The Boner Awards 

A double shot of the year's worst and weirdest moments in Music City

A double shot of the year's worst and weirdest moments in Music City

Welcome, my friends, to the show that never ends: our 15th annual Boner Awards, spotlighting the odd, the venal, the embarrassing and the just plain weird events of the past year in Music City. There were some who said the Boners should have been retired along with their namesake, late-'80s Nashville Mayor Bill Boner. (Yes, that is his real name; yes, he deserved the honor.)

But frankly, Nashville, you just won't let us quit. It's bad out there, people. So many silly legislators. So many dopey criminals. And the stupid things others do are surpassed—or this year, Serpas'ed—only by the stupid things we do at the Scene. Here, then, is our usual reminder of the things we'd all rather forget.

No, no—thank you.

The Boner Brigade

You'd think nothing would wither Boners faster than scrutiny, right? Not for this year's crop of hapless public figures. Read on.

Too bad he didn't have Dave Cooley's card.

Last fall, Vanderbilt police officers probably thought they stumbled upon another drunken frat rat passed out in his car near campus. Turns out they had apprehended the son of Metro Police Chief Ronal Serpas, Dustin Serpas, who later flunked a sobriety test and was arrested for DUI. (Apparently he never saw his dad's commercials.) Then, barely a month later, Metro police arrested Dustin again after they clocked his 1996 Mercury Sable at 80 mph in a 55-mph zone on Interstate 65. (His real crime was driving a Sable.) Serpas later flunked a sobriety test and registered a blood alcohol level of .15, not exactly a lone beer north of the legal threshold. He subsequently turned in his license, although a Scene operative has spotted the younger Serpas hanging out at East Nashville's 3 Crow Bar. We recommend a Sharp's.

The needle and the damage done.

Those of us who normally get flu shots passed this year, in deference to needier fellow citizens (as directed by the Centers for Disease Control). Of course, such measures are meant only for common folk—not our own Sen. Bill Frist. In October, the horse-healthy 52-year-old gazillionaire rolled up his sleeve for a shot, even though the flu vaccine is in critically low supply for most everyone else. Dr. Feelgood even set up a flu-shot wet bar free of charge in his Senate office and urged his colleagues to partake, even if they didn't fall into one of the at-risk groups.

The movie rights were optioned by Sominex.

Frist got a virtual vivisection from Amazon.com customers over his book Good People Beget Good People: A Genealogy of the Frist Family—a tome whose ungodly $50 price was as modest as its title and premise. More than 66 slash-and-burn reviews from Amazon readers flooded the site, ranging from the mildly aggrieved ("You've got to be kidding") to the apoplectic ("This ghost written, ego-inflating snoozer of a book will be a sure cure for anyone suffering from insomnia"). By a strange coinkidink, the comments mysteriously disappeared from the site after they drew media attention—but not to worry, others followed. One even suggested an alternate title: Pharmaceutical Lobby Whores Who Steal Cats From the Pound and Operate on Them at Home Beget Pharmaceutical Lobby Whores Who Steal Cats From the Pound and Operate on Them at Home.

The new white meat.

Who among us hasn't done a little nosepicking from time to time? Let he who is without sin cast the first booger. Yet most of us confine our picking to private seclusion—rather than, say, in the midst of a recorded public hearing. Not so Lt. Gov. John Wilder, that eternal font of surprise. A video on talk-radio gasbag Steve Gill's Web site caught the notoriously out-to-lunch Wilder mining for mucus in mid-hearing. Then, on camera, the man who sits a heartbeat away from the governor's seat removed the fruit of his nasal excavation and stuck it in his mouth—then washed it down discreetly with a sip of water. Sure, protein is protein—but seriously, dude....

OK, but Ludye Wallace has to be white.

