Friday, May 11, 2018

MusicFest, Hot Wing Fest, A Serving for Tennis, Gallery, Royalty at Railgarten

Posted By on Fri, May 11, 2018 at 4:25 PM

So, who wins the BEST HAIR AWARD at Beale Street Music Festival? Me or Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips? I choose Coyne. Hands down. Or hair down. - JAKE INGALLS
  • Jake Ingalls
  • So, who wins the BEST HAIR AWARD at Beale Street Music Festival? Me or Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips? I choose Coyne. Hands down. Or hair down.

Wayne Coyne is impressed with the Memphis in May Beale Street Music Festival.

I asked Coyne to share his thoughts on the festival the day after his band, The Flaming Lips, performed at the event May 6th.

“Memphis’ connection to the music of the blues, I think, is reflected in the way that Memphis still embraces the originality and music from the soul,” Coyne says. “Yesterday, this all happened at the same time. Luke Holmes modern country act; Juicy J modern rap act; us (The Flaming Lips. Not sure what we are but it was cool we were there); Post Malone modern pop act. All that happening on the same day just a couple of hours apart to such a massive, happy audience.”

“Massive” is right. Sunday May 6th was sold out.

“This wasn’t the first sell-out, but the first time in a few years — especially on a Sunday,” said Robert Griffin, Memphis in May director of marketing. “We sold out all three days in 2001 and 2002, but the last sellout was Saturday May 3, 2010.

“It was unfortunate we had to turn people away at the gates, but patron safety is our first concern so we didn’t want to overcrowd the park. This is why we strongly encourage people to buy their passes early. So, they’re not left standing outside the gates.”

Beale Street Music Festival - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Beale Street Music Festival

"A Serving for Tennis" - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • "A Serving for Tennis"

None of the tennis players “served” — as in the sports term — at “A Serving for Tennis.” But it’s safe to say they “loved” the fare served at the restaurants that participated in the event.

The Tennis Memphis fund-raiser, held April 27th at Propcellar, featured food, wine, and beer and music by The Dantones.

About 250 attended the event, which raised $53,000 for Tennis Memphis’ National Junior Tennis and Learning programs.

Tennis Memphis, a four-star National Junior Tennis and Learning network chapter supported by the United States Tennis Association foundation, manages and provides adult and junior programs at the seven municipal tennis center, Shelby County Schools, and community centers.

G. Reub and Lil Al at Railgarten - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • G. Reub and Lil Al at Railgarten


I’ve known Alex “Lil Al” Harkavy for years, but I’d never seen him perform until a couple of weeks ago when I attended a show featuring the hip-hop duo “Lil Al” and "G. Reub (Skahill)" at Railgarten.

They were fabulous.

And not everybody has Grammy-Award winning Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell on keyboards during your set.

“A Royal Night at Railgarten” was the title of the show, which featured Royal Studios performers.

I didn’t know Harkavy had that Royal Studios connection.

“Probably about five years ago, we were doing open mike nights — kind of like jam sessions — with a band called Triple Threat run by Jack Rowell,” Harkavy says. “They were doing a weekly jam session.”

The open mikes were held at various venues, but Harkavy and Skahill performed at one at the old Double J Smokehouse off South Main.

“Boo came up to us after the show and talked to us and asked us to come in the studio,” Harkavy says. “And we did. We worked with his son, Uriah. We’ve been in the studio working with him for about four and a half years.”

Lil Al and G. Reub will perform May 25th at Railgarten and May 26th at the Hi-Tone.


"A Taste of Gallery" - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • "A Taste of Gallery"

“Taste of Gallery” made its debut April 28th. Guests viewed art work and then dined on a seven-course meal at two 12-foot tables made from the two-story building at 64 South Main.

“It was definitely a success,” says chef David Krog, who along with his wife, Amanda, and Gabe Velasquez, who owns the building, are partners in Gallery.

The trio joined forces to transform the 11,145-square-foot building into a “one stop shop for people contributing to Memphis’s growth,” Velasquez said.

It will include a boutique health and wellness center, which will feature a restaurant serving healthy food owned by Amanda. A penthouse restaurant owned by David is slated to open within a year.

“When David and I held hands and turned around and looked at the people and saw their smiles and saw them enjoying themselves and saw the lights in the room and everything we worked so hard for come together - that feeling, I think, is a success,” says Amanda.

“Taste of Gallery’s” mission statement says it all: “Together with local artists, carpenters, muralists, family and friends, Dave Krog has created a pop-up concept intended to take you on a journey through the senses. A culinary emprise, an artistic escapade, where everything from the works on the walls to the tables at which you sit to the meticulously plated dishes put before you, are on exhibit for your pleasure. You will see art, taste it, and feel it in every aspect of your night.”

Another “Taste of Gallery” is slated to be held June 2nd.


Tarrell Ezzell - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Tarrell Ezzell

Southern Hot Wing Festival

Tarrell Ezell was the winner of the Hot Wing eating contest at the recent Southern Hot Wing Festival in Tiger Lane.

“This is the first eating contest I’ve ever been in,” Ezzell says. “I was not expecting to do this.”

So, what made him enter? “I’m always up for a challenge. I want to try something different. And I saw this and I’m like, ‘Man, let me try this.’”

Asked how he felt, Ezzell says, “Some of the weight I’ve lost has come back.”

Brett Healey, who has won several eating championships in Memphis, came in third. It was his first hot wing eating competition.

Asked what his strategy was, Healey says, “The wings were pretty tender, so for the fat wings I was trying to bite them apart, then just pull it off the bone and shove it in and just keep going as fast as I could.”

He’s not through with hot wings. “I’ll definitely be back next year. This was an awesome time.”


John and Gwen Montague at Arcade - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • John and Gwen Montague at Arcade

I love St. George’s Episcopal Church’s annual Arcade Antique, Home & Garden Show. Each year, there’s something I obsess about. This year was a bronze setter. I didn’t buy it, but I’ll be thinking about it for a long time.

The Arcade event usually is held in the fall, but this year the show was moved to the spring.

“I think they’re going to keep it in the spring,” says the show’s marketing/publicity chair Kit Decker. “They certainly are for next year.”

This year’s Arcade featured 15 antiques and home decor dealers, Decker says. “Four of them were new this year. We also had 11 artists this year. That’s something new that we added this year to the arcade.”

Tracy Vezina Patterson and Charlotte Albertson-Lescinskis chaired the event.

Friday, May 4, 2018

All the Food Groups: Crawfish, Steak, and Chicken.

Posted By on Fri, May 4, 2018 at 4:32 PM

Crawfish is on my mind this time of year. No matter where I am. Erling Jensen, one of the chefs at Israel Festival at Memphis Botanic Garden, just happens to serve crawfish bisque at his restaurant, Erling Jensen: The Restaurant. So, I'm in the right place. More on Jensen's crawfish bisque later. This week: Rajun Cajun and Israel Fest! - JON W. SPARKS
  • Jon W. Sparks
  • Crawfish is on my mind this time of year. No matter where I am. Erling Jensen, one of the chefs at Israel Festival at Memphis Botanic Garden, just happens to serve crawfish bisque at his restaurant, Erling Jensen: The Restaurant. So, I'm in the right place. More on Jensen's crawfish bisque later. This week: Rajun Cajun and Israel Fest!

This year’s Porter Leath Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival could have been dubbed the “Frigid Cajun” festival. People wore coats and scarves instead of the shorts and flip flops they usually wear at the annual festival.

“We had people buying our beer cozies and using them as gloves,” says Rob Hughes, Porter Leath vice-president of development.

And, he said, “I was wearing the same coat I was wearing for our Toy Truck we do every December.”

The festival still was fun. To me, it marks the official beginning of the spring festivals.

About 17,500 people attended, says Hughes. They raised about $50,000 net. But numbers were down because of the cold weather.

The wine and coffee vendors did well this year, Hughes says.

"We're back April 28 next year.”

Mud bugs on tap at Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Mud bugs on tap at Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival


Ryan Trimm, third from left, and his fellow chefs at 117 Prime are open for business. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Ryan Trimm, third from left, and his fellow chefs at 117 Prime are open for business.

The new steak place in town - 117 Prime - opens for dinner May 4th, but guests tried steaks early at a friends and family night April 18th.

I loved my juicy sirloin strip topped with Oscar sauce. It was extremely tasty. In fact, I liked everything about the restaurant.

I asked executive chef Ryan Trimm, one of the partners of the restaurant with Roger Sapp and Craig Blondis, what makes this new venture so special. He already owns Sweet Grass and Next Door and is a partner with Blondis and Sapp of Sunrise Memphis.

“Three things, really,” he says. “One, I’d say, is moving downtown. I hadn’t made that move yet. I’m excited to join that neighborhood. A lot of good friends down there - Patrick (Reilly, The Majestic Grille), Andy and Mike (Ticer and Hudman, Catherine & Mary’s, and The Gray Canary), so it’s exciting to join that group.

“Two, I would say my partners. We did Sunrise together, which was a blast. But this is the first time we’re doing something on more of the fine dining spectrum.

“Third, it’s just doing something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. A traditional steak house. Being able to put something out that’s been a staple in this country for a long time that still attracts people. No frills to it. We’re trying to make sure we’re doing it right.”

And, another thing is “being able to play with the vegetables a little bit. Something I’ve enjoyed and adding that to the traditional steak house.”

One thing that doesn’t look “traditional’ as far as steakhouses go, is the bright interior, which was “completely a 100 percent conscious decision,” Trimm says.

He and Ann Parker of Parker Design Studios worked on the concept, which included adding mirrors to reflect light. “Make a wall of light and really clean it up. Just make it pop when you come in. I’ve always been big on clean and welcoming tones.”

Trimm wants people to “feel comfortable eating with us.”

As for that prime meat, Trimm says, “I can’t make steak cheaper than it is. Beef is expensive.”

