Christopher Blank

News Director

It all started with ghost stories. Dad convinced me that spirits lurked just outside my bedroom door at night. After years of night terrors, I began listening to LPs of spooky tales, memorizing them and acting them out around campfires on those balmy winter nights in South Florida. In this way, other children would suffer as I had.
 
Naturally, this dramatic flair evolved into a prestigious four-year engagement on the high school drama circuit where my mother’s rapturous reviews provoked standing ovations also from my mother.
 
One day, while working part time as a copy clerk at the St. Petersburg Times, an editor asked me why my hair was dyed bright orange. I explained that it was because I was “an actor.” Was my future decided out of pity? Out of concern for my mental health? I cannot read minds. However, the next thing that happened is that I was made a theater critic.
 
For more than a decade, The Commercial Appeal’s readers tolerated my opinions on everything from classical music to ballet. Even WKNO-FM let me create a little club for theatergoers.
 
When this fine radio station went looking for someone to tell stories of the “news” variety, I made the argument that Memphis is a city full of great stories; no other has a richer cultural narrative. The crossroads of America is a crucible of stories from all walks of life. Also, crossroads are known for ghosts and devils, and who doesn’t love those?
 
They totally bought the argument. So now, I’m looking for great stories. What’s yours?

Ways to Connect

The Replacements may not have risen to such heights as Wilco, R.E.M., Nirvana or any of the numerous alt-rock bands they influenced, but their music remains a critical favorite in the 1980s' canon. Bob Mehr, music writer at the Commercial Appeal recently penned the band's authoritative biography. Trouble Boys: The True Story of The Replacements lays out in gritty detail the band's most legendary episodes, including getting banned from Saturday Night Live and making a career-highlight album at Memphis' Ardent Studios with producer Jim Dickinson. 


Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

On this week’s Culture Desk, Brooks Museum curator Stanton Thomas asks: Was she worth it?

It’s the question that, in retrospect, seems to justify a $25,000 purchase of art work made by the City of Memphis under Mayor Walter Chandler in 1943. At the time, a huge civic debate erupted over the use of public money on fine art. The purchase from a St. Louis art collector included 38 paintings total; among them were works by Winslow Homer, George Inness and the oil on wood panel pictured here by Renaissance master Sofonisba Anguissola.


Leanne McConnell

A wedding photo on Facebook leads to the suspension of two Tennessee Freemasons, sparking debate within one of the country’s oldest secret societies.


Memphis Brooks Museum of Art

This week's Culture Desk explores a 1958 photograph from the Brooks Museum's permanent collection.

Taken by renowned Memphis photojournalist Ernest Withers, it captures just one of the many small but collectively important moments in the struggle for civil rights. Museum curator Marina Pacini reveals the photo's history, but also its surprising provenance.


whitehouse.gov

Vice President Joe Biden visited Memphis today, commemorating the 7th Anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. His whistle stop at Memphis’ Crescent Corridor Intermodal Freight Rail Project highlighted a $105 million federal grant designed to create jobs and reduce pollution and highway congestion by increasing railroad volume.


A new television series based on the early days of rock and roll will be filmed in Memphis this spring. "Million Dollar Quartet" follows Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis as they begin their careers at the famed Sun Studio. As Linn Sitler of the Memphis and Shelby County Film and Television Commission tells us, Memphis required more than authentic scenery to attract producers. 

  

Many paintings in the Brooks Museum have a story to tell. This week, WKNO's Culture Desk presents this "Portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria 1638" by Anthony van Dyck. The former wife of England's deposed Charles I has an important connection to early America. One of our states is named after her. Can you guess which one? Curator Stanton Thomas has the answer.


Christoper Blank

For 44-years, Father Nicholas Vieron has been teaching an introductory Greek class at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. The 90-year-old Pastor Emeritus just started a new session. There's still room left to pick up some phrases and ancient history, but mostly to relax with a man that some have called a Memphis "treasure."


Christopher Blank

The Mississippi River is expected to reach its high water mark today. For the Mid-South, the unusual winter flood has provided more spectacle than threat.


Christopher Blank

It takes a special combination of skills to run the Orpheum Theatre. Raising more than a million dollars every year is one of them. Being a risk-taker is another. For 35 years, Pat Halloran made an enormous impact on the institution. Along with restoring and expanding the building, he helped turn regional theaters like the Orpheum into New York producers, giving them leverage in an industry once dominated by a small coterie of Broadway investors. When Halloran steps down next week, he will leave both a proud legacy and a formidable challenge.

  

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