Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Consultants Plan Monument To Consultants On Memphis Riverfront

Posted By on Wed, Nov 21, 2018 at 11:49 AM

Sign greeting visitors to Consultants Park.
  • Sign greeting visitors to Consultants Park.
Claiming they have “bridged the gap between perception and reality,” a group of consultants has proposed Consultants’ Park, which will be dedicated to the many consultants hired to determine what Memphis should do with its riverfront.

“Since 1924, the city of Memphis has been trying to figure out what to do with this unique space, which overlooks one of the largest, brownest bodies of water in the world, and also Arkansas,” says the Preamble to the Executive Summary of the 2,667-page report issued by the Memphis Riverfront Consultants’ Coalition (MRCC). “Like the hundreds of consultants who came before us, we puzzled about how to polish Mud Island into a Mud Diamond. Then, three days into our recent ayahuasca trance charette, it suddenly hit us. What is more dependable and integral to the Memphis Riverfront experience than the Big Muddy? For the last century, the answer has been, consultants. That’s why we are executing Consultants’ Park, a reminder to all Memphis and the world that consultants matter, and that they must be paid.”
“That’s ‘Consultants’, plural,” says the first of the document’s 1,300 footnotes. “Because consultants love company.”

According to the design documents, Consultants’ Park will stretch the entire 2,348 mile length of the eastern bank of the Mississippi. It will include a specially designed “Consultants’ Safe Space Play Area”, where businesses can bring their consultants to frolic in the fresh, humid river air and socialize with other consultants. There will also be a Consultant’s Corner, where citizens can interact with and ask questions of a real live consultant, and then pay them directly in cash for their advice. “We see this as a way to get people off the streets and into cushy consulting gigs,” says the MRCC.

The centerpiece of the park will be a 1,923-foot tall statue of a consultant riding triumphant on a rearing steed. “It’s 1,923 feet tall, because 1923 was the year our consultant forefathers first discovered the Mississippi riverfront,” says the MRCC.
As for the rest of the 2,000+ mile park, the MRCC says “We’ll get food trucks or something.” 
Signage directing visitors to Consultants Park
  • Signage directing visitors to Consultants Park

The project is estimated to cost $1.2 billion. The MRCC points out that only $1 billion of the budget is allotted to consultant’s fees. “It’s a bargain for the taxpayers!”
As of press time, no city officials were available for comment.
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Yes, this is a PARODY. Didn't you see the black and yellow tab at the top.

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Roll Local with Memphis Made Comic, Stoned Ninja

Posted By on Wed, Nov 21, 2018 at 11:43 AM

img_0389.jpg
Gabriel DeRanzo and Greg Cravens seem like unlikely partners. Cravens is a veteran illustrator, cartoonist, and comic strip creator. DeRanzo has a sterling reputation as a bartender, but when he and Cravens met at 901 Comics in a networking session for artists interested in contributing to Bad Dog comics first Memphis-made anthology of graphic fiction, he had no idea what he was doing. What did the inexperienced DeRanzo possess that nobody else had? A completed script. According to Cravens, who's been around the block a time or two, that made all the difference.

“Other people may have had ideas,” Cravens says, explaining why he gravitated toward DeRanzo. “But he had a completed 5-page script.” According to all involved, it wasn’t a very good 5-page script, but it was a spark — a beginning. There were plots to be hammered out and characters to develop. There was also an ethos to explore: The weed should be freed — and it would be too if not for those meddling, “Pharmaceutical companies, the alcohol industry, and organized crime," and money spent on “politicians to keep it illegal.”

Enter the Stoned Ninja. 

The meet-up where DeRanzo and Cravens first teamed up is part of the origin story for 901’s house brand, Bad Dog Comics, which published its second anthology earlier this month. Bad Dog will soon publish the second installment of DeRanzo and Cravens’ Stoned Ninja, which is currently receiving its finishing touches. Meanwhile, the creators continue to produce t-shirts and other fun, useful merchandise that, if things go according to plan, may ultimately position Stoned Ninja for wider distribution than most indie comics ever see. What has Stoned Ninja got that other indie comics don't? Its own brand of ninja-approved, 100 percent hemp rolling papers, that's what. 
Samples from 901 Comics Anthology Vol. 2
  • Samples from 901 Comics Anthology Vol. 2

“When I was a kid, comics were in every grocery store and quickie mart in the country, and they aren’t anymore,” Cravens says explaining the potential for head shops to expand comic distribution. “The market has narrowed down to where you have to go hard target search for a comic shop to go get comics,” he says. “What we’ve got is something we can sell in another store to another targeted audience. So, that’s the pitch when we approach larger publishers. There are potentially 25,000 more shops you can put your comic into, if you’ll just pay attention.”

“Given the content of the comic I figured there was no reason to go less than 100% pure hemp,” DeRanzo says of Stoned Ninja rolling papers. “So it’s as good a quality paper as anything out there and we’re offering fun packaging. On the inside flap there’s a comic and we’re going to change that flap every time we put in a new order. So Stoned Ninja will be like Bazooka Joe Bubble gum.”
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Stoned Ninja was originally inspired by the classic Kung Fu comedy Drunken Master, and developed as a means to explore pot culture beyond the usual burnout stereotypes.

“So I asked myself, if there can be a Drunken Master, why can’t there be a Stoned Ninja?” DeRanzo says.


Don’t anticipate kung fu Cheech and Chong, or Jackie Chan-inspired antics, even. Stoned Ninja is packed with fun stuff. Pizza boxes (featuring DeRanzo’s face) make cameos. The hero, Japanese American college student Kazunori Takagi, appears and disappears in clouds of dank smelling smoke. But, for being the story of a young man granted ninja superpowers by toking on a special strain of marijuana, the narrative content is fairly straight-faced.

For 10-years DeRanzo daydreamed about Stoned Ninja while he tended bar. “I had this insane amount of story content for movie ideas,” he says says. Comics weren’t in the plan so when Shannon Merritt from 901 said he wanted to start making comics DeRanzu said, “That’s great, I will buy your comics!”

“No,” Merritt answered. “I want you to help me make these comics.”

One problem: DeRanzo couldn’t draw. Okay, two problems: He had no experience writing either. But the characters were there. And after a decade of thinking about it, the stories were there too. So DeRanzo leaned on Cravens’ experience in graphic storytelling, and Cravens trusted DeRanzo’s vision. Inker Josh Lindsey has since joined the team.

“I drew the knives all wrong,” Cravens says, admitting a learning curve of his own. DeRanzo gave his illustrator some sharp examples as a gift. “I nearly cut my toe off twice,” Cravens says of his sample cutlery experience. But now his knives are proper.
Samples from Stoned Ninja
  • Samples from Stoned Ninja


"Right now we're trying to build the first six issue story arc at a pace that lets us be normal people. Once it's done we plan to release it on a monthly schedule. Ideally going mass distribution," DeRanzo says.