But, he adds, “We’re going to back up the price with quality. Make sure we get it from the right people. Get the right cuts. I think we’ve done that.”


Hattie B's Hot Chicken - Memphis soft opening - was a family outing for David and Mary Neal and their daughter, Hannah. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Hattie B's Hot Chicken - Memphis soft opening - was a family outing for David and Mary Neal and their daughter, Hannah.

A  total of 350 pounds of chicken were sold at the soft opening of Hattie B’s, which was held on April 17th.

About 400 attended to eat and check out the new location at 596 Cooper.

Owners/operators Nick Bishop Sr. and Nick Bishop Jr. attended.

The line seemed endless, but, apparently, that’s part of Hattie B’s. People want that hot chicken.

The term “groaning” was appropriate for how much food was on my plate. Guests could order what they wanted from the menu. For free that night.

The chicken wasn’t free the random afternoon I drove by the restaurant to see if people were standing in line when they had to pay.

There was a line.

Hattie B’s is hot.

The Shuk at Taste of Israel - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • The Shuk at Taste of Israel

Erling Jensen was one of the participating chefs at Taste of Israel - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Erling Jensen was one of the participating chefs at Taste of Israel

I’m all Shuk up.

I bought a copy of The Shuk’s self-titled CD at the Jewish Community Partners Taste of Israel party, which was held April 19th at Memphis Botanic Garden. I’ve just about worn it out on my Toyota Corolla CD player.

The Israeli band performed at the event, which celebrated Israel’s 70th anniversary, says Abbey Cowens, Jewish Community Partners fundraising and data base analyst.

About 500 attended the party, which featured cuisine from chefs Erling Jensen, Jose Gutierrez, Karen Carrier, Shelly Ostrow, and Josh Steiner, says Matt Timberlake, Jewish Community Partners communications manager.

“It was the culmination of our year-long ‘Israel at 70’ celebration,” Timberlake says. “And it was to create an event that everyone in the Memphis Jewish community could come to and share together. And bring Israel to Memphis.”

Memphis Botanic Garden was transformed into a Jerusalem shuk - an Israeli market. In addition to the food and music, the event featured Israeli wine tastings.

The Shuk - the band - is based in Los Angeles and New York. The group performed songs in Hebrew.

“The band went to see Dick Dale and his band at the Hi Tone after the show and thought he was real cool,” Matt says.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Drew Erwin opens downtown studio. Plus party news.

Posted By on Fri, Apr 20, 2018 at 6:05 PM

I'm not sure my metal act is what Drew Erwin (center) is looking for at his downtown studio, The Cabin. In fact, I know it's not. Daniel Waterbury rounds out our "band." - JON W. SPARKS
  • Jon W. Sparks
  • I'm not sure my metal act is what Drew Erwin (center) is looking for at his downtown studio, The Cabin. In fact, I know it's not. Daniel Waterbury rounds out our "band."

Singer-songwriter Drew Erwin’s recording studio, The Cabin, is open for business at 550 South Main.

“I’m calling it a ‘boutique recording studio’ ‘cause it’s obviously not commercial,” says Erwin, 22. “I definitely want to pick and choose who I work with. And that’s kind of like the cool part of me running it. I get to do that. ‘Cause I’ve been working on multiple projects. It’s like a one-man show down here as far as what I’m doing. It’s really hard for me to be in here countless hours working on something I’m not completely invested in.

“My overall vision for this was a place downtown where people around my age could go and just record and create with less pressure. I just wanted to create a really relaxed environment for younger creatives.”

Aaron James is one of the artists currently recording at The Cabin. Keynan Harden and other Unapologetic members are working with James on the record. “Aaron is getting a little more experimental with this record, so we’re getting some of the earthier stuff. Keynan and some of the Unapologetic guys are going to throw in some of their flavor.”

And Erwin says, “The other other night we did Bailey Bigger in here. She started tracking her EP and it was really cool ‘cause it was all live. Not to a click track. And it was really folky - mandolin, violin, and banjo. That kind of stuff. I would say the way it’s set up in here, it’s definitely more geared to live instrumentation.”

The Cabin formerly was the art studio of George Hunt. Erwin took out walls and built ceilings to adapt it to a recording studio. “This is a studio, but it’s also a basement. But the way that I see it, it’s my office. And I have everything down here that you need to record really high-quality stuff.”

The studio is in a basement, but, Erwin says, “It’s a basement on South Main.”

The Cabin, which has been open only four months, is taking off. “I’m just kind of taking it day by day ‘cause I’m still juggling school. I graduate in May. So, my goal was to set this up so I could hit the ground running in May. It already kind of looks like I will be, which is awesome.

“This is, obviously, something I’m going to be doing the rest of my life. I just needed somewhere to start and build a reputation. I just wanted it to be a place where people in college and people in high school feel like they can come and it’s a little more laid back than going to the bigger commercial studios. And there’s not a stigma behind it and it’s not intimidating. It’s just a little basement. You turn the lights down low and the vibe gets really cool. You light some candles and you just make some music.”

The Cabin’s Instagram is @thecabinmemphis



Bryan Hayes was the headliner at Ave Maria Foundation’s 17th annual Silent Auction and Concert, held April 7th at Heffernan Hall at Christian Brothers High School.

Hayes, who grew up in Brownsville, Tenn., now lives in Memphis. His latest album, “Farther Down the Line,” was produced by Grammy Award-winning producer-engineer Andy Hunt.

About 250 people attended the event and $60,000 was raised. Proceeds will provide assistance for Ave Maria Home residents and will help fund resident programs.

Drew Sachenbacher at his Sachenbacher Crawfish Birthday Party Extravaganza - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Drew Sachenbacher at his Sachenbacher Crawfish Birthday Party Extravaganza


You know it’s Spring when Drew Sachenbacher throws his annual Crawfish Birthday Party Extravaganza.

About 100 people attended the party, where about 130 pounds of crawfish were consumed.

This is the fourth year I’ve done it,” says Sachenbacher, 28. “My birthday just happens to fall in crawfish season, so I figured it’d be a good time to have a crawfish boil.”

Midsouth Woodworks is the family business, so all those Adirondack chairs, the bar, the shed and the deck at Sachenbacher's home were some of their woodworks. The 125 feet of fence for the backyard, was new this year.


Lt. Justin McNeely of the Bartlett Fire Department and his wife, Megan, at their twilight Easter egg hunt, - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Lt. Justin McNeely of the Bartlett Fire Department and his wife, Megan, at their twilight Easter egg hunt,

I’ve never attended a children’s Easter Egg hunt held at night until I went to the one hosted by Danny and Melinda McNeely and their son, Justin McNeely, and his wife, Megan, at Danny and Melinda’s Cordova home.

Actually, it was twilight when about 75 kids were unleashed from the house, where they had been watching a puppet show on the patio. They used little flashlights and glow sticks to search for plastic eggs. Adults hovered nearby or relaxed by the fire pit.

This was the first time the hunt was held after dark, said Justin, a lieutenant with the Bartlett Fire Department. The Easter Egg hunt tradition began five years ago. “The kids are getting a little bit older, so it was a chance to change it up,” he says.

Will it be held at the same time of day next year? “Of course.”

All 850 eggs were found.


New Wing Order tasting - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • New Wing Order tasting

New Wing Order, two-time grand champions at Southern Hot Wing Festival, held a taste test for their hot wings at a former art gallery on South Front.

“We started out as a competition cooking team and now we’re going to open a food truck in September,” says Jesse McDonald, who is in charge of New Wing Order operations. Cole Forrest is the marketing arm.

The purpose of the tasting was “to get feedback and get our name out there a little bit.”

They featured five wing flavors, including “Memphis Buffalo” and they gave guests “cheat sheets” so they could get some input on the wings. “I’ve been tweaking recipes a little bit from that.”

I was lucky enough to be one of the guests. My personal favorite was “Lynchburg Fire,” which tasted like whisky. “The name is kind of deceiving because of ‘Lynchburg,’ but it’s really named after the liquor (Tennessee Lynchburg Fire). It’s not really a hot sauce. We infused the liquor in there. It’s a tangy sauce. It sound like it’s going to be a real spicy one.”

New Wing Order, which will participate in Southern Hot Wing Festival April 22 in Tiger Lane, were grand champions in 2015 and 2017. They came in third place in 2016.

Wok'n in Memphis pop up at Porcellino's Craft Butcher - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Wok'n in Memphis pop up at Porcellino's Craft Butcher


I tried Spencer Coplan’s fried wontons at his recent Wok’n in Memphis pop up at Porcellino’s Craft Butcher. I loved them.

“The fried wontons are called ‘crab rangoon,’” Coplan says. “They’re filled with crab, cream cheese and green onions.”

Coplan uses American ingredients in place of Chinese ingredients when he makes Chinese food. In this case, he said, “They don’t make them. It’s an American thing.”

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Friday, April 6, 2018

Memphis Rox, No Kid Hungry, Spooktacular, Sip + Shop, Whiskey Warmer

Posted By on Fri, Apr 6, 2018 at 5:15 PM

I didn't really need a safety net when I tried my hand - and feet - at clmbing at the Memphis Rox Climbing + Community facility. Firefighters Stephen Zachar and Jensen Pilant obliged. - BEN BAKER
  • Ben Baker
  • I didn't really need a safety net when I tried my hand - and feet - at clmbing at the Memphis Rox Climbing + Community facility. Firefighters Stephen Zachar and Jensen Pilant obliged.
  • Jon W. Sparks

I’ve felt like climbing the walls when things got stressful, but I’d never actually climbed a wall — as in a rock wall — until I visited the new Memphis Rox Climbing + Community facility across from Soulsville. I got about half way up before I discovered I’d done enough and made some excuses about heading back down.

  • Jon W. Sparks

Well, I’ve got to say that rock wall climb left me feeling great the rest of the day. I felt like I did when I took yoga for a while. “Complacent” may be the best word.

