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The Vinyl Siding Lobby?

It looks like May & Associates, the Knoxville lobbying firm retained by the Fort Sanders landlords opposed to the proposed conservation district, is preparing to take the current battle of Fort Sanders to the state level. The firm, headed by former County Commissioner Joe May, has been circulating a letter stating that: "The Knoxville Historic Zoning Commission has a policy of denying applications that propose to use vinyl or aluminum products." Citing the five Historic Overlay districts currently in Knoxville, the letter argues that "already, the vinyl siding industry has lost the opportunity to serve a significant portion of the housing market in Knoxville."

No doubt eyeing the manufactured housing industry's recent end-run around local zoning regulations that generated lots of billable hours for area lobbyists, the letter invites recipients to discuss "the need for either local and/or state legislation that prohibits the exclusion of certain products in Tennessee."

Meanwhile, when the draft guidelines for Fort Sanders were unveiled last week by MPC, among the products listed under the heading "Materials Recommended for the District" was, ironically, vinyl siding.

Limo Tale a Stretch?

Mayor Victor Ashe brands as a "flat-out lie" accounts that Secret Service agents temporarily restrained him from getting into George Dubya Bush's limo at the airport for a ride together to Bush's recent downtown Knoxville stump speech. Contrary to a report in "Ear" that the mayor was "grabbed" and "walked off" as he tried to get into the limo, Ashe insists that "Bush invited me to ride with him, and no one touched me."

Louie Bluie's Return

Saturday's unveiling of the Keep Knoxville Beautiful's Knoxville Music Mural on Jackson Ave. brought out luminaries the likes of which we've never seen together in the same parking lot, from Sparky Rucker to Guy and Candie Carawan to Donald Brown. But the star of the day was 91-year-old jazz/blues mandolinist and fiddler Howard "Louie Bluie" Armstrong. A Knoxville street musician in the 1920s, Armstrong made his first broadcasts and recordings here in 1930 before going on to the big time in Chicago.

He arrived just after the ceremony, erect and dangerously dapper in an all-black suit and his trademark purple cap and—surprising to many—carrying his mandolin case. Accompanied by a camera crew from Boston filming a public-TV bio and surrounded by well-wishers, Louie Bluie himself stood beneath the mural on which he's depicted, signing autographs and telling lively stories. Many were hoping he'd play just a tune or two.

Meanwhile, onstage 50 yards away, the afternoon's blues festival was cranking up. A Keep Knoxville Beautiful representative approached festival organizer Barry Faust, then leading a performance by kids in the Society's "Blues In the Schools" program, and suggested that Armstrong be offered a stool to sit in. The harried Faust protested that the festival was already behind schedule. After Armstong's host persisted, Faust snapped, "I don't know who Howard Armstrong is!"

Unaware of that O. Henry moment, Armstrong was escorted into an upper room at Barley's, buttonholed by Bill Landry for an extensive Heartland interview. Armstrong left by 3 o'clock, still carrying his unopened mandolin.


Watching the new TV show, Survivor, you might have thought one of the first castaways kicked off the island, the white-haired adventurer and building contractor from Kansas, looked familiar. For good reason. B.B. Andersen is apparently the same B.B. Andersen hired in 1983 to build Thompson-Boling Arena. You may recall that as soon as he was notified he had been the low bidder for the project, he tried to get out of the deal after he checked his figures and realized he had bid lower than he intended to. Andersen sued UT in 1985, long before the project was finished, claiming he had lost money through delays for which he blamed UT's lack of coordination. UT countersued, alleging Andersen diverted arena funds to other construction projects. The suits were in the courts for years, and we're uncertain whether anyone survived those challenges gracefully.

Those who watch Survivor tell us that Andersen was kicked off for his intolerable bossiness.

June 22, 2000 * Vol. 10, No. 25
© 2000 Metro Pulse