Wilder was at the center of another controversy in March, over remarks he allegedly made to a meeting of the Carter County Leadership Tomorrow Class. According to Robert Davis, an African American businessman and former Marine, Wilder told the class—and Davis in particular—that because of affirmative action, "people like me could no longer get decent jobs." (Three cheers for affirmative action.) After Davis fired off a blistering letter, he said Wilder called and apologized—not for what he said, but for how Davis took it. To prove his sincerity, according to Davis, the squirrelly lawmaker said "when he comes back, he wishes he would be black."

High marks for initiative, needs work on attendance.

For two entertaining years, WSMV-Channel 4's Larry Brinton has been on Metro schools director Pedro Garcia like an ape on Samsonite. But this year Brinton paddled Garcia so hard that our asses hurt, starting with the educator's prodigious cell phone use. In a six-month period, Garcia made a whopping 336 calls to California, his former (future?) home, and another 185 calls to Iowa, where his parents live. "His credibility is limited," Garcia wishfully told the Scene, "so it's no sweat off my back." But the Scene learned that the controversial schools honcho had been courting a cushier job in the Miami-Dade school district with years left on his Metro commitment—and better still, doing it with calls made to Miami on Metro's clock. As Brinton said, signing off: "Thanks, Pedro. Thanks for nothing."

Lottopaloser.

Better you should put the rent money on Powerball than bet Rebecca Paul will always tell the truth. Tennessee's lottery tsarina has a rep for creative embellishment, but after she got called on a pair of public prevarications this year she could've been an honorary Swift Boat Veteran for Truth. In June, before guests at dinner, she made a grand gesture of ordering pizza by cell phone for her hard-working employees back at the ranch—which backfired when a suspicious companion then drove to the lottery's office in MetroCenter and found it dark, empty and pizza-free. Then, weeks later, Paul told the Kingsport Rotary Club that when she took the helm of the state lottery, "there were no paper clips, no chairs, no offices." In truth, by the time the scratch-ticket MacGyver was hired, she had 3,000 square feet of office space, a cell phone, desks, state employees at her disposal, a Chevy Impala, office supplies—and oh yeah, a $15 million line of credit. When asked to explain, Paul told the Scene, "I am not a literal speaker." Thanks for playing!

Greasy lightning.

Deputy Gov. Dave Cooley was going a little fast on I-24 this year when the Tennessee Highway Patrol stopped him. The officer handed him a ticket for doing 87 in a 70, and Cooley, ever the considerate No. 2 man in the state, gave the officer a business card "in case you need to call me." Just to chat or whatever. Cooley's ticket was quietly dismissed by a Rutherford County judge, but an anonymous tipster sent a letter to The Tennessean exposing the fix. Cooley paid the fine, groveled in front of the ethics-loving governor and begged forgiveness on the evening news. The good news: he was spared, probably because wonkish Bredesen can't afford to lose his best political mind. The bad news: this is his best political mind.

Ludye gets whacked by his own weeds.

"Keep Ludye on duty" was longtime Metro Council member Ludye Wallace's campaign slogan all those times he ran for office, and by and large, his constituents have—in spite of the fact that he doesn't seem to live in their district. One of the year's biggest stories from Planet Ludye was his co-sponsorship of a bill that would outlaw tall grass and weeds (and likely many trees and shrubs) found in your front yard. Unfortunately, Ludye wasn't on duty at his own supposed residence, where a Tennessean reporter and photographer documented out-of-control grass and weeds and an abandoned looking building. But the irony wasn't lost on Ludye, who responded by accusing the reporter of racism. But never fear, our Boner is color-blind.

Chamber of Boners

Will Rogers was wrong: the opposite of progress is not Congress, it's our very own Metro Council, who squandered another year through political vendettas, zoning squabbles and other half-witted controversies. These were the "highlights."

With enemies like these, who needs enemies?

