Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Carousel is here!

Posted By on Tue, Dec 5, 2017 at 6:08 PM

All aboard the Memphis Grand Carousel. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • All aboard the Memphis Grand Carousel.

A total of 1,400 people rode the Memphis Grand Carousel on its opening day Dec. 2. That’s between the time Mayor Jim Strickland and Children’s Museum of Memphis board chair Bridgette Speake cut the ribbon at 10 a.m. and before the museum closed at 5 p.m.

The carousel, which was built in 1909, is one of the oldest wooden carousels in the United States. It was burned, but restored by Dentzel Carousel Co. in the 1920s.

Memphis purchased the carousel in 1923. It was in operation at the Mid-South Fairgrounds and Libertyland until it was dismantled in the 1990s and crated at the Mid-South Coliseum.

Restoration of the carousel, which took more than two years to complete, cost $1 million. The Children’s Museum of Memphis is one of three accredited children’s museums to house an authentic operational Dentzel grand carousel.

All 48 horses were sold for $4,500 each, Speake said. They all have names, but Speake’s goddaughter, Mary Martin Wick, 5, who rode “Pegasus,” came up with her own name for the horse: “Pink Flower.”


Deck the halls with fa la la la la at the Jingle Bell Ball. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Deck the halls with fa la la la la at the Jingle Bell Ball.

Hundreds of youngsters decked the halls with fa la la la la's at the Jingle Bell Ball Dec. 2 at The Peabody.

The Jingle Bell Ball is the umbrella name for several parties: the Cookie Party for toddlers through second grade; Rock for third and fourth graders; The Mistletoe Mash for fifth and sixth graders; and the Special Honorees Party for special needs kids.

“It’s the only dress up thing I think kids get to do that I’m aware of,” said Jingle Bell Ball founder/general chair Pat Kerr Tigrett. “And they love dressing up.”

Among those assisting at the parties were jooker Ryan Haskett and dancers Sheron Moore, who portrayed a prince, and Maria Bittick, who was Cinderella.

“We’re already beginning to gear up for the 30th anniversary next year, which is unbelievable,” Tigrett said.

Madeline Golson, Parker Ingle, Justin True, Bethany Turner, Kristin Dannemiller at South Main Market. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Madeline Golson, Parker Ingle, Justin True, Bethany Turner, Kristin Dannemiller at South Main Market.


South Main Market, Memphis’s first food hall concept, held its grand opening Dec. 2.

Daniel Masters, an owner with Justin Dyer of the market in the historic South Main Arts District, described the opening as “more of a soft opening in my area.”

His area is “charcuterie that are locally sourced along with craft cocktails.”

Masters now has his beer license, but, he said, “We should be good to go in a couple of weeks for the sale of spirits.”

As for the soft opening, he said, “I could see where the potential lies in the concept.”

Cole Jeanes, the chef and creative mind behind three new concepts Coco, Kinfolk and Magnolia at South Main Market, ran out of food.

“We were doing chicken biscuits,” he said. “You can get eggs and bacon on them. We opened at 8 and sold out at 11:30.”

That was at Coco and Kinfolk. “So, we closed down and prepped back up. We opened Magnolia and we sold out of that.”

They were serving sui gyoza Japanese dumplings. “We opened at 4 and sold out at 6:30.”


Joyce Gingold at her David Lusk Gallery opening. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Joyce Gingold at her David Lusk Gallery opening.

Joyce Gingold held a pop up exhibition featuring her new works Dec. 2 at David Lusk Gallery.

Gingold, who was born in New York City in 1924, was an educator of generations of Memphians. Her new group of patinated bronzes includes birds, horses and rabbits.

Gallery owner David Lusk said: “The beauty of Joyce Gingold’s sculpture is how apparent her fingers and hands are on each piece. She first models clay into an animal shape or female torso using just her hands and fingers. Then that is cast into a bronze work. But even in the bronze the marks and energy from her hands is obvious.”


Le Jardin Gourmet to Go one year anniversary party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Le Jardin Gourmet to Go one year anniversary party.

Le Jardin Gourmet to Go celebrated its first anniversary Dec. 1.

The business, which owner John Matthews described as “chef-prepared meals ready to heat and eat,”’ is located at 2877 Poplar Avenue.

Guests sipped wine and dined on array of foods prepared by executive chef Alyssa Holliday. Fare included bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with Gorgonzola cheese, spicy deviled eggs, wild mushroom pate on crustinis and tilapia, shrimp and crab casserole.

They serve “upscale” cuisine, which is delivered between Perkins and Downtown, Matthews said. “What sets us apart is the quality,” he said. “We do beef bourguignon, Maryland style crab cakes, veal piccata. Things like that. We try to use local ingredients whenever possible. And we change up the menu twice a week. Small artisinal batches. So, when it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Carousel Ride from Michael Donahue on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Jason Motte, Indie Memphis, John T. Prather, Nutcracker

Posted By on Thu, Nov 30, 2017 at 5:46 PM

Michael and Katie Hudman, Jason and Caitlin Motte and Karie and Andrew Ticer at The Jason Motte Foundation Cornhole Challenge. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Michael and Katie Hudman, Jason and Caitlin Motte and Karie and Andrew Ticer at The Jason Motte Foundation Cornhole Challenge.

“The Jason Motte Foundation Cornhole Challenge” isn’t your basic sit-down-eat-dinner-listen-to-live-entertainment-party.

This party is where you compete in cornhole - a game in which people throw bean bags into a hole in a raised platform.

Forty teams participated in this year’s event, which was held Nov. 18 at The Columns.

Jason Motte, a free agent who played Major League Baseball with St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies and Atlanta Braves, and his wife, Caitlin, host the annual event.

They used to do more of a traditional party, but two years ago they decided “to kind of mix up the event a little,” Caitlin said.

Cornhole is “more of a way for people to be truly interactive with the event,” she said. “It allows people to be more a part of things.”

Asked why this event is important to him, Jason said, “When Caitlin’s grandfather was diagnosed with stage one cancer before our wedding in 2010, we said, ‘How can we help those going through the same thing?’”

They were impressed with West Clinic, where Caitlin’s grandfather, the late Lynn Doyle, was being treated. They wanted to do an event “here in memphis to raise money and raise awareness for those going through the same kind of fight.”

They raised around $47,500 this year, Caitlin said.

“This is our sixth year doing an event here in Memphis,” Jason said. “Between our event in Memphis and events we’ve had in St. Louis, Chicago and our T-shirt sales, we’ve raised over $1 million. It’s going back to charity funding research. Helping to find a cure and helping those who are in this fight.”


Kentucker Audley and Caroline White at the Official Unofficial Indie Memphis Filmmakers Party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Kentucker Audley and Caroline White at the Official Unofficial Indie Memphis Filmmakers Party.

Chris McCoy and his wife, Laura Jean Hocking, hosted the 13th edition of the Indie Memphis Filmmakers Party. Their front and back yards and inside their home was packed at the party, which capped off the recent Indie Memphis Film Festival.

“It’s a great party,” McCoy said. “It’s always been a great party because we get interesting people from all over the world. We had people from Saudi Arabia this year. Jason Baldwin (from the West Memphis Three), drank his first beer as a free man at that party in 2011.”

Asked the purpose of the party, McCoy said, “When you’re a filmmaker and you go to film festivals, a lot of the time you’re herded around like prize cattle. The purpose of the Filmmakers Party is to allow filmmakers who come to Memphis to have a place to socialize and relax and just talk to each other.

“I’ve always loved that party because I can walk from the front of my house to the back of my house and every conversation I hear is interesting.”

Also making the party more exciting are the awards - Best Hometowner Feature, Audience Award and Poster Contest - Hocking won at this year's festival for the film, “Good Grief,” which she co-directed with Melissa Sweazy.


Debra Powell, Arrington Howard, Volodymyr Tkachenko and Anna Radik at the Moscow Ballet's Nutcracker. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Debra Powell, Arrington Howard, Volodymyr Tkachenko and Anna Radik at the Moscow Ballet's Nutcracker.

Forty dance students, most of them from Studio B Dance Inc. danced in the 25th anniversary production of Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker, which was held Nov. 24 at the Cannon Center.

