Hot List 2010
Our third annual Hot List takes a look at what got us hot -- and in some cases, steamed -- in the last year.
Memphians were proud to have a Broadway musical based on our hometown. We were ecstatic (and maybe a bit relieved) that it was so well received. And the biggest news yet? The Broadway hit hits the road for a national tour, starting right here at the Orpheum. Kudos to Pat Halloran for adding another coup to his already impressive career. This will be the first time in history that a Broadway show opened its tour in the Bluff City, and we think rightly so. See you at the Orpheum. —Mary Helen Randall
It only makes sense, we suppose, that the sale of the Zippin Pippin would have as many ups and downs as a roller coaster. When developers first cleared the fairgrounds site to make way for — well, we're still not sure what will go there — the vintage coaster was sold to an amusement park in Arkansas, who thought they were just bidding on the cars. But hold on. The Pippin wasn't the city's to sell, complained the Save Libertyland contingent. Maybe it should be moved to Mud Island, or Shelby Farms, or — oh, it didn't matter in the end. The oldest operating wooden roller coaster in America was dismantled in February and trucked to an amusement park in Green Bay, Wisconsin, for the bargain price of $10,000, cars and all. — Michael Finger
It's like being on a seesaw, but without any of the fun. The city and county schools seem determined to make life as difficult as possible for parents, and no, we're not talking about the dropped bus routes or the lack of crossing guards at busy, dangerous intersections. We're talking about the snow day policies. The conflicting policies of the two systems have turned what used to be a happy escape — even for one day — for students into a real mess for many parents. It's not unusual for a family to have children in each system, so when one gets to stay home and make snowmen while the other trods off to class, needless to say, there is high drama. And even worse? The ripple effect the clashing policies have on kids in private schools. Some of the city's private schools take their cues for when to call off class from the city, some from the county. Again, high drama for the kids and a huge headache for mom and dad. We know consolidation is a long way off, if it happens at all, but solidarity on the snow day closings would certainly show a lot of, well, class. —Mary Helen Randall
We haven't been kind to landmarks along the riverfront. Gone are such impressive structures as the old Cossitt Library, the Poplar Street train station, and the fire station at Union and Front. So when the post office decided it wasn't making full use of its downtown facility — originally constructed in the late 1800s and much expanded over the years — preservationists were concerned.
They needn't have worried. After an extensive renovation, the University of Memphis moved its law school into the grand-looking building earlier this year. It's a win-win situation for everyone. Students get a larger, better facility that puts them closer to courts and attorneys' offices, and downtown gets an influx of several hundred students and professors. — Michael Finger
Our former city mayor is like a nasty wind-up toy. Just when you think his battery finally fizzled, Willie kicks up again, spouting his hateful racial rhetoric. He's seeking to tumble incumbent Steve Cohen from the U.S. 9th District congressional seat because — as his campaign spokesman Sidney Chism told The New York Times — that district "was set aside for people who look like me." Cohen, in addition to running on his record, may get some help from The Root, an online Washington-based magazine. It listed him in the top five on its list of the "Blackest White People" in America. Why? According to a Root spokesperson, Cohen's efforts on behalf of blacks "kind of speak for themselves." For better or worse, Cohen is ranked with — go figure — pop singer Christina Aguilera and former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. — Marilyn Sadler
Hot Head (Band)
Zach Randolph brought a reputation with him when he was acquired by the Memphis Grizzlies in a July 2009 trade with the Los Angeles Clippers. From throwing punches in a game to a DUI arrest in April 2009, Randolph's character seemed to cloud his career averages of 16.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
Z-Bo seems to have taken to the Bluff City air. When the Allen Iverson experiment blew up, Randolph took the young Grizzlies under his considerable wing and led them to the franchise's best season in four years (including an 11-game winning streak at FedExForum). For his efforts, Randolph became only the second All-Star in Memphis history, scoring eight points and grabbing six rebounds in Dallas last February. He broke the franchise's single-season record for rebounds with more than 10 games left to play. —Frank Murtaugh
Hot Hollywood Nights
First, East Memphis mom Leigh Anne Tuohy encountered Michael Oher, a young man who, though a student at the private school Briarcrest, lived a destitute, broken-home life. The maternal instinct kicked in strong for Leigh Anne, and she began to clothe, feed, and shelter Oher. Eventually, the Tuohy family, including paterfamilias Sean and two children, legally adopted the young man. Oh, he was a natural on the football field too, and became the star left tackle for his high school and a prize recruit for big-time collegiate sports.
Then, author Michael Lewis wrote a book chronicling the big bang made by the intersection of Oher, the Tuohys, and football. The book, The Blind Side, became a New York Times bestseller. The whole story sounded like something dreamed up in Hollywood.
