Saturday, May 31, 2008

Stax Play "Ride On" Previews This Weekend

Posted on Sat, May 31, 2008 at 4:00 AM

"Memphis didn't have a professional football team or a professional basketball team [in the '70s]," says freelance writer-turned-playwright Tony Jones chomping down on a footlong chili slaw dog from Al's Tasty Burger on Crump. "What Memphis had was Stax records."

Jones recalls the days when the Tasty Burger was located on McLemore near Stax records, and when the studio musicians would come into his mother's beauty shop to bum enough change for one of Al's slaw-and-baked-bean-slathered franks. These are the kinds of memories Jones shares in his play Ride On: How Stax Records Influenced our Dreams, which previews Sunday at Southwest Tennessee Community College.

Jones recalls times when Isaac Hayes would play football with the neighborhood kids while wearing his monkey fur boots. He recalls the time his mother sent a cab to pick him up from school to see Hayes riding around the neighborhood in his "solid gold" Cadillac.

"Sure, we knew where all the pimps and players hung out," Jones says, allowing that the neighborhoods seedier elements also had flashy clothes and cars. "But [the Stax musicians] were legit." According to Jones, seeing the legitimate success of performers like Otis Redding and the Bar-Kays sent a message to kids in the post civil rights era.

"It told us kids that we could be anything we wanted to be," he says. Jones thinks that message was subverted in 1976 when Stax went out of business, and symbols of unity, hope and prosperity became less prevalent in Memphis' African-American community.

"Nobody's ever really told our story the way it needs to be told,' Jones says of the children who grew up in the Soulsville neighborhood when Stax was a hit-making powerhouse. Ride On! is directed by local filmmaker Yosiah Morrow and set immediately after Stax closed. It's inspired by the life of Mad Lads vocalist William Brown, and tells the story of three little boys from South Memphis who all want mini-bikes for Christmas.

Anyone interested in a sneak preview of Ride On! can catch a stage reading of the play at 3 p.m. on Sunday June 1st at Southwest Tennessee Community College's Union Campus Theater. The show opens on Friday, June 6th and runs every weekend in June. For additional information, call 406-5755.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Laugh, Dance, and Get a Workout This Weekend in Memphis

Posted By on Fri, May 30, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Most Flyer staffers can drink and smoke with the best of 'em, but despite our unhealthy ways, we still want to help you get a whole-body experience this weekend.

Start by laughing off stress at Craig Gass' performance at Comedy, TN tonight. Gass is known for his hilarious celebrity impersonations, including Al Pacino, Gene Simmons, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Practice anger management the Toughman World Championship Finals at Sam's Town Casino. Average Joe fighters from around the country will compete in preliminary rounds and the final contest throughout the weekend.

Shop your cares away at That Chic Shopping Show at the Agricenter tonight and all day tomorrow and Sunday. The women's expo features more than 150 exhibitors, fashion shows, food and wine tastings, and an Elvis tribute artist performance.

Walk off the week's calories at the Overton Park Guided Nature Walk, led by Citizens to Preserve Overton Park on Saturday at 10 a.m. Participants should meet up at the Lick Creek Bridge on Old Forest Lane.

Calm the mind as you view handmade pottery in earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain by local artists at the Memphis Potters Guild Show and Sale at the Dixon Gallery & Gardens Saturday and Sunday.

Booty dance your cares away on Sunday at the Bow Wow performance at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts. The show, which begins at 7 p.m., also features rappers Pleasure P, Young JT, Rap Star, TL, and Zed Zilla & Main Mane.

Finally, round out the weekend with a relaxing bike ride down the Germantown Greenway. The annual "Cycle the Germantown Greenway" event will circle around the suburb, and ambitious riders may even ride to Collierville. Bikers meet at 8:30 a.m.

For more on these events and others, check out the Flyer's searchable online calendar.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mayor and City Council Mull Putting Memphis School Board Out of Business

Posted By on Thu, May 29, 2008 at 4:00 AM

School funding is a more urgent issue than the next superintendent.

That, in a nutshell, was Mayor Willie Herenton's message to the Memphis City Council Thursday in a session that raised more questions than it answered.

