Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Flyer, Memphis Magazine Snag Nine Green Eyeshade Awards

Posted By on Wed, Apr 30, 2008 at 4:00 AM

The Society of Professional Journalists has announced the finalists for the 58th annual Green Eyeshade Awards.

This regional journalism competition recognizes outstanding journalism in 11 southeastern states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.

The finalists will be honored and first-place winners announced at a banquet in late June in Atlanta.

Flyer and Memphis magazine finalists include:

Criticism: "A Pilgrim's Progress" and Two Other Book Reviews -- Leonard Gill, Memphis Magazine

Humorous Commentary: Ask Vance -- Vance Lauderdale (pseudonym for Sr. Editor Michael Finger), Memphis Magazine

Disaster Coverage: Anatomy of an Inferno -- Preston Lauterbach, Staff Writer, Memphis Magazine

Feature Reporting: The Old Age of Aquarius -- Bianca Phillips, The Memphis Flyer

Political Reporting: Four More Years? (and Related Articles) -- Jackson Baker, The Memphis Flyer

Humorous Commentary: Elvis Presley-1935-2007: A Wonderful Life -- Chris Herrington and Greg Akers, The Memphis Flyer

Criticism: Come Together, Bumpin' Grind and Out of the Past -- Chris Herrington, The Memphis Flyer

Editorial Writing: A Bridge Too Far, Undoing the Lock Box, The Same Old Challenge -- Jackson Baker, The Memphis Flyer

Disaster Coverage: The Windless Hurricane -- Chris Davis, The Memphis Flyer

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Corker Urges $60 Million Food Aid to Haiti

Posted By on Tue, Apr 29, 2008 at 4:00 AM

From a Senator Bob Corker press release:

U.S. Senator Bob Corker, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Ranking Member on the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, has sent a letter to President Bush strongly urging the administration to provide no less than $60 million in emergency food assistance for Haiti so that Haitian President Rene Préval can carry out his anti-hunger program for the next six months.

"The American people give so generously to those in need around the world, and this is a crucial time for us to once again extend our leadership and aid to Haiti," said Corker. "But this isn't just a humanitarian effort for our Haitian neighbors; it's also about preserving order and stability. If Haitian families go hungry it will derail the progress Preval and others have worked so hard to achieve and make it even harder to ensure that Haiti continues to have a democratically elected, stable government."

Corker signed the letter along with Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Bill Nelson (D-Florida) and Mel Martinez (R-Florida) asking that high priority -- not less than $60 million -- be given to Haiti "when the decision is made on how to allocate the remaining fiscal 2008 funding from the Title II Food for Peace Program as well as the resources made available by the $200 million drawdown of the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust, an action that was announced by the Secretary of Agriculture on April 14."

Monday, April 28, 2008

Millington's Grand (L'il) Ole Opry

Posted By on Mon, Apr 28, 2008 at 4:00 AM

To celebrate the Flyer's 1000th issue, our writers have written stories loosely themed around "grand." Here's Preston Lauterbach's take on Millington's Strand Theater:

If Millington's Justin Timberlake can claim Memphis, then I'm sure no one will object if we adopt one of Millington's musical gems as our own.

The first time I encountered the Strand Music Hall, while driving and gawking around downtown Millington, I stopped the car and pulled up behind the building for a closer look. In so doing, I nearly smashed a wet, mangy cat ....

Rest the rest here.

Calipari to Join Riverfront Development Corporation Board

Also: Cobblestones, Robert Plant, Allison Krause, and Ron Terry Plaza

Posted By on Mon, Apr 28, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Coach Cal is joining the Riverfront Development Corporation.

Fresh off a trip to the NCAA Finals, University of Memphis basketball coach John Calipari will join the RDC board this summer, replacing John Pontius, who is resigning because of other commitments. The announcement was made at the RDC's quarterly meeting on Monday.

