Friday, May 13, 2011

Remembering the Late Amon Carter Evans and Rattle & Snap

Posted By on Fri, May 13, 2011 at 3:53 PM

Down at the bottom of The Tennessean’s skeletal obituary of Amon Carter Evans, the former publisher at 1100 Broadway whose death was reported this week, was this graf:

After Mr. Evans sold The Tennessean, he owned and operated Rattle & Snap, an antebellum plantation in Mount Pleasant that he restored and lived in before opening it up as a tourist attraction, wife Denise Evans said.

It only hints at the life of this media mogul after the $50 million sale of The Tennessean in 1978 by the Evans family to Gannett.

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Remembering Ray Bell: 'A Rock, a Fighter and a Teddy Bear'

Posted By on Mon, Sep 6, 2010 at 2:23 PM

Ray Bell
  • Ray Bell
I didn't know Ray Bell, but I had long heard there was more to him than the gruff, rumpled, pugnacious persona he affected in public life. Now that he's gone, those who knew the whole man have been sharing memories of him for the reaction story I have put up at NashvillePost.com.

It's a work in progress. I hope to get further comments after the holiday. But the ones that have come in so far have been eye-opening:

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Titanic Terms

Posted By on Mon, Aug 2, 2010 at 4:55 PM

Is Lane Kiffin trying to pull the plug on the Titans hopes this season?
  • Photo: The Redshirt Senior
  • Is Lane Kiffin trying to pull the plug on the Titans' hopes this season?
Both sides are now lawyered up in the matter of Good v. Evil Tennessee Football Inc. v. Lane Kiffin and the University of Southern California, and the lawsuit is offering a glimpse at what makes the NFL and its teams especially fretful on the HR front.

Appended to the Titans' complaint is the employment contract of Kennedy Pola, the onetime USC star running back hired last February to coach the backfield for the Titans. Ex-UT coach Kiffin lured Pola to USC last month as offensive coordinator, leaving the Titans short-staffed just before the season starts and prompting the lawsuit.

In exchange for a hefty salary — the amount is redacted in the copy of the contract filed with the court, but the blank is big enough to fit seven digits — the Titans extracted a number of thou-shalt-not commitments from Pola.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Phil Williams Inquisition: Audio

Posted By on Tue, Jun 29, 2010 at 4:10 PM

Williams, scourge of the parking scofflaw
  • Williams, scourge of the parking scofflaw
When Davidson County General Sessions Court Judge Dan Eisenstein spent most of last Wednesday morning on the bench venting his fury over a police effort to fix a parking ticket for NewsChannel5 investigative reporter Phil Williams, Williams himself — winner of multiple journalistic awards for exposés of local ticket-fixing — was not in the courtroom. And testimony from a series of police functionaries hauled before the court made clear Williams had not asked for any favors.

Still, past targets of the crusading journo's stories — including Eisenstein — find the whole situation pretty rich. After the jump: a few choice audio excerpts from the judge's rant last week.

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Remembering Mr. King and His Inn

Posted By on Fri, Jun 11, 2010 at 1:09 PM

Robert H. King, who has passed away at 84, had his own set of rules for his pub, King's Inn, at 4403 Harding Road.


If you could shave, you could drink. In 1980, when I was 16, Mr. King sold me the first beer I ever bought at a bar: a Hudepohl, served (as always) in a fully frozen mug, for 50 cents.

I was following in well-trodden footsteps. One Nashville nostalgia website recalls: "In the 1950's in West Nashville, it was practically a rite of passage for a young man to have his first beer at King's Inn (where no one ever asked for an ID)."

But a young person enjoying the Inn's hospitality was expected to behave. On one of my first visits, as I watched the ice slide down the outside of my mug, I overheard a muttered blasphemy from the old-fashioned pinball machine over my shoulder.

Mr. King heard it, too. And that was OK — as long as Mrs. Grace King was not within earshot. But she was just then serving a cheeseburger at the bar, and Pinball Boy had broken a cardinal rule by cursing in front of her. Mr. King summarily expelled him from the premises.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Slouching Toward Opryland: Online Group Wants Opry Mills a Theme Park Again

Posted By on Wed, May 12, 2010 at 9:33 AM

I believe it may have been Jung who observed that survivors of a major flood often develop Zweitklassigenthemenparksnostalgie, the communal desire to reconstruct the second-rate theme parks they frequented as children. Sure enough, that's just what's happening.


Since last week, more than 27,000 Facebook members have joined a group called "Let's build Opryland where Opry Mills once stood!," affirming their dedication “to the hope of watching Opry Mills float down the Cumberland River like a portable classroom!” When flood waters filled the mega-mall that sits next to the Gaylord Opryland Resort, a primal wave of nostalgia seems to have welled up in the populace for Opryland USA, which operated at the site from 1972 until 1997.