Herenton said he wants the city schools to open on schedule in August, he wants to avoid lawsuits between government agencies, and he wants to avoid any circumstances that would cause the state to withhold funds from Memphis City Schools.

Beyond that, however, the mayor and several members of the council indicated they are willing to engage in some 11th-hour gambles that could result in a city school board with diminished powers or no powers at all.

Herenton did not discuss his own plans or the qualifications of the two finalists for superintendent. He said he has been reevaluating his thoughts on school funding as recently as Thursday morning, when he talked with City Council attorney Allan Wade about contacts with state officials.

There are several "what if" scenarios. The context is that the City Council has to approve a budget and do it soon, like in the next week or two. And the school board has to pick a superintendent soon, like in the next week or two. Council members are more at risk politically, because they must either pass a property tax increase or cut as much as $93 million in city funding for schools. The school board submits a budget but the council sets and approves the tax rate.

One new wrinkle discussed Thursday is passing the buck, literally, to Shelby County and state government by approving no additional funds. Herenton and Wade suggested that could result in the state board of education dissolving the local school board and allowing the county to appoint a new agency to run the city school system. "We're talking about some heavy stuff here," said Herenton.

Under a new governing structure, "children could be better served," the mayor said.

Some council members seemed to agree.

"What is the downside?" asked Councilman Jim Strickland, after ticking off the possibilities of school board dissolution, doing away with the ADA or average daily attendance funding formula, and having the county be responsible for all school funding.

The council meets next Tuesday to discuss the school system budget. Meanwhile, the school board is scheduled to have second meetings with the two superintendent finalists, also next week.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Free Film/TV Workshop Next Week; Applications Due Thursday

Posted By on Wed, May 28, 2008 at 4:00 AM

James Spies, nationally-known film and television producer (Nothing but the Truth, The Contender, Commander-in-Chief), will be in Memphis to lead the first of The Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission's crew training workshops June 7th and 8th at the University of Memphis.

Entitled "Breaking into Film and Getting Your First Job," the two day, 10-hour iworkshop will cover everything from using a walky-talky to set procedures and protocol to learning about gripping and gaffing.

Applicants must possess proof of residency in Shelby County (driver's license preferred), be at least 18 years of age or 18 on the next birthday, and be chosen by The Workshop Selection Committee.

The workshop application process is competitive; space is limited to 30 students. Applications and more info are available at the commission's website or call 901)-527-8300 x3.

Applications must be received by the end of the business day Monday, June 2nd. Successful applicants will be notified Monday, June 2nd.

Workshop graduates will qualify for listing as "production assistants" in the next edition of The Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission Production Directory.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Local Expert on Memphis Schools Superintendent Search

Posted By on Tue, May 27, 2008 at 4:00 AM

As a former superintendent and an academic expert on school leadership, Tom Glass has seen quite a few superintendent searches but never anything quite like the current one in Memphis.

Glass, retired Professor of Leadership at the University of Memphis, sat in on all four finalist interviews at the city school board auditorium in May. The board has since narrowed the list to two finalists, Kriner Cash of Miami and Nicholas Gledich of Orlando.

Glass has also closely followed news stories about Mayor Willie Herenton's on-again, off-again interest in the superintendent’s job.

"Herenton is not someone you can script," says Glass, who was a superintendent and administrator in Michigan, Washington, and Arizona and was lead author of The State of the American School Superintendency: 2006.

"You never know what he is going to do. If the board did not wish to hire either of the finalists, what would happen then? Would they go out and look for more? Or hire internally for a year? Or consider the mayor? Who knows?"

Glass also noted the recent departure of the school system's communications specialist, Rita Cooper.

"Public relations is a one-way process," he says. "What this district has always needed is two-way communication. It's always been one-way directed. 'We will tell them what they need to know.' It's hard to develop two-way communication in a large district."

He sees a big hole in media coverage of the superintendent search -- and it's not the low-down on the non-finalists either. The bigger issue, Glass says, is the specifics of the contract for the next superintendent. What is the salary, and, equally important, what are the fringe benefits and buy-out provisions? Is the school district or the private sector paying for the search and/or supplementing the salary or buyout clause if there is one?