Hollywood filmmaker Tom Shadyac, through his One Family Memphis nonprofit organization, built Memphis Rox, a 3,000 square foot climbing gym with walls up to 45-feet high.

So, why did I feel so good? “When you maintain your body in a certain position — especially a strenuous exercise — your nerve endings will recalibrate and realign to your best form as it is performing the most amount of work,” said Memphis Rox shift manager Kian Koleini.

And, he said, “Anytime you’re holding and maintaining positions, your glandular system is working. The oils in your body refresh themselves as well.”

  • Jon W. Sparks

Koleini described rock climbing as “a true challenge. A total challenge between the spirit that you have to maintain to have a strong will power to finish, the body that has to be in shape to do routes over and over again, and the mind that has to figure out the puzzle on the fly. The puzzle to get up. And the communication that happens just around rock climbing.”

I told Koleini rock climbing could be addictive for me. “It’s a correct kind of addiction,” he said. “There are things that are addictive and things that are habit forming. This is not habit forming. You have to willingly want to come here. If you come here habitually, you will progress leaps and bounds.”

  • Jon W. Sparks

Jeff McCann, 30, rock climbs three times a week at Memphis Rox. “I started about a year ago,” he said. “I guess just the athletic part of it. I really like the athletic challenge. Pushing myself. Seeing how I measure up against the other climbers.”

Ben Baker was into martial arts and boxing and played rugby in college. He wasn’t impressed with rock climbing until he tried it. “It’s a great workout,” he said.

He described it as “physical meets mental.”

I told him how my first try at rock climbing made me feel so relaxed. “In most climbing gyms they teach yoga. In yoga, the whole idea is you’re not just focusing on your body, you’re focusing on your mind, your balance and your flexibility. They go hand in hand.”

Maybe next time I feel like climbing the walls, I should just visit Memphis Rox.


Jensen Pilant and Stephen Zachar at Mustache Bash. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Jensen Pilant and Stephen Zachar at Mustache Bash.

Speaking of climbing, Stephen Zachar and Shaun Taylor, firefighters/paramedics with the Memphis Fire Department, were among the 2,400 firefighters who participated in The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Scott Firefighter Stairclimb March 11th in Seattle.

They climbed 60 floors of the Columbia Center, Seattle’s tallest building. Zachar did it in 28 minutes. Taylor did it in 41 minutes. That’s 788 feet of vertical elevation.

They do this in their full firefighters turnout. “We’re breathing out of our air tanks,” Zachar said.

“It was awesome,” Zachar said. “Sunny. Sixty two. Bluebird day. Seattle was awesome that weekend. And this stair-climb was from all over the world. You get them from United States predominantly, but you had guys from England, guys from New Zealand, guys from Australia. That adds another element. It’s the largest firefighter stair-climb in the world.

Jensen Pilant, a firefighter with the Bartlett Fire Department, didn’t make the Seattle stair climb this year. His wife was expecting their fourth child — another boy. Two years ago, Pilant did the Seattle climb in 15 minutes 30 seconds.

Pilant and Zachar raise money throughout the year, which they add to the money they raised at the stairclimb. This past year, the two firefighters celebrated their sixth anniversary raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society at the Mustache Bash Nov. 11 at the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium in Cordova.

Area firefighters raised more than $1,500 for the society. Over all, $2.5 million was raised at the climb.

No Kid Hungry dinner was held at Catherine & Mary's. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • No Kid Hungry dinner was held at Catherine & Mary's.

About $60,000 was raised at the No Kid Hungry dinner, held March 20th at Catherine & Mary’s restaurant.

“The purpose of the event was to raise money for the No Kid Hungry campaign, which is working to end childhood hunger across America,” said Jill Davis, senior vice-president, corporate partnerships and Taste of the Nation. Share Our Strength is the non-profit organization behind the No Kid Hungry campaign.

“It’s a national group, but we have a local footprint in every state. So, we work specifically in Tennessee and in every other state.”

About 85 people attended the five course dinner, which began with carne cruda and smoked mackerel tonnato from Jackson Stanhope of Fig in Charleston, South Carolina. Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman, owners of Catherine & Mary’s and other restaurants, prepared the fourth-course - rabbit with king trumpet mushrooms, sunchoke and green garlic.

Davis credits “the passion of the chefs” for the success of the dinner. “Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman worked with us for a number of years and are so supportive of what is our mission.”

“They brought in those other chefs from around the country to demonstrate Memphis is a city that cares about this issue.”

This isn’t a one-of-a-kind event for No Kid Hungry, Davis says. “We’re working on plans for next year. Something lead by Andy and Michael, knowing they have so many restaurants I can see them spearheading where we are. We’ll be back again with the support of Andy and Michael.”

Condomonium preview party - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Condomonium preview party

Guests got a sneak peak at clothing made with condoms at the Condomonium preview party, held March 22nd at the home of Kathy Fish.

The big event, Condomonium, a benefit for Choices, was held from 7 to 10 p.m. March 31st at Playhouse on the Square. Twelve designers participated.

“It features daring acts of condom couture,” said Holly Calvasina with Choices, a non-profit reproductive health care center in Midtown. “It really depends on the designers in terms of how many condoms they use. We don’t have a set rule. In general, the more condoms you use, the more likely you are to win.”

Prizes include “people choice, first and second. You get a bag of 10 condoms when you walk in the door. You put those in buckets in front of designs you love the most.”

Celebrity judges vote on “best use of condoms, most radical and most fabulous.”

The preview party was a “special party for our VIPS and sponsors to come and get an up-close look at all of the designs before the event. So, a week before anyone else sees it. See the designs up close and meet the designers. It’s a special thank you to all our sponsors for making the event possible.”

Gabby Grace Boutique was one of the online boutiques at Sip + Shop. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Gabby Grace Boutique was one of the online boutiques at Sip + Shop.

The parking lot was jammed March 25th when I visited the Sip + Shop Expo.

Odie Tolbert told me about the event, which was the idea of his wife, April Tolbert, owner of Gabby Grace Boutique, an online boutique.

“Her idea was to bring online boutiques together under one roof,” Odie said. “They don’t have a storefront. It’s hard for individuals to get in front of them.”

Fifteen boutiques, all owned by women, participated, Odie said. Between 600 and 700 people attended. It gave the boutique owners an opportunity to “be in front of their clientele to network, showcase their products.”

Sip + Shop Expo isn’t going to be a one-shot event, Odie said. “We’re going to have to do it again. Definitely annual. But we’re thinking of doing one before Black Friday. People spend their money on Black Friday.”

Birthdays were celebrated at Spooktacular - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Birthdays were celebrated at Spooktacular

You know a party has great potential when a Facebook announcement on the invitation reads: “I hope y’all ready to hit full freak mode.”

Aquarian Blood bass player Coltrane Duckworth was a host at a birthday celebration for Matt O’Bar and Rori Tyrell at Fort Douglass, the house where Duckworth is a resident.

Asked the name of the event, Duckworth thought a minute and said, “Spooktacular.”

Hopefully, this is “Spooktacular I” to be followed by “Spooktacular II.” And so on.

It was a party for the birthday honorees, but the most popular guest was a black puppy named Lucy.

Whiskey Warmer from Michael Donahue on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 50th

Posted By on Wed, Apr 4, 2018 at 4:23 PM

Carolyn Hill at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  50th anniversary - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Carolyn Hill at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 50th anniversary

Kroger at Poplar and Cleveland showed its solidarity on the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death.

Employees wore black T-shirts with the logo “MLK 50” in gold. About 60 shirts were made for employees to wear.

Front end clerk Janice Nelson came up with the idea of the employees honoring King because their Kroger store is the closest to the Lorraine Motel, where the Civil Rights leader was slain.

Locals and out-of-towners who congregated near the Lorraine shared their thoughts on April 4.

Adrienne Bailey, widow of Civil Rights activist Judge D’Army Bailey, said, “People from all around the world come here to celebrate the life,” she said. “And nourish ourselves and regroup on where we need to go.”

"High energy, everybody's happy," said Jalin Furcon from Chicago. He was selling King T-shirts. "It's a good vibe to me right now. Sun out. You feel me?"

“This is a very important commemoration,” said Jim Van Der Meulen, who was with his wife, Trude. They were visiting from Amsterdam.

Carolyn Hill brought a large oval picture of King. “Fifty years ago I was in the ninth grade,” she said. And the day King was killed seems like yesterday, she said. “It’s etched in your memory.”

Rod Gaston, executive director of Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering, and 152 of his students walked from Jefferson and Cleveland to the Lorraine area. Students carried signs with likenesses of Dr. King.

“A lot of memories will be forged this day,” said rapper Cliff “Awkard Cliff” Johnson from Denver.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Wrestling, Elvis, Emo Night

Posted By on Thu, Mar 22, 2018 at 4:07 PM

This probably is what it would look like if I ever got in the ring with Kontar and Andy Mack at a UCPWS live wrestling event at the Rec Room. I'll stick to standing outside the ring at the twice-a-month events, which are a blast. - JON W. SPARKS
  • Jon W. Sparks
  • This probably is what it would look like if I ever got in the ring with Kontar and Andy Mack at a UCPWS live wrestling event at the Rec Room. I'll stick to standing outside the ring at the twice-a-month events, which are a blast.

The only wrestling I’ve ever done is with my conscience. But I have to say I had a great time watching Kontar, Andy Mack and other wrestlers at the live wrestling event, which was held March 16 at the Rec Room. The wrestlers are part of Ultimate Championship Pro Wrestling South. UCPWS live wrestling will be featured the first and third Fridays of the month through the summer at the Rec Room.

The people I talked to loved the Rec Room wrestling event.

