Call me Pesky. I've probably said that before, but I'm an old Fly and sometimes I repeat myself. Myself. I'm the third generation in a noble lineage of "Fly on the Wall" columnists beginning with Jim Hanas, a former Flyer staff writer who moved to New York at the turn of the century and is now the director of audience development at HarperCollins Publishers. Hanas created the column in 1996 and nurtured it through its larval stage, before handing it off to former Flyer music editor Mark Jordan on his way out of town. I inherited the gig from Jordan, who still lives in Memphis, where he plays and writes about music.
Did I tell you what the Fly-Team has been doing with our little strip of newsprint for 18 of the Flyer's 25 years? Like all our brother flies who came before, we fix our eyes on the Mid-South, reading every paper, scanning every magazine, watching every news broadcast, running up and down the radio dial and to the most terrifying corners of the internet, looking for all the things that make Memphis weird and keep it wonderful. Here are some examples for the ages:
• In 2008, the Christian-themed news aggregator and wire service One-News tried out a computer program that automatically changes the word "gay" to "homosexual." It worked too well, frequently collecting and altering the content of stories about one Memphis Grizzlies player. According to One-News: "Memphis backers hit the hay, hoping that Kevin Love would open things up for Rudy Homosexual in the frontcourt." Ooh la la.
• In 2000, when Councilwoman Barbara Swearengen Ware wanted to install a phone in a bathroom stall at City Hall, Councilman Joe Brown had something to say about it: "This building is not totally safe. ... Also, nobody is exempt from abnormalities of the human body. We need that phone in there. God bless everybody."
Brown knows how to make a rousing speech. When hundreds of ironworkers interested in arena contracts showed up to a city council meeting in April 2002, he delivered an enthusiastic off-the-cuff speech about the importance of labor unions in America. When Brown concluded, a lone iron worker was heard saying, "My titties just stood up. I think my titties just stood up."
• On a related note, the table decoration from Mayor A C Wharton's 2009 victory party had inexplicable boobs:
• Sometimes the mistake is better than the actual headline:
• Walgreens gets creative in the toy department:
• November 15, 2003 — If you love something, stab it in the chest. If it comes back, it's yours forever. Larry Henry of Memphis declined to press charges against fiancee Shirley Martin, even though she attacked him with an eight-inch butcher knife. Martin stabbed Henry in the chest because she thought he was sneaking a peek up another woman's skirt. In retaliation Henry bit Martin's pinky finger. But the two resolved their differences and married the following month.
• March 7, 2001 — And lo, he was ashamed: When asked why he fled when police attempted to pull him over, West Memphian Fate Patterson answered, "Because I was naked." Of course, that's not entirely true. When Patterson was extracted from his vehicle, he was wearing a jacket.
• June 26, 2003 — Does anyone remember Elite Memphis magazine? Elite's special "30 Most Beautiful People of Memphis" edition listed "Dicks Unlimited" as a community service activity to which one of the featured beauties devoted her "time, finances, and talent." The "What They Wore" section from the same issue found one woman sporting an "outtit from Lost in Paradise. As near as we could tell, no tit was actually out, though. And we looked pretty hard.
Elite's action-packed special issue also included a feature titled, "If you were a fruit or a vegetable, what would your friends say you were, and why?" Pam Montesi replied to the question saying she was "the corn. It's a very popular vegetable and is sweet to the taste."
• This isn't legal in Mississippi:
• The state Senate passed a "bill endorsing animal training for police," according to an AP headline from March 2003. Maybe they'd been peeing on the rug?
• Speaking of dogs and rugs, this 2003 ad is quite possibly the ickiest lost-dog listing ever to appear in The Commercial Appeal classifieds: "Sponge, you soak up spilled lovin." Woof.
• In 1999, Fly on the Wall reported the strange case of Shawn Harper, a Memphis construction worker who shot and killed Shawn DeVaughan while hunting in Tipton County, telling authorities he'd mistaken his fellow hunter for a giant owl. DeVaughan, who weighed 250-lbs, was sitting in a deer-stand 20 feet in the air. At the time, mistaking a fully grown man for an owl seemed incredible, but in the fall of 2013, Fly on the Wall reported on a series of owl attacks in Memphis' High Point neighborhood. No less credible a witness than Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich gave the following account: "And sure enough, this bird comes flying at the top of my head. It had the wing span of a Buick. It was the biggest thing I've ever seen in my life."
• Who among us hasn't wished there were more hours in the day? In 2014, state Representative/Time Lord Curry Todd waved his sonic screwdriver creating widely mocked legislation to eliminate Daylight Saving Time and/or make it permanent, miraculously giving Tennesseans an extra hour to get ready for work in the morning and an extra hour to unwind in the evening.
• In 2004, Johnny Cash's estate entered negotiations to prevent the song "Ring of Fire" from being used to advertise hemorrhoid cream.
• Wise words from Justin Timberlake, taken from a column the young boy-bander penned for Entertainment Teen magazine in 2000: "I used to have a lucky rock but I lost it. So I was like, you know what? I don't need it."