"Search firms are always quiet," Glass says. "They don't want to tell anybody about anything."

Glass is not surprised that the search firm is resisting making public the names of other applicants. "Some of the reasons are simple," he says. "If you are a sitting superintendent and the front page of your local paper says you are going to interview in Memphis, that does not help your relationship with your current board. It can be hazardous to the job that you have."

He gives the Memphis School Board credit for conducting the finalist interviews in public. Other boards he has studied, including the ones in Seattle and Dallas, did closed interviews. He calls all five Memphis finalists (one dropped out after her interview) "absolutely traditional candidates" with advanced degrees in education and school administration backgrounds.

"A few years ago there were more non-traditional candidates," he says, including a former Colorado governor who went to Los Angeles to run the school system.

All of the Memphis candidates, he says, have relevant experience. Both finalists can make a special case. Gledich is from Orlando, "which has always been an innovative district since the 1970s," and Cash is from Miami, "which is so huge."

There are some 13,800 school districts in the United States, but only 225 that have more than 25,000 students and only about 20 with more than 100,000 students. Memphis claims 113,000 students. Glass says that most large districts are majority-minority. At one time, 80 percent of those districts had minority superintendents, "but that may have changed in the last four or five years." The split between male and female superintendents in large districts is about even.

Friday, May 23, 2008

An Interview with Kevin Sharp, Dixon Gallery and Gardens Director

Posted By on Fri, May 23, 2008 at 4:00 AM

When Kevin Sharp, a tousle-haired 50-year-old, self-described "Americanist" with 20-years experience in the museum biz, took over as director of the Dixon Gallery & Gardens last September, he immediately announced that the museum needed to rethink its mission.

If the museum was to continue to grow and evolve in a healthy way it needed to be more than just another stop on the touring exhibition circuit, he said. It needed to originate its own exhibits. Sharp now says the Dixon will be developing original exhibits and sending them out on the road as early as 2009.

For 10 years, Sharp worked The Art Institute of Chicago assembling original traveling exhibitions and creating copy for accompanying catalogs. He's passionate about his work and sees no reason why Memphis can't distinguish itself as an art town.

Memphis Flyer: You’ve said that the Dixon needs to originate exhibitions. How close is any of this to happening?

Kevin Sharp: We've already got significant shows in development here. One of the joys of museum work is conceiving, developing and implementing exhibition programming. And we are well on our way on two or three shows that will be shown at the Dixon and at other institutions as early as 2009.

The first couple of shows are projects that I brought with me from [Cedarhurst Center for the Arts in Mount Vernon, Illinois] and have, in some cases, been mulling over for years.

And all of these shows will open here first at the Dixon then move on to other venues?

The first one won't open here. It will open at Cedarhurst. It's a project called "Regional Dialect: American Scene Paintings from 1900 to 1940." It's just a great age of American art, when artists were engaged in their communities, exploring American life in ways that had never been done before, or really since.

The second show in 2009 is an exhibition of American Art of the Civil War era and that will come from public and private collections from all across the country.

Is it difficult to come into a situation like the Dixon, where there may be established ways of doing things, and trying to do something else?

The board of trustees, staff, and community have all been very supportive of this change in direction.

What are the advantages of originating exhibitions?

We're in the business of celebrating creativity and originality. So we're healthiest as an institution if we're original and creative ourselves. So there's an internal benefit. It also raises the national and international stature of the Dixon as a leader. It puts us in a better position to acquire loans and to work with better and better institutions.

How do you see yourself as being different from other directors?

I don't want to be separated from my audience. When I came into the business 20 years ago and looked at all the great directors they were all almost like kings. They were all men. And they were almost like nobility -- patrician in a way. And that's not what I’m all about.

There was a time when culture was handed down from on high. Now everyone has access and you never know where the next innovation is going to come from. So anybody who wants to have a meaningful conversation about art and its role within a community—well, thats a conversation I want to have.

I like being directly engaged with the audience at the Dixon. The best day I can think of is standing in front of some painting having a meaningful conversation about art.

-- Chris Davis

What to Do This Weekend

Posted By on Fri, May 23, 2008 at 4:00 AM

It's been real. It's been fun, but thank God Memphis in May is almost over.