Always good for pathetic yuks—whether they're fretting about an al-Qaeda attack on their drinking water, ignoring their own proposed legislation about keeping yards mowed, or complaining about Musica's "nudeness"—the Metro Council resembles a Corleone family with about 35 Fredos. But the council miraculously reached an all-new low in pettiness last January when a coalition led by holy roller Harold White sneakily torpedoed Eileen Beehan's appointment to the Metro Traffic Commission, in retaliation for Beehan's sponsorship of a divisive gay-rights ordinance last year. Instead of voting on the record against the well-intentioned Beehan, White and his sanctimonious cronies simply abstained—thus making a quorum, and her appointment, impossible. A stunned Beehan left in tears, while observers got to witness the exact moment a hitherto harmless public nuisance became actively nasty.

Ronnie Greer steps in it.

When you think of dog crap, think Ronnie Greer. Last summer, the District 17 Metro Council member launched a one-man crusade against the forces of doo-doo, attempting to outlaw dog droppings in legislation so sloppily worded it likely would have left Rover cross-legged in his own backyard. It all started when Greer got word that dogs in Sevier Park were leaving their calling cards everywhere. Having found an issue with his name all over it, he set about banning dogs from the public park, angering a vocal group of canine-friendly constituents. These folks brought their pooches (as protest pawns) down to the council meeting to get their point across. The council got the message, and by October the city had a leash law and some dog-friendly zones to show for Greer's ill-conceived poop shoot.

Cops and Boners

Remember the morons who place-kicked a dog to its death in a Nashville parking lot? That wasn't funny. These items from the shady side of Boner Street were.

The good news is, she had car insurance with Geico.

In March, police caught up to Antoinette Hall, 20, for a bizarre aggravated robbery the summer before. The previous June, Hall allegedly spotted her ex-boyfriend, Michael Gaines, in his wheelchair talking to another woman on Vaughn Street in East Nashville. Apparently hell hath no fury like Hall, who was accused of marching up to Gaines and toppling him over, then clubbing him with a whiskey bottle and taking his money. For good measure, she stole a wheel off his chair.

Exodus, Leviticus and Detonation.

An absurd misunderstanding ballooned into a terror threat at the Nashville International Airport in October, when a pastor's eccentric attempt at levity convinced airport officials he was carrying explosives. During a routine scanner search, security officers found an undeclared laptop in the luggage of Jose L. Gonzalez, a Seventh Day Adventist minister bound for Orlando. When they searched his carry-on bag, agents said, Gonzalez suddenly declared that he had a bomb and reached into his luggage. Before any guns could be drawn, he withdrew a Bible and announced, "This is my bomb!" Gonzalez later explained that he was speaking metaphorically about the Good Book's power to change lives, but no converts were made among the unmoved airport staff.

Now he's headed up the river.

As he made his escape after snatching a woman's purse outside a Piggly Wiggly in Columbia, Timothy Dial ran over an embankment that, unbeknownst to him, dropped 10 feet into the Duck River. Dial, who couldn't swim, had to be rescued by police. "We have a lot of robberies," said Police Sgt. Hunt Blair, "but we don't ordinarily have to fish suspects out of the water."

The Buck stops—in prison.

Cashville's own Young Buck was reppin' us well with his debut single "Let Me In," but the sequel may go more like "Let Me Out." That's because the Middle Tennessean now stands accused of stabbing a man during a melee at the Vibe Awards and then tearing ass out. After the incident, Buck (real name David Darnell Brown) became a fugitive from the law, and a peace-loving nation held its breath while one Dirty South rapper on the lam stalked its streets. Buck/Brown eventually turned himself in to Santa Monica police, where he faced one count of attempted murder, one count of assault with a deadly weapon, and a million points in street cred. Let that be a warning to other artists who appear on the Scene's cover. This means you, The Pink Spiders.

Stolen any good books lately?

Elder's Bookstore has great deals on mint-condition books—and those same titles seem to go missing from other local bookstores. Coincidence? A Scene investigation found that Nashville's oldest bookstore is also its most ethically questionable. Second-generation proprietor Randy Elder is known for berating his wife and father in front of customers; now people know him as the guy who makes a mint off a ring of book thieves. The best part of the story is all the famous folks who have taken hot property off Elder's hands. A prominent local judge, we're told, bought a nice leather copy of Black's Law Dictionary from the bookstore. He could have gotten it from the Vanderbilt bookstore, but then he would have had to pay full price.

