Friday, July 12, 2019

Shift + Gallery, Uriah Mitchell, LGBT Legends, Loving Local

Posted By on Fri, Jul 12, 2019 at 6:54 PM

My picture isn't in the NASA show, but Tim Barker, a professional photogapher/owner of Shift + Gallery in Edge Gallery, took this photo. - TIM BARKER
  • Tim Barker
  • My picture isn't in the NASA show, but Tim Barker, a professional photogapher/owner of Shift + Gallery in Edge Gallery, took this photo.

Tim Barker is chef/owner of Edge Alley, but he’s also a professional photographer. So, it only makes sense he included a gallery devoted to photography in his restaurant.

Shift + Gallery is “a legitimate art gallery that shows photography,” Barker says. “Mainly photography, with some other pieces that would support it.”

They might show an artist who works in photography, mixed media, and collage, Barker says. Or an artist frames his photography in unusual ways. Or a photographer might draw or paint on his photographs.


“Edge of Space, Apollo 11, Orbiter, and Viking I,” the gallery’s debut show, is a collection of vintage NASA photographs from the collection of Ryan Adams, who is a partner in Shift + Gallery. The show, which opened June 25 will run through Sept. 1.

“Photography’s under-represented in Memphis," Barker says. "And undervalued. I think it’s a real problem photographers always have. I have this space and it’s an opportunity for us to do something different.

“But also, the other thing, it (the gallery) is very small. It’s 13 by 17 by 13. This can’t be a sculpture gallery. Not large-scale sculpture. We’d have one piece in here and people would walk around it. Two-dimensional work will show really well in here. The lighting was designed for two-dimensional work.”

In keeping with the outer space theme, Barker served Tang and moonshine cocktails. He also made a red (Mars) drink out of house-made mulberry liqueur, sweet vermouth, and champagne. And he served "green cheese" (sage derby), and Swiss cheese.


Tim Barker - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Tim Barker
Shift + Gallery opening - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Shift + Gallery opening
Uriah Mitchell - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Uriah Mitchell

Uriah Mitchell was the guest of honor at a listening party, which was held June 25th at Royal Studios, for his No More Lullabies album, which will be released in September.

“That whole album is relationship and emotional stuff," Mitchell says. "But it’s just like feeling stuff. Just real life scenario stuff.”


“Might B," one of the songs, is about “having big dreams” and “putting in the work to get to the point to be successful,” Mitchell says. “So, it’s like I’m doing all this stuff for this girl, but she’s not really believing in me.”

Mitchell is the middle child of Royal Studios owner Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell. "Uriah wrote it, produced it, and did the engineering on it," Boo says.


And, he says, “I think the sound of it is cutting edge, different from other music. And I think the subject matter is really good for the times.”

Guests also viewed the single’s video, which was directed by Waheed AlQawasmi from WAFILMS.


Kortlund and Kameron Whalum were at Uriah Mitchell's listening party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Kortlund and Kameron Whalum were at Uriah Mitchell's listening party.


Uriah Mitchell's listening party at Royal Studios. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Uriah Mitchell's listening party at Royal Studios.
Hal Lansky, Uriah Mitchell, Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell, and Geri Lansky - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Hal Lansky, Uriah Mitchell, Lawrence "Boo" Mitchell, and Geri Lansky
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LGBT Legends Awards - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • LGBT Legends Awards

This year’s LGBT Legends Awards, which was held June 16th at The Haven, was a success, says event chair Larry Clark.

“The purpose of the LGBT Legends Awards is to shine the light on LGBT people in Memphis,” Clark says. “We celebrate and acknowledge those that give back to the LGBT community through awards and special recognition.”

Clark says he was in awe of this year’s event. “This was the third year and, again, I was surprised with the love and support the city showed. Everyone showed up and showed out representing Our True Colors. It was truly a major success and I’m looking forward to continuing with LGBT Legends Awards 2020. It’s going to be our biggest year yet!”

LGBT Legends Awards - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • LGBT Legends Awards


LGBT Legends Awards - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • LGBT Legends Awards
LGBT Legends Awards - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • LGBT Legends Awards
LGBT Legends Awards - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • LGBT Legends Awards
LGBT Legends Awards - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • LGBT Legends Awards
LGBT Legends Awards - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • LGBT Legends Awards
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Loving Local - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Loving Local

The “Loving Local” benefit, held June 13 at Carolina Watershed, was a success, says Kathleen Quinlen.

“It’s our annual fundraiser benefiting the Project Green Fork program, which is a restaurant sustainability program, says Quinlen, who is operations manager at Clean Memphis - the nonprofit that manages the Greenfork certification program.

About 250 people attended. “And that’s a little bit more than we were expecting.”

And, she says, “Through the generosity of our sponsors and supporters, we raised over $40,000 for Project Green Fork.”

As for the eats, Quinlen says, “We had enough food, so that was good.”

Ten restaurants participated in the event. Living Local showcases local chefs while supporting service industry businesses and their efforts to reduce waste, conserve energy and water, and prevent pollution.

Marcella Simien performed.


Loving Local - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Loving Local

                                               

Friday, June 28, 2019

Brooks, Juneteenth, Wine Down for BizTown

Posted By on Fri, Jun 28, 2019 at 4:12 PM

HotHouse Gruv (everybody in the photo except the guy in the black shirt) performed at the opening reception for "Bouguereau & America" at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • HotHouse Gruv (everybody in the photo except the guy in the black shirt) performed at the opening reception for "Bouguereau & America" at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

I get the feeling William-Adolphe Bouguereau would be a fan of HotHouse Gruv.

HotHouse Gruv, a dance company, performed at the members opening reception, which was held June 21st, for “Bouguereau & America.” The exhibit of works by the French academic painter now is on view at Memphis Brooks Museum of Art.

The subjects in Bouguereau’s sensual paintings, which often were set in idyllic glades with cupids and beautiful human beings, showed a lot of skin.

Dressed as satyrs and fauns, the HotHouse Gruv dancers resembled a Bouguereau painting as they portrayed a bacchanal.

Brooks representatives reached out to Cskik Gruv to feature his HotHouse Gruv dancers at the party. “HotHouse Gruv is a collaboration of artists,” Gruv says. “So, we have hip-hop dancers, classically trained dancers. All-style dancers. Bebop dancers, b-boy dancers. There was a deejay there. There are rap artists, vocal artists, and then there are graphic artists. It’s made up of all these people that are loosely connected, but very intertwined. We use each other to create what we do.”

Gruv told the Brooks people that the bodies of the dancers are painted by body paint artists. He told them, “This is very explosive, energetic. Are you sure you want to do this?”

He got the green light, but, Gruv says, “There were a couple of stipulations. We couldn’t have nipples [showing]. Normally, our body paint looks like clothing on top of a natural body. Then I said, ‘Well, we’ll do pasties.’”

The Brooks people weren’t sure about pasties on the dancers, either, Gruv says. Then, he says, “Word came down from the powers that be that they need to have something on top. At least the ladies did.”

For inspiration, Gruv used a Bouguereau painting that shows a drunk Bacchus, the god of wine. “Everybody is dancing and they have tambourines, and wine was there,” he says.

As for the dancers, he says, “I thought we would reach out to artists who are a little bit more acrobatic to be a part of the event, too.”

Music for the performance included Janet Jackson's “Throb”— “a very erotic tune. And that laid the groundwork for the touchy feely orgy-type performance where they were on the floor.”

Videos of the performance were taken. “Sometimes I look at it and I blush,” Gruv says. “Oh, my God, we did this? It’s funny. When we were rehearsing I was like, ‘OK. Now, guys, we’re going to simulate an orgy.’ Everybody was, ‘OK. OK.’ I placed people and I was like, ‘Let’s just see where you go.’ And they started.”

Finally, Gruv says he told the dancers, “OK. That’s enough.’ I think it even stretched me.”

Describing the final product, Gruv says, “This is a little bit over the top, and I want you to feel this is just at the edge of raunchy and trashy. But it also has a little bit more culture.”

The performance was a hit. From where I stood, the audience appeared to love it. The applause was loud and long.

The HotHouse Gruv "orgy" at Brooks. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • The HotHouse Gruv "orgy" at Brooks.
"Faun and Bacchante" by  William-Adolphe Bouguereau
  • "Faun and Bacchante" by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

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Memphis Juneteenth Urban Music Festival - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Memphis Juneteenth Urban Music Festival

The Memphis Juneteenth Urban Music Festival, which was held June 14th through 16th at Robert Church Park, was “a great success,” says Telisa Franklin, Juneteenth president.


And, she says, the event attracted “a lot of out-of-towners this year.”

Temmora Levy (a.k.a. Queen T), who grew up in South Memphis, also attended the festival with her daughter Meisha’s pop group, KARMA. Footage was shot at the festival for Levy’s Lifetime TV Network reality show, Ms. T’s Music Factory, Franklin says.

“Juneteenth is not only celebrated here,” Franklin says. “It’s celebrated all around the world. The slaves in Galveston, Texas, had no idea they were free. It was June 19th, 1865, when the slaves found out they were free.”

This was the sixth year the Memphis festival was held in Robert Church Park. The 27-year-old event formerly was known as the Juneteenth Freedom and Heritage Festival. It began in Memphis at St. Paul Douglas Baptist Church on Brookins and then moved to Douglass Park, Franklin says.

“When it was in North Memphis, I felt like it was a Douglass community festival,” she says. “Moving it downtown, I brought every culture and race together. And it was for Memphis, not one isolated community. It’s important we work together. Memphis isn’t one color. We’re all colors. I want everybody to celebrate Juneteenth. It’s not just one culture and one neighborhood.”

Telisa Franklin and DC Franklin at Memphis Juneteenth Urban Music Festival - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Telisa Franklin and DC Franklin at Memphis Juneteenth Urban Music Festival


Memphis Juneteenth Urban Music Festival - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Memphis Juneteenth Urban Music Festival
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Wine Down for BizTown - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Wine Down for BizTown

To wind down the day, between 150 and 200 people attended Wine Down for BizTown, a Junior Achievement of Memphis and the Mid-South fundraiser. It was held June 14th at the nonprofit’s headquarters at 307 Madison.

The event featured a blind wine tasting and a silent auction. Food was catered by Coletta’s. DJ A. O. provided the music.


Wine Down for BizTown - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Wine Down for BizTown
Wine Down for BizTown - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Wine Down for BizTown

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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Music Comings and Goings: Alexis Grace, Thomas Bergstig, FreeSol, Andrew Smith. And Sushi Jimmi Returns!

Posted By on Tue, Jun 18, 2019 at 2:14 PM

Alexis Grace and Thomas Bergstig - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Alexis Grace and Thomas Bergstig

If you think you recently saw Alexis Grace around town, you’re right. The Memphis singer, actor, and “American Idol” finalist who moved to Los Angeles with her husband, Thomas Bergstig, in 2017 is back in Memphis. For a while.

“We’re here temporarily,” says Grace. “We came back because of family circumstances.”

Her daughter, Ryan Zabielski, 12, was injured in a car accident. “We did a Go Fund Me (and raised) $15,000 in four days for us to move back so quickly so she could go to rehab.”

Zabielski is “fully recovered from her accident,” says Grace, who says she and Bergstig plan to be in Memphis “right now until December.”

A native Memphian, Grace was a finalist who came in 11th place on season eight of TV’s “American Idol.” For eight years, she was a Memphis deejay on Q-107 FM.

Bergstig, who is from Sweden, is the former music director at Playhouse on the Square. He and Isaac Middleton are the tap-dancing-musical-instrument-playing performers in Swedish Jam Factory.

Grace is working with film productions in Memphis. She played Kellie Pickler’s stand-in in the Hallmark Films production of Christmas at Graceland and she played the part of Pickler’s wedding cake baker in Hallmark’s Wedding at Graceland. “Here’s the funny thing: Kellie is also from ‘American Idol.’ So, we have a lot of similarities in our career and stuff.”

Grace is excited about the film and TV opportunities in Memphis, including the Bluff City Law series, which is filming in Memphis.

She’d love to be a part of that series. “I know a lot of people in town are happy that happened because now they have work. I think it’s really important the city knows about these productions providing work for artists and people who work in the industry right now.

"Take me, for example. I moved out to Los Angeles because I needed to find more work as an artist, as an actor, as a singer. It’s very hard to find work here in the city that sustains a whole family. It really is. Unionized type of work.

“So, the fact that a lot of people who work in the film industry in town travel to work in other cities when they want to be a part of big productions to make money and things, the fact the series and Hallmark are coming here I know so many people who are like, ‘Thank you.’ It’s a really big deal.”

Grace loves living in Los Angeles. “It took about a year. I hated the first year. Well, I miss my family. I’m a big family person and it was weird to not be able to run to my mom’s house if I want to see her. And family get-togethers.”

It’s more expensive to live in L.A., but, she says, “The opportunities that are there are endless in any line of work ‘cause it’s such a big city. But especially entertainment. If you work hard and you’re talented and creative and you’ve got a go-getter personality and you put yourself out there, it will work itself out. It just takes time.”

Grace did a lot of background singing for TV shows in L.A. “And that was thanks to ‘American Idol.’ Because I was a contestant on that show I made a lot of contacts with musicians and vocalists and arrangers. When I moved to L.A. I let them know I was in town. I did a gig with Katy Perry at the Hollywood Bowl, just singing background.”

Swedish Jam Factory will be working on a full-length show this summer, Bergstig says. “We’re creating our show, actually,” he says. “We’re building a full-length show that we can do in theaters.

“The longest we’ve done is 30 minutes. We’re building something more like 70 minutes. It’ll be a lot of tap dancing incorporated with folk music, classical music, electronic music.”


Will Grace and Bergstig stay in Memphis? “You can act and perform anywhere, but if you want to do that for a living, it’s very helpful to live in a place where you can make a living by doing that. Plus, the weather is amazing.You do miss thunderstorms every now and then.”

But will they remain in LA? “Seriously, I feel like at my age and the career that I chose it’s still a little hard to say I’m going to stay in one place forever,” Grace says. “You never know where you’re going to. You never know what your next phone call is going to be.”


FreeSol - back in Memphis. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • FreeSol - back in Memphis.