Meanwhile, another well-known Memphis name, former First Tennessee Bank chairman Ron Terry, will have to wait a while longer before a riverfront plaza named for him gets underway. Funded by First Tennessee and proposed in 1996, the plaza was originally envisioned to overlook the cobblestones between Tom Lee Park and Jefferson Davis Park. A lighted sidewalk along Riverside Drive was built several years ago, but the plaza has been on hold while the RDC decides what to do with the cobblestones.

RDC President Benny Lendermon said "there are some issues with Ron Terry Plaza" and it may have to be modified or moved to another location. The RDC secured a $6 million federal grant to restore and enhance the cobblestones.

In other action, the RDC announced that Alisson Krauss and Robert Plant will give a concert at Mud Island Amphitheater on July 8th. Mud Island River Park opened April 12th with upgrades to the museum and other attractions. General admission is still free. Tethered balloon rides will be offered May 1-3, weather permitting.

Tom Lee Park is being prepared for the Beale Street Music Festival and Memphis In May, which starts Thursday. Promoters spent $1.5 million on musical talent this year, according to Memphis In May International Festival President Jim Holt.

Memphis In May pays the RDC $80,000 a year for use of Tom Lee Park. The RDC does not charge a fee to users and events that don't charge admission, including the Beale Street Merchants Association summer event and the Stone Soul Picnic.

Lendermon said Beale Street Landing will hold a ground-breaking in July or August, when construction begins on a $4.9 million retaining wall at Tom Lee Park that will add four more acres of land. Total cost of the project is pegged at $29 million in federal, state, and local funds. Lendermon said the cost in public funds will not exceed that figure.

The RDC budget will come before the Memphis City Council in May, with the operations portion on May 8th and capital improvements agenda on May 21st. The RDC's 2008 budget includes revenues of $1.53 million, employee compensation of $2.38 million, and other operating expenses of $1.8 million. The agency gets $2.27 million from the city of Memphis plus $480,000 in private grants.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

In the Grand Scheme of Things

Posted on Sat, Apr 26, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Each week, the Flyer's dogged editorial staff whiles away hours at meetings and press conferences in an effort to glean meaningful new angles on the hot topics of the day.

Some of those hot topics, like Tennessee Waltz, will have effects for years to come. Other issues build up a media storm, only to fade away with the rise of the next big controversy. And some stories bow out of the limelight when resolutions are reached.

In the past 1,000 issues, Flyer staffers have written plenty of words about issues that, quite frankly, just don't matter in the grand scheme of things.

"The Girls Next Door" by Kate Leneham (July 1989)

Although the city government and the private sector had poured money into rejuvenating South Main in the mid-'80s, Leneham's story highlights the street's age-old prostitution problem, which just wouldn't go away.

Leneham writes: "Directly across the street from one of the area's oldest businesses, the Arcade Restaurant, another of the area's oldest businesses seems to still flourish: A woman in tight high-cut shorts, a long black wig, halter top, and high heels waves at cars as they pass, offering the drivers a good time for a price."

The only prostitutes on South Main these days are likely to be depicted on canvas at a Trolley Night art show.

"Central Station Approaches the End of the Line" by Sam Evan Young (January 1990)

South Main's Central Station was facing the possibility of abandonment as Amtrak made plans to move its station to Mud Island.

Young writes: "The aging building has seen brighter days. Now, the only light inside the terminal comes from a few rays of sun that manage to peek through the dirty, dingy windows, revealing walls with cracked and chipping paint."

Thankfully, Amtrak stayed put, and the Memphis Area Transit Authority revamped the historic train station. Today, it serves as a lush banquet hall for private parties and is home to loft apartments, the Amtrak station, the Memphis Police South Main Precinct, and the downtown Farmers Market.

"Are Four New Teams in the Cards for the NFL?" by John Branston (September 1993)

Writes Branston: "The latest NFL rumor making the rounds is that the league's owners could decide to expand by four teams instead of two. ... Under this scenario, Memphis and Baltimore would be awarded franchises in October and start play in 1995."

