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Premiere-40th-Anniversa(2).jpg Josh Levin at Slate caught up with an old Memphian for reaction on last week's death of TV and pop culture icon Dick Clark. Wink Martindale, host of TV game shows including "High Rollers" and "Tic-Tac-Dough," grew up in Jackson, Tenn., and got his start in TV here in Memphis after graduating from then-Memphis State. His career basically paralleled Clark's (TV dance shows, game shows), and the two men were friends and business rivals for decades.

Martindale got his start in Memphis hosting a show called "Top 10 Dance Party." A personal friend of Elvis Presley--the King dated Martindale's future wife Sandy before he married Priscilla--the Tennessee native made his name by conducting an extensive early on-air interview with Elvis. Though Martindale has heard that he was under consideration for hosting duties onAmerican Bandstand in 1956, that job went to Clark, who held on to it for more than three decades.

"He was all powerful," Martindale says. The best examples of Clark's star-making ability, according to Martindale, are Fabian, Frankie Avalon, and Bobby Rydell, all of whom became overnight teen idols after being shepherded onto the air by Clark and his producer Tony Mammarella. "Before cable, there was American Bandstand," Martindale says. "That's where Justin Bieber--is that his name, Justin Bieber?--that's where he would [have gone]."
Continuing a cross-country road trip diary for The Huffington Post, travel-guide writer and -show host Rick Steves stops through Tennessee to compare and contrast the three grand regions represented by the white stars on the state flag. His pointing out that there are differences throughout Tennessee made me consider actually posting his travelogue (I usually don't bother linking to such pieces, which usually rehash the usual Elvis/barbecue/blues/barbecue/Elvis tropes.). There was also the fact that he referred to Memphis' skyline not only as "little," but also as "smart." He actually seems to like it here.

Memphis, with its smart, little skyline, overlooks the Mississippi River. It was one of the first cities to fall in the Civil War, so it wasn't destroyed but occupied. After the war, freed slaves came and helped power the local factories, mills, and cotton shipping. Its industrial wealth shows itself in fine, old neighborhoods filled with grand, "Four Square" houses--two-story homes of equal width and depth, many with a breezeway right through the middle that vents the four, equal quarters.

As this has long been an African American center and an industrial powerhouse, it's where black and white culture come together musically, too. Rock 'n' roll has its roots in African American and blues music. And Memphis is therefore logically the city for blues and rock 'n' roll--and the home of the man who helped black rhythm and blues enter white culture, Elvis Presley.

Moving on to Graceland, Steves repeats what seems to be becoming a common reaction to Elvis' old Whitehaven estate: In the post-"MTV Cribs" age, it seems quaint and unpretentious.

The mansion itself was nowhere near as gaudy as I expected. Elvis bought it when he was 22 for $102,000. It's a stately mansion with big white pillars out front. Like so many nice homes in this part of the country, it overlooks a sprawling and fun-loving estate. The interior is a trip back to the 1970s--shag carpets, mirrored ceilings, all the finest low-tech accessories of the age with Elvis' flair for fancy. While my house in the 1970s was tiny and humble compared to Graceland, the decor, furnishings, kitchen, and so on were remarkably similar.

From Memphis, Steves moved on to Atlanta. Read all about that here.

Danielle from 'American Pickers' opens boutique, 4 Miles 2 Memphis

Best known to most of us as the office-bound tattooed rocker-chick foil to traveling antique dealers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz on the History Channel's "American Pickers," Danielle Colby-Cushman also pursues interests ranging from roller derby and burlesque to painting and fashion design. For the latter, she has opened her own boutique, 4 Miles 2 Memphis, next door to the "Pickers" business, Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa. Those who can't make it up to the Quad Cities to check out Colby-Cushman's designs in person now can shop on her Etsy page. From the opening announcement:

4 Miles 2 memphis is the home of artful inspired green designs. Danielle has a passion for upcycling the vintage using whatever materials she can get her little hands on, going so far as to recycle plastic shopping bags and the like into sturdy textiles! The utmost care and attention to detail is taken in the making of your irresistable purchases. Many "4 Miles 2 Memphis" items are made with upcycled silk, satin, teffeta, lace etc. As well as the use of raw edges for a look that is both edgy and femenin. In light of this detail, please dryclean or spot clean only! Thank you for supporting our handmade movement.

'VH1 Divas' to honor 'soul cities,' including Memphis

Via gossip maven Perez Hilton, announcing the lineup of performers for the upcoming "VH1 Divas" concert show, airing at 8 p.m. CST on Monday, Dec. 19:

This year, the show will honor the soul cities: Chicago, Detroit, Memphis, Philadelphia and London.

Here's more from the VH1 site:

Memphis provided the foundation of soul during a time when Memphis served as the backdrop to the struggle for civil rights. Booker T. & The MGs epitomize the house band as it's known today, while Otis Redding and Al Green set an unsurpassable standard for soul magic. Today, Memphis continues to spawn a fusion of music based entirely on its soulful trailblazing.