“I’m not big into wrestling, but this is awesome,” said Colin Ellis, who was with Vanessa Michalech. “They walk through the crowd while the crowd is giving them crap. It feels like everyone’s involved instead of just the people fighting.”

“I’m stoked to see this much of a crowd for Memphis wrestling,” said Chris Coles, who was with Kristen Coles, Evan Juraschka and Ben Seigel.

Stephen Thompson, who emcees the shows and does commentary, was pleased with the turnout at the second UCPWS events at the Rec Room. “We drew - if not close to - 300 the first time,” he said. “And we did a little over that this time. And we charged a cover this time.”

I got the event in time to see a wrestler named Crazy Jack enter the room carrying a little skull. I’m not sure if it was real or not.

“First time he had ever been there,” Thompson said. “And yet the crowd real dug everything that was going on with him. The guy he was facing was supposed to be the favorite, but by the end they were chanting for Crazy Jack.”

I got there late, so I missed the first match. Thompson filled me in. “A guy named Sam Armstrong from Atlanta - a heavyweight - called out one of these big guys Walker Hayes. He dove off a 15-foot-high structure in the corner of the room. It was crazy. Onto Walker Hayes and a security guard. He took out a security guard, too.”

Next UCPWS wrestling event at the Rec Room will be 8 to 10 p.m. on April 6.

Memphis Jones, Jerry Schiling, Priscilla Presley at "Elvis Presley: The Searcher" reception at The Guest House at Graceland. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Memphis Jones, Jerry Schiling, Priscilla Presley at "Elvis Presley: The Searcher" reception at The Guest House at Graceland.

I remember getting chewed out big time by the late Fred Chisenhall, assistant managing editor/news at the old Memphis Press-Scimitar. An intern at the time, I misspelled several names of people involved in an art show. I took the names over the phone and I didn’t check any of the spellings. Consequently, the misspelled names got in the paper.

I remember getting called into the office and Chisenhall - in a very loud voice - ticking off all the names I had misspelled. Like “Alice” for “Alex.” And, he pointed out, I spelled the first name of the late Ethel Vinson as “‘Ethyl’ - like the gasoline!”

Chisenhall made an impression on me that afternoon. I was much more careful about checking spellings after that. “Chis,” as he was called, was a great newsman. I remember him, later, praising a story I did on an opera “super” - someone who takes bit parts in operas. The story landed on the front page. Chisenhall probably had something to do with that.

I was a copy boy on my last day of vacation the day Elvis died. I returned to work the next day to a much more manic than usual newsroom. I recently found out that during all the craziness at the paper on Aug. 16 - phone calls coming in from all over the world and reporters scurrying to get the story - Chisenhall wrote the famous front-page Press-Scimitar headline, “A Lonely Life Ends on Elvis Presley Boulevard.”

Well, after seeing “Elvis Presley: The Searcher,” the four-part HBO documentary on Elvis’s life produced by Priscilla Presley and Jerry Schilling, that headline really made a new impression on me. I loved this documentary, which is such a wonderful, sad Southern story. At the end of his life, Elvis retreated into Graceland. The haunting shot of the columns that grace the porch Graceland will stick in my memory like scenes from a Tennessee Williams or William Faulkner work. The entire documentary was shown March 17 at The Guest House at Graceland. Schilling and Presley attended and chatted with guests at a reception that followed the showing.

In one scene in “Elvis Presley: The Searcher,” Elvis is at the airport with a bunch of reporters around him. One of the reporters looks like Clark Gable. I couldn’t place the face. Then it hit me. It was Fred Chisenhall. And he was talking to Elvis like they were old friends!

We saw you, Chis.

The first part of “Elvis Presley: The Searcher” will premiere at 7 p.m. April 14 on HBO GO and HBO NOW. Don’t miss it.


Spring breaking at the Hi-Tone. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Spring breaking at the Hi-Tone.

I don’t remember looking much different during the “emo” period in the early ‘90s. I dressed the same and wore the same glasses frames. My hair was dark brown, though.

Those who attended “Emo Night Spring Break of Sadness,” held March 16 at the Hi-Tone, wore “old high school band T-shirts, a lot of eyeliner, fishnet gloves, a lot of skinny jeans,” said Scotty Theunissen, 29, who co-hosted and produced the event with Will King.
“People would end up spiking their hair or gelling it down over their eyes. There were a couple of banana costumes.”

This was all in homage to that early time in their lives or, for some, a time they were too young to experience. Unfortunately, I wore a tweed jacket, which made me look like somebody’s un-emo 1990s high school teacher.

“A lot of us - our age demographic - grew up with emo and pop punk and punk rock in high school,” Theunissen said. “So, of course, it shaped us, had a strong effect on how we thought our moved or what we listened to. It was a preferred way to deal with what was going on in our lives.”

Asked to describe “emo,” Theunissen said, “It’s just inherently about - how do I put this without sounding too cheesy - breakups, not knowing what to do with your life and dealing with old life coming at you. And being low key upset about it and whining a pop punk melody.”

More than 200 attended the event, which was the third “emo night,” which was founded by Theunissen and King.

Usually a deejay performs, but at this “Emo Night,” Brooklyn band “Dude Ranch and the Girl at the Rock Show” performed.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Spirit Fest, Butcher's Dinner

Posted By on Fri, Mar 16, 2018 at 7:42 PM


I was surprised - and pleased - when I clicked Instagram on my phone March 11 and saw a painting of the “We Saw You” logo. The painting was on display at Spirit Fest, which was held that day. I contacted Jennifer Drew, who posted the photo and, eventually, found the artist, Anatheresa Palermo. I called Palermo and told her I had to have that painting. I love it.

It was doubly flattering to be surrounded by paintings of Elvis at the event. The King only could be shown from the waist up when he sang “ Don’t Be Cruel” in 1957 on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” In my logo, I’m only shown from the nose up.

Well, the painting now graces the blank wall that faced me every day at the office. But I wanted to find out more about Spirit Fest.

Norma Dejesus filled me in.

“It is a holistic fair, festival, where different holistic practitioners come together and offer their services and educate the public about the different services and modalities,” said Dejesus, the Spirit Fair coordinator.

The event - the fourth - was held March 10 and 11 at Unique Catering Event Center in Bartlett.

It was hosted by The Circle, a non-denominational store owned by Dejesus at 2465 Whitten Road Suite 105. The store, which offers holistic services, is open Wednesdays through Sundays. “Basically, it is a center that is geared toward helping people connect to spirituality,” Dejesus said. “And empower them with that connection.”

The next Spirit Fair will be held Nov. 10 and 11 at Unique Catering, Dejesus said.

For more information, go to

The City Block Salumeria Butcher’s Dinner at Alchemy. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • The City Block Salumeria Butcher’s Dinner at Alchemy.

The City Block Salumeria Butcher’s Dinner featuring Lucky Cat owner Zach Nicholson, Memphis chef Fotunato Oliva and a team of friends was a success. The five-course meal was one of a series of monthly meals.

“It was memorable experience,” Nicholson said. “We did a really elegant grille cobia dish over glass-like cucumber gelee cubes plated on a clear glass brick. That was visually stunning.

"We had some of the best beef available for purchase in the world. We had the highest grade of Wagyu beef you can buy.

“The first course was fun, too. We did blood sausage and sea urchin. The way we prepared it was we made a butter with the roe from the sea urchin and froze it. The fun part of that course was we took the frozen butter pieces and we grated them over the blood sausage right in front of each guest like pottarga.”

Phillip Ashley of Phillip Ashley Chocolates assisted with the desserts. Former Hog & Hominy bartender Aaron Hanna and Jon Neizer of Hog & Hominy created saki cocktails.

The monthly dinners were begun by City Block owners Nick Scott and Brad McCarley to “raise awareness” for City Block Salumeria, Nicholson said.

Each month, a guest chef will prepare a five-to-seven course dinner that will highlight charcuterie from City Block Salumeria.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Cuisine, wine, retiring pianist, reborn building, Mr. Lenti turns 100, CBHS is cookin'!

Posted By on Fri, Mar 9, 2018 at 6:29 PM

My dream of working in a kitchen with a great chef like Kelly English might turn into a nightmare. For the great chef. This is what my dream might look like. - JON W. SPARKS
  • Jon W. Sparks
  • My dream of working in a kitchen with a great chef like Kelly English might turn into a nightmare. For the great chef. This is what my dream might look like.

I have a dream of working in a kitchen under the guidance of a great chef like Kelly English, owner of Restaurant Iris and Second Line. It would be great to really learn how to cook. It might not be so much fun for the chef, though. People usually have to tell me how to do things many times before I finally get it. I like to call it “reiteration.”

Stephanie Ferreira had a dream that had to do with fine dining and wine. Her wish came true. Ferreira, Belinda Anderson, Deirdre Malone and Bonnie Pinkston hosted their second Vintage901 - three days of “wine, food and community” to benefit the Women’s Foundation, Anderson said.

“She and her husband (the late Chuck Ferreira) spent a lot of time touring, just going to wine festivals all over the country,” Anderson said. “That’s what they loved to do. She and her husband wanted to bring a festival here. Then her husband passed away, unfortunately. She took some time off.”

After some time she contacted Anderson. “She called me and asked me if I thought it was a good idea to have a wine festival that she and her husband wanted to have. Bring a true three-day wine festival here. She asked me if I could find some people to help.”

Anderson and her husband, Calvin, also love to attend wine festivals, so she, Ferreira, Pinkston and Malone and their team got together and made it happen.

“The Wine Coach” Laurie Forster, who has appeared on the Today Show and other programs, attended to speak to the wines for the second year in a row. “She is considered our ‘Grand Sommelier,’” Anderson said.

I attended the March 3 event, which was a dinner at Memphis College of Art. English prepared a four-course dinner with two wine pairings for each course. Food included miso roasted salmon with okonomiyaki and crema and slow roasted duck leg with local pea succotash and tarragon emulsion.