For the completely appropriate price of $4.20, comics are available locally at 901 Comics, Whatever stores, The Wild Hare smoke shop, Tobacco Zone, and Memphis Made Brewery. Stoned Ninja starter packs, which include a comic book, a t-shirt, and a pack of Stoned Ninja rolling papers are available online at stonedninjacomics.com.
DeRanzo, Cravens, Lindsey
  • DeRanzo, Cravens, Lindsey

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Thursday, November 15, 2018

What’s Kids in the Hall Co-Founder Kevin McDonald Doing in Memphis?

Kevin the Kid

Posted By on Thu, Nov 15, 2018 at 10:42 AM

Kevin McDonald
  • Kevin McDonald
If Monty Python are the Beatles of TV sketch comedy, The Kids in the Hall are Duran Duran. I borrowed that line from Kids co-founder Kevin McDonald, who’s been known to use it in his standup routine. It’s a great gag because it’s a terrible metaphor. If we’re being honest, The Kids are more like The Zit Remedy of comedy. Or maybe the Triumph of comedy. The point is, they were Canadian. Like Loverboy. They were also smart, savage, and over-the-top.

If the first season of SNL is the Citizen Kane of sketch comedy, Kids in the Hall is American Psycho (but Canadian); full of dark fantasy, cutting satire, satirical cutting. Etc.


Critics were mean to Brain Candy, but the Kids only feature film looks pretty good in hindsight. What’s not to appreciate about an evil Pharma company’s mad, mad, (mad, mad, mad) rush to commodify health, market an untested happy pill, and warehouse a nation? It’s a dark, borderline cynical fable of success and corruption that, for being implausibly white, pairs beautifully with Boots Riley’s surreal romp, Sorry to Bother You. Both are comic book-style journeys to the dark heart of the Winning class — A tour through the gilded rooms where the real party (inside the party) never stops and things are always weirder, dumber, and way more evil than you’d ever expect. But mostly dumber.

Local comedy fans have good reason to be excited. McDonald is on his way to town to lead a pair of workshops and perform an intimate program of comedy three ways: Standup, sketch, and an improv jam with Memphis’ own Bluff City Liars. Here’s what McDonald told The Flyer about being a Kid, teaching comedy to people who are terrible at comedy, and whether or not super dreamy TV host Darcy Pennell ever got to roll with The Hell Riders. (Spoiler alert: SHE DID!!!)



Memphis Flyer: Okay, I’ve been waiting 25-years at least to ask this question.

Kevin McDonald: Okay.

MF: Darcy Pennell. Did she ever finally get to roll with The Hell Riders?

KM: Sure. It’s my imagination, sure she did. She did a story. It was supposed to be a story for one weekend but she fell in love with Ace, the second in command which was frustrating because his name was Ace, so you’d think he’d be in command. But he was second in command. And she fell in love with him and they stayed together a year and then he broke her heart and she went back to the TV business. There, I made that up.

MF: Fantastic. Good for Darcy.

KM: Darcy Pennell was based on a local Toronto host of a TV talk show named Dini Petty.

MF: I didn’t know the character was inspired by one person. I’d assumed it was an amalgamation.

KM: Well, the name was. She sort of acted kind of forceful and strong. I can never do impressions, so I took this one aspect of her show that I really found interesting and I put it in Darcy Pennell.

MF: Nice. Can you tell me a little about the thing you’re doing in Memphis with Bluff City Liars? They said you’d reached out and found them. Is this a thing you do regularly? Find regional improv groups and then do workshops and a show with area comics?

KM: Yeah. I’ve been going around North America and doing that for the past four or five years. I spend weekends and I go to theaters with improv troupes and I teach them the Kids in the Hall method during the day. When I’m not doing cartoons or shooting stuff or doing my big podcast Kevin McDonald’s Kevin McDonald Show — I’ve got one coming out with Weird Al Yankovic and Tim and Eric.

MF: Oh, cool. I just saw he’s on tour and coming to The Orpheum in Memphis. Weird Al. Not Tim or Eric.

KM: He won’t be there this weekend will he?

MF: No, I don’t think. I think that’s a 2019 date. I just saw the announcement.

KM: It would be amazing if he was. He’s the nicest guy in the world. He sorta looks like he’d be the nicest guy in the world, and he is the nicest guy in the world. Anyway, I spend my weekends teaching and performing like I will Sunday night.


MF: It’s a cool thing. Gives comics and writers access to your process. To a Kids in the Hall experience. And also we get a chance to see you perform. What’s the origin story for this project.

KM: Well, I moved to Winnipeg. And I thought I wouldn’t get as much TV and film work as I’d been getting. I still get a lot, but I have to fly to places. So I had to think of something else. So, I have these boring theories about sketch comedy that I’ve been bring people for years with at cocktail parties. And I was performing at Toronto Comedy Fest with Scott Thompson of Kids in the Hall, and they asked if I could teach. And I said I could throw something together. And I kinda liked it. And then I developed this thing. I guess it’s been six years, actually.

MF: I remember one time hearing you talk about the writing process with Kids in the Hall. About how you really thought the writing was the strong suit. Is that a focus of the workshops?

KM: Yeah. I think writing was sort of our strength. I think we’re all really good performers, so that gets into the writing. I teach the students writing through improv. So writing and performing are the same thing. But it all starts with the idea. And I think we were all very good with the idea. Then we learned how to go from an idea to a whole sketch through improv. Then when we got the TV show we had to actually write them down. Then we became like writer-writers. And we had to be performer-performers.


MF: I don’t want to say dark, that’s kind of an attitude, but there was a tone. I was watching some old sketches today and thought they were funnier than I did the first go-round. And prescient.


KM: Funny you say that. There are some things about the show that if I watch today by accident I’ll be like, “Oh, why was I complaining about that scene? That’s a really good scene?”

MF: Funny that way. And the film Brain Candy, looking back from 2018 it’s like you were looking into a crystal ball. I know you were just responding to the advent of Prozac and drug marketing…

KM: Yeah, exactly, it was. It was Prozac, but that was like the beginning of all of it, wasn’t it?

MF: There’s that line after your character has been invited to the secret VIP party inside the VIP party and wakes up with two women in bed. They’re called over to sign legal waiver saying the night never happened.

KM: It’s nice of you to say that. I don’t know if it’s a fluke or…

MF: It’s anachronistic, I know...

