Monday, October 9, 2017

"Bride Closure Begins Tomorrow," WREG Reports

Posted By on Mon, Oct 9, 2017 at 9:11 AM

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Gosh, that just sounds terrible for everybody involved.

And while we're checking out the local TV typos it's nice to see that the folks at Fox 13 are every bit as good at misspelling disturbing as they are at perpetuating racist fear of undocumented workers. 
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We're pretty sure that was an accident, though. Well, the spelling part, at least. On the other hand, from the impeccable helmet-hair to the flanking finger-pistols, this pose seems to have been something the Foxites executed on purpose. 
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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Legendary Memphis Wrestling Announcer Lance Russell Dies at 91

Bye-bye to ol' Banana Nose

Posted By on Tue, Oct 3, 2017 at 10:16 AM

Andy Kaufman and Lance Russell
  • Andy Kaufman and Lance Russell
It's a terrible day for fans of Memphis wrestling. Lance Russell, a longtime program manager for WHBQ and one of the most beloved wrestling commentators in the history of sports entertainment has died. In 2014 the man known to heels coast-to-coast as ol' Banana Nose, talked to The Memphis Flyer about King Lawler, Memphis wrestling, and playing himself in the Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon. This is a reprint of that interview with lots of links.


Memphis Flyer: You and Dave Brown were
the eye of this colorful, chaotic storm. Calling wrestling like it was any other sport during the glory days of Jackie Fargo, Tojo Yamamoto, and Jerry "The King" Lawler vs. Andy "the clown" Kaufman. Can you even go a day without talking to somebody about wrestling?

Lance Russell: Well, it's easier down here [in Florida] than it was when I lived in Memphis. When I wasn't talking in person to some fan about wrestling, I was talking on the telephone. Somebody was always calling. You know, people say, "Boy, whatever happened to the good old days of Memphis wrestling?" Well, I can tell you Memphis wrestling is just as alive as it ever has been.

You'd be the one to know.

My son was looking at his computer a couple of nights ago and found where somebody had made a list of people who were involved in wrestling as promoters or wrestlers or managers or referees and even announcers. And they have them ranked by age. My son said, "Did you realize that in the United States you are the fifth oldest person involved in wrestling that is still alive?" When I got up the next day I said to my son, outside of wanting to kill you, I was amused all night long. I didn't sleep, but I was amused.

I suspect that makes you a go-to resource, having seen wrestlers from so many territories and having also worked for Turner Broadcasting.

I can tell you as a director of programming for WHBQ in Memphis for all of those years, I'm not proud of the fact that I didn't put an edict out that there will be no erasing of tapes from Talent Party or wrestling or any of those kinds of things. We erased everything. And sometimes we would record on the same tape two weeks in a row. We kept telling ourselves we were saving money.

You know Vince McMahon is getting ready to program Memphis wrestling on the network he started so he's trying to pin down all the programs. And, in Memphis, everything we ever had in terms of tapes is all just blasted asunder. Jerry Lawler ended up with the biggest quantity of tapes. Jimmy Hart, a wrestler and wrestling manager who worked with Vince McMahon in New York after he left Memphis, ended up with a lot of tapes. People pay good money for them too, and now Vince McMahon wants to broadcast Memphis wrestling every day.


Why are people still fascinated with Memphis wrestling?


I'm gonna tell you, Memphis was absolutely totally different than any territory in the country. I eventually went with Turner Broadcasting, and when I went there and I ran into guys from the East Coast and West Coast they'd say, "All you clowns in Memphis spend more time making jokes than anything else." And we did, because it made people happy. They were tickled to death to look forward to some of the foolishness that went on. And we were proud of it. It was good entertainment.

You and Dave Brown had great chemistry.

What made Dave and I different was the programming. The different matches that we booked. The different characters that were made up. Like Kamala the Giant, who is from right down in Mississippi and was very popular all over the country. I hired Dave to work in television. Dave was an all-night radio jock for WHBQ, and I knew him as a person and liked him very much. Anyhow, he questioned wrestling. I said, "Man, if you want to work in television, you will learn more in two months of wrestling than two years of anything else." So he took a chance, and he was great. Dave and I also agreed on one thing you never talk about in wrestling. See, I was a wrestling fan, and I had been ever since the days when I grew up in Dayton, Ohio and worked in the auditorium as an usher. I never wanted anybody to say to me, "Hey, I'm going to win in the third fall on this match." I don't want to be a stiff actor saying some lines, I wanted to call things as I saw them in my face for the first time.
No matter how over the top it was, it was completely alive. Anything could happen.

We had great matches too. But in the meantime, we didn't mind tickling your funny bone. We'd have a guy or a gal shaved bald right there in the middle of the ring.

I thought I was going to get killed one night in the Memphis Coliseum, when Jerry Lawler put up his hair and Bill Dundee put up his wife's hair and Dundee lost. We had our own barber who was there to cut hair when necessary. He thought he was going to be killed. The crowd was incensed that Lawler had cheated to win and this vivacious young redhead was losing her hair. It's hilarious when you stop and think about a situation getting that serious over what was actually a very funny incident.

But that's the Memphis audience, right? It's why the famous Lawler/Kaufman feud couldn't have happened anywhere else.

