Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Rose's Restaurant

One of the best places to eat in Slade, KY is Rose's Restaurant, which is located at 1289 Natural Bridge Road. As a wilderness roadhouse, the grub is great, but what we find unusual here is that the ceiling is covered in dollar bills, each of them autographed and inscribed from various customers. Why? We didn't ask.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Airports of Madison County

Okay, so we here at Unusual Kentucky are admittedly given to paranoid and conspiratorial conjecture at the drop of a hat. But the Madison County Airport really does give us the Creeps. It's tucked back in the woods far, far, far from civilization and there are almost no signs pointing how to get there from the main road. There is a real feeling of uneasiness out here, and everyone here seems very paranoid and wary of outsiders. (It's been this way for years, incidentally - long before the Sept.11th incident made all airports a little more tense) Though lists the military as accounting for only 3 percent of their traffic, we've seen an awful lot of military planes in and out of here at times. The airport, it should be noted, is not far from Blue Grass Army Depot, who of course have extensive airport and helipad facilities of their own.
On Menelaus Road, on the way to the Madison Airport, there is yet another airport, apparently called "The Berea/Richmond Airport" according to one map. Never seen planes come or go here but the planes parked in the weed-filled field change from time to time so evidently they do get some traffic. It's a tiny field next to a barn and farmhouse, with a small half-hangar towards the back.
And while you're out in this neck of the woods, also check out the Hanging Bridge.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The "Kentucky Anomaly"

This is apparently one of those things that tend to get buried and lost in the shuffle of mountains of government-generated paperwork and bureaucracy - check this out.

"A very prominent magnetic anomaly measured by MAGSAT over the eastern mid-continent of the United States was inferred to have a source region beneath Kentucky and Tennessee. Prominent aeromagnetic and gravity anomalies are also associated with the inferred source region."
Okay, so a huge magnetic anomaly under Kentucky is cool, and is right in line with everything I've been saying about the "Kentucky Vortex", the "Dark and Bloody Ground", and the old William S. Burroughs bit about old evils lurking under the soil. But gravity anomalies specifically under Kentucky? Damn! This is hardcore!

And of course, the first things that come to my mind are the stories about the ancient civilizations of people that were supposedly here before the Native Americans, and then I start thinking about why the Blue Grass Army Depot is said to be the Area 51 of Kentucky. (And then I start thinking about the guy who claims there was a UFO that crashed in Burnside, KY... but only for a moment.)

Could this "Kentucky Anomaly" be a sort of Unified Field Theory for everything that's weird about this area? I'm intrigued. They fed this anomalous data into a NASA computer and asked it to come up with a theoretical model that might explain the anomaly. As the NASA website tells it:

"A crustal model constructed to fit these anomalies interpreted the complex as a large mafic plutonic intrusion of Precambrian age. The complex was named the Kentucky body."
How X-Files is that? It's called "The Kentucky Body" and they don't know exactly what it is but they do know it's causing huge magnetic and gravity anomalies?

Did they really say "gravity anomalies"??? Yes, yes they did. Whoa.

Now I know the Pre-Cambrian era well - that's back in the old, old, times before everything. Actually, to call it an "era" is a misnomer - it actually comprises the entire first seven-eighths of the Earth's history, about which we know practically zip.

It's not just all about this "Kentucky Body" though: a subsequent report notes that "the source region for the satellite anomaly is considerably more extensive than the Kentucky body sensu stricto."

Aside from a mention in some grad student's online paper, I can't find any further analysis of the Kentucky Body and the Kentucky Anomaly by NASA (or anyone else) after this initial flurry of papers in the 1980s. Why? Did the subject become classified?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Red River Museum

Located in Clay City, KY, the Red River Museum is a veritable treasure trove of odd antiquated items related to the Powell County area.

