Remember that famous scene from Miracle on 34th Street? Where all the mailmen drag in those huge bags of mail addressed to Santa Claus and dump them on the judge's desk? Well, that same thing takes place every morning in the mailroom of The Memphis Flyer. Not a day goes by, it seems, that we don't get hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of letters to the editor, praising us for our insightful coverage of local issues and our thought-provoking editorials.
Now it's true that not ALL of those letters are complimentary. Sure, over the past 15 years, we've received a few -- just a smattering, really --of letters and postcards and e-mails that are somewhat critical of our work. Okay, let's just fess up and admit it: Some of the things we have written about over the years have actually provoked some pretty nasty responses. For our 15th anniversary, we did a quick look through back issues and came up with 15 topics (in no particular order) that always generate cranky letters to the editor, such as:
1. Mud Island
"Who the hell wants to hang out at a place called Mud Island? Am I the only person who finds it odd to name an attraction after a watered-down form of dirt? We need a new name that will attract residents from all over the Mid-South with their bulging wallets and penchant for the cheap and tawdry. Let's call it Camaro Island."
-- Sid Williamson, August 8, 1996
"Great job. You've just pissed off every goth in America with your review of Dark City. While it may be true that goths will like Dark City, we are not all vampire-killers and Marilyn Manson fans. It would be nice if your writers did some research on subjects that they obviously know nothing about. Next time, don't look to Jenny Jones for information about goths; ask a goth personally." -- Anonymous, March 19, 1998
3. Tim Sampson
"For some time I have watched, first with amusement, then with amazement, and of late with simple irritation as Tim Sampson's We Recommend column has degenerated into a 'I Really Can't Recommend Anything As I Don't Know What I Am Talking About' parody of a column. If you want to spend more than one iota of your busy life to find out what's really out there, Tim, and coincidentally rescue your reputation as a savant from the 'laughingstock junkpile' to which you are increasingly being relegated, it's not too hard to do. There may be life after Linda Gail, also." -- Walter Rumbarger, June 6, 1991
"We cry 'save the whales,' we protect the eagles, we lament the decreasing habitat for wildlife -- noble causes, to be sure, but who weeps for the unborn? Who do we hold responsible? I agree with those who feel that apathy is our greatest foe. We have lost that part of ourselves that allows us to feel for the unborn." -- Chuck Ryan, April 18, 1991
5. Jimmy Carter and/or Those Commie Bastards
"That's it. I've had enough. I've suffered through reams of inane editorials from the Flyer crew, laughing and/or crying over the convoluted 'logic' and the absolute lack of economic insight, most notably in the tripe written a few months ago eulogizing the oh-so-impressive Jimmy Carter and, flying in the face of history, insisting that Ol' Peanuthead was a pretty darned good president (nearly split a side on that one). But now the camel's back is lying in umpteem pieces. Your editorial offering a nostalgic, teary-eyed farewell to our dear ol' buddy communism was absolutely the most pathetic excuse for a philosophic position I have ever encountered."
-- Jody Callahan, January 23, 1992
6. George W. Bush
"Please pass the word to your editorial writers that George Bush is president of the United States. Elected. Confirmed. Inaugurated. Even with all the illegal votes The New York Times could round up in six-and-a-half months of digging. That's The New York Times, you know, the Koran of leftists the world over. Even though no leftist paper in the hinterlands of America would dare reprint it any closer to the front page than the funnies, it is true -- Bush is the man. Please notify your columnists and cartoonists, also. Thanks."
-- Mike Crone, December 6, 2001
7. That Liberal Media
"Your article 'Liberal Media Myth' proved one thing about The Memphis Flyer. It can be as sanctimonious, egotistical, and self-indulgent as any liberal newspaper in the country. No doubt the liberal media will go on deluding itself, as all narcissists do, because the system provides a built-in support group. There are plenty of self-righteous journalists around to give each other comforting pats on the fanny, even when mean old reality is battering the sanctuary doors open." -- William Rolen, September 3, 1992
8. Rush Limbaugh
"Rush fans are young and they are Christian and they are everywhere, especially in the classroom. So, I can't tell you how relieved and grateful I am that someone as cool as Tim Sampson gets letters from young Christian women telling him to go fuck himself. At least I'm in good company." -- Anonymous, March 17, 2004
9. The Grateful Dead
"In regards to Paul Gerald's 'Just What IS It About the Grateful Dead?,' first let me state that although I am not particularly a fan of the Grateful Dead, I do appreciate their music for what it's worth. However, Mr. Gerald, did you intend for your article to be as lengthy and unending as one of the Dead's concerts?" -- Bill Andrus, May 12, 1994
10. Good Beer
"Hey, Flyer people, why don't you ask that wino dude reviewer of yours to come off his high horse and do an article on something that really matters: Why honest civilians cannot walk into a convenience/grocery/beer store in Memphis and purchase a good-tasting beer -- not a mediocre one or some bogus 'licensed by the big boys' import, but a good one? I know your ad rates; surely you have enough revenue these days to strap on some balls, Flyer." -- Sherman Willmott, May 26, 1994
11. Nekkid Women
"I was alarmed at the July 21st issue. The first thing I found was an article headlined 'Hey Kids, Get a Load of These Knockers!' I first thought surely this is not referring to women's breasts; as I read on it was clear that it was. The article goes on to state that these were the Penthouse Pets' breasts. I would like to know if you find this entertainment for the family?"
-- Robin Smalley, August 4, 1994
12. Topless Dancers
"What [special prosecutor Larry Parrish] is doing for our city is an admirable task. But I guess a family man of values is the archenemy of a liberal rag like the Flyer. He won't do business with many of your advertisers; I can't see Mr. Parrish getting a tattoo or sleeping on a futon." -- James Hill, August 1, 1998
13. Tom Tomorrow
"Your disgusting cartoon, This Modern World, would be expected on the shelves of a pornographic bookstore, but not in a public media. How could the Flyer publish a series of explicit sexual relations depicting homosexuality, anal intercourse, and depravations under the banner of humor? Your editorial staff, which permitted this publication, is guilty of endangering the youth of our fragile society." -- John-Patrick Scott, April 23, 1998
14. Recyling (Yes, Recycling)
"I am convinced that your name comes from an airhead approach to journalism. Your paper constantly offers readers fluffy little overviews that barely skim the surface. [Environmental columnist Debbie] Gilbert was not once but twice given an opportunity to question some very real issues regarding local recycling efforts." -- Kathy McGregor, May 9, 1991
15. Vance Lauderdale
"I could do Lauderdale's job with no effort at all since I have a B.A. degree from MSU. I could do his job dead drunk, I believe." --Mary Shoat, March 31, 1994