You're right about that. There was a kind of audience reaction that we had cultivated either on purpose or unknowingly. And this is the thing that attracted Andy Kaufman. As a kid, Andy would watch wrestling and he would see the bad guy: Just by raising his hand he could get this big reaction from the crowd. That power that wrestlers held captivated him, and he initially tried to get the attention of Vince McMahon's father and his grandfather who, in addition to promoting boxing, also promoted wrestling. They said "What are you trying to do, make a joke out of wrestling?" Well, Andy ran across a guy who worked for the wrestling magazines and he said to check out the guys in Memphis, who will do anything. And they're great show people.


Even if the outcomes are known, this is unscripted stuff.

I got a big guy from Canada supposedly. He comes out there [to interview] and he says, "Jerry Lawler! I'm going to get him! I'm taking a blood oath!" And I'm the program director at WHBQ, so I say, "No, I don't want any blood. Don't be busting his eye open on television. We don't want our audience to have to put up with that." And this idiot has got one of these big double-headed axes, and he runs the blade down his massive arm and I'm sitting here looking at it, and I know that the camera is right on this thing, and all of a sudden here comes the stream of red right into the camera. I thought, "Oh my God, he's cutting his arm open on television for crying out loud." I almost had a heart attack.

[Let's talk about] Jerry Lawler, the King of Memphis wrestling.


The superlatives for Lawler? I don't have enough of them. But I can tell you I've seen a lot of wrestlers, and Jerry Lawler is a guy who is gifted in so many directions. I promise, I don't owe him money or anything. I'm just telling the truth. He is the most talented guy in the business and people hated him in the East because of what he's done in Memphis. I mean, he became a television host on Channel 5, and he was very good at what he did.
And you recognized his skills right away.

When he was 15, his dad took him down to the auditorium every Monday for wrestling. We had no way to record the matches; it was too expensive at that time. So when Dave and I did the show, we'd have to just talk about what happened. Well, Jerry was a natural artist. He draws these 11" x 14" pictures on pieces of cardboard. He drew maybe the finishing move from a match or something. Then Dave and I could talk about the picture.

I found those pictures in my attic about five years ago. I've had them for 35 years.

You got to play yourself in Man on the Moon. That had to be affirming to have that Kaufman/Lawler feud become widely recognized as a big moment in pop culture.

Yeah, yeah. I've got several copies of it. Unfortunately they cut out some of my best scenes. That was fun though.

And what about the actual feud. Did you guys know you were making history?

We were all working. That's what we did for a living.


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Monday, October 2, 2017

President Dedicates Karaoke Performance to Puerto Rico

Posted By on Mon, Oct 2, 2017 at 1:09 PM

"Huey Lewis & the News' early work was a little too new wave for my tastes, but when Sports came out in '83, I think they really came into their own, commercially and artistically." — President Donald Trump, karaoke enthusiast.
  • "Huey Lewis & the News' early work was a little too new wave for my tastes, but when Sports came out in '83, I think they really came into their own, commercially and artistically." — President Donald Trump, karaoke enthusiast.
Following a long weekend of golf and golf-related activities President Donald J. Trump decided to blow off a little steam at the Jersey City Karaoke Club where he made a somber dedication. “What is happening is horrible," he said, holding one index finger aloft as if to indicate this is where his story begins, not where it ends.  "But, in spite of all the things you may have heard, we've got this disaster thing under really great control and all the people who have really suffered over this last short period of time with the hurricanes, I want to just remember them.

"This one's for you Puerto Rico," President Trump said as the familiar opening to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" started to play.


"This is from the band's huge, chart-topping 1981 album, Escape," the President said over the piano intro. "And I think we all know what it's like wanting to escape sometimes, don't we? Am I right?"

Watching Trump from the audience Doreen Rustbelt swooned. "He's got such a wonderful voice," she said, legs turning to jello. As the junior-vice-president of the Make America Great Again Fan Club, Rustbelt had been invited to  to join Trump in singing the classic Joe Cocker/Jennifer Warnes duet "(Love Lift Us) Up Where We Belong," from the tremendous 1982 hit film An Officer and a Gentleman.  

"He's almost as good as the real Steve Perry and way better than that Filipino wannabe," Rustbelt said before joining Trump onstage for the big finale. "When he sings about South Detroit and  living in a lonely world, you can tell he really understands people. I'm just so happy to have shared this special moment with our President and the ungrateful disaster queens of Puerto Rico."

By all accounts Rustbelt's duet with Trump was his best performance since teaming with his 2016 opponent Hillary Clinton for a cover of, "I Had the Time of My Life," from the 1987 box-office-smash, Dirty Dancing.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Tumblin' TumbleWeaves: Back by Popular Demand!

Posted By on Fri, Sep 29, 2017 at 1:28 PM

People ask me all the time, "Do you still post pictures of street weaves?" The answer?

— It's complicated.

The urban fascination with road braids, runaway head-hamsters and snatched wigs blossomed overnight. And, because my click-age journalism instincts are poor, the bigger TumbleWeaves got, the faster I lost interest in a probably classist niche Fly on the Wall certainly helped create.

Time passed— people kept sending photos. More time passed — More photos reminding me how much damn hair is woven and wadded into the daily tapestry. Like this dangling braid set caught up in the vines and saplings in Flyer-alley back behind our office building. 
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I've held onto this haunting, nearly-Nouveau beauty for a couple of weeks and might not have posted it if one of my kids hadn't seen it and helpfully explained, "That's a 'natural weave."