Two floors of amazing junk and antiques, plus outbuildings and a yard full of more stuff. Railroad memorabilia, rustic antiques, taxidermified animals (including a disturbing pair of prematurely born baby deer) , old photos and paper ephemera from the Gorge's history. The building itself is the former Clay City National Bank building, built in 1875.

Best of all, it's free.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Haunted (Waffle) House

I'm tellin' ya, Kentucky is one spooky place, all across the board, and I maintain that we are all, at any given moment, swimming in a sea of unseen ghosts and otherworldly critters and we just don't know it.

Case in point: just an hour ago, I was having lunch at the Waffle House in Jeffersontown, KY (1620 Kentucky Mills Drive) and the jukebox was silent for most of the meal. Then, one song came on by itself without anyone having put any quarters in it. Then it went back to silence. I thought it rather odd, since every other jukebox I've seen that has an automatic-play feature runs continuously, not just playing one random song and then stopping.

I mentioned it to the waitress, who informed me in no uncertain terms that the Waffle House is haunted and that strange things like that happen so regularly that they're all used to it. Another waitress standing nearby nodded in affirmation, and mentioned that towels have flown by themselves, and so have these plastic containers they use in the kitchen.

The first waitress speculated that the spirits may have followed her to work from her own home, because she once lived in a very haunted house in Louisville with the exact same kind of poltergeist activity. She told of large art-glass bottles falling by themselves from atop a fishtank, not breaking when hitting the floor, and spinning to point all in one direction. She also told of rumors that a child was killed in her home, and that she discovered a creepy room in her basement, where someone had once lived, but was boarded up and hidden behind paneling. She's since moved from this house, but reports the ghostly phenomena still follows her, both to her new home and to her job at Waffle House.

She seemed extremely sincere and somewhat frazzled about having to endure the haunted weirdness. There was no sense of spinning a grand yarn to shock or impress; she was very blase and matter-of-fact about the ghosts in her life, which seem to have taken root in her workplace as well.

Needless to say, I will be making repeat visits to this Waffle House and having further chats with said waitress.

GWAR car?

You know, in the Weird Kentucky book I referred to this as a GWAR car (you know, the insane blood-splattering metal band?).... but now I wonder if it doesn't actually say "GNAR"?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Letters, We Get Letters

From the ol' JSH mailbag yesterday came this friendly and charming e-mail:

Mr. Holland,
I was very disappointed to see your page on the Creation Museum contain so many inaccuracies. Adam and Eve are presented as being middle brown, not Caucasian, there is no mention of people saddling dinosaurs ( the dino with a saddle on it is for picture taking), and there is absolutely no statement anywhere that says pornography and abortion are a direct result of the earth being millions of years old. Your statement that there are no reputable source citations provided for its claims is a lie. You don't agree with their opinion, that's all. Many, many educated scientists are on staff, but because they hold a different interpretation of evidence than you, they are not qualified or reputable? Your facts are wrong and you misrepresent the museum's position, isn't it funny that you did what you accuse them of doing? I am surprised your editor allowed so many lies into the book. Where is your professionalism?
Pam in CA

To which the author responds:

I'm not going to argue about it. I never claimed to have, or to seek, "professionalism" - whatever that means. I'm a lout. I suck. So does ABC News. So does Richard Dawkins. So does City Beat. So does The Chicago Tribune. So does Scientific American. We're all totally wrong and you're totally right. You totally nailed us. Have a great day.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cowbell Cemetery

This is a great cemetery on the outskirts of Berea, but it's difficult to get to. You have to park by the side of Big Hill Road (which starts out as Prospect Street in Berea) which isn't exactly simple, since it's a winding and hilly country road and the pull-over place isn't obvious the first time you pass it. Once you do manage to pull over to the right spot, you have to hop a fence and then walk some distance to get to the graveyard's location nestled in the hills. It's a fascinating rural graveyard with lots of unusual homemade headstones and odd items left on graves.