Fast-forward 15 years: The city recently fought over whether or not to build a new stadium, not for its NFL team but for the University of Memphis football team. The city did become home to an NBA team, but that rumored NFL team was awarded to Nashville in 1998.

"Ellis, Tigrett Propose Joint Music Museum" by Mark Jordan (November 1995)

Bert Ellis, head of WMC's parent company Ellis Communications, and fashion designer/Blues Ball maven Pat Kerr Tigrett were in talks with the Smithsonian Institution to jointly develop a music museum inside The Pyramid.

Writes Jordan: "The Ellis/Tigrett proposal calls for installing a music museum similar to the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame, which recently opened in Cleveland."

While Memphis eventually did gain a Smithsonian music museum, the Rock 'n' Soul Museum is housed in a more viable structure: FedExForum. Meanwhile, The Pyramid sits dark and empty.

"Residents Losing Fight Against Bluffwalk" by Jacqueline Marino (August 1998)

In 1998, a group of downtowners adamantly opposed the construction of a sidewalk along the South End river bluffs stretching from Beale Street to Martyr's Park.

Writes Marino: "Bluff residents have objected to the walk being notched underneath their property because they believe it will destabilize the bluff and possibly cause damage to their homes."

Despite their protests, the Bluffwalk was built anyway. These days, the walk is as much a part of downtown as the trolleys, and there are few if any complaints.

"Free Art Tomorrow" by Bianca Phillips (April 2003)

Though downtown is home to the city's thriving art scene, artists likely cannot afford to live in the area's upscale condos. But in 2003, a group of local art advocates had a plan to turn the century-old Tennessee Brewery into a residence for artists.

Writes Phillips: "[ArtBrew] wants to turn it into an affordable living/work space for artists, complete with performance and exhibition space, 'arts-friendly' commercial and retail space, and arts education and outreach programs for the community."

But like the beer that was once produced in the historic building, that idea eventually went flat. The ArtBrew organization no longer exists, the brewery is still empty, and downtown housing remains too pricey for many artists.

"Monumental Battle" by Pamela Denney (August 2005)

A few years back, the Rev. Al Sharpton delivered a speech in Memphis supporting a Center City Commission proposal to rename some public parks. In regard to the names of Forrest Park, Jefferson Davis Park, and Confederate Park, Sharpton proclaimed: "We need to show the rest of the world that the day for honoring people like this is over."

Denney writes: "Protests by some Memphians started almost immediately. A group called Save Our Parks staged a rally near the Forrest monument at evening rush hour. While some protesters waved signs at passing traffic, others used their own lawn equipment to cut the park's overgrown grass."

Though the name-change campaign fizzled out, the protesters triumphed by default. All three parks retain their original names.

by Bianca Phillips

Ask Vance: A Nazi in Memphis?

Posted on Sat, Apr 26, 2008 at 4:00 AM

This week, Memphis magazine resident historian Vance Lauderdale peeks into his mailbag:

Robert Lanier of Memphis recently sent me an Associated Press newsclipping from a Washington, D.C., newspaper, which I filed away in the cobwebby recesses of my once-great mind, under the general category of "Can't Possibly Be True."

But lately I'm discovering that quite a few things readers uncover -- and share with me -- turn out to be not only true, but even stranger than I expected.

Here is what Mr. Lanier's AP story said. The headline was "NAZI IN FULL UNIFORM ARRESTED IN MEMPHIS" and it was dated August 14, 1945:

"A German paratrooper, wearing his military uniform complete with the swastika and German eagle, was arrested on Main Street yesterday. The prisoner gave his name as Sergeant Heintz Heimann and said he escaped from the prison-of-war camp at Crawfordsville, Arkansas. He said he wanted to see the city, but was afraid to discard his army clothes for fear he would be shot as a spy."

To read more, go to Lauderdale's new blog "Ask Vance."