FreeSol is back in Memphis. He has been living in California since 2012.

He’s lead singer of the alternative soul band also known as FreeSol, which formed in 2003.

“Soon as we got dropped from this record deal — Interscope and Tennman Records, Justin Timberlake’s label — I bounced to Cali,” says Free. “‘Cause I always wanted to be in Cali. You know me and Cali have something special. I really wanted to be out there. I went out there to re-find myself.”

He was “let down by the whole record deal.”

“We received a call on a Monday that we were No. 1 priority of Interscope. By that Friday

were dropped. Just some political stuff.”


And, he says, “FreeSol wasn’t a free soul. I had to escape out West. I felt trapped”

In California, FreeSol says he’s been “learning how to breathe. Meditate. Calm down and not chase things so much. It’s like a ‘finding myself-type situation' right now. I felt like I learned more about what I am. And who I am.”

Now, he’s “chasing a lifestyle and philosophy rather than finance, riches, and fame.”

He’s been able to “live in the moment with happiness.”

FreeSol learned about the marijuana industry while in California. “I just recently got a company called Sweet Cali. A partner and I took it over. It’s been a business since 2014. We’re slowly building that up.”

Sweet Cali is “an edible line. We’re focusing on turning it into more of a lifestyle brand from clothes to CBDs, anything related to marijuana.”

FreeSol never stopped performing, but he says, “I feel like I want to make music again. I want to to do it here. There’s an energy pulling me back home. A lot of love for me. I feel something coming in this direction.”

And, he says, “I’m happy to see so much excitement. So many people doing cool things. So many artists being supportive. I want to be a part of it.”



Andrew Smith on guitar with Bailey Bigger..... - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Andrew Smith on guitar with Bailey Bigger.....
....and then lap steel..... - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • ....and then lap steel.....
.....and back to guitar. - MICHIAEL DONAHUE
  • Michiael Donahue
  • .....and back to guitar.

Andrew Smith, former creative director at Highpoint Church, and his wife, Jordan, recently moved to Nashville, where, he says, he’s “pursuing the music thing."

If you were at the Hear 901 festival back in April at The Bluff, you probably noticed Smith, 25, who moved from instrument to instrument on stage. He backed Bailey Bigger on her set at the show, which featured University of Memphis music students.

“I was playing electric guitar on a couple of songs,” says Smith. “I switched over to lap steel. It was funny. When we made the set list I was thinking of all the changes I had to do, flip flop every single song. It was fun, man. Her songs are great. Her songs are super cool. She’s really talented.”

Smith isn’t a U of M student; he’s a 2015 graduate of Visible Music College.

 “I haven’t really been playing lap steel that long. I got a lap steel for my birthday back in November. I locked myself in my room and tried to learn songs and basic chords I could play with my friends. I played a show around Christmas time with Ben Callicott. Old News. With Kyle and Harrison Neblett. All of those guys are so good.”

Smith, who is from Kansas, began playing guitar when he was 10. “It was because of the iconic scene in Back to the Future when Michael J. Fox grabs that red Gibson 355 and just rips out ‘Johnny B. Goode.’”

He knew it had to be guitar for his first musical instrument. “I knew guitar was way cooler than piano or whatever. I was a little kid. You think like that. I wanted to be [Marty McFly]

in 'Back to the Future’ and play guitar.’”


Why the Nashville move? “No kids. No mortgage or anything like that. We just wanted to have a little bit of adventure.”

He plans to make trips back to Memphis. “We both have family back in Memphis and definitely will be coming back and forth. I actually still am part of the band I play with called ‘Junior Year.’ Josh Maze, worship pastor at Highpoint, is the front man. We’ll continue to do shows in Memphis as they come up.”

It was “bittersweet to leave Memphis.” But, Smith says, “I’m definitely not going to be a stranger to the 901.”

Andrew Smith - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Andrew Smith

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Jimmy Sinh and his brother, David Sinh, toast during the grand re-opening of Sushi Jimmi Asian fusion restaurant. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Jimmy Sinh and his brother, David Sinh, toast during the grand re-opening of Sushi Jimmi Asian fusion restaurant.


In honor of International Sushi Day - June 18th, raise a glass, and toast Sushi Jimmi, the Asian fusion restaurant that re-opened with a buffet dinner June 15th.

Fans showed Sushi Jimmi some love, and loved them some sushi at the grand re-opening at the restaurant at 2895 Poplar.

Gustavo Gomez, 20, didn’t know it was the grand re-opening. He didn’t know the restaurant was, again, open for business.

“I just got off work,” says Gomez, who delivers pizzas for Little Italy restaurant. “I was passing by going home and I saw people there. I knew it was closed. Man, so sad. Then I see lights and I see people there. I was like, ‘Oh, why don’t I just stop here and see what happened?’ ‘Cause I used to go there a lot.”

He went twice a month before the restaurant closed May 23rd, Gomez says. The rolls are big and the prices are reasonable, he says.

And, Gomez says, “It’s just a cool place to hang out with friends and stuff.”

The Big Boy is Gomez’s go-to sushi roll. “It’s crab and some type of fish and it has this spicey sauce. It’s one of the big ones. I’ve tried other ones, but I always go with that.”

Jimmy Sinh, former owner now head chef, planned to close the restaurant and move to Florida, but his family didn’t want to let the place go. And Sinh already put a lot of money in the restaurant.

Jimmy and his brother, David Sinh, the new owner, and the staff toasted with champagne. Everyone gathered at the front of the restaurant for the bubbly and good wishes.

Sushi Jimmi regular Gustavo Gomez was at the grand re-opening. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Sushi Jimmi regular Gustavo Gomez was at the grand re-opening.

Sushi Jimmi regulars Regan Dickerson and Jaylen Roach were at the restaurant's grand re-opening. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Sushi Jimmi regulars Regan Dickerson and Jaylen Roach were at the restaurant's grand re-opening.
Sushi at Sushi Jimmi's grand re-opening. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Sushi at Sushi Jimmi's grand re-opening.

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Thursday, June 6, 2019

Memphis Italian Festival, Carnival Memphis, and Festivals Galore

Posted By on Thu, Jun 6, 2019 at 2:07 PM

donahue_img_4120-fromrw_onwhite_1_.jpg

I was a judge at this year’s Memphis Italian Festival, which was held May 30th through June 1st at Marquette Park. A total of 48 teams participated during the jam-packed event.

I also was a judge at the first Memphis Italian Festival, which was held 30 years ago at Holy Rosary Catholic Church.

There were about six teams that year.

I sat in the "tasting room" in the school's gym that year with the other three judges and sampled the spaghetti gravy. The teams cooked under a tent on the church grounds.

It was held on only one day — a Saturday.

Michael Vanelli, one of the organizers of that first event, filled me in on the first Memphis Italian Festival.

It initially was held to raise money for Holy Rosary after bingo was outlawed in Tennessee, Vanelli says.

The idea for the festival came from Robert Vanelli, Michael’s brother, who heard about an Italian festival in Nashville that was held to support the Nashville Symphony.

The Vanelli brothers, along with Ernie Vescovo and Mario Bertagna, organized the first Memphis event. “We were all in the men’s club together.”

Bertagna discussed the idea with then Holy Rosary pastor, the late Father Milton Guthrie. “He gave us his blessing. So, that’s how we started,” Vanelli says.

Along with me, the other judges at that first festival were restaurateur Mike Garibaldi; Art Peroni, who owned an Italian restaurant at the time; the late David Hansen with Memphis Light Gas & Water; and the late state Senator Curtis Person.

I asked why I was selected. Vanelli says it was because I “wrote about events” in The Commercial Appeal. “And we wanted you there. We’re Italians. We’re trying to get people to work for us.”

Tom Prestigiacomo volunteered to emcee the festival. “We didn’t have an emcee,” says Vanelli.

Presitgiacomo “came of his own. Got up there and helped us get this going. Talking about us on the radio and all that. He played a big part in getting us started. Mike Garibaldi stepped up and helped us in the kitchen. The spaghetti dinner.”

They had music, but, he says, “We didn’t have the music like we have today. Nothing that grand. We didn’t know what we were doing. Actually, the first couple of years we didn’t know what we were doing. We kind of winged it.”

They also had a “handful of kid's games and a bocce tournament. That’s been there since day one.”

As for the judging, Vanelli says, “We gave each team a number and they put their number on a Styrofoam cup.”

The judges sampled the gravy without knowing what team cooked what gravy.

The Noodleheads is the only team from that first festival that still competes in the event, Vanelli says.

Memphis Italian Festival - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Memphis Italian Festival

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Carnival Memphis Royal Court members at the Crown & Sceptre Ball. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Carnival Memphis Royal Court members at the Crown & Sceptre Ball.

If you see a motorcade speeding down the street and, making up the rear, a green firetruck carrying people dressed in green, you’re witnessing Carnival Memphis in action.

In one of those cars was Carnival Memphis king Bob Berry and queen Catherine Tabor Owen. They were either going or coming from a day run visit to a hospital or a retirement home. Or, if it's at night, to a party.

Carnival Week began May 31st with the Crown & Sceptre Ball and will end June 7th with parties, including the University Club of Memphis party.


Carnival Memphis king Bob Berry and queen Catherine Tabor Owen. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Carnival Memphis king Bob Berry and queen Catherine Tabor Owen.


Memphis Flyer's Margarita Fest - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Memphis Flyer's Margarita Fest

Memphis Flyer’s Margarita Fest, which was held May 11th, was a sell-out.

A total of 1,050 people took part in the event, which featured margaritas from 15 restaurants.

Because of the rain, the location was moved to the Creative Arts Building in Midtown, but guests crowded together, danced, and sipped margaritas.

Don Julio Tequila sponsored the event.

Margarita Fest - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Margarita Fest
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Brewfest - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Brewfest

You could mix your drinks — from margaritas to beer — by going a few hundred feet from the Memphis Flyer’s Margarita Fest at the Creative Arts Building to the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium concourse for Brewfest 2019, which was also held May 11th.

Eric Bourgeois with Brewfest says, “We estimate 1,500 plus attendees — right around last year — but considering we had to move under the concourse due to weather, I’ll say it was certainly successful. The guests didn’t seem to mind. We had 52 breweries and cideries — the most ever." A handful of breweries previewed new beers at the event. And VIP guests were treated to food from Aldo’s Pizza Pies, Bardog Tavern, and Slider Inn.

Brewfest - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Brewfest
Brewfest - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Brewfest

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They’re ravin’ about Rajun Cajun over at Porter-Leath. This year’s Porter-Leath Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival, which was held April 28th in Wagner Place, was a smash success, says Rob Hughes, Porter-Leath vice president of development.

“We had a new record on attendance at 50,000,” he says. “As to mudbugs, we went through 17,500 pounds, cementing our status as the largest one-day crawfish festival outside of Louisiana. Our crawfish purveyor says that we’re even rivaling some of the events in Los Angeles.”

And, he says, “This year’s weather, obviously, was the big winner. Amazing what a year can make. Last year we’re talking about using koozies as gloves. This year, I’m just now getting over my day-of sunburn.”


Porter-Leath Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Porter-Leath Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival
Porter-Leath Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Porter-Leath Rajun Cajun Crawfish Festival
Joe Birch and some of his "TV wives." - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Joe Birch and some of his "TV wives."

WMC Action News 5 folks were behind the camera April 27th, but the cameras were on people’s phones.

News anchor Joe Birch and his wife, Robyn, held a reunion of people who work or have worked at the TV station.

The event, which was held April 27th at their home, celebrated former WMC Action News 5 reporter Basil Hero and his book, Mission of a Lifetime.

In addition to reporters, Joe says they invited former general managers, news directors, reporters, photographers, and producers.

The party was held, Joe says, “in gratitude for 41 years of steady employment at WMC under four ownership groups. It is not sponsored by WMC or Gray Television, but it is a celebration of our great station by a family that’s been truly blessed to be a part of our story for four-plus decades.”

A great camera moment was when Birch posed with a group of female news anchors he worked with over the years.

Or, as he called them, his "TV wives."

Basil Hero and Nancy Hart at the WMC reunion. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Basil Hero and Nancy Hart at the WMC reunion.

Among other events:

Tennessee Whiskey Trail's Spirits and Soul was presented by Old Dominick Distillery.  It was held April 26th and 27th. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Tennessee Whiskey Trail's Spirits and Soul was presented by Old Dominick Distillery. It was held April 26th and 27th.


Spirits and Soul - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Spirits and Soul

Spirits and Soul Fest kickoff party was held April 26th at Old Dominick Distillery. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Spirits and Soul Fest kickoff party was held April 26th at Old Dominick Distillery.

Live music, food and drink — plus a silent auction and a silent disco — were featured at the Beale Street Caravan Blowout, which was held April 27th at the Crosstown Concourse East Atrium. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Live music, food and drink — plus a silent auction and a silent disco — were featured at the Beale Street Caravan Blowout, which was held April 27th at the Crosstown Concourse East Atrium.


Beale Street Caravan Blowout! - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Beale Street Caravan Blowout!
The National Kidney Foundation Gala was held April 28th at The Peabody Skyway. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • The National Kidney Foundation Gala was held April 28th at The Peabody Skyway.
Roar and Pour, the Memphis Zoo’s spring culinary/cocktail conservation fundraiser, was held April 20th at Teton Trek. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Roar and Pour, the Memphis Zoo’s spring culinary/cocktail conservation fundraiser, was held April 20th at Teton Trek.
The National Kidney Foundation Gala was held April 28th at The Peabody Skyway. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • The National Kidney Foundation Gala was held April 28th at The Peabody Skyway.

Ron Olson exhibited his paintings at St. George's Arcade. Guests got first dibs on buying antiques, plants, and home decor items at the preview party, which was held April 26th at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Germantown. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Ron Olson exhibited his paintings at St. George's Arcade. Guests got first dibs on buying antiques, plants, and home decor items at the preview party, which was held April 26th at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Germantown.


St. George's Arcade - MICHAE DONAHUE
  • Michae Donahue
  • St. George's Arcade
St. George's Arcade - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • St. George's Arcade

Edge Motor Fest was held April 27th at Marshall and Monroe. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Edge Motor Fest was held April 27th at Marshall and Monroe.