Of all the cemeteries we've surveyed, this cemetery probably has the highest quotient of plastic whirlygigs, concrete trolls and animals, toys, shepherd's hooks, plastic flowers, and whatnot. A recurring theme here seems to be baby dolls sealed in glass jars and plastic jugs, which has an eerie and disturbing element not intended by the bereaved.

Abandoned Boonesboro Tourist Traps

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hanging Bridge in Berea

A user recently posted this entry on the Unusual Kentucky message board:

I have known about the Unusual Kentucky site for quite some time now and I would like to suggest a place of interest.

Hanging Bridge in Berea, Kentucky, a few miles away from Airport Road, is a genuinely creepy place, especially at around dusk and night.

I've been there myself, on multiple occasions, during the night and day. In the daytime, you don't usually encounter much. The only thing I have experienced during daylight hours are rather odd noises, like footsteps, on the bridge itself, when the air is mostly still, and traffic is nil. The two things that will make your skin crawl during the day, however, are not near Hanging Bridge, but a few miles before it in the forms of two old, abandoned houses.

However, this place tends to get a little more active when daylight expires.

The first time I ever went to Hanging Bridge, I remember seeing a strange, blue light in the woods behind my friend's truck. I did a double take to make sure that there wasn't some far-off man-made light source causing this, and there was not.

I returned again the next night with another friend and had a more intense experience....
Click here to continue and read the full post.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Welcome to Penile!

Long have I been intrigued by a tiny Jefferson County town, listed only on the most detailed Kentucky maps, known as Penile.

Why on Earth is there a town called Penile? No one seems to know. As if it's not bad enough (or hilarious enough, depending on your point of view) to have a town whose name begs for puerile jokes, two intersections in the area have equally unfortunate names. The corner of Penile and Cummings is one, and then there's the corner of Penile and Manslick. I swear I'm not making this up.

For more on glorious downtown Penile, turn to page 182 in your copy of Weird Kentucky.

Penile Polar Bear

Forget lawn jockeys, plastic deer and chalk kittycats, concrete polar bears in your yard is what's happenin'. So sayeth I, anyway. And no, don't misunderstand the title of this entry - the polar bear is located in the small Kentucky town known as Penile.

No, really, that's the town's name. Srsly, dude.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Pete the Talking Crow

Georgetown, KY is the final resting place of a most unlikely legend: Pete the Talking Crow, who is said to be buried in a coffin with no grave marker somewhere on the campus of Georgetown College.

Details are sketchy on wherefore Pete and his owner, one Dave Adams, came to be in Scott County, but we do know that Adams ran a hat shop in downtown Georgetown and that his trained bird Pete was a constant companion around town. According to one account, such reknown was Pete's that he was permitted to enter restaurants on Adams' shoulder. According to another, Adams taught Pete to yell "Go!" as a practical joke at small racetracks, confusing the horses and causing races to start prematurely.

In 1832, Pete was shot and killed by some idiot kid with a rifle. But Pete's memory lives on today, in the form of a Japanese animatronic robot currently on display in the Georgetown & Scott County Museum.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Hardin County Graverobber

This is an article from Elizabethtown's News-Enterprise that I saved a few years back, and used to have featured on the old Unusual Kentucky website back in the day:

"Convicted grave robber dies, is cremated"

The death of an elderly Rineyville woman who was convicted of grave violation for swiping items left at the graves of numerous children has brought a small piece of closure to some families.

Lois Bonnell Dupuis, 80, died Sunday at Hardin Memorial Hospital and was cremated.

She was convicted of stealing hundreds of stuffed animals, wreaths, toys and trinkets left on the resting-places of babies and small children by their families and friends.

But Dupuis herself will not have a grave marked with flowers, candles or other gifts left by mourners. The only relative listed on her obituary is a nephew who is currently serving a lengthy prison sentence.

"I hate it that someone passed away," said Kevin Young. Items were stolen numerous times from his daughter Alexus Nicole Young's grave. "But maybe there is some peace for us knowing that maybe something won't happen to her grave anymore."