Hey, it could've been Pedro Garcia.

Craigen D. Harris, 18, was arrested last February and charged with aggravated robbery after bumbling into police custody. Harris reportedly used a gun to muscle his way into the apartment of David Miller, then made off with $30 cash and Miller's watch, his Nintendo console—and his cell phone. Shortly afterward, Harris got a call on the stolen phone from someone claiming to be Miller, who offered $50 for the return of the console. Apparently it never dawned on Harris that the phone might be, y'know, evidence. The caller was instead a fast-talking Metro cop, and when Harris came to collect he ended up in cuffs. Talking afterward to The Tennessean, an amused Miller pinpointed the exact moment the robber tripped himself up: "His dumb ass answered the phone."

Media Boners

Who's minding the fourth estate? These Boners, in breaking—or rather, broken—news.

His head was embedded, but we won't say where.

The Tennessean's Tim Chavez humiliated himself and his paper in the fall in a column that claimed reporters in Iraq were overplaying the country's violence to boost the Kerry campaign. Filing from war-torn Brentwood, the neo-con flip-flopper accused the media of downplaying the insurgency's brutality, charging that NBC aired staged footage of child casualties. That would have been the greatest journalism scandal in 100 years—had Chavez ever been any closer to Baghdad than the last time TBS showed The Mummy. Instead, Chavez relied on a single shaky source for this bombshell: a U.S. Marine he had never met, who picked up the tip from someone Chavez doesn't even know. There's better reporting on MTV News. Immediately, war reporters who'd actually set foot in Iraq turned the Jim Romenesko media site into Chavez's own personal Fallujah. "Tim your piece is a disgrace," wrote Alex Berenson, who covered the battle of Najaf for a little paper called The New York Times. "You ought to apologize for it to the correspondents who are risking their lives on the ground in Iraq." Instead, the best Berenson and Tennessean readers got from Gunga Tim was a wishy-washy column that failed to correct some of his earlier mischaracterizations. Among these was the claim that U.S. efforts within the insurgent-occupied Iraqi city of Samarra were going far better than the press dared to say—news indeed to the soldiers embroiled in the bloody offensive.

Hurricane Vicki.

Before she resigned last week as WKRN news director, Vicki Montet was certainly industrious: in slightly more than six short months, she managed to do an entire wrecking crew's worth of damage to the station's ratings, reputation and morale. Trying to revive Channel 2's flagging share, Montet hastened the departure of several talented anchors and reporters (including veteran newsman Chris Bundgaard, who now freelances for the station). Her remedy was to hire the hilarious "Whistleblower," the Inspector Clouseau of investigative reporting, a grandstanding goof whose idea of an exposé is waving a radar gun at passing cars. According to staffers, she then added insult to injury by cutting the station's skinflint $5 out-of-town meal allowance—while installing brand new carpeting in her office. Alas, nothing worked: the station's November sweeps were dismal. But every cloud has a silver lining. When she announced her departure, the Channel 2 newsroom was reportedly jubilant.

Maybe Frank Sutherland would be up for 18 holes.

Here's how to handle the press, Bruce Dobie style. First, tell your own paper that you're not interested in the Tennessean job. Then break the news that you're resigning from the Scene in an editorial that stuns many of your employees. Subsequently, when asked if you're now a candidate for the Tennessean job, tell your reporters no comment. Then, when your paper finds out you've interviewed for the post, repeat the no comment. Finally, watch The Tennessean name someone else while you pull an Al Gore in the wilderness. Liked the beard, though.

Boner Cum Laude

Even without James Hefner or John Shumaker to kick around anymore, we still managed to add promising freshmen to the School of Hard Boners. Try not to step on your, er, diplomas.

