Desperately Seeking the News
By Henry Walker
MAY 4, 1998: A line drawing depicting an orgy, taken from the Marquis de Sade's Story of Juliette and adapted as part of a political cartoon, was published two weeks ago in the Nashville Scene and 90 other alternative newspapers, apparently causing a major advertiser to cancel ads in both the Scene and The Memphis Flyer.
The Memphis-based National Bank of Commerce (the bank in Kroger) abruptly canceled its full-page ads midway through a multi-week advertising campaign in the Scene and the Flyer, an alternative weekly in Memphis. The bank halted the ads after a Knoxville woman saw the cartoon in the Flyer and faxed protests to a dozen advertisers. The fax included a copy of the comic strip This Modern World, by cartoonist "Tom Tomorrow," along with the message, "I choose not to do business with those who would support such trash."
A media buyer who placed the ads cautioned that the cartoon was "not necessarily the reason" NBC canceled the ads, but informed sources in Memphis assured the Scene, "It's a fact" that the drawing of an orgy provoked the cancellations. Candace Lex, the bank officer who ordered the ads halted, did not return repeated calls.
According to one wire-service report, the cartoon showed "lust-addled naked adults groping each other in a cluster-orgy while discussing the political issues of the day." The cartoonist, whose real name is Dan Perkins, said that the naked people were intended to be "a visual metaphor for the salacious, over-the-top, gossipmongering that's now going on in Washington." Perkins said the drawing was based on a 1789 illustration from a Dutch edition of de Sade's Story of Juliette, but was toned down for This Modern World. "I took the nuns out," Perkins said.
The cartoonist said he knew he was "pushing the limits" with the cartoon and provided subscribing papers a less offensive, alternative strip. But Perkins defends the de Sade cartoon as appropriate for alternative papers like the Scene.
"Advertisers can't have it both ways," he said. "If you want to attract customers who read alternative papers, you shouldn't be offended by what goes in them."
Pat Cowden, a Knoxville secretary, said she was driving through Memphis when her husband happened to pick up a copy of the Flyer. "I didn't know it was an alternative paper," she said, adding that she's read Knoxville's alternative paper, Metro Pulse, "maybe three or four times." (Metro Pulse does not run This Modern World.) Cowden said she has never done anything like this before and did not expect her protest to have any impact.
Scene publisher Albie Del Favero said neither he nor editor Bruce Dobie saw the strip before it ran. Associate editor Jonathan Marx, who approved the strip, was surprised at the protests. "We've published things that were a lot worse," he said.
In reaction to the controversy, Perkins has satirized his critics in this week's strip, published on page 92 of this issue of the Scene. Those who want to see the uncensored orgy can find it in Erotica Universalis, available at your local bookstore.
Turko filesTurko isn't happy.
"It's not that they named me the city's worst TV personality,'" he said, referring to the current issue of Nashville Life magazine, which singled out the WKRN-Channel 2 reporter for the dubious distinction in its "Best & Worst" awards. "That comes with the territory."
What he didn't like was the description that followed. According to the magazine, "When informed that he had been voted worst TV personality, a visibly moved Turko spontaneously and tearfully emoted: 'You hate me, you really hate me.' Yes, Michael, we do, we really do."
"I never said it," Turko complained. "No one from the magazine even called me. It ain't right."
Nashville Life editor Tom Wood said he's sorry, adding that the magazine will run a correction in its next issue, which comes out in June.
"It was a joke, of course," explained freelance writer Kay West, who wrote the Turko item and who is a regular contributor to the Nashville Scene. West is one of several writers who contributed, anonymously, to this year's "Best & Worst" awards, which appeared under the byline "Helena Handbasket and a few of her people." West said the Turko "quotation" was a reference to actress Sally Field, who gushed, "You like me. You really like me," after winning an Oscar for Places in the Heart.
Neither Turko nor Wood got the joke. Nor, one suspects, did most readers. Field made her acceptance speech 13 years ago.
Tennessee tidbitsOn Saturday morning, two days after the tornado struck, a frustrated Tennessean subscribertold the Scene she telephoned editor Frank Sutherland at his home in Brentwood.
"Why isn't your paper being delivered in East Nashville?" Tamara Jameson wanted to know. "What good is it to list all those emergency telephone numbers if the people who need the information can't get the newspaper?"
Sutherland assured her he'd get right on it, Jameson told the Scene. And he did.
A few hours later, Jameson says, someone dumped 40 copies of Saturday morning's paper on her East Nashville doorstep--along with a list of the names and addresses of those to whom the papers were supposed to be delivered.
Jameson, who distributed the papers to neighbors, said Tennessean carriers delivered free papers to area residents later in the week.
* Former Tennessean reporter Mark Ippolito is now working for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the name "Milo Ippolito." Ippolito legally changed his name on March 17, shortly before leaving Nashville, telling friends he wanted to "reinvent" himself. According to the petition he filed in court, Ippolito changed from "Mark John" to "Milo S." because "Mark John is an Anglo-Saxon Christian name. Being I am neither Anglo-Saxon nor Christian, it does not suit me."
The reporter may also be trying to distance himself from the thick file of questionable stories by "Mark Ippolito" that Mayor Bredesen's former press secretary kept in her desk at the Courthouse.
Mark, d/b/a Milo, used to leave "anonymous," angry messages at the Scene after being criticized in "Desperately Seeking the News." He did not return calls about the name change.
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