Knoxville journalism, circa 1991, is a primal
chaos, spewing random "alternative" publications across local sidewalks:
The Lame Monkey Manifesto, The Addict, The Brass Check, The Watch, Township
Jive, Skin Flute, The Warm Jet, Cabin Fever, 14 Days. Amid this swirl of
media excess comes a new addition, one that somehow manages to outlive its
Rand Pearson, a cocky 22-year-old University of Georgia
graduate who'd recently worked as an underling with Athens Magazine, returns
to his home town with few clues. The aspiring writer works as a cook and
lands a walk-on role as a grief-stricken father in a Heartland Series special.
Failing to find work at Whittle Communications and humiliated by a public
poetry reading at the Torch, he mulls the prospect of starting a lifestyle
magazine in Knoxville.
Ian Blackburn, one of the former publishers of the subversive
journal Lame Monkey Manifesto, meets at the Falafel Hut in Fort Sanders with
sometime associate Ashley Capps, cutthroat music promoter,
jazz D.J., and brains behind ill-fated nightclub Ella Guru's. The two discuss
an alternative newspaper project. Capps would handle advertising and editorial.
Blackburn, an eccentric longhaired computer wizard and known juggler, would
design and produce.
Over a pizza of pesto and sun-dried tomatoes at the Flying Tomato, Capps
introduces Blackburn to Pearson and his friend Margaret
Weston. Over conversations at the Tomato, Pearson, Weston, and Blackburn
refine an entertainment calendar project that would only later become something
like a magazine.
August 18-19, 1991
In Blackburn's cluttered Fort Sanders apartment, Pearson, Weston, and Blackburn
assemble the first issue of a new magazine. One promising title is Hot Stuff.
Unable to come up with anything better, the near-editors call the magazine
Metro Pulse. Blackburn recalls it as "an all-night affair that made plain
what kind of hell we had gotten into." Local authorities seize Pearson's
car from the private-apartment parking lot, delaying delivery of the first
issue. The project seems cursed.
August 19, 1991
Days before Whittle Communications moves into its shimmering new headquarters,
the first issue of Metro Pulse appears in downtown Knoxville in a small format,
about the size of a real-estate sales tabloid.
A pool of writing contributors largely composed of UT students and Whittle
refugees, with a median age of perhaps 21, produces the first issues of Metro
Pulse. The staff witnesses several dawns in Blackburn's chaotic chambers.
Jon Wallace, burly, overshaven frontman for a hardcore punk
band, the STDs, becomes the copy editor too late to have prevented early
Coury Turczyn, a Detroit native of Eastern European extraction
who'd left a perfectly good job as a magazine editor at Whittle Communications
to seek his fortunes as a screenwriter in Hollywood, returns to Knoxville,
older, wiser, and desperate. After months of lurking around the corridors
of the Whittle Building looking for scraps, he begins writing a Metro Pulse
column called Bar Spy. It is rumored that people are actually reading the
Jared Coffin, who'd created some artsy ads for Java, draws
a Metro Pulse cover and later joins as art director. The paper follows
Blackburn's move to a Sutherland Avenue apartment after he was evicted for
having a cat.
December 31, 1991
The Knoxville Journal ceases publication just as people had begun to pay
attention to it. Out-of-work Journal-ists cast around town for hack work.
Metro Pulse moves into its new headquarters on the third floor of Bijou Theater,
sharing quarters with Ashley Capps's AC Entertainment. That month, the bi-weekly
publishes its first full-size tabloid issue and experiments with actual
Pat Hinds, former publisher of a successful student publication
called The Watch, joins Metro Pulse as ad manager. There's brief discussion
of combining the two ventures as a new journalistic monster called Metro
Unable to sell a single movie script in Hollywood, Coury Turczyn replaces
the retiring Margaret Weston as managing editor of Metro Pulse. He introduces
the innovative concept of having actual "cover stories."
