman for helping him out with an environmental issue before a state board. The government wants to use the watch as evidence in the trial to show what it will claim was Ford’s standard operating procedure as an influential legislator charged with taking $55,000 in bribes from an undercover company. A criminal inclination or “predication” is an important part of the targeting process in a sting operation such as Tennessee Waltz.

On tapes played in court Tuesday, Ford says of Hyneman “I saved that f----- $1.3 million.” Again and again on the tapes, Ford refers to Hyneman as “white boy” and “motherf----r” in trash talk with an undercover FBI agent he thinks is working for E-Cycle Management. On another tape he tells undercover informant Tim Willis that if Ford finds out he is working for the FBI “I got a gun, I’ll just shoot you dead.”

Scholl said Ford is prone to self-centered exaggeration and such talk was harmless “John being John,” and the savings, if any, to Hyneman were much nothing close to $1.3 million.

Secret tapes were a key factor last year in the trials of Roscoe Dixon and Calvin Williams, both of whom were convicted. The Ford tapes are even harder to hear, and Scholl said the transcripts may not be accurate in some cases. The vulgarities and the threats against Willis, however, are clear. Jurors will have to decide if they are serious.

Hyneman took the Fifth Amendment when it was his turn to testify. Breen has not yet ruled whether the Rolex watch can be used as evidence at trial.

Herenton Presents Fairgrounds Redevelopment Proposal

Posted on Wed, Feb 21, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Mayor Willie Herenton’s calling his fairgrounds redevelopment proposal Project Nexus, since the land in question sits at the center of the city proper. But with his $150 million proposed football stadium at the project’s nexus, the name seems especially fitting.

Herenton presented his plan to the city council at a special executive meeting on Tuesday afternoon. In addition to the stadium, the plan calls for the Kroc community center, recreational green space, and redevelopment of the surrounding Beltline neighborhood.

Herenton assured the council that his stadium could be paid for using state and federal funds, as well as local money already earmarked for bringing the old Liberty Bowl Stadium into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and stadium naming rights.

“The fairgrounds project is not about raising taxes or spending more money than we should,” said Herenton. “Nor is it about diverting crucial funds from public safety. It’s about striking while the iron is hot.”

In the presentation, chief financial officer Robert Lipscomb estimated the total cost of building a new stadium would range from $150 million million to $185 million.

About $10 million more would be required to spruce up the historic Beltline neighborhood, which surrounds the property.

As expected, there was no mention of keeping Libertyland, yet supporters of re-opening the amusement park held “Save Libertyland” signs while Herenton made his presentation.

“I think there’s still room for keeping the carousel and the Zippin Pippin’ in Project Nexus,” said Save Libertyland supporter Misty White. “We could even use the money from the use of those rides to help pay for the stadium.”

By Bianca Phillips

Kallen Esperian To Perform in Abu Dhabi

Posted on Wed, Feb 21, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Memphian Kallen Esperian is scheduled to sing at the Education Without Borders conference scheduled for February 25-27 at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi. The internationally acclaimed diva will join tenor Placido Domingo and the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra for a performance at a specially created desert village near the United Arab Emirates town. Education Without Borders fosters educational opportunities in impoverished regions of the world.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Nobel Peace Prize Winner to Speak at the U of M

Posted By on Tue, Feb 20, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Nobel Peace Prize winner Betty Williams will speak at the University of Memphis at 5 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23, in Room 136 of the Fogelman Executive Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Williams was co-recipient of the 1976 honor with Mairead Corrigan for their efforts to bring peace to Northern Ireland. She and Corrigan co-founded Community of Peace People, an organization dedicated to promoting a peaceful resolution to problems in their native Northern Ireland.

Since winning the Nobel Prize, Williams has received numerous honors, including the Schweitzer Award for Courage, the Martin Luther King Jr. Award, and the Eleanor Roosevelt Award.

Williams heads the Global Children’s Foundation and is president of the World Centers of Compassion for Children International. She also is chair of the Institute for Asian Democracy in Washington, D.C., and a distinguished visiting professor at Nova Southeastern University.

Co-sponsors of the event are the U of M Student Activities Council, Rhodes College, and BRIDGES PeaceJam. For more information, call 901-678-2035.

Ozzy Osborne's Memphis Mugshot

Posted By on Tue, Feb 20, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Okay, we admit it. Sometimes here in, we get bored. We get tired of relentlessly trolling for Memphis-related news items. It is at these times when we're at our most dangerous. We stumble upon silly things — like this mugshot of rocker Ozzy Osborne from 1984.

Ozzy was arrested by Memphis police while staggering around on Beale Street, totally unaware that 20 years later he'd become a television star by staggering around on an MTV reality show.

Courtesy of

The lesson here? Find something you're good at and stick with it.

Sleep Out Louie Stolen!

Posted By on Tue, Feb 20, 2007 at 4:00 AM

All right, someone needs to 'fess up on this one.

The venerable Sleep Out Louie's, a downtown drinking destination for decades, is shutting its doors for good on Saturday. The space will reopen this summer as a Mesquite Chop House, but not before one final blowout bash Saturday night.

But thieves have struck, and now the five-foot mascot of SOL is missing, and management is, well, SOL when it comes to leads. Come on, folks. This is not cool. Bring Louie back for his last night on his home turf.

In an ironic twist, check out the interview Bianca Phillips did with downtown maven (and Sleep Out Louie uber-patron) Paul Ryburn at Sleep Out Louie's in June. The topic? The founding of Residents of a Safer Downtown Memphis, a group formed after a patron of Sleep Out's was robbed on his way home from the bar.

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