June West and Robert Hodges at the preview party, which was held May 10th, for the Memphis Mercantile Market, a fundrasier for Memphis Heritage.
  • June West and Robert Hodges at the preview party, which was held May 10th, for the Memphis Mercantile Market, a fundrasier for Memphis Heritage.

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Peabody Rooftop and Celebrate Memphis

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2019 at 3:56 PM

Spring and summer mean The Peabody Rooftop Parties.
  • Spring and summer mean The Peabody Rooftop Parties.

I’ve been going to The Peabody Rooftop Parties for years.

The Memphis Flyer, which hosts Thursday night events each season, hosted the one, which was held May 23rd. The weather was unseasonably hot, but that didn’t seem to bother guests who showed up when I did at 6 p.m.

“We’re very big on tradition here at The Peabody,” says The Peabody director of marketing and communication Kelly Brock. “One needs to look no further than Rooftop Parties, started in 1939, and the daily Duck March, which was set in motion in 1933. For 150 years now, people have been coming to the ‘South’s Grand Hotel’ to relive memories and make new ones. We have endless stories of couples who met at a Rooftop Party and are now getting married here, or visitors whose parents brought them to see the Peabody Ducks when they were young and are now continuing that tradition by bringing their own children.”

She sent some information on the hotel’s rooftop parties:

"Peabody Rooftop Parties feature live music from top local and regional entertainment acts and occasional national touring acts. The Peabody and Q107.5 FM surprise partiers several times each season with special performances by rising stars with current radio hits. Past performers include Fletcher, Drax Project, Lauv, American Authors, Icona Pop, Echosmith, Logan Henderson, Mike Posner, Hot Chelle Ray, Capital Cities, Noah Cyrus, Ocean Park Standoff, Neon Trees, Shaggy, Boys Like Girls, Katy Tiz, Owl City, Carly Rae Jepsen, MKTO, Finger Eleven, Matt Nathanson, Parmalee, Andy Grammar, and Shinedown.

“The tradition of parties on the roof of The Peabody began 80 years ago when the east end of the hotel’s roof was enclosed in 1939, creating the Peabody Rooftop and adjoining Art Deco-styled Skyway ballroom. Originally called Sunset Serenades, the parties in the new supper club became a huge success, featuring performances by showbiz greats of the era such as Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Chuck Foster, Lawrence Welk, George Hamilton (Sr.), and the Andrews Sisters. During the 1940s, the Skyway was one of just three national live radio broadcast sites for Big Band dances on CBS Radio. One such weekly program was produced by a young Sam Phillips, from 1945 to 1950, before he launched Sun Records and the career of Elvis Presley.”

The Peabody Rooftop Parties - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • The Peabody Rooftop Parties
The Peabody Rooftop Parties - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • The Peabody Rooftop Parties
The Peabody Rooftop Parties - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • The Peabody Rooftop Parties
The Peabody Rooftop Parties - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • The Peabody Rooftop Parties
The Peabody Rooftop Parties - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • The Peabody Rooftop Parties

................

Celebrate Memphis at Tom Lee Park - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Celebrate Memphis at Tom Lee Park

Celebrate Memphis, which was held May 25th, was a cause for celebration, says Memphis in May vice president of marketing Robert Griffin.


“The Celebrate Memphis bicentennial event was a huge success,” he says. “Not only did we welcome between 15,000 and 20,000 to our city’s birthday party in Tom Lee Park, but we put Memphis in the Guinness Book of World Records for the World’s Longest Picnic Table, uniting people from nearly every corner of Shelby County to share a meal around our 1,332 foot-long table.”

“Normally, we would wrap up the month’s festivities with 901Fest, a celebration of all the things we love about our area, but on this rare occasion of Memphis’ 200th birthday, we had to make it special and the Mid-South’s largest fireworks show certainly did that, with more than 3,400 shells exploding over the Mississippi River.”

I was a witness to that picnic table. It was so long, I had to literally step up on the bench on one side, walk across the table, and step down on the other bench to get to the other side of the park. It really was a sight.

I watched some of the exploding fireworks over my shoulder as I trudged up the hill to my car. They really were spectacular.

I wanted to stay and watch the drone show, but, no drone show occurred. “The drone operator launched successful test flights on Thursday and Friday for FAA inspectors, but on Saturday encountered issues with the signal to the drones that prevented them from flying,” Griffin says. “The FAA and MPD are looking into possible causes. However, the fireworks were so spectacular, the drone show was hardly missed.”


Some Celebrate Memphis memories:
MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue



MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue


MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue


MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
b7f9fbc7-020a-4b89-a563-4e20f479df3c_1_copy.jpg

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Those Memphis in May festivals!

Posted By on Tue, May 21, 2019 at 3:06 PM

I got to pose with the bartenders at the ever popular Cadillac Grillz booth at Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • I got to pose with the bartenders at the ever popular Cadillac Grillz booth at Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.
Memphis in May Beale Street Music Festival - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Memphis in May Beale Street Music Festival

Only once did I almost drop my phone while frenetically taking photos during Memphis in May. I was shooting and the phone slipped out of my hand, but, miraculously, I caught it. The person I was taking the photo of said, “Good save!”


I feel like I took 100s of photos at the Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest and the Beale Street Music Festival.

I asked Memphis in May vice-president of marketing Robert Griffin to say a few words about the festivals:

“After great attendance at Beale Street Music Festival, including another sold-out Sunday, and huge crowds at World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest, we’re looking to close out the month with a spectacular salute to Memphis with the Celebrate Memphis bicentennial event. There’s so much excitement surrounding this birthday celebration. The Mid-South is anticipating it as much as we are.”

That event will be at 3 p.m. May 25th in Tom Lee Park. Another festival! Music, fireworks, an air show, and the Mighty Lights Show.

Meanwhile, here’s a sampling of faces I encountered at the music and barbecue festivals:


The great Dillon Brooks of the Memphis Grizzlies was at Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • The great Dillon Brooks of the Memphis Grizzlies was at Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest
Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest
Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest
Beale Street Music Festival - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Beale Street Music Festival
Al Kapone and Oona Mitchell Bean at Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking ContestAl - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Al Kapone and Oona Mitchell Bean at Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking ContestAl
Beale Street Music Festival - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Beale Street Music Festival
Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest
Beale Street Music Festival - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Beale Street Music Festival
Beale Street Music Festival - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Beale Street Music Festival
Beale Street Music Festival - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Beale Street Music Festival
Beale Street Music Festival - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Beale Street Music Festival



Smoking at Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Smoking at Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest






More smoking at Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • More smoking at Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest
And still more smoking at Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • And still more smoking at Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest.
Beale Street Music Festival - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Beale Street Music Festival
Beale Street Music Festival - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Beale Street Music Festival
Beale Street Music Festival - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Beale Street Music Festival
Beale Street Music Festival - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Beale Street Music Festival


Beale Street Music Festival - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Beale Street Music Festival
Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Memphis in May World Championship Barbecue Cooking Contest

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Thursday, May 2, 2019

Penny Hardaway, Hot Wing Fest, Hemp Fest, and more!

Posted By on Thu, May 2, 2019 at 4:07 PM

Penny Hardaway was the honorary chair of the FedExFamiliyHouse Gala. I was the reporter. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Penny Hardaway was the honorary chair of the FedExFamiliyHouse Gala. I was the reporter.

Alan Graf Jr. did a great job as a reporter at the FedExFamilyHouse Gala.
Graf, FedEx executive vice president and chief financial officer, interviewed University of Memphis men’s basketball coach Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway. The Memphis icon/former NBA All-Star was honorary chair at the LeBonheur Children's Hospital fund-raiser, which was held April 13th at The Peabody.

Graf asked Hardaway, who is known for his amazing calmness during games, to show him the look he sometimes gives players.

“On the inside, I’m screaming,” Hardaway says. “I’m really screaming on the inside. But, honestly, I learned that a long time ago because I’ve won six state championships as a coach. And I told the kids, ‘If you don’t see me panic, you don’t panic.’ So, I try to stay calm for them. Because if they look to the bench and see me going crazy, that’s going to keep them distracted because they’re going to be worrying about me. And I don’t want them to be worrying about me. I want them to worry about the game.”

Hardaway then showed the audience the look he gives “when kids don’t do as I say.” It could be described as a side-eyed “Are you kidding me?” look.

“And then I go right back to the game,” Hardaway says.

Hardaway’s thoughts on being U of M coach? “It was unreal to walk into the building and see that much energy in the building from the fans. And see the excitement around the city again. To see the Tiger blue being worn all over the city — it’s been great.”


Penny Hardaway with Alan and Susan Graf at the FedExFamilyHouse Gala. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Penny Hardaway with Alan and Susan Graf at the FedExFamilyHouse Gala.

.............
George Hill, Colin Morman, and Ronnie Rainer  - members of the champion team Sauce'd Up, which took first place at the Southern Hot Wing Festival. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • George Hill, Colin Morman, and Ronnie Rainer - members of the champion team Sauce'd Up, which took first place at the Southern Hot Wing Festival.

“Mix’d Up” could have been the name of the sauce for Sauce’d Up’s hot wings, which took first place in the Southern Hot Wing Festival, which was held April 13th on Tiger Lane.

The sauce was a mixture of two sauces, which were made by team members Ronnie Rainer and Colin Morman.

“The sauce was a collaboration between me and my teammate,” Rainer says. “What we actually did was make two different sauces. The sauce that I made was a buffalo hot sauce. And the sauce that my teammate made was a cherry habanero.

“We were playing around in the kitchen and we started combining the two sauces. The cherry habanero had a sweetness to it and the buffalo sauce had the heat and the tanginess. But it didn’t have any sweet. I wanted to keep with the traditional buffalo. We mixed them together and it turned out really well.”

Really well - as in $5,000, which was the first prize.

.............



Carla Thomas singing "Gee Whiz" at One Night. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Carla Thomas singing "Gee Whiz" at One Night.

Talk about a show stopper. That’s when Carla Thomas sang “Gee Whiz (Look at his Eyes)” at the United Way of the MId-South’s “Night to Unite” 95th anniversary party, which was held April 5th at The Columns.

“Carla hadn’t sung ‘Gee Whiz’ since the ‘60s,” says Royal Recording Studio owner Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell, who produced the music portion of the evening. “That’s the second time she sang it in almost 50 years. She just killed it, man. Amazing.”

“Gee Whiz” was Thomas’s hit in 1961. “It was one of the first hits on Stax,” Mitchell says. “It may have been their first hit.”

And, he says, “The first version of that that didn’t get released was recorded here at Royal before Stax opened. It was for the Stax label, but they didn’t have a studio at the time.”

Thomas sang, her sister, Vaneese, sang, and both women sang a tribute to their dad, the late Rufus Thomas Jr.


Carla and Vaneese Thomas performed at One Night. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Carla and Vaneese Thomas performed at One Night.


James Alexander of the Bar-Kays was at One Night. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • James Alexander of the Bar-Kays was at One Night.
Lester Snell and his wife, Pat, were at One Night. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Lester Snell and his wife, Pat, were at One Night.
Aline Shibata and Chuck Hutton were at One Night. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Aline Shibata and Chuck Hutton were at One Night.

....................


Lee Otts at the Mid-South Hemp Fest - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Lee Otts at the Mid-South Hemp Fest

Wearing a black suit with a green cannabis leaf design, Lee Otts kept things running smoothly at the first Mid-South Hemp Fest, which was held April 20th in Overton Park.

As Otts says, “Police were there. The smell of cannabis in the air.”

And, he says, “It was the first time to throw a festival of this size and it blew up so big.”

The purpose of the event was “ to raise awareness of the benefits of the cannabis industry in Tennessee,” says Otts, who is president of The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “The reason I say ‘cannabis industry’ is there is a common misconception that there’s a difference between hemp and marijuana. It’s all one versatile plant. The THC inside the hemp plant is what differentiates it from marijuana.”

The festival featured 100 vendors, which included “CBD companies, hemp farmers, support industries like lab processing companies,” Ott says.

The hemp for sale at the festival was “100 percent state grown legal industrial hemp.”

Hemp Fest drew vendors from as far away as Portland, Oregon, Otts says.

Otts estimates the Memphis festival drew thousands of people. “There’s been some other smaller ones that have been more business oriented. As a patient myself, I wanted it more geared to the patient and not the business side.”

In 2012, Otts broke vertebrae in a fall. “After two and a half years of traditional medication, 14 types of pills to treat side effects of the medication, I started trying cannabis. And slowly but surely the medication started decreasing and my quality of life started increasing.”

He plans to hold the festival again, but, the bad news, Otts says, is, “Where we had our festival is being taken over as a parking lot. We have to relocate.”

He’s looking at Shelby Farms as one possibility.

So, getting back to Otts' great suit. “I ordered it on line on Amazon,” he says. It’s a “Cannaboss suit” made by Opposuits. He paid $99 for the suit, Otts says, “But it was $130 worth of tailoring that made it look so good.”


Mid-South Hemp Fest - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Mid-South Hemp Fest


..............................
Patrick and Carrie Galphin were at GreenShoe Gala. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Patrick and Carrie Galphin were at GreenShoe Gala.

Green shoes, green socks, green jackets, green dresses - all of that fit in at the GreenShoe Gala, which was held March 30th at Shelby Farms.

More than 300 people attended the event and more than $150,000 was raised, says Angie Whitfield. ”These are both records in terms of money raised and attendance,” she says.

The GreenShow Gala is Shelby Farms Park’s largest fund-raiser. It helps provide daily care and maintenance for the lakes, trails, and green spaces, access to field trips and mobile classroom visits, care for the Park’s buffalo herd, and 365 play days a year, which are enjoyed by more than three million visitors.


Jackie Dandridge and Lester Brown were at GreenShoe Gala. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Jackie Dandridge and Lester Brown were at GreenShoe Gala.

GreenShoe Gala - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • GreenShoe Gala
Hanna and Franck Oysel at GreenShoe Gala. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Hanna and Franck Oysel at GreenShoe Gala.

GreenShoe Gala - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • GreenShoe Gala

...................

Austin Kempel and J. R. Bearden at Uncork the Cure. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Austin Kempel and J. R. Bearden at Uncork the Cure.

Nick and Christine Gant hosted their first Uncork the Cure fundr-aiser, which was held April 5th at Old Dominick Distillery.