Bonnie Appetit, rumored to be a libidinous editor of medical
trade books, introduces her singular style of restaurant reviewing with a
critique of Hooters. She suggests the owners open a version for female diners
named "Peckers." Optional motto: "Sportin' a Woodie."
Jack Neely, disgruntled Associate Hack for a magazine
distributed in doctors' offices, writes 600 words blaspheming Andrew Jackson.
Turczyn proposes it become a regular feature of Metro Pulse to be called
"Knoxville Babylon." Neely, who'd been reading a creepy murder book called
The Secret History, has another idea. Turczyn offers $15 for each one.
Astonished, Neely accepts.
A fluorescent light mysteriously shorts out, causing a sinister blaze in
the Metro Pulse offices. Ceiling sprinklers prevent the fire from destroying
the most historic building in East Tennessee, but flood the staircase, moistening
an art show on the second floor and swamping the paper's photo scanner.
Latin bombshell and Journal investigative firebrand Betty Bean
begins writing occasional pieces.
Bean conveys intelligence that County Executive Dwight Kessel
and friends were plotting to start their own weekly paper in the wake of
the Journal fallout--only after they realized it would cost too much to restart
the daily. Pearson alertly presents Metro Pulse to the so-called Phoenix
investment group, but later scuttles an offer to make Metro Pulse the
entertainment section of this new venture. Nonetheless, the stir brings Metro
Pulse to the attention of one Joe Sullivan.
John Mayer, shadowy former beatnik and pulp-novel connoisseur,
launches the darkly brilliant but impossibly complex detective comic series,
Metro Pulse launches its newer, hipper look, enhanced by the appealingly
disturbing icons of Timothy Winkler, a local artist
about whom very little is known for certain. Soon afterward, he starts charging
real money for his illustrations.
Former intern Shelly Ridenour becomes calendar editor; soon,
her Spotlights and band descriptions are among the shortest and most memorable
paragraphs ever printed in Metro Pulse.
Joining the paper is willowy production manager Laura
Atkinson, who vows to make sense of the madness.
Financially embarrassed by a year of Metro Pulse, Pearson's group and Ashley
Capps sell the white elephant to Joe Sullivan. An Ivy-League financial czar
allegedly linked to old Knoxville families, Sullivan is a former reporter
for The Wall Street Journal and longtime boss of a Chicago securities-exchange
mob. Convinced that Metro Pulse could give Knoxville's remaining daily a
run for it, Sullivan re-establishes his roots to realize a cub-reporter's
Metro Pulse moves to larger quarters on the mezzanine of the Burwell
building--again, above the box office of an ancient Gay Street theater.
In response to a single letter written by a member of a Baptist church, Kroger
boots Metro Pulse from the racks in all of its stores. At question is a handful
of gay personal ads, deemed inappropriate for sensitive grocery shoppers.
After managing to get back on the racks, Metro Pulse is booted again for
a story on Knoxville's gay club scene (though the back-breaking straw is
claimed to be a single quote from the story by a drag queen who says, "They
love me because I'm so f---ing gorgeous.")
Lee Gardner leaves his relatively new job as a Whittle editor
to join Metro Pulse as staff writer. His Whittle colleagues tell him he's
crazy. "Metro Pulse? Are you serious? It can't last. Lee, think of your future."
Peppery promotions coordinator Charlotte Klasson joins the
paper's front lines, later to become advertising manager.
In its annual convention in Austin, Texas, the ordinarily discerning Association
of Alternative Newspapers, which had denied Metro Pulse official sanction
one year earlier, unanimously votes to admit Metro Pulse to its ranks.