Which is why it wasn't surprising that, next, they made a movie out of the tale. The film starred Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne, Tim McGraw as Sean, Quinton Aaron as Oher, and Memphis-native Kathy Bates as Miss Sue, Oher's tutor. The Blind Side became the highest-grossing female-headlined film in his
tory, topping $250 million (another big hit for the Memphis-connected production company, Alcon Entertainment).
As if that wasn't enough of a happy ending, Bullock took home the gold for her portrayal, winning the Academy Award, the Golden Globe, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress. In her Oscar acceptance speech, Bullock thanked the Tuohys and dedicated the award to "the moms [who] take care of the babies and the children no matter where they come from." — Greg Akers
Hot and Bothered
It's never fun waiting in line to have a probe stuck up your tailpipe — uh, we mean your car's tailpipe. And it's even worse when you have to wait hours and hours to do it. But that's the experience encountered by thousands of Memphians in recent months, as they waited in endless lines at the city's inspection stations.
The process is something of a joke, anyway. Years ago, inspectors checked important things like brakes, wheel alignment, and steering. Now they mainly look at your lights, parking brake, and wipers, and then measure exhaust emissions to make sure each car complies with EPA regulations.
But budget cuts reduced the staff at the inspection stations, closing some of the bays, and resulted in waits as long as three or four hours. The City Council lengthened the stations' open hours, and is looking at giving new cars — which rarely fail the inspection — a "pass," but in the meantime, it's still a mess. — Michael Finger
It started as a whispered rumor, gained momentum in the form of gossip, and was finally confirmed by, of all news media, the tabloids. It was true, Steve Jobs, the guru and top dog at Apple, was indeed living in Midtown while awaiting a liver transplant. Once the tabs leaked the reclusive Jobs' iPad location, the normally quiet street of Morningside Place was packed with curious locals hoping to catch a glimpse of the leader behind cutting-edge gadgets. It wasn't to be. While a few claim to have seen him catching some rays and fresh air in Overton Park, there are no stories of any interaction, even from the neighbors. Jobs lived here for months, and trusted our Bluff City docs with his life. Wonder what the folks at Forbes have to say about that? —Mary Helen Randall
MGMT, composed of Memphian Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, made Memphis proud as nominees for Best New Artist and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, for their single "Kids," at the 2010 Grammys. They didn't take home either award but, for us, the nomination was a win in itself. Check out their new album, Congratulations, released on April 13th, and streamed for free on the band's website, due to an early (and highly illegal) leak. They'll tour the states for most of the summer. The title mirrors our sentiment exactly. We can't wait to see what they'll pump out next, and how many times one of their singles will be used for movie trailers, commercials, and yes, what VanWyngarden photo shoot is next, and where we can find it. — Ashley Johnston
Booker T. Jones, captured the Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album with Potato Hole, after accepting a Lifetime Achievement Grammy three years earlier. It just goes to show that a true musician will never stop creating meaningful, worthwhile music, and we can be grateful that this Memphis staple is getting the recognition he deserves for it.
A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member since 1992, Jones began as a STAX staff musician, to become the leader of Booker T. and the MG's, among his many other endeavors. As a solo artist, he recorded with the Drive By Truckers, featuring Neil Young, although Jones has recorded with a great many other famous names over the years. Here's hoping his busy schedule doesn't tire him out any time soon. — Ashley Johnston
Hot & Cold
In the world of politics it's one Ford in, and one resoundingly out. (If you count Ophelia, add "out of it" to the mix.) Joe Ford stepped in to the interim-county mayor position vacated by A C Wharton seemingly in the nick of time, as protests were voiced about his living outside of his own South Memphis district while on the Shelby County Commission, not to mention his various financial woes being brought to light. On the other hand, Harold Ford Jr. announced his decision not to run for the New York Senate in September's Democratic primary, succeeding only in generating pronounced hostility for himself as a politician.