And, I have to say, I’ve never seen the first floor of MCA look so elegant.

Stephani Ferreira, Kelly English and Belinda Anderson at Vintage901 Perfect Pairings Dinner. - MICHAEL DONAHIUE
  • Michael Donahiue
  • Stephani Ferreira, Kelly English and Belinda Anderson at Vintage901 Perfect Pairings Dinner.


Brother Joel McGraw and Roman Novarese at A Taste of CBHS. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Brother Joel McGraw and Roman Novarese at A Taste of CBHS.

Speaking of food, I’m always amazed at the fine chefs/restaurateurs who are a product of Christian Brothers High School, my alma mater. Ryan Trimm, owner of Sweet Grass and Next Door, Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman, owners of several restaurants, including Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, Hog & Hominy, Catherine & Mary’s and the new The Gray Canary, and Mike Garibaldi, owner of Garibaldi’s Pizza, are among the CBHS graduates.

I attended A Taste of CBHS, held March 4 in Hefferman Hall, a building that wasn’t even there when I graduated.

Food stations lined the walls. People packed the place. And you didn't have to tip.


Jimmie Tucker, Margot Payne, June West, Will McGown and Juan Self at Preservation Posse After Hours at Universal Life Building. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Jimmie Tucker, Margot Payne, June West, Will McGown and Juan Self at Preservation Posse After Hours at Universal Life Building.

I passed by the Universal Life Insurance Building hundreds of times in the 40-plus years I’ve worked at newspapers in the Downtown area. I always was impressed with the beautiful Egyptian Revival building and how pristine the shrubs and grass were kept. But I never went inside.

I finally got my wish March 1. I attended the first Preservation Posse After Hours event, which was held at the renovated building.

“The renovators’ happy hour series is an informal and fun way to learn about adaptive re-use and restorations projects happening all over our city,” said W. Preston Battle, who emceed the event.

According to Preservation Posse’s web site, the building, which was vacant since 2001, will re-open to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative events in April.

The building, constructed in the 1940s, was headquarters for Universal Life, which was the fourth-largest African-American-owned life insurance company in the country.

McKissack & McKissack, an African-American-owned firm in Nashville, designed the building.

Self & Tucker Properties, which purchased the building in 2006, is the developer and designer of the renovation project.

Plans are for the building to be a hub for entrepreneurship and community revitalization for organizations committed to creating a better Memphis.


Dougan Grimes sings and plays guitar at Avon Acres. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Dougan Grimes sings and plays guitar at Avon Acres.

I remember Roger Sapp and Craig Blondis telling me about a venue they were going to open behind their Central Barbecue location on Summer. I sort of forgot about it until I got an invitation to a friends and family night event for Avon Acres, which was held Feb. 27.

On the night of the event, I walked behind the restaurant expecting to see a nice-sized building that could be rented for events. I even thought maybe it was attached to the restaurant. Then I was told to look South. I walked through the wall and saw the building. It looked enormous. That was Avon Acres.

The 5,800 square-foot venue can accommodate 300 (seated) and 375 (standing) guests.

I was impressed with Dougan Grimes, who is a bartender at Sweet Grass/Next Door. He sang and played guitar at the event.

Grimes, 33, who writes originals, played covers on his Martin acoustic/electric guitar for two or three hours with just a short break. “Different stuff like Allman Brothers and Clapton, The Band, Dylan. Roots music. Grateful Dead.”

He said he plays gigs whenever he can. “I’ll pick up something here and there. Mostly it’s for stuff like that. Little private party gigs. I haven't played out anywhere in a while. In a bar or anything like that."

Grimes hasn’t been in a band in Memphis. “I had a little group when I lived in Fayetteville, Ark. I can’t remember what we called ourselves.”


Charlotte Vaughn's last night as Folk's Folly pianist after 30 years. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Charlotte Vaughn's last night as Folk's Folly pianist after 30 years.

Charlotte Vaughn, on the other hand, played in a bar - for 30 years. She was a pianist for 30 years at Folk’s Folly.

She played her final gig March 1 to a packed house, full of friends and well-wishers.

Vaughn moved to Dallas, where her children live.

Vaughn plans to play piano in Dallas. “I do plan to still make music somewhere. I just don’t know where right this minute.”

“New York, New York” is the one song she’s probably played the most during her long Folk’s Folly post. “I always enjoyed playing it,” she said.

Her favorite song? Leon Russell’s “A Song For You.” I like the emotion involved in it. I love his interpretation of it. I love what it says. I love what it means. And I love the melody.”


Louis Lenti at his 100th birthday party at Ave Maria Home. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Louis Lenti at his 100th birthday party at Ave Maria Home.

Louis Lenti celebrated his 100th birthday with a party March 1 at his new home at Ave Maria Home.

Guests included the local Marine Corps League and the Knights of Columbus from The Church of the Nativity, Lenti’s home church.

The Marines in their dress blues presented the colors.

Lenti was a private first class Marine from 1941 to 1945 during World War I. He was a sharpshooter and a key figure in the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.

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Friday, March 2, 2018

Rainy night in Memphis, African-Print Design

Posted By on Fri, Mar 2, 2018 at 4:50 PM

What Michael Donahue might have looked like if he didn't have an umbrella while covering seven parties in a row. - JON SPARKS
  • Jon Sparks
  • What Michael Donahue might have looked like if he didn't have an umbrella while covering seven parties in a row.

I broke my record for covering parties. I attended seven parties Feb. 24. I went from Memphis Botanic Garden to 409 South Main.

Lots going on that night. And it was raining.

I began with the Les Passees Cabaret, the annual event featuring the Living Ads. When I was growing up and even after I began covering parties at the Memphis Press-Scimitar, Les Passees Cabaret was the place to be on New Year’s Eve. It was one of the social events of the year, as I recall. It was held at The Peabody. If I remember the story correctly, people didn’t want to travel Downtown to the event anymore and the party moved to other venues and other dates.

This year’s Living Ads were Kelsey Douglas, Katelyn Elmore, Anne-Elizabeth Matheny, Kaitlyn Keppen and Regan Lee.

“A Venetian Masquerade Ball” was the theme.

Shannon and Ryan Ito and Cindy Pena at Madonna Learning Center Gala and Auction - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Shannon and Ryan Ito and Cindy Pena at Madonna Learning Center Gala and Auction

I then zipped over to the Hilton Memphis for the Madonna Learning Center Gala and Auction. “A Night of Reel Fun!” was the theme of the event, which featured live and silent auctions. The Soul Shockers performed. Joe Birch was master of ceremonies.

Mix-Odyssey, a fundraiser for Volunteer Odyssey, was next. This was at a new venue for me: Propceller on Summer.

About 300 attended, said Caroline Borron, who coordinated the event.

Emily Oppenheimer and Vincent Hale at Mix-Odyssey - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Emily Oppenheimer and Vincent Hale at Mix-Odyssey

Vincent Hale, a bartender at Bari Ristorante, and Josh Conley won the People’s Choice award for his ‘35 and 90” punch. The numbers stand for “the two latitudes of Memphis,” Hale said. “It was a 19th-Century style punch.”

The drink included dried fig, dried pear, lemongrass and orange peel, which were steeped in rum for about eight days, Hale said. “Then I added Copper & Kings aged brandy, an American brandy out of Kentucky.”

He then added Cocchi Americano, an aperitif, and Falernum - “an almond syrup with lime and star anise and allspice. So, it kind of has that rum spice feel to it. And a little lemon juice. It was really good.”

He garnished the punch with grated nutmeg and dried lemon peel.

Describing his “old school punch,” Hale said, “A long time ago punches weren’t a bunch of fruit juice added to the rum. It was a very long process. Very boozy. The end product was sweet and free, but more in the realm of a Manhattan. All the spirits balanced together as opposed to a bunch of fruit juice.”

Colby Jones came in first place with "285 Foxwood" and Aaron Hanna came in second place for "Faith Healer."

I then headed over to the Bodine School’s “Sapphires & Blue Suede Shoes” gala at Children’s Museum of Memphis. This was the first time I’ve seen “Silent Auction, Dinner & Carousel” on the program. The Memphis Grand Carousel, one of the greatest attractions to return to Memphis, was available for guests to take a whirl. Jim and Kathryn Gilliland and Kirby and Windy May chaired the event.

Next up was the Exchange Club’s Hands of Hope Auction Party at Ballet Memphis. “The Heart of It All” was the theme of the fundraiser for the Exchange Club Family Center. Hunter Morris conducted the live auction. Peabody Rocket performed. Brittney and Sam Haynie and Cara and Justin Grinder were the chairs.

Mid-South Heart Ball gathering. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Mid-South Heart Ball gathering.

“Rockin’ the Blues” was the theme of the Mid-South Heart Ball, an American Heart Association fundraiser. I have to say, Memphis Jones and his band’s renditions of Elvis standards, including “Hound Dog,” were the best I’ve heard since the King recorded them. Excellent stuff.

Except for some cheese and grapes I ate at Mix-Odyssey, the seared filet mignon with port wine sauce and flax seed crusted salmon was the first food I’d eaten all night. Dr. Purvisha Patel, who chaired the Heart Ball with her husband, Dr. Dharmesh Patel, had a plate fixed for me. It was close to 10 p.m.

I quickly ate and then dashed out the door - only to remember I didn’t have my notebook with all the info from the parties I attended. They already cleared the table, so a server and I went to the hallway to search the racks of trays of dirty dishes from each table. No notebook.

We returned to the ballroom and the server looked under the table where I ate and found my notebook! I was so happy. On to the next party.

By this time my cowboy boots and socks were soaked, but I managed to park and walk a few blocks (needlessly because there were closer parking spaces) to Merge Memphis Presents Winter Festival of Lights at 409 South Main before the event was over.