Friday, April 25, 2008

Memphis' Grand Illusions

Posted on Fri, Apr 25, 2008 at 4:00 AM

It took the Flyer almost 20 years to produce this, our 1,000th weekly issue. By the time we crank out issue number 2,000, Memphis as we know it may be unrecognizable. At the moment, developers and promoters are still presenting grand schemes for many of our city's landmarks: The Pyramid, Beale Street Landing, Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, the Mid-South Coliseum, the old Mid-South Fairgrounds site, and Shelby Farms.

It remains to be seen how many of these plans remain forever on the drawing boards. Not to be too pessimistic about it, but it might be instructive to look back at a few other grand illusions in our city's past.

Memphis, it seems, always needs a facelift. Back in 1924, the city hired the national planning firm of Harland Bartholomew & Associates to redesign the entire waterfront. The firm presented "an ambitious scheme" that would transform the cobblestoned area from Poplar to what is now the South Bluffs into a stunning Greek Revival promenade, with graceful bridges carrying pedestrians to Mud Island, which -- in these plans -- has been transformed from a barren sandbar into a public park with baseball diamonds and tennis courts. Bartholomew declared, "No immediate steps are necessary" to create this vision. And so none were taken. We never followed one page of this plan.

But we tried again in 1955, with the same firm, in fact. This time, Bartholomew and company reminded us that the riverfront "still presents a challenging opportunity." They met that challenge with a design right out of the Jetsons: a helicopter terminal and landing field on Mud Island, which, by the way, would no longer be an island since the Wolf River Channel would be completely diverted around it. The newly available land would include playing fields, a riverside stadium, parking for 5,000 cars, and an expressway running the length of the development. And again, we ignored this plan.

Other developers focused on other areas. In 1960, planners unveiled a new downtown center "for cultural life in Memphis, as well as a center of governmental activities." Plans included a new city hall, police station, and "restaurant pavilion." Soaring over everything was a dramatic structure -- a 500-foot obelisk called the DeSoto Memorial Tower. The Memphis Press-Scimitar called this whole scheme "one of the most ambitious projects Memphis has ever undertaken." Apparently too ambitious. We did build a new city hall, but the other components of the plan were scrapped. In the late 1960s, developers announced the Beale Street Tourist Plaza, centered around Beale and Second. A 15-story tower would house a 200-room Holiday Inn, which would be the centerpiece of a massive urban renewal plan that would include a "harbor beacon," along with a marina, enclosed shopping mall, and a "blue light entertainment district."

As usual, none of these things happened -- at the time. Some 40 years later, that area would include Beale Street, Peabody Place, FedExForum, and other attractions.

Other planners focused their attention away from downtown. The Mid-South Fairgrounds, then and now, attracted some interesting ideas -- none more bizarre than the scheme proposed in the late 1960s to enshroud the entire complex in a transparent dome. It wouldn't be hard plastic but an acrylic tent suspended by a network of poles and wires. Just why the fairgrounds needed a dome was never clearly explained, but a walkway would allow brave pedestrians to walk across the top of the whole thing. Showing a rare instance of common sense, city leaders were skeptical, asking the developer if the fragile-looking tent would withstand a severe storm. "This will stand up to a hurricane," they were assured. Somebody pointed out that Memphis rarely endured hurricanes but might suffer a tornado or two: Will the Fairgrounds Dome withstand a tornado? "Uh, no" was the answer, and that was the end of that.

There also have been plenty of grand schemes for the suburbs. One of the most unusual was a proposed development called Country Club Estates, which the Press-Scimitar called "a design for living." Modeled after a futuristic community that was actually built in Radford, New Jersey, in the 1950s, this neighborhood would cluster small homes ("contemporary architecture of the Nth degree") around a network of more than 100 coves. Tunnels would allow pedestrians to walk beneath the major streets to their own school, shopping center, lake, swimming pool, and baseball fields. But it never happened. The local planning commission fretted about all the tiny houses on tiny lots and declared, "This type of home will be slums in a few years." Developers eventually constructed only one part of the original plan -- Sea Isle Elementary School -- but the East Memphis neighborhood that is today embraced by White Station, Quince, Sea Isle, and Estate doesn't look anything like a "development of the future."