KM: But I’m very proud of the movie. It’s not just a good comedy movie, it’s sort of a good movie movie. It is sketchy, but we wanted to do a movie that was a whole movie but had great parts because we were a sketch troupe. And by whole I mean W-H-O-L-E not H-O-L-E.

MF: Yeah, that would be awkward.

KM: Bad plan.

MF: When you go out and work with troupes are the ideas they bring in already kind of Kids in the Hally?

KM: I don’t think so. Maybe I’m to close to it. Sometimes it’s an idea that reminds me of an old idea of ours and they don’t know it. But a lot of times it’s more Saturday Night Live or Key and Peele. And a lot of times it’s just bad because a lot of them are just starting out on sketches and I know my first hundred were probably horrible.

MF: That’s the learning curve. But what do you do with that, just rip the Band Aid: “You’re horrible, let’s work on that.”

KM: At first I didn’t know what to do, but now I know how to work with lots of things. What we do is, on the first day I break everybody up into groups and we improvise. Then that afternoon we work on turning those improvs into sketches. But then they get homework. The have to bring in a comedy premise on Sunday. I pick my five favorites and we work on that all day. Sometimes there’s a lot of good ones.

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Saturday, November 10, 2018

Gannett Digital Sees Revenue Increase. That's the Good News

Posted By on Sat, Nov 10, 2018 at 3:35 PM

G. CRESCOLI, UNSPLASH
  • G. Crescoli, Unsplash
Gannett Co. shared its Q3 earnings Thursday and the report contains some good news for The Commercial Appeal's parent company. Digital revenue is up by $3.3 million over last year. Unfortunately, digital gains couldn't keep pace with the $5.5 million in revenue lost from declining circulation. Publishing revenue is down $43.9 million with advertising and marketing taking a $26.5 million hit.

MarketWatch had a more detailed look at the numbers.

Revenue was $711.7 million, missing the FactSet consensus of $724 million and down from $744.3 million a year ago. Publishing revenue fell to $616.4 million, down from $660.3 million in the year-earlier quarter. Advertising and marketing revenue fell to $403.4 million, down from $429.9 a year ago. Print advertising revenue fell 16.7% to $204 million from $244.8 million a year ago, but digital advertising and marketing revenue rose 3.2% to $105.8 million from $102.5 million a year ago. Revenue from circulation fell to $258.9 million, also down from $264.4 million a year ago. 
The disappointing economic news arrives shortly after Gannett's latest letdown to loyal print subscribers. Deadlines weren't extended to allow even allow for even rudimentary coverage of the midterm elections. The news shouldn't have been surprising given the way out-of-state editing impedes timely sports coverage. It's also what you'd expect from a company now self-identifying as "an online news organization that continues to publish a daily, morning newspaper."

Industry analyst Ken Doctor's response to the election news practically anticipates Gannett's Q3 report. Writing for NiemanLabs, Doctor wrote, "that road to a mostly/fully digital future gets narrower month by month."

"Digital subscriptions — which sell at much lower prices than print ones, though with lower marginal costs — are gaining ground much too slowly. Given the combination of higher prices, a lesser product, and even increasingly erratic home delivery, print subscribers may provide less of a lifeline to the digital future than Gannett and other publishers now assume in their whiteboard calculations."


There's some evidence Gannett may be looking to cut employee costs again. A recent memo offered early retirement to employees 55 or older who'd been with Gannett for at least 15-years. 

"The Commercial Appeal is offering an Early Retirement Opportunity Program ("EROP") to eligible Guild-represented employees in the newsroom," the memo said. "Time is of the essence. We, therefore, ask that that you sign and return this document to me within 48 hours. The severance deal is based on 30-35 weeks' pay with a transition bonus of up to $5,520 determined by years of service."

But how about that digital? Up 3.2 percent! 

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Friday, November 2, 2018

No Next Day Election Results For Gannett Newspapers

Posted By on Fri, Nov 2, 2018 at 10:54 AM

If there was ever a news item worthy of the "Dammit Gannett" tab, it's this. Via The Nashville Scene:
"Editors at the [Gannett] chain’s papers around the country were informed two weeks ago that deadlines for the print edition could not be extended in order to cover elections. As a result, Wednesday’s editions of The Tennessean, Commercial Appeal and Knoxville News-Sentinel will not have final results for some of the most closely contested statewide races in years."
JUSTIN FOX BURKS
  • Justin Fox Burks

“We do not believe print is a vehicle for breaking news," Tennessean vice president   and editor Michael Anastasi was quoted as saying.

Anastasi's not wrong, of course. Broadcast and online media do have advantages when it comes to live and breaking news. How that absolves daily print editions from obligations to print subscribers and expectations of  mere currency remains a mystery.

Folks who pay for paper say it with me now: Dammit!

UPDATE: NiemanLab weighs in:

"Conceptually, the push to separate print — “not a vehicle for breaking news,” that Gannett memo notes — from digital makes a certain sense, of course. And not adding any extra pages of newsprint for election results does save money. (“As you plan for print, please remember that we have tight controls on newsprint costs,” says the memo. “Any pages added need to be ‘made up’ by the end of the year preferably in November.”)

At the same time, it is those incredibly loyal print readers — the ones who have stood by newspaper companies through cut after cut in staff and in the product — who will now see that loyalty tested, again. Gannett, like a number of other newspaper companies, has more than a third of its print subscribers ages 70 or above in many markets. Most read in print; digital is a second and lesser option. (E-edition readers, who essentially get the print paper in digital form, will also be impacted by this decision.) Those subscribers, at Gannett and elsewhere, have seen their subscription rates hiked again and again, raised to the very limits of econometric modeling."
Ken Doctor's column notes that, in an effort to push more readers online Gannett is dropping its paywalls for 48 hours, enabling anyone with internet access to read Gannett's election coverage. It's a good read that takes a hard look at recent economic and subscriber history.

"What those numbers tell us is that that road to a mostly/fully digital future gets narrower month by month. Digital subscriptions — which sell at much lower prices than print ones, though with lower marginal costs — are gaining ground much too slowly. Given the combination of higher prices, a lesser product, and even increasingly erratic home delivery, print subscribers may provide less of a lifeline to the digital future than Gannett and other publishers now assume in their whiteboard calculations."
Read it all here.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween: A Tribute to Sivad and Fantastic Features

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2018 at 12:02 PM

sivad-1.jpg

Every now and then Fly on the Wall likes to publish something "From the Morgue," which, in newspaper jargon, means an article we published some time in the past that's been filed away. But in this case the expression's especially fitting. It's late October — time to remember Memphis' original horror host Sivad. All links have been updated, so readers should be able to sample some of the movies that made Fantastic Features so fantastic. 