The never-ending saga of the Ford family comes standard with being a resident of Memphis, but this is a little much. Despite his hasty election as interim-mayor, Joe has his work cut out for him in May's mayoral primary. Shelby County Commissioner Deidre Malone has openly countered Ford's position on various issues, like education and hospital funding. He may have won the battle, but we'll see if his good name will win him the war. Inversely, Vanity Fair called Harold's bowing out a "pseudo-Senate campaign [that] is nothing more than a slick publicity stunt" in a recent interview, and honestly, that's tough to argue against. Not only were his rounds through New York awkward and badly received, the young politician seemed to be out of touch with reality and his own political positions. Aiming to lead people away from incumbent Kirsten Gillibrand, by implying that she knows not what the people need or want and then criticizing his own party for bullying him out of the race, may not have been the most logical or graceful action to take. We suppose vice-chairing the Bank of America and Merrill Lynch will have to suffice in terms of Ford Jr.'s future career opportunities. — Ashley Johnston
Talk about poetic justice. Last fall the Shelby County Sheriff's Department raided the Memphis Animal Shelter and found several dogs without food or water; some were in such wretched condition they had to be euthanized. Three high-level shelter employees were arrested and indicted on multiple counts of animal cruelty, including former director Ernest Alexander, who was booked and jailed on February 21st. We know the "innocent till proven guilty" law, but we can't help but wonder: When the doors to his "cage" at 201 Poplar slammed shut, did Alexander go hungry or thirsty for days on end? Hardly, since he was released after nine hours on $25,000 bond. Still, perhaps for a few minutes he knew what it was like to be at the mercy of uncaring humans. — Marilyn Sadler
If you want to know where the cool kids hang, it's at the hottest new tot spot in town: My Big Backyard. Since its grand opening on August 1, 2009, this enchanted offshoot of Memphis Botanic Garden has been wildly popular with kids and adults alike. Throughout the 2.5-acre attraction are swings, slides, a pond, an eating area, a giant guesthouse with classroom space, and a variety of environmental learning stations to keep kids occupied for hours. The space is so popular, in fact, that on free-admission afternoons, Big Backyard staff has capped the limit at 200 visitors at a time (to allow each party to fully enjoy the experience). Suffice it to say, when you have the equivalent of bouncers at the door, you know you've found the hippest, hottest place for kids. — Hannah Sayle
After four years of construction, the new Playhouse on the Square was finally unveiled this January. Boasting state-of-the-art facilities with extensive rehearsal space, a sophisticated fly system, five dressing rooms, a café, lobby bars and office space, the new Playhouse represents a new level of commitment to the performing arts in Memphis. Founding producer Jackie Nichols called on generous private donors to raise the funds and capitalized on the design expertise of the same agency that built Chicago's famous Steppenwolf Theater. The end product? A place that Rocco Landesman, the head of the National Endowment for the Arts, predicted will be work-shopping pre-Broadway shows in no time. It's also the Midtown home of Ballet Memphis and a resource for other local companies. The new Playhouse on the Square will be a huge boon to arts in Memphis, and a hothouse for aspiring performers. — Hannah Sayle
A new addition to the Hot List this year: Readers weighed in on their hottest spots in an online survey, and here are the results. Most categories were so close we thought it would be unfair to knock out a winner over a one- or two- vote difference. Didn’t vote this year? No worries, we’ll be back next year to do it all over again, and the competition is bound to get even hotter.
Hottest Clothing Store, Women’s
Hottest Clothing Store, Men’s
Jos. A. Bank
Lansky at The Peabody
Hottest Children’s Store
Janie and Jack
Mango Street Baby
Hot Ice (Jewelry Store)
Peter D. Poole
Hot Again (Best Resale Store)
Junior League Repeat Boutique
Hot Off the Press (Best Dry Cleaner)
Germantown Dry Cleaners
Hot and Healthy (Best Gym)
DAC Fitness Laurelwood
French Riviera Spa
Hot Escape (Best Day Spa)
Germantown Day Spa
Gould’s Day Salon and Spa
Mona Spa and Laser Center
Natural Body Spa
Hot Spotter (Best Trainer)
Trey Adams – Lifetime Fitness
Tonya Title – Energy Memphis
Hot Coifs (Salons)
Dabbles Hair Co.
diVa Colour Studio
Juve Salon Spa
Paggios for Hair
White Hot (Cosmetic Dentistry)
Chris Cooley, DDS – Germantown Cosmetic Dentistry
Dr. Denis Freiden
Main Street Dental
Dr. John Whittemore – Germantown Dental Group
Hot Tips (Best Nail Services)
Elite Nail Spa
Nail Bar on the Island
Hot Seat (Furniture and Home Interiors)
Ashley Furniture Home Store
Samuels Furniture & Interiors
Hottest Interior Designer/Decorator
Fran Winstock Interiors
Lee Pruitt Interior Design
Karen Wellford – Design
Hottest Landscaper/Landscape Design
Hottest Cleaning Services
2 Chicks & A Broom
Hot Dog! (Best Petcare)
Berclair — Downtown
Central Animal Hospital
Community Pet Hospital
Walnut Grove Animal Hospital
Hot House Flowers (Best Florist)
Hot Flash! (Best Local Website)
Hot Ticket (Best Local Charity Event)
St. Jude – Sponsored Events
Hot Date (Best Place to Impress)
Interim Restaurant & Bar
Live at the Garden Concerts
Hot Air (Best Local Radio Station)
98.1 The Max
Rhodes Radio 92.1
WEVL 89.9 FM