And let us never, ever forget Rakapolis, the Sidney Shlenker-inspired project that would have combined Mud Island and The Great American Pyramid (as it was supposed to be called) into a surrealistic Egyptian-style theme park focusing on American music. "Inclinator" rides at The Pyramid would carry thousands of visitors each year to the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame, located in the apex of the building. Meanwhile, over on Mud Island, visitors would board replicas of ancient Nile River barges, enter an underground passage through the mouth of a trumpet, and drift past displays focusing on American performers. The ride would end in front of a giant jukebox, which -- by pressing a button -- would play the hit songs of any year. No, we are not making this up. Rakapolis. Remember it.

Over the years, many of our city's most extravagant pipe dreams have turned to smoke. It remains to be seen which of the grand schemes presented today ever get off the drawing boards.

by Michael Finger

The Memphis Week That Was

Posted By on Fri, Apr 25, 2008 at 4:00 AM

It was a bad week for vice. The cops cracked down on prostitution and beer sales to minors. It was a good week for the local television stations, which got ride-alongs and some nice take-down footage of busted whores and johns. No doubt that was partly the point. The crackdown seems selective and aimed at the underclass. What about prostitutes in the lobbies of some of our finer hotels? The latest sweep would not have netted the likes of former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer or his prostitute. And I wonder if it can be sustained. And at what cost.

You have approximately a 20-25 percent chance of not getting carded if you are underage and try to buy beer. I can remember a time and place(s) where the odds were more like 80-90 percent. The MPD this week checked 42 businesses that sell beer. Only nine of them sold to the undercover officer without checking for an ID, while 33 checked him or her out and refused to sell. In the last year, the MPD has checked 413 businesses on beer stings. A total of 112 of them sold to undercover officers.

If you are shorter than Pau Gasol then you have had your last look at Tom Lee Park, Lake Arkansas, and the flooded Mississippi River from the Bluff Walk for a month or so. The Fence went up this week. The Fence and its dark green windscreen goes up every April, just when the temperatures get balmy and the grass turns green on Tom Lee Park. Part of the cost of having the Beale Street Music Fest and Memphis in May in Tom Lee Park. By the time the park reopens to the general public in June, it will be barren and hard as concrete and temperatures should be sizzling. That's the tradeoff.

The crowds will get a good show on and off the stages. The river looks better and is more interesting when it is flooded as it is now. I hope it rains in the Midwest so it stays that way a little longer. The Wolf River Harbor looks like a real lake and accommodates the biggest boats and smallest kayaks with ease. Maybe the architects and master planners who said it should be closed off at the south end and turned into a lake were on to something. At low water it's just a dirty bathtub.

The Riverfront Development Corporation meets next Monday. If they have any curiosity, board members should ask about the timetable for $29 million Beale Street Landing, how it survived budget cutting, and whether the cost has gone up along with the cost of everything else. And for the sake of my friends at Friends For Our Riverfront, will someone please clear up the persistent rumor that one of the drivers of this project is a shuttle boat to Tunica? On a possibly related note, it may be my subjective view or imagination, but it looks like the RDC's exemplary landscaping has spread to more of Memphis, including the parkways in Midtown and the median and sidewalks along Sam Cooper Boulevard.

Revisionist history? I was not surprised that Mayor Willie Herenton changed his mind but I am surprised that he now contends he didn't really mean to retire. There is nothing conditional about his March 19th letter to Chief Administrative Officer Keith McGee in which he said "this personal letter serves to alert you of my plans to retire from the office of City Mayor on July 31, 2008." The mayor even employed the familiar journalistic device of prefacing his announcement with a high-toned quotation, this one from minister and motivator John Maxwell.

At the conclusion of his letter, the mayor wrote, "I hear another call and am duty bound to respond."