Kevin and Jamie Young have visited their daughter's grave at least once a week since she was stillborn in March 1999. He said they always went to spend time with her, but there was also the added fear they'd find something missing.

He said he and other parents who were victimized began to mark the items left on graves with their names and other information for identification purposes.

"We'll still do that," he said. "Because she's not the only person who has ever done this."

Donna Heaverin, whose daughter Madison Adair Heaverin died after 56 minutes in July 1999, said she feels some relief with Dupuis' passing.

"I'm not glad she died, but now maybe I won't worry so much," she said.

Heaverin said all of Madison's stolen gifts except a wind chime were found in Dupuis' home and returned by authorities.

Dupuis served several stints in jail in the last five years, twice for four months each, for the crime of violating graves, a misdemeanor.

Despite her claims in court that she was not a threat to commit further crimes because of her age and health, Dupuis was also convicted for stealing license plates and vehicle registration decals from stores and car lots in Jefferson County in 2002.

A search of her home by the Hardin County Sheriff's Office in the spring of that year yielded 422 items stolen from graves, mainly from Elizabethtown Memorial Gardens Babyland.

Sheriff's Detective Bob Hornback said at the time that Dupuis was known to frequent other cemeteries and that the house "was quite full of trinkets."

Although she claimed she couldn't get around well, several families visiting cemeteries caught Dupuis running away and fleeing in a van when confronted with stolen items in her hands.

Major Bob Baker with the Sheriff's office said in 2002, despite her age, "she can run like a deer."

Long recognizing the theft problem at Elizabethtown Memorial Gardens, Baker said the sheriff's department spent more than 100 hours watching the cemetery, even setting up surveillance equipment to catch the thief.

It is also unclear when, if ever, Dupuis had a driver's license. Searches of driving records found no record of anyone by her name.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sanders Cafe

Corbin, KY is home to Sanders Cafe, which was the first Kentucky Fried Chicken establishment, opened by Colonel Harlan Sanders in 1940. It originally functioned as the built-in restaurant for Sanders' motel, which sadly no longer exists, but don't panic: the museum has a meticulously detailed scale model diarama of the entire block as it appeared back in the day.

The museum (which is registered as an official historic site) is filled with all manner of figurines and busts of Sanders and all variety of bric-a-brac with the Colonel's likeness, no matter how trivial and peripheral (even the original paraphenalia issued to advertise the museum's opening in 1990 is enshrined as if antique).

The look and feel of Sanders' original restaurant is maintained for the most part, but the effect is somewhat killed by having a completely modern and glitzy KFC serving counter in the midst of it all.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Murray State's Shoe Tree

There's a very strange tradition that pops up in several places around the world, seemingly independently of each other, and that's the quaint surrealist custom known as the "Shoe Tree". According to Wikipedia, "There are currently at least seventy-six such shoe trees in the United States, and an undetermined number elsewhere."

Kentucky has one such tree, and it's located on the grounds of Murray State University in Calloway County. The Murray State Shoe Tree is in front of the Pogue Library, and has been a local curiosity for many, many years. There's not a lot left of the tree - in fact, it's really reduced to a tall stump these days - apparently because all the nails driven into the tree to attach the shoes over the years have literally turned it into a lightning rod and it keeps getting zapped during thunderstorms.

The tradition, as the story is told, is that if a couple who met at Murray State end up getting hitched, they return to their alma mater and nail their shoes to the Shoe Tree. Why? No one seems to know.

If said couple has a baby, the baby's shoes are then nailed to the tree as well. Why? No one seems to know.

Don't ask, just accept it.

The Silver Diner

The older you get and the more things change, the more stuff gets complicated. I find I'm gradually turning into one of those old codgers who, when asked directions, tell you "we-e-llll, you go down what used to be called Walnut Street, then take a right at what used to be Grimplemeyer's Florist, and then you'll see the vacant lot where the old Fonebone Building used to be."