• "Acrobatic and mean-spirited": an Associated Press article describing the raccoon that scaled a 30-foot fence and caused a massive power outage for 8,000 MLGW customers in 2010.
• In October 2002, after West Memphis police shut down a gambling house, neighbors complained to the press. They preferred it to the building's previous tenant, a CB radio shop. The CBs interfered with their radio and television reception.
• State Senator Ophelia Ford, after being asked about her $12,000 taxpayer-funded travel bill in December 2008: "You mean to tell me that all I spent was $12,000? Oh, well, hallelujah. Thank you, Lord, for making it so economical."
• Memphis medicine:
• Supermodel Cindy Crawford speculating on the reaction of a patient she'd visited at St. Jude: "I'm standing over him ... as he's coming to. He's probably thinking he had some good drugs."
• In 2006, Fly on the Wall presented Channel 5's Jason Miles with the Howard Hughes "Cleanliness is Next to Craziness Award" after he took his "secret swab" into restrooms all over town and found — astonishingly enough — fecal matter. Speaking of Miles, here he is crawling under a car to get the big story.
And here's that same picture on somebody's birthday cake:
• In 2009, a short, mean-spirited poem written by Elvis Presley sold at auction for $20,000 — 10 times its previously overestimated value. The rhyme, scrawled on Elvis' personal stationery, reads, "As I awoke this morning when all sweet things are born, a robin perched on my window sill to greet the coming dawn. He sang his sweet song so sweetly and paused for a moment's lull, I gently raised the window and crushed his [expletive] skull."
• Actress Margot Kidder told the Calgary Herald, "Satan doesn't live in my vagina" after her production of The Vagina Monologues was picketed in Memphis. A protester had described Eve Ensler's play as proof that Satan had arrived in Memphis. "Maybe God," Kidder said, confirming the possibility of at least one occupant in her vagina. "But not Satan."
• I originally said I couldn't show you the entire photo that WREG reporter Melissa Moon tweeted from a charity 5K in 2014, because the shot of Moon with some superhero cosplayers was NSFW. So this is all you got:
But this is an anniversary issue, so here's the rest:
Insert your own Peter Parker joke here.
• Shortly after officials in casino-rich Tunica announced that the area's property tax would be eliminated in the summer of 2000, Commercial Appeal correspondent Bartholomew Sullivan wrote, "Residents of Tunica will have only death to worry about."
• We're not sure what Fox13 News reporter Lauren Lee was doing at The Pony when Prince Harry was in town, but the photo she shared of "America's Strip Joint" is the best souvenir of Prince Harry's recent whirlwind visit:
• "It's weirdly delightful and enchanting in its excess, but it has the feel of doom." — Canadian journalist Bernard Perusse comparing Graceland to a barbecue, 2010.
• More accidental humor from WMC's Jason Miles: "Man murdered in Marshall Co. was double amputee. Half brother in custody." But, was the half-brother armed?
• "It's just amazing they would be that dumb." — Guido Boggioni, who claims that he and his wife Bonnie Jonas-Boggioni of Plano, Texas, were stopped by police near Memphis because officers mistook an Ohio State University Buckeye logo on their car for a "marijuana sticker."
• According to the Commercial Appeal, Collierville was looking to attract a very special kind of food tourism in 2013: "'I think it's going to be good for the whole town and especially Town Square. It'll bring tourists to this area,' said general manager Debi McCaffrey for Gus's Fried Children at 215 S. Center."
Also from the CA:
• The most awkward media moment of 2012 occurred when WMC-TV's Jamel Major reported that the 5,000-pound statue of Rameses the Great was being moved to its new home at the University of Memphis, and cameras cut away to a sign instructing visitors to turn left for advance ticket sales and arena tours or right if they're looking for "Hot Black Cocks."
• As long as we're going there, this Memphis fabric shop will laugh at your rooster:
• 2011 was a great year for headlines. When cops shut down a local B&B for travelers who like S&M, choice story toppers included "Collierville Cracks Whip in Sex Bondage House" and "Collierville's Hands Tied in Bondage House Prostitution." WREG led the news with, "Woman Behind Bars After Dog Found in Heat," and who can forget the classic "40-year-old Mary Magdalene Caught Naked In Teen's Closet," about a 40-year-old named Mary Magdalene caught naked in a teen's closet? And then there was this headline from The Daily Helmsman that requires no explanation:
• Have other wireless users ever noticed this network prompt at 201 Poplar?
• "It would be like somebody in 1910 saying, 'We're looking for somebody to speak minstrel.'" — University of Memphis professor Larry Moore on a leaked DEA memo seeking an Ebonics interpreter. (2010)
• "I don't hate fat girls, but I make fun of them too." — MMA fighter Quinton "Rampage" Jackson on why his description of acting "kinda gay" wasn't homophobic (2010)
• Licensed to drive in Memphis:
• The biggest news from Arkansas in 2012: Chelsea Harris, described by a variety of media sources as "a very large woman," spent a night in jail after she allegedly sat on her landlord's face, inspiring headlines like "Arkansas Woman Sits on Landlord's Face." The victim was quoted as saying, "Mmmmf, mmmf, mmmelp!"