Me: Aren't you a little short for #DadJokes?




Friday, September 22, 2017

"It seems shallow, but there's much more to this hole than what meets the eye."

Posted By on Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 1:08 PM

Y'all.
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WREG:
 It seems shallow, but there's much more to this hole than what meets the eye.

"The hole was so deep he disappeared," Gabrielle Adams said. "All I heard was him crying; that's when my mom came and went through there with her head first."...

The hole is about 5-foot-4 — a long fall for a 1 year old...
But what about the adults?

"I'm holding her legs so she won't slip through. She was trying to breathe, but he was still through there."

Covington says the hole curves inside and she had to maneuver down several feet just to lay a finger on her grandson.

"I couldn't breathe, all I could say was 'Lord take me and not my grandchild.'"

Holding back tears, she remembers the moment she finally got a grip on Mon'Terrio.

"I grabbed his shirt then I grabbed his arm then I started praying, and I saw a light and he came on through."
Whew. That was intense. Like Honey I Shrunk "Ace in the Hole" intense.

Please don't misunderstand, falling into holes can be scary, especially for small children. Holes are dark. They conjure grim visions of oblivion. Tendencies toward superheroics and vigilantism may be accelerated, even defined by such a brush. But, unless the hole in this story turns out to be one of the thousand hole-like maws of Xylthos the muck demon it's probably exactly what it looks like: A 5-foot-deep hole/lawsuit-waiting-to-happen. Is it news? Sure. But I think it's also "Shizzle?"

Remember "Shizzle?" That's the special quality WREG wants to see more of in breaking news according to a now year-old help wanted listing. Why run a boring procedural about what it takes to get a potentially hazardous park hole filled when you can relate a harrowing multigenerational struggle against a 5-foot hole that's so much more than just a hole, but really isn't?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Murder Owl Wins First FOTW Spirit Animal Poll

Posted By on Tue, Sep 19, 2017 at 11:47 AM

Your Spirit Animal, Memphis — The High Point "Murder Owl."
  • Your Spirit Animal, Memphis — The High Point "Murder Owl."
Last Friday I asked readers to review a list of popular Memphis creatures and beasties, old and new, that have captured our attention, won our hearts, or made us say "WTF." From this list, I asked them to choose Memphis' first official unofficial Spirit Animal. And, for reasons I'll get around to shortly, I think you've all chosen wisely indeed.

Admittedly — and to get ahead of critics, already skeptical of a process omitting #PipeKitty (too young) and Mohan the unapologetic Sumatran tiger (too soon) etc. — voter turnout wasn't spectacular. It's been scientifically proven that's what happens when you post bullshit Spirit Animal polls on a Friday afternoon, but even taking all this into account, we're talking about Memphis, a place where we've installed City Councilcritters based on less representative samples. Surely that all equates to some kind of tragic legitimacy. Even if it doesn't here's a link to the results anyhow.

So what does it mean to choose the High Point Owl — AKA Murder Owl — as the city's Spirit Animal? Maybe not what you think. But before getting into that let's look at some of the animals you didn't choose.

Al Green's Cows (Bulls, etc.) seemed like boring underdogs in a race filled with exotic beasties like Alleged Albino Raccoon and Hugh Manatee. But for being run-of-the-mill cattle, these gifted escape artists who jump fence and go visiting every time Green takes his show on the road, are far from ordinary. Al keeps saying, "Let's stay together." The Cows keep saying, "Nope." Like Zimm the Escape Monkey, they want to be free, but there's even more going on here. Unlike Zimm, who possesses some small measure of zoo celebrity, these cows are eclipsed by fame and stripped, in some regard, of their own unique bovinity. According to at least one person Al Green's cows have visited they will "take over your yard and stare at you like you're dumb." They're more Otis/Aretha than Al. All they really want's a little respect.
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Frayser Bear confuses us. He's not a guy in a Grizz suit, he's a fucking bear and, as Stephen Colbert has pointed out many times, bears are as great a potential threat to humanity as the eventuality of sentient robots. Midtown Coyote and Barksdale Beaver reflect a special kind of neighborhood loyalty, splitting the famously liberal region like Bernie and Hill. Either one could have been a contender, not both.

Hugh Manatee's name (christened by Drake's partner Zeke, back in the day) says it all. His tragic story of dislocation and struggle still tugs at the heartstrings of those who remember. He was a foreigner — clearly not one of us — but for a moment, he was all of us. The best of us. Stuck in a sewer.

The Alleged Albino Raccoon proved to be more relatable than Balmoral Bobcat. Raccoons and opossums are like neighbors who sometimes get into the garbage and tear out your ductwork. Exasperating as they may be at times, we get to know them — watch them raise their children, and their children's children. And, as for the "alleged" part, who hasn't wondered if people see us for what we really are?
Call me Al's
  • Call me Al's

Zimm the Escape Monkey
seemed like an odds on favorite to win. People admired the little monkey's spunk, tenacity, and sheer desire to be her own little dude. People are increasingly tired of old, limiting definitions and cages of all kinds. Zimm's a real swinger, and for all the propaganda, London's never had much on Memphis, if you knew where to look.