Recover from your month-long hangover with a relaxing picnic in Tom Lee Park during the annual Sunset Symphony. The Memphis Symphony Orchestra performs classic pieces in this MIM grand finale on Saturday from 2 to 9 p.m., and this year they'll be joined by Motown legends The Four Tops. Stick around until the end and catch the fireworks display over the Mississippi River.

In keeping with the "cultural entertainment" theme, don't miss Germantown Community Theatre's musical adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, the tale of four sisters growing up in post-Civil War America. The show runs through June 1st.

If gritty Southern rock is more your speed, head south to Tunica for the grand opening of Harrah's Casino (formerly Grand Casino). On Saturday, ZZ Top will christen the newly-named casino, and the long-bearded dudes will be accompanied by the Miss Hawaiian Tropic models. Sunday brings Food Network host Paula Deen's "Personally Paula" event, in which the Southern queen of the kitchen dishes gossip and stories from her life.

Also on Saturday, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) activist Dan Mathews makes an appearance at Davis-Kidd Booksellers. But he won't be protesting in the nude or throwing red paint on fur coats. Instead, Mathews will sign his new book, Committed, about his days touring for PETA demonstrations.

Wind down the weekend with a free canoe trip through the Mississippi River Bottomlands. The tour, led by Sierra Club members, kicks off on Sunday at 8:45 a.m. Interested parties should meet up at the Meeman-Shelby Forest Visitors Center.

-- Bianca Phillips

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Council Names Thomas Boggs Boulevard

Posted By on Wed, May 21, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Tuesday, the City Council approved "Thomas Boggs Boulevard," an honorary street name change on Madison Avenue from Rembert to Barksdale.

"We have lost a wonderful citizen in Thomas Boggs," said council member Barbara Swearengen Ware. "I'm glad this honor is being bestowed on him. I'm just sorry that he is not here to receive it."

Boggs, the founder of Huey's and partner in a number of local restaurants, passed away in early May.


City Pays Extra for MLGW Vehicles

Posted By on Wed, May 21, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Faced with approving a more than $1.1 million contract for MLGW vehicles yesterday, the City Council balked ... and asked about the next highest bidder.

The contract for trucks, vans, and sedans was split between Gossett Motor Cars ($370,036), Crossroads Ford ($379,444), and Jackson, Tennessee's Golden Circle Ford ($364,948). Council members took issue with the Jackson dealership ...

More at Mary Cashiola's In the Bluff blog.

Edmund Ford Not Guilty on All Six Counts

Posted By on Wed, May 21, 2008 at 4:00 AM

A federal court jury declared former city councilman Edmund Ford not guilty on all six bribery counts Wednesday afternoon.

Ford removed his glasses and wept into a handerkerchief as the sixth "not guilty" verdict was read.

As Ford exited the courtroom he said, "My Lord and Savior is awesome."

Ford's attorney, Michael Scholl, said, "We went into this very aggressive." He credited Myrna Ford, Edmund's wife of 28 years, for her testimony in his defense.

"Luckily," Scholl said, "we had the other third party, which was her."

Ford himself also testified in his trial, something his brother John, who was convicted in his federal trial last year, did not do.

--John Branston

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Jury Begins Deliberations in Edmund Ford Trial

Posted By on Tue, May 20, 2008 at 4:00 AM

"The tapes are not married to anybody. The tapes do not have a plea agreement."

With those words, federal prosecutor Larry Laurenzi wrapped up the government's case Tuesday against former City Councilman Edmund Ford, whose fate is now in the hands of the seven women and five men on the jury.

During six days of testimony, prosecutors presented videotapes of four payments from undercover informant Joe Cooper to Ford. Laurenzi said Cooper was merely "a tape recorder" and his criminal record and desire to cut a deal with prosecutors should not distract jurors.

"Joe Cooper is not the proof," he said.

Laurenzi pointed out that Ford and Cooper get right down to business with a minimum of small talk - and without the profane language of many of the Tennessee Waltz tapes featuring Ford's brother, former state senator John Ford.

"He (Edmund Ford) had to accept the money knowing that it was given to him for his political influence," Laurenzi said. "It wasn't the FBI or (FBI Agent) Dan Netemeyer, it was greed. It was just greed."

