Imagine a photograph of Banner publisher Irby Simpkins, pants unzipped and shirtless, being led into night court, one hand trying to keep his trousers up while the other partially covers his sagging chest.
It didn’t happen. If it did, no local newspaper would print it. Even publishers deserve some dignity.
But Nashville businessman Linus Leppink Jr. didn’t get that consideration. Monday’s Banner shows a photo of Leppink, owner of two local jewelry stores, shortly after his arrest for theft and insurance fraud. Grossly overweight, Leppink appears to have just been strip-searched.
Leppink may be guilty as sin. But that’s no excuse for humiliating him. A dart to photographer Dave Findley who took the picture and to the Banner editor who decided to print it.
For the first time in years, Nashville Life magazineall of itis worth reading. Once a chamber-of-commerce-type brochure, more recently a West Nashville social calendar, the magazine seems finally to have discovered a sense of the city as a whole.
The December-January issue includes a pointed story by John Egerton on how three Texans, Rick Scott, Bud Adams, and American Airlines’ Robert Crandall, “have swooped down on Nashville and picked us clean”; an insightful look at the city’s prostitution problem by Whitney Clay; and a short, beautifully written essay on the local seasons by Slick Lawson.
This issue represents what the magazine always should have beena fresh, reflective chronicle of city life, written by and for people who live here.
It’s also fun. Try reading “A Man of Leisure Holiday” by local comedian Adam Dread. A former deejay and now a producer for Prime Time Country, Dread suggests Christmas gifts: Gucci shoes, Ray-Bans, frozen Absolut, and a tanning session. (“A key sign of a Man of Leisure is tanned feet.... A little nukie never hurt anyone.”)
Dread said the magazine printed most of what he wrote, except for a derogatory joke about clothes designer Tommy Hilfiger. (Hilfiger’s collection is carried by Castner-Knott, the magazine’s biggest advertiser.) But the best part of Dread’s article is a hidden message that doesn’t have anyone’s byline on it.
The magazine has five photographs of Dread. Each is framed with a narrow red band. On three pictures, the band is solid. But on two, the red band is actually a sophomoric, stream-of-consciousness essay about Dread, printed in tiny, two-point type.
“I got the idea from an old George Carlin album,” editor Tom Wood confessed. “I think writing it brought out the college journalist in me.” Dread and Wood were classmates at Vanderbilt.
Even with a magnifying glass, it’s hard to make out all the words. To save readers their eyesight (and to let owner Ted Welch know what’s being printed in his magazine), here are the highlights of Wood’s essay:
“Adam Dread’s opinions are, well, Adam Dread’s opinions. Any reuse, rebroadcast or other blather without the express written permission of his caseworker are inadvisable if you know what we mean and we think you do. Mr. Dread has been known to void where prohibited. All rights reserved. All wrongs reversed. It’s not as though we’re such sniveling cowards that we take no responsibility for foisting Dread on an unsuspecting public. But we blame WRVU and the FCC for letting things get to this point. And Clark Parsons too. It’s all Clark’s fault, in fact, at least as long as he’s in Germany and can’t defend himself. Brad Schmitt played some role as well. Schmitt knows the Dreaded Secret: Nantucket, Schmantucket; this guy’s from Pittsburgh.... The Editor of this Magazine once looked on in wonderment as Ol’ Madam-I’m-Adam sauntered up to a gaggle of Tri-Delts in a bar and, staring meaningfully into the eyes of one of these total strangers, said: ‘You look like you have a little Jewish in you, am I right?’ ‘Why, no,’ the victim demurely replied, floating a softball right over the plate for Dread, who was born into the same faith as Carl Reiner and Henny Youngman: ‘Well, ya want some?’ Well, there, we managed to get sexism and racism into the same joke. Dread is rubbing off on us.... Squint at this, geezers. This is two-point type. This is the typographical equivalent of the backward masking on Led Zeppelin IV. Have we offended some segment of the population yet? Are we really going to have to swipe Dread’s joke about why the royal family had to have Elton John at the funeral of You Know Who, on account of they had to make it look like at least one old queen was sorry she was gone? Nah, really tasteless. We won’t print anything that tasteless. We’ll make sure somebody edits that one out before we go to press.... Mr. Dread is not unlike the much maligned Grinch who stole Christmaswe love to hate him, we hate to love him. You decide. Hell, you’re the ones who have to read his column, we only edit the stuff....”
The best lines in last week’s annual Gridiron Show were “10 reasons why The Tennessean’s newsroom is better than the Banner’s,” written by Banner executive editor Pat Embry and by Tennessean columnist Brad Schmitt. For example:
Reason No. 3: “We own the presses, we own the trucks, we own Bob Clement.”
Reason No. 2: “JOA [Joint Operating Agreement] really stands for “Just Ours, Ass...urredly.”
Embry then read the “Top 10 excuses why ‘Brad About You’ is turning to the wire services this morning.”
Excuse No. 10: “Worked my ass off for an hour-and-a-half yesterday. Taking the rest of the week off.”
Excuse No. 7: “Two words: relatives, Pittsburgh.”
Excuse No. 6: “Not enough Jewish and Christian holidays. Discovered a new thing called Buddhism.”
Excuse No. 1: “When isn’t Brad running news from the wire services?”
To comment or complain about the media, leave a message for Henry at the Scene (615-244-7989, ext. 445), call him at his office, 615-252-2363, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org