So why Murder Owl? What is it about this storied bird — a creature that captured the imagination of artists and authors — that speaks to Memphis? Since the owl stirred up more startled terror and chaos than actual harm, it probably doesn't have anything to do with Memphis' reputation for violence and crime. Perhaps, just the opposite, since Murder Owl's most famous "victim" was controversial DA Amy Weirch, who described it as the biggest thing she'd ever seen in her life with a "wingspan the size of a Buick."  In light of this eyewitness testimony from one who knows the value of eyewitness testimony, I'm going to put forward a theory that Murder Owl represents lurking, hidden truth obscured by misrepresentation. Or maybe he/she's a symbol — like Batman — that there's true, natural justice in the world, small now but hiding and waiting for the right moment to reveal itself as something enormous, mythic.
Zimm's just got to be Zimm.
  • Zimm's just got to be Zimm.
Either way, owls are badass, and Murder Owl's so badass somebody should record some theme music.

Long story short: The (some) people have spoken, Memphis. Your Spirit Animal is —- MURDER OWL!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Hey Memphis, Who's Your Spirit Animal?

Posted By on Fri, Sep 15, 2017 at 3:11 PM

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Once upon a time there was only Hugh Manatee and Midtown Coyote but with additions like the Balmoral Bobcat and Frayser Bear the roster of iconic Memphis beasties continues to expand. A question that's seldom asked? Which one is most us.

Yeah, lame, I know. But it's Friday afternoon and things have been way too serious around these parts lately.  

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Nobody's Banned "Gone With The Wind" in Memphis — Even if the Commercial Appeal Says So

Posted By on Tue, Aug 29, 2017 at 5:21 PM

Beefed up security at the Orpheum.
  • Beefed up security at the Orpheum.
Let's talk about the B-word. No. Let's talk about the C-word.

No.

Let's talk about the fact that there's an armed guard in front of the Orpheum protecting folks with families who spend their days booking Broadway shows, coordinating the High School Musical Awards, developing concert programs, planning summer camps and curating a popular film series. That's a dangerous job now, apparently, and media — local and otherwise — only add fuel to the fire by misrepresenting what happened there this week when it was announced that, after a good, 34-year run, the Downtown playhouse would drop Gone With the Wind from its popular Summer film series. No matter what you may have read at The Commercial Appeal's website this week, nothing has been banned in Memphis. Not Gone With the Wind or anything else. The word "banned" implies a kind of authority the good folks at the Orpheum just don't have over the distribution and screening of media in Memphis. Any mainstream media that uses that word chooses to pour fuel on a fire that, judging from the presence of the guard out front, may get somebody —probably not the author or editor — burned.
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The Orpheum did what every cultural institution in the country does every single day. The staff made a curatorial decision — a decision that would be valid even if Gone With the Wind wasn't controversial. Why should Gone With the Wind be a tradition and not Selma? Or Bambi or The Big Lebowski for that matter? Why should there always be room for Gone With the Wind and never room for Faulkner's Intruder in the Dust, which is more regionally appropriate, and tells a different and more vital story of the American South than the blazing, over-the-top romance of Gone With the Wind.

Never heard of Intruder in the Dust you say? This is why we curate. We also curate because culture shifts, what's relevant now may not be relevant 5-minutes from now. And relevant or not, a 4-hour film like GWTW is ultimately a less valuable  investment for theaters like the Orpheum than a 90-minute flick that also sells out. Mad Max: Fury Road, for example, would save the Orpheum two full hours-worth of overhead on everything from labor to utilities.


So many popular films have been made since 1939, and there are only so many slots on the Orpheum's Summer series. While there's nothing wrong with reviving  popular films, there are too many great films to choose from to guarantee any one a permanent spot on any lineup. Unless, of course, that film somehow speaks  to a community's identity and has a renewing effect for those who attend. If Gone With the Wind is that film, what does it say about our community?
What fresh bullshit is this?
  • What fresh bullshit is this?
Let's also take a minute to talk about propaganda like this article that begins with an admission by the author that, in 2014, he warned everybody that the Left would ban Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles — a paranoid fantasy that hasn't, and isn't likely to come to pass anytime soon. His proof: OMG Look what happened to Disney's Song of the South!

The stat, referenced by Alt-Right-friendly Breitbart, comes from a 75th-Anniversary survey by YouGov.com, a digital polling site described here as, "An online global community of people who like to share their views and opinions on life... marketed more towards individuals who wish to express their opinions about current events and controversial topics." It's an "opinions for prizes" shop so we're looking at a self-selecting sample in a celebratory context, and maybe not an accurate, contextualized example of community opinion.  The money quote:

"If there is one last bastion of racism still accepted in America, it is the racial condescension we always see from the left, this constant treating of minorities, especially blacks, as children who are unable to deal with a statue or a word or a movie."

The problem here is pretty basic — and ironic. Unlike the practically homogenous Right, fighting to uphold this film and its paternalistic race narratives — the Left is made of minorities as sure as Soylent Green (another slot-worthy film) is made of people.

There's an even bigger problem with this kind of hysterical, and historically unsupported crankmongering. Let's forget how easily this rhetoric comes apart by inserting nouns like Watermelon and Fried Chicken in place of Gone With the Wind in the headline, and for the sake of argument, let's accept Breitbart's highly questionable stats at face value. Let's allow that 73% of African-Americans do, in fact, love Gone With the Wind so much they want to marry it and have its babies, whether they know anything about birthing or not. So what? That stat doesn't mean the film's cultural value merits a guaranteed slot on any Summer film series any more than any other classic or popular film. It's a meaningless number used in the service of specious rhetoric.

