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‘Memphis Heat’ Debuts

We’ve talked on this blog before about the Memphis identity and the need for Memphians to step up in shaping that identity.

More than a few steps in that direction are on display this weekend and into next week with the documentary “Memphis Heat.”

The documentary about the golden age of professional wrestling in Memphis is about as Memphis as you can get.

Executve producer Sherman Willmott told the crowd at the film’s Thursday premiere at The Malco Paradiso Theater that even the music used in the film was made in Memphis.

The film opens a week long run starting tonight (Friday night) at Malco’s Studio on the Square and Desoto Cinema 16 in Southaven. Willmott is hoping for an extended run with good box office at both locations in the next week.

We’ll have more on the film next week in The Daily News. It’s a real behind the scenes look at the regional wrestling company that put on the best wrestling matches anywhere, certainly in the U.S., possibly in the world.

Wrestlers who have made it to Madison Square Garden talk, in the film, about being more thrilled about coming to the Mid-South Coliseum and wrestling before a deafening sell out crowd.

The intriguing part is told for the most part by Jerry Jarrett who was responsible for the rise of Memphis in a wrestling circuit that was Nashville-based and centered.

The portrait of wrestling as a business told by him and other wrestlers is compelling. Not to play with the wrestling analogies too much but, they don’t pull any punches about the realities of wrestling for a living.

Jarrett’s role in the Memphis wrestling scene was unique. He was a teen age promoter in the smallest most remote parts of the circuit before moving up. He became a wrestler and then went back to being a promoter. WIllmott tells us that Jarrett hasn’t had a lot of interest about talking about wrestling in the past. But when he found out the documentary was going to be more than a surface look, he cooperated and the film is all the better for it. Jarrett even attended the Paradiso premiere.

Paul Stanley Speaks

On his blog, former State Sen. Paul Stanley has posted a long noted about the scandal that led him to resign from the legislature. Here it is, his post titled “The Extortion of Forgiveness,” in full:

“Two years ago my life was quite different. Compared to today it is dramatically different. Back then, I was serving my ninth year in the Tennessee legislature and my third as a State Senator. I chaired of one of the Senate’s most powerful committees, was a husband and father and held a bright political future. All that came crashing down as a result of a series of unfortunate circumstances, brought on by many poor decisions that began with me.

The political life I coveted began unraveling when a guy, Joel Watts, attempted to extort $10,000 from me saying that he was the boyfriend of McKensie Morrison and he had a disk with pictures of McKensie and me. McKensie was one of my interns, the one I was having an extramarital affair with. Watts threatened to turn the disk over to the press if I didn’t give “them” money. There were no pictures of Morrison and I and I knew it – just a handful of pictures of McKensie she had asked me to take of her. One of many regrettable decisions I made.

Within hours of their initial demands, I contacted the state’s top law enforcement agency and agreed to wear a wire in a sting operation to obtain information from Watts and Morrison. It was an intense thirty-three hours of text messages, phone calls and recorded conversations. It ended with the exchange of the disk and marked money from the TBI, with Watts being thrown to the ground by a dozen TBI Agents, guns pointed at this head, and arrested in the finale.

TBI agents had been watching Morrison all day, too. At the time of Watts’ arrest, she was smoking a cigarette behind the legislative cafeteria, cell-phone in hand, waiting to hear from him. That call never came, and it was her last day as an intern.

I drove to my home in Germantown later that afternoon, fully realizing what had transpired; the danger I had been in and the damage I had caused. The next day, Good Friday of 2009, I sat down with my wife and told her everything. The story would not become public until three and a half months later when Watts’ was brought before the judge for a preliminary hearing on July 20. Neither Watts nor Morrison expected me to show up and testify; it wasn’t the first time they had underestimated my actions nor would it be the last.

Joel Watts was indicted by a grand jury in the winter of 2010 and charged with Extortion, a Class D felony under Tennessee law. Yesterday, he pled guilty to “Facilitation of Extortion”, a Class E felony. He received a sentence of one-year probation. I did not attend the hearing; I trusted the Assistant District Attorney to handle the matter as he and his office best saw fit. Yet the story doesn’t end there.