I got there late, but Lisa Ortosecco, who attended, was ecstatic. In her text, she wrote, “It was absolutely flipping gorgeous. I can honestly say it’s one of the top three (parties) I’ve ever been to in my life.”

“We just called it the Winter Festival of Lights - helping you to turn on the lights for homeless women in our community,” said Sherry McClure, who, along with her husband, Keith, founded Merge Memphis, a non-profit with the mission to “feed the hungry in Memphis, clothe those that need clothes and to shelter women from the streets.”

This was their first major fundraiser, Sherry said. “We had a small chili cookoff back in the fall, but this was our inaugural gala. It was great. We had local restaurants donate all the food.”

They also had live and silent auctions and music.

About 260 attended, she said. And they exceeded their goal for money raised, she said.

Sherry was impressed that “everyone came out on a rainy, stormy night for it.”

Merge Memphis’s next event will be Hats & Horses, a Kentucky Derby watch party, which will be held May 5 at the La Quinta Inn and Suites on Union.

Danielle Tyson and Alphone Muhubiri at African-Print Fashion Now! - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Danielle Tyson and Alphone Muhubiri at African-Print Fashion Now!

Jocelyn Sengiyumva, Yope Kwangaba and Emilienn Yope at African-Print Fashion Now! - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Jocelyn Sengiyumva, Yope Kwangaba and Emilienn Yope at African-Print Fashion Now!

I really enjoyed the preview party for African-Print Fashion Now! A Story of Taste, Globalization, and Style, which was held Feb. 23 at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

The energy and electricity in the gallery was dynamic and fun. The Memphis Fashion Week pop-up fashion show featured designs by Mbabazi House of Style, Tanganika by Tangie Seay, and ROYALTY by Christina Westbrook.

Memphis Fashion Design Network director Abby Phillips coordinated the show. She contacted the local designers to represent Memphis designers who incorporate African print into their designs. “Each designer brings their own take on design, but all use the vibrant print that can be seen during the current Brooks museum exhibit. The exhibit is inspirational and the local designers make it attainable.”

Entertainment was by DJ Siphne Aaye. Paradox Catering provided the food and drink.

The exhibit includes 60 tailored fashions, 100 archival and contemporary cloths, 20 black-and-white studio portraits from the ‘60s and ‘70s, runway videos and, finally, works by contemporary visual artists.

About 500 attended the preview party.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Military Masquerade, Maciel's Highland, The Gray Canary

Posted By on Fri, Feb 23, 2018 at 3:36 PM

Guests - and a reporter - donned masks at the Military Masquerade. - LACEY HUDMAN
  • Lacey Hudman
  • Guests - and a reporter - donned masks at the Military Masquerade.

I saw a stack of purple cardboard top hats with “Mardi Gras” written on them in Kroger’s closeout section after Lent began. If I’m not mistaken, I didn’t see the hats the next day. Someone probably bought them to wear that weekend.

The point I’m trying to make is people love to wear masks and costumes in Memphis whether it’s’ before or after Halloween, Mardi Gras, El Cinco de Mayo or Day of the Dead. I’ve covered many a costume party, which, apparently, was held just because it’s fun to dress up.

It’s difficult for me to wear a mask because I wear glasses, but many people wore masks at the second annual Military Masquerade, which was held Feb. 17 in the Cadre Building. Alpha Omega Veterans Services, a nonprofit that aids homeless and disabled veterans, hosted the event.

DeJaVu catered the event along with Erling Jensen: The Restaurant. Gary Williams told me he’s planning to re-open DeJaVu on Florida in mid March. I can’t wait. I particularly can’t wait for some of his gumbo. The shrimp etouffee at the party was fabulous.

The Mighty Souls Brass Band performed along with a special appearance by Al Kapone and his band. The event also featured a silent auction and live auctions.

The evening began with a “second line,” which is where guests and musicians parade down the street carrying umbrellas (oddly enough - it wasn’t actually raining during the parade) and waved handkerchiefs.

About 120 attended the event, said Stephanie Beliles, who chaired this year’s and last year’s masquerade parties.

Beliles came up with the masks and the Mardi Gras theme. “February is the month of love and good times, so it’s a perfect time to celebrate our veterans," she said. "That’s the reason why we choose to do this event. ‘Cause it’s 100 percent celebration.”

ARS/Rescue Rooter was the “Medal of Honor” event sponsor.

Cordell Walker, executive director of  Alpha Omega Veterans Services, and Mayor Jim Strickland at the Military Masquerade. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Cordell Walker, executive director of Alpha Omega Veterans Services, and Mayor Jim Strickland at the Military Masquerade.


Manuel and Lisha Martinez at Maciel's Highland soft opening. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Manuel and Lisha Martinez at Maciel's Highland soft opening.

Friends and family attended Maciel’s on Highland’s soft opening, which was held Feb. 15 at the new restaurant on the Highland Strip.

Among those families was owners Manuel Martinez and his wife, Lisha, and their son, Preston.

Mexican food flowed from kitchen to table to about 60 people who attended the event, held two days before the restaurant opened to the public.

Maciel’s Highland, like its Downtown location, offers traditional cooking, which is more like everyday cooking in Mexico. Maciel’s Highland also features a bar, where customers can get their favorite drinks as well as traditional Mexican mixed drinks,

Bubba Ezell, Andrew Ticer, Mark Parker and Michael Hudman at The Gray Canary grand opening. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Bubba Ezell, Andrew Ticer, Mark Parker and Michael Hudman at The Gray Canary grand opening.


The Gray Canary was singing Feb. 20 as guests packed into the new Andrew Ticer/Michael Hudman restaurant, which is housed in the Old Dominick Distillery.

The five course meal was prepared by Ticer and Hudman along with John Currence, Tien Ho, Cassidee Dabney and Kayla Palmer. A host of chefs assisted with the dinner.

The dinner - open fire is the theme at Gray Canary - included ember-roasted vegetables, spinalis, roasted wild mushroom veloute and Blackberry Farm grits with preserved summer vegetables.

Palmer brought more smiles with her tiny shortcake dessert with kumquat, white chocolate, black pepper, pistachio and meyer lemon gelato.

Brad Thomas Parsons manned the Amari cart for guests, who didn’t want dinner to end.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Meat Fest, Wine for Wishes, Works of Heart

Posted By on Thu, Feb 15, 2018 at 3:13 PM

Since I’m under the assumption I resemble Cris Kirkwood from the Meat Puppets, my colleague Jon Sparks took a photo of me and paired it with one of Kirkwood. Meat Puppets would have been a perfect fit at Meat Fest. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Since I’m under the assumption I resemble Cris Kirkwood from the Meat Puppets, my colleague Jon Sparks took a photo of me and paired it with one of Kirkwood. Meat Puppets would have been a perfect fit at Meat Fest.

I once was told I look like one of the Meat Puppets. I’m assuming this person meant the band’s bassist Cris Kirkwood. I see a resemblance and it’s very flattering. I asked my colleague Jon Sparks if he’d take a photo of me and pair it with one of Kirkwood (as Kirkwood looked a while back). I’m also told I look like Weird Al Yankovic, Howard Stern and “the scientist in ‘Back to the Future.’ (Christopher Lloyd).” I even got “Eddie Money” one time. These people really thought I was him and sent their child over at McDonald’s to get my autograph.

Well, I turned into a “meat puppet” at Meat Fest, the annual shindig thrown by David and Lauren Barsotti. This year’s feast was Feb. 11 at the Barsotti home. I was lured from meat tureen to meat tureen as if I was being led by marionette strings. I began with the gumbo made of chicken and Andouille sausage and continued on to beef tenderloin, leg of lamb and then pork from the whole hog David smoked. I returned a few times to the beef tenderloin, which was the best beef tenderloin I’ve ever eaten. It was so tender and tasty.

I didn’t make it to the chicken wings, stuffed pork loin, pork tamales and oxtail raviolis.

Meat Fest began about eight years ago, David said. “It was just to have a big cookout before I gave up meat for Lent,” he said.

It was a Fat Tuesday event, but, David said, “I just happened to be off that Sunday, so it was a little more convenient for me.”

He originally didn’t call it “Meat Fest,” David said. “It was just really me inviting a few people over and cooking some food. And everybody started calling it ‘Meat Fest.’ I realized there wasn’t any changing it. It was going to be called ‘Meat Fest.’”

There were desserts, too. Melissa Pope made the rich, dense chocolate cake. She saved me a piece because I raved about it last year.

Shallis Gonda did the King Cake. I got the first and last piece. And I didn’t get the plastic baby, which means I don’t have to buy the King Cake next year. But who’d want to do that? Gonda makes a superb one.


Dave Scott and Markie Maloof at Works of Heart. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Dave Scott and Markie Maloof at Works of Heart.

Dave Scott from Dave’s Bagels was a volunteer at the 26th Works of Heart, held Feb. 10 at Memphis College of Art. Asked if he made a heart for the auction, Scott said, “I should have made a bagel heart.”

That would have been perfect. Maybe next year. The annual event for Memphis Child Advocacy Center features hearts made by artists.

This year, 108 artists participated, said the center’s communications and grants manager Beryl Wight. “They were all artists,” she said. “We didn’t solicit art from anyone else. Every year, our Works of Heart planning committee looks at artists to invite. Artists are offered a 12-inch wooden heart to use, if they choose. Many use it in inventive ways. Many don’t use it at all.”

I think they had to use the wooden heart in the old days.

How much was raised? “Our preliminary figure for next proceeds after expenses is $85,000.”

As Tin Man once said, “If I only had a heart.” Works of Heart guests who didn’t bid on a heart could say that. Those who weren’t the high bidder on the heart they wanted now might be saying, “If I only had THAT heart.”


Rob Wiles checks the bouquet at Wine for Wishes. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Rob Wiles checks the bouquet at Wine for Wishes.

About 400 people attended this year’s Wine for Wishes, the annual Make-A-Wish Mid-South fundraiser.