August 1, 1993
Barry Henderson, another hard-boiled veteran of the Journal,
returns home after an extended sojourn in Communist China. An angst-ridden
caffeine addict and known associate of Jim Dykes, Henderson joins Metro Pulse
as editor to combat the widespread prejudice that Metro Pulse is staffed
entirely by spoiled, fruity brats. He brings with him an innate ability to
write baffling headlines ("Like Topsy, West Knoxville Just Grows," "Strings
But No Towrope," "Pressure for Equity Brings More Women Into Sports-Happy
Betty Bean quits to seek more challenging work at the Halls Shopper.
Editors succumb to a bizarre publicity ploy, persuaded by the TNi cable channel
to send one reporter to appear on the "i-Channel News" and talk about his
or her current story in Metro Pulse for fully 90 seconds each week. Stunned
by the mystery of Lance West's hair, writers say little of substance on the
Smarting from a reader letter ridiculing his writing style as "hyper, yet
flaccid," Lee Gardner quits Metro Pulse to write promotional copy for Ardent,
a Memphis record company. To replace him, the paper hires one Chris
Barrett, an obscure nuclear submariner from Kentucky discovered
openly writing for the Morristown paper.
Metro Pulse conducts its first annual Best of Knoxville survey. Entrepreneurs
voted "Best" finally take Metro Pulse seriously.
Metro Pulse shocks the journalistic establishment by winning several regional
awards at the annual Society of Professional Journalists banquet, beating
out several well-known local celebrities. Staffers were especially astonished.
None of them are even members of the Society of Professional Journalists.
The jocular Stephanie Moyers enlists as an account executive.
Cohesion expert and all-around office guru Betty Franklin
also joins the ranks.
On the condition she not be expected to appear physically in the Metro Pulse
office, Betty Bean returns as staff writer, vague about her experiences with
the Halls Shopper. Likewise, Lee Gardner returns as staff writer, vague about
his experiences with Ardent Records.
Metro Pulse moves a third time, to the third floor of the Arnstein Building,
the longtime headquarters of the now defunct Whittle Communications.
Envious editors of big-city alternative magazines offer big money to lure
Metro Pulse staffers away from Knoxville. Lee Gardner leaves to become music
editor for City Paper, Baltimore's alternative weekly, becoming the first--and
to date only--Metro Pulse staffer to quit twice. Meanwhile, Jared Coffin
quits to take the artistic helm of the massive Dallas alternative weekly,
the Dallas Observer.
Lisa Horstman, longtime Whittle vet and national award-winning
author/illustrator of a children's book called Fast Friends, takes over as
art director. Tranquillity reigns. And smilin' Jay Nations, former proprietor
of the near-mythical Raven Records, a longtime front for subversive musical
activities, joins the staff as account executive.
Bonnie Appetit quits as Restaurant Rover to flak for a certain presidential
campaign in Nashville. Gourmet Pyle, the clever nom de guerre of a nationally
famous author, takes her place and promptly makes Metro Pulse readers even
angrier than Bonnie Appetit ever did.
Bonnie Appetit returns, vague about her experiences with said presidential
June 1, 1995
After more than a year of threats, Metro Pulse doubles its frequency, becoming
Knoxville's most exciting weekly since Parson Brownlow's Knoxville Whig and
June 29, 1995
Metro Pulse publishes its 100th issue, approximately 96 more than most people
predicted back in 1991.
Mysteriously efficient business manager Judy Rone brings
Metro Pulse closer to the long-awaited black.
>Post-punk State Champs drummer and half-breed Italian lasagna chef
Chris Leather takes the designer's seat in the dangerous,
often rhythmic production room.
Chris Barrett hosts the First Annual Metro Pulse Brew-Off, allegedly the
largest regional beer-brewing contest in modern times. He appears tipsy at
work the next day, is often missing from his desk, and starts calling co-workers
Metro Pulse scoops the entire planet with Shelly Ridenour's cover
profile/travelogue about Superdrag's New York recording sessions, 11 months
before the boys hit the Billboard charts.
Regina Williamson, aspiring novelist from Somewhere Out
West, takes the hot seat as MP receptionist.