Back in the day, there was Cain's Diner in downtown Richmond, across from where the old post office used to be on Water Street, see.

Meanwhile, in Laurel County, we had the fine, fine, super-fine establishment known as the Silver Diner in London, KY (see first photo). The Silver Diner was always a favorite retro-eatery of ours, and was featured on our old site for years. Sadly, I hear tell that The Silver Diner of London has closed its doors.

But this morning it was brought to my attention that Cain's Diner is under new management yet again (for like the third time - Cain himself passed on years ago) and has now changed its name to, yes, you guessed it, the Silver Diner (see second photo). As if all of this isn't confusing enough, the MySpace page for this new incarnation of Cain's/Silver Diner is called Mama Carol's Diner. It's baffling, it's mystifying, it's more than one man can stomach.

Just prior to starting this blog entry, I made a phone call out to this diner car once called Cain's and now called Silver and maybe also called Mama Carol's, to try to sort out the tangled strands of factoids like spaghetti in the chili. Unfortunately, I was told by whoever answered the phone that they were too busy to talk. And that's fair enough. If I was a businessman in a hurry at their lunch counter, I'd be sayin' "get off the raprod and bring me my damn pancakes, lady" myself.

I look forward to trying the grub at this new improved version of the diner and if you've eaten there lately yourself, send us a report!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sir Robert E. Lee King

Almost walking distance from Bondurant's Pharmacy lies another mysterious piece of puzzling evidence about the human condition - or at least it did at one time.

In 2003 (when these photographs were taken), I was wandering around in the Hillcrest Memorial Park cemetery at 2089 Versailles Road in Lexington. I was looking for interesting gravestones and this one caught my eye with the royal name.

But upon closer inspection, I realized that someone had defaced King's photo on the grave, gouging out part of his face. It took a few moments to realize that "CSA" meant "Confederate States of America"..... and then I saw the Rebel flags on a second stone bearing his name.

The odd inscription on the main stone baffled me most of all:

Here lies a boy dead to the world

He loved once and was loved once

But now he is dead

It was also very surprising to me that the grave desecration hadn't been repaired by anyone. Even removing the photo plate altogether would be better than leaving the defaced one up. From the looks of it, it had been damaged for some time.

But the drama didn't stop there.

Near Sir King's grave, I found the grave of one Leslie D. "Dougie Do-Right" King, 1941-1997. Dougie's stone has an odd inscription similar in style, syntax and theme to Sir Robert E. Lee King's, and makes reference to someone named Jo Ann Kearns. For unknown reasons, someone has tried really, really hard to obliterate Jo Ann Kearns' name. What is up with these people??

This weekend, driving home from my book-signing event at Morris Book Shop, I drove by Hillcrest Memorial Park and decided to stop and check in on Sir King and Dougie. I thought I knew exactly where they were, but I drove in circles for twenty minutes and couldn't find them even though I'm convinced I was in the right spot. My guess is, someone finally got fed up with the grave desecration, had the bodies exhumed and moved them somewhere safer. If they're still there and I just missed them, drop me a line and let me know.

As with all reports of unusual and interesting graves on this site, we intend to show our respect to these people by featuring them here. Our sometimes waggish tone should not, not, not be construed as not taking grave desecration seriously. We have zero tolerance for cemetery vandalism, and even though Mr.King is a total stranger to us, if we ever found out who damaged his headstone, we might be tempted to hurt them real bad in seven places and smite them with the Curse of Grillo's Grandfather.

Bondurant's Pharmacy

This drive-thru pharmacy, shaped like an enormous mortar and pestle, can be found at 1465 Village Drive in Lexington, KY.

(Do people even know what mortars and pestles are anymore? I doubt it.)

The people here are very proud of their unusual structure and are happy to tell visitors all about it. Believe it or not, this building dates back only to the 1970s, not the 30s-60s heyday of creative mimetic architecture.

