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Mentoring Timmy

State Senator John Ford is famously colorful. State Senator Tim Burchett is famously affable. Splendidly turned out in Armani, Brioni, Gucci and Rolex, Ford is contentious, flamboyant, politically liberal, prone to hyperbole, oft-married, occasionally indicted but never convicted. The Memphis Democrat would seem the polar opposite of Knoxville Republican Burchett, who, despite sponsoring the occasional bizarro bill and getting off some pithy one-liners to defend them, is a frugal, teetotaling, conservative bachelor in off-the-rack suits. Last week, during the heat of the marathon budget battle on Capitol Hill, some were surprised to see Ford and Burchett huddled in conversation.

Ford had a ready answer. He threw an arm around Burchett's shoulders and made a pronouncement: "This is my protégé."

It's a Knox, Knox, Knox World

This past weekend was a banner one for Knoxville music—and not just here. Starting with the packed-to-the-gills show on Market Square last Thursday by Scott Miller and the Commonwealth and continuing through Gran Torino's hugely successful Saturday Night on the Town gig on Gay Street (not to mention the enthusiastic crowd for the Swamis reunion show at Pilot Light the same night), there was homegrown grooving galore. But that's not all. If you happened to be in Chattanooga on Friday night, you might have wandered into a downtown park full of people being entertained by none other than Knoxville's own Donald Brown. And in Nashville on Saturday, the über-cool club 12th and Porter turned into a Knox showcase, with Scott Miller headlining to a full house and Todd Steed's Apelife opening the show (imagine a crowd of hip Nashvillians tapping their toes while Steed howled "Thank god for North Knoxville..."). You know, Nashville and Memphis are really going to have to develop some music scenes of their own one of these days. We can't carry the state forever.


Warning: If you see a gang of unruly brigands roaming downtown on Saturday, don't call 911. At least, not right away. They're actually hobo literateurs paying homage to Cormac McCarthy's gamey downtown-based novel, Suttree. The four-hour urban hike, which involves stops in several bars, is not recommended for children or those with sensitivity issues or, really, for anyone else who never made it through the often-alarming book. They're convening at Volunteer Landing at 2 (p.m.).

A Kiss Is Just a Kiss

If you read the daily, you might remember, about three weeks ago, photographer Joe Howell's shot of elderly British D-Day veteran Walter Hibbard kissing a startled young UT student right on the lips. The photo ran prominently, in color, over a full half-page in the June 7 issue of the News-Sentinel, under the heading "We Will Remember D-Day." It's one of the most memorable photographs we've seen in the News-Sentinel lately.

However, when some readers saw it, they saw red. The publicity of the UT student's osculatory infidelity with an 80-year-old vet angered her boyfriend and her family. They allegedly called Sentinel editor Harry Moskos and let him have it. Moskos, in turn, blew his top over the incident, chewed out a few employees, and threatened to cancel the remainder of his newsies' trip before he calmed down.

Fire Drill

Last week after a two-alarm fire gutted three vacant Grand Avenue warehouses owned by Neely Produce, Knoxvillle Fire Department Chief Gene Hamlin (who presided over the latter stages of the fire, which was virtually extinguished when he took command, but flared up and became a two-alarmer again a half-hour after he took over) groused about one of his fire trucks.

The truck, known as Ladder 1, is a 1998 Bronto Skylift 135' aerial platform manufactured by E-One, of Ocala Florida (readers with wildly inclusive memories might recall a 1997 fire department story on these pages where another major manufacturer of firefighting trucks complained about the virtual monopoly E-One enjoys in Knoxville).

Hamlin told reporters he had ordered the Bronto out of service the day before because of safety concerns. He pronounced the truck—a demo model costing nearly $650,000 in 1998—a lemon and said E-One should "...get it fixed or give us our money back."

His complaints caused eyeball-rolling in firehalls around town, because he has been a fierce defender of the behemoth, which is too long to negotiate many narrow downtown streets. It was one of his first purchases after being appointed chief in 1997. Last year, he proposed to require firefighters who drove the truck to sign statements releasing the city from liability in case of injury caused by its operation. The drivers were also asked to pledge not to drive the Bronto more than 30 miles per hour. The memo was poorly received and rescinded. In a March 10, 2000 memo to all stations, Hamlin attempted to put "rumors about Ladder One" to rest after its rear torsion bar broke while the truck was sitting in the station.

"I feel this truck is a great asset to the city of Knoxville," Hamlin told his firefighters.

June 28, 2001 * Vol. 11, No. 26
© 2001 Metro Pulse