Did I mention that there's an armed security guard in front of the Orpheum? Because there is. Because the folks over there made what should be the kind of uncontroversial curatorial decision that is 100% their's to make. Whether it's in light of the tragedy in Charlottesville, or just because it's Tuesday. Now people feel endangered because this vintage playhouse — a true Southern cultural treasure — wants to mix things up, expanding its offerings and its audience in the process. It's bad enough that propaganda organs like Breitbart have become so influential. But it's shameful when local media turns up the pressure by reenforcing false narratives with badly chosen language.



UPDATE: To be fair as I can be the CA's John Beifuss has done great work all around. The CA's issues stem from Gannett and a culture defined by consolidation not community.







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Monday, August 28, 2017

Real Gone: The Orpheum vs. Gone With the Wind, Social Media Roundup

Posted By on Mon, Aug 28, 2017 at 11:34 AM

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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Remember When Memphis Comment Trolls Wanted to Remove Public Art?

Posted By on Wed, Aug 23, 2017 at 11:31 PM

This art will be the end of us!
  • This art will be the end of us!
The year was 2002 and five little words had some of Memphis' most prominent white Conservatives frothing at the mouth: "Workers of the World Unite."

From a cover story I wrote at the time:

In 1934, the First All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers adopted the principle that art should promote only a rigid slate of political and social ideals established by the state. This movement was dubbed Soviet realism.
In November 2001, Memphis City Councilman Brent Taylor, and Shelby County Commissioners Marilyn Loeffel and Tommy Hart, took umbrage at one of nine public artworks sponsored by the UrbanArt Commission (UAC) for the new $70 million Central Library. Their aim was to have an offensive quotation removed from a public walkway because it expressed a sentiment which they deemed to be out of step with wholesome American values.

The irony grows sweeter considering that the offending "Workers of the world, unite!" is excerpted from The Communist Manifesto, which sparked the revolution that eventually birthed the school of Soviet realism whose precepts were unknowingly co-opted by Taylor, Loeffel, and Hart.

A pious group of Memphians led by one William W. Wood of the hastily organized Shelby County Coalition to Save the Memphis Library began a biweekly vigil to pray over the wicked artwork. The same group sent out scorching mass e-mails comparing the presumably elusive UAC with Osama bin Laden and labeling the board and administration of the Memphis/Shelby County Library "a special branch of the CIA."

Toss in the eccentric patriot in a red, white, and blue suit who makes regular protest pilgrimages to the site and you have all the ingredients for an old-fashioned dog-and-pony show. Even The New York Times got in on the action, noting that "The cold war may be over, but Marx and Engels have nevertheless managed to create a small political furor in this old river city."

The backlash came as a complete shock to Brad and Diana Goldberg, the Dallas-based husband-and-wife team responsible for designing the artwork. They intended that their piece function as "a metaphoric record of important events and knowledge that have shaped Memphis, the Mississippi River Valley Region, and the rest of our world" since the beginning of recorded history.

It was less of a shock to local political columnists who practically stumbled over one another to spank Taylor, Loeffel, and Hart for striking such a provincial pose. Susan Adler Thorp aptly observed in The Commercial Appeal that "Tearing down the Iron Curtain and destroying communism were simple tasks compared to accommodating [their] need for political opportunism, and logic."

CLICK HERE FOR THE REST OF THE STORY.

Why mention this vintage kerfuffle? Because debate over the removal of Confederate monuments rages on in comment sections across the World Wide Web. It's nasty, getting nastier, and even the President of the Comment Section himself, Donald J. Trump, weighed in on the side of White Supremacy. I'm revisiting it because there was a time, not so very long ago, when white Conservative Christians — spearheaded by elected officials — thought it was wrong to memorialize the enemies of America.

Thing is, the library sculpture aimed to reflect world-changing ideas generally, and wasn't political in nature. It certainly wasn't ideologically aligned with Communism, and guess what? Memphis didn't transform into a hotbed of socialism. The hullabaloo blew over. People mostly forgot it was a big deal and the piece just kind of blended into the landscape, as it was intended to — like concrete and granite shrubbery nobody ever had to water.
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But let's not kid ourselves. It wasn't JUST the Communist history upsetting the easily upsettable. In a right-to-work environment, it was also the out of context message of worker unity, divorced as it was, of its Marxist origin. Nothing's more terrifying to the unreconstructed set like the idea of a united working and underclass or any unified threat to the hegemony.  This has always been true.

Public response to public art is directly and proportionally-related to public values and the degree to which those values are reflected in the work. That's why modernism in the public sphere met with so much backlash at the end of the last century. As one heartland critic noted in the 1970's: "I think people are tired of New York Arty-art. You can keep it in museums where it won't bother anybody." Coming full circle, abstract work becomes attractive in the public sphere again for the exact same reason — people can't ascribe values, making it harmless. We tend to divorce the Confederate memorials from similar conversations about public art. Probably because it clears the fog of war and makes the question of values (or negative values) so apparent.