You can see an aerial view on Google Maps here.

Friday, July 11, 2008

JSH book signing at Morris Book Shop!

Where: Morris Book Shop, 408 Southland Drive, Lexington, KY 40503. When: Around 2 o'clock in the afternoon, tomorrow, June 12th. Call: (859)276-0494.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Madison Middle School ghost photo

Our post about the Madison County Middle School caught the eye of reader Christen Allen, who said:

We've got a picture of three or four apparitions on the third floor of this building. The pic was taken at 1:03 am. three appear to be men, one a little girl sitting at a desk.
The photograph, taken by her friend Tamara Thomas of Richmond, does seem to show something peculiar-looking in the windows, but because of the sharp looking-upward angle of the photograph, I'm not entirely sure that what we're seeing could be people seated in desks. They look more to me like some sort of round-headed dolls or puppets that were placed on or near the windowsill. Hard to say for sure though.

Two versions of the image are presented here: the original, and a lightened version made in hopes of clarifying details. Click to enlarge.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Bar Kokhba Coins

In 1952, a man in Clay City found a strange coin in his hog pen, in part of a field alongside Route 15 - a field that had just recently been plowed for the very first time. The coin was later determined to be from the Bar Kokhba rebellion, in which Simon Bar Kokhba led the Jews to split away from Roman Empire and form a short-lived sovereign state, which was re-conquered by the Romans in the year 135. His name is Aramaic for "Son of a Star" and was intended as a reference to Numbers 24:17, "there shall step forth a star out of Jacob."

The mysterious coin was the subject of an article by Joe Creason in the Louisville Courier-Journal on July 12, 1953. However, in later years, several experts (including the curator of numismatics at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem) determined that the coin was a fake - but a real fake..... the replica was indeed old in itself, and it has been postulated that it was made for tourists in the very early 20th century as a souvenir of the Holy Land.

But how did it up buried in a field in the middle of nowhere in an extremely remote part of Kentucky? Good question.

And yet, other Bar Kokhba coins have been found in our state, inexplicably. An article in the February 1980 issue of the journal Current Anthropology devotes extensive attention to the subject. Professor J. Huston McCulloch of Ohio State University has also been researching the Kentucky Bar Kokhba phenomenon for some time, and is aware of another Bar Kokhba coin that was dug up in Louisville in 1932, and yet another one found in Hopkinsville in 1967. Still others have turned up in other southern states.

Prof. McCulloch, incidentally, is also a leading authority on two anomalous artifacts known as the Bat Creek Stone (discovered in 1889 inside an undisturbed burial mound in Eastern Tennessee) and the Grave Creek Stone (found in 1838 inside an Adena burial mound in Moundsville, West Virginia). Both of these amazing stone tablets contain writing - possibly Iberian runes on the latter and definitely Hebrew on the former. Though found not in Kentucky but in bordering states, they most certainly are part of the same confusing labyrinth of enigmas surrounding the mound-building civilizations that once inhabited this general region before state lines were drawn.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Fake Ghost Stories

I'm not real big on mere "ghost stories" for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that seemingly everyone has one, and they're usually lacking any useful information.

Too many books about ghosts are simply dry retelling of someone else's hearsay that does serious paranormal investigators little or no good. You know the type - "my Aunt's hairdresser's friend heard a spooky noise in the barn when she was a little girl", etc. This doesn't really serve much purpose, and that's why I tried to keep such junk to a minimum in my Weird Kentucky book.

Compounding the problem are the plethora of internet sites that unquestioningly pass along any sketchy one-sentence rumor of a haunting, just for the sake of having content. One site, Ghosts of America, is particularly offensive to me, because its entries are clearly not only fake, they're randomly computer generated! Examples from their bogus Danville hauntings page, for example, read totally like Mad Libs-style fill-in-the-blank generic ghost story templates, and most don't even make any logical sense:

A lady with her arms severed can often be seen at a coin operated phone in Danville making a phone call.