An H.J. for M.J. on MTV.

It takes a lot of boners to get your alma mater to denounce you publicly, especially if you're smack-dab in the middle of your 15 minutes of fame. But Nashville's own M.J. Garrett, star of MTV's The Real World this season, managed to get Vanderbilt Vice Chancellor Mike Schoenfeld to say publicly what an embarrassment he was to the school. Of course, lots of folks already knew that Vandy has more than its fair-haired share of homophobic douchebags. But for those who didn't, M.J., a former Vandy football standout (like that's hard), set the tone for his stardom by calling an African American roommate "the hottest black girl I've ever met," then marveled at being among real live gays as if they belonged on Animal Planet. But at least he had a good excuse. "Being born and raised in a small town such as Nashville, you're really not brought up around a good mix of people," he told viewers on the first show. "All I know is Southern white." Although the Scene has heard about M.J.'s, shall we say, youthful indiscretions, he played the ignorant-hick role masterfully on the reality-TV show. Boy, do we miss Puck.

But the 'You Toke, Me Toke' head shop looks good to go.

In April, student leaders at Vanderbilt submitted to administrators a proposal for opening a campus beer store that would accept cards from prepaid student meal plans. ("Beer—it's what's for breakfast.") The sponsors could find no other examples of universities with beer stores to bolster their case, but enterprising VU student Adam Spector was undeterred: "There's nothing wrong with being a leader." University officials filed the request under "nice try."

The unfriendly skies.

In July, Fisk President Hazel O'Leary made national news when she was escorted by police off a United Airlines flight in Richmond after refusing the pilot's demands to leave the cockpit area. O'Leary, a member of United's board of directors, said she only had been asking to leave the plane, which was stuck on the runway during a weather delay.

Next year's visiting scholars in Asian Studies: Wu-Tang Clan.

Porn film star Ron Jeremy was a guest speaker at MTSU this fall as part of a packaged "debate" on pornography. Despite the fondest hopes of protesters, students told the drooling news crews outside that the debate was more tepid than titillating. But the artist formerly known as "the Hedgehog" hadn't lost his touch: just about everyone on hand felt screwed.

And it wasn't Ron Jeremy.

After the MTSU student newspaper Sidelines referred to Rutherford County Sheriff's officers as "thugs," the department basically proved the paper's point, threatening a silly lawsuit and allegedly ordering background checks on its staffers. Good thing they had MTSU President Sidney McPhee watching their backs, right? Psych! Instead, the embattled McPhee, who should have been worried about his own tawdry sexual harassment flap, called Sheriff Truman Jones and distanced himself from the piece. "I wanted the sheriff's office to know that those views are not ours," he told the Scene. Guess there was only room for one embarrassment on campus.

Bet she got a lovely thank-you note.

On the morning after the presidential election, Constance Gee, wife of Vanderbilt Chancellor Gordon Gee, lowered the flag in front of the chancellor's residence to half-mast in apparent protest of the result. After word reached Kirkland Hall via startled Bush-leaning Belle Meade neighbors, the flag was quickly restored to its full height.

NC-17 Boners

You can't have Boners without sex (even if the opposite doesn't always hold true). Loosen that Bible Belt and get your freak on:

Beaded boners get banned.

Nashville's flagship art institution, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, got stuck between a cock and a hard place earlier this fall when it prematurely pulled out—of a long-scheduled art exhibition. The show, by nationally renowned artist Joyce J. Scott, featured two-dimensional works as well as tiny beaded sculptures, some with provocative titles like "Cuddly Black Dick." Frist officials, who had enthusiastically booked the show to begin with, were shocked—shocked!—to learn that it would deal with the sexually and racially explicit themes that characterize much of Scott's work. Nashville lost a good art exhibition, but don't worry: there are still plenty of dicks in town.

In fairness, the jackhammer stand was also asked to close.