Perhaps he still does and still will. His speech on May 6th about public schools will be an indicator. If nothing else it will, by design, separate him from the pack and raise the bar for anyone applying to be the next superintendent. Good for him, I say. MCS can't afford a superintendent who needs a year to get up to speed. But prospective candidates from other cities who want to lead a Memphis turnaround must be having second thoughts about applying with Herenton in the equation as either a rival or the mayor.

As I've written previously, I think there's a strong case to be made for Herenton, short fuse, baggage and all. Just as Hubie Brown, short fuse, baggage and all, was the right coach at the right time for the Memphis Grizzlies a few years ago and John McCain, short fuse, baggage and all, is the Republican presidential nominee. But I don't see why Herenton isn't actively campaigning more. If he gives one big 60-minute speech on May 6th, most people will tune out after 10 minutes, just like they do when a presidential candidate unwinds a long one. If Herenton has heard a call, shouldn't he be answering it loud and clear and often?

Suggestion to Ray and Associates, the consultants hired by the board of education: Survey the key stakeholders -- the principals and assistant principals at all the schools. One question only: Herenton for superintendent? Choices: Yes, No, or Hell No.

Save the Date: Weekend Event Round-Up

Posted on Fri, Apr 25, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Kick off the weekend with the undead at the second annual Memphis Zombie Massacre, a South Main parade of Memphians decked out in fake blood and zombie costumes. Don’t know how to achieve a deathly pallor with pancake makeup? No problem. Just place an "x" on your shirt with duct tape, stroll around the South Main Trolley tour, and wait for the zombies to show up and "eat your brains" (a.k.a. zombify you with fake blood and makeup). The march steps off at 7:15 p.m. tonight in front of the New Daisy Theatre and ends at Earnestine and Hazel's.

Or if you prefer a classier evening, head to the Germantown Community Theatre for The Underpants, directed by Flyer reporter Chris Davis. Adapted from an old German play by Steve Martin, The Underpants tells the story of a couple whose conservative existence is shattered when the wife's bloomers fall down in public. The play runs through Sunday afternoon.

Head down to North Mississippi for Southaven Springfest, their mini version of Memphis In May. The annual three-day outdoor fest features a barbeque contest and live music by Collective Soul tonight. On Saturday, Chris Cagle, Eric Church, and Billy Grantham will perform. The event runs through Saturday night.

Food Network fans should stop by the Memphis Pink Palace Museum from 2:30 to 5 p.m. Saturday for a booksigning with Alton Brown, host of the network's Feasting on Asphalt. One episode of the show last year featured Memphis' own Neely's Barbecue, the Wiles-Smith Drug Store, and the Pink Palace's Piggly Wiggly exhibit.

Get your rocks off at the Mid-America Mineral, Fossil, and Jewelry Show, an annual expo of gems, minerals, stones, and beads. The show runs Saturday and Sunday at the Mid-South Fairgrounds in the Pipkin building.

Hot wings probably aren't great for the waistline, but you don't need to feel guilty noshing on wings at the Southern Hot Wing Contest, a charity fund-raiser for the Ronald McDonald House. The contest will be held on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the South Main Arts District.

Watch local restaurant servers test their balancing skills in the annual Beale Street Wine Race, in which waiters and waitresses race with full glasses of wine. The race, Queen of the Vine contest, and grape stomp will be held on Beale from noon to 6 p.m.

For more, check out the Flyer's searchable online calendar.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

What could you do with $1,000?

Posted By on Thu, Apr 24, 2008 at 4:00 AM

The dollar may not go very far these days, but what about 1,000 of them? In honor of the Flyer's 1,000th issue, here's a list of what you could buy in Memphis if you had a spare grand.

-- 10 shares of FedEx stock (at $95.09 a share).

-- 35 shares of International Paper (at $28.50 a share).

-- 200 Sonic Saver Seat tickets to a Grizzlies game (or five fifth-row tickets).

