It seems like only yesterday that Twitter was being disparaged as a silly social medium primarily used by self-obsessed people who needed to share what they were having for breakfast with everyone they knew. Oh wait, that was yesterday. And we get it. Twitter isn't for everyone. (Talkin' to you, Alec Baldwin, and maybe you, Steve Cohen.)
But Twitter's not just for breakfast anymore, either. Sports figures, musicians, actors, politicians, and other celebrity types have thousands — sometimes hundreds of thousands — of followers. They see Twitter as a great way to connect with their fans and promote themselves.
But what about "normal" folks? Why should anyone follow the non-rich and non-famous here in Memphis? Well, for one thing, there's not a newsperson, weatherman, or journalist in town worth their salt who doesn't tweet. Twitter is where news breaks in 2013 — before it gets written or broadcast. Twitter is where you can find out about a wreck on your commute or get a tornado warning or learn the Grizzlies have signed Mike Miller, hours before it becomes "news." Twitter is the stone tossed in the pond; it's where the news ripples start.
And Twitter is fun. Watching a Grizzlies game or a presidential debate or, yes, Sharknado with Twitter is a communal snark-fest where you can trade quips and one-liners with the likes of Wendi Thomas or Chris Vernon or Shea Flinn or Jerry Lawler.
With that in mind, we present an admittedly subjective list of the Memphis Twitterati, each with a helpful 140-character (or so) descriptor. — @MemphisFlyer, 14,955 followers
Media (Go here to subscribe to all of the Twitter feeds on this list.)
Everybody in media tweets these days. Most of them stick to business, posting breaking news and weather, linking to stories they've written, and promoting upcoming newscasts. But some Memphis newsies let their personalities shine a little more. They understand that if you tweet nothing but promo, your followers will be few. Here are a few who get it.
Nikki Boertman @PhotoNikki, 13,827 followers: The CA's Grizzlies photographer; gives great in-game tweets. Also likes Memphis music, downtown, general news. 14,000 followers can't be wrong.
Kerry Crawford @ilovememphis, 12,169 followers: Indefatigable tweeter and blogger has taken a paid CVB social media job and made it fun, with lots of links, Memphis boosterism, and humor.
Wendi Thomas @wendi_c_thomas, 6,344 followers: Twitter Wendi is generally funnier than columnist Wendi. Readily interacts with followers on national, local, and personal topics.
Joey Sulipeck @joeysulipeck, 6,190 followers: Fox 13 weatherman is smart, funny, irreverent, e.g., "To the couple running down Poplar in the right lane against traffic at 5 a.m. REALLY?!?"
Kontji Anthony @kontji, 5,819 followers: WMC newscaster tweets lots of straightforward news and pics but sometimes shows her funny side. She does work with Jason Miles, after all.
Carrie Brown-Smith @BrizzyC, 5,518 followers: U of M journalism professor loves good beer, Green Bay Packers, and running. Tweets breaking news links and other interesting updates.
Lauren Lee @laurenleefox13, 4,663 followers: Sassy Fox 13 newswoman (and new mother) who isn't afraid to let her hair down, e.g., "Hello hangover. Welcome back, old friend."
Jason Miles @JmilesWMC, 4,011 followers: The man, the myth, the legend. Channel 5's Twitter ninja, known for over-the-top 140-character news synopses. Master of the graphic tease.
Melissa Moon @MMoonWREG3, 3,772 followers: With 48,000 tweets, this WREG reporter is one of the most prolific media tweeters in town. Lots of newsy links, many of them crime-related.
Andy Wise @AndyWise5, 3,323 followers: The chief consumer investigator for WMC-5 is on your side with news links, tips, a little humor, and a rooting interest in the Atlanta Braves.
Mike Matthews @bulldogonabc24, 1,803 followers: Typical tweet — "I wish I had ghetto booty. I'm a 59 year old man. My ass has been MIA since 1996." This newsman's inhibitions are few.
Mediaverse @Mediaverse, 1,642 followers: The nom du Twitter of former CA reporter Richard Thompson, who offers often insightful — if sometimes cranky — criticism of local media.
John Beifuss @JohnBeifuss, 956 followers: Movie nerds, unite. The CA's film critic tweets what's playing around town, what's opening this week, review links, trivia, and other filmy stuff.