“We have over 250 people in our studio,” said Studio B owner/director/Debra Bradshaw Powell.. “Not everybody does it.”

Someone with the Moscow Ballet visits Memphis for a week to “teach them everything,” Powell said. “The kids pay a nominal fee and that’s for the woman to come in and audition them and rehearse them for a week. And to rent the costume.”

The students get to the Cannon Center at 9 a.m. and get fitted for their costume and take part in photo shoots. The Moscow Ballet dancers arrive around 1 and run through a rehearsal with the local dancers. “Work out kinks. Run through everything on stage."

When they’re not on stage, the students watch the backstage action as well as the show. “They’re excited to have their turn on stage. They can’t wait to get out there. Not one of them said, ‘I’m nervous.’”


John T. Prather - HANDOUT
  • Handout
  • John T. Prather

“The Nephilim Virus,” a novel by former Memphian John T. Prather, was released Nov. 30.

“It’s a post apocalyptical thriller about a guy who wakes from a coma for three years and realizes this ancient virus has infected two thirds of the world,” he said.

Prather, who describes the novel as “party detective novel, part thriller,” is a graduate of the University of Memphis. He now lives in Los Angeles, but he’s planning a Memphis trip around the holidays to visit his mom, Nadene Prather, and some of his other sibling.

You might have seen Prather on TV or on the movie screen. He’s been in a couple of mini series, including “Project Phoenix,” and a short indie film, “The Glass.”

He’s also been photographed in People, GQ and Men’s Health. “I do fitness modeling pretty regularly,” he said. “I’ve kind of gotten lucky with the model stuff.”

And, he said, he and his wife are expecting twins.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Christmas tree, Crafts and Drafts, U of M, VESTA

Posted By on Tue, Nov 28, 2017 at 1:47 PM

The majestic 60-foot tree was the star of the City of Memphis Christmas tree lighting at Memphis Botanic Garden. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • The majestic 60-foot tree was the star of the City of Memphis Christmas tree lighting at Memphis Botanic Garden.

Of course, Santa was standing by for the lighting ceremony of the City of Memphis Christmas tree, which was held Nov. 24th at Memphis Botanic Garden.

This is the first time the City of Memphis tree is housed at the garden.

The tree ceremony kicked off Holiday Wonders at the Garden. The Snowy Nights area as well as two new expansions - Trees Alight and Sculptures Bright - were showcased. Trees Alight is an innovative light show and Sculptures Bright is an illuminated collection of locally created sculpture.

The IKEA Outdoor Lounge also debuted. Visitors can drink hot cocoa or a drink while gazing at the Christmas tree.

Joining Santa for the tree lighting were Mayor Jim Strickland, city councilman Worth Morgan, Memphis Botanic Garden director Michael Allen, the garden’s board president Vance Lewis and emcee Ron Olson.

St. Jude patient Raniya Raheem, 7, did the honors of pulling the lever to turn on the tree lights, which changed colors. Music was synchronized with the lights.

“We were pleased to squeeze about 700 guests into our Conifer Garden to see the City of Memphis Christmas Tree lit for the very first time,” Allen said. “This 60-foot-tall contorted white pine is situated along our Cherry Road fence line. Even on nights when Holiday Wonders at the Garden is not operating, the city tree is visible to drivers passing by.”

Beer and crafts - and 2,500 people - at Memphis Flyer's Crafts & Drafts. - MICIHAEL DONAHUE
  • Micihael Donahue
  • Beer and crafts - and 2,500 people - at Memphis Flyer's Crafts & Drafts.

About 2,500 attended Memphis Flyer’s third annual Crafts & Drafts, held Nov. 10 in the Crosstown Concourse parking lot.

Craft beers were available for shoppers as they visited more than 60 craft booths.

DJ Jordan Rogers provided music to shop - and sip - to.


"This is Memphis" was held at the historic Clayborn Temple. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • "This is Memphis" was held at the historic Clayborn Temple.

“This is Memphis” also could be titled “This is University of Memphis.” Students from the school’s Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music were featured in concert Nov. 5 at the historic Clayborn Temple.

Produced by the U of M student record label, Blue Tom Records, the festival featured Drew Erwin, Curtis Scott, Phillip Bond, Shawn Campbell, Compton McMurray, Haley Daniels and The PRVLG.

“We produce festivals every semester - ‘This is Memphis’ in Fall and ‘Hear 901’ in the spring,” said U of M music professor Ben Yonas. “The purpose is to give students in the Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music the opportunity not only in the performing, but in producing, promoting and marketing. It’s all about giving them real world experience. It’s also an opportunity to showcase talent.

“This was a really special festival for us this year ‘cause we tried something new. We wanted to feature acoustic renditions of songs - all original songs written by Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music students. And also pair them with arrangers and composers that would create the string arrangements. So, each song featured a different collaboration with student composers, singer songwriters and arrangers. And the arrangers were up there conducting the string ensemble.”

Yonas gave a shout out to violinist Hannah Hart. “She put the whole thing together from a logistics standpoint. This wasn’t her idea, but she took it on. It was part of her senior project.”

He was pleased with the show. “I think this will be a new tradition. We’ll do this kind of thing more often.”

Erwin, who performed two songs, said, “Collaborating with the strings for ‘This is Memphis’ was one of the coolest things I’ve done in my entire music career. I could have never written those arrangements.”

As for Clayborn Temple, Erwin said, “It was the perfect environment for the music.”


Music, food and visits to houses were on tap at the VESTA Home Show industry preview party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Music, food and visits to houses were on tap at the VESTA Home Show industry preview party.

DJ Mark Anderson put together the recordings for the VESTA Home Show industry preview party, which was held Nov. 17.

So, some guests might not be familiar with “Ramona” and other tunes associated with the 1920s. The twenties was the theme of this year’s party, so guests dressed in tuxes or their flapper best.

About 800 attended, said Don Glays, West Tennessee Home Builders executive director. “We had a committee of several people that put the party on. Through their brainstorming they came up with something a little different.”


Crafts & Drafts from Michael Donahue on Vimeo.

his year’s VESTA Home Show features six state-of-the-art houses in Chapel Cove in Germantown. The 

City of Memphis Christmas tree lighting. from Michael Donahue on Vimeo.

show runs through Dec. 10.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Royal Studios' 60th, Le Bon Appetit, Exceptional Foundation Chili Cook-Off

Posted By on Mon, Nov 20, 2017 at 6:02 PM

Celebrating backstage at "Sixty Soulful Years." - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Celebrating backstage at "Sixty Soulful Years."

Willie Mitchell’s Royal Studios 60th-anniversary celebration concluded Nov. 18 with “Sixty Soulful Years” at the Orpheum.

Robert Cray, The Masqueraders and Boz Scaggs were among the performers at the event. Following the concert, guests traveled a red carpet to the Halloran Centre for Performing Arts & Education for the after party.

Royal Studios owner/manager Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell was pleased with the event. “Man, it was magical,” he said. “Like a cool thing about it was the artists were all backstage getting a kick out of watching each other’s performances. Boz Scaggs watching SIMO: ‘Man. Amazing.’”

Asked if he was making any plans for Royal’s 100th anniversary, Boo said, “Maybe 75?”

Meghan Heimke and Kelly English at Le Bon Appetit kickoff party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Meghan Heimke and Kelly English at Le Bon Appetit kickoff party.


Guests are encouraged to show up with good appetites at Le Bon Appetit, which will be held June 9 at Crosstown Concourse. More than 40 chefs, including local and out-of-town chefs, will participate in the event, which benefits Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

Among the out-of-town chefs are Jonathon Sawyer of The Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland, Ohio; Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Diner in Raleigh, North Carolina; John Currence of City Grocery in Oxford; Aaron Sanchez of Johnny Sanchez in New Orleans; and Levon Wallace of Gray & Dudley in Nashville.

Le Bon Appetit will be hosted by Kelly English, chef/owner of Restaurant Iris, Second Line, Iris, Etc.; and Magnolia House, and Le Bonheur’s founding organization, Le Bonheur Club. English and the Le Bonheur Club founded the Le Bon Appetit.

“I think Le Bonheur is easily the best asset we have for this city and insuring the future of our city,” English said. “Insuring the next generation of not just Memphians, but people regionally. It’s an amazing place.