Michael Scholl, Ford's attorney, said "this whole case is about manipulation" and jurors were shown only "snippets" of tapes cast in the most incriminating light.

"It should be shocking to watch how you can take little pieces of a conversation and set up anybody," Scholl said.

However, he also argued that Ford was the victim of entrapment, which seemed to concede that he had taken the money as the tapes show.

Scholl reminded jurors that Ford and his wife Myrna, who testified in the trial, are a "mom and pop operation" in the family funeral home.

"Not only do you have to believe that Mr. Ford is lying, you've got to believe that his wife got up here and lied, too," he said.

In his instructions to the jury, U.S. District Judge Samuel H. Mays told jurors they must not be influenced by sympathy.

Jurors were given detailed instructions about entrapment. Federal courts have ruled that a bribe need not be explicitly stated as a "quid pro quo." The defendant must know that the payment is made in return for official acts, but a certain amount of subtlety is acceptable. The Ford videotapes show him taking $100 bills as Cooper and Ford discuss pending decisions of the City Council or other official actions.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Edmund Ford Takes the Witness Stand

Posted By on Mon, May 19, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Edmund Ford boldly took the witness stand Monday and said several times that he never took bribes from lobbyist Joe Cooper for his influence on the Memphis City Council.

Ford was questioned for about an hour by his attorney, Michael Scholl, and was in the middle of being cross-examined by prosecutor Larry Laurenzi when the trial took a lunch break.

Scholl first asked Ford if he was angry.

"A little upset," Ford said. "Kind of angry. Being here in court for something I did not do."

Ford said the four cash payments totaling $8,900 that jurors have seen on videotape were for legitimate car payments and a down payment on a loan for a new funeral home. The prosecution contends they were bribes for Ford’s assistance on a billboard project on Steve Road.

Ford said that anyone who knows him knows "if you ever tried to bribe me the whole world would know."

Ford said Cooper "is not telling the truth." He said when he first met Cooper 15 years ago he "thought he was a millionaire." Cooper, who likely falls quite a bit short of that, formerly worked for wealthy billboard baron William B. Tanner but was a car salesman for Bud Davis Cadillac in 2006 when the payments were made.

Laurenzi grilled Ford about his relationship with developer Rusty Hyneman, who cosigned the car lease. Ford insisted he thought he was purchasing the car, not leasing it, but Laurenzi produced documents showing it to be a lease, with monthly payments due of $918. The car, a Cadillac, was valued at $64,800.

Laurenzi clearly intends to replay the payoff tapes for the jury and get Ford to explain each one.

Many criminal defendants do not testify, including Ford's brother, former state senator John Ford, who was convicted on Tennessee Waltz charges last year.

Edmund Ford was feisty at times. "I cannot answer that question because you are not asking it correctly, sir," he told Laurenzi in one exchange.

More to come.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Memphis Week That Was

Posted By on Fri, May 16, 2008 at 4:00 AM

"Proper predication" explained -- sort of. Predication is a big word for how federal prosecutors decide whom to go after in political corruption cases. It came up in former state senator Roscoe Dixon's trial two years ago. It came up again this week in Edmund Ford's trial when defense attorney Michael Scholl, who also represented Edmund's brother John, was questioning FBI agent Daniel Netemeyer.

It's Police Procedure 101 that crooks are useful in order to catch crooks. But it's also common knowledge that crooks lie, especially to save their own skin, and that their knowledge may be much more limited than they claim it is. Why, Scholl asked in so many words, was his man Ford, codenamed "cleansweep" by the FBI, the subject of an investigation while other elected officials were not? Did the government merely rely on Joe Cooper, a corrupt lobbyist with a 1977 felony conviction and a 2007 conviction and pending sentence on a money-laundering charge involving drug dealers?

Netemeyer was seriously constrained in his ability to answer the question. Both sides had agreed that Rickey Peete, the former councilman who pleaded guilty to bribery charges developed with Cooper's undercover assistance, was off limits in this trial. The most Netemeyer could say was that Ford was "one aspect" of the investigation of the Memphis City Council and that the FBI predicated "the individuals involved." And he could not, of course, disclose information about active investigations or politicians that were never charged. Also, Netemeyer now works out of St. Louis and may be out of the local loop.