The horror first took control of Memphis television sets at 6 p.m. Saturday, September 29, 1962. It began with a grainy clip of black-and-white film showing an ornate horse-drawn hearse moving silently through a misty stretch of Overton Park. Weird music screeched and swelled, helping to set the scene. A fanged man in a top hat and cape dismounted. His skin was creased, corpse-like. He looked over his shoulder once, then dragged a crude, wooden coffin from the back of the hearse. His white-gloved hand opened the lid, releasing a plume of thick fog and revealing the bloody logo of Fantastic Features. 

"Ah. Goooood eeeevening. I am Sivad, your monster of ceremonies," the caped figure drawled, in an accent that existed nowhere else on planet Earth. Think: redneck Romanian.

"Please try and pay attention," he continued, "as we present for your enjoyment and edification, a lively one from our monumental morgue of monstrous motion pictures."


In that moment, a Mid-South television legend was born. For the next decade, Sivad, the ghoulish character created by Watson Davis, made bad puns, told painfully bad jokes, and introduced Memphians to films like Gorgo...


The Brain That Wouldn't Die
...


and Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent.

via GIPHY


Watson Davis' wisecracking monster wasn't unique. He was one of many comically inclined horror hosts who became popular regional TV personalities from the '50s through the '70s. According to John Hudgens, who directed American Scary, a documentary about the horror-host phenomenon, it all began with "Vampira," a pale-skinned gorgon immortalized by Ed Wood in his infamously incompetent film Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Although a Chicago-area host calling himself "The Swami" may have been the first costumed character regularly introducing scary movies on television, the big bang of horror hosting happened in 1954, when the wasp-wasted actress Maila Nurmi introduced her campy, Morticia Adams-inspired character on The Vampira Show, which aired in Los Angeles.


In 1957, Screen Gems released a package of 52 classic horror films from Universal studios. The "Shock Theater" package, as it was called, created an opportunity for every market to have its own horror host. "Part of that package encouraged stations to use some kind of ghoulish host," Hudgens explains. "Local television was pretty much live or had some kind of host on everything back then."

Overnight, horror hosts such as New York's "Zacherly" and Cleveland's "Ghoulardi" developed huge cult followings. "TV was different in those days," Hudgens says. "There weren't a lot of channels to choose from, and the hosts could reach a lot more people quickly. Ghoulardi was so popular that the Cleveland police actually maintained that the crime rate went down when his show was on the air, and they asked him to do more shows."
Dr. Lucifer
  • Dr. Lucifer

Tennessee's first horror host was "Dr. Lucifer," a dapper, eyepatch-wearing man of mystery who hit the Nashville airwaves in 1957. Since Fantastic Features didn't air until the fall of 1962, Sivad was something of a latecomer to the creep-show party. But unlike most other horror hosts, Davis didn't have a background in broadcasting. He'd been a movie promoter, working for Memphis-based Malco theaters. His Sivad character existed before he appeared on television. At live events, he combined elements of the classic spook show with an over-the-top style of event-oriented marketing called ballyhoo. So Davis' vampire, while still nameless, was already well known to local audiences before Fantastic Features premiered.

"You've got to understand, things were very different back then," Elton Holland told the Memphis Flyer in a 2010 interview. "Downtown Memphis was a hub for shopping, and going out to the movies was an event. And back then, Malco was in competition with the other downtown theaters, so when you came to see a movie, we made it special.”


To make things special Holland, Davis, and Malco vice president Dick Lightman became masters of promotion and special events. Davis and Holland were neighbors who lived in Arkansas and car-pooled into Memphis every day. During those drives, Davis would float ideas for how to promote the films coming to town.

The studios only provided movie theaters with limited marketing materials. Theater businesses had in-house art departments that created everything else. What the art department couldn't make, Davis built himself in the theater's basement. When 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea came to town, he built a giant squid so large it had to be cut in half to get it up the stairs. He constructed a huge King Kong puppet that towered over the lower seats. For the film Dinosaurus, he built a Tyrannosaurus rex that was 20 feet tall and 45 feet long. It sat in the lobby, roaring and moving its tail.

"All movies were sold through exploitation," Holland explained. "And horror movies were the best ones to exploit. ... I remember when Watson first told me he wanted to be a monster. He was thinking vaudeville. He wanted to put on a show."

Davis' plan to create a scary show wasn't original. The "spook show" was a sideshow con dating back to when 19th-century snake-oil vendors traveled the country hawking their wares. Slick-talking performers would hop from town to town promising entertainment-deprived audiences the chance to see a giant, man-eating monster, so terrible it had to be experienced to be believed. Once the tickets were sold, it was loudly announced that the monster had broken free and was on a bloody rampage. The idea was to cause panic and create a confusing cover for the performers to make off with the loot.
sivad-card-th.jpg

In the early 20th century, the spook show evolved, and traveling magicians exploited the public's growing fascination with spiritualism by conjuring ghosts and spirits. By mid-century, they developed into semi-comical "monster shows" that were almost always held in theaters. Today's "hell houses" and haunted mansions are recent permutations of the spook show.

When England's Hammer Films started producing horror movies that were, as Holland says, "a cut above," he, Davis, and Lightman took the old spook-show concept and adapted it sell movie tickets. They went to Memphis State's drama department and to the Little Theatre [now Theatre Memphis] looking for actors so they could put a monster on a flatbed truck in front of the Malco.

Davis dressed as Dracula, Holland was the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and another Malco exec played Frankenstein. The company also included a wolfman and a mad doctor.

Davis sometimes joined Lightman on inspection tours of other Malco properties. On one of those tours, the men saw an antique horse-drawn hearse for sale on the side of the road. They bought the hearse that appears in the Fantastic Features title sequence for $500. It also appeared in various monster skits and was regularly parked in front of Malco theaters to promote horror movies.

"One time we had this actor made up like a wild man," Holland said, recalling a skit that was just a little too effective. "While Watson did his spiel about the horror that was going to happen, the chained wild man broke loose and pretended like he was attacking this girl. He was going to jerk her blouse and dress off, and she had on a swimsuit underneath." One 6'-3", 300-pound, ex-military Malco employee wasn't in on the joke and thought the actor had actually gone wild. He took the chain away, wrapped it around the wild man's neck, and choked him until the two were pulled apart. The proliferation of television eventually killed ballyhoo promotions and all the wild antics used to promote movies. At about that time, the studios started "going wide" with film distribution, opening the same film in many theaters at one time instead of just one theater in every region. This practice made location-specific promotions obsolete. By then, the Shock Theater package had made regional stars out of horror hosts all across the country. WHBQ approached Davis and offered him the job of "monster of ceremonies" on its Fantastic Features show. The show found an audience instantly and became so popular that a second weekly show was eventually added. Memphis viewers apparently couldn't get enough of films like Teenage Caveman...