“We had 400 people in attendance at Wine for Wishes this year,” said the organization’s vice president of development Brooke Ehrhart. “The event raised more than $65,000.”

In addition to wine provided by Buster’s Liquors & Wines, the event featured Old Dominick Distillery signature drinks.

Charvey Mac provided the entertainment.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

King Kookamonga burger, Mama Manousakis, Making Memphis

Posted By on Wed, Feb 7, 2018 at 5:47 PM

Michael Donahue's Kooky Canuck hamburger was a much smaller version of the King Kookamonga burger devoured in a record-breaking challenge at the restaurant. - JON SPARKS
  • Jon Sparks
  • Michael Donahue's Kooky Canuck hamburger was a much smaller version of the King Kookamonga burger devoured in a record-breaking challenge at the restaurant.

I finished my hamburger at lunch the other day at Kooky Canuck, but my burger was a fraction of the size of the one The Brranimal (a.k.a. Brett Healey) and Big Eater Mike (a.k.a. Michael Whities) demolished Jan. 28. It didn’t weigh as much. They ate a six-pound King Kookamonga burger, which, with all the fixings, weighs 12 pounds.

Mine wasn’t even categorized as a “monga;” it was a “Simple Beginnings” - a half pound burger. I did have fries with mine, but I don’t think that counts.

Healey and Whities entered the King Kookamonga challenge. The duo had to eat their hamburger in 60 minutes.

They broke the Kooky Canuck record for the King Kookamonga challenge; they ate the whole thing in 37 minutes and 58 seconds. (See video below).

What’s even more impressive is they made such a great showing after polishing off a 28-inch pizza with cheese, pepperoni and bell peppers the day before at Rizzi’s Pizza Cafe in Arlington.

Asked before the challenge how they felt, Healey said, “This one, it’s going to be a little different from yesterday.Totally different kind of food. It’s a little bit more food.”

Healey and Whities didn’t eat anything from the time they finished the pizza until they took the first bite of the King Kookamonga. “The pizza’s the last thing I ate,” Healey said. “I’ve been sipping water and coffee. So, staying hydrated. Trying to get all the pizza out and be ready for today’s challenge.”

“I haven’t had anything to eat,” Whities said. "Mainly just tried to get rehydrated with a lot of water.

They both said they were hungry.

Shawn Danko, who owns Kooky Canuck with his wife, Lana, was impressed. “The previous record was 50 minutes,” he said. “They did great. Oh, my gosh. You knew right away once they got started in that 50 minutes was not going to be an issue at all.

It was just how much they were going to beat 50 minutes by.”

I once won first place in a pumpkin pie eating contest. I won $250 (before taxes were taken out). I had to be the first person to eat the whole pie. I can’t remember if I could use my hands. I do know it was my power eating contest debut and farewell performance.

But I did learn a few things if I ever decide to enter the King Kookamonga challenge. First thing you do is cut the hamburger sandwich in half. Eat the meat first. Then the “vegetables.” End with the bread.


Saki Manousakis, Yanni Manousakis, Irini Manousakis, Karen Carrier and Stephanie Cook at Mama Manousakis 60th birthday celebration. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Saki Manousakis, Yanni Manousakis, Irini Manousakis, Karen Carrier and Stephanie Cook at Mama Manousakis 60th birthday celebration.

Irini “Mama Manousakis” Manousakis was honored at her 60th birthday celebration, held Feb. 4 at Bar DKDC.

Guests were asked to bring food. “She fed all of our friends growing up,” said her son, Yanni Manousakis, who operated Yanni’s Foodtruck for about a year. Also attending was Yanni’s girlfriend, Stephanie Cook; and his brother, Saki Manousakis, who was one of the actors in “$5 Cover” and “Feral.”

Yanni made lemon potatoes from one of his mother’s recipes. It’s just potatoes, garlic, lemon, pepper, salt and olive oil. Cook at 375 degrees for an hour and a half, Yanni said.

And, of course, Mama Manousakis made food. “She wasn’t supposed to,” Yanni said.

She made grilled cheese with homemade pimento cheese, spanakopita and baklava.


Richera Jackson, Laurence Tominello, Melanie Towery-Prevost and Pam John at Making Memphis. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Richera Jackson, Laurence Tominello, Melanie Towery-Prevost and Pam John at Making Memphis.

Madonna Circle held its “Making Memphis” tea and awards Feb. 4 at Memphis Botanic Garden.

The four honorees were women who “we said were making Memphis a better place,” said event chair Katelin Walker.

“Madonna Circle gives a large grant each year to a non-profit organization not necessarily affiliated with the Catholic church,” Walker said. “This year’s recipient was the Neighborhood Christian Centers. So, in order to raise the money for the grant, we did a sweepstakes. During the event, we drew our sweepstakes winner. That winner won $5,000.”

The honorees were Darlene Winters from Company d, Ephie Ballard, executive director of Neighborhood Christian Centers; Brittany Spence, founder of Forrest Spence Fund; and Lauren Wilson Young from Sweet Lala’s Bakery.

“A Fashion Forecast” was the theme of the event, which featured a fashion show.

Walker’s daughter, 11, helped with the event. “She was in charge of the technology. She was doing the sound.”

King Kookamonga Challenge from Michael Donahue on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Pizza, 100 Women Who Care Memphis, and remembering Hilton McConnico

Posted By on Thu, Feb 1, 2018 at 5:31 PM

Michael "Big Eater Mike" Whities and Brett "The Brranimal" Healey at the pizza challenge at Rizzi's Pizza, - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Michael "Big Eater Mike" Whities and Brett "The Brranimal" Healey at the pizza challenge at Rizzi's Pizza,

I had enough to eat after I finished two slices of cheese pizza at Rizzi’s Pizza Cafe in Arlington.

It’s hard to imagine how The Brranimal (a.k.a. Brett Healey) and Big Eater Mike (Michael Whities) felt after eating a 28-inch pizza with toppings - cheese, pepperoni and bell pepper.

I ate mine in about 10 minutes. They demolished their pizza in 31 minutes and 23 seconds.

Healey and Whities undertook the challenge to eat the pizza within an hour. They were amazing.

I’ve been following Healey to write about and videotape his area eating challenges. I met him at Aug. 20 at the Monroe Ave. Festival, where he was the first contestant to finish 40 meatballs. It took him 13 minutes. Then I watched him win the slider-eating contest at Best Memphis Burger Fest, which was held Oct. 7. He ate 12 sliders in five minutes. He came in seventh place out of 11 contestants in the MoonPie Eating Championship, held Oct. 14. He ate 24.5 MoonPies in eight minutes.

Healey met Whities at the MoonPie competition, where Whities came in fourth place. The pizza challenge was the first time they’ve teamed up for such an event.

“I have done one team pizza challenge prior to this,” Healey said.

Whities said he’s never done a pizza “team challenge per se,” but, he’s said he’s eaten “two large Domino pizzas.”

“So, no problem,” Healey said.

Asked if he got in shape for the pizza challenge, Healey said, “I’ve been training all week, yeah. Eating a lot of fruit, veggies, stretching the stomach out.”

They both broke a sweat during the challenge, but they looked quite cool and calm after they knocked fist and ate the last two bits of the pizza.

Asked how he felt, Healey said, “I don’t feel as agile as I did when I walked in here. I’m a little slow.”

But not slow enough to take on the gigantic Kookamonga burger the next day at Kooky Canuck.

That story and video will be up next week. Stay tuned.


Hilton McConnico
  • Hilton McConnico

I was fortunate to meet Hilton McConnico years ago in Memphis. I believe it was in the late 1990s when Memphis Brooks Museum of Art held a retrospective of 30 years of his creations.

I remember how upbeat and friendly he was.

McConnico, who worked in fashion, movies and interior design, died Jan. 29 in Paris, where he lived since 1965.

He worked for fashion designers, including Yves San Laurent. In the late 1990s, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art held a retrospective of 30 years of his creations.

McConnico also was set designer and art director for more than 20 movies, including “Diva.” He was nominated for five Cesars - the French equivalent of the Oscar - and won one for best art direction for “The Moon and the Gutter.”

His “Cactus” creations for Daum crystal, included one presented by Francois Mitterand as a gift of state to President George H. W. Bush.

McConnico also was the first American to have his work permanently inducted into the Louvre’s collection.

“His interior design included major architectural elements and construction,” said his niece Denise Taylor. “He would recreate rooms within rooms.”

Taylor said, “He was my uncle. He was closer to my age than my mother, so he used to joke that he was really my big brother. And we were close. Incredibly.”

She remembers his “unrelenting cheerfulness and optimism and enthusiasm for life. Everything was, ‘Oh, that’s wonderful.’ ‘Isn’t that fabulous?’ ‘Let’s have some of this.’ ‘Let’s do this.’ Everything was a joyful challenge.”

McConnico, who “grew up in Memphis,” was enrolled at Southwestern at Memphis (now Rhodes College), but he met the editor of Vogue magazine in New York before he graduated. “She said, ‘You need to be in Paris.’ And off he went and never came back except to visit.

“We were really proud of him. He was a shining star in our family.”


From Room in the Inn, Whitney Brown, Lisa Anderson, Alise Davis and Rene Platten at 100 Women Who Care Memphis meeting. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • From Room in the Inn, Whitney Brown, Lisa Anderson, Alise Davis and Rene Platten at 100 Women Who Care Memphis meeting.

Room in the Inn Memphis was chosen as the beneficiary of 100 Women Who Care Memphis at a meeting held Jan. 16 in the Church Health community room in Crosstown Concourse.

100 Women Who Care Memphis is a member-run organization formed to impact the local community and make it stronger.

Room in the Inn Memphis provides emergency shelters and meals during the coldest months of the year.