In October, folks strolling a Friends of Spring Hill Library flea market, held in the parking lot of a local church, were outraged when they came across a booth for Passions & Pleasures, a local business that sells adult toys. One particular object raised their ire: a yellow ducky bath sponge that was larger than a football. The sponge aroused, er, suspicion among the authorities because it also vibrates. Although the booth's proprietor tried to explain that the device in question was just a bath sponge, she was still asked to leave. Sounds like somebody could use a good vibrator.

Scare up some 8-foot copper thongs and banana slings, make it a lapdance and everybody's happy.

When the strip club Vivid opened directly underneath Hot Yoga this year, yoga-goers and neighborhood regulars were understandably upset about their seedy new neighbor. But Vivid's landlord, Jimmy Lewis, didn't see why they were offended. The real vulgarity, he said, was Musica—the classical sculpture in the Music Row Roundabout. According to Lewis, nude sculptures are "more offending to me than a dance club." He considered the art very sexual and inappropriate, claiming he felt more comfortable driving his grandchildren by a strip club than the statue. (Thanks, Grandpa!) His leasing agent, Jim Boyd, went even further, saying that the Venus de Milo and David shouldn't be shown to children. In conclusion: porn good, art bad. Got it.

Jocks and Boners

Why, they go together like buns and hot dogs. A few memorable blunders from the world of sports:

Honky if you love Vanderbilt.

On ESPN Radio, Boston Globe sports columnist Bob Ryan predicted that Vanderbilt would lose in the first round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament because the Commodores had "too many white guys." It's hard to say which race felt more insulted, but for one shining moment all creeds and colors were united—in their annoyance at blowhard Ryan, whose crystal ball was just as faulty. Vandy, whose starting lineup included three black players, went on to defeat Western Michigan, then North Carolina State in the second round to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1993.

But he promised to come back for Uncle Dave Macon Days.

In an effort to achieve the average minimum attendance of 15,000 needed to avoid being thrown out of NCAA's Division I, MTSU gambled $82,500 on a post-game hip-hop concert featuring OutKast rapper Big Boi in October. It sounded like a big expense—especially to one grad student interviewed by the Associated Press, who naively wondered why the money didn't go to improve campus facilities. Sadly, instead of the record attendance the school expected, bad weather held the crowd down to a disappointing 16,000-plus—and cut short the costly concert.

Next year, dumbasses, put Big Boi in da house.

Vanderbilt found a novel way to keep UT fans from dominating the crowd at Vanderbilt Stadium: they raised ticket prices for the Vandy-Tennessee game to $55. Had more UT fans gone for their wallets, they might have watched their beloved Vols come within a few points of losing to the 'Dores, nearly a statistical impossibility. Lucky for them, few people were around to witness Vanderbilt's moral victory: the game was played before several thousand empty seats.

At least he got off the bench for once.

Surely there couldn't be any Nashville tie to the wild, fist-swinging, chair-tossing, beer-hurling melee between the Detroit Pistons and Indianapolis Pacers last month. Meet Music City's David Harrison, the Young Buck of basketball, who was among the NBA players charged with assault.

Jeff Fisher, welcome to Bobby Johnson's world.

The Titans somehow managed to lose 19-17 to the Chicago Bears even though the Bears' offense, directed by a rookie quarterback, scored only three points.

Irritable Boner Syndrome

In conclusion, the Scene plays civic proctologist with two odd items from the bowels of the city:

In related news, Trojan wants 'Five Feet High and Rising.'

In January, music fans gasped when the late Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" was used in a commercial—for hemorrhoid-relief stand-by Preparation H. We're not sure which was worse: the commercial, or The Tennessean finding it worthy of a Page 1 story.

The Metro school board calls it 'Meet Pedro.'

As part of a public education effort to promote colon cancer screening and prevention, Skyline Medical Center in April opened an exhibit called "The Colossal Colon" that (in a manner of speaking) allowed people to stick their heads up their asses. Visitors could crawl through the 40-foot model to view polyps, various stages of colon cancer, diverticulitis and hemorrhoids.

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