And Mutiny in Outer Space...

 
Joe Bob Briggs, cable TV's schlock theater aficionado who hosted TNT's Monster Vision fro m 1996 to 2000, says that "corny" humor was the key to any horror host's success or failure. "Comedy and horror have only rarely been successfully mixed in film — although we have great examples like Return of the Living Dead, Briggs says. "But comedy surrounding horror on television was a winning formula from day one. In fact, it's essential. If you try to do straight hosting on horror films, the audiences will hate you."

In 1958, Dick Clark invited New York horror host Zacherly to appear on American Bandstand. "This wasn't the year for the comedians, this was the year for the spooks and the goblins and the ghosts," Clark said, introducing "Dinner With Drac," the first hit novelty song about monsters. Four years later, Bobby "Boris" Puckett took "Monster Mash" to the top of the charts. In the summer of 1963, Memphis' favorite horror host hopped on the pop-song monster bandwagon by recording the "Sivad Buries Rock and Roll/Dicky Drackeller" single.


Novelty songs such as "What Made Wyatt Earp" became a staple on Fantastic Features, and Sivad began to book shows with the King Lears, a popular Memphis garage band that influenced contemporary musicians like Greg Cartwright, who played in the Oblivians and the Compulsive Gamblers before forming the Reigning Sound. Although "Sivad Buries Rock and Roll" never charted, Goldsmith's department store hosted a promotional record-signing event, and 2,000 fans showed up to buy a copy.

In 1972, Fantastic Features was canceled. And though Davis was frequently asked to bring the character back, he never did. Horror movies were changing, becoming bloodier and more sexually explicit in a way that made them a poor fit for Sivad's family-friendly fright-fest. In 1978, Commercial Appeal reporter Joseph Shapiro unsuccessfully tried to interview Davis. He received a letter containing what he called a cryptic message: "Sivad is gone forever" is all it said.

Davis, who borrowed his name-reversing trick from Dracula, Bram Stoker's blood-sucking fiend who introduced himself as Count Alucard, died of cancer in March 2005. He was 92 years old.
sivad.jpg

* A version of this article appeared in the Memphis Flyer in 2010 —- but without all the nifty links and embeds. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

WMC Has Something to Say About Uranus

Posted By on Mon, Oct 22, 2018 at 5:55 PM

Gaze upon Uranus!
  • Gaze upon Uranus!
I think we have to assume the folks at WMC TV, Channel 5, knew exactly what they were doing when they titled this Breakdown segment, "Why Uranus is Visible Without Binoculars."
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Friday, October 19, 2018

Great Works of Literature as Written by the Shelby Co. Election Commission

With Help from The Memphis City Council

Posted By on Fri, Oct 19, 2018 at 12:22 PM

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Emboldened by national attention resulting from the careful and creative wording of current ballot amendments, the Shelby County Election Commission has committed considerable time and evident talent to improving the greatest works of world literature. While Fly on the Wall has yet to see a completed text, 5 first line samples were leaked this morning, revealing the epic scope of the Commission's City Council-aided writing project.

via GIPHY

Moby- Dick
Herman Melville with the Shelby Co. Election Commission

“Shall Ishmael serve as a common spoken or chirographic signifier not expressly for greeting, but sometimes for gaining the narrator’s attention?”

via GIPHY

Gravity's Rainbow
Thomas Pynchon with the Shelby Co. Election Commission

“Shall the sky elect to not to retain its natural silence, in favor of free expression, horizon to horizon?”

via GIPHY

Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury with the Shelby Co. Election Commission

“Shall the combustibility of literature, as it stands with all officers and offices engaging in the combustion procedure, be any reason to limit terms of pleasure?”

via GIPHY

A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens with the Shelby Co. Election Commission

“Shall we claim, of the times between 1770 and 1794, that each individual year, and the age collectively, was both better and worse than any other age pursuant to its wisdom, foolishness, belief, incredulity, lightness, darkness, hope, despair, and to the various seasons to which these qualities may be poetically associated?

via GIPHY

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream
Hunter S. Thompson with the Shelby Co. Election Commission

“Shall we agree that when the drugs took hold, all persons who had selected drugs, were in San Bernardino, east of Apple Valley but west of Needles and not so far north as to constitute the municipal boundaries of the city of Barstow?”
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Yes, this is a parody. Didn't you see the orange tab at the top of the page?

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Tumbleweave Returns

Posted By on Wed, Oct 3, 2018 at 12:57 PM

Not the "baby" in question, but ain't she sweet?
  • Not the "baby" in question, but ain't she sweet?
It's been a while since your Pesky Fly reported on Memphis' rolling tumbleweave crisis. Then again, it's been a while since the city has seen a Nextdoor exchange like this one.

Under the topic "Dead Animal," someome writes "There is a dead animal in the middle of McLean before Central just wonder if this baby is anyone's pet."

Nah. Just somebody's good hair having a bad day. 
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Via: 

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Men at War

Old Friends Won't Let Women Bring Them Down

Posted By on Wed, Oct 3, 2018 at 11:31 AM

Armstrong & Cox - G.O. OGLEIMAGE
  • G.O. Ogleimage
  • Armstrong & Cox
Gunner Armstrong shakes his head, and digs into his backpack to retrieve a freshly purchased bottle of pepper spray. “I don’t know how effective this stuff is,” he mumbles, pulling on his reading glasses and skimming the directions. “I had a friend in college who would get a couple of beers in him and squirt it in his mouth like it was breath freshener.”

Like many manly men today, Armstrong lives in abject terror. “You never can be too careful with women being what they are,” he says, expressing an increasingly common, and deeply masculine sentiment. At least twice a week Armstrong says he finds himself walking a block or more past his house, keys clenched firmly in his fist like claws, because he’s convinced a woman is following him home, possibly to accuse him of harassment. “At some point I’ll find a nice bright street light and stop there to pretend like I'm taking a phone call or something. I'll just let them walk on past, you know?” Armstrong says. “It’s probably all in my imagination. But like dad always said: better safe than hungover and accused of some bullshit you totally don’t remember doing.”
Personal security coach Archer Cox doesn’t think Armstrong’s taking the threat seriously enough. “If you’re not wearing a body cam and packing a taser, you’re not prepared for this fight,” he says. “Look, Gunner’s my bud and I used to be just like him. I took some self defense classes. Got my yellow belt. Got to where I’d take alternative routes home from the bar to avoid running into any of those lady joggers who were always making comments about how I shouldn’t be looking them. Saying things to me. Hurtful things. But none of those things I did to protect myself stopped this one woman from calling me a ‘peeper’ on Facebook, all because I was awesome and surprised her at her window one morning with a egg and sausage plate from down at the Touch & Go.”