The group was chosen from three non-profits that “were asked to make a five-minute speech on how they are impacting our local community,” said 100 Women member Madelyn Gray. “After hearing presentations, Room in the Inn was voted No. 1 by members.”

Room in the Inn Memphis will receive $14,500.

Pizza Challege from Michael Donahue on Vimeo.

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Monday, January 29, 2018

Jerry Lawler gets an A

Posted By on Mon, Jan 29, 2018 at 7:12 PM

Agnes Stark and Jerry Lawler at  Incognito! - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Agnes Stark and Jerry Lawler at Incognito!

Instead of dropping Hulk Hogan in a pile driver at a wrestling match at Madison Square Garden, Jerry Lawler talked about his art teacher with potter Agnes Stark at the Incognito! art show at Memphis Botanic Garden.

Lawler was one of the artists in the art show, where guests bid on artwork not knowing who actually did the artwork. All the work in the show, held Jan. 26, was unsigned; guests learned who the artist was after they bought the work.

Lawler and Stark talked about the late Helen Stahl, who was Lawler’s art teacher at Treadwell High School. She also was a friend of Stark’s.

“I’ve drawn all my life,” Lawler said. Stahl was his teacher in the 10th, 1th and 12th grades. “I majored in art. And then when I graduated in 1967 she had put together a portfolio of my work I had done in her class and submitted it to Memphis State (now University of Memphis). I won a full tuition commercial art scholarship.”

Lawler is an amazingly talented artist. Years ago, I drove to Waterford, Mississippi to his art opening at a little gallery, which was jam packed when I arrived. He draws and paints in a variety of styles.

“Crazy Mixed Up Kid” is the title of his painting in Incognito!. “It was sort of a comic book art piece,” he said. “I’m just a fan of that style art. Last year, I did a panel from a Batman comic book. And this was actually a panel from a romance comic book.”

Lawler, by the way, now can be seen on Memphis billboards with the words “Product of Public Schools.”


Miles Tamboli and his dad, Roy Tamboli, at 20 Under 30 reception - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Miles Tamboli and his dad, Roy Tamboli, at 20 Under 30 reception

Memphis Flyer’s Twenty Under Thirty Class of 2018 was honored at a reception Jan. 24 at Old Dominick Distillery.

Each year, the Flyer devotes an issue to the best and brightest Memphians under 30. Readers nominated more than 50 exceptional young people. They were introduced and given plaques during the reception.

“It’s a huge honor to be with these people who are doing really cool things in this city where you can make a huge impact as someone under 30,” said Molly Wallace, who is building libraries in KIPP Memphis Collegiate Schools.


Memphis in May poster unveiling featuring art by Erin Harmon, right. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Memphis in May poster unveiling featuring art by Erin Harmon, right.

I’m half Czechoslovakian (my mother’s maiden name was “Strunc”), so I’m ready for this year’s Memphis in May International Festival salute to the Czech Republic.

The celebration kicked off with the unveiling of this year’s commemorative poster Jan. 25 at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

Memphis artist Erin Harmon, a professor of art at Rhodes College, is the artist. “The picture depicts multiple aspects of, basically, the visual culture of the Czech Republic,” Harmon said. “Art, architecture and design were things that I just got real inspired by when I was doing research on the country and culture.

“I couldn’t narrow it down to one image. It’s a collection of images in circles. The circles are interconnected. There’s a lot of motion in the picture.”

The viewer can read the images as if they’re coming out of this silhouette of a woman’s head done in Art Nouveau style in the bottom left hand corner. “I think the Czech Republic is known for Art Nouveau in its architecture and great history of graphic arts and design. And artists like Alphonse Mucha.”

The silhouette is a link to Mucha, Harmon said. “He would include a lot of heavily outlined profiles of women’s heads in his paintings. The silhouette is the actual head of a soprano. She was an actress and a singer and the first Czech star of the Metropolitan Opera - Jarmila Novotna. I found a profile shot of her from a record of hers. I traced her portrait and put her portrait in the style of Mucha.”

The pink and gold halo around her head is taken from the arches of the facade of the Jubilee Synagogue in Prague. Other sites included in the painting are Our Lady Before Tyn (Prague), The Rock Castle (Sloupe), Tepla Monastary (Tepla), The Altneuschul (Prague), San Nicolas Cathedral (Prague), and the Strahov Monastary (Prague).

Harmon also pays homage to Czech toy designer Libuse Niklova, Czech artist Egon

Schiele and graphic designer Ladislav Sutnar.

Her artwork actually is a painted paper collage. “So, it’s all painted and paper and then put back together. You can see that in the original, but it may be difficult to detect in the poster.”

20 Under 30 from Michael Donahue on Vimeo.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Sela Ward Enchants at Crystal Ball

Posted By on Tue, Jan 23, 2018 at 4:20 PM

Tom Pittman and Sela Ward at Crystal Ball - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Tom Pittman and Sela Ward at Crystal Ball

I’m a fan of Sela Ward. And I’m probably safe in saying so is the record-breaking sell-out crowd of 1,062 at the Crystal Ball, where Ward was the 2018 Star of Hope honoree.

I was hooked when Ward described me as “interesting” and “artistic” looking (I hope I’m remembering this accurately and she wasn’t talking about somebody standing behind me) when I met her with Tom Pittman, president of the Community Foundation of North Mississippi, which holds the event each year. The foundation benefits 400 nonprofits and charitable causes.

This year’s ball - the 18th annual - was held Jan. 20 at the Arena at Southaven. “Once Upon a Time” was the theme.

The Emmy and Golden Globe-winning Ward, who grew up in Meridian, Mississippi, appeared in films, including “Independence Day: Resurgence,” “Nothing in Common,” “The Fugitive” and “Gone Girl.” Her TV credits include “Sisters,” “Once and Again” and “CSI: NY.”

“I’m a daughter of Mississippi,” said Ward as she began to capture everybody’s heart. “I was born and raised here. I left to go experience a bigger world.”

But she still loves the “sounds of the cicadas, the smell of honeysuckle, sweet olive, the foods and the porch swing.”

Mississippi, she said, is “one of the most giving and philanthropic cultures in our country.”

Ward is a big part of that Mississippi philanthropy; she founded Hope Village for Children to provide a safe haven for the more than 200 neglected and abused children each year. “I want to be their voice. They don’t have a voice.”

She asked audience members to help. “You have to roll your sleeves up and get in the trenches and really try to make a difference.”

Ward urged everyone to elect legislators “who care about the plight of these children.”

And, she said, “To much is given, much is required. I’m trying to give back to the community. I can because I’m one of you.”

Ward was a bit startled when a man in the audience walked to the stage and handed her a $100 bill. She said she thought someone was trying to get her off stage - sort of like the exit music they play on awards shows when someone’s talked too long.

Ward also led the campaign to establish the $45-million Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Center in Meridian.

“I am a child of Mississippi,” Ward said. “It is my heart. It is my home.”

Patrick and Emily Johnson co-chaired the Crystal Ball, which also featured silent and live auctions. Jeff Morris was auctioneer. Dinner was catered by the Landers Center. The Dantones performed.

Sidy and Cassandra Sall at Tool House Bash - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Sidy and Cassandra Sall at Tool House Bash


I couldn’t find anything related to home building in the silent auction at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis Tool House Bash, held Jan. 19 at Crosstown Concourse.

I covered the event, which is presented by Valero Memphis Refinery, a few years ago and noticed an actual tool box in the auction. It was a Task Force six-drawer combination tool chest and a $100 gift card to The Home Depot.

Habitat for Humanity’s mission is to help local families build and buy homes for the first time. And it supports the organization’s rehab and critical home repair program, the neighborhood revitalization program and the Aging in Place program, which helps local seniors continue to live in their homes longer, said Habitat communications coordinator Kim Morrison.

The closest I found to anything sounding like a home at this year’s fundraiser was when Larry Springfield and his band performed “Brick House.” But, of course, that’s not really about home building.

OK. There were lamps in the silent auction, which someone is going to use in their home. And party goers included people who get out there and help build those houses, whether by hammering nails or writing checks.

In addition to singing on stage, Springfield sings the praises of Habitat for Humanity, where he’s a project manager. Springfield, who said he’s “always been in construction,” said Habitat for Humanity is special to him: “Just being involved with giving back to the community and helping people build affordable homes.”

About 350 attended this year’s event, which featured a Fund-A-Need auction to raise money for the family reunion Habitat will hold next year.

Duane Spencer is Habitat for Humanity president/CEO and Bill Stemmler is board chair.


Grand Krewe of Ennead - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Grand Krewe of Ennead

My harbingers of spring include King cake, the first baseball spring training photos, Calvary Waffle Shop and Carnival Memphis grand krewe coronations.

The kings, queens and their courts are announced at the parties, which begin in January. They continue almost until the Crown & Sceptre Ball, which usually is held the latter part of May and the beginning of June.

The Grand Krewe of Ennead held its coronation ceremony Jan. 19 at the Holiday Inn at the University of Memphis. David Kelley is king and Jean Oliver is queen. Marty Alberg is chair.

Duchesses are Liza Monaghan, Lucy Ridley and Carol Wasielewski. Dukes are Don Davis, Don Dodson and Ivan Rich.

This year’s Crown & Sceptre Ball will be June 1 at the Hilton Memphis.


Doug McClew at High Point Pub's Kathy Allen Memorial Chili Contest. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Doug McClew at High Point Pub's Kathy Allen Memorial Chili Contest.

I was honored to be a judge again at High Point Pub’s Kathy Allen Memorial Chili Contest, held Jan. 21 in front of High Point Pub. I actually didn’t have to wear a jacket this year because of the mild weather, but the chili still hit the spot.

The chili contest was named after one of the bar’s patrons, said Curt Carie, an owner of High Point Pub and the contest organizer.

This year’s winners: Craig Pollard won People’s’ Choice and the Grand Champion awards. Kim Davis won second place and David Sears won third place.

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