Netemeyer, echoing statements made by assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Laurenzi in his opening statement, said Ford had a documented relationship with developer Rusty Hyneman on a car lease and another relationship with developer Jackie Welch on financing for Ford's funeral home. Information provided by Cooper along with other information developed by the FBI gave agents "reasonable belief" that there was proper predication. Verifying Cooper's information about Hyneman and Welch might have "jeopardized the investigation" of the City Council. Neither Hyneman nor Welch has been charged with anything.

"I'm not aware that Mr. Ford had ever done a favor for Mr. Hyneman," Netemeyer said. He said FBI Special Agent In Charge My Harrison in Memphis makes the call on opening an investigation after predication is established. Officials in Washington are "copied" but approval is given at "field level." The standard for predication, Netemeyer said, is lower than the standard for probable cause.

The gist of Netemeyer's statements, along with previous statements from federal prosecutors in Memphis, is that major decisions about corruption investigations are made at the local level. Public corruption specialists in Washington are in the loop, and approval for sting operations such as Operation Tennessee Waltz must be granted from Washington. But the decision making -- call it predication or targeting, if you will -- is made locally, not by the Attorney General of the United States who, like the United States attorneys around the country, is a political appointee. Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was criticized last year for removing assistant United States attorneys for what some members of Congress -- mostly Democrats -- felt were political reasons. Both Laurenzi and Tennessee Waltz prosecutor Tim DiScenza are veteran career prosecutors.

Controlling the Memphis message. Three times this year police and top public officials have bypassed most if not all of the local media and granted interviews or access to national media. Memphis City Schools interim superintendent Dan Ward went on the O’Reilly Factor on Fox News to talk about videos of sexy "dancing" taken at Mitchell High School and first shown by WREG-TV Channel 3. Mayor Willie Herenton gave an interview to New York Times reporter Shaila Dewan about his "retirement" letter and thoughts about being superintendent (and, it should be noted, another interview to local station Fox 13 News). And producers of the television program The First 48 have had special access to crime scenes, including the mass murders on Lester Street, where local reporters were kept outside the yellow tape half a block from the house for several days. MPD is ending its relationship with the program after members of the City Council objected about the seedy image of Memphis that is being conveyed to a national audience. Best foot forward. Hide the dirty laundry, or at least don’t flaunt it. Reportorial turf protection and jealousy. All of those are at work here. My view on The First 48, which I have only seen parts of twice: enough is enough.

Kudos to Suhair Lauck and her Little Tea Shop downtown for being featured in the Food Network's program Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. The program with host Guy Fieri will air on May 18th at 3 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. and on May 19th at 1:30 a.m. And kudos to Felicia Suzanne's, Opera Memphis, and the Center City Commission for a classy lunch-hour event last week in the courtyard just north of the downtown restaurant on Main Street. Nice idea, and probably the first outdoor live-opera performance downtown in decades (ever?). And one more kudo to Calvin Turley and the Cotton Museum for a Sunday afternoon gig featuring Memphis jazz musicians and Dancing With The Stars-quality dancing by members of the local Red Hot Lindy Hop dancers.

Don't Do BBQ? Here Are Some Alternatives

Posted on Fri, May 16, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Swarms of Memphian are packing Tom Lee Park this weekend for the annual meat fest (otherwise known as the World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest). It's not a pretty sight if you’re not a fan of crowds or general drunken debauchery. Here are a few more options.

Get your barbecue fix without fighting the crowds at the Animal Protection Association's Memphis in May Barbecue Party. Held in a location far, far away from downtown (6461 River Tide Drive … not Riverside Drive), this scaled-down version of the city's annual pig party raises money for APA’s programs. The festivities begin at 6:30 p.m. tonight.

Honestly though, barbecue makes you fat, and it contributes to the death of cute little piggies. So you may want to skip the glutton festivals and opt for the Memphis in May Triathlon instead. Athletes compete in a 1.5K swim, a 40K bike race, and a 10K run to raise money for the Church Health Center. The triathlon begins tonight at Edmund Orgill Park in Millington and runs through Sunday night.