“When I was a kid I spent a long time in a hospital for adults. I fell out of my grandmother’s window and broke pretty much the left side of my body and ended up in traction and a body cast for six months. I had to learn how to walk again. And the hospital I was at was fine, but when you go to Le Bonheur and you see all the little things they do. Not just the big things, but the little things. And not just distracting kids, but letting them know that things aren’t as scary as they would be.

“They’ve got this toy run. Before a kid goes into surgery they go through a toy run. They get to pick something out. And when they get out of surgery, they have it. And that’s just one of the little things they do."

Le Bon Appetit, which was held in 2012, 2014 and 2016, has raised more than $800,000 for the hospital.

Tasting the goods at the Exceptional Foundation of West Tennessee Chili Cook-Off - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Tasting the goods at the Exceptional Foundation of West Tennessee Chili Cook-Off


Guests spiced up their lives at the Exceptional Foundation of West Tennessee Sixth annual Chili Cook-Off, which was held Nov. 4 at Overton Square Courtyard.

Money raised at the event “goes to scholarships for low-income individuals with intellectual disabilities,” said director Jo Anne Fusco. “We are ‘A Special Place for Those with Special Needs.’”

The cook-off is “our main fundraiser. Overton Square has been a great a location for us and it has helped to create awareness in the city of who we are.”

Chili Cook-Off Winners were Process and Power, first place; Shane Greer, Smokey Bottom Boys, second place; Jason Abis and Big John, third place. West Cancer Center received the Jon Poulin Spirit Award. And the People’s Choice Winners were Shane Greer, Smokey Bottom Boys, first place; RBG Accounting Firm, second place; and Temple Israel Brotherhood, Adam McColllum, third place.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Mustache Bash, Howl at the Moon, Babbie Lovett, Bari Ristorante

Posted By on Tue, Nov 14, 2017 at 2:28 PM

Mustaches were the thing at Mustache Bash. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Mustaches were the thing at Mustache Bash.

Firefighters gathered for the sixth annual Mustache Bash, which was held Nov. 11 at the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium in Cordova.

Memphis Fire Department and Bartlett Fire Department firefighters grow mustaches for the event, which raises money for charity. This year, it was the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. The silent auction raised money specifically for John Foote, a Memphis firefighter whose leukemia now is in remission.

Awards included Best Firefighter Mustache, Creepiest and Best Overall.

Stephen Zachar, a firefighter/paramedic with the Memphis Fire Department, and Jensen Pilant, a firefighter with the Bartlett Fire Department, celebrated their sixth anniversary as event co-chairs.

Asked what was special to them about the event, Zachar said, “It brings the tradition of the firefighter’s mustache. But it also brings the tradition of firefighters helping each other.”

Long before they wore air tanks on their backs, firefighters relied on their facial hair. “Men would grow very long beards and mustaches and dip them in water and roll them up to filter out the smoke as they fought fires.”

Jensen said, “We can choose where the money is going and what charity we want to do. And we get together and have a big party and grow ridiculous mustaches that the wives hate to see.”

Jensen began growing his mustache in October. Asked when he was going to shave, he said, “Well, I got up this morning and my wife had the razor already laid out for me. But i still have it. I’m kind of getting attached to it. Every time I went to the mirror, I was like, ‘Man. It kind of looks good.’ I still have it. I don’t know how long I’m going to have it.”

Zachar said he’s not shaving his off until the end of November. Memphis Fire Department director Gina Sweat “has dropped all mustache regulations per our uniform protocol and we’re having a fundraiser within the department,” he said. “They’re raising money for WINGS of Memphis.

“Normally we’re not allowed to have mustaches. They can come down to the crest of our lip and can’t be big. But she’s dropped that for the month of November. We can grow any kind of mustache. People donate money to the individual firefighters who grow their mustache and then the Memphis Fire Department will give it to the WINGS of Memphis.”

Clint Wooten, a Bartlett Fire Department firefighter who attended with his wife, Meradith, was clean shaven at the event. He had a mustache that he grew for Mustache Bash, but, he said, “I just shaved it yesterday.’

He shaved it for his family pictures, but he got his dates wrong. “We thought they were today. They’re tomorrow.”

And his wife actually liked his mustache.

Note: On Dec. 16, Memphis and Bartlett firefighters will be doing a Leukemia Lymphoma fundraiser for the Buffalo Wild Wings at Wolfchase. “If you go eat there at lunch and dinner, a portion of your tab will go to the Leukemia Lymphoma Society,” Zachar said.

And Memphis and Bartlett firefighters will take part in Scott Firefighter Stairclimb March 11 in Seattle. They’ll compete against 2,000 firefighters from around the world as they race wearing all their gear up 69 flights to raise money for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society.


Babbie Lovett tribute. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Babbie Lovett tribute.

Babbie Lovett was honored with a fashion show and reception, which was held Nov. 11 at Church Health, the event’s beneficiary.

Lovett, who owned two boutiques - Collectibles and Mine - said she was a “daughter, wife, mother, model, store keeper. And as my daddy used to say - crazy. And now I’m a great-grandmother.”

The fashion show - with models wearing their hair in Lovett’s signature ponytail style - featured many outfits from Lovett’s personal collection.

As she has done at countless fashion events, Lovett emceed the show. She urged her audience members not to be so serious about what they’re wearing. “Have fun with it,” she said. “I dare you to wear a feather boa to Kroger.”

Mayor Jim Strickland declared Nov. 12 “Babbie Lovett Day.”

“Babbie” red and white wine with a photo of Lovett and her ponytail on the label were served at the reception.

Sheila Wilson came up with the idea to do the event. “Originally, Babbie said, ‘Let’s do a fashion show for Church Health.’”

Wilson talked it over with a committee and said, “Let’s do this in honor of Babbie. We just need to honor Babbie. It’s time.”

In addition to Lovett’s outfits, the fashion show feature five from Kitty Kyle Collection and two from Joseph.

Outfits from the 1980s resembled the newer outfits. Fashion, she said, is “always moving. But almost always the same. A classic look is a classic look. It never changes.”

What did Lovett think of her tribute? “They were mighty generous to me in every respect,” she said. “I was totally and completely blown away.”

And Church Health in the Crosstown Concourse is “just an increcible place to have an event. And everyone could not have been more gracious to me.”

So, when did Lovett start wearing her hair in a ponytail? “Probably 35 years ago. When I was modeling I had every hairdo that could be had. And I got tired of having to fool with it. So, I just decided to let it go. My husband was ill and things sort of changed in my life. And it just became an easier thing to do.”


Melanie Daniel Pafford and Kent Pafford at Howl at the Moon. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Melanie Daniel Pafford and Kent Pafford at Howl at the Moon.

“Howl at the Moon,” the annual fundraiser for Streetdog Foundation, held Nov. 11 at the Warehouse in the South Main district, was a success, said Melanie Daniel Pafford, who, along with her husband, Kent, founded Streetdog.

Between 1,100 and 1,200 attended the event, which was a record. “It’s important that the fundraiser be successful and well attended and people bid,” Melanie said. “And it was. We started out with 500 people in 2013 and every year we go up about 100 people. Last year, we were right under 800.

“The funds raised from this provides 70 to 80 percent of our money that is used to pay for the rest of the year for all these dogs that we rescue. Even though we get donations throughout the year and some people donate through things they see on our Website our our Facebook, this is our one big fund raiser.”

Asked what makes the event successful, Melanie said, “The venue itself is so much fun. It’s a ‘come as your fun self.’ Grassroots. People just come and just enjoy each other. It’s casual. It’s fun and they know they’re doing it for the dogs. ‘Cause we’re 100 percent volunteer and 100 percent of what we make at the event goes to the dogs.”

Kris Kourdouvelis and Sharon Gray hosted the event, which featured live and silent auctions and music from Shufflegrit, South Side Supper Club, Grape, Bobbie and Tasha and DJ Tree.


Jason and Rebecca Severs celebrated their Bari Ristorante e Enoteca with a 15th anniversary party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Jason and Rebecca Severs celebrated their Bari Ristorante e Enoteca with a 15th anniversary party.