The event, which benefited the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, was a success; about 234 attended and $41,334 was raised, Nick says. And, he adds, “We had four guest chefs - Philip Ashley Rix, Cullen Kent, Kelly English, and J. R. Bearden.”

The Gants’ son, Nicholas, has cystic fibrosis. “He was five days old when the doctors told me he should survive to 18 to 21 years old,” Nick says. “He is the sweetest, happiest kid a dad could ask for, so I work hard to fund raise a cure.

“The pace of medical breakthroughs is astonishing. Nicholas is only two years old and already is receiving treatments that did not exist when he was born.”

Uncork the Cure will be an annual event, Nick says. “This was our kickoff event.”


Nick and Christine Gant at Uncork the Cure. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Nick and Christine Gant at Uncork the Cure.

.................
Hoedown for Hope - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Hoedown for Hope

Hope House’s annual Hoedown for Hope was quite a throw down. A total of $40,000 was raised at the event, which was held April 12th at Propceller.

“It was the highest we’ve ever raised,” says Allie Lindsey, who chaired the event with Lenox Warren. “We’ve done this event for a few years. It’s just people coming back and bringing their friends.”

“Red, White and Boots” was the theme of the event, which included music by DJ Nugget, dancing, barbecue, beer and wine, a silent auction, a photo booth - and a mechanical bull, which was adept at bucking the braver guests.


Hoedown for Hope - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Hoedown for Hope
Chelsea Lumpkin and Doug Browne were at Hoedown for Hope. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Chelsea Lumpkin and Doug Browne were at Hoedown for Hope.
...................

Dr. Reginald Coopwood, president and CEO of Regional One Health, and his wife, Erica, at the One Night Gala. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Dr. Reginald Coopwood, president and CEO of Regional One Health, and his wife, Erica, at the One Night Gala.

Grammy-winning artists Chaka Khan and Billy Ocean performed at the ONE Night Gala, which was held April 13th at Memphis Cook Convention Center. The annual event benefits Regional One Health Foundation.

Jennifer Hobson and Suzana Lightman chaired the event, which included cocktails, dinner, and dancing.

ONE Night is the largest annual fund-raising event in support of Regional One Health.


.................
Linda Pelts, Barry Pelts, and Tricia Pelts Woodman at Venue 901 opening. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Linda Pelts, Barry Pelts, and Tricia Pelts Woodman at Venue 901 opening.

A new event place - Venue 901 - opened with a party, which was held April 9th.
The space, which is part of Corky’s Ribs & BBQ, is next door to the Corky’s at 5259 Poplar.

The 2,200 square-foot-space can seat up to 80, says Corky’s co-president Barry Pelts.

Venue 901 includes valet parking with all events. “Great menu options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and cocktails,” Pelts says.

Chris Allen and Justin Moore performed during the event.

Brandon "Nosey" Marshall worked on a large "Memphis" mural during the party.


Chris Allen and Justin Moore performed at the Venue 901 opening. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Chris Allen and Justin Moore performed at the Venue 901 opening.
Venue 901 opening - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Venue 901 opening
....................

img_6822_1_.jpg

This year's recipients of the Mojo of Midtown awards were Ballet Memphis- Dorothy Gunther Pugh, First Congo - Rev Cheryl Cornish, Sonia Walker, and Julia Hicks; Onie Johns - Caritas Village; Dr. Mike Kirby - V & E Greenline; Otherlands Coffee Bar- Karen Lebovitz; and Overton Park Conservancy - Tina Sullivan.

The awards were presented March 26 at Circuit Playhouse.

Mojo of Midtown awards recognizes individuals or organizations who have, through talent, motivation, innovation, and mojo, made a significant difference in promoting and 

Mojo of Midtown awards. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Mojo of Midtown awards.

preserving Midtown Memphis.

............

William N. “Bill” Morris at “Bill Morris: A Legendary Life” book signing, which was held March 28 at Novel. The book documents his life of public service as the Sheriff of Shelby County and his four consecutive terms as Shelby County mayor.  With him is his co-writer Darrell B. Uselton. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • William N. “Bill” Morris at “Bill Morris: A Legendary Life” book signing, which was held March 28 at Novel. The book documents his life of public service as the Sheriff of Shelby County and his four consecutive terms as Shelby County mayor. With him is his co-writer Darrell B. Uselton.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Shakespeare, Whiskey, Tennis, Art, and More

Posted By on Wed, Apr 10, 2019 at 1:40 PM

"Alas, poor Yorick. You need a new glasses prescription." - I dressed in Shakespearean attire from the Tennessee Shakespeare Company's wardrobe department and got some direction on how to hold the skull by the company's founder/producing director Dan McCleary, but wasn't sure if it was to be or not to be fitting to wear it to the company's 10th annual Broadway Gala. - JON W. SPARKS
  • Jon W. Sparks
  • "Alas, poor Yorick. You need a new glasses prescription." I dressed in Shakespearean attire from the Tennessee Shakespeare Company's wardrobe department and got some direction on how to hold the skull by the company's founder/producing director Dan McCleary, but wasn't sure if it was to be or not to be fitting to wear it to the company's 10th annual Broadway Gala.
JON W. SPARKS
  • Jon W. Sparks
JON W. SPARKS
  • Jon W. Sparks

Guests who wanted to get in the act at Tennessee Shakespeare Company’s 10th annual Broadway Gala, got on stage with company actor Nic Picou and read lines with him.

Picou, who was dressed in Shakespearean attire, was part of the event’s Elizabethan Midway of games and fun.

More than 300 people attended the gala, which was held March 30th at the Hilton Memphis. Dinner, open bars, live and silent auctions, and a performance by Alton Fitzgerald White, who played the record-setting “Mufasa” in The Lion King, were featured.

The gala raised $120,000, which, says Dan McCleary, Tennessee Shakespeare Company founder/producing artistic director, “met our goal to increase the number of our trained Memphis teachers to reach 10 percent more Shelby County students, adjudicated youth, and our military veterans next season with our Shakespeare Education and Outreach Program. We currently achieve 35,000 points of contact a year.”

The gala was sponsored by Tennessee Shakespeare Company’s board of directors, which is led by president C. Cato Ealy.

Guests read lines with company member Nic Picou at Tennessee Shakespeare Company's 10th annual Broadway Gala. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Guests read lines with company member Nic Picou at Tennessee Shakespeare Company's 10th annual Broadway Gala.
Huger Foote, Dr. James Calandruccio, Nancy Copp, Ray Walther and Kitty Lammons at the Tennessee Shakespeare Company gala. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Huger Foote, Dr. James Calandruccio, Nancy Copp, Ray Walther and Kitty Lammons at the Tennessee Shakespeare Company gala.
Dr. Owen and Margaret Tabor posed with family members for a royal portrait at the Tennessee Shakespeare Company gala. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Dr. Owen and Margaret Tabor posed with family members for a royal portrait at the Tennessee Shakespeare Company gala.

.......................
Black Art Experience founder Jennifer Peete. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Black Art Experience founder Jennifer Peete.

More than 600 people attended this year’s Black Art Experience, which was held March 23rd at the Agricenter International.

That’s quite a few more than the number of people who attended the first Black Art Experience event in 2016. About 100 attended that year, says event founder Jennifer Peete.

They only had six artists at the first one, she says. This year, including Peete, they featured 19 artists and 23 vendors.

Peete, who was born in Louisville, describes herself as “a Memphian by choice.”

She’s only been painting a few years. “I started in the summer of 2015 after I broke my ankle. I was trying to find something to do and I started painting. I’ve been drawing all my life. I was like, ‘I wonder if I can paint?’ I started and I turned it into a business.”

Peete primarily paints black women and girls. “I try to paint a different narrative of black women in a positive light. For example, I show black women with their natural hair. Sometimes I do darker skin tones to let them know you don’t have to be a certain skin shade to be beautiful. Everyone is beautiful.”

She plans to broaden her subject matter. “I want to start doing boys and men, but I haven’t entered that realm yet.”

Kendra Burchett, one of the artists in Black Art Experience, did some of her painting during the show. But she used people as her canvas.

“A few of them were friends, but they’re all fitness trainers, so they all kind of know each other one way or another,” Burchett says.

Burchett was her first subject when she began painting on people. “I started doing myself about 10 years ago. I put it on Facebook and people started asking me to do it on them. Paying me to do it. I started doing live shows. I do everything from fashion shows to erotic parties to birthday parties. Any event, I do it.”

She only painted the arms of the men and women at the Agricenter show. “Usually, I paint them topless - my male models. I cover the female model in the back and I do designs in the front.”

Burchett paints almost the complete body. “I do everything except the private areas. That’s the only thing I don’t do.”

To date, she’s painted about 100 people, Burchett says.

As for the paint, she says, “I mix my own paint. It’s acrylic based, but I mix my own colors.”

She doesn’t just paint people. “I do canvas, murals. I just built a vanity for my wife for her birthday.”


img_6633.jpg
img_6661.jpg
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Tennis player Mason Washington at "A Serving for Tennis." - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Tennis player Mason Washington at "A Serving for Tennis."

…………..


“Love” is a tennis term, but it also applied to how guests at “A Serving for Tennis” felt about the party, which was held March 23rd at the Red Barn at Agricenter International.

“It was the most successful event they’ve had in the six years it’s been in existence,” says Murray Lace, accounts executive for Obsidian Public Relations, which handled the event.


“They raised more with the silent auction than ever before. It was $5,700.”

And, she says, “Sponsorship donations were more than ever before.”

Thirteen food vendors, which included restaurants and caterers, provided the food servings.

Melinda Hoehn and Tracy Pope chaired the event.

A Serving for Tennis is the largest fund-raiser each year for Tennis Memphis, a nonprofit that provides sport, mentorship, and education to young people.

.................


Jeremy Bowers performed "The Swan" at the New Ballet Ensemble & School luncheon. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Jeremy Bowers performed "The Swan" at the New Ballet Ensemble & School luncheon.


Guests got acquainted with New Ballet Ensemble & School at the school’s “Building Brighter Futures luncheon, which was held March 29th at the Holiday Inn at the University of Memphis.

“Elevating Unity” was this year’s theme.

There was dancing: “African Dancing and Drumming” and “La Derniere Danse,” which featured New Ballet student dancers, and  “The Swan,” which was performed by New Ballet dancer Jeremy Bowers.

There was a student testimonial, which was given by Asya Miles.

And a video: ‘Building Brighter Futures.”

About 360 attended the event, which raised more than $190,000 in gifts and pledges, says Julie Goebl, New Ballet director of administration and philanthropy.


Asked the importance of the luncheon, New Ballet founding CEO/artistic director Katie Smythe says, “It increases our capacity for all that we do. And, for us, the most important capacity is teaching in public schools and the professional development of our teaching artists. It makes us less reliant on grants and balances our contributions income so if one grant goes away that program doesn’t have to end. If we’re balancing grants with individual donations we know, in the instance a grant doesn’t work out or one goes away as they will from time to time, the contributions from individuals help us sustain those programs.”

Among the guests was New Ballet alumnus Charles “Lil Buck” Riley. He and his manager, Jai Armmer, are opening the Memphis Jookin’ Academy at the Cossitt Library. Armmer will be executive director of the academy. “I’m not sure it will be a daily program, but it will be an ongoing program,” Smythe says.

The goal of the school will be “to train dancers in the art of jookin, which is original to Memphis.”

Katie Smythe and Charles "Lil Buck" Riley at New Ballet Ensemble luncheon. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Katie Smythe and Charles "Lil Buck" Riley at New Ballet Ensemble luncheon.

New Ballet founding CEO/artistic director Katie Smythe with students at the "Elevating Unity" luncheon. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • New Ballet founding CEO/artistic director Katie Smythe with students at the "Elevating Unity" luncheon.
Kristen Smith, Drew Carlson and MIchael Shelton at the Launch Pad grand opening party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Kristen Smith, Drew Carlson and MIchael Shelton at the Launch Pad grand opening party.

Launch Pad held its launch party - so to speak - on March 21st.

“Launch Pad is a collaborative co-working space,” says community manager Michael Shelton. It’s a “shared communal work space for small businesses to work in a cool, innovative but professional environment in kind of a new age format.”

Launch Pad, which is on the third floor of Toyota Plaza next to AutoZone Park, consists of 37 private offices. “A lot of these people who come through our doors don’t have offices and they’re tired of working out of Starbucks. They’re tired of having professional clients at Starbucks or the library.”

Launch Pad held a soft opening on October 1st, but they wanted their grand opening later, when they could showcase people already working in the space. They now have between 22 and 24 offices booked, Shelton says.

Bryan Barringer, Chris Schultz and Gwin Scott at the Launch Pad grand opening party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Bryan Barringer, Chris Schultz and Gwin Scott at the Launch Pad grand opening party.
..............................


.

The Memphis Flyer’s second annual Whiskey Warmer was a sell-out with more than 800 people. The event was held March 22nd in Overton Square.

The event, presented by Orion FCU and Crown Royal, featured whiskeys from more than 40 distillers, luxury autos from Mercedes Benz of Memphis, cigars from BeLeaf, and food from Second Line, Cousin’s Maine Lobster, and Laura’s Kitchen.

Graber Grass provided the bluegrass.

Jackson Ave. performed at a party celebrating the release of the spring issue of Memphis Current, an arts quarterly. The event was held March 24 at Carolina Watershed. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Jackson Ave. performed at a party celebrating the release of the spring issue of Memphis Current, an arts quarterly. The event was held March 24 at Carolina Watershed.
Robert Fairchild exhibited his paintings at the Memphis Currents party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Robert Fairchild exhibited his paintings at the Memphis Currents party.

Friday, March 22, 2019

A Great Day for the Irish - and Beale Street. And more!

Posted By on Fri, Mar 22, 2019 at 3:15 PM

I ran into a lot of old friends, including Anna Condon, at the Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Celebration - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • I ran into a lot of old friends, including Anna Condon, at the Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Celebration

The 46th annual Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Celebration was a great day for the Irish — and everyone else who attended the parade, which was held March 16th on Beale Street.

