Co-emce Terry Adams with "roasters" (l to r, Mike Kyle, the honoree's brother; Regina newman; Bartlett banker Bob Byrd; Sara Kyle; Deidre Malone, and Matt Kuhn
When Willie Herenton was the subject of last year’s first annual roast event sponsored by the Shelby County Democratic Party, most of the celebrity roasters trod fairly lightly on the sensitivities of the former Memphis mayor. It fell to emcee Joe Brown, then but recently out of a TV program and about to become a candidate for D.A., to wield some sharp remarks, though most of those were aimed at subjects at large and not the honoree.
Things were otherwise at the county Democrats’ second annual fundraising roast, held for newly installed Chancellor and former state Senator Jim Kyle Saturday night at the Holiday Inn Express at the Airport.
Take this example from current Mayor A C Wharton, who told an elaborate tale about an alleged hunting dog owned by the late former Governor Ned Ray McWherter: It seems the dog, which happened to be named “Senator,” was finally retired from active hunting pursuits and renamed “Judge.” The punchline: “All he’s good for now is to sit on his ass and bark at people.”
And there were the purported frustrations experienced by roaster Deidre Malone in her supposed quest to round up testimonials in Kyle’s honor. First call, the former County Commissioner and recent candidate for County Mayor said straight-facedly, was to 9th Distrtict congressman Steve Cohen, whose relations with fellow Democrat Kyle when both served in the state Senate were notoriously cool.
That call, said Malone, was “short, kind of curt; you know the congressman” and it ended with an abrupt click. The next call, to Beverly Marrero, another former Senate colleague and one defeated by Kyle in a jointly contested 2012 race, was not even answered. Finally, Malone claimed, she reached Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, who gladly offered his congratulations to the new Chancellor “I’m so glad he’s down there in Shelby County not up here with us,” was how she quoted Ramsey.
Ramsey was also the focus of another tale told by state Representative Antonio “Two-Shay” Parkinson, who riffed on the conversation Kyle allegedly had with Ramsey in order to get his residence relocated in District 30, post-reapportionment, so as to make that 2012 race possible. Kyle supposedly emerged from his closeted chat with the GOP Lt. Governor shaded a suspicious brown hue, and, yes, that joke, told while people were still eating, apparently meant what it seemed to.
Most of the other testimonials ran to the high-jinksy. Assistant city attorney Regina Newman, a former Kyle campaign aide, told of “working on that friendly thing” with her “aloof” candidate. State Representative Larry Miller did an elaborate burlesque on Kyle’s famously exotic taste in sock colors, pulling up his cuffs to reveal some pink-colored hosiery of his own.
Party chair Bryan Carson gives Kyle an award.
Wife Sara Kyle, the former Tennessee Regulatory Authority member who is just now the highly favored Democratic nominee for her husband’s vacated state Senate seat, said she had found the perfect solution to the fact that her husband, as Chancellor, would be around the house uncommonly and perhaps uncomfortably often: “With your help, I’m going to Nashville.”
And so it went. But all the roasters, of course, would ease up toward the end of their tales, conveying what appeared to be genuine praise and affection for the honoree, as someone who would stick with his party comrades “to the bitter end,” according to recent U.S. Senate candidate Terry Adams, who was co-emcee of the roast event with mayoral aide and veteran political figure Ta-Juan Stout-Mitchell. Or as someone whose new role in a court of equity was totally appropriate, since “equity” was what he had always stood for, as lawyer and former Democratic Party chairman Van Turner put it.
And there was much more in that vein.
For his part, Kyle, once he took the floor himself, eschewed any mock payback lines, rather expressing gratitude to the roasters and attendees for their presence, and, after telling a story about a daughter’s unconventional interpretation of the plot of “Rocky,” made a point about the variety of people’s points of views, especially in the notably diverse Democratic Party.
“We in the Democratic Party need to respect each other ‘s point of view,” said Kyle, who promised that, if his party colleagues could do that and avoid petty jealousies and misunderstandings, “I have no doubt that the Democratic Party will have a successful election two years from now.”
Meanwhile, said the Chancellor, with a nod toward his wife’s candidacy, his change of venue had made it possible “for the citizens of the 30th [state Senate] District to get an upgrade.”