Has it really been 15 years since Bari Ristorante e Enoteca opened in Overton Square?

Owners Jason and Rebecca Severs held a reception Nov. 12 at the restaurant.

“Just to celebrate our 15 years in business with regulars and employees,” Jason said. “And giving our employees a chance to hang out with the regulars in a non-work atmosphere.”

Asked what sets Bari apart, Jason said, “It’s unique. No one else in town is doing what we’re doing. No one in town has done anything we did. Southern Italian cuisine. Very fresh and light ingredients. Letting the ingredients speak for themselves and not overdoing the food.

“No one still does an all Italian wine list and cheese program like we do. Southeastern. This isn’t about, ‘Let’s do an Italian restaurant, but it’s Italian and barbecue.’ It’s regional Italian.”

Friday, November 10, 2017

Cameron Bethany, Day of the Dead and RiverArts

Posted By on Fri, Nov 10, 2017 at 6:06 PM

Cameron Bethany at his "You Make Me Nervous" listening party at Dirty Socks Studio. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Cameron Bethany at his "You Make Me Nervous" listening party at Dirty Socks Studio.

Cameron Bethany will release his new EP, “You Make Me Nervous,” at 8 p.m. Saturday Nov. 11 at Loflin Yard.

Bethany might have been a little nervous at the listening party for the EP, which was recently held at Dirty Socks Studio, where it was recorded.

He and the EP’s producer, IMAKEMADBEATS, invited about 20 people. “Just wanting to have some people come out and take a listen and give their opinions,” Bethany said. “But I didn’t want people to feel biased or feel like they had to appease my feelings with me being in the room. So, I came up with the idea of doing it anonymously.

“We produced a list of people we respected. People who had been supportive through the years and genuinely interested in what we were doing. We wanted them to give their opinions first.”

Two groups were admitted to the studio at different times. They were given lined paper with the name of each song on the EP on each sheet. They listened to each song and wrote their comments about the song on the paper.

Later, Bethany read the comments and discovered “a few suggestions for things that may only add to the production that we have actually considered.”

But, he said, the EP “ultimately is in a place I’m proud of.”

The premise of the EP is “dealing with different things that contribute to feelings of anxiety or not being able to succeed wherever you are. Not feeling like yourself.”


Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead fiesta was held at The Columns. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead fiesta was held at The Columns.

Guests were told not to wear Halloween masks to the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) fiesta, but they could paint their faces to look like skulls. Instead of costumes, guests were asked to dress in black and white.

The Latino Memphis fundraiser, held Oct. 27 at The Columns, celebrates loved ones who passed away. Altars are decorated with paschal marigolds, sugar skulls and candles.

This year’s fiesta featured the Herencia Hispana folkloric dance group, Aztec dancers, New Ballet Ensemble, Salsa Memphis, Mariachi Guadalajara and music by DJ Moi and Catrinas by Cazateatro Bilingual Theater Group.


Lijah and Gabby Hanley at RiverArtsFest - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Lijah and Gabby Hanley at RiverArtsFest

On a chilly night in Downtown Memphis, Viewing Lijah Hanley’s photo, “Spring Breeze” probably made RiverArtsFest goers feel a little warmer than his “Smiling Back” snow scene.

Hanley was one of the art dealers at the outdoor festival. He and his wife, Gabby, chatted a bit as RiverArts was about to end for the night on Oct. 28.

“This is actually our first time here,” said Lijah “We’re driving all over the country.”

The colder-than-usual Memphis temps during the weekend of the festival probably were a little surprising to the couple. “We’re freezing,” he said.

Elisha Gold, who was demonstrating blacksmithing at the National Ornamental Metal Museum booth, called
it quits for the night. “It’s hard to weld when your hand is shaking,” he said.

But, as Ken Hall, said, “All the cool people are still here. In fact, they’re cold.”

Monday, November 6, 2017

Chris Phillips benefit, Kosher BBQ, VOX Awards and more!

Posted By on Mon, Nov 6, 2017 at 4:40 PM

Racquets at ChrisCrosswalk Benefit. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Racquets at ChrisCrosswalk Benefit.

"Chowder" from Michael Donahue on Vimeo.

Thanks to friends and family of the late Chris Phillips, three crossways will be constructed on Madison and, hopefully, may save lives.

Phillips, a server at Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, was killed while trying to cross Madison Feb. 22.

Molly’s La Casita restaurant owner Jamie Chapman got the ball rolling to do a crosswalk near the restaurant, said Phillips’s mom, Lauri Phillips. Lauri emailed Mayor Jim Strickland’s office to get connected with the traffic engineer. She was told a crosswalk was waiting to get approved.

The city approved three crosswalks on Madison. “They wrapped it up pretty quickly and approved them," Lauri said. "I wanted it to be an artistic crosswalk in Christopher’s memory. So, the official project name is the ‘Christopher Phillips Memorial Crosswalk’ - ‘ChrisCrosswalk’ for short.”

Chris’s good buddy, Vincent Hale, a bartender at Bari Ristorante, planted the seed for the crosswalk to be constructed in Chris’s memory.

Nashville artist Pam Haile, Lauri’s sister-in-law, is designing the crosswalks. “The inspiration for the art is the ‘Golden Slumbers’ trilogy from the Beatles ‘Abbey Road’ album," Lauri said. "Christopher loved that song, especially ‘Golden Slumbers.’ So, some of the lyrics from ‘Golden Slumbers’ and ‘The End,’ the third song in the trilogy, will be incorporated into the art.”

Shortly after Chris was killed, Richard Cushing from FreeWorld contacted Lauri. “Richard sent me a message expressing his condolences. He said, ‘Hey, at some point if you’re interested, we would love to play a memorial show in honor of Chris.’”

Lauri wanted the event to be a community-wide memorial benefit to fund the crosswalk project.

That’s where David Hacking came in. Hacking, lead singer and rhythm guitarist in Racquets, came up with two more performers - The Sheiks and the pop ritual - to play at the benefit.

The goal, Hacking said, was “to bring (Chris’s) favorite bands together to play a show for him.”

They raised $3,400 in cash and checks at the show, held Oct. 23 at The Blue Monkey on Madison, Laurie said. To date, including on-line donations, they’ve raised $6,951, she said.

Installation date is slated for mid November, Lauri said.

“The crosswalk is a memorial to Christopher, but it’s also a memorial to all pedestrian fatality victims in Memphis,” Lauri said. “We’re trying to create some awareness to what is an issue here in our city.

“In 2016, Memphis was No. 9 on what’s called the ‘Pedestrian Danger Index.’ It was No. 9 in the top 104 metro areas in the United States for pedestrian deaths. And the number of pedestrian deaths is outpacing last year. Through Sept. 5 we had 25 pedestrian fatalities. Christopher was No. 6.”


De'Andre Brown, Lucia Heros, and LaSalle and Phyllis Pratt were at the Playback Memphis party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • De'Andre Brown, Lucia Heros, and LaSalle and Phyllis Pratt were at the Playback Memphis party.

Lucia and Ricky Heros and Angie and Will Deupree hosted an event Oct. 19 for Playback Memphis at the Heros home.

“We wanted to expose a whole bunch of our friends to the world of Playback Memphis,” Lucia said. “And just bring awareness to the organization, explain what they do and present and celebrate some of the artists that are part of the Playback Memphis company. They’re so talented and so amazing.”

Playback Memphis is “basically an improv company. But it is a nonprofit. What they ask of the audience is to tell stories. To share with them.”

When the company members hear an audience member’s story, they “play it back to the audience.”

Maybe the person is being mistreated at work. “The company does this amazing sort of improv show based on this issue of being mistreated at work and plays it back. Helps the audience feel and understand what this person is feeling and living through. It really is so powerful.”

Playback Memphis’s performances are a creative way “people can share in that feeling of helping and understanding and healing.”

Rabbi Joel Finkelstein was at the ASBEE World Kosher BBQ Competition and Festival. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Rabbi Joel Finkelstein was at the ASBEE World Kosher BBQ Competition and Festival.
ASBEE World Kosher BBQ Competition and Festival. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • ASBEE World Kosher BBQ Competition and Festival.