— Bruce VanWyngarden @sylamore1, 3,604 followers
Sports/Sports Media (Go here to subscribe to all of the Twitter feeds on this list.)
What's it like to be present at the dawn of greatness? Funny you ask. One night during Tony Allen's debut season with the Grizzlies, I'm standing in the post-game locker room, near Darrell Arthur and Mike Conley. Over my shoulder, I hear Allen telling someone he's just signed up for a Twitter account. I about-face, get the details (@aa000G9!?!), and rush to break the news — on Twitter, natch. The rest, as they say, is history: Live-tweets of fender-benders with middle-aged women. ("This lady called 1 of her goons!! Lol") Channel-flipping commentary. (He loves Duck Dynasty.) Uncharted grammatical explorations. Sometimes, after a loss, even pain as deep as the ocean. If Tony Allen is our spirit animal, his tweets are our battle cry. Or something like that. Leggo!
Marc Gasol @MarcGasol, 550,113 followers: Towers over the local athletic landscape both in terms of physical size and Twitter following. Tweets in three languages and may give you paella tips.
John Hollinger @JohnHollinger, 128,243 followers: Tweets less often — and less freely — since his move from media to management, but the old snark still comes through in the Griz VP's feed.
Tony Allen @aa000G9, 83,492 followers: Typical tweet (no, really): "S/o 2 the dude At cracker barrel : who keep calling me lebron! Smh,, paint ur face dude!! Like really!! Thas so not whas up!!"
Gary Parrish @GaryParrishCBS, 69,339 followers: A local host but a national columnist, as he'll remind you. Feed has been all-business of late, which means he's due for a late-night (tweet) bender.
Quincy Pondexter @QuincyPondexter, 44,431 followers: The Griz's new man about town put the "social" in social media by securing a date with Miss Tennessee via Twitter.
Ed Davis @EdDavis32, 43,801 followers: Announced his presence with the local Twitter burn of the summer: "@CAGrizBlog yea I was asked by a coach who doesn't have a job right now."
DeAngelo Williams @DeAngeloRB, 34,299 followers: The former Tiger football great still reps his hood on his engaging feed and, like everyone back home, is hoop-crazed.
Chris Vernon @ChrisVernonShow, 22,483 followers: Radio-based Twitter raconteur. (Look it up, Verno) RTing wisenheimer. Betting-season philanthropist. @aa000G9's hype man.
Geoff Calkins @Geoff_Calkins, 15,312 followers: For smart, wry, sometimes punning commentary that spans the local sports landscape. Doesn't stick to sports (which usually just means pics of his dogs).
Kyle Veazey @KyleVeazey, 12,891 followers: The CA's sports-section jack-of-all-trades loves tennis, promoting his paper, and living in America's Finest City. Not a fan of Nashville.
Jason Smith @TheCAJasonSmith, 8,843 followers: Your go-to source for Tiger hoops news and a friendly, reasonable voice of calm amid the Twittersphere's rocky fan waters.
Robert Pera @RobertPera, 6,250 followers: The Griz owner doesn't tweet much but makes them count. You missed his homemade Marc Gasol fan art? You missed out!
Rob Fischer @TheFishNation, 5,669 followers: A must-follow for game-day Griz news, home or road, along with sartorial twitpics.
Rick Trotter @RickTrotter, 4,379 followers: Hey, other NBA cities: Does your public address announcer tweet amid the action, talk a good cultural game, and take you to church on Sundays?
Katee Forbis @KateeForbis, 2,596 followers: Griz fan blogger "NBKay" is a genial, grounded obsessive who gives "superfans" a good name.
Kevin Cerrito @Cerrito, 1,672 followers: MemphiSport mag's managing editor brings a dry humor and cultural bent that stands out on the local sports-twitter landscape.
Politicians (Go here to subscribe to all of the Twitter feeds on this list.)
Politicians like to bloviate, and a rare few have learned how to do so within the 140-character tweet limit. A neat trick, but, by itself, that wouldn't get them on this list. Everybody here can tweet with a personal edge, and for some ("Paging Reverend Whalum!")
that's their basic M.O. This cross-section is by no means exhaustive, but everybody here is also an elected official or a ranking political appointee or party functionary or something suchlike. Meaning, all of them have skin in the game. No mere bystanders or kibitzers.