--1,000 rides on the downtown trolley (2,000 if you only ride during lunchtime -- 11 a.m to 1:30 p.m.).

-- 15 three-day Memphis in May Beale Street Music Fest tickets (with $47.50 left over) purchased before April 30th; 12 three-day passes purchased after April 30th (with $10 left over).

-- 338 small bottles of Memphis Mary Bloody Mary mix.

-- One-day rental of the Memphis Botanic Garden's Lakefront Pavilion for you and 599 guests (base price $400, plus $1 per person).

-- 37 adult tickets for the Graceland Mansion tour with $1 left over.

-- As many Flyers as you can carry -- or "borrow" -- off our loading dock.

-- 0.00000032258 of Northwest Airlines (based on Delta's $3.1 billion merger with the carrier).

-- Small down-payment on Kathryn Bowers, former state senator. As part of operation Tennessee Waltz, Bowers pled guilty to accepting $11,500 in bribes.

-- 66 Flying Saucer "Guess How Many Beers It Took To Build This?" XXX T-shirts (with $10 left over for a pint).

-- 100 "$50 Million Cash Spectacular" lottery tickets.

-- A four-year-and-five-month subscription to The Commercial Appeal, with almost $10 left.

-- 58 full orders of the Rendezvous' charcoal-broiled pork ribs. (72 if you get small orders.) Just don't forget to tip.

--10 "Taste of Summer" Redbirds ticket packages, with tickets to 10 games each.

-- 51 one-pound boxes of Dinstuhl's chocolate-covered strawberries (with $5.50 left over).

-- A three-night stay in one of The Peabody's deluxe guest rooms, with $115 to spend in the lobby gift shops.

-- 40 dozen fertile mallard eggs from, without shipping.

-- Nine vehicle registration renewals, if you live inside the city of Memphis.

-- 299 gallons of regular gas, at $3.34 a gallon. If you get 25 miles to the gallon, you can go 7,475 miles, or from Memphis to Juneau and back.

-- 50 copies of Ask Vance, the best questions and answers from Memphis magazine's local history and trivia expert.

-- 76 adult double-feature tickets to the Pink Palace's CTI IMAX Theater (or 125 adult single-show tickets).

-- Seven weeks of canoe rental (or seven canoe rentals for one week) from Outdoors, Inc. (Includes the $300 deposit, because, quite frankly, we're not sure we can trust you.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"Ask Vance" Hits the Internets!

Posted By on Tue, Apr 22, 2008 at 4:00 AM

"I thought I'd share two postcards today, just to show you how confusing it can be for historians when they are trying to find an accurate image of a long-lost Memphis establishment. Or maybe it's only confusing for me.

"In the 1940s and 1950s, the intersection of Summer and White Station was a major gateway to our city, so owners opened quite a variety of attractions there that were designed to appeal to motorists -- well, and Memphians, too ..."

Yes, it's true! Famed recluse and Memphis magazine historian Vance Lauderdale has started a blog! You can find his site in the Flyer's blogroll starting today. Or just go here for more quirky Memphis history, told as only Vance can tell it.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Is Birmingham Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader?

Posted By on Sun, Apr 20, 2008 at 4:00 AM

According to the Birmingham News, Beale Street impressario John Elkington is in talks with comedian Jeff Foxworthy about opening a club in a planned downtown Birmingham entertainment district that Elkington is developing.

From the News: Elkington, of Performa Entertainment Real Estate, known for its Beale Street development in Memphis, said he hopes to reach a deal soon with representatives of the Atlanta-based comedian, host of Fox television's hit game show "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader."

"Talks are going well. He would fit in well in our district," Elkington said Friday after meeting with board members of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

In other news, Elkington asked the board members if they knew the capitol of South Dakota, and told them they might be rednecks if they thought possum was the other white meat.

More from the News.

