September 2011 Archives

Satire: Ex-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich banned from Graceland

Blagojevich-Trial.jpg NBC Chicago has some fun with disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich with a satirical bit called "Blagojevich Banned from Graceland." Recall that Blagojevich, a big Elvis fan, was even doing some EP tribute work to pay the bills a couple of years back. He happens to be back in the news after Illinois' attorney-disciplining body asked the state Supreme Court to revoke his law license.

A day after the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission asked the Illinois Supreme Court to suspend the convicted politician's law license, the estate of Elvis Presley announced that Blagojevich has been banned for life from Graceland, the Memphis mansion that has been maintained as a shrine to Elvis since the singer's death in 1977.

"Due to the egregious breadth of Blagojevich's conduct while governor of Illinois, he is no longer welcome on any Presley family properties," Elvis's daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, said in a statement. "He is also prohibited from singing 'Treat Me Nice' in public, or impersonating Elvis in any way."

Following the family's lead, the international Elvis community moved swiftly to dissociate itself from Blagojevich., the official online Elvis fan club, suspended Blagojevich's account and asked him to stop displaying the membership decal on his SUV.

This is not the first time a musical act has attempted to dissociate itself from a politician. Smith's guitarist Johnny Marr told British Prime Minister David Cameron he was "not allowed" to like the '80s pop band. Miss Presley is taking a similar attitude toward Blagojevich.

PICTURED: Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich greets supporters as he arrives home in Chicago on June 27, 2011, after a jury convicted him of 17 of the 20 charges against him, including all 11 charges related to his attempt to sell or trade President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat.

Morgan Freeman still unable to use hand 3 years after car wreck

Three years after a car accident in North Mississippi that left him and a companion hospitalized -- and spawned an embarrassing legal mess -- Memphis-born actor Morgan Freeman still has yet to regain use of his left hand, he said this week on "Live With Regis & Kelly."

The veteran actor broke his arm and shoulder when he lost control of his vehicle while driving in Mississippi in August, 2008. The car veered off the road and flipped over several times.

He has been disabled ever since the accident and doctors advised him last year (10) that it would take another 12 months before his stretched nerves would fully function once more.

But, during an appearance on U.S. talk show Live with Regis & Kelly on Tuesday (27Sep11), Freeman admitted his mangled fingers were taking a lot longer to heal.

Wearing a supportive glove throughout the interview, he explained, "It's coming along, it looks a little odd with this glove on..."

Memphis, the look of the '80s, shines in V&A exhibit 'Postmodernism'

The major new exhibit "Postmodernism: Style and Subversion, 1970-1990" at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London focuses on the contributions to MTV-age style made by the Milan-based design collective called the Memphis Group. Its name inspired by the title of the Bob Dylan song "Stuck Inside of Mobile (With the Memphis Blues Again)," -- and its look informed in spirit by this city's mix of tacky and sublime -- Memphis made a splash on the world of decorative arts in the early '80s.

"Memphis's entry into the world befitted that of a rock star, rather than a furniture brand," said Jane Pavitt, a curator of the exhibit. "Thirty years is about right to start looking back with fresh eyes at a subject which has been variously derided, dismissed and treated as highly toxic."

As MTV also turns 30 this year, the show will include elements of video and music, including performances from David Byrne, Grace Jones, Devo, Laurie Anderson, Neneh Cherry, New Order, Kraftwerk and Grandmaster Flash -- artists who employed the key postmodern strategy of sampling and editing together different style tropes, Ms. Pavitt said.

Also included in the show are works by artists like Jeff Koons and Andy Warhol, and architects like Philip Johnson. But the show goes beyond art, including pieces from luxury brands like Alessi, the fashion designers Vivienne Westwood and Stephen Sprouse, album and magazine covers, and films like Ridley Scott's science-fiction classic "Bladerunner."

The Guardian has a nice video and other coverage of the exhibit and the Postmodernist movement, including the Memphis Group.

Memphis ranked No. 4 of 'America's Worst 9 Urban Food Deserts'

The African-American-oriented website News One ranks Memphis No. 4 on its list of "America's Worst 9 Urban Food Deserts," amplifying a concern that has been gaining prominence lately in Memphis. Despite recent efforts -- both community and legislative -- to increase access to healthful food in underserved areas, Memphis has a long way to go: As the New One story points, Memphis last year was rated America's hungriest city in one survey. Surrounding rural areas fare no better.