JoEllyn Sullivan, widow of the late restaurateur Silky Sullivan and owner of Silky O’Sullivan’s on Beale Street, was pleased with the event. “No doubt one of the best,” she says. “The weather was gorgeous. We had 90 different units in the parade. And we had four riding crowned kings. Our reigning king Joe Birch did a fabulous job.”

Last year’s king, Ed Galfsky, Carnival Memphis executive director, also was in the parade. “We feel once a king, always a king.”

Ellen Phillips was queen. “She teaches hula hoop lessons.”

Paula Raiford was grand marshall. “We have such a long relationship. She and her father were so supportive of all we do on Beale Street and Silky Sullivan’s.”

“Kiss Me I’m Paula Raiford” instead of “Kiss Me I’m Irish” was written on Paula’s shirt.

As for her title, JoEllyn says, “I am the principal liaison with the Irish Eyes of Memphis.”

The parade, which was named in Silky’s honor, is put on by the Irish Eyes of Memphis and the Beale Street Merchants Association.

“It’s such a wonderful thing when you see all the diversity in the crowd. You’re looking at old people, young people, geographical, age, cultural diversity. It’s all about the green. It’s such a wonderful opportunity for people to share a smile and share some fun.”


Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Celebration - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Celebration
Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Celebration - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Celebration
Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Celebration - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Celebration
Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Celebration - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Celebration
Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Celebration - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Celebration
Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Celebration - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Celebration
Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Celebration - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Celebration
Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Celebration - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Celebration



Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Celebration - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Silky Sullivan St. Patrick’s Day Celebration
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Sarah Lynn Foster is 2019 queen of the Germantown Charity Horse Show. With her is Ben Wuller. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Sarah Lynn Foster is 2019 queen of the Germantown Charity Horse Show. With her is Ben Wuller.

Sarah Lynn Foster is the 2019 queen of the Germantown Charity Horse Show.

Foster, daughter of Andrew and Valerie Foster, was introduced at the 2019 Queen’s Ball, which was held March 2nd at the Hilton Memphis. She was escorted by her father and Ben Wuller.

Foster is a freshman at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she is majoring in environmental policy.  She will hold court during the Germantown Charity Horse Show which will celebrate its 71st anniversary June 4th through 8th.

Eighteen princesses were presented at the Queen’s Ball, which included dinner and dancing.

Kindred Place (formerly The Exchange Club Family Center) is the horse show’s benefiting sponsor.

Langston Suggs and  Sarah Moran were at the Queen's Ball. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Langston Suggs and Sarah Moran were at the Queen's Ball.

Queen's Ball. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Queen's Ball.
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Bro. Joel McGraw, Bro. Mark Engelmeyer and Gery Taulman at A Taste of CBHS - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Bro. Joel McGraw, Bro. Mark Engelmeyer and Gery Taulman at A Taste of CBHS

Not all of the restaurateurs at the 8th annual “A Taste of CBHS” were graduates of Christian Brothers High School. Some, including Ryan Trimm, whose restaurants include Sweet Grass, 117 Prime, and Sunrise Memphis; Frank Grisanti from Frank Grisanti Italian Restaurant; Armando Gagliano from Ecco on Overton Park and Libro; and Mike Garibaldi from Garibaldi’s Pizza were, but others just supported the school with their culinary expertise. Also on hand were CBHS alums Clark Orkiese and Will Goodwin from Crosstown Brewing Co.

Ken Kimble, CBHS director of advancements, describes the event as “the biggest one we’ve ever had. A big success.”

That’s in terms of attendance (more than 500), food and drink booths (39) and dollars raised (more than $40,000), Kimble says. And more sponsorships.

“One of the things we added this year was the sponsors tent,” Kimble says. “We had private wine selection from Athens Distributing. The Aaron family are Christian Brothers guys. That was a big hit.”

Larkin Grisanti, a 1993 CBHS grad, and his wife, Catherine Duncan, were event chairs.



Harrison Daniels and Gabby Brenner were at A Taste of CBHS. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Harrison Daniels and Gabby Brenner were at A Taste of CBHS.
A Taste of CBHS - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • A Taste of CBHS
Linda Tharp and Delise Casey were at A Taste of CBHS. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Linda Tharp and Delise Casey were at A Taste of CBHS.
A Taste of CBHS - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • A Taste of CBHS
Catherine Duncan and Larkin Grisanti at A Taste of CBHS. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Catherine Duncan and Larkin Grisanti at A Taste of CBHS.

.......................

Chris and Kristen Coles were at Cirque du CMOM. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Chris and Kristen Coles were at Cirque du CMOM.

“What Goes Around, Comes Around to Support The Children’s Museum of Memphis” was the theme of this year’s Cirque du CMOM, which was held March 2nd.

Universal Crush performed, a silent disco was held and food was prepared by local chefs.

And the Memphis Grand Carrousel went around and around with smiling guests.


Cirque du CMOM - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Cirque du CMOM


Hal and Savanah Tashie at Cirque du CMOM. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Hal and Savanah Tashie at Cirque du CMOM.
Cirque du CMOM. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Cirque du CMOM.

Cirque du CMOM - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Cirque du CMOM

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Nick Seccombe and Stephanie Beliles at Military Masquerade - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Nick Seccombe and Stephanie Beliles at Military Masquerade

The third Military Masquerade, held March 9th at Memphis Botanic Garden, was hosted by the Alpha Omega Veterans Services, a non-profit charitable organization that helps homeless and disabled veterans.

The event, which drew more than 120 guests and raised more than $50,000, featured live and silent auctions, entertainment by The Mighty Souls Brass Band, the QCG aerial performers, and cuisine from chef Kelly English of Second Line and Restaurant Iris.

ARS/Rescue Rooter was the "Medal of Honor" sponsor.

Cordell Walker is Alpha Omega Veterans Services executive director.

Stephanie Beliles was event chair.

Rachelle Hart and Cordell Walker at Military Masquerade Ball - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Rachelle Hart and Cordell Walker at Military Masquerade Ball





Military Masquerade - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Military Masquerade

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Krewe of Calvary Gumbo Cookoff. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Krewe of Calvary Gumbo Cookoff.

More than $2,100 was raised for youth ministries at Calvary Episcopal Church at the inaugural Krewe of Calvary Gumbo Cookoff.

“We had nine different gumbo ‘krewes’ enter,” says Gabbie Munn, youth ministries director and event founder. “Over 100 parishioners and guests attended.”

In addition to the gumbo, King cake, pancakes, sausage, and even pralines were included in the NOLA-esque fare.

Guests dined while Munn’s dad, Lloyd "Hurricane" Munn, performed on guitar. He was joined for a bit by Calvary rector Scott Walters, also on guitar.

There was no admission charge, Munn says. “It didn’t cost to come sample, but we encouraged people to use their dollars to vote.”

The winning gumbo was based on how much money was raised in a team’s donation bucket.

The La Baguette Brothers, a Bible study group, took first place.

Also getting in the Mardi Gras swing were Allison and Alan Crone, who opened their home for their annual Mardi Gras party, which was held March 2nd. Alan is senior policy advisor to mayor Jim Strickland.

The party featured Cajun-themed food and Mardi Gras decor.


Scot Walters and Llloyd "Hurricane" Munn performed at the Krewe of Calvary Gumbo Cookoff. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Scot Walters and Llloyd "Hurricane" Munn performed at the Krewe of Calvary Gumbo Cookoff.
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Allison and Alan Crone at their Mardi Gras party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Allison and Alan Crone at their Mardi Gras party.


Crone Mardi Gras party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Crone Mardi Gras party.
Crone Mardi Gras party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Crone Mardi Gras party.
Crone Mardi Gras party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Crone Mardi Gras party.
...............
Dr. Roy and Lydia Bors Koefoed at the Heart Ball. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Dr. Roy and Lydia Bors Koefoed at the Heart Ball.

About 500 people attended the Memphis Heart Ball, the Memphis Heart Association fundraiser held February 23rd at The Peabody.

“It was the most impactful Heart Ball we’ve had with approximately 500 people in attendance,” says Libby Perry, American Heart Association communication director.

The event included live and silent auctions. Burning Las Vegas performed.

Dr. Roy and Lydia Bors Koefoed were event chairs.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Historical Inaugural Memphis Events: Memphis 901 FC Soccer, Malco Powerhouse, Coffee Expo

Posted By on Fri, Mar 15, 2019 at 3:51 PM

George Herman Ruth Jr. was known as "Babe Ruth." Michael Joseph Donahue's new nickname is "Butterfinger" after I tried my hand - in oversized gloves - at being a goalie - with the help of Memphis 901 FC goalie Jeff Caldwell. - JON W. SPARKS
  • Jon W. Sparks
  • George Herman Ruth Jr. was known as "Babe Ruth." Michael Joseph Donahue's new nickname is "Butterfinger" after I tried my hand - in oversized gloves - at being a goalie - with the help of Memphis 901 FC goalie Jeff Caldwell.







I was more of a target than a soccer goalie. I thought being dressed the part would help, but it didn't.  I even ordered special gloves. A shout out to Hans Bermel, Buck Morris and Hayes Westlake for loaning me soccer clothes. And John Elmore for letitng me borrow his rugby cleats. - JON W. SPARKS
  • Jon W. Sparks
  • I was more of a target than a soccer goalie. I thought being dressed the part would help, but it didn't. I even ordered special gloves. A shout out to Hans Bermel, Buck Morris and Hayes Westlake for loaning me soccer clothes. And John Elmore for letitng me borrow his rugby cleats.
I can't catch the "throwed rolls" at Lambert's Cafe in Sikeston, Mo. either. - JON W. SPARKS
  • Jon W. Sparks
  • I can't catch the "throwed rolls" at Lambert's Cafe in Sikeston, Mo. either.
A goalie and a "goalie." - JON W. SPARKS
  • Jon W. Sparks
  • A goalie and a "goalie."

The Memphis 901 FC inaugural soccer game, held March 9th at AutoZonePark, was one of those Memphis happenings.

A crowd of 8,000 turned out to see the Memphis team take on the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

With all the rain, the day began a little sketchy for an outdoor event.

“I’m just glad the skies parted and we have sun,” says Carol Coletta, who attended the game with her husband, John Montgomery.

Coletta, president/CEO of the Memphis River Parks Partnership, was excited about the event for more than one reason. “It’s so culturally diverse.”

A Latino man told her, “This is the first thing I’ve ever felt was for us.”

The new soccer establishment did things right. They have ‘the coolest gear,” Carol says. And, she says, “I put the logo on my computer.”

She and John were planning to go to the Memphis Tigers game at FedExForum immediately following the soccer game.

Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau president/CEO Kevin Kane was pleased with the buzz and the throng of people downtown. “Downtown Memphis looks like spring break in Daytona Beach,” he says.

Craig Unger and Kevin Kane at the inaugural Memphis 901 FC game. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Craig Unger and Kevin Kane at the inaugural Memphis 901 FC game.
Carol Coletta and John Montgomery at the inaugural game of Memphis 901 FC. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Carol Coletta and John Montgomery at the inaugural game of Memphis 901 FC.
The inaugural game of Memphis 901 FC. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • The inaugural game of Memphis 901 FC.
Gorkem Yamandag, Noah Yamandag and Maria Turrubiatez at the Memphis 901 FC inaugural game. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Gorkem Yamandag, Noah Yamandag and Maria Turrubiatez at the Memphis 901 FC inaugural game.
JON W. SPARKS
  • Jon W. Sparks
....................
Bobby Levy, Joanie Lightman, Michael Lightman, Ainsley Lightman, David Tashie at the opening of Malco Powerhouse. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Bobby Levy, Joanie Lightman, Michael Lightman, Ainsley Lightman, David Tashie at the opening of Malco Powerhouse.

Another happening was the opening of the Malco Powerhouse Cinema Grill, which was held March 7th.

Karen Melton, Malco Theatres vice-president and director of marketing, says it was a “very successful evening.”

And, she says, “We had sellout crowds.”

The seven-screen boutique theater at 540 South Front features luxury recliner seats that you can reserve and a full-service restaurant with a wood-burning brick pizza oven. And more.

Michael Lightman with Malco and his wife, Joanie, invited first-nighters to watch the last 20 minutes - the concert scene - from “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the Malco-branded large screen MXT Extreme Theatre.

Rodrick Seals, who attended opening night with his wife, Tara, probably spoke for everyone when he said, “This is impressive.”

Sue Layman Lightman and Steve Lightman at the Malco Powerhouse opening. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Sue Layman Lightman and Steve Lightman at the Malco Powerhouse opening.
Rodrick and Tara Seals at Malco Powerhouse opening night. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Rodrick and Tara Seals at Malco Powerhouse opening night.
Terry and Phil Woodard at at Malco Powerhouse opening night. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Terry and Phil Woodard at at Malco Powerhouse opening night.
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Rachel Williams and Daniel Lynn at Grind City Coffee Expo. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Rachel Williams and Daniel Lynn at Grind City Coffee Expo.

If you didn’t get your morning cup(s) of coffee on March 9th, you could have sampled coffee from Avenue Coffee, Comeback Coffee, Dr. Bean’s Coffee & Tea, French Truck Coffee, Launch Process Coffee, Reverb Coffee, The Hub, Vice & Virtue Coffee, and AWAL Coffee, They all were available at another inaugural event: Grind City Coffee Expo, which was held at Memphis College of Art.

More than 400 attended the event, which was co-founded by Daniel Lynn and Rachel Williams.

“I thought it went great,” Daniel says. “The reception from everyone who attended to all the vendors who participated was incredible. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. We’ve had nothing but positive reviews. I thought it was awesome as well. We truly exceeded our expectations from the crowd to the event itself. It was amazing.”

Asked the purpose of the event, Daniel says, “To bring the coffee community together under one roof.”

And, he says, “To create an environment where coffee is very approachable for the guests. So, basically, to provide an education for the attendee. To make them feel like they could go take home what they learned. That’s why the tasting cards were there. To learn the difference between the different pour overs. Like a V60 and a Chemex.”

Daniel says he learned as well. “I started this because I wanted to create an event I wanted to go to in Memphis.”

He got the idea after attending a Science of Beer event a couple of years ago at Pink Palace Museum. “I looked around and said, ‘Man, this would be cool if this was coffee.’ More my speed. That’s what I’m into. I started looking around and found there’s lots of coffee events around the country and in other cities. With the exploding coffee culture we have here, it just made sense to have it here.”