 All art speaks to the future, and public art speaks with authority. That's why this battle has been so bitter. It's not about the past, it's for the future. As the City of Memphis, spurred on by united activists, creeps forward with plans to execute this long-overdue removal (a process gummed by Tennessee's regressive and cowardly state legislature) I thought it might be interesting to remember when all those people down in the comments today screeching, "history," and "heritage," were out in the street chanting (okay, praying) "tear it down!"

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Remember The Time Andy Holt Said Nathan Bedford Forrest Was a Civil Rights Leader?

Posted By on Sat, Aug 19, 2017 at 1:18 AM

Nathan Bedford Forrest.  Civil Rights Hero. According to Andy Holt.
  • Nathan Bedford Forrest. Civil Rights Hero. According to Andy Holt.

Hey kids, sometimes current events make old news relevant again. So let's all hop in the way-back machine and chart a course for July, 2015 when Tennessee Rep. Andy Holt declared an abiding love for Confederate General and former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, Nathan Bedford Forrest. Holt encouraged people who really care about ending racial strife to get in touch with the gentle, loving Civil Rights leader he knows.
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Forrest made millions of dollars as a slave merchant before achieving the rank of General in a hostile army in open rebellion against the US government and fighting to preserve the institution of Southern slavery. But the Butcher of Fort Pillow did soften a bit near the end of his life and after white Southerners established political victory and supremacy the KKK he led was indeed disbanded. But Civil Rights Champion Nathan Bedford Forrest never needed anybody to speak for him. He knew exactly who he was and what he stood for.
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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Meet the Tennessee Lawmakers Who Think Running Over Protesters Should Be Protected

Matthew Hill and Bill Ketron foresaw tragedies like what happened in Charlottesville, VA and attempted to make the world a safer place -- for terrorists

Posted By on Wed, Aug 16, 2017 at 8:47 AM

Sen. Bill Ketron and Rep. Matthew Hill introduced legislation to make drivers who hit protesters immune from civil liability.
  • Sen. Bill Ketron and Rep. Matthew Hill introduced legislation to make drivers who hit protesters immune from civil liability.
On Saturday, August 12, 2017, a nazi sympathizer killed one person and injured many more when he drove his car into a group protesting the White Supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA. With that in mind, now seems like as good a time as any to take a look a pair of Tennessee politicians who were farsighted enough to imagine just such a scenario and introduced legislation to make drivers immune from civil liability for doing something similar.
MATTHEW HILL
  • Matthew Hill
Tennessee Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Chumpsville) is a "firebrand Southern conservative." Swipes right for tort reform, the Ten Commandments and good old-fashioned nullification; left for abortion and taxes. Hill's the owner of Right-Way marketing and the host of Bible Buddies Radio. He's super against child rape but favors fear-mongering legislation and thinks sometimes rolling over protesters in your SUV is totally justifiable. Hill has been a vocal proponent of birtherism, the racist conspiracy aimed at delegitimizing Barack Obama's presidency. (For fun, here's a recording of our Bible Buddy interviewing birther gadfly Orly Taitz.) In 2010 Hill introduced HB2685,[24] requiring employees to only speak English in Tennessee workplaces. Hill was called out by media for taking a "dangers of Islam"  fact-finding trip courtesy of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition, a designated hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

HB0668 failed in Civil Justice committee.
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Bill "Muslim Mop Sink" Ketron
  • Bill "Muslim Mop Sink" Ketron
Bill Ketron (R-Suckertown) has sponsored many bills but, apart from making it okay to run over protesters if you're using due caution, the Senator from Murfreesboro is probably most famous as the national laughingstock who mistook a mop sink for Muslim prayer basin. And had a spell about it.

When he's not hard at work pushing legislation crafted by white supremacist David Yerushalmi to criminalize Sharia Law, Ketron has also made time to see the world courtesy of the Tennessee Freedom Coalition, a hate group that dines well, apparently.

Ketron wasn't the only Tennessee Senator who thought this idea had merit. SB0944 Passed on first and second consideration and was assigned to General Subcommittee of Senate Judiciary Committee.
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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Elvis Week: Deep Cuts Playlist

Posted By on Thu, Aug 10, 2017 at 8:30 AM

Hey, how about an Elvis playlist made entirely of songs that almost never show up near the top of other Elvis playlists? Except for maybe "Little Sister." But I just can't make an Elvis playlist without "Little Sister." That would be wrong.



Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Elvis Trivia Nobody Has Ever Heard Before

Posted By on Wed, Aug 9, 2017 at 11:25 AM

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On the lighter side...
This column was originally published in honor of Elvis Week, 2014. To commemorate the 40th-Anniversary of Presley's passing The Fly on the Wall staff is honored to re-publish a list of 73 heavily researched trivia items that had never been printed anywhere else previously and haven't been printed anywhere else since. Enjoy.

1. Elvis' favorite small appliance manufacturer was Sunbeam. It is rumored "Burning Love" was originally written as a jingle for the toaster manufacturer.


2. Elvis hated the comic strip Alley Oop, and would draw a fake mustache on the title character out of spite each week.

3. Elvis was considered for the lead role in The Godfather.

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4. Elvis loved funny hats.

5. Elvis' favorite flavor of Laffy Taffy was banana.

6. The name Elvis contains five letters including two vowels.

7. Elvis's favorite band was Winger.


Elvis first encountered 80's band Winger in a meditative vision of the future.

8. Elvis' middle name is commonly misspelled. It is actually "Aronn"

9. Elvis wrote To Kill A Mockingbird under the pseudonym of Harper Lee.

Elvis first and only novel.
  • Elvis' first and only novel.