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.
A member of the Memphis Grizzlies dance team was among contestants eliminated this week from BET's "Born to Dance." Christina Webber, who hails from Birmingham and also works as an IT specialist, told what she has taken away from her experience on the TV dance contest:

(Judge LaurieAnn) Gibson told Webber that she needs to commit to dance moves and not over think them. "I feel that when you are ready to commit to the life God has designed for you, you will never be stopped," Gibson told her tonight.

The 26-year-old Webber, who is an IT specialist and a dancer for the Memphis Grizzlies, said she'd heed Gibson's advice. "LaurieAnn told me I need to feel the moves and not to over think it. Just dance,'' Webber said. "I'm going to take that because I want to go in the direction that God pushes me in and I want to live the purpose that He has for my life. And, I'm going to do it from here on out.'' 

The "Born to Dance" website quotes Webber on what she has been up to since she left the show.

Christina: "Since the show I've been taking lots of dance classes, working on several small businesses and making moves to get to Atlanta to pursue dance and acting full time."

The Miami Herald's wrestling column features an interview with legendary Memphis wrestling promoter Jerry Jarrett, who is promoting both the film documentary "Memphis Heat: The True Story of Memphis Wrasslin'" and his own autobiography, "The Best of Times." Jarrett touches on everyone from WWE mogul Vince McMahon to Jerry Lawler to the great Saturday-morning announcing duo of Lance Russell and Dave Brown.

"At that time, Lance felt compelled to say every card was great. He was the carnival barker. Your credibility is more important than the credibility of our company because if the people don't believe you, who else will they believe. So Dave and Lance would literally tell the people, 'Here's the card Monday night folks. Let's get ready for our next match.' If it doesn't excite them, it doesn't excite fans. If it was a card Lance and Dave thought was great, they would say that, and people would come, because it was great. The people believed in it."
mcfashion.jpg A young Memphis woman is the object of affection for 20 suitors on the new CMT reality dating show "Sweet Home Alabama." Devin Grissom, a 20-year-old student at the University of Alabama, tells Tuscaloosa News that she didn't actually pursue the opportunity but was noticed on Facebook.

"Apparently, they had sent out casting calls and casting agents to Alabama to look for girls for this part, and I had never even heard about it," Grissom said. "All of a sudden, I get a Facebook message that said 'We think you'd be really great for this, can we call you?' "

The 20 hopefuls comprise both country and big-city types, which is part of the show's premise, said Grissom, who hopes to pursue a career in pro sports PR.

"It's a "Bachelorette"-type dating show and the premise is based on the movie "Sweet Home Alabama" (starring Reese Witherspoon) because I'm having to choose between the country and the big city," Grissom said.
The show premieres at 8 p.m. CDT next Thursday, July 14.

PICTURED: Devin Grissom models in a fashion shoot for the Feb. 18, 2008, editions of The Commercial Appeal.

Judge Joe Brown, 'the loosest courtroom on television'

Joe-Brown.jpg At, columnist Max Sparber pens a tribute to a "shameful" TV pleasure: judge shows. Not just any judge shows, mind you, but those dealing with small claims, "the theater of the quotidian," as he calls it. His favorite of the bunch happens to be a former Criminal Court jurist from Memphis.

My favorite judge is Joe Brown, a sleepy-eyed fellow with a huge mustache and a startling past: He presided over James Earl Ray's last appeal for the murder of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. It's hard to imagine what the Joe Brown of that case was like, as, just now, he runs the loosest courtroom on television. Joe Brown's show isn't so much a trial as it is a free-for-all, with litigants running their mouths about any old thing, shouting each other down, and sometimes getting into loud arguments with the judge. Judge Judy will chastise people who show up in her courtroom underdressed, but the standard uniform for Joe Brown's show seems to be a fashion I like to call "Whatever was lying on the bedroom floor when I woke up." Joe Brown doesn't care -- he sometimes seems so unconcerned that you wonder if he might have dozed off in court, and the few times he gets irritated with the behavior of litigants, it is possible to wonder if his annoyance doesn't stem from having been woken up by their screeching.

Doze off in court? Judge Joe?
Last weekend's visit to Memphis by the casts of the Nickelodeon TV series "Victorious" and "iCarly" happened to coincide with "iCarly" star Miranda Cosgrove's 18th birthday, E! Online reports today. Recall that the young actors were in town along with the shows' creator, native Memphian Dan Schneider, to appear at the "Stars for the Kids" benefit for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

The celebration got started on Friday night and included a Saturday visit to Graceland, E! reports (with photos):

According to Cosgrove's Twitter, there was a pillow fight in her hotel room as well as a hallway singalong of "Happy Birthday" in her honor.

... The event afterparty turned into a birthday celebration for Cosgrove with a colorful six-tier cake from local bakery The Flour Garden along with sushi-shaped minicakes. "Was serenaded by an Elvis impersonator at the after party," she tweeted.

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