The Belcourt Theatre was home to a down-home political rally on Friday when more than 200 people gathered to celebrate the proposition that Democrats in the country music industry are people too. Extremely agitated people, in some cases, but people nonetheless.
Begun by the so-called “Founding Fathers”Universal South Records’ Tim DuBois, Sony’s Don Cook and artist managers Bob Titley and Bill Carterthe ranks of the Music Row Democrats already have swelled to roughly 500 members. That was apparently enough to warrant a visit by Memphis Congressman Harold Ford Jr., who gave a 30-minute pep talk to the crowd.
DuBois & Co. say they started the group because they were “fed up with feeling as if we had to apologize for being Democrats” in an industry where political conservatives are influential. Corporate country radio’s “blackballing” (as Robert Oermann calls it) of the Dixie Chicks after Natalie Maines’ anti-Bush comments in Europe last year was apparently an epochal moment.
Mainly, though, what seems to spark the rank-and-file Music Row Dems is a deep and abiding dislike of the fellow who sits in the Oval Office. Although Ford, a John Kerry partisan, did his level best during Friday’s address, excitement over the Massachusetts Democrat simply pales in comparison to the loathing of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Republicans generally. Which, for a crowd with ties to the party out of office, is pretty much how it should be.
Just how many of the Music Row Democrats actually work on Music Row is unclear. Many attendees appeared much more Democrat than Music Row. Vice Mayor Howard Gentry was there. So was Byron Trauger, friend and advisor to Gov. Phil Bredesen, as well as local attorney Bob Tuke, leader of Veterans for Kerry. Even former Vice Mayor Ronnie Steine made a low-key appearance.
As for having to “apologize for being Democrats,” no one at this gathering looked like he or she was in any danger of being squelched by the Republican country music establishment. What they should be apologizing for is their sophomoric political rhetoric, which, even by the standards of these sorts of things, was a little much:
“Don’t be afraid,” a wound-up DuBois bellowed to the crowd, “to take on your fat, right-wing brother-in-law. Don’t be afraid to tell him that his breath and his facts stink!”
That’s pretty harsh. After all, if it weren’t for fat, smelly men with right-wing predilections, half these people would be out of jobs.
A space for Rip
While the rest of us were wondering whether we would continue getting our garbage picked up after the end of the month (the welcome answer: yes), Metro Council member Rip Ryman had a more pressing concern: free parking for council members on “council business.”
It seems that parking at the old Ben West Librarythe City Hallis at a premium. The Tennessean’s Brad Schrade reported that Ryman received a $10 parking ticket in December while attending a council-related meeting there. The legislative session at the nearby Capitol hasn’t helped matters, and Ryman claims other council members have expressed similar concerns. Ryman would prefer that more spaces along Polk Avenue be reserved for members in the afternoons, and he’s scheduled to take his request to the Traffic and Parking Commission this week.
Ryman’s immediate problem is that this maneuver makes him look like the Marie Antoinette of downtown parking, which may be why the commission hasn’t warmed to the idea so far.
Nevertheless, there is good news for Ryman and friends. They have an ally on the commission, someone who, with eight years of council experience under her belt, understands the special challenges members of the council face on a day-to-day basis; someone who has the personal integrity to convince her fellow commissioners that this is about more than just a bunch of blowhards who are too plumb lazy to hump it the required two blocks from the freeand quite spaciousparking garage just behind the Main Library; and someone who is ever-grateful for the warm and unanimous blessing she received from the council just a month ago as she sought confirmation to the commission. That someone, of course, is Eileen Beehan.
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