10. Elvis was an honorary member of the National Society of Quail Enthusiasts.

11. Elvis' favorite Mexican food? Tacos.

12. Designers presented Elvis with more than 170 shades of white and off white before manufacturing the first iconic jumpsuit.

13. Elvis gave all of his close friends unusual nicknames. He affectionately referred to Col. Tom Parker as “Turd Blossom.”

14. Elvis often wore a disguise consisting of a top hat, monocle, and false mustache to go out in public as Lord Jiggleton. He would greet people by simply shouting "Blimey!" at them in a loud, fake British accent.

15. Elvis often engaged in jelly bean eating contests with Red West. Red always let him win.

16. Elvis' favorite sexual position was abstinence. His second favorite: missionary. His third favorite: The bearded bugler.

17. Elvis and George Klein would often do puppet shows for Dutch children, which delighted the youth to no end!

18. The hit song "Return to Sender" was inspired by the true story of a man who mailed a letter only to have it returned.

New Zealand
  • New Zealand

19. Elvis was the first person to have contact with New Zealanders.

20. Elvis preferred black shoelaces.

21. Elvis called Vegas "Las Nashville."

22. Elvis owned a hound dog named Butta. It was surprisingly quiet.

23. Elvis had a giraffe named Becky that he kept in his jungle room.

24. Elvis’ favorite female vocalist was Roy Orbison.

25. Elvis regarded the Jungle Room as a vast improvement over the original Tundra Room.

26. Elvis’ favorite Halloween costume: Julia Child.

Halloween, 1976
  • Halloween, 1976

27. After discovering he was too tall to be an astronaut Elvis started his own space program.

28. The most rare Elvis recording is of his live "The King's Klezemer Kavalcade" recorded in 1971 in the Catskills.

29. Elvis once used his karate skills to defeat an entire ax gang.

30. For Elvis, no day was complete without prank calling Robert Goulet. Elvis pretended to be a DJ calling from a local radio station. He told Goulet he was giving away a fabulous prize and the first lucky listener to drop by the station would collect. As a result, employees at KXPT Las Vegas thought Goulet was “nutty as a sack of pecans.”

31. Given a choice, Elvis preferred several tiny marshmallows to one large one in a mug of hot chocolate.

32. Elvis beat Chuck Norris so badly in a karate fight...

33. Elvis hated the word smudge. He would punch anybody who said it.

34. Elvis loved a good knock knock joke.

35. Elvis' favorite American inventor: George Washington Carver

36. When asked about Ann Margaret, Elvis would often smile and say "Yeah, she is pretty!"

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37. Elvis invented the roomba.

38. When in Vegas, Elvis would often call Sammy Davis, Jr. and demand he bring him a Clark Bar. When Sammy refused, Elvis would yell "Well, you don't seem like much of a candy man to me!"

39. Elvis was pretty adamant in his position that Submariner was superior to Aquaman.

40. Whenever Elvis played Monopoly, he insisted on being the thimble, and he refused to utilize that house rule where you put fees in Free Parking and then whoever lands there gets them. "That's just too much, luck, Jack!"


41. If you play In the Ghetto Backwards you can hear somebody saying what sounds like, "Ottehg eht ni."


42. During Gandhi's hunger strike, Elvis would call daily to offer him a peanut butter banana and bacon sandwich. He genuinely wanted to be helpful.

43. Elvis gave away more El Caminos than Cadillacs

El Camino: Comfort of a car, convenience of a truck
  • El Camino: Comfort of a car, convenience of a truck

44. Elvis's unfinished last movie "King-Fu" was described as "Blue Hawaii" meets "Enter the Dragon".

45. Elvis had the bomb even before the British.

46. Richard Nixon made Elvis an honorary commissioner of the Federal Reserve, complete with voting rights.

47. Elvis made most of his money as a striker for Manchester United.

48. In addition to his love of gospel, Elvis also studied Qawwali,the devotional music of Sufis, which is credited with helping him maintain his voice.

49. Elvis’s Memphis Mafia accidentally invented Frisbee Golf while doing dishes one day.

50. While serving in the army Elvis met and befriended a young Andre the Giant. The 1959 single “Big Hunk of Love” was inspired by their friendship.

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51. Elvis was allergic to his own hair color, which is why he dyed it black.

52. Elvis once got into a Scimitar duel with the Sultan of Brunei.

53. In order to save on maintenance costs, Elvis and Charlie Hodge became certified TV Repairmen.

54. Elvis had a private subway that ran from Graceland to the basement of Godfather's Pizza in Overton Square

55. Elvis had a beloved pet Vietnamese Potbelly Pig, he called Pig E

56. Elvis was once offered the role of the zeppelin pilot in a film called "HindenBoogie"

57. Elvis once threw an urn at Slim Whitman's head.

58. While in the army, Elvis was used as a subject in the MK-Ultra experiments.

59. Elvis would often rent out the Memphian theater to enjoy private showings of the films of Ingmar Bergman.

60. Elvis used to rent out Libertyland for parties and would amuse guests by playing "Whack-A-George-Klein"

61. Vernon Presley's favorite meal was Cream of Spaghettios.

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62. Gladys Presley's favorite meal was regular Spaghettios.