Armstrong has a theory. “I’ve heard this is all a kind of revenge because they don’t make as much money as we do. And if things keep going this way I don’t think they ever will,” he says, opening the front door of MacBoobies, a Scottish-themed watering hole in Midtown where Armstrong is having drinks with Cox, and some other friends from work. “It’s gotten to where just having a penis paints a target on your back, it’s practically against the law,” he says, visibly agitated and determined to get hammered.

After several rounds of beer the men settle into playing a drinking game called Devil’s Triangle. “It’s kinda like quarters,” Cox explains. “Only if you cuss at any time you have to call your mother on speaker phone and apologize for being a naughty boy with a dirty, dirty mouth.” A waitress named Tina, who’s been cut from her shift politely intervenes and attempts to close out the table’s check.

“Did you want to put the tip on your card?” she asks.

“Oh, don’t worry sweetie, I’ve got a tip for you right here,” Cox quips, causing everybody at the table to laugh except for Tina, who rolls her eyes and walks away sans gratuity.

“Gonna stumble home now,” Armstrong says, pulling out his pepper spray, and screwing up his courage.

“I’ll walk with you,” Cox answers, holding onto Armstrong’s shoulder to keep from falling down. “I don’t want to be alone right now.”

If there is a war in America's streets, these two old friends are determined to face the worst of it together. "I've got you," Armstrong says.

"And I've got you, babe," Cox answers. "I've got you."

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*Yes, there is a parody tab at the top of the column.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Q&A with Eric Barnes, President and Executive Editor of The Daily Memphian

Posted By on Wed, Sep 19, 2018 at 5:49 PM

Eric Barnes - CHRIS DAVIS
  • Chris Davis
  • Eric Barnes
The Daily Memphian, a new, ambitiously scaled and digital-only print news source, launched online this week. When the venture was announced earlier this year, the company's president and executive editor Eric Barnes said such a venture became necessary when Memphis' traditional "newspaper of record," the Gannett-owned Commercial Appeal, lost considerable editorial autonomy. Many of the new startup's first hires were marquee reporters and columnists siphoned away from the CA — refugees from the increasingly non-local local newspaper.

Barnes recently spoke with The Flyer in a brief but far-ranging conversation about sustainability, availability, representative news rooms, and the potential risks and rewards of going big and all digital.

Memphis Flyer: Obviously, you're not starting from nothing. You're building off The Daily News' legacy with so much banner talent direct from The Commercial Appeal. But with this launch, The Daily Memphian goes from zero to light speed in some ways. There's lots of digital news out there, but a startup daily of this scale is barely charted territory. Do you feel the eyes of the industry on you or are you too busy to worry about all that?


Eric Barnes: I’m not worried about industry pressure, and there are people watching us. It’s been interesting. When we started talking to people nationally about other startup digital dailies, we talked to everybody from this really cool little website in Philadelphia to the Graham family that used to own The Washington Post and still owns a bunch of TV stations. It became clear that what we were after was quite a bit bigger and more ambitious than what other people were doing — and they were still incredibly encouraging about doing it.

Most people that have started something like this — for profit or nonprofit — have started very small and grown. We made the calculated decision that we would go big and launch with a really big staff, making a lot of noise by hiring talented, popular writers. And we would come out with a big editorial mission rather than a small mission we’d then expand upon. I think by and large nobody’s done that. At least none I’ve found. Though I’m sure someone from Des Moines or somewhere will call me tomorrow and I don’t mean any disrespect.

Subscription is hard. The tech is hard. The customer service is crazy hard. And on top of the mechanics, you also need unique content people are willing to pay for in addition to what they already pay just for digital access. And all of that's in the context of a redundant media environment where the same information may be available in other spaces, often for free. How are you navigating all of this?

A few things. We wanted to come out with a good subscription signup process. So we went with a company called Piano. They handle everybody from Condé Nast’s online magazines on down. We wanted it to be simple, so there’s only one offer. We’ll have other offers down the road. But we wanted to be $7 a month, first month free. Don’t have to think about it or choose. I think a lot of online publications fail because they make it so hard to sign up. There are lots of options. You’ve got to tie it to your print subscription. You’ve got to enter a special code. It’s all intentional and understandable, but we wanted to keep it simple.

I’m probably going to overuse the word sustainability, so I’ll apologize for that in advance. You guys had, I think, $7 million at startup, which is pretty great. But this is a business where community-spirited billionaires with nothing but the best of intentions have struggled with the cost of building and keeping modern newsrooms. Is there enough revenue and readership in Memphis to support two full capacity dailies?

Obviously, we think so, but it’s not proven yet. We think our projections are modest and doable. We’re talking about, by year 5, having over 20,000 paid subscribers at a relatively low price point. We may go up from $7, but we’re not going to go up dramatically.
I’m not going to give you the paid subscription numbers that we have now, but I will say we’ve exceeded our expectations at launch quite dramatically. So, early signs are good but there’s no doubt it’s unproven. This is uncharted territory. I think we do know, to be a daily news source of high quality, and have the number of journalists you need to do that, I don’t think it can be free. There’s a place for free papers, I’m not saying it’s an impossible model. But to have a newsroom of over 20-people, covering the city on a daily basis, there’s not enough ad dollars out there. So many advertising dollars go to Google and Facebook, and there’s not enough left for the rest of us. We are going to have advertising, and we do have advertising. And we’ve exceeded our numbers on that too. But there’s definitely risk involved.

Do you hope to eventually be fully reader supported? You throw out the number 20,000 paid subscribers in 5 years. With $7 a month subscriptions, is that the number or is there a target number of subscribers for reader-supported sustainability?

Our goal is definitely to be sustainable so we don’t have to live grant to grant and constantly be raising money. For us to fulfill a mission of high quality journalism, people are going to have to participate in that. You see it at the national level. At the big metro papers like Boston.com, Philly.com, Seattle — papers that are below the New York Times but bigger than Memphis. They’re all going harder and harder on their pay wall. And they’re seeing success. It all comes back to, whether you’re for profit or not, you want to run your publication like a business. You want to pay your own way and don’t want to be forever dependent on fundraising.

Non-profit has been a big buzz in media for a while and I get a lot of it. But what I often find myself telling people is it's not some kind of magic status that makes all the sustainability problems go away. All the same essential challenges exist. You’ve got to attract and retain an audience while also covering payroll. And you've got to provide content people want badly enough to pay for it. So maybe we can address myths and realities of non-profit, and how maybe it changes what you do as a publisher.