As of 2010 a Gallup poll ranked Tennessee second in the nation for states lacking access to healthy foods in low-income neighborhoods. The poll also ranked Memphis #1 for hunger in the country with a startling 26 percent of people in the Memphis Metropolitan Statistical Area saying they couldn't afford to buy food for their families in the last 12 months. "What we know about Tennessee is that almost 13 percent of the census tracts are considered food deserts, both in inner-city urban areas as well as rural areas," Ellen Holtzman head of Tennessee's Food Trust. A 2010 Mid-South Food Bank survey found that 83 percent of those served by the bank had to choose between buying food and paying utilities. And 32 percent had to choose between buying food and paying rent or mortgage.
Writing for the Jewish magazine Forward, Eli Rosenberg recounts his experiences as a celebrity guest judge in last weekend's World Kosher Barbeque Championship held at the Anshei Sphard Beth El Emeth synagogue in East Memphis.

Before a recent move to Memphis, I considered myself to be pretty comfortable around a grill. After all, I was raised in Kansas City, and spent the last five years working in Texas, two areas of the country where BBQ is king. But as I sat down at the judges table at the 23rd Annual Anshei Sphard-Beth El Emeth (ASBEE) World Kosher BBQ Championships on Sunday, I realized I was entering a whole new world of sauce and flavor.

Of course, that's because kosher barbecue contestants deal with beef brisket and beef ribs instead of the proscribed pork, and they cook at relatively high temperatures on specially approved grills for only a couple of hours, instead of the traditional "low and slow" of Memphis barbecuing. So how did the stuff taste?

"Imagine the best rib you've ever had. If you taste that today, give it a ten," the veteran judge to my left said we prepared to take our first bite.

The tender meat nearly fell of the bone and into my mouth, the flavor was exquisite. I immediately thought, THIS is the best rib I've ever had. Instantly I worried though. I had been selected as a "celebrity" judge through my day job (as a reporter for ABC), but my profession offers no qualifications for this kind of work. My mind raced. What if I thought all the ribs were a "10" and what would my veteran seat-mate think if I just gave everyone a 10? Integrity standing, I wrote a 10 on the score's sheet with conviction and prepared for Round II. As I ate rib after rib, I realized there is a difference, and my scores reflected that. Many of the judges agreed, when it comes to kosher meat, there isn't a reason to add salt, and the less sauce the better.

Three 6 Mafia's Juicy J shares 25 most essential tracks

Complex catches up with Three 6 Mafia veteran Juicy J for a rundown of J's 25 most essential songs. It makes for a fascinating history of Memphis rap in the 1990s, complete with J's comments about how it all went down:

"Live By Yo Rep (B.O.N.E. Diss)" (1995)
"Man when we did that we was young and stupid--being real. We was young and stupid. Just some old stupid ... It wasn't ever no beef, man. We cool with them, they good people, just some stupid ... back in the day, man. They good dudes, man. We did some music with one of them, Krayzie Bone....something back in the late 90s, something on Project Pat's album."

"Da Summer" (1995)
"It's the first song Three-6 Mafia had on the radio. They didn't want to play our music on the radio. And we gave them that one, they said, like, that one was talking about the summer, it's laid back, it was groovy. So they were like, Cool, we'll play this one."

"Late Nite Tip" (1996)
"Man I remember all of us was in the studio and we just put it together and we did it. I can't remember all that stuff. That was what was going on at the time. We just went in the studio and did that ... . That's how we used to do it. Go up in the studio, just make a record, you know? Make a beat, and finish the whole song. Until it was done....Just went in the studio and did it. I can't--back then we just got drunk, got high, went in the studio and made records. Like we still do."

Dick Grob, Elvis' head of security, tells tales of determined fans

EDP24 in Norfolk, England, caught up with Dick Grob, Elvis Presley's longtime head of security and a guest at the 31st Elvis festival being held at Vauxhall Holiday Camp in Great Yarmouth. Now 72 and living in Las Vegas, Grob revealed some of the inside stories he would be sharing at his presentation this evening.