Rain held off at the ASBEE World Kosher BBQ Competition and Festival, held Oct. 22 at Anshei Sphard-Beth El Emeth.

“I have my people working on the weather right now,” said emcee Ron Childers, who is WMC Action News 5 chief meteorolgist.

The event, which includes a barbecue contest, a basketball tournament, a pickle-eating contest and children’s activities, celebrated is 29th anniversary this year.

First place winners were:

Ribs: Adam’s Rib

Chicken: License to Grill

Brisket: Beth Sholom

Beans: Temple Israel Brotherhood

Showmanship: BBQ Wars: Return of the Rabbi

CBU president Dr. John Smarrelli Jr. and Brother Chris Englert were at the CBU Crosstown Concourse opening celebration. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • CBU president Dr. John Smarrelli Jr. and Brother Chris Englert were at the CBU Crosstown Concourse opening celebration.


Christian Brothers University now is part of the Crosstown Concourse.

The new space will serve as the home of the CBU’s Healthcare MBA instruction.

About 200 people attended the opening event, held Oct. 23.

Thomas Carlisle and William Franklin were at the Chefs' Celebrity Gala. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Thomas Carlisle and William Franklin were at the Chefs' Celebrity Gala.


An actual server was on hand to step in if a celebrity server suddenly turned into a butter finger at Memphis Child Advocacy Center’s Chefs’ Celebrity Gala.

Around 100 celebrity servers in white aprons took care of 500 guests, who dined on a gourmet dinner at the event, held Oct. 26 at Holiday Inn at the University of Memphis.

Andy Childs and his band returned for guests to trip the light fantastic on the dance floor.

The teddy bears were back, too. Guests could purchase the bears, which contained “surprises” on the order of jewelry, weekend vacations and gift certificates.

“We raised $260,000,” said a delighted Beryl Wight, the center’s communications and grants manager.

Peggy Reisser, Mark Winburne, Jennifer Biggs, James Dowd and Lela Garlington were at the VOX Awards - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Peggy Reisser, Mark Winburne, Jennifer Biggs, James Dowd and Lela Garlington were at the VOX Awards


Seventeen VOX awards and nine gold certificates were presented at the 2017 VOX Awards ceremony, held Oct. 19 at Sara’s Place at Memphis Botanic Garden.

The Memphis Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America annually recognizes the best in PR campaigns and tactics conceived, developed and implemented by Mid-South’s communications professionals during the past year.

The VOX awards are for the highest-scoring entries in each category and the gold certificates are for the second highest scoring entries.

Star awards were given to Beth Wilson, who received the PR Executive of the Year award, and Jennifer L. Sharp, who received the Rising Star award. The awards were presented to professionals representing the highest standard of excellence at different stages in their career.

Peggy Reisser of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center was VOX chairperson. David Brown of KQ Communications was co-chair.

WREG-TV anchor/reporter April Thompson was emcee. Me & Leah provided the music.

James Dowd of First Tennessee Bank is chapter president.


Eula Horrell, Robert Moody, Billie Jean Graham and Peter Abell were at the Memphis Symphony League luncheon. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Eula Horrell, Robert Moody, Billie Jean Graham and Peter Abell were at the Memphis Symphony League luncheon.

“Music-Music-Music” was the theme of the Memphis Symphony League Luncheon, held Oct. 27 at the Memphis Hunt and Polo Club.

Memphis Symphony Orchestra artistic director Robert Moody sang. He was accompanied by Tom Bryant.

Lura Turner sang “God Bless America.” She was accompanied by Marie DeBacco.

Symphony CEO/president Peter Abell welcomed guests. About 120 attended, said Billie Jean Graham, chair.

Eula Horrell is Memphis Symphony League president.

Friday, October 27, 2017

MoonPie Eating Contest, Nick Black

Posted By on Fri, Oct 27, 2017 at 4:15 PM

Brett "The Brranimal" Healey participated in the MoonPie Eating Contest at Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Brett "The Brranimal" Healey participated in the MoonPie Eating Contest at Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid.

With recent meatball and slider eating contests under his championship belt, Brett “The Brranimal” Healey tried his hand - and choppers - in The Bass Pro Shops World MoonPie Eating Championship, held Oct. 14 at Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid.

Healey went for the gold - as in golden graham crackers - as well as the marshmallow and chocolate.

He didn’t win; he came in seventh place out of 11 contestants, eating 24.5 MoonPies in eight minutes.

Healey, who ate his first MoonPie ever a week before the contest, said, “This was tough because you’ve just got eight minutes to go with as much as you can. This is the longest contest I’ve been in. The first time I’ve done it with sweets. It was pretty much just the people around me. Just keep pace with them. Go as fast as you can. And try to stay cool. It was a little hot out today.”

As in 88 degrees. As emcee Mike Sullivan said, “MoonPies with a chocolate covered shell, a marshmallow filling, I don’t know how well it’s going to go with the heat, so it’s going to make it that much tougher for the competitors out there. So, they have to have an iron will and a stomach capacity to match.”

Matt Stonie, whose record is 85 MoonPies in eight minutes, was the winner of $4,000. It was the third consecutive MoonPie Eating Contest for Stonie. This go-round he ate 73 MoonPies in eight minutes.

Asked after the contest if he could eat one more MoonPie, Stonie said, “I could. But I don’t have to. So, I’m good for now.”

Healey won the meatball eating contest Aug. 20 at the Monroe Ave. Festival in front of Bardog Tavern. He won the slider eating contest Oct. 7 at the Best Memphis Burger Fest in Tiger Lane.

As for MoonPie eating competitions, The Brranimal’s dad, Jim Healey from Jackson, New Jersey said,  “I don’t think I’ve eaten 85 in my lifetime.”

Nick Black held a listening party for his album, "Summer and Spring," at Theatre Memphis. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Nick Black held a listening party for his album, "Summer and Spring," at Theatre Memphis.


Not everyone has their album release party at Theatre Memphis. In fact, has anyone ever had an album release party there?

“Not that I know of,” said Nick Black, who held what he calls “a mix between a concert and a cabaret show” Oct. 11 at the theater.

He was backed by 11 musicians throughout the evening. “All the music I played save for a few songs were from my new album, ‘Summer and Spring,’” he said.

His originals, he said, are “a mix between Justin Timberlake and Michael Buble. It’s soul music, but I can’t say it’s neo soul. That’s a genre from the late ‘90s, early 2000s. If I would put a genre, I would probably say ‘retro soul’ or something like that.”

So, how did he get an album release show at Theatre Memphis? “I’ve been going to Theatre Memphis for shows for a long time. My wife works there. It was just kind of a confluence of all the right factors falling in place.”

His show was held on a Wednesday night. “They had a show running. We had to find the correct spot in the middle of the week.”

And, he said, “I had a lot of help from the staff. They were excited to put on the show.”

MoonPie Eating Contest from Michael Donahue on Vimeo.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Tequila Fest

Posted By on Mon, Oct 23, 2017 at 3:28 PM

  • Michael Donahue
  • Tequila Fest.

October is the month for flu shots, but this year it was the month for tequila shots.

The debut of Memphis Flyer’s Tequila Fest Oct. 13 in Overton Square Courtyard. More than 50 tequila labels provided tastings and education.

Jon Bringle and Jessie Yelvington manned the Tijuana Sweet Heat Tequila station. “It’s got a sweet cinnamon flavor,” Bringle said. And, he added, “I prefer it over any other.”

Asked how he likes to drink tequila, Bringle said, “I like to take it as a shot with an orange behind it.”

“Nothing with too much bite,” said Brett Wright. “I’m not too picky.”

Taylor Tournabene liks his “smooth” and “chilled.”

And Lee Olswanger said, “I drink Patrone straight. Really chilled. Really cold. No ice. It’s beautiful right there. Starts your night right. And ends it well.”

In addition to the tequila, the festival featured Day of the Dead face painters, screen printers printing of free T-shirts and a balloon hat maker.

The Flyer’s next Tequila Fest is slated for Aug. 24, 2018.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Emo and you

Posted By on Thu, Oct 19, 2017 at 3:25 PM

An evening of emo at the Hi-Tone. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • An evening of emo at the Hi-Tone.

How do you define “emo” music?

“Think ‘punk,’ but more whining,” said Ben Beninati.

