Fly on the Wall

First With Promos
How early is too early to count a story-in-progress as a victory for television news coverage? Well, it’s less than eight hours.
After the Klan-rally debacle Saturday, WREG Channel 3 had a promo package all ready to run going into commercials by the 10 o’clock newscast, fashioned from the footage that viewers had just seen as part of its reports. “News Channel 3 was first on the air from downtown Memphis,” it trumpeted, “with more live pictures and the most complete information.” And then, the stinger:
“If a local story makes a difference in your life, keep it on the station where local news comes first.”
And self-promotion runs a tight second.

Snow Job
Local television news directors were tough to get on the phone the day before the Klan rally. After all, it was cold and there was some ice that – at any time – could turn treacherous, although it never really did.
A Flyer reporter called WMC Channel 5 news director Ken Jobe Friday afternoon to ask how the station had decided to cover the rally, but was told questions would have to wait until a thaw.
“We’ve got crews all over with the weather,” said Jobe.

Learning the Ropes

Congressman Ford

It looks like Harold Ford Jr. might still have a little to learn about how to get his way in the House of Representatives. In a recent letter to Representative Bill Archer (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Ford passionately urges Archer to support the Medicare Venipuncture Fairness Act, legislation that would repeal a cut to Medicare home-health benefits. Unfortunately, the persuasiveness of the letter might come to naught, since it begins “Dear Chairman Bliley,” who is a different guy altogether (R-Virginia). n

City Reporter

Topless-Club Attorneys Want D. A. Disqualified

by Jacqueline Marino

Criminal Court judge is considering whether to disqualify District Attorney General Bill Gibbons’ attempts to close a local topless club because he and his staff allegedly accepted private contributions from special interests.
Earlier this month, the club’s attorneys told Criminal Court Judge L. Terry Lafferty that Gibbons and former District Attorney General John Pierotti appeared at one well-attended fund-raising event in 1996. They say the DA’s office used private funds to pay for expenses incurred in the investigation and prosecution of Memphis topless clubs.
The DA’s office has denied the claim.
“Neither the District Attorney General, nor any member of his staff has accepted any money from any special-interest groups or individuals sympathetic to such groups,” the state’s attorneys wrote. They also said the DA’s staff often speaks to groups about crime in Shelby County and that whether they spoke at a fund-raising event is “totally irrelevant.”
During the two-day hearing, however, special prosecutor Larry Parrish, who was asked to help prosecute the cases because of his experience in obscenity law, explained that he has raised almost $411,000 so far from individuals, businesses, and other sources to pay for his legal fees and other costs.
In certain instances, Tennessee state law allows for the appointment of special prosecutors – attorneys who are paid by private individuals – usually by victims’ families. But Ted Hansom, attorney for Valentines club owner Don Culbreath, argues that Parrish’s fund-raising efforts should not have been allowed.
“The issue in this case is that we believe a group of individuals put together a sum of money and said, ‘We’re going to put somebody out of business,’” he says. “There is a fundamental danger in that. We don’t want to throw open the doors for people with checkbooks and allow them to buy a result.”
Lafferty has taken the matter under advisement until March 6th.
Since the state raided and temporarily shut down eight topless clubs in July 1996, it has been trying to close the clubs permanently as public nuisances. More than 200 indictments against club owners and managers have been issued for various charges, including prostitution and obscenity.
Parrish, a former assistant U.S. attorney, won indictments and convictions against a number of porn stars in the 1970s. He has been in private practice since 1977.

Death Claims Three Music Greats

by Mark Jordan

Triple tragedy struck music fans around the world last week as three artists with strong Memphis ties – blues harpist Junior Wells, bluesman Junior Kimbrough, and rockabilly pioneer Carl Perkins – all died within five days.
• On Thursday, Memphis-born harmonica player Amos Blakemore, better known as Junior Wells, died in Chicago of lymphoma. Wells, 63, had been in a coma since September.
Wells learned the basics of the harmonica in Memphis under the tutelage of Junior Parker. While still a young boy, however, he moved to Chicago, where in 1952 he replaced Little Walter in Muddy Waters’ band.

