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 peers...

January, 1991

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.

April, 1991

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.

July, 1991

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.

Fall, 1991

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 damage.

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 entire column.

December, 1991

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.

January, 1992

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 reporting.

February, 1992

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 Watch.

March, 1992

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."

April, 1992

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."

May, 1992

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.

May, 1992

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.

June, 1992

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.

July, 1992

John Mayer, shadowy former beatnik and pulp-novel connoisseur, launches the darkly brilliant but impossibly complex detective comic series, "Knoxville Confidential."

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.

August, 1992

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.

November, 1992

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 dream.

Metro Pulse moves to larger quarters on the mezzanine of the Burwell building--again, above the box office of an ancient Gay Street theater.

December 1992

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.")

January, 1993

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."

June, 1993

Peppery promotions coordinator Charlotte Klasson joins the paper's front lines, later to become advertising manager.

July, 1993

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 UT Fold").

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 air.

January, 1994

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.

March, 1994

Metro Pulse conducts its first annual Best of Knoxville survey. Entrepreneurs voted "Best" finally take Metro Pulse seriously.

May, 1994

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.

December, 1994

Metro Pulse moves a third time, to the third floor of the Arnstein Building, the longtime headquarters of the now defunct Whittle Communications.

February, 1995

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.

April, 1995

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.

June, 1995

Bonnie Appetit returns, vague about her experiences with said presidential campaign.

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 Rebel Ventilator.

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.

July, 1995

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 "Bubba."

August, 1995

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.

November, 1995

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.

December, 1995

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 stairwell.

January, 1996

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.

February, 1996

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.

April, 1996

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 in retaliation.

August, 1996

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.