The American Diabetes Association recommends eating less meat to avoid adult-onset diabetes. Here in Memphis, we’re not strangers to obesity and its related health problems. Artists Frank D. Robinson Jr. has created a series of paintings addressing health ills, such as diabetes, in urban communities. The show, titled "Dis-Ease … Don’t Nobody Know My Troubles, But God," opens at the Caritas Village tonight from 6-9 p.m.

If you do give in to the gluttony of barbecue fest, walk off those extra pounds Saturday morning during the Sierra Club's Vollintine-Evergreen Greenline Walk. Sierra Club members will provide a history lesson during the walk through Midtown’s rails-to-trails park. Meet up at the train station on the corner of Tutweiler and Dickinson on Saturday at 8:45 a.m.

For something totally unrelated to health or food, stop by the Michael Rose Theatre on the University of Memphis campus on Saturday night for the SNAP! Music Academy Spring Concert featuring kids from STAX's music program. The show will also feature Kenneth Whalum and Dexter and Otis Redding III, relatives of the late Otis Redding. The show begins at 7 p.m.

Speaking of Otis Redding, soul fans will have a chance to meet with the late musician's family at the STAX Museum of American Soul Music's panel discussion titled Conversations with the Reddings. The event is scheduled for Sunday, May 18 from 5-7 p.m. For more weekend fun, check out the Flyer's searchable online calendar.

Prosecution Rests; Defense Calls Ford's Wife

Posted By on Fri, May 16, 2008 at 4:00 AM

Edmund Ford's wife of 29 years took the witness stand Friday in the former city councilman’s bribery trial in federal court.

Myrna Ford was soft-spoken and smiled pleasantly at jurors, her husband on the other side of the courtroom, and their three children in the spectators' section during an hour of mostly gentle questioning.

She told defense attorney Michael Scholl and jurors that she and her husband have a close marriage and are "one" for business purposes in the strenuous life of running a sometimes struggling funeral home. She said she does several business "multitasks" while Edmund does the embalming. "He has a gift," she said.

Prosecutor Tom Colthurst had just begun his cross-examination when the trial was adjourned for the weekend at noon because of a previous commitment of U.S. District Judge Samuel H. Mays. It is not certain that Ford will take the stand himself, although Scholl has said he will. The case is expected to go to the jury Tuesday. Mays denied a routine motion for dismissal of the case Friday and said there is enough evidence to send it to the jury.

Myrna Ford said she has known Joe Cooper, the government's star witness, for about 15 years. In recent years, she said, his visits to the funeral home became so frequent that one employee suggested someone "needed to give him an office."

Earlier this week, Cooper testified and narrated videotapes he secretly made of himself making $8,900 in payments to Ford in 2006. Myrna Ford said she was not present when those payments were made but deposited the proceeds in a bank account to invest in a downpayment on the couple's new funeral home. She said the business often deals in cash.

Her final statement to defense attorney Scholl was "I love my husband but I fear God more."

Under cross-examination, she said the funeral home declared bankruptcy three times, in 1997, 1998, and 1999, and they did not file tax returns from 2002-2005. Ford was elected to the city council in 2000. Colthurst got Mrs. Ford to admit that the Fords would have had to produce tax returns to get conventional financing for the new funeral home. Instead they went to developer Jackie Welch, who has not been charged with anything although his name has come up several times along with Rusty Hyneman.

Earlier Friday, the government rested its case after calling a city official to verify that the Office of Planning and Development and Land Use Control Board both rejected applicant William Thomas' attempt to put billboards and storage facilities on a site near Interstate 240 and Steve Road. Cooper was the lobbyist for Thomas before the Memphis City Council.

Myrna Ford's testimony contrasted sharply with Cooper's sometimes emotional testimony and testy exchanges with Scholl. The defense strategy appears to be to put Cooper, a two-time loser on federal charges, "on trial" against the Ford "team."

The trial seems a bit anticlimactic now that the Tennessee Waltz trials have come to an end and Ford and Rickey Peete are no longer on the city council. Peete pleaded guilty to charges similar to the ones Ford is facing and has gone to prison, but the jury has not been told about that and prosecutors are not supposed to bring it up.

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