And, Daniel says, “We’re hoping to make it an annual event.”

Grind City Coffee Expo. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Grind City Coffee Expo.

Kathleen Williams and Mats Jaslo at Grind City Coffee Expo. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Kathleen Williams and Mats Jaslo at Grind City Coffee Expo.
Ethan Scott, Joshua Scott and Nicholas Nolen at Grind City Coffee Expo. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Ethan Scott, Joshua Scott and Nicholas Nolen at Grind City Coffee Expo.
Reggie Taylor, Chandler Murphy and Ryan Henry from The Hub Coffeehouse at Grind City Coffee Expo. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Reggie Taylor, Chandler Murphy and Ryan Henry from The Hub Coffeehouse at Grind City Coffee Expo.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Remembering Rufus Thomas's Birthday Party and More!

Posted By on Fri, Mar 1, 2019 at 3:58 PM

I had the pleasure of being a guest of honor, along with Rufus Thomas, at Thomas's birthday dinner given by Eugene Phillips. Judging by my hair, this should be the late '80s or early '90s. I'm with Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Willie Bland and Ethan Taylor. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • I had the pleasure of being a guest of honor, along with Rufus Thomas, at Thomas's birthday dinner given by Eugene Phillips. Judging by my hair, this should be the late '80s or early '90s. I'm with Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Willie Bland and Ethan Taylor.

Parties given by Eugene Phillips are a part of Memphis music history many people don’t know about.


I began attending birthday parties given by Phillips for Rufus Thomas about 30-plus years ago. My birthday is around the same time as Thomas’s, so my birthday was celebrated, too.


They were amazing when I think back. Carla Thomas, Rufus’s daughter, was there and other music notables or relatives of music notables.

Phillips hasn’t stopped giving parties with music guests. In addition to celebrating Rufus’s birthday back in the day, Phillips celebrates his own birthday. I attended his recent birthday party, which was held February 10th at his Germantown home. His long-time friend Anita Ward, whose 1979 recording of "Ring My Bell" was a hit song, was among the guests.

I asked Phillips to tell me the history of his parties.

“Over 40 years ago, Sandy Lewis, who was on the board of St. Jude, took me on a tour of the hospital and I was so impressed,” Phillips says. “And, I remember, on my birthday people were always giving me a lot of gifts. Things I didn’t need.”

He told Ward, who was his next door, “I was thinking. I’ve got a birthday coming up. I’m going to ask them to take that money and donate to St. Jude. And they started doing it.”

To date, Phillips says he’s raised “over $80,000” for St. Jude.

The birthday parties for Rufus also began about 40 years ago, Phillips says. “I gave Rufus a birthday party. And Rufus told me, ‘I don’t care what’s going on on my birthday, what other people plan, I want my birthday dinner at your house.’ This is what he told me years ago. That’s why every year I always held Rufus’s annual birthday dinner. ‘Cause Rufus always enjoyed being in my home and with friends. People he felt comfortable around.”

Rufus had “two birthdays,” Phillips says. “The way that happened was he always celebrated on the 26th, and found out in later years his birthday was on the 27th.”

I remember the lavish spreads at Rufus’ birthday parties at Phillips' home. “Baked turkey and dressing and candied yams. Rufus liked real food. We had a variety of salads and vegetables and wine. We just had everything.”

Rooms in Phillips’s home are named after his friends. He’s got the Rufus Thomas music room, the Bobby “Blue” Bland room, the George Nichopoulos room, the Pat Vanderschaaf room, and hallways named after Ward and attorney Jocalyn Wurzburg, and rooms named after Kelly and Dr, Greg Hanissian, Vera and N. J. Ford, and the children of the Church of God in Christ founder, the late Bishop C. H. Mason.

I asked him to save the garage for me.

Photos of his friends line the walls upstairs and downstairs in Phillips’s home.

“It is so nice to have memories,” Phillips says.


Eugene Phillips birthday dinner. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Eugene Phillips birthday dinner.
Michael Fahr, Zeina Alwafai and Eugene Phillips at Phillips birthday party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Michael Fahr, Zeina Alwafai and Eugene Phillips at Phillips birthday party.

Andreas Kisler with his wife, JoAnn, and son, Blade at Memphis Restaurant Association's 55th annual banquet. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Andreas Kisler with his wife, JoAnn, and son, Blade at Memphis Restaurant Association's 55th annual banquet.

Chefs Andreas Kisler and Patrick Reilly, and non-chef (at least professionally) Shawn Massey brought home the bacon this year at the Memphis Restaurant Association’s 55th annual banquet, which was held February 24th at The Peabody.

Kisler, executive chef at The Peabody, was named Chef of the Year. Reilly, who, along with his wife, Deni, own The Majestic Grille, is Restaurateur of the Year. And Massey, a partner in the Memphis Office of The Shopping Center Group (TSCG), was named Associate Member of the Year.

Ernie Mellor is Memphis Restaurant Association president. Father Nicholas Vieron gave the invocation.

As one would expect, lots of food was on hand, including the cocktail portion of the evening. And, as one would expect, Kisler was in the kitchen getting the food ready.

Patrick and Deni Reilly at Memphis Restaurant Association banquet. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Patrick and Deni Reilly at Memphis Restaurant Association banquet.
Shawn and Price Massey at Memphis Restaurant Association banquet. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Shawn and Price Massey at Memphis Restaurant Association banquet.
Lynn and Ernie Mellor at Memphis Restaurant Association banquet. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Lynn and Ernie Mellor at Memphis Restaurant Association banquet.


Taylor and Hannah Hemphill at Memphis Restaurant Association banquet. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Taylor and Hannah Hemphill at Memphis Restaurant Association banquet.
Amanda and Drew Cipala at Memphis Restaurant Association banquet. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Amanda and Drew Cipala at Memphis Restaurant Association banquet.


Nick, a St. Jude patient, and Richard Shadyac at St. Jude Spirit of the Dream. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Nick, a St. Jude patient, and Richard Shadyac at St. Jude Spirit of the Dream.


This year’s St. Jude Spirit of the Dream event honored the legacy African-Americans have contributed to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

More than 350 attended the event, which was held February 22nd in the Domino Event Center at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

A C Wharton acknowledged Dr. Rudolph Jackson, St. Jude’s first African-American doctor; attorney Robert L. J. Spence, the hospital’s first African-American pharmacist; and Dr. William Terrell, St. Jude’s first African-American resident.

A total of $110,000 was raised.

Gary Goin’s G3 Band performed.

A C Wharton and Mayor Jim Strickland at St. Jude Spirit of the Dream. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • A C Wharton and Mayor Jim Strickland at St. Jude Spirit of the Dream.
Christopher Greer and Javaris Tucker at St. Jude Spirit of the Dream. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Christopher Greer and Javaris Tucker at St. Jude Spirit of the Dream.
Kiesha Davis and Christopher Capel at St. Jude Spirit of the Dream. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Kiesha Davis and Christopher Capel at St. Jude Spirit of the Dream.


Les Passes Cabaret - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Les Passes Cabaret

……….


“Havana Nights” was the theme of this year’s Les Passees Cabaret, which was held February 23rd at Memphis Botanic Garden. That meant guests dined on mojo-marinated pork tenderloin, ropa vieja (slow cooked Cuban beef), and papas bravas (Spanish roasted peanuts).

The tradition of Living Ads - young women representing businesses and individuals - continued. This year’s Ads were Madison Elizabeth Anton, Annie Laurie McPherson and Savanna Theresa St. John.

Kacie Cooper and Missy Green were Cabaret co-chairs. Suzanne Oliphant is Les Passees president.

A total of 220 people attended.


Les Passes Cabaret - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Les Passes Cabaret


……………..

Zachary Clark and Anna Hunigan at Madonna Learning Center gala. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Zachary Clark and Anna Hunigan at Madonna Learning Center gala.

It’s not every fundraiser where most of the audience sticks around for a live auction that ends around 10:30. But that’s what a lot of people at the Madonna Learning Center Annual Gala and Auction did.

More than 900 people attended the event, “A Night of Reel Fun,” says the center’s development director Carrie Roberts. The party was held February 23rd at the Hilton Memphis.

The live auction raised more than $72,000. And, Roberts says, Light Up the House, where “people donate money to help support us” during the event, raised an additional $40,000.

The silent auction raised $47,000.

“We’re very happy with our numbers this year,” she says.

As for this year being a record, Roberts doesn’t yet know. But, she says, “We’re neck-and-neck with last year, which was a record.”

Aggie Fratta was event chair. The Soul Shockers performed.

Katie Elliot, Jordan Bruce, Bill Frese, and Tricia Frese at Madonna Learning Center gala. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Katie Elliot, Jordan Bruce, Bill Frese, and Tricia Frese at Madonna Learning Center gala.
John Scalisi and Andria Destefano at Madonna Learning Center gala. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • John Scalisi and Andria Destefano at Madonna Learning Center gala.

…….

Phillip Hicks and Olivia Ameigh at Memphis Garden Gala. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Phillip Hicks and Olivia Ameigh at Memphis Garden Gala.

Guests were asked to dress in snow skiing attire for the third annual Memphis Garden Gala, which was held February 23rd at Teton Trek at the Memphis Zoo. “Apres Ski” was the theme.

But that day was one of those crazy February Memphis days when the weather was in the 70s.

That night, the weather still was balmy, but most people — even those bundled up — didn’t seem to mind.

The event, which drew 200 people, was a fund-raiser for Big Green, a nonprofit founded by Kimbal Musk and Hugo Matheson dedicated to building a healthier future for children through a nationwide network of Learning Gardens and food literacy programs.

The first Big Green Memphis Learning Garden, where students are exposed to life cycles of fruits and vegetables, was built in 2015. Now, 122 more have been built and another six more are slated to be built by July, 2019.

“Apres Ski” featured live and silent auctions. Dinner was by chefs Jose Gutierrez of River Oaks, Will Byrd of City Silo Table + Pantry, Patrick Reilly of Majestic Grille, and Konrad Spitzbart of The Peabody.

Lisa Ellis is Big Green Memphis regional director.

Connor Glennon and Kristen Rotenberry at Memphis Garden Gala. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Connor Glennon and Kristen Rotenberry at Memphis Garden Gala.

Emily and Mitchell Lindsey at Memphis Garden Gala. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Emily and Mitchell Lindsey at Memphis Garden Gala.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Soup Sunday, Southern Reins, Memphis Blues, Beer Bracket Challenge

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2019 at 4:03 PM

The Rendezvous is a long-time supporter of charitable events, including Soup Sunday at times over the years. This photo may be at the first Zoo Rendezvous. It's when my hair was a different color and four times bigger. That's Nick Vergos (at left) and his dad, the late Charlie Vergos, who founded the Rendezvous.
  • The Rendezvous is a long-time supporter of charitable events, including Soup Sunday at times over the years. This photo may be at the first Zoo Rendezvous. It's when my hair was a different color and four times bigger. That's Nick Vergos (at left) and his dad, the late Charlie Vergos, who founded the Rendezvous.

I sampled everything from smoked tomato basil with charred kale soup from Hog Wild/A Moveable Feast to cheeseburger soup from Rizzo’s at Youth Villages Soup Sunday.

You could even get “stone soup” at the Stone Soup booth.

This is the annual event, where restaurants and other food services serve samples of soup, bread, and desserts to hundreds of hungry guests,

About 3,000 attended this year’s event, which was held February 17th at FedExForum. About $77,000 was raised.

The event also included the VIP Souper party, where guests didn’t have to stand in a soup line.

Not only was Rizzo's chef/owner Michael Patrick the recipient of the Souper Spirit Award, but Rizzo's cheeseburger soup took the best soup award upstairs at the VIP party.

The black bean with sweet potato and chorizo soup from the "Food With Class" Youth Villages vocational program at the Bartlett residential facility won Best Overall at the VIP party.

Memphis Restaurant Association's Southwestern corn chowder took the top honors downstairs in the regular event area.

During Soup Sunday, a friend showed me an old photo she found of me with extremely dark brown hair, Nick Vergos, and his dad, Charlie Vergos, founder of the legendary Rendezvous restaurant. Judging by Nick’s cap and a sticker that says “Zoo,” we must have been at an early Zoo Rendezvous. Maybe the first one. I believe Rendezvous provided all the food that year, hence the event’s name.

Rendezvous doesn’t participate every year, but Youth Villages CEO Patrick Lawler says it has in the past. He remembers when they served barbecued popcorn.

“We also did red beans and rice,” says Nick’s brother, John Vergos.

Rendezvous has a history of being involved in charitable events in Memphis. “My brother and Thomas Boggs started Zoo Rendezvous,” John says. “It used to be called ‘Rendezvous at the Zoo.’ We still participate.”

Charlie Vergos also started “Rendezvous at the Dixon.” “We also help with the Metal Museum. We feed all the employees when they do Repair Days. Still do that.”

“We don’t give to the charities that raise millions and millions of dollars. We like to be involved at the beginning and help start things.”

And, John says, they like to be involved with something where they “can feed 500 or 1,000 people and make a real impact.”

Michael Patrick, chef/ownenr of Rizzo's restaurant, won the Souper Spirit Award and best soup in the VIP area at Soup Sunday. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Michael Patrick, chef/ownenr of Rizzo's restaurant, won the Souper Spirit Award and best soup in the VIP area at Soup Sunday.

Jarod Kimble and Jennae Stevenson were at Soup Sunday. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Jarod Kimble and Jennae Stevenson were at Soup Sunday.
Myers Nobert, Patrick Lawler and Gary Nobert at Soup Sunday. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Myers Nobert, Patrick Lawler and Gary Nobert at Soup Sunday.
Soup Sunday - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Soup Sunday



Soup Sunday - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Soup Sunday
Soup Sunday - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Soup Sunday

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Rob Reetz, Kamyla Rivers and Jayla Hampton at Memphis Blues Rugby Club season opener. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Rob Reetz, Kamyla Rivers and Jayla Hampton at Memphis Blues Rugby Club season opener.

Guests — some wrapped in blankets — stood outside in 40-something degree weather and watched men wearing shorts play rugby at the Memphis Blues rugby team’s season opener, which was held February 16th at McBride Field.