Eli Manning Marries Ole Miss Sweetheart

Posted By on Sun, Apr 20, 2008 at 4:00 AM

From the New York Daily News: Giants quarterback Eli Manning wed his college sweetheart Abby McGrew during a beachfront ceremony at sunset Saturday.

About 60 loved ones flew to Mexico to join Manning and his bride for the intimate ceremony at the One&Only Palmilla, a swank resort along the Sea of Cortez on the Baja Peninsula.

Manning, 27, and McGrew, 24, exchanged vows while standing on a platform in the sand as waves crashed over rocks behind them.

The bride, carrying a bouquet of white roses, made her entrance through a wrought-iron gate and walked down the aisle to an altar covered in pink wildflowers.

NOTE: The Flyer doesn't have the rights to the pictures of the wedding from the News, so we improvised. You can read the rest of the News story and see real pictures here.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Memphians Premiere New Film at Nashville Film Festival

Posted By on Fri, Apr 18, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Memphian Brett Hanover's feature film Bunnyland will premiere April 21st at the Nashville Film Festival.

Described as a story of "rocks, rabbits, and the last Indian on the Trail of Tears," Bunnyland is set in a former miniature golf course in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. This particular golf course used real bunnies as obstacles for each hole, and they have turned up killed. A nearby rental cabin has also burned to the ground, killing its occupant. What's the connection? Well, see Bunnyland to find out.

A reviewer for the Nashville Scene says, "Christopher Guest couldn't make this up. From the same stranger-than-fiction department as last year’s NaFF favorite The Urim & Thummin comes this profile of Johnny Tasar, the self-described 'Last Indian on the Trail of Tears,' a motor-mouthed East Tennessee entrepreneur whose every move has courted controversy with hunters, neighbors, and business partners."

Does that make sense? We didn't think so. But Hanover's 2005 short Above God won Best Documentary at both the Memphis Film Festival and Atlanta Underground Film Festival. Another film, Schiavo, was featured at the 2006 Indie Memphis Film Festival. Bunnyland is Hanover's seventh independent film.

Hanover, who is currently attending the Art Institute of Chicago, says his work "typically focuses on individuals -- subjects of uncommon and controversial character, presented not as curiosities but as lives deserving serious reflection."

Bunnyland is co-directed by Memphians Morgan Jon Fox and Katherine Dohan, the lead singer of the local band Scandaliz Vandalistz.

-- Michael Finger

Save the Earth This Weekend

Posted on Fri, Apr 18, 2008 at 4:00 AM

You've switched to energy efficient bulbs. You bring your own reusable canvas bags to the grocery store. And the next car on your shopping list is definitely a hybrid. What more can you do? Find out at multiple Earth Day celebrations this weekend.

Begin tonight at the Green Shoe Gala at Shelby Farms Park at 6 p.m. The annual green-themed park fund-raiser features plenty of schmoozing, boozing, a full organic dinner, and a silent auction. The auction's highlight is a "green shoe" hand-crafted from metal reclaimed from the steel rafters of the First United Methodist Church, which burned down in 2006.

Wake up early on Saturday for the Lichterman Nature Center's annual EarthFest, featuring live music, an Earth Day parade, canoeing demos, and craft activities. Don’t forget the picnic basket as there's plenty of natural areas at Lichterman for a relaxing outdoor meal with the family. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Alternatively, the Memphis Zoo is hosting their Party for the Plant on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Zookeepers will be on-hand to chat about individual animal exhibits, and kids can stay busy with crafts and games.

More hands-on types will get their kicks during the Sierra Club's Wolf River Harbor Clean-up on Saturday from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Participants will pick up bottles and other debris littering the harbor. Meet under the Auction Street Bridge downtown. Bags and gloves will be provided, but be sure to wear comfortable clothes.

Finish out the weekend with theDown to Earth Celebration at Shelby Farms Park. The second annual festival features informational booths on green products and services, two stages of live music, and a kid’s area. Stewardship activities, such as planting trees and flowers, will be going on throughout the park. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more weekend fun, check out the Flyer’s searchable calendar:

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