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Flyer Flashback

To mark the Flyer's 20th anniversary, we're looking back at stories from our first two decades.

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Twenty years ago this week, the Memphis Flyer made its debut with a 20-page inaugural issue.

In a letter to readers, then and current publisher Kenneth Neill promised a "bold, sassy, controversial, entertaining, and informative" publication that would serve as "a community bulletin board."

The issue, which covered February 16-22, 1989, was led by a cover story from associate editor David Lyons called "Poison for Profit," about the local Velsicol Chemical Corporation's export of "possibly carcinogenic" pesticides that had been banned from agricultural use in the U.S. to Third World countries in South America and Africa, something that had prompted Greenpeace protests at the local plant.

It wasn't all heavy stuff though. Columnist Lydel Sims set a familiar tone by waxing sarcastic about the in-progress Pyramid arena project: "Here we are with the beginnings of a pyramid, and what are we going to do about it?" Sims wrote. "For a start, let's change the title of one or both of our mayors to pharaoh. What other city has a pharaoh? We could have two. Pharaohs [Dick] Hackett and [Bill] Morris would electrify the country."

In a "Rumor Mill" column, the paper dished on the return of Moonlighting star Cybill Shepherd and heralded the arrival of a new political entity that had "become a force to be reckoned with in West Germany" and was supposed to "clash interestingly with the traditional black and white of Memphis politics." Yes, that paradigm-shifting political game-changer: the Green Party, which was forming its first local chapter. — Chris Herrington

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