The phantom of a guy grasping a blood-splattered sword may be seen over and over again examining the surroundings from the highest spot of Berger Knob around midnight.

An armed forces uniform pacing about lacking a body in it has now and then been spotted wandering through a Danville vicinity graveyard. A lot of residents claim this ghost may be the soul of a resident who passed on here in Danville many years ago. In any event, this is a hostile ghost that you shouldn't go looking for.

The ghost of a badly burned female is every now and then made out devastating a shoe beside a deserted highway in the vicinity of Danville before dawn.

The ghost of a train driver has been perceived on many instances in Fort Boonesborough State Park right by the ranger station trying to locate a bag.

A woman lacking a head can sometimes be observed being in an uninhabited structure in Danville. No matter what, it's a creepy ghost that should be stayed away from.

We here at Unusual Kentucky refuse to succumb to mere campfire storytelling without providing at least hard facts like when and where so you folks at home can go inspect the scene for yourselves. The internet's signal-to-noise ratio is increasingly unfavorable, and may soon render it worthless (not just for paranormal research but for all things.)

Walter Tevis

Walter Tevis was a good ol' Madison County boy who served in World War II at a young age, attended Model High School (now Model Laboratory School) in Richmond, and went on to college at the University of Kentucky. His two biggest passions were playing pool and writing, and he somehow managed to juggle the two well enough to earn his Masters degree. Tevis spent a great deal of time in the smoky, dirty pool rooms of Richmond, even after becoming a schoolteacher in small towns like Science Hill, Irvine, and Carlisle. Later, he went on to become a professor at UK, and then Ohio University. His pool shark's life of drinking and smoking caught up with him in the end, however, and in his final years he battled alcoholism and lung cancer. He died in New York in 1984.

Oh, and he also just happened to be the author of three blockbuster novels: The Hustler, The Color of Money, and the Science Fiction classic The Man Who Fell to Earth, all three of which were also made into equally blockbuster Hollywood films.

The nationwide pool craze created by Tevis with his book The Hustler and the subsequent movie version single-handedly revolutionized the billiards industry, making it what it is today and giving it enormous new popularity and respectability.

For what it's worth, Tevis also inadvertently gave the world "Minnesota Fats", AKA Rudolph Wanderone Jr., the world famous pool player who achieved fame by appropriating the name of a character in The Hustler and claiming that Tevis (whom he had never met) had based the book on him! Tevis denied this and called Wanderone a fraud, stating, "I made up Minnesota Fats just as Walt Disney made up Donald Duck."

Tevis is buried in the Richmond Cemetery in Madison County, not far from where the last of the great old Richmond pool halls - Taylor's Billiards - still existed up until just last month.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Ron Whitehead

Ron Whitehead is a gloriously cantankerous and curmudgeonly writer/poet from the old old school, cut from the same cloth as Ambrose Bierce and Jonathan Swift, as well as his Beat-era heroes like Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso. For years Ron has been toiling away at his numerous books of poetry and prose, and making countless appearances at readings and other events with his band Southside.

What I admire about Ron is not so much his literary skills, formidable though they are; what I get off on most is the man's moxie and stubbornness at self-promotion, and determination. He even had the chutzpah to approach the Dalai Lama and to cajole him into writing a poem together with him.

To really get the full flavor of Ron's peculiar brand of Kentucky-centric rants, however, you have to hear him read his works, preferably in person. Delivered in a style, pitch, and meter that's somewhere between Steve Railsback's portrayal of Charles Manson and Dennis Hopper's character in Apocalypse Now.

Whitehead lives in the splendor of the Louisville Highlands, in the Cherokee Park area, and welcomes visitors to his home that is literally a museum about himself - he calls it the "Bone Man Museum" and charges one bottle of red wine admission. (Among the artifacts on display: a portrait of himself and his (now ex) wife Sarah, which he commissioned me to paint for him in 2005. See below.)