Tucker McCormack, one of the guests, also wore shorts. A friend of his says she was surprised he wasn’t barefooted.

In addition to missing his long pants, McCormack also missed his beard and mustache, which would have come in handy on a cold day.

And, he says, “I shaved today and it was a huge mistake.”

Those who attended got into the action on the field. “This is organized violence,” says bystander Devon Carter.

But those big guys on the field also have big hearts. Players raised money and provided rugby gear to the Soulsville Girls Rugby Team.

“We did an angel tree type of donation,” says Memphis Blues player Rob Reetz. “We raised over $500 in donations from current and ex-players. Sent out a notice to all local high school programs and only one school responded - the Soulsville Girls Rugby Team.

Each member of the team “gave us a ‘wish list’ of rugby gear that they wanted or needed. And we raised enough money to get the girls everything on their lists. We bought new Adidas cleats, rugby shorts, socks, compression shorts, USA rugby jerseys, new rugby balls, and kicking tees.”

Caleb Johnson and Ruby at the Memphis Blues Rugby Club season opener. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Caleb Johnson and Ruby at the Memphis Blues Rugby Club season opener.
August Stevens, Anna Vo and Mungo were at the Memphis Blues Rugby Club season opener. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • August Stevens, Anna Vo and Mungo were at the Memphis Blues Rugby Club season opener.
Matt Hill was at the Memphis Blues Rugby Club season opener. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Matt Hill was at the Memphis Blues Rugby Club season opener.
Joe Temple, Spencer Hansen and Colby McKinney were at the Memphis Blues Rugby Club season opener. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Joe Temple, Spencer Hansen and Colby McKinney were at the Memphis Blues Rugby Club season opener.
John Elmore and Dawson Pappas at the Memphis Blues Rugby Club season opener. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • John Elmore and Dawson Pappas at the Memphis Blues Rugby Club season opener.


Thomas Miles, Robert Kyle, Caleb Johnson, Chloe Johnson and Ruby at the Memphis Blues Rugby Club season opener. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Thomas Miles, Robert Kyle, Caleb Johnson, Chloe Johnson and Ruby at the Memphis Blues Rugby Club season opener.

...............
Jockeys & Juleps kickoff reception. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Jockeys & Juleps kickoff reception.

Southern Reins says it’s time to start thinking about “Big hats, Bourbon, Bluegrass.” That’s what its annual event, “Jockeys & Juleps” will feature along with a live broadcast of the 2019 Kentucky Derby.

The announcement with details of this year’s party was at a kickoff party, which was held February 21st at the home of Kim Jordan.

Jockeys & Juleps will be held May 4th at Southern Reins at 916 Billy Bryant Road in Collierville. It will include live music, a bourbon bar, a hat contest, Southern cuisine, Derby desserts, and silent and live auctions.

Proceeds from the event will help provide equine-assisted activities and therapies to people with disabilities and hardship throughout the Mid-South.


..............................

Representatives of participating breweries turned out for Memphis Flyer and Aldo's Beer Bracket Challenge Match-Up, which was held February 11th at Aldo's Pizza Pies Downtown. Readers were asked to select their favorite beer. The winner will be announced soon. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Representatives of participating breweries turned out for Memphis Flyer and Aldo's Beer Bracket Challenge Match-Up, which was held February 11th at Aldo's Pizza Pies Downtown. Readers were asked to select their favorite beer. The winner will be announced soon.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Marc Gasol, Works of Heart, Peabody's 150th and more

Posted By on Thu, Feb 14, 2019 at 2:04 PM

Me and Marc at Art on Fire 2018 at Dixon Gallery and Gardens. - FRANK CHIN
  • Frank Chin
  • Me and Marc at Art on Fire 2018 at Dixon Gallery and Gardens.

I’m going to miss Marc Gasol.

I’ve photographed the former Memphis Grizzlies player, who recently was traded, and I've been photographed with him several times over the past 12 years. It’s always a pleasure to see Gasol at parties, which have included the old Grizz Gala in Tunica, the opening of The Gray Canary restaurant, and the Memphis Food & Wine Festival.

Gasol always was gracious, but if he didn’t want his photo taken at that moment because the program was about to start or whatever, he’d say so. And when he was ready, he let me know. I never argued with him.

When you knew Gasol was going to be at a party, it was a big deal. He is the epitome of star power.

Here are a few photos of Gasol from parties I covered. Frank Chin took the ones of me and Gasol at Art on Fire, which was held last October at Dixon Gallery and Gardens. I took the other ones.


Marc Gasol with Alan and Susan Graf at the Memphis Food and Wine Festival  in 2017. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Marc Gasol with Alan and Susan Graf at the Memphis Food and Wine Festival in 2017.
Marc Gasol and his wife, Cristina Blesa, at the opening of The Gray Canary restaurant February 20th, 2018. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Marc Gasol and his wife, Cristina Blesa, at the opening of The Gray Canary restaurant February 20th, 2018.
Dixon Gallery and Gardens director Kevin Sharpe and Marc Gasol at Art on Fire. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Dixon Gallery and Gardens director Kevin Sharpe and Marc Gasol at Art on Fire.
Mike Conley, Michael Donahue and Marc Gasol at Art on Fire. - FRANK CHIN
  • Frank Chin
  • Mike Conley, Michael Donahue and Marc Gasol at Art on Fire.




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"The Queen of Hearts" by Younok Jung at Works of Heart. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • "The Queen of Hearts" by Younok Jung at Works of Heart.

Instead of “Be my valentine,” guests were thinking, “I want that heart,” at Works of Heart, which was held February 9th at Memphis College of Art.


More than 100 artists created works with a “heart” as the inspiration for the annual Memphis Child Advocacy Center fund-raiser.


About 350 people attended, says Beryl Wight, the center’s communications and grants manager.


“Net proceeds are $75,000,” Beryl says.

Works of Heart - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Works of Heart
Works of Heart - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Works of Heart
Works of Heart - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Works of Heart
Works of Heart - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Works of Heart
Works of Heart - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Works of Heart


…………..

Doug Browne, Marty Belz, and Scott Boucher at The Peabody 150th anniversary reception. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Doug Browne, Marty Belz, and Scott Boucher at The Peabody 150th anniversary reception.


The Peabody kicked off its 150th celebration with a reception to announce upcoming events.

On September 5th, the hotel will host its 150th Anniversary Party and Grand Dinner. The party will begin in the lobby and will include a special guest, who will be induc(DUCK)ted into the Duck Walk Hall of Fame. Dinner will be held in the Continental Ballroom.


The Jack Daniels Tasting and Dinner will be November 7th. The dinner will be a Jack Daniels-inspired dinner.

A Skyway Sunset Serenade, a throwback big band dance party to the old Skyway and rooftop events of the past, will be held at a date to be announced.

And — if you’d like something extra fancy — try the Royal Wagyu Truffle Burger at Chez Philippe. It includes butter poached lobster, caramelized onion, St. Andre cheese, huckleberry aioli, parmesan black truffle fries on a brioche bun. It comes with a half bottle of Rombauer cabernet sauvignon. California, 2015. And it’s only $150.

Jim Holt, Kevin Kane, and Craig Unger were at The Peabody's 150th anniversary kickoff reception. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Jim Holt, Kevin Kane, and Craig Unger were at The Peabody's 150th anniversary kickoff reception.

………..

JJ Keras, Kristina McMorris, Anne Bogel, Brad Taylor, and Janie Lowery at Literacy is Key. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • JJ Keras, Kristina McMorris, Anne Bogel, Brad Taylor, and Janie Lowery at Literacy is Key.

Anne Bogel, Kristina McMorris, and Brad Taylor were the featured authors at the Literacy is Key: A Book & Author Event, which was held February 7th at Holiday Inn at the University of Memphis.

Bogel, who hosts a weekly podcast, “What Should I Read Next,” is the author of two books, including her recent, I’d Rather be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life.

McMorris is author of Letters from Home, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, and other best-selling novels.

Taylor is author of the "Pike Logan" series, which now includes 12 installments. His books draw from his experiences in the United States Army Infantry.

The annual event is presented by the Memphis Alumnae Association of Kappa Kappa Gamma Fraternity.

Its primary beneficiary is First Book Mid-South, a non-profit with a mission of providing the first books to children of low income families.

............


Christine and Page Robbins Adult Day Center board president Paul Woods at the Page Robbins Winter Gala. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Christine and Page Robbins Adult Day Center board president Paul Woods at the Page Robbins Winter Gala.
.........................

This year’s Page Robbins Winter Gala, the largest fund-raiser for the Page Robbins Adult Day Center, was a record breaker. The event netted more than $195,000, which is more than the event ever raised. About 420 people attended the event, which was held February 2nd at The Guest House at Graceland.

The event included a cocktail hour, silent and live auctions, and dancing to the Soul Shockers.

Herbie Krisle is executive director of the center.

The Page Robbins Adult Day Center is a non-profit organization in Collierville that provides daytime care for adults with memory loss.

Board member Carole Williams was chair of the Page Robbins Winter Gala. With her is her husband, Dodd. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Board member Carole Williams was chair of the Page Robbins Winter Gala. With her is her husband, Dodd.
Peggy Killett and Wes Parker were at the Page Robbins Gala. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Peggy Killett and Wes Parker were at the Page Robbins Gala.
David and Rachel Wall and Laura and Charles Hall were at the Page Robbins Gala. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • David and Rachel Wall and Laura and Charles Hall were at the Page Robbins Gala.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Krispy Kreme Challenge and more!

Posted By on Thu, Feb 7, 2019 at 4:33 PM

I didn't run in the Krispy Kreme Challenge, but I did hold two of the doughnuts over my eyes to make them look like glasses. - JON W. SPARKS
  • Jon W. Sparks
  • I didn't run in the Krispy Kreme Challenge, but I did hold two of the doughnuts over my eyes to make them look like glasses.

Everybody likes to eat a dozen glazed doughnuts after they’ve run 2.5 miles, right? And then immediately run 2.5 more miles?

That was the premise of the Krispy Kreme Challenge, which was held February 2nd on Beale Street.

“We’re doing the unofficial Krispy Kreme Challenge that takes place annually in Raleigh,” says organizer/participant Brett Healey. “It’s a fund-raiser in Raleigh and, fortunately, we’ve turned it into a fund-raiser in Memphis for Breakaway Running.”

Participants had to run, eat a dozen doughnuts, and run some more — all under an hour. That was the challenge.

Karin Biggerstaff, general manager of the Krispy Kreme on Hacks Cross Road, says they donated 35 dozen doughnuts.

“I don’t mind the running, but eating a dozen doughnuts in the middle of the run is going to be a challenge,” says Richard Murphy, who wanted to run to “support the local running community.”

He ended up winning the run. He came in well under an hour.

Casey Inman came in second place, and Christian Dehner came in third.

Inman won last year’s unofficial Krispy Kreme Challenge, which was Healey’s inaugural event.

“We, actually, went to breakfast afterwards,” he says. “We went and grabbed brunch. Had some fried chicken and waffles.”


.............

Sara and David Thompson and Krystal and Lynn Shaw were at the Vive le Brooks! launch party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Sara and David Thompson and Krystal and Lynn Shaw were at the Vive le Brooks! launch party.

Bradley and Emily Rice were at the Vive le Brooks! launch party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Bradley and Emily Rice were at the Vive le Brooks! launch party.

Under the “shade” of Federico Uribe’s towering tree sculpture with its multitude of dangling socks on clotheslines in the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art rotunda, guests dined on cuisine prepared by chefs from Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman restaurants, sipped wine, and listened to David Thompson talk about the agenda for “Vive le Brooks!” at the Vive le Brooks! Launch Party. Thompson and his wife, Sara, and Emily and Bradley Rice are the 2019 Vive le Brooks! chairs.


About 200 people attended the launch party, which was held January 31st. The series of parties with new names is the rebranded Memphis Wine + Food series for 2019 for Brooks.

The series will include several events, which will be held at the Brooks: Meet the Winemaker on March 23rd, Vive le Smash March 24th, the Grand Artisan’s Dinner May 17th, and The Grand Auction on May 18th, all at Brooks.

VIve le Brooks! is the premier fund-raising endeavor of the Brooks. Proceeds will make the arts accessible to children and adults across the Mid-South. The series contributed more than $5 million in net revenue to the Brooks over the past 27 years. The money directly supports the museum’s educational and community-outreach programs.

Bryan and Courtney Smith were  at the Vive le Brooks! launch party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Bryan and Courtney Smith were at the Vive le Brooks! launch party.

Spencer Coplan, Jordan Ayers, Grace Peterson and Chad Harrison at Vive le Brooks! launch party. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Spencer Coplan, Jordan Ayers, Grace Peterson and Chad Harrison at Vive le Brooks! launch party.
Chefs at the Vive le Brooks! dinner were Robin Rader, Brandon Matthews, Ryan Jenniges, J. R. Bearden and Jared Summers. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Chefs at the Vive le Brooks! dinner were Robin Rader, Brandon Matthews, Ryan Jenniges, J. R. Bearden and Jared Summers.

Chris McCoy and Bruce Van Wyngarden at the 20 Under 30 reception. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Chris McCoy and Bruce Van Wyngarden at the 20 Under 30 reception.
……………

Twenty-one honorees were included in this year’s “20 Under 30” Memphis Flyer issue.

This year’s “class of 2019” were the guests of honor at a reception, which was held January 23rd at Restaurant Iris.

About 150 people packed the house at the event, which was co-hosted by the New Memphis Institute and Northwest Mutual.

Flyer readers were asked to nominate exceptional Memphians under the age of 30.

Most popular photo spot at the party? Beside the blow-up of the January 24th Memphis Flyer cover, which pictures all the honorees.

Josalynne Love, one of the honorees, at the 20 Under 30 reception. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Josalynne Love, one of the honorees, at the 20 Under 30 reception.

…………….

Joel Alexander at Incognito. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Joel Alexander at Incognito.

When you’re at the Incognito art show, The person in costume standing next to you might be the artist who painted the picture you’re bidding on.