Scotty Theunissen described it as “Emotionally nostalgic.”

Will King, vocalist for “Indeed, We Digress,” said emo music is “darker in tone and the musician puts a lot of emotion and passion into the music.” And, he said, “Usually the songs are dark thematically.”

King came up with the idea of throwing an emo night in Memphis, which was held Oct. 14 at the Hi-Tone. “I always love bands like My Chemical Romance and Senses Fail and stuff like that,” he said. “I had seen that they were doing similar things in other cities like LA and New York and Chicago. And I thought, ‘What’s to stop us from doing that here?’ I posted a Facebook stat asking Facebook friends who’d show up for something like that. And i got a great response. I was like, ‘Screw it. I guess I’m doing this thing.’”

He asked Theunissen to help. “He was super into it. And we just went from there and it became this huge thing. It had a way bigger turnout than I possibly could have hoped for. A little less than 100 paid, which means about 100 people got in.”

King and Theunissen had a “meeting of the minds” with Hi-Tone owner Brian “Skinny” McCabe, who said he’d put their list of specially-named drinks with the regular list and feature happy hour prices all night.

The emo drinks included “Sunny D Real Estate,” a screwdriver; “I Write Gins not Tonics,” the gin and tonics; and “Coke Without the E,” which were the whiskey and Cokes.

“We came up with the idea of the eyeliner booth,” Theunissen said. “We called it the ‘Cry Liner’ booth.”

Erica Grant applied eyeliner to guests during the evening. “Because emo is all about being very sad or emotional,” he said. “And the scene used to focus on heavy eyeliner and dark clothing and dark hair covering your face. We felt people might like to relive that and have fun with it.”

They also featured “black volley balls to throw around. To give it a party atmosphere. It was fun. We had mesh gloves available for people to wear. They were big in the early 2000s for people to wear in the emo scene.”

Wes “ DJ My Chemical Remix” Carter; and Alyssa “DJ Honestly?” Moore played the appropriate music for the occasion.

Said King: “The thing about ours that set ours apart from everyone else’s is a lot of other cities were taking it way too seriously. I still love the music. Love the bands. But the culture around emo and the way we dressed back then was funny. Not serious. We made a few jokes about it and didn’t take it too seriously. That way people who were embarrassed that they like music like that showed up.”

King, 23, was 14 when he got into emo. He loved emo bands, but he didn’t really dress emo. “I wore tight jeans. Jeans that were way too tight. Aside from that, not too much. My hair was in my eyes.”

Theunissen, who is 28, remembered listening to emo bands Taking Back Sunday, Thursday and My Chemical Romance, when he was 14.

He didn’t really dress emo, he said. “I wore like extremely tight girl pants. Made for women. I had long, curly hair and wore bandanas all the time. Tight T-shirts. And a bandana around my head.”

Back then he dressed “just like I do now. Only now I wear man pants.”

Monday, October 16, 2017

Foaming at the mouth at Cooper-Young Beerfest

Posted By on Mon, Oct 16, 2017 at 4:09 PM

Beer rules at the Cooper-Young Beerfest - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Beer rules at the Cooper-Young Beerfest

Leather lederhosen isn’t the best attire when the temperature is in the high 80s.

“I am sweating,” said Jacob Griffin, who, along with Roy Wells, were wearing the suede German-style pants at the Cooper-Young Beerfest, held Oct. 14 at Midtown Autowerks.

“My lower half is uncomfortably warm,” Wells said.

Amber Griffin, who was in a dirndle skirt and blouse instead of shorts, said she wants EVERYONE to dress in similar Oktoberfest attire at next year’s festival. Which may be a tall order if that day turns out to be another scorcher.

About 1,000 people - many of them in flip-flops and shorts - attended this year’s festival, which benefits the Cooper-Young Community Association.

Foaming at the mouth wasn't a bad thing.

The event has “definitely grown,” said Cooper-Young Community Association executive director Kristen Schebler.

Home brewing clubs and 31 breweries took part in the regional beer festival, she said.

“One thing that sets Beerfest apart is it’s a benefit for the local community,” Schebler said. “It’s all about community, right? So, it’s about Cooper-Young as a community and the brewing community as a community.”

When the festival began eight years ago, Andy Ashby and Drew Barton of Memphis Made Brewing Co. said the two communities should be combined. Brewers can “show off with each other and show off to other people what they’re doing,” Schebler said.

Goner Records provided music to sip or chug to.

Note: If you want a pair of those white socks with “BEER” written on them in red letters pictured on Cooper-Young Beerfest’s web page, you’ll just have to shop around. They weren’t selling them at the festival. “We have a lot of people who really get into it,” Schebler said. “It’s people who come out in all their different beer paraphernalia. I think that was just a fun one.”

Friday, October 13, 2017

Burger Fest and more!

Posted By on Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 5:02 PM

Brett Healey at Best Memphis Burger Fest. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Brett Healey at Best Memphis Burger Fest.

The Brranimal did it again.

Brett Healey, appropriately nicknamed “The Brranimal” for his power-eating expertise, won the slider eating contest at the Best Memphis Burger Fest, held Oct. 7 in Tiger Lane. He ate 12 sliders in five minutes.

On Aug. 20, Healey won the meatball eating contest at the Monroe Ave. Festival in front of Bardog Tavern. He was the first contestant to finish 40 meatballs. He finished in 13 minutes and 14 seconds, which beat the previous record of about 15 minutes.

“This is a new one for me,” Healey said. “I’ve done burgers, but never cute little burgers.”

Contestants were allowed to dunk their sliders into water during the contest. “I didn’t know if dunking was going to be allowed. I’ve actually never dunked in a contest before. But everyone else had the water cups. I mean, that’s the level you’re playing at, so I just went in there and ate as fast as I could.”

Did he eat breakfast before the event? “There was no breakfast this morning. That was my breakfast. I was very hungry.”

Gay, Josh and Morgan Hammond at the "Rommy Hammond Way" dedication. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Gay, Josh and Morgan Hammond at the "Rommy Hammond Way" dedication.


When he heard a section of Highland was going to be named after his dad, the late Rommy Hammond of Buster’s Liquors & Wines, Josh Hammond wasn’t sure “Rommy Hammond Street” sounded right.

Bill Boywid, long-time general manager at Buster’s, said, “It’s got to be ‘Rommy Hammond Way.’ We’ve got to do that.’”

And that’s what the section in front of Buster’s on Highland between Poplar and Central now is designated.

“For those who knew Dad, he truly did things his way,” Josh said. “He worked hard. He valued that in others. He said he was going to set out to build the largest liquor store in Tennessee. He said it at a young age and he did it. When he got behind something, he was full force with energy.”

Josh’s brother in law, City Councilman Kemp Conrad, suggested they name a section of the street after Rommy. Josh felt it was “very deserving.” Most people just know Rommy from “growing Buster’s into this incredible wine and spirits emporium.”

But, he said, many people don’t know Rommy “actually grew up in this area, a couple of blocks nearby on Ellsworth. He went to St. Anne’s Highland Elementary just down the street. The man probably spent 72 of his 76 years in this neighborhood.”

A special champagne celebration to commemorate the day and unveil the street was held Oct. 3. About 100 people, including family and friends of Rommy, attended. Included in the family group were Rommy’s wife, Gay, and sons Josh and Morgan.

The day was special in another way. “Today is Dad’s 77th birthday,” Josh told the crowd.

And, he said, “Cheers to Rommy!” Guests raised their glasses.

That’s not the end of the story.

“The next day when we came in I checked the customer count for that day,” Josh said. “It turned out to be 777 customers on his 77th birthday. If that’s not a sign, I’m not sure what is.”

Matthew Thacker-Rhodes, Dara Vongphrachanh and Jeremy Thacker-Rhodes at Baron's Man Cave party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Matthew Thacker-Rhodes, Dara Vongphrachanh and Jeremy Thacker-Rhodes at Baron's Man Cave party.


Well groomed spelunkers visited Baron’s Man Cave for the barber shop’s grand opening celebration of its “next level.”

Instead of stalactites hanging from the ceiling, suits and other stylish clothing were hung on racks.

