Next week, the annual Best of Memphis issue hits the stands. In a happy circumstance, Best of Memphis marks its 20th year during the Flyer's 25th year.
The early ballots included such categories as Favorite Airline, Most Unusual Atmosphere, and Best Smell in Memphis. The mail-in ballots invited a lot of stuffing and a lot of silliness. I miss dearly the ballots where the sole answer for every single category was "in my pants."
Back in 1999, the Flyer received a "Best of" ballot from Osama Bin Laden, of which we quipped, "As much as we like to think otherwise, we flatter ourselves if we actually believed that Bin Laden would take time off from his busy international-terrorism schedule just to let us know that he thinks El Porton is the best meal for the money and that Jiffy Lube is the best place for an oil change."
Back then, the Flyer's Best of Memphis issues, working off the acronym "BOM," used a lot of bomb imagery. One year, we even gave winners a heavy trophy fashioned to look like one of those old bombs from cartoons — black and round with a fuse. Of course, two years later, such things were unthinkable.
As it happens, the 2001 issue of Best of Memphis remains my favorite. For that year's theme, we asked a person with the last name of Best to give us his or her thoughts. The Best we had was LeRoy Best, a character, to be sure.
From that issue: "In a recent interview, the Flyer asked Mr. Best only two questions, the first of which was, '"Are you really all that?
"'Am I really all that?' he pondered for a moment. 'I'm all that and a bag of chips. Cow chips but still a bag of chips.' At this point a runaway train of a monologue took off. 'I just live and breathe Memphis from the git-go,' LeRoy said, swatting the air with a jovial fist. 'And I may be known covertly to a lot of people and their children. You see,' he said, as the trilling, thrilling strains of some romantic ballad filled the air, 'I first met my wife Mary Beth while working at a tour company here in Memphis. We were in the basement of the Fontaine House. I was making mint juleps and julies (for those who don't drink alcohol). She made gingerbread for all the tourists who would come in from the riverboats to catch a glimpse of the pretty little girl with the hoopskirt on. Anyway, love blossomed in the basement of the Fontaine House, and we got married. We got married on Thanksgiving morning, and the very next day Santa Claus had to be at the mall. That was my job. That is a rewarding job, let me tell you. He's not a buffoon in a red suit. You have to have a certain rapport with kids. There are a lot of kids who won't come to Santa, but they were coming to me. I was also the volunteer Santa for the 7th Precinct. That's kind of a heartbreaking job. You go to the cancer wards and such. I believe you teach by example. You show by example. For example, I'm the assistant scout master of one of the oldest troops in town, Troop 40 at St. Luke's. And we've got a large number of boys that really appreciate the woods. And dawgone it, that's really getting to be a problem. The woods are getting chopped down and buildings are going up. We really are going to have to become more of an activist group. I always thought there would be woods to camp in. And the troop does flag ceremonies all over town. We even do a flag ceremony for Cinco de Mayo, which we consider an international holiday. We open the flags for the Mexicans and they really like that. Last year we followed Nathan Bedford Forrest around. We went to Fort Pillow, went out to Shiloh, Brighton's Crossroads. It's the Civil War. They say he who forgets history is destined to repeat it. God bless America."
And God bless, Best.