Nearly 2,000 people have joined up just since Monday afternoon. Many seem well aware that Mills owner Simon Property Group has firmly committed to reopen the mall and is already busily proceeding with recovery and repair work. Ben Eads, the Murfreesboro resident who created the Facebook site and a separate online petition drive, appears to be a realist himself. Responding to an online critic who labeled the site "delusional," Eads acknowledged that his dream would proabably not come true at the location of the old park. But he can still hope.

"Somewhere there is a capital investment group, or another theme park, or somebody's rich uncle that will see this show of support and know that Nashville is the right place to invest their money," Eads wrote.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Man in Full: Jim Leeson, 1930-2010

Posted By on Thu, May 6, 2010 at 11:46 AM

Jim Leeson (1985 photo)
  • Jim Leeson (1985 photo)
If you've never heard of James T. Leeson Jr., that's just how he wanted things.

Ask him about his role in the Civil Rights Movement, and he would steer the conversation from his own activities to the tragicomic foibles of people on all sides of it, white and black. Ask him about the neurotics, cranks, paupers and princes he mentored in Vanderbilt's Sarratt Tunnel as adult supervisor of the university's student journalists, and he could cite an instance when just about every one of them had shown his or her (usually his) ass.

Ask about a wealthy Franklin pooh-bah, and he would tell you who the guy was sleeping with that month. Ask for his praline recipe, and he would change the subject.

Thing is, when you could get Jim to speak of the Civil Rights days, his accounts were consistently laced with understanding and even affection toward the racist whites, confused liberals, power-hungry black preachers and corrupt officials of both races that he had in his sights.

The same ambiguity held when he talked about the people he had mentored at Vanderbilt, many of whom have gone on to carve out national and global reputations in journalism and other fields of endeavor. His devotion to them was clearly the life's work of this lifelong bachelor. Yet his friendship was often most valuable when he was calling out lapses by those he liked.

Of the many people who have mourned Jim since he was found dead of a gunshot wound on Monday near his Williamson County home, having killed himself after minutely organizing his demise to make it as convenient as possible for all who were part of his life, his onetime colleague, Nashville author John Egerton, may have gotten to his core most effectively:

He was a singular figure, a man virtually unknown publicly yet loved and hated, admired and feared by a broad swath of the rich and famous, poor and anonymous multitude. In the 45 years I knew him, he never did anything except on his own terms. That was his way, no exceptions. I guess death was no different. It would have been out of character for him to go the way most of us go — quietly, with all the unspoken protocols and formalities predictably observed.

Jim Leeson was a close friend of mine from my freshman year at Vanderbilt in 1982 until he left this world. He was a friend and admirer of Scene editor Jim Ridley. Nothing about this post pretends to be objective. But I do think he was an important enough person to merit notice here.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Our Back Pages: This Week in Print Over the Years

Posted By on Mon, Dec 7, 2009 at 12:54 PM

Our Back Pages brings you tidbits of Nashville history from near and far, chronologically speaking.

This week, we return to the fateful week of Dec. 7, 1941, as chronicled in the Nashville Banner. As the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor plunged America into a new reality, the war came home to Nashville in its earliest days.

Even though the nation had been scrambling to get onto a war footing for more than a year as German forces rolled across Europe, much of the population continued to hope the U.S. could stay out of the conflict. The weekend chatter in the Banner reflected less weighty matters of public concern.

On Friday afternoon, Dec. 5, sportswriter Dudley "Waxo" Green reflected on one aspect of Vanderbilt's recently completed football season, in which the squad had posted an 8-2 record. Young scribe Green recounted a chat with a young assistant coach for the Commodores:
Vanderbilt's 7 to 0 victory over Alabama was the high of the season for Line Coach Bear Bryant. But the Commodore mentor had another thrill that all but put the triumph in the shade.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Our Back Pages: This Week in Print Over the Years

Posted By on Wed, Nov 25, 2009 at 10:06 AM

Our Back Pages brings you tidbits of Nashville history from near and far, chronologically speaking.

For this edition, we revisit Thanksgiving week, 1925. In the span of a few pages from the Sunday paper on November 22 of that year are moments of old-Nashville business lore, broadcasting history and silent-movie nostalgia.

The working theory behind this post is that an almost random selection from your peripatetic scribe's garage-full of ancient newspaper volumes can yield the occasional cinema verité revelation. Your thoughts on that theory will be welcomed.

Among other personalities from our past this week, we meet an insurance magnate whose mandate from beyond the grave may have caused much of a $36 million nest-egg to dematerialize during last year's market crash.

Bonus points: Find all of the unfunny racist jokes used to fill empty column space--not only the Rastus stuff you might expect, but one aimed at the Irish as well. Call it equal opportunity.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Our Back Pages: This Week in Print Over the Years

Posted By on Mon, Nov 16, 2009 at 12:02 PM

James C. Napier
  • James C. Napier
Our Back Pages brings you tidbits of Nashville history from near and far, chronologically speaking.

This edition: We remember a Nashville leader who deserves to be known as something other than the namesake of a housing project, look back at the lawless streets of Nashville in the months just after The War, and enjoy cameo appearances by Robert Altman and Dr. Bobedil Smellfungus.

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