Special emeritus honor to Mike Carpenter, now head of the Plough Foundation, who became famous (or notorious) for his all-too-candid tweets during county commission meetings (sample ripostes for the world to see: "Stop the name calling & debate the issue. Been called worse than RINO"; "we're putting people to sleep") and did much to foster the practice locally.
A C Wharton Jr. @MayorACWharton, 12,564 followers: There's a ghost tweeter behind the resident glad-hander, but those stats are hard to ignore. Informative stuff, covers the urban waterfront.
Steve Cohen @RepCohen, 8,000 followers: 411 from DC + "Felt slimed by wrongly being n Collins column. no sex scandal only family drama. unprofessional." Cohen can't, won't duck a ruckus.
Kenneth T. Whalum Jr. @KWhalum, 3,604 followers: School board member mostly avoids the ALL CAPs of his emails, but same swagger. Slams biased media, fearful politicians, gives, takes no quarter.
Mark Norris @SenatorNorris, 3,298 followers: GOP majority leader's tweets are usually sanguine reports of GOP wins but tweeted to communicate defeats for madcap Stacey Campfield.
Shea Flinn @FlinnShady, 3,135 followers: Saucy, nihilistic, funny, dead serious, tweets on everything. Busy last week defending colleague Fullilove from tweeters wanting her recall.
Senator Jim Kyle @JimKyle, 2,776 followers: Dem's leader is funny. "Headline: 'TN Gov. to sell the Smokies.' Thought, 'What else is new?' Then realized they meant the baseball team."
Bill Gibbons @TNSafetyGibbons, 1,917 followers: TN safety commissioner, ex-Shelby AG cautious in tone, but uses Nashville perch to dish on media, government, willing to cross party lines.
Harold Collins @HaroldBCollins, 1,025 followers: Up-front councilman tweets it like he sees it — e.g., to TV reporter: "Quit playing games and tell people the truth!" Can bark and bite.
Gale Jones Carson @GaleJonesCarson, 718 followers: DNC member, TN party official, does 411 for MLGW, aggregator like Gibbons. Tweets not yet fiery like her Facebook, emails; still hitting stride.
Antonio Parkinson @2_Shay, 615 followers & @TNRepParkingson, 1,007 followers: Ex-Marine, N. Memphis/Frayser stalwart. State representative is ambitious, hip to all things hi-tech, posts government skinny, lots of pics.
Steve Basar @SteveBasar, 461 followers: New commissioner is take-charge: "What's with the SCS pre-registration?...got to be a better process!"; "Seriously does anyone fax anymore?"
Edmund Ford Jr. @EdmundFordJr, 380 followers: Straight-talking council chair: "Having nothing else to do at 1:36 am but to comment on something I said shows you have nothing else to do with yourself."
David Reaves @hdreaves, 302 followers: Just starting up but on a roll. Unified SB member, commission hopeful. Tweets politics, cites Plato, and asks, "Why am I listening to Cher?"
A. Keith McDonald @MayorKMcDonald, 301 followers: Another newbie, Bartlett mayor is up-front on munis, will stay prominent in negotiations. Tweets school, political, media, personal matters.
— Jackson Baker @jbaker7973, 1,396 followers
Artists & Entertainers (Go here to subscribe to all of the Twitter feeds on this list.)
I was sitting high up in the nosebleed seats at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, when Clint Eastwood started to berate an empty chair. My first thought wasn't, "I wonder what Jon Stewart will have to say about this?" I wanted to know if Eastwood's speech was making anybody's day back home in Memphis. So out came the iPhone, and suddenly I was no longer in a far-off arena packed with thousands of dismayed conservatives but in the more familiar company of the Memphis musicians, artists, actors, and comedians I follow on Twitter. I wondered what jokes or clever observations might be left by the time The Daily Show aired. Not surprisingly, the best lines had already been tweeted.
If you want to know what people will be talking about, follow reporters. If you want to laugh, cry, or think about the things everybody is talking about, follow artists and entertainers.
Juicy J @therealjuicyj, 1,120,867 followers: Juicy is live 24/7 in the club, in the studio, and even on vacation. Tweets what he eats and who he parties with: "Mane dat new drake song is fire!"