The premise is simple. Artists exhibit their works but they don’t put their names on the piece. Someone bids on the artwork because they like the work, not because of who executed it. “Our theme has been — since nothing is signed on the front — ‘Bid for what you love, not who you know,’” says Phyllis Boger, former president of Artists Link, which puts on the show.

This year’s event, which is sponsored by Artists Link and Memphis Botanic Garden, was held January 25th.

They encouraged the artists to dress up when the show began in Memphis years ago, Boger says. “Thinking it would be fun for the artists to come incognito. Some go way out there. Just go crazy. And do a great job.”

Some, she says, just “wear a mask and come a little incognito.”

And then, she says, “Some people don’t like dressing up.”


Boger started the show when she was president of Artists Link. Originally, the art was just by members. Today, other artists participate. In past years, Jerry “The King” Lawler was one of the contributing artists.

Incognito now features the “quick bid.” People can come in and “buy something off the bat for $250. They don’t have to go through the bidding process.”

This year, Boger says, “Barbara Tigrett, Connie Lampen, and Jane Croy sold their pieces within 15 minutes.”

About $8,000 was raised in the sale of artwork and another $1,500 in ticket sales, Boger says.

WKNO’s Kacky Walton has been the emcee for the past three years.

Phyllis Boger at Incognito. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Phyllis Boger at Incognito.

……………..

Community Foundation of Northeast Mississippi Pastor Bartholomew Orr, Star of Hope Jesse Holland and Foundation president Tom Pittman
  • Community Foundation of Northeast Mississippi Pastor Bartholomew Orr, Star of Hope Jesse Holland and Foundation president Tom Pittman

Jesse J. Holland, author of "Black Panther: Who is the Black Panther?," was the Star of Hope honoree at the Crystal Ball, the annual event presented by the Community Foundation of Northeast Mississippi. The event was held January 19th at the Southaven Arena.

Holland is a native of Hudsonville, Mississippi, in Marshall County. His book was based on the comic book superhero, who also was portrayed in the 2018 movie, Black Panther.

Obviously, "superhero" was the theme of the event, which was chaired by Emily and Patrick Johnson.

,,,,,,,,,,,,,
Tawny Skye at "Enough: Me Too Exhibit." - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Tawny Skye at "Enough: Me Too Exhibit."

About 500 people turned out for the opening reception of the “Enough: Me Too Exhibit,” which was held January 25th at Memphis College of Art.

Tawny Skye curated the show and also was one of the 25 artists who exhibited work. She is owner of Femme Pots, where pottery is sold to raise money for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).

“This is the second one I’ve done in the last year,” Skye says. “I’ve been making my art work about rape culture about four years. [It’s] basically a culture that facilitates and perpetuates the idea that rape is okay.

“For instance, I did a series — my ‘Weapons’ series — to talk about how women are being used as weapons of war. Way back, when armies would infiltrate countries, they would rape women and impregnate women so it would taint the culture. By their standards.

“I decided I wanted to make work that would talk about how strong survivors are and how coming together will help us. And finding the beauty in pain.

“I made these vessels that resembled fertility figures to kind of change the definition of women’s role. In these vessels, I fermented in wine clothing I wore when I was raped. So, they became vessels that took on my pain with me.

“From 7 to 11 my family member was molesting me. And when I was 18 I was raped. And I started remembering my childhood.”

One purpose of the “Enough: Me Too Exhibit” was to give other artists a voice, Skye says. “I was really angry and fed up with the art community not separating the art from the artists. There are some artists in the community who have assaulted women and galleries are aware of it and they’re still showing their work. And I think it’s wrong. There are so many artists out there who haven’t done those things who need exposure. As someone curating, I should be someone providing platforms for people who deserve it.

“The purpose is to provide a platform for people who deserve it, but also to help other survivors know they’re not alone in their struggle.”

Singer-songwriter Louise Page performed songs from her upcoming album.

Describing one of them, “Uncanny Valley,” Page says the term “uncanny valley” applies to “things that look very close to human, but are not and that instinctively creeps us out. It’s why people are creeped out by dolls, mannequins, certain kinds of animals. Because they fall in the ‘uncanny valley.’ Things that almost look human, but are not.“


Women, she says, “are sort of shunted into the ‘uncanny valley’ in terms of what is expected of them physically and emotionally. Like you’re almost expected to not be human.”


Another song, “Paw in the Honey,” also was relevant to the show, Page says. “It expressed the feeling of frustration about being constantly sexualized.”








Louise Page performed at the at "Enough: Me Too Exhibit." - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Louise Page performed at the at "Enough: Me Too Exhibit."
Sara Mosely was one of the artists in the at "Enough: Me Too Exhibit." - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Sara Mosely was one of the artists in the at "Enough: Me Too Exhibit."
Kyle Roberts and Beverly Fichthorn at at "Enough: Me Too Exhibit." - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Kyle Roberts and Beverly Fichthorn at at "Enough: Me Too Exhibit."
Holmes Ryan and Carla Peacher at the Enough: Me Too Exhibit. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Holmes Ryan and Carla Peacher at the Enough: Me Too Exhibit.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

901 Wrestling, Goodbye to Sears Southland Mall, Beale Street book find

Posted By on Thu, Jan 24, 2019 at 4:58 PM

It was fun catching up with some old and new friends at 901 Wrestling at the Rec Room.
  • It was fun catching up with some old and new friends at 901 Wrestling at the Rec Room.

901 Wrestling is the new name of UCPWS (Ultimate Championship Pro Wrestling South), the wrestling matches that take place every other week at the Rec Room. The name change was announced at its January 19th event.

“It’s been on our mind for a while,” says Stephen Thompson, an owner of the independent wrestling company “We never liked the name UCPWS. It was hard to pronounce and hard to remember. So, we were just trying to look for something to change to.”

They gave it some thought. “It’s kind of a rule in wrestling where you don’t want to be too local with the name if you want to branch out. But the Memphis crowds have been so good to us. And we’ve had so much success here over the year. With the 901 craze, what’s more Memphis than 901? The whole 901 craze (of) naming things you see everywhere now, we've got to get on board. What’s more Memphis than that? When someone hears ‘901,’ they know immediately it’s Memphis.

“We want to be Memphis everything. We’ve had thoughts of transitioning all the entrance themes to local Memphis artists. And the sponsors we’re going after, they’re all local. We’re trying to be 100 percent on everything.”

Their title belt also was changed to reflect Memphis, says wrestling manager Tommy Jax. “No one’s really made a Memphis belt before,” he says. “There’s been a Mid-Southern title, Southern heavyweight title, a thousand ways you can make a Southern title, but never a Memphis belt.

“So, what I set out to do when we did the design on it, I wanted to throw in themes that were Memphis-centric. So, that’s why at the heart of the belt is the city. That’s the skyline you see at the center of the belt.”

The skyline includes The Pyramid and the Hernando De Soto Bridge. “We could put our own logo there, but, to me, this is not about us. It’s about bringing something back to Memphis that shouldn’t ever have gone away. We put the city right there at the heart of the belt.”

The side plates include a tiger for the University of Memphis Tigers and a grizzly bear for the Memphis Grizzlies, which are among the “things written into the DNA of Memphis,” Jax says. “There’s music. There’s basketball. And there’s wrestling.”

901 Wrestling currently has 20 to 25 wrestlers on the roster, Thompson says. Most of the wrestlers are based in the area. “We pride ourselves on using a lot of our own local guys and not trying to bring in big names or anything," he says. "We get big crowds regardless. We’re trying to be our own thing.”


901 Wrestling returns at 7 p.m. January 26th at the Rec Room, 3000 Broad. Admission is $5.

I know it's hard to find me, but here I am with the 901 Wrestling wreslters at the Rec Room.
  • I know it's hard to find me, but here I am with the 901 Wrestling wreslters at the Rec Room.
901 Wrestling referees: Billy "You Had Your Chance" Robinson, Tracksuit Donny, Blue Shoes David Knight and Jay "No Fun" Dunn. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • 901 Wrestling referees: Billy "You Had Your Chance" Robinson, Tracksuit Donny, Blue Shoes David Knight and Jay "No Fun" Dunn.

……………………….

Josh "Next Level" Matthews - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Josh "Next Level" Matthews

Josh ”Next Level” Matthews recently has been a good guy, but he’s been a bad guy, too.

Matthews is one of the wrestlers on the 901 Wrestling roster.

“Most of the time I’m the bad guy,” says Matthews, 28. “Recently, I’ve had a change of heart and I’m doing the good guy a little bit to see how the fans like me. And get on their good side a little while.”

What does he do to become the “bad guy" wrestler? “Choking and low blows here and there. Raking the eyes with fingernails. Scratching the eyes. Running your fingernails down somebody’s throat. Hanging them over the ropes and choking them.”

A native of Tupelo, Matthews began wrestling when he was 14. His dad, Wayne “Bad Boy Burns” Blaylock, wrestled 22 years. “I actually started wrestling illegally in Mississippi. You were supposed to have a Mississippi wrestling license and be 18 and trained and all that. But I was 14. Everybody knew me. I kind of stood on my spot. I would put on some clothes over my wrestling attire and once the commissioner left, I would have my match.”

Matthews, who weighs 190 pounds, looks leaner than some other wrestlers. “I actually started working out again. One of my friends used to call me a 'wasted piece of muscle.' I was all muscle and ripped, but I would just sit around and play Playstation and eat Baconators - the real big burgers from Wendy’s with all the bacon on it. It comes with like three patties. I’ve tried to get fat, but it won’t happen.”

He also looks like he might be in a rock band. “I can break instruments. I did break a guitar over somebody’s head.”

Asked how he got the name “Next Level,” Matthews says, “When Tommy Jax started managing me. One night we had our match and he looks at me, ‘Dude, you’re on another level.’ And he called me ‘Next Level’ one night on the microphone and the crowd just fell into it.”

Matthews, who wrestled in Indiana, Illinois, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Alabama, says, “Right now, I haven’t taken any bookings other than the 901 Wrestling.”

He’s a fan of the wrestling company. “I like 901 Wrestling because we’re going with the change wrestling is going through, but we still have that old school mentality.”

They believe in “keeping it traditional” at 901 Wrestling, Matthews says. “Like keeping wrestling the way it should be and still having moves they may have not done in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Climbing on the rope and doing a 450 splash. One front flip and a half of a flip and you splash your opponent.”

Splash? “Going for the win. You splash somebody, you land on them belly to belly.”


...............
Frank Sampietro, far right, with former Sears employees at a reunion at Sears Southland Mall.
  • Frank Sampietro, far right, with former Sears employees at a reunion at Sears Southland Mall.

Sears Southland Mall
  • Sears Southland Mall

The closing of Sears Southland Mall on January 27th will mark the end of an era for the once retail giant. That’s the last Sears store in Memphis.


Frank Sampietro, who worked for Sears for 43 years, organized a reunion of former employees. About 60 retirees met at noon on January 21st at Sears Southland Mall. They took a final walk through the store, touring the sales floor and offices they used to work in.

“It’s been coming and we all knew it for a long time,” says Sampietro, 79. “But we were all happy and sad. Happy to see each other. Some we hadn’t seen in years. But sort of sad ‘cause we remember the good times. We were all together. All full-time employees. We were one big family.”

Sears at one time was “the largest employer in the city of Memphis with as many as 11 stores/units,” Sampietro says. About 4,000 people worked for Sears “during its heyday in the ‘60s and ‘70s.”

The smaller Sears stores in the Memphis area are "independently owned franchise stores. As far as we know, they will remain open."

A graduate of Christian Brothers High School, Sampietro went to work at the old Sears Crosstown in 1959 after he got out of the Air Force. “I started working in the old customer service behind the original furniture department. And I was working part time there going to Memphis State.”

He met his wife, Jo, at Sears Southland Mall. “She worked in the candy department. I was the manager of the sporting goods department. We’ve been married 47 years.”

Sampietro, who retired eight years ago, first retired as appliance manager from Sears Laurelwood, but, he says, “They called me back and I worked six years as district manager for the home improvement side of the company.”

He didn’t get a gold watch when he retired, but, he says, “I got a gold pin with a little diamond in it. That was about it.”

Sampietro described the years he and his co-workers spent at Sears at “just an unending journey from the time we started to the time each of us individually retired. As we retired, we noticed things were changing.”

For instance, they put in center aisle cashiers. Previously, individual departments had individual cash registers with people manning them.

People hated that and, after a time, they put the registers back in the departments, Sampietro says.

Millie Ungren, who taught sewing machine classes at Sears for those who bought sewing machines from the store, wrote a poem, "Sad Day at Southland Mall," to commemorate the store closing.

One stanza mentions the store’s famous Whitehaven neighbor:

 “There were the nights when Elvis shopped

We were ordered ‘stay put, do not leave’

He bought his shirts, jeans and underwear

When he left us, how we grieved.”


………………

Chuck Guthrie with his 1934 copy of "Beale Street - Where the Blues Began." - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Chuck Guthrie with his 1934 copy of "Beale Street - Where the Blues Began."

Chuck Guthrie wants to know “what are the chances” of him discovering a circa 1934 book, Beale Street - Where the Blues Began the same week the International Blues Challenge takes place in Memphis.

It was sitting in his showcase at Market on Madison, which he owns with Larry Tyger, but he never looked at it until recently. “Several times during the week someone will come through and say, ‘Hey. I’ve got such and such. Will you give me a few dollars for it?’ It may be a piece of art, might be a book, little antiques.

“This has been half a year ago. A gentleman came in and he had a few knick knacks and a couple of books. He said, ‘I think that one book [the Beale Street book] might be something. But everyone who comes in says, ‘It really is old and it’s an antique.’ I usually give them two or three dollars to give them lunch or bus fare.”

He put the Beale Street book in the showcase without putting a price on it. “I never looked at it. Then Sunday afternoon, I decided I was going to make things in the case look better.”

He started to arrange the books. “I picked up the book and it said, ‘Beale Street. Where Blues Began.’ I said, ‘That’ll be interesting.’”

The book, which was was written by George W. Lee, includes a forward is by W. C. Handy.

Guthrie went on line and found a copy of the book that was selling for $1,550.

If anybody wants to look at the book and talk to him about it, Guthrie says to come on down to Market on Madison at Madison and Cleveland. He still hasn’t put a price on it.

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