- Sbukley | Dreamstime.com
- Joan Rivers
I don't know whether to laugh, cry, pass out, throw up, or do all that at once. This past week has been like a roller coaster of good, bad, sad, goofy, and downright absurd things.
First, I feel like I have a giant, gaping black hole in my psyche because of Joan Rivers' death. Oh, I know. Many of you know her only as the plastic surgery-addicted fashion commentator from the E! Network, but I grew up on Joan Rivers, and in my opinion she was one of the top five funniest people in history. I always thought of her as something of the older sister I never had. Yes, she was mean in some of her humor but never mean-spirited. Yes, she made fun of people but never more than she made fun of herself. And I think she probably really admired the people she made the most fun of. "What did Elizabeth Taylor say when the waiter asked her what she wanted on her hamburger? A hot dog!" Come on, now. That's funny! That's from when Liz was married to that Republican senator and was living on fried chicken and Percocet somewhere out in the country and gained a lot of weight. I can relate.
- Sbukley | Dreamstime.com
- Joan Rivers
And Rivers was often filthy. Hilariously filthy. About her own daughter she said, and I paraphrase, "She called to tell me that she turned down $400,000 from Playboy to photograph her naked from the waist up, and she wanted my approval. I told her, tell them you'll take another $200,000 and show them your (another word for 'cat' here)." Of all of the heinous, mindless, terrible, unwatchable reality-type shows on television, Fashion Police was hilarious — and a secret guilty pleasure for more people than you know.
I'm also very sad about the news of Wiles-Smith Drug Store on Union Avenue closing. It has been around almost as long as Joan Rivers, and there's no other place like it that I know of in Memphis. I'd wager to say there aren't many places like that left anywhere. For those of you who have never been, you should get to their lunch counter (yes, lunch counter in a drug store, still) for a tuna plate or one of their grilled cheese sandwiches and/or one of their famous homemade milk shakes. Their closing is like the end of an era to me. It was pretty much the last bastion of the charm Union Avenue once possessed, before everything was torn down to make way for a zillion ugly fast-food restaurants. Oh, there are still some nice businesses on the street — 1910 Frameworks, Commercial Bank & Trust, the Art Center, and Little Italy — but there will never be another Wiles-Smith.
The most baffling thing of the week to me was the new Mississippi tax-free weekend on guns and ammunition. Really? Mississippi has the highest hunger rate of any state in the country and rather than have a tax-free food weekend, the legislature passed a bill to allow people to buy guns and ammo without paying taxes? And they think this is going to be great for their economy? Economy for whom, you freaking morons? It's not like someone who can't afford to buy food can afford to buy a gun to kill a deer to eat. One gun store owner was quoted as saying, "These are big-ticket items that people in the South really support, so it makes a lot of sense. If you go out and purchase a $1,000 firearm, you are gonna save $70. You equate that to a tank of gas or a couple of outfits for your children. So it's definitely beneficial." What in the hell does that mean? It makes so little sense I can't even think of a way to respond to it.
But forget all that tomfoolery. The best news in the past few weeks is that President Obama has selected our own Reverend Al Green to be one of the recipients of this year's Kennedy Center Honors and man, does he deserve it. I think Al Green is in a category so much his own that sometimes Memphis forgets that he is ours and that he lives here, and has for all of his adult life. We forget that he has a church in Whitehaven, where he preaches and sings almost every Sunday of the year to crowds of mainly European visitors, who are here to watch this internationally beloved icon in his little, round church, Al Green's Full Gospel Tabernacle. Now that would have been a great place for Joan Rivers' funeral.