It doesn’t change a lot. There aren’t a lot of limitations that come with that status. We can’t do endorsements, but I don’t know that we would have done endorsements anyway. More and more local papers are moving away from endorsements. There are at least 200 non-profit news sources online around the country. Some have chosen a niche or advocacy, but there’s a full range of stuff. I tell people all the time, one of the most successful businesses in Memphis has to be Methodist hospitals, and they’re a non-profit. But a very sustainable non-profit. Revenue producing. High-quality employer and a big contributor to the community. I’m with you 100%, non-profit doesn’t solve the problem. And non-profit doesn’t make it easier.

You say you can’t endorse. But does this change in any way how you cover government or politics otherwise? Also, you’re a non-profit, but you sell ads? How does that work?

It does not affect the way we’re covering government or politics. There is a difference between advertising and sponsorship and if we bring stuff in that’s deemed to be advertising in the eyes of the IRS, it probably means we end up paying taxes on it. And that’s fine.

Watching our non-profit cultural institutions grow over the years I’ve noted how they are shaped by and service their audience and donor community — which they should, and even have to to survive. But it’s not the same as reflecting and serving the community at large. That’s a tough line to walk and I wonder how will TDM be publicly and proactively transparent?

One thing is, we’re trying to be as accessible as possible to civic groups, clubs, churches, or anybody who wants to get one of us to come speak. And I don’t mean that in a token way. It’s very interesting to meet people and hear what they like and what they are interested in and want. The board is transparent. All the board members are listed on the website. Beyond that, there are some things we won’t be transparent about. Somebody said everything we do editorially should be transparent and public. But I’m not going to do that. There are a lot of stories we’re working on and we want to be first to publish. So there’s a certain amount of privacy. In the end, what matters is what we do on the site and that we’re judged by the work we do on the site.

Can the public view your financials? See big donors. Is any of that required on your 990 tax form?

Everything required to be on 990s will be on 990s. The money’s been donated anonymously and that’s kosher. The money went through the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis and so that’s not required to be disclosed.

A lot of pre-launch criticism has focused on representation in the newsroom. I don't want to be too redundant, but I tend to agree that when you take a birds eye view — or almost any view — there does appear to be a crisis of representation in Memphis print media. Do you think it’s a crisis? And, given an opportunity to build a newsroom from the ground up in a majority African-American city did you have any kind of strategy for building a more representative newsroom?

We were very intentional in trying to build as diverse a newsroom as we could. Both male and female and with people of color. We got close with female participation. We’re somewhere in the 45-percent range. We fell short on what we would have liked for people of color. We’re going to be 20-25-percent African American. That’s pretty standard. I’m not making excuses, but that’s just kind of the world we live in. The number of people of color in journalism is very, very small. The CA was in that range. Otis Sanford has talked at length about it. This has been a problem as long as he’s been in journalism. Even when newspapers were making huge profits, they were not able or did not find ways to crack that code and find ways to make newsroom more representative.

When we were hiring we had criteria. We wanted people with a print journalism background. We wanted people who had daily or near daily experience because the grind of that is not to be taken lightly. And we wanted people who are in Memphis and had covered Memphis for a long time. That meant we weren’t going to go out of market. And we weren’t going to hire kids out of college. So our pool of people was very small. That also meant, when a handful of African Americans turned us down for various reasons, our pool got really, really small. I’m proud of the people we’ve hired.

I get it. We see the world through our own eyes. I try see the world as broadly as I can but I’m still a 50-year-old white guy from Tacoma, Washington. That’s why it’s important for all companies, maybe newsrooms in particular, to be diverse. Because we see things through our own lens. The other part of this, I’ve said, and will keep saying, is that we should be judged by the work we do. If day after day after day the front page is a bunch of 60-year-old white guys who work and live on the Poplar corridor, then I’ve failed miserably. If the stories we write about don’t look like Memphis in all its complexity and diversity then we’ve failed.

We'll come back to this more in depth later. I also want to talk about the digital divide a little. And also briefly, because I want to revisit this in depth at a later date in regard to another project I'm working on. But the post-pulp environment creates information monopolies. There's this idea that "everybody has a phone," but in reality there are so many obstacles to digital access. Is there a strategy for serving the whole community or are we approaching a kind of trickle-down theory of information?

We are going to be as aggressive and smart and creative as we can be in getting access to The Daily Memphian regardless of whether or not they can afford it. We don’t want to leave people out. Simple things. I believe we’re already free in the Shelby Co. libraries. We’ll get to the suburban libraries soon. We’re free to all teachers. We’ll possibly be free in schools and other public spaces where we can take down the paywall and make access available. Then we’re going to talk to more and more people. And I’m open to ideas about how we balance financial sustainability with access.

And can I say one more thing on the diversity front?

Sure.

We will be starting an internship program that's for everybody — black, white, male, female. But we will have a particular emphasis for people of color getting into journalism. That's another small but important way we can start getting more African-Americans, and more people of color into journalism.

The Daily Memphian is available now at  dailymemphian.com

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Friday, September 14, 2018

Trader Joe's Opens West Nashville Location in Germantown

Posted By on Fri, Sep 14, 2018 at 1:56 PM

It's no mistake that the bags handed out on opening day at the new Trader Joe's say "Nashville," and "Music City." After all, it's a new day for Germantown — Trader Joe's has arrived. And while the city will remain in Shelby County, the addition of Trader Joe's to a market that already included Whole Foods and Sprouts, means the Memphis suburb can officially describe itself as being Westest Nashville.
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Via:

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Friday, August 10, 2018

T.G. Sheppard Talks Elvis in Advance of Concert at Graceland's Guest House

Posted By on Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 4:09 PM

T.G. Sheppard.
  • T.G. Sheppard.
T.G. Sheppard has recorded 21 #1 hits. But he called Memphis to talk Elvis. Also, to share news that he's bringing his old friend Barry Gibb along for the ride.

Memphis Flyer: You’re coming to perform a concert during Elvis week, but also taking part in one of the discussions, correct?

T.G. Sheppard: My wife Kelly Lang and I are part of a concert at the Guest House on the 18th at 3 p.m. It is part of the new Elvis Week calendar. They have added us as one of their main events during all this week. I think that is because of my friendship for so many years with Elvis.

It may also have something to do with having 21 number-one hits of your own. Just guessing.

You are too kind. We're coming in and doing a concert. Then on the 17th, I'm part of the Conversations. I think that's the morning of the 17th. And of course I'm bringing a very very special guest, Barry Gibb* with me.

That is a special guest.

Sir Barry Gibb.

Recently elevated to the peerage.

Yeah. He was knighted about three or four weeks ago. He and his wife were coming in to spend a few days with us during Elvis Week. And he's going to do the conversations with me as my guest. He's also going to attend our concert. It's going to be kind of exciting week in Memphis.
Sounds like it.