63. Elvis Presley bought Graceland because he thought it was cool that it was on a street that had his name on it.

64. Elvis sometimes felt that cucumbers were spying on him.

65. When he was not performing, Elvis would often wear a beard of bees for days at a time.

66. Elvis only discovered his musical powers after he watched a robber shoot his wealthy parents in an alleyway.

67. Elvis would often leave pies cooling on a window sill only to have them stolen by lovable neighborhood scamps.

68. Portrayed Avery Schreiber in three episodes of Chico and the Man.

Elvis with Jack Albertson and Freddy Prinze
  • Elvis with Jack Albertson and Freddy Prinze

69. Elvis once fought alongside the armies of man and dwarf to put down the Dark Lord Sauron and save Middle Earth.

70. Elvis created a chain of yogurt shops called "Taking Care of Business Yogurt". This was later shortened to YOLO.

71. Elvis' final thoughts were of Rosebud, a sled he had as a child which symbolized lost innocence, youth and the love of his mother. We think. It's up to interpretation.

72. Priscilla was replaced by a wax figure in 1972.

73. Elvis played bass for a few months in KISS in 1976. His face makeup theme was "The Catfish"

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Fly on the Wall is compiled by Chris Davis with funniness provided by The Wiseguys.


8 Places Elvis Fans Won't Visit but Probably Should

Posted By on Wed, Aug 9, 2017 at 10:33 AM

This was originally published here at FOTW back in 2013. It's still a good list and since so many Elvis-people are in town it seemed like a good thing to re-post. If you've never seen it before, enjoy. If you have, enjoy all over again!

#8: Alcenia's
, 317 N. Main

Free hugs with every meal. For real.
  • Free hugs with every meal. For real.

Alcenia's is a funky little soul food joint at the Southwest edge of Memphis' Pinch District where meals are cooked to order and every new customer gets a hug. Although neither the restaurant, nor the building has a specific Elvis connection, sidewalk tables provide guests with the best view of the I-40 overpass in town.

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Of course, when Elvis was a teenager living in the Lauderdale Courts housing project there was no scenic I-40 overpass. Instead, there was a cluster of African-American bars and in the evenings both the music and the crowds spilled out into the street.

Why Elvis fans won't visit: There's really not much to see, unless you count this sign marking the location of Memphis' first bar.


Drunk History
  • Drunk History


Why they should: The long demolished Green Owl, a working class African-American beer joint once located at 260 N. Main, just southeast of Alcenia's, was one of young Elvis' favorite neighborhood clubs. He was especially fond of a musician who played a homemade bass he'd fashioned from a bucket and a broomstick.

A view from the dark underbelly
  • A view from the dark underbelly

There's not much music along this somewhat lonely stretch separating the Pinch from the Convention Center, unless you count the song of all the cars and semis speeding by overhead. But these are the sidewalks where an impressionable teenaged Elvis mixed and mingled with blues players, and even though so much has been demolished, walking through Downtown's dilapidated but bouncing back north side, with its trolley line, horse stables and old shop fronts, is still like stepping back in time.

#7: The old Memphis Police Station, 128 Adams

These crumbling stairs...

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Lead to this locked, boarded-up door...

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That once served as an entrance to Memphis' Downtown Police Station.

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Why Elvis fans won't go: Unless you're a fan of weeds and urban decay, why would you?

Why they should: Elvis was fascinated by law enforcement. The lengths he'd go to collect a new badge knew no bounds.

Suspicious Minds
  • Suspicious Minds

But it wasn't all about the bling. Elvis was also genuinely in awe of policemen, and would sometimes ride along after making late night/early morning visits to the station. He even visited the downtown station one Christmas claiming that he needed something to do and it was the only place in town that was open.

Besides, who doesn't love to picnic near classical ruins?

#6: The Blackwood Brothers Record Store, 209 N. Lauderdale

The Lord is my bail bondsman
  • The Lord is my bail bondsman

Why Elvis fans won't go: Because the building, located just off Poplar Ave. near the Jail, has been converted into a bail bondsman's office in what might best be described as Memphis' bail bond district.

Why they should: Elvis was a huge fan of gospel quartets, and the Blackwood Brothers, with their fancy customized touring bus...

Elvis is gonna want one of these
  • Elvis is gonna want one of these

and their own private plane...

And one of these
  • And one of these

were, to put it mildly, complete badasses. Also, you can see the site formerly known as Lauderdale Courts from the front door.

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Today the only records being discussed at 209 Lauderdale are permanent ones, but when his soul needed a'rockin', this is where Elvis got his vinyl fix.

#5: Gulf Station, Second & Gayoso

On October 18, 1956, much ass was kicked near to this very spot
  • On October 18, 1956, much ass was kicked near to this very spot

I sometimes pretend that the above piece of public art is a monument built on the site where Elvis licked two gas station attendants then told the cops (jokingly) that his name was Carl Perkins.

Of course it's not and the the actual brawl went down across the street.

Cornered
  • Cornered

All three men involved in the altercation were charged with assault and battery, but Elvis had been struck first and the Judge ruled in his favor.

Why Elvis fans won't go: It's not an obvious landmark.

Why they should: Two reasons. This is where a scene plucked right out of an Elvis movie actually happened. Also, Elvis's life changed fast. This fight and the resulting day in court represent a dawning realization that life would never be normal again.

Continue reading »

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