"Some of the things the fans did were very unusual," he said. 
"We had two girls who travelled to Memphis and squeezed themselves into a crate, which was then delivered to Graceland.

"And on another occasion, we were in a hotel waiting to leave when we heard this knock on the door. When we opened it there was a girl standing with a tray holding four bottles of coke and six glasses.

"I remember I was looking for the bill to sign, but there wasn't one. It was then we realised she was a fan pretending to be staff, and she had managed to dodge past the hotel security and get up to the room.

"Well, Elvis was so impressed by this that he gave her his autograph and a scarf."
Here's something to gossip about with your neighbors at FedExForum during tonight's Journey and Foreigner concert:
White House gate-crashers Tareq and Michaele Salahi have made their way into the news again, this time with husband Tareq claiming earlier this afternoon that his "Real of Housewives of D.C."-cast spouse had been kidnapped and pleading for help as to her whereabouts. Later, the Warren County (Va.) Sheriff's Office issued a press release saying that it had spoken with Michaele and she was fine but was with a good friend and didn't want to come home. Leave it to the young whipper-snappers at TMZ to find out the straight dope:

TMZ has learned ... far from being kidnapped ... Michaele Salahi has run off with Neal Schon, the lead guitarist for the band Journey.

Michaele ... has been dating the rock icon, went to his show in Nashville last night and is currently with Schon in Memphis, where Journey is set to perform with Foreigner.

Scoop Marketing, the rep for Journey, confirmed with TMZ that "Nobody kidnapped her and they are in Memphis together."

PICTURED: Michaele and Tareq Salahi arrive -- apparently uninvited -- at the White House for the state dinner honoring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in this file photo from Nov. 24, 2009.

PHO-09Mar26-155817.jpg Memphis-born-and-raised actress Cybill Shepherd will reunite with her sometime-director and former romantic partner Peter Bogdanovich at a screening their 1975 film "At Long Last Love" at this week's Temecula Valley International Film & Music Festival in Southern California.

Festival Director Jo Moulton said she was surprised at Shepherd willingness to appear.

"I thought she was going to say, 'Are you crazy?' But she said yes. So it's a reunion of sorts," Moulton said Thursday morning.

A meticulously recreated homage to '30s movie musicals that included songs by Cole Porter and starred Shepherd alongside Burt Reynolds and Madeline Kahn, "At Long Last Love" is an infamous turkey that was actually disowned by its eccentric director. This year, though, it has been making the festival rounds and turning up on Netflix and the Fox Movie Channel, which is significant in that the movie was never released on VHS or DVD.

PICTURED: Cybill Shepherd in a scene from the 1971 film "The Last Picture Show," directed by Peter Bogdanovich.

Gawker praises The Commercial Appeal for pointing out Schnucks' lie

Media snark site Gawker gave a pat on the back today to The Commercial Appeal for calling out Schnucks on its deceptive statements. Recall that the St. Louis-based grocery chain denied it was closing up shop in Memphis mere days before it did that very thing.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal took the extraordinary (but should not be extraordinary) step of pointing out that a PR person lied to it -- Lori Willis, head of communications for Schnucks grocery stores, told the paper outright that the company was not going to be sold, just days before it was sold. Her penance: being cursed forever with the title of "Schnucks spokesperson."
The feature documentary film "Undefeated," about the football team at Manassas High in North Memphis, is being screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, which runs this week and next. After its premiere in spring at the South by Southwest Film Festival, the film was picked up for distribution by the Weinstein Co. The Hollywood Reporter has a positive review of the film:

In the 110-year history of Manassas High School in North Memphis, the school's football team, the Tigers, has never won a playoff game. But the 2009 season provided their strongest shot ever, thanks to a star left tackle, O.C. Brown, attracting attention from college scouts for his size and speed, though struggling academically to achieve qualifying grades. Even more crucial, however, is the dedication of volunteer coach Bill Courtney

... While some audiences might chafe at seeing another story in which disenfranchised African-American lives are elevated by white benevolence, there's no questioning the conviction of the story as presented here, or the unstinting commitment of Courtney, a white businessman, and his fellow coaches.

From the archives, here's the story The Commercial Appeal published two years ago about Brown and the families who worked to keep him on the right path to college and beyond.