Leslie Buxbaum brightens Metro Pulse's day as ad rep.
Rand Pearson's Scruffy City Publishing inexplicably publishes a collection
of Jack Neely's Metro Pulse columns, entitled Knoxville's Secret History.
After several book signings, Neely begins endorsing his paychecks Who loves
ya, baby? Jacko.
Grizzled editor Barry Henderson, the last of a generation of hard-living
newspapermen, stuns the local publishing establishment when he accepts a
job as editor of the Prague Post. He chose the Czech Republic as his new
home because its layer of carbon monoxide reminds him of the Arnstein Building
Ponderous News-Sentinel editorial page editor Bill Dockery
leaves his lucrative post to take Henderson's place at the helm of Metro
Pulse, explaining his action to the stunned publishing establishment by
paraphrasing John Milton: "I would rather reign in Hell than serve in Hell."
Female Metro Pulse staffers, who had been baby-free for the paper's entire
history, undergo a mysterious plague of infants, as one female employee after
another vanishes from the office--only to return with wailer in arms. Stephanie
Moyers, Betty Franklin, and new classified ad rep Eve Mynatt are victims.
Clean-shaven bachelor Mike Gibson, formerly of the Mountain
Press, joins as staff writer, specializing in the more dangerous assignments
that spouses and parents are reluctant to accept.
Julie Lewis, a blonde, nimble Marylander who claims not
to be kin to Juliet Lewis, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Huey Lewis, Jerry Lewis,
Jerry Lee Lewis, Jewel, or Julie Andrews, begins as assistant account executive.
After the Best of Knoxville results are made public, oft-maligned Mayor Victor
Ashe and desert-isle fantasy Kristin Hoke make unexpected but brief appearances
at the Metro Pulse party at the Lord Lindsey. Editors regret not showing
up. April, 1996
Metro Pulse co-founder and karaoke star Rand Pearson stuns the local publishing
establishment when he accepts a position as general manager of the Reno News
and Review. He breaks a long-baffling murder case when he overhears the
confession of a darkly garbed male Caucasian: "I shot a man in Reno, just
to watch him die..."
The daring Dogwood Arts Festival parody is noticed by no one but the Dogwood
Arts Festival, which quickly blackballs Metro Pulse from all its functions
Five years of hard work pays off when Metro Pulse is mentioned in the "Thanks
to" paragraph on the credits of the V-Roys' debut CD, Just Add Ice.
More to Blame
Here are even more people who played important roles in Metro Pulse's development
(and about whom we couldn't think of anything funny to say).
James Raxter, misunderstood ad manager
Carla Perkins, our first overworked business manager
Betty Caughron, our second overworked business manager
Hillari Dowdle, writer and secret editor
Tracy Jones, book critic and feature writer
Greg Howard, music critic
Matt Edens, defender of urban renewal
Zak Weisfeld, weasely movie reviewer
Charles DeBevoise, photographer of the unusual
Nicole Greuel, delightful designer
V. C. Fuqua, Knox gourmand
Janet Tate, special reporter
Allison Glock, feature writer
Louise Coombe, ad sales maven
David O'Brien, editorial cartoonist
Riik, serial cartoonist
James Moody, original gonzo
Peggy Hambright, delightful illustrator
Ana Reinert, production assistant
Troy Sellers, can-do guy
Miranda Bridges Clark, model salesperson
Todd Schott, editorial cartoonist
Wendy Smith, MIS/futon expert
Daniel Moore, production assistant #1
Brian Wilson, production assistant #2
Christian Lange, arts writer
Cristie Thuren, music writer
Chet Flippo, writer
Bruce Cole, photographer
Jesse Fox Mayshark, ace reporter
Lake Speed, able ad assistant
Val Pendergrast, super intern, writer
Steve Jones, photographer
Leslie Henderson, because we like her
And countless freelance writers and photographers who worked for peanuts,
not to mention many interns who worked here just for the heck of it.