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VOL. 132 | NO. 57 | Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Bill Dries

Last Word: 'Ono Poke and the Ghost of The Luau, Council Day and $3 Concerts

By Bill Dries

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The ghost of the Luau lives on. Loeb has a new tenant for the Shops of Chickasaw Gardens called ‘Ono Poke that features Hawaiian cuisine. And the restaurant will be just about on the other side of Poplar Avenue from where the Luau used to stand with its large concrete Easter Island head, Polynesian dishes and Hawaii Five-O era architecture – not the remake, the real Five-O and the real McGarrett.

The Luau was a Dobbs House restaurant that spanned all of the 1960s and 1970s before closing in the early 1980s. There has to be a tiki statue exerting its spiritual force in some way on this section of the Poplar corridor. Let’s get the metal detectors out and search the fields at East High School but no keeping it if you find it. Don’t want to end up like Greg Brady on the Hawaiian episode of the Brady Bunch, do you?

The legal community had been focused on hearings schedule for Thursday and Friday on a complaint before the state Board of Professional Responsibility against District Attorney General Amy Weirich and specifically how she handled the Noura Jackson murder case in 2009 when she was an assistant attorney general. There won’t be a hearing. Weirich announced Monday she has taken a private reprimand from the board.

Shelby County Commissioners won’t be making an appointment to the state House District 95 seat. They made the decision Monday as the Election Commission prepares to meet Tuesday to set the field for the April primaries and the June general election. It looks like every body who qualified stayed in past Monday's withdrawal deadline. With the election that close, most commissioners decided not to appoint but it was a close vote.

Tuesday is council day at City Hall and they are pretty busy as well in this week after spring break with Beale Street up for another discussion and a final vote on the impasse ordinance changes. Don’t be surprised if there is either an amendment to the changes or a delay in the final vote or both.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland acknowledged there were some talks underway with municipal union leaders toward a compromise. He commented as he made a point of showing up at the Police Academy in Frayser bright and early Monday morning to welcome the new class of 150 recruits on their first day at the academy. Also Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings is pushing an online survey about police use of force.

Our Nashville correspondent, Sam Stockard, reports the gas tax bill has the support of an unlikely ally, Americans for Tax Reform – one of the country’s most conservative anti-tax groups. Legislators got a letter from the group’s president, Grover Norquist, Monday as the woeek began in the capitol.

Normally the invocation at the start of the day on the House and Senate floors in Nashville does not get a lot of attention. That is not to say it is not an important part of the legislative day and the legislative tradition. But when Memphis preacher Bill Owens gave the House invocation last Thursday it got the attention of Democrats in particular. Owen called on African-American citizens to leave the Democratic party – something he’s done repeatedly outside the Legislature.

In our Entertainment Emphasis:

A look at what it takes to set up a concert – a lot of planning and watching to see who is on the road and who is not and what time they are, if they are. Also a look at what it takes to put on the three-day Beale Street Music Festival that opens the Memphis In May International Festival with 65 slots for entertainers across a very diverse musical spectrum.

A few additional notes that didn’t make it into the story from Fred Jones Jr. who has been doing concerts for 48 years along with the Southern Heritage Classic for the last 28 of those years:

“I would probably say 99 percent of the business pre-Ticketmaster was all in cash. You could do a show and all of the money would be sitting there on the table and everybody would get their piece including the building and divvy it up. That’s the way the business was done nationally, locally as well.”

“When I first got in the business, tickets were $3 or $4. It’s escalated up now to way past $100 for an average show. The cost of doing business is just tremendous. I think the level of the talent when I first got in it was much stronger than it is now. You have so many other things to work with today that you didn’t have to contend with.”

“People will say to me, ‘You just have to work two weeks a year. You can play golf the rest of the time.’ … I made an offer for an act for this year’s classic in November of 2016. I still don’t have an answer. If I hadn’t even gotten started and zeroed in on who I wanted and going through that whole agent-management-one of-and ‘We don’t know if we are going to work during that time or we’ve got something else’ – You’ve got to be working on that early, early on.”

This is something of a golden era for the city’s museums starting with the opening this month of the world’s largest Elvis Presley museum at Graceland, the $27-million upgrade and renovation of the National Civil Rights Museum, a similar renovation of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. And don’t forget the ongoing renovation of the Pink Palace with the museum open during the work on the pink mansion. It’s no accident that all of this is happening as the digital technology used by museums is allowing visitors to do more than read words on walls and dive as deep or as shallow as they care to in a much more personalized museum experience.

And the city’s largest sports-entertainment venue – FedExForum – has some upgrades that include a video upgrade to HD that takes into account the roundness of the interior – a shape that probably feels like home to many of us raised on regular visits to the old Mid-South Coliseum.

Lots of talk about dollar figures in local public education and how the funding of Shelby County Schools has stabilized enough for a budget process that allows for some long term planning. Our discussion on Behind The Headlines with school board chairman Chris Caldwell and superintendent Dorsey Hopson also included a quieter but no less significant transition for ASD schools and I-Zone schools – the two turnaround models funded by the state. They each will take a more long term approach in their strategies under the new ESSA legislation that is now federal law.

Another apartment complex sells -- Jefferson Manor for $3.2 million to a group from San Marcos, Cal.

MATA has a health clinic for its employees that is …. on wheels.

Found: My copy of Chuck Berry’s 1987 autobiography where he runs down the creation of several of his numerous hits including “Memphis”:

Berry recalls that he recorded the tune in his St. Louis office in a $145 homemade studio with a $70 Sears reel-to-reel recorder. He acknowledges that the song has its roots in a Muddy Waters' lyric. “My wife had relatives there who we were visiting semiannually,” he writes of the city. “But other than a couple of concerts there, I had never had any basis for choosing Memphis for the location of the story. The situation in the story was intended to have a wide scope of interest to the general public rather than a rare or particular incidental occurrence that would entreat the memory of only a few. Such a portrayal of popular or general situations and conditions in lyrics has always been my greatest objective in writing.”

There you have it.

PROPERTY SALES 56 94 12,852
MORTGAGES 23 50 8,053
BUILDING PERMITS 285 422 30,356
BANKRUPTCIES 23 67 6,131