Jerry Lawler @JerryLawler, 751,843 followers: Memphis' biggest kid tweets about wrestling, Twinkies, comic books, and being the King. Responsible for trending topic #prayforlawler.
Craig Brewer @MyBrewTube, 23,965 followers: The affable Hustle & Flow filmmaker engages fans & critics about movies, Memphis, & family life: "Any thoughts on maple bacon donuts?"
Alexis Grace: @RealAlexisGrace, 9,699 followers: American Idol contender, down-to-earth actress. Fans say, "You never know what she'll post next." She says, "I just passed gas?"
Lil Buck @LILBUCKDALEGEND, 3,193 followers: It's fun to see the world through the eyes of Memphis' most in-demand dancer. "Follow @tilerpeck... she can jook ON POINT!"
Chris Haley @theChrisHaley, 2,493 followers: Comic book artist. "Under the flickering fluorescent light they refuse to replace, I try to remember a time before I entered this post office."
Brian Venable: @brianvenable, 1,671 followers: Lucero guitarist owns a hatchet: "this is what a fat screaming naked tattooed bearded man will be holding when he chases you out of his house."
Morgan Jon Fox @MorganJonFox, 1,428 followers: Large-hearted filmmaker, hardcore Griz fan. Activist. "Best church sign ever: 'Some people are gay. Get over it.'"
Katrina Coleman @KatrinaLColeman, 1,228 followers: Comedienne, roastmaster: "'Baby, you make me ovulation horny even when I'm pre-menstrual.' — most horrifying thing I have ever meant sincerely."
Ned Canty @poilaparola, 1,068 followers: Not into opera? Opera Memphis' general director also does puppets and posts to YouTube. "Is it weird that I hide during intermission?"
John Paul Keith @JohnPaulKeith, 1,202 followers: Guitar hero, music fan, wit: "First person in my Twitter feed who wishes Jerry Garcia a happy birthday gets waterboarded."
Jason Harris @Jasondahater, 884 followers: Midtown MC tweets about BJ & the Bear reruns and gigs. "Da hater has a new EP ... horrible music to add to your already horrific collection."
Dave Cousar @DaveCousar, 233 followers: Tom Waits+Groucho = Memphis troubadour Dave Cousar: "Every relationship I ever had ended the same way. Fighting about where to have lunch."
Sam Shoup @Samjamm, 63 followers: Arranges for orchestras, jams in bars, sees the future: "Within the next couple of years, every Memphis musician will have his own documentary." — Chris Davis @peskyfly, 1,347 followers
Foodies (Go here to subscribe to all of the Twitter feeds on this list.)
On May 24th, Restaurant Iris owner/chef Kelly English (@kelly_english) responded to a question via Twitter: "@MemphisACP: Tony Parker tried to eat dinner @RestaurantIris and was denied service by @kelly_english. Can you confirm or deny?" His answer, "Confirmed," a mere 13 characters, set off a Twitter storm.
Not surprising, considering that it was the evening before the Grizzlies were to take on the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals; the Twit pic of the chef with a forearm markered with "All Heart. Grit Grind"; and the terse "Confirmed, denied service."
English clarified that the restaurant was already booked shortly after that first tweet, but the story had legs! Spurs fans squawked; English supporters rallied; journalists scrambled; TMZ took notice. Such is the nature of Twitter: Tweets rattling off fingertips like hoecakes flying off the griddle. Here are some of the fun folks in the Memphis food Twittersphere. (Note: We didn't include chefs, because, well, they all tweet, and it's easy to find your faves.)
Justin Fox Burks @chubbyveg, 3,513 followers: Veggie guru shares recipes: grilled figs and lemon with gorgonzola and honey, anyone? Occasional RTs of an adorable kitten in a mushroom costume.
Margot McNeeley @projgreenfork, 3,505 followers: Certifies sustainable restos, offers food tips: "If you think Memphis restaurants don't offer enough vegetarian/vegan options, you ain't asking."
@MemFoodTruckers, 2,846 followers: Food truck tracker and one-stop shop for finding new mobile munchies; plus, helpful reminders on upcoming food truck rodeos.