Carl Perkins

In 1958, Wells began his longest professional association when he teamed up with guitarist Buddy Guy, a partnership that produced classics like 1966’s Hoodoo Man Blues. The success of the Guy-Wells collaboration also boosted Wells’ solo career, and he continued to tour and record up until just before his illness. At last year’s Handy Awards held in Memphis, Wells’ Come on in this House won in the Best Traditional Blues Album of the Year category.
• Saturday, North Mississippi bluesman David “Junior” Kimbrough died of a heart attack in his hometown of Holly Springs, Mississippi. Kimbrough, 67, had long been a favorite performer in area juke joints and an influence on area artists like rockabilly pioneer Charlie Feathers and the late Lee Baker. However, in recent years, Kimbrough’s fame had spread outside the sleepy hill country of North Mississippi with a series of recordings on Oxford’s Fat Possum label that featured his hypnotic riff style and which, along with the work of contemporary R.L. Burnside, are largely credited with breathing new life into the blues and winning over new, younger fans.
Born in Hudsonville, Kimbrough began playing in the ’50s but didn’t cut his first record until 1966’s “Tram” on the Philwood label. He didn’t record again until 1982 when University of Memphis professor David Evans and Rust College’s Sylvester Oliver began recording him for the U of M’s High Water label; those recordings were just reissued last year by Hightone Records on the CD Do The Rump!.
Throughout the ’80s Kimbrough cultivated his reputation as an area juke artist, opening his own place in 1990 on Highway 4 outside of Holly Springs. In 1991, he was featured in Deep Blues, a documentary on Memphis and Mississippi music that gave Kimbrough a new shot in the arm. He recorded three popular disks for Fat Possum – 1992’s All Night Long, 1993’s Sad Days, Lonely Nights, and 1997’s Most Things Haven’t Worked Out. (Another Fat Possum record is expected to be released next year.) He also had begun to tour more extensively before his health problems, which included a history of high blood pressure, began to take their toll last year.

Junior Wells

Services for Kimbrough will be Saturday at the Rust College Doxey Auditorium with burial at Kimbrough Chapel Missionary Baptist Church.
• Monday rockabilly legend Carl Perkins died in Jackson, Tennessee, after suffering a heart attack. Perkins, 65, who in recent years had survived cancer, had suffered a series of strokes in the past few months which had left the singer/songwriter/guitar player partially paralyzed.
Perkins was famed as the writer of the quintessential pop-country hit “Blue Suede Shoes” and as one-fourth of Sun Records’ Million Dollar Quartet, which also included Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley.
Perkins was born in Tiptonville, where he worked as a child picking cotton. It is here that he first heard the music – country and blues along with traditional work songs – that would fuel his later work. Inspired by Elvis’ first single “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” the 22-year-old Perkins drove to Memphis with the band he formed with his brothers to audition for Sun owner Sam Phillips.
Phillips signed the band and soon released their first single, “Movie Magg,” which Perkins had written when he was 14. In 1956, the group released Perkins’ biggest hit, “Blue Suede Shoes,” which sold 2 million copies. But that success was tempered months later by a Delaware car wreck. The traumatic effects of the accident led to his long bout with alcohol that ended in the mid-’70s.
Though he never again attained the heights of “Blue Suede Shoes,” Perkins continued to write, record, perform, and inspire. He played guitar in Cash’s band in the ’60s and ’70s. In 1964, he struck up a lifelong friendship with the Beatles that resulted in many projects. Nineteen eighty-one also saw Perkins establish the Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse. In 1985, he reunited with fellow Million Dollar Quartet alumni Cash and Lewis for the Class of ’55 album, featuring one-time Sun artist Roy Orbison filling in for Elvis.
In 1987, Perkins was inducted into the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame. Last year he published his autobiography, Go, Cat, Go!, co-written by David McGee.

Preservationists, Hospital Clash Over Historic Home

by Jacqueline Marino

Baptist Memorial Hospital says those who want to save the historic DeLoach House in Collierville have two options: Move it or lose it.
Much to the chagrin and surprise of local preservationists, Baptist announced before Christmas that it would not be able to work the antebellum house into its plans for a new hospital, which will be built north of Highway 72 /Poplar Avenue near Shea Road.
Baptist has given groups and individuals interested in moving the house until Friday to contact the hospital. If no moving arrangements are made, Baptist will auction off anything of value from the house and then demolish the structure, says Jim Vandersteeg, administrator and chief executive officer.
“We are trying to work with everyone,” Vandersteeg says. “We want to keep it in Collierville. Our last desire is to tear down the house.” Judi Thumser, leader of the group of citizens working to preserve the house, says hospital officials led them to believe the old home would fit into its plans for a new 60-bed, $38 million facility. Instead, Baptist has decided to build doctors’ offices on the site.
“I think it’s pretty sneaky and underhanded of them to do this,” she says. “The history of this house stretches from northern Mississippi all the way to the White House, and they’re going to tear it down?”
She says the group does not want to relocate the house from where it was built more than 150 years ago, because the move is too costly and would diminish its historic significance.
According to Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s memoirs, he stopped at the DeLoach House on a sweltering summer day in 1862 for a glass of water. When the Civil War ended, Grant, who was elected president in 1869, promoted its owner, union sympathizer and distinguished Shelby Countian Josiah DeLoach, to the office of postmaster.
The house’s location adds to its historic importance and suggests the DeLoaches’ prominence in Shelby County society, says preservation consultant John Hopkins. The Greek Revival house stood along a major road that connected the Cherokee nation with other tribes in the Memphis area. Later, the road was traversed by settlers, and one of West Tennessee’s first railroads was built nearby.
Hopkins says the wooden building’s architectural details and finishes are on par with other antebellum residences in Memphis.
“I’d say it’s a very good kid brother to the Hunt-Phelan Home,” he says. Built in the early 1800s, the Hunt-Phelan Home opened to the public in 1996.
Thumser’s group has written politicians and historic societies. Currently she is circulating about 80 petitions to try to keep the house from being torn down. She says negotiations with Baptist are ongoing.

