Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr., television personality and former professional wrestler Jerry Lawler, and longtime Fox 13 news anchor Mearl Purvis are among the celebrity bartenders who’ll serve up cocktails Thursday, Oct. 27, at Strut Memphis, a benefit for the Community Legal Center.
For more than 16 years, CLC has provided pro bono legal services to the city’s working poor. Cases the organization handles include landlord-tenant disputes, garnishment, guardianships, probate, commercial contract disputes and obtaining child support.
“They have legal problems just like everybody else, but the working poor don’t qualify for Memphis Area Legal Services,” said Kathy Laughter Laizure, CLC board chair. “We make it possible for them to have legal representation and still be able to pay their rent. Most of these people are just living paycheck to paycheck. I’m very proud that we provide that.”
All proceeds from Strut Memphis, which will take place from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Mercedes-Benz of Memphis at 5389 Poplar Ave., will benefit CLC’s work.
The evening will include a fashion show with fashions provided by the stores at Laurelwood Shopping Center in East Memphis, which has also constructed a fashion runway inside the car dealership. And Peacock McCarty Travel/Delta Vacations has donated a trip to the February 2012 Fashion Week in New York City that will be auctioned off during the event.
Food for Strut Memphis will be provided by several local restaurants, including Bardog, Kooky Canuck and Jason’s Deli. Buster’s Liquors has donated wine.
And Wharton won’t be the only bartender who’s passed the bar exam; he’ll be joined by Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich and criminal defense attorney Leslie Ballin.
Other local celebrity barkeepers include WMC-TV journalist Kontji Anthony; City Council chairman Myron Lowery; Memphis Flyer editor Bruce VanWyngarden; and Dr. Susan Murrmann of the McDonald-Murrmann Women’s Clinic.
“We’re delighted to have that kind of support for the event and for the organization,” Laizure said. “We’re just really excited about it.”
Laizure, an attorney for FedEx who first became involved in the CLC when she was a lawyer with the former Armstrong Allen law firm, has served on the board for more than four years. She said another local attorney and CLC board member, Shelby County Commissioner Steve Mulroy, helped recruit the celebrity bartenders.
CLC executive director Meg Jones said the organization is focused on capacity building, which includes technology upgrades, “so we can do more with the resources that we have. We pride ourselves on doing a lot of work on very few dollars. In the current economic times, it seems the best way we can build our capacity and continue to help more people is by improving our internal systems and making them more efficient to take less of our time to do the data collection and reporting program evaluation that we have to do.”
The organization has also established an immigrant justice center, and Laizure said it’s the only pro bono organization in the Memphis area that does pro bono work in that area.
“We take on cases like political asylum and U-visa cases that may involve domestic abuse and violence. They’re people who, in my mind, have pretty compelling stories on the immigration front. To me, that’s something very unique that we offer.”
CLC also provides opportunities for local law students to hone their legal skills through clinics and other volunteer opportunities.
Visit www.clcmemphis.com to purchase tickets to Strut Memphis. Prices are $30 for students or nonprofits and $50 for regular admission.