When Graceland announced it, our social media outlets just went absolutely berserk. Because Barry is so International. And Elvis was International, and still is. When you mention anything about Barry, your media comes in from all over the world from every country.

When you left home for Memphis, was it to get into the music business?


Well, I was a runaway. I left home when I was 15. I hitchhiked down to Memphis. That's where I met Elvis. I was just a kid at a skating rink. Rainbow Terrace skating rink on Lamar. I was there late one night, and Elvis pulled up in a Cadillac with a couple of other cars. Got out and walked over to me. It was about midnight. He asked where I was going, I told him I was leaving because they were closing the rink right down. He said they're, “No they’re not, they’re opening it up for me.” He said he was a man short on his team. They played a little game and they called it "kill." It was actually football on skates. I went and skated with him and the Memphis Mafia for a few hours, and the friendship just kind of stuck. We became instant friends. We remained instant friends until the day he passed. As a matter of fact, when I started my career out, he gifted me with my first tour bus. That really and truly gave me the opportunity to be able to be a performer. It gave me the confidence I needed at that time in my life to go forward. If Elvis thinks enough of me to give me a tour bus, maybe I've got a shot in this business. So I worked really hard after that.

You were already working in the music world by then but behind the scenes.

I was one of the executives with RCA Victor. After I couldn't make it as a rock-and roll-star, I went into the record business and thought that I could live my dreams through the eyes of other entertainers, which I did. People like John Denver and Waylon Jennings, and so many other stars. So I was a record executive before I became a country singer.


So was it strange going from being a kid from Humboldt to being buddies with somebody every teenager in the world wanted to know?


Yes, it was absolutely amazing to me. All of a sudden Elvis is my friend? It was just, I don't know. I told my mom, when I was a young kid, I said, “Mom someday I'm going to meet Elvis and he's going to become my friend.” And she said, “Now, son, I don't think the chances of that happening are very high. You're from Humboldt, Tennessee. You don't need to get your hopes up because that's not going to happen.” So somehow I always thought that I would meet Elvis. But it never stopped shocking me when I became friends with him. I'd have to pinch myself.

And it never wore off?

No. It never wears off when you're in the presence of somebody as big as Elvis was. And one of the beautiful things about this is, all the years that I was with him, virtually living at Graceland for 7 years. I always knew I was in the presence of greatness in my business and I was in awe of that greatness. But after a year or two, the friendship settled into just a normal friendship. He was just down to Earth. He was a religious man. Loved his mom. Which we all do. Loved and adored his fans. I got the feeling, after awhile, that he was just really and truly one of us. And that's why he is who he is today because he was one of us. But one of the ones who had his dream come true.


Did you learn any career lessons? Cautionary tales?

We all have egos, okay? It's how you control your ego as to how you appear to other people. You can always appear egotistical or you can appear confident. Elvis always appeared confident, not egotistical. I've always learned to portray that my own career. To be confident and not egotistical. If your ego gets out of hand the fans who made you what you are can take it away just as quickly.

Number two, and the most important thing that I learned from Elvis, is what he told me one day. He said, “If you ever forget where you came from you will never get where you want to go.”

You’ve been generous in talking about Elvis. It would be wrong not to ask if you had any projects in the works.

I've been fortunate to have had 21 number-one hit songs. I've been able to fulfill my dreams. But I am doing a couple of things right now that I'm so excited about. I'm in the studio recording my first country solo album in over 20 years. I've done other albums. I've done a duet album with my wife Kelly Lang. I've done duets with Willie, and Jerry Lee, and Haggard, and Mickey Gilley and all those huge, huge stars. But I hadn't done a solo record in so long and I'm having an incredible time recording again. And a strange thing happened with this album that wraps into the Elvis thing. I haven’t titled it yet, and it won’t be out till next year. But there are two songs that came to me that I’m going to debut at my show at the Guest House on the 18th. The first song is called “The Day Elvis Died.” We all know where we were and what we were doing. The second song that I’m going to duet is called, “I Want to Live Like Elvis,” and every line is a hook.

Also, there’s a TV special we just filmed called “Look Who’s Coming to Dinner.” And we’ll be announcing the network and all that soon.

*Gibb has canceled his trip to Memphis. No Sir Barry this Elvis week.

"Memphis Most" Promotion Showcases Parking Lot Under Interstate

Posted By on Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 2:16 PM

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You know what? I'm not going to complain. It could have been worse. It could have been.  Given the Gannett-owned Commercial Appeal's batting average on stuff like this lately, we should all be thankful that the background photograph for this self-promoting ad was taken in Memphis. You can even see a little skyline in the upper left.
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But mostly, it's just a shot of Bass Pro's southern parking lot.
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Under the interstate.
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This isn't a recent issue. The ad's from July. But, like they say, if you haven't read it, it's still a parking lot under the interstate.

That's so Memphis. To somebody. 

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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Sinclair/Tribune Mega-Merger Collapses. What Does it Mean for WREG?

Posted By on Thu, Aug 9, 2018 at 11:37 AM

Race to the Bottom
  • Race to the Bottom
The controversial, law-bending $3.9 billion merger of Tribune Media and Sinclair TV collapsed Wednesday, August 8th, when Tribune Media's board voted to terminate the deal.

The merger, which seemed likely, given the FCC's initial willingness to misapply the outdated "UHF discount" rule, became considerably less certain last month when the FCC criticized Sinclair, casting doubt on Sinclair's proposed divestitures, which might amount to divestiture in name only. Or, per the actual concern, "sham transactions."

Historically, Sinclair's content has been right-wing. Recently, it has become overtly Trumpian, with mandates for local stations to air editorial segments by Boris Epshteyn, the Russian-born Republican political strategist and investment banker who is now the "chief political analyst" for Sinclair. Epshteyn was also a senior advisor in Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.


The president has been more than happy to return the favor. 


What made Trump's endorsement especially troublesome — even for him — is the fact that Sinclair's stations operate unbranded. So, in terms of affiliation, the Sinclair stations the president endorses often are actually affiliates of the NBC, ABC, CBS networks he criticizes.

And some Sinclair stations are FOX affiliates. Welcome to the media ownership funhouse.

While much attention is focused on the big, national networks such as CNN, FOX, MSNBC, etc., Sinclair has been creating a vast web of local, network-affiliated stations. Local TV news has more reach than all four major cable news stations combined.

In addition to ending the merger, Tribune is suing Sinclair.

The stake in this deal for Memphians was news station WREG Channel 3. It now appears that for the foreseeable future, Memphis' Channel 3 will remain a Tribune Media property.

Bye, Boris. 
Boris Epshteyn — Not coming to WREG.
  • Boris Epshteyn — Not coming to WREG.

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