* In a statement read before the court, Joel Watts admitted acting under the direction of McKensie Morrison. I had no idea the statement would be included in the court record. In my heart, I had known this was the case from the moment I received the first text message from Watts on the morning of April 8, 2009.
* Watts and Morrison are apparently still together. I’ve been told he is living in a structure behind her house, getting his electricity from an extension cord. If true, I find that both odd and sad. I hope he can successfully move on with his life.
* It is my understanding from others intimately connected to the case, that Morrison and Watts indicated they did not act alone. Was there someone within or connected to the state legislature that was financially encouraging and strategically helping Morrison and Watts develop their plan? That is difficult for me to wrap my mind around. I certainly hope not and if true, I would prefer not to know.

People ask me lots of questions about the issue, one of the most common being, “Do you believe you were set up?” Even my former spouse feels she knows the answer to this question. We talked about it as recently as last weekend. Until now I have only discussed the issue with close friends and family. In one sense it does not matter because the outcome is still the same. However, in McKensie Morrison’s first interview after the Watts’ arrest, she denied having any knowledge of the extortion attempt; contradicting Watts’ initial statement to investigators after the arrest and the statement read in court.

There are only a few who have seen the series of text messages and heard the phone calls; TBI investigators, attorney’s in the DA’s office and of course, Watts, Morrison and me.

Will McKensie Morrison be charged and indicted? I don’t know. That is a decision the District Attorney will have to make. Where is she now? From what I understand, she is Mary Kay sales representative and resides in Middle Tennessee.

Since December 2009, I’ve been writing a book of this story. I was waiting until the conclusion to the Watts case to complete the manuscript. But the story still isn’t finished yet.

I’ll follow up with more details on the book in a later post – but is has a lot to do with forgiveness; received and denied.”

Barbour Proclaims Friday Miss. Economic Development Day

Neighboring Governor Haley Barbour has proclaimed March 25 Economic Development Day in the state of Mississippi.

The proclamation honors the 75th anniversary of the Mississippi Development Authority, an economic and community development agency founded in 1936 as the Mississippi Industrial Commission.

“For 75 years, MDA has led the state’s efforts to bring business and industry to Mississippi while, at the same time, supporting the state’s existing businesses in expanding, retaining jobs and achieving long-term success,” Barbour said in a statement. “The agency also attracts visitors to the state through its tourism programs and helps communities in every corner of the state improve their quality of place and become more competitive.”

MDA’s 300-strong staff is engaged in providing services to businesses, communities and workers across the state. The agency is best known for its efforts to recruit new businesses to Mississippi, as it did late last spring when it lured Fortune 500 health care company McKesson Corp.’s distribution facility from Memphis to nearby Olive Branch, where the company built a $115 million facility that is expected to provide about 300 jobs over the next three years.

MDA at the time announced that it would provide $4 million from the Industry Incentive Financing Revolving Fund. In addition, the city of Olive Branch and DeSoto County made more than $500,000 in infrastructure improvements at the site for the facility.

After MDA and DeSoto County courted McKesson, Shelby County changed the way it determined eligibility for its payment-in-leiu-of-taxes (PILOT) program to reward companies for staying in Memphis.

Memphis Grill Startup Wins Readers Choice Award

Last month, I blogged about Memphis-based Brazilian barbecue start-up Carson Rotisseries Inc., which was selected as a Top 5 finalist in the 2011 Readers’ Choice Awards for favorite charcoal grill.

Well, as if the headline didn’t give it away, Carson Rotisseries took home the gold.

Now in its fourth year, the Readers’ Choice Awards honor the best products, features and services across more than a dozen categories, ranging from technology to hobbies to parenting and more, as selected by its readers. Even more exciting national recognition for Memphis, especially as it relates to grilling.

Founder and native Memphian Blake Carson is an insurance specialist turned entrepreneur. Kudos, Carson, for triumphing household names like Big Green Egg and Weber.

More on the iPad

In Wednesday’s edition of The Daily News, I wrote the first in what will be a series that other reporters will now be adding to about how the iPad is bringing a whirlwind of change to a variety of Memphis businesses.

But businesspeople, of course, don’t just use it for work.

I couldn’t use this in the story, but I think this ranks as one of the neatest uses of an iPad I’ve heard about thus far. John Moore, the president and CEO of the Greater Memphis Chamber, plays guitar for fun in his free time.

He showed me an app he’s downloaded that actually turns his iPad into a mini amplifier. The entire screen turns into what appears to be an amplifier, complete with buttons to press and knobs to turn – all, of course, with the flick of a finger.

He plugs his guitar right into his iPad-amplifier and goes to town.

“This is like having a complete array of fuzz boxes,” he said. “People pay thousands of dollars for equipment that does what these do. And I’ve got 10 different distortion boxes, a tuner and different amps.”