“The first phase of it opened two years ago,” said Jeremy Thacker-Rhodes, who owns the store with Matthew Thacker-Rhodes and Dara Vongphrachanh. “Trying to come up with a concept like redefining the modern man was the goal when opening up the barbershop side. Baron’s is a new kind of barbershop. It’s designed with a modern man in mind. It brings you all the amenities and services of a high end salon, but delivered in a laid back, masculine environment.”

The store was ‘just a barbershop” when it opened, Jeremy said. “It basically offered haircuts, shaves and foot treatment and facials all under one roof.”

They then thought, “How can we take it to the next level? Throw in a full line of men’s grooming products, full men’s retail and jewelry into the mix.”

In addition to featuring master barbers and stylists, Baron’s Man Cave features Happy socks, Hudson and 7 All Mankind jeans, Scotch and Soda and Civil Society clothing lines, Jack Mason watches, Studebaker Metals and Corkcicle gift items.

“Our goal adding the retail was becoming a one stop shop,” Jeremy said. “A man can come in. He has a dinner date on a Friday night. He can come into Baron’s, change his whole style with his appearance - hair cut, all his grooming, his wardrobe. He can come in in gym shorts and leave full clothed and groomed for a night on the town.”

So, who is “Baron”? “‘Baron’ is actually a name that we came up with. It’s not anybody's name that we know."

They wanted a name that personified “a well groomed, masculine, well-put together man. What would be the name of a fine-tuned gentleman?”

Mike Divoky, Cathy Simmons, Susanna Kelley and Austin Bryeans at Spaytacular. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Mike Divoky, Cathy Simmons, Susanna Kelley and Austin Bryeans at Spaytacular.


A crowd of 160 two-legged people attended the 11th annual SPAYtacular to help their four-legged friends.
The event, held Oct. 9 at ANF Architects, featured food from area restaurants and an open wine and beer bar. Hank and Nora provided the music.

Board chairman/president Cathy Simmons chaired the event, which drew 160 people. “The purpose of the party is to benefit Spay Memphis, a non-profit dedicated to reducing pet overpopulation and high euthanasia rates by offering affordable spay and neuter surgery to the public.”

SPAYtacular “is our major fundraiser,” Simmons said. “However, we do accept private donations. We also get grants from certain organizations. We have a partnership with Memphis Animal Services. They pay us to spay and neuter dogs they are going to foster out.”

As for the proceeds from the event, Simmons said, “Whatever we raise from our fundraisers like this one will go for helping to run the clinic or offset surgery fees for people who can’t afford it. Some people come to the clinic and they don’t pay at all. We have a grant for people on government assistance. Or we have a grant for people over 65 or a grant for people on government assistance.

“All kinds of people can come to the clinic and not pay or get a reduced fee. Our fees in general - if you do pay full price - are generally lower than if you’re going to a private veterinarian. Some people cannot afford that.”

Brittany Pace is Spay Memphis executive director.


Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Mayor Jim Strickland at Downtown Memphis Commission 40th Anniversary celebration/Vision awards ceremony. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Mayor Jim Strickland at Downtown Memphis Commission 40th Anniversary celebration/Vision awards ceremony.

Lots of cake and other treats, including the Memphis Grizzline, were on hand at Civic Center Plaza Oct. 4 for the Downtown Memphis Commission’s 40th anniversary celebration.

Vision Award winners also were honored:

Scott Crosby, Madison Avenue Park; ServiceMaster Day of Service Team; Old Dominick Distillery; Odell Horton; Jay Kumar and Snay Patel of Hotel Napoleon; and the Henry Turley Co.

Tom Gannon at wine tasting at  Erling Jensen: The Restaurant. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Tom Gannon at wine tasting at Erling Jensen: The Restaurant.
. .......

A wine tasting at Erling Jensen: The Restaurant is an enticing idea. Athens Distributing held a tasting Oct. 4.

“It was for the trade only,” said Ginger Wilkerson, vice-president of the artisan selections division of Athens. “It wasn’t a public tasting. It was for our clients, restaurateurs and retailers.”

The tasting featured wines from the Spire Collection, which is part of Jackson Family Wine Estates. Tom Gannon, Northeast regional sales manager for The Spire Collection of wines, conducted the tasting.

So, what did Jensen serve as an accompaniment to the wines? Among the culinary items were duck confit with braised red cabbage and a cheese plate with four different types of cheeses: blue Stilton, espresso rubbed barely buzzed, Dutch Muenster cheddar and Parmigiano-Reggiano, said chef de cuisine Will Hickman.

Slider Eating Contest from Michael Donahue on Vimeo.

Savoy at the Rendezvous

Posted By on Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 3:10 PM

Guy Savoy at the Rendezvous - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Guy Savoy at the Rendezvous

Wearing a cap with “Mem” on the front, the man in the gray mustache and beard stood out as he walked to his table at the Rendezvous. And it wasn’t just the cap. He had a distinguished air about him.

It was celebrated chef Guy Savoy of Restaurant Guy Savoy in Paris, Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and four other restaurants in Paris, including Le Chiberta, which earned its first Michelin star after only six months of operation.A three-star Michelin guide chef, Savoy is a former recipient of the Legion d’ Honneur, France’s highest honor. His cookbooks include “Guy Savoy: Simple French Recipes for the Home Cook.”

This weekend, Savoy will be the featured chef at the Memphis Food & Wine Festival, which will be held Oct. 14 at Memphis Botanic Garden. He leads the roster of 13 out-of-town guest chefs and 20 local chefs who will prepare dishes that will be served by vintners and certified sommeliers.

Calvin Bell, who was named No. 1 server in Memphis Flyer’s recent Best of Memphis, was Savoy’s server Oct. 12 at the Rendezvous.

John Vergos, a Rendezvous owner, said, “He ate an array. He ate lamb ribs, pork ribs, brisket and the Rendezvous special - cheese, sausage, salami, pickles and peppers. He was very nice.”

Vergos heard Savoy say he loved the slaw, which is made from a 100-year-old recipe, and the lamb ribs, but he didn’t linger at the table. “I didn’t hover,” He said.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Best of Memphis, Gonerfest, 2 Girls and Whip and more!

Posted By on Tue, Oct 3, 2017 at 6:34 PM

Best of Memphis 2017 party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Best of Memphis 2017 party.

Second place wasn’t good enough for Calvin Bell, a server at the Rendezvous.

He came in No. 2 last year in the Memphis Flyer’s Best of Memphis contest.

This year he came in No. 1.

“This year when I was nominated, I gave it all I had,” Bell said. “I really lobbied for it.”

His strategy? After taking care of his regular customers, he’d say, “By the way, I got nominated for Best Server.”

He calls his good customers his “local loyalties.’ “I felt comfortable talking to them about it.”

Bell, who has been with Rendezvous for 27 years, and his fiance, Kimberly Farmer, attended the Best of Memphis 2017 party Sept. 27 at Graceland.

About 2,500 attended the event, which featured food (including duck legs from third place Best Chef winner Michael Patrick of Rizzo’s) and music by John Paul Keith and The Subtractions.

Gonerfest14. East patio at Murphy's. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Gonerfest14. East patio at Murphy's.


Andrew Anderson, who is in the Shakes and Proto Idiot, is a fan of Gonerfest.

What sets it apart from other festivals is it’s “open and welcoming and unpretentious,” Anderson said.

Other festivals are populated by “people who try to be cool and try to impress you.”

And Gonerfest? “Everyone is open and friendly and nice.”

Anderson, whose bands played during the festival, was among the 400 or so at Gonerfest14 Saturday Afternoon Blowout at Murphy’s, held Sept. 30.

Rob Blake, from London, Ontario, Canada, is in the band, Klazo, which didn’t perform at Gonerfest. He described the festival as “this gigantic melting pot of people from all over the world. Everyone is an equal.”

About “2,500 plus” .attended this year’s Gonerfest, which featured 36 bands in four days, said Zac Ives, who owns Goner Records with Eric Friedl.

Nick Longmire, who is in Burning Itch, a Knoxville group that didn’t perform at this year’s festival, summed up the attraction of Gonerfest in four words: “All the bands, dude.”

Two Girls and a Whip soft opening. With whisks. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Two Girls and a Whip soft opening. With whisks.