Baltimore Ravens pick Egypt Central track as kickoff song

Memphis band Egypt Central is lending its hard-rock sounds to the NFL season that starts this weekend, ESPN's Page 2 reports:

For the better part of the new millennium, the Baltimore Ravens have become known for their take-no-prisoners style of play. After partnering with Memphis-based band Egypt Central, the Ravens and their fans may have found a way to kick the intensity up another notch.

The two sides recently agreed to use "Kick Off" -- a spinoff of the band's hit "Kick Ass" -- as the official kickoff song for the Ravens. The band has also received airtime at NFL games in Philadelphia, Kansas City and Dallas, but lead singer John Falls said that Baltimore has always had special meaning to the band.

"They've always shown us a lot of love and support," he said. "Baltimore kind of became a second home to us."

The song debuts as the Ravens kickoff song Sunday when the team hosts the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Fred Smith-backed Alcon Entertainment expanding into talent management

Alcon Entertainment, the film finance company backed by Memphian and FedEx founder Fred Smith, is moving into the talent management business by acquiring a stake in a boutique firm called Madhouse Entertainment, according to stories in the Los Angeles Times and Variety. From LAT:

(Madhouse clients) include "Lost" co-creator Jeffrey Lieber; Nick Wauters, the creator of NBC's now cancelled series "The Event"; and David Guggenheim, writer of next year's theatrical thriller "Safe House."

Though it's not out of the ordinary for production companies to also employ talent managers, it is somewhat unusual for a venture as large as Alcon, which has the financial resources to produce big-budget feature films. The company fully finances its own movies, which are then released by Warner Bros. under a partnership that runs through 2015.

The Madhouse deal is just the first step in Alcon's plans to enter the management business, Variety says:

Madhouse will become the first component of Alcon Management Enterprises, designed as a holding company for as many as six talent management companies Alcon intends to acquire. In each deal, Alcon will acquire a controlling interest while each existing management team continues to maintain a significant ownership percentage and continues to operate in a largely autonomous manner.

So who's on the Madhouse roster?

Madhouse clients include Dave Andron, co-exec producer on FX's "Justified"; Liz Garcia & Josh Harto, creators of TNT's "Memphis Beat"; screenwriter David Guggenheim (Universal's "Safe House"); screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski (Alcon's "Prisoners"); Lauren Iungerich, creator/showrunner of MTV's "Awkward"; screenwriter Dave Kajganich ("The Invasion"); Liz Kruger & Craig Shapiro, creators of USA's "Necessary Roughness"; Jeffrey Lieber, co-creator of "Lost"; and Jason Smilovic, creator of NBC's "My Own Worst Enemy" and ABC's "Karen Sisco."

Meanwhile, here's what the LAT says Alcon, which scored a huge hit with 2009's "The Blind Side" and recently released the rom-com "Something Borrowed," has in the pipeline:

The company will soon open its family movie "Dolphin Tale" and its development slate includes new movies based on the science-fiction classic "Blade Runner."

aspigcook1.jpg In its rundown of this past weekend's episode of "The Great Food Truck Race," TV Geek Army reminds us that the Memphis-filmed episode of the Food Network reality program airs at 8 p.m. CDT Sunday, Sept. 11.

Next week the four remaining trucks will head 570 miles southeast to Memphis, Tennessee. It looks like someone attempts to cheat and they will all have to serve up vegan food for the Speed Bump. Hopefully no one takes the easy road and offers up peanut butter and banana sandwiches as an homage to Elvis Presley.

Readers of The Commercial Appeal's Food section knew about the vegetarian/vegan challenge from the recent piece Jennifer Biggs wrote about the vegetarian kitchen. One of the vegetarian cooks Jennifer interviewed -- Memphis blogger and amateur chef Justin Fox Burks -- is one of the judges on the Memphis episode.

As one would expect, though, there is some sort of pork-related challenge for the remaining food trucks. When the Memphis episode was filmed during the ominous flood days of May, contestants were spotted carrying butchered whole hogs around Downtown Memphis.

PICTURED: Jason Quinn (from left), Jesse Brockman and Daniel Shemtob of The Lime Truck carry a whole hog from the Rendezvous restaurant to Court Square during filming of Food Network's "The Great Food Truck Race" on May 20.
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