Seth Agranov @BestMemBurger, 2,629 followers: Launched Memphis Best Burger fest; prolific: "So what happens when everyone in town raves about a burger and you thought it was meh at best?"
Thomas Robinson @eatlocalmemphis, 2,061 followers: Tweets local eats, links to blogposts on chef happenings and new restos, with frequent nods to his ladyfriend's bake shop.
Melissa Petersen @ediblememphis, 1,122 followers: Retweeting queen and culinary ambassador for the city, tweeting farm-to-table tidbits and teasers from Edible Memphis magazine.
@fuzzybrew, 1,010 followers: Top-shelf tips on #freebeer tastings, info on events such as @memphisbeerweek, reviews and updates on local and craft beers, and homebrewing how-to.
Angela and Paul Knipple @PaulKnipple, 577 followers: Authors of Farm Fresh Tennessee and World in a Skillet. "Mustard seed beaten biscuits with sock sausage from the Hermitage Hotel. Yeah boy."
Pam Denney @Memphis_Stew, 468 followers: Memphis magazine food writer, author of Food Lovers' Guide to Memphis. "I picked up these persimmons from my neighbor's tree. They taste like charcoal." Mmm. —
Keepin'It Real (Go here to subscribe to all of the Twitter feeds on this list.)
Most people mentioned elsewhere in this story are notable independent of Twitter. But the folks on the following list are famous by and large because of Twitter. These are regular Joes and Janes who, sure, sometimes Tweet pics of what they're eating and drinking but who also, because of the humor and insight they bring their Twitter feeds, make you wish you were breaking bread and imbibing beer right there with them. Real Memphis Twitter is ridiculously deep and rich.
Jon Roser @Jon_Roser, 5,093 followers: The tweets of @chrisvernonshow's sidekick prove he's into more than just sports, including rap, TV, movies, and late-night shenanigans.
Roy Barnes @GatesofMemphis, 3,104 followers: Civic brain mixes it up w/pols, media, and non-profiteers: "When it comes to leadership in the built environment, we're still home alone here."
J.T. Dobbs @sloganeerist, 2,806 followers: Weird Twitter, 100 percent local, as funny as comedians with six-figure followers. "LEGO Citizen Kane"; "Oh, I can't stay mad at you, pants."
Will Askew @waskew, 2,775 followers: Radio-talker turned school teacher Tweets sports, city, politics, family, and ancient history, and RTs links to thoughtful material.
Stephanie Bennett @stephMEM, 2,237 followers: Prolific tweeter and the standard by which "Twitter famous" is measured in Memphis. Funny. Her life is a moveable feast. When does she sleep?
Paul Ryburn @Paulryburn, 1,699 followers: Downtown Mem maven whose "celebrity" preceded Twitter. "I wonder if there's a PBR Hall of Fame, and if so why haven't I been inducted yet?"
Beth Spencer @bethykins, 1,513 followers: Hilarious and engaging. "Facebook is also a useful guide for what not to do on Facebook." "What ya'll know about eating Krystal's while sober?"
@gurleygurl, 1,465 followers: Griz, Lionel Hollins, and NY Giants fan. Doesn't suffer fools. "LIONEL! HEY BOO HEY! I LOVE YOU!" HONK HONK!
@thebaseballjerk, 1,244 followers: High-volume (stream of conscious?) tweeter who, despite his name, covers a lot more ground than just sports and who, despite his name, ain't a jerk.
@TacoMeat901_7, 1,189 followers: Hilarious, NSFW but mild personality and attentive to socioeconomic culture, pop. "As you all know this is Helen Mirren appreciation central."
Fakes & Parodies (Go here to subscribe to all of the Twitter feeds on this list.)
@FantasyLapides, 2,406 followers: Originator of fake sports talk in Memphis mimics the catch-phrases and folkways of sports journalist George Lapides. Utterly nails it.
@fakemongo, 1,089 followers: Real Prince Mongo is weird. Fakemongo is weird, only funnier. "Life is too short to spend time trying to cross Union Avenue. Levitate, Spirits!"
@CAcommenter, 802 followers: The internet's underbelly, the comments section of The Commercial Appeal — sexist, misogynistic, xenophobic — anthropomorphized to hilarious effect.
— Greg Akers @gregakers, 1,306 followers