The new bakery, Two Girls and a Whip, held a soft opening Sept. 29 at 363 South Front. The bakery is slated to open to the public Oct. 9.

A “whip” is another word for a “whisk,” which probably was used to beat the from-scratch batter to make the 300 plus cupcakes for the opening event.

The owners are Caroline Dean, Mary Katherine Dunston and Courtney Lollar. Dunston and Lollar are the bakers a.k.a. the two girls with the whip.

The bakery featured their regular cupcakes - strawberry, lemon, chocolate, white cake and yellow cake - at the soft opening.

They also served other cupcakes, including “chipotle chocolate,” one of their specialty flavors.
Dean described the cupcake as “a dark chocolate batter that has just a little bit of chipotle - a very finely-ground chipotle - added to the icing. Also a special dark chocolate icing.”

They also sell “Boozy Batter” cupcakes - “Ones that actually have alcohol in them,” Dean said.

Guests could tri “White Russian” cupcakes at the event. They’re made with vodka and Kahlua.

So, who came up with the name “Two Girls and a Whip?” “Aldo did,” said Dean, whose husband is Aldo Dean, owner of Bar Dog, Aldo’s Pizza Pies and Slider Inn.

“Aldo has all sorts of Aldo has all sorts of random knowledge in his head,” Caroline said. “I’m sure he was thinking about the whisk being called a ‘whip.’”


Musa Banat, Mark Winder, Thomas Strickland, John Elmore at Mark Winder reception. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Musa Banat, Mark Winder, Thomas Strickland, John Elmore at Mark Winder reception.

Memphis Blues Rugby Club players gathered Sept. 30, but they didn’t wear cleats or sideburns. They already played rugby, so they changed shoes. And the Elvis 7s rugby tournament/homage to the King with its “Mr. Sideburns” contest is held in August.

The event, hosted by attorney Larry Magdovitz and his wife, Nouth, was a reception for Mark Winder, who was Larry’s rugby coach at Boston University. Winder now is head coach of the Mandurah Pirates in Mandurah, West Australia, near Perth.

“I invited him to come to Memphis and he took me up on it,” Magdovitz said.

Area restaurants provided food, which included crepes from Crepe Maker, lamb from Owen Brennan’s, pasta from Ciao Bella and key lime pie from Houston’s. Nouth also prepared some of the food.

The event also served as an “after inner squad match” held that day at McBride Field, said Spencer Hansen, one of the players whose likeness was captured by caricaturist Kevin Reuter, who kept a line in front of his easel as he drew portraits of guests.

The Memphis Flyer Best of Memphis 2017 party from Michael Donahue on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Festival time!

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2017 at 5:20 PM

Brian Williams, Anna Roxberg and Kelly Reed at BreakFest 901. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Brian Williams, Anna Roxberg and Kelly Reed at BreakFest 901.

BreakFest 901 was more than sausage biscuits.

Take “Black Friday Biscuit,” one of the contributions from Glaze Hardage and Ricky O’Rourke from the Sun’s Out Bun’s Out team. It’s made with turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce and gravy on a sweet potato biscuit.

His other items were “Bacon Bread Pudding Waffle,” “Chinese Takeout Omelet” - General Tso’s chicken and fried rice omelette; “Bacon Situation” - biscuits with bacon and bacon jam; and biscuits with crawfish gravy.

Hardage also is cook/catering manager at Blink restaurant/Melissa Catering, which is located at Southern College of Optometry.

“I had to defend the home court,” he said.

The categories were “Breakfast Sweets,” “Breakfast Sandwich,” “Omelet,” “Bacon Lovers” and “Anything Goes.”

Sun’s Out Bun’s Out came in second in Bacon Lovers and second in Breakfast Sweets. The team got third in Omelet and third in Anything Goes.

This year’s event - the third - was their biggest, said Christin Yates, who chaired the benefit with Andy Wells and Amy Chadwick.

“We sold right at 1,000 tickets,” she said. “Last year was around 750 or 800 people.”

Asked what sets BreakFest apart from other festivals, Yates said, “We try to make it all inclusive. So, if you’re not on a cooking team, come have a good time. There are games, family friendly activities, music and lots of other things to enjoy. I think that kind of draws people in and gives everybody something to do.

And they can eat. Booths handed out samples. Food trucks also were on hand.


Steve Mulroy, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Judge Janice Holder at STRUT. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Steve Mulroy, Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell and Judge Janice Holder at STRUT.

None of the bartenders at STRUT had to make frozen margaritas or even mix a scotch and soda. But if you were a guest, Shelby County Mayor Frank Luttrell or other Memphis celebrities might have poured a glass of red or white wine for you. Maybe a soft drink with ice. Or served you a beer.

The event, held Sept. 21 at Mercedes-Benz of Memphis, was presented by Community Legal Center.

About 200 attended the party, which included a fashion show, a buffet and drinks.

Jerri Green, director of community engagement, planned and coordinated the event. Long-time board member Steve Mulroy “should get MVP for the event,” said Anne Mathes with Community Legal Center.
“Recruiting emcees and celebrity bartenders, getting wine and beer donated, soliciting sponsorships and auction items and selling tickets - you name it, he does it.”

The event was presented by Laurelwood Shopping Center and Mercedes-Benz of Memphis.

Richard Ransom and Katina Rankin from Channel 24 news were emcees.


Jamond and Brittney Bullock at Farm Fest. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Jamond and Brittney Bullock at Farm Fest.

Instead of weeding or hoeing, guests could whistle along - or dance if they wanted - to Star & Micey tunes at Farm Fest, held Sept. 24 at Loflin Yard.

Farm Fest, hosted by Memphis Farmers Market, is “our annual fundraiser,” said Memphis Farmers Market executive director Allison Cook. “The proceeds go directly into funding the upcoming season.”

About 300 attended. “I think it was a great success ‘cause we had such great support from area restaurants that donated as well as our newest brewery, Old Dominick Distillery.”

Another reason was “the community support,” she said.


John Paul Keith and Will Sexton at The Hi Tone - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • John Paul Keith and Will Sexton at The Hi Tone

The Hi Tone was hopping Sept. 22. The big room featured the “Gimme Shelter” Rolling Stones Tribute/Benefit for HOPE (Homeless Organizing through Power and Equality) and the small room featured a release party for Louise Page’s new EP, “Salt Mosaic.”

The HOPE benefit featured 15 acts, said Kelley Anderson, who organized the event with Graham Winchester. Winchester performed with his band, Graham Winchester and the Ammunition. Shangr-Lla Records sponsored the event.

HOPE “raises awareness around issues affecting people experiencing homelessness - a condition that can happen to anyone if they don’t have recourses like good friends and family. Things to fall back on.”

They raised about $800, but hoped to raise $10,000, Anderson said. “The concrete goal is to help HOPE get a van for their members. To help them get directly to their services: meal services, job interviews, things like that. And, mainly, a way to continue their organizing work.”

Page was “overwhelmed with joy and gratitude’ about her EP release. “The amount of enthusiasm and support from my friends, family and community was completely unprecedented and uplifting," she said. "And now I can’t wait to do something even bigger and better and more luminous.”

Julia Wellford Allen, Page’s 91-year-old grandmother, was among the guests.

Also appearing with Page and her band were Strong Martian and Magnolia.

Toney Walsh from Mednikow Jewelers and chef Logan Guleff sport Bremont watches at a reception at Mednikow Jewelers. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Toney Walsh from Mednikow Jewelers and chef Logan Guleff sport Bremont watches at a reception at Mednikow Jewelers.

Mednikow Jewelers remembered Giles English’s birthday with a cake - decorated as the face of a Bremont Watch. Giles and his brother, Nick, are founders of the watch company.

Mednikow hosted a reception for the English brothers Sept. 20 at the store in East Memphis.

“This watch company and the way it’s doing business energized me in a way that no other watch company has in many years,” said Jay Mednikow, owner/CEO.

Dr. Blas Catalani sported his new Bremont Boeing watch. “I bought it a couple of weeks ago, but I felt it was most appropriate to pick it up on this occasion,” he said.

Jay Mednikow and the English brothers joined the gathering for the “after party” at the Rendezvous.

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