Banks Named Editor of Memphis

by Dennis Freeland

The new editor of Memphis is passionate about his business. “It started at Memphis magazine, where I began as an advertising assistant in 1987,” says Richard Banks, 34, who becomes the seventh editor of the 21-year-old city magazine next month. Memphis is published by Contemporary Media, the parent company of the Flyer.
Banks had most recently been managing editor of periodical publications at Towery Publishing, where he oversaw the Memphis and Tulsa editions of Agenda magazine. “It’s through that work that my love of magazines comes,” he says. “I really began to take notice of them in the greater world around us – everything from Fortune to Wired.”

Richard Banks

Design is important to Banks, but don’t expect Memphis to embrace the design-over-readability approach popularized by Wired. “That drives me nuts,” he says. “I appreciate that somebody is out there doing it, but it’s not anything that I would want to do. With all due respect to the people at Wired, they are a little self-serving that way.”
Banks says good design is one aspect setting city magazines apart. “I like design to draw people into the story, which [veteran Memphis art director] Murry Keith does so well. Design can do so much to the story, with photographs and illustrations which not only make them nice to look at, but add a level of provocation.”
The growing popularity of alternative newsweeklies has cut into the profits of some city magazines, but Banks feels strongly that Memphis can still be relevant. “Take what Hampton Sides did with ‘Sad Song From the Hills,’ a 10,000-word piece he did on a murder down in Mississippi [published in Memphis in 1985],” he says. “It would have been a little more difficult for an alternative newsweekly to do that story.”
Banks replaces Tim Sampson, who left the magazine after five years as editor to take a position with Doug Carpenter Advertising.
“Tim has a terrific sense of style,” Banks responds. “He is an incredible writer – the first writer I ever met who wrote exactly as he spoke, so freely, with such a sense of humor. My strengths tend to lead more towards taking a look at news you heard on the 5 p.m. newscast or read in the daily or The Memphis Flyer. What I like to do is work with writers to do the more traditional magazine write-up: Here is what happened, here is what that could mean.”
The Rhodes College graduate also says he understands the local landscape. “I’m basically a native here. I know what makes people tick and that gives me an advantage,” he says. “I really love this city. That’s not just a bunch of hooey, either. Memphis is not just one of the easiest places to live, but one of the most fun places as well.”

U of M Conference Targets Violence

by Lauren Mutter

The Community Response to Domestic Violence, a conference held last Friday at the University of Memphis addressing everything from investigation of abuse to batterer intervention, was the latest in a string of efforts to reduce domestic violence in Memphis.
Keynote speaker Charlotte Fedders set the mood for the day, with her story of recovery from 18 years of physical and emotional abuse in her marriage to John Fedders, former director of enforcement for the Securities and Exchange Commission during the Reagan administration. Her high-profile case went before the public and the courts at a time when the term “domestic violence” wasn’t in many officials’ vocabulary.
Troy Steinmacher, a counselor with the Family Services of the Mid-South Domestic Violence Program, co-facilitates a domestic-violence and anger-management group for men, 90 to 95 percent of whom enroll as an alternative to jail. Steinmacher reported that about 80 percent of the men finish the 12-week course, but he suspects the number is so high only because the men face court sanctions if they fail to complete the program. Still, there is no guarantee for a “cure” even for those who do finish. “There is a danger in thinking that those going through the program are no longer violent,” he explained.
Dr. Betty Winter, manager of the MPD’s Family Trouble Center, spoke before a room of MPD officers. Though only four were from the newly formed Metro Domestic Violence Unit, Winter insisted that because of the volume of domestic abuse calls they handle, all members of the police should consider themselves domestic-violence officers.
Other presenters included Sgt. Mark Wynn of the Nashville Metro Police Department, who was instrumental in developing his department’s domestic-violence policy and in organizing the Nashville domestic-violence police unit, and Anna Whalley, clinical coordinator for the Shelby County Government Victims Assistance Center.
Though attendance was low because a television broadcast that falsely announced the event was cancelled due to bad weather, many MPD officers and workers from domestic-violence organizations trudged through the snow to the U of M’s Fogelman Executive Center for the day-long conference sponsored by Mayor Willie Herenton, the Memphis Police Department, and the YWCA of Memphis.

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