James Brown not going anywhere

Years ago, I wrote a weekly column for The Valdosta Daily Times. After three years, I ran out of material. Thank goodness that won't happen here.

Last week's hot topic was once again, James Brown - post-home going.

Where will he be buried? Who, besides the lawyers, will get the money? What's in the will? What did you think about Tomi Rae on the Larry King show? Were those crocodile tears? Can the Brown estate force a paternity test? Who will keep the turkey giveaway going? And so on.

That's enough to keep me from staring at the computer screen waiting for inspiration for the next few years.

WHERE WILL JAMES BROWN BE BURIED? Coliseum Authority member Richard Isdell thinks the perfect spot is at the James Brown Arena on the Seventh Street side yard where the Bradford Pear trees are. He wants to move the statue down there, too. He didn't say so, but that would secure the future of the arena that has existed under the shadow of a wrecking ball for a few years now.

Former authority member and Broad Street businesswoman Bonnie Ruben's vision is for Mr. Brown to be buried at Augusta Common and for the Kress Building, which she owns, to be turned into a Music Hall of Fame and James Brown Museum.

"We need to do something for James Brown on Broad Street because that's where he started out," she said. "It would be a wonderful tribute to him. We could put memorabilia there to document his fantastic rags-to-riches story and play his music all day."

Ms. Ruben sees "a dynamic center of activity radiating from the 800 block of Broad Street, which is the center of downtown Augusta."

She's pitched the idea to many people, she said, such as Mr. Brown's attorney Buddy Dallas and business manager David Cannon, but can't get anywhere.

She says everybody gives her the brushoff.

As for the Brown family's plan to bury him at the Beech Island property and turn it into a museum a la Graceland, Ms. Ruben is skeptical.

"If they think people are going to go to a museum in Beech Island, they are badly mistaken," she said.

WHY THERE IS NO ISLAND IN BEECH ISLAND: One theory is that it was originally Beech Highland because of a stand of Beech trees on a high bluff overlooking the Savannah River, but over the years the local yokels dropped the H, and it became Beech Island.

WHO BESIDES THE LAWYERS WILL GET THE MONEY? I'm betting on the lawyers.

THE TRACKS OF YOUR TEARS, OR AN OPEN LETTER TO TOMI RAE

Dear Tomi Rae,

When you cry on TV, your tears must flow generously and coincide with your outpourings of grief.

I recommend non-waterproof mascara, so it will run down your face and make your performance more believable. All great tragediennes know this.

WHAT'S IN THE WILL? It doesn't matter. Where there's a will, there's a way - to challenge it.

WILL JAMES JR. HAVE TO PROVE HE'S REALLY A BROWN? Only if all the Brown children do, says Tomi Rae.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE BIRTHDAY BASH? OR HITCH YOUR WAGON TO A STAR:

Charles Walker Jr. and some Coliseum Authority members want it to merge with the James Brown Music Festival to become a giant celebration on Mr. Brown's birthday May 3.

Others don't. They want no part of anything Mr. Walker is involved with after last year's controversial festival, but they don't want to say so openly for fear of creating a controversy themselves, especially in light of calls for unity from Commissioner Calvin Holland and state Rep. Wayne Howard during last week's coliseum authority meeting.

Some authority members would like to see their general manager "Flash" Gordon handle the birthday bash the way he handled the James Brown funeral service at the arena. He has contacts throughout the entertainment industry and the experience and professionalism to make it a first-class event.

Mr. Walker, meanwhile, said the controversy over last summer's fiasco was not his fault. He also said his role in this year's event would be limited to his foundation's ownership of the rights to the James Brown Music Festival.

If all sides really can work together with the involvement of the entire city as Mr. Walker suggested, this year's James Brown Festival could be, as Mr. Walker said, "Unreal."

WHO PUT THE FLASH IN FLASH GORDON? When Robert "Flash" Gordon, general manager of James Brown Arena, got out of the New York School of Announcing and Speech in 1964 eager to begin his radio career, there was just one obstacle. He couldn't get a job in radio in New York "back in the day," so he came back to Augusta.

Here, Mal Cook "The Soul Cat Who Wrote The Book" - also program director for WAGU in the basement of the Bon Air Hotel - gave him a job.

"He gave me two hours a day and about four or five hours on the weekend to get me started in radio," he said. "And Mr. Louis Solomon who was the manager asked me about the name that I had. Everybody on the radio had nicknames at that time. And I told him that as a child they called me Bobby, and I was using the name Bobby Styles, you know, like 'Styles on your dial.' He didn't seem to like that. He said, 'You don't have another name you can use?' I respected his judgment because this man had been in radio for years. I said, 'As a boy, I used to be around the house at some friends and they called me Flash.'

"He said, 'Flash. Flash. People will remember that as long as you live. Folks will remember that. That will be a big name for you.'

"And, of course, we found that to be true. I've been known throughout the industry over the years as 'Flash' Gordon."

VISITORS' VIEW: The Washington, D.C., writing team of Roy J. and Stephanie Myers attended the James Brown funeral service and offer these thoughts on Mr. Brown and Augusta:

"Augusta has the opportunity to do some bridge building in order to make the most of the legacy of James Brown."

- Roy J. Myers

"The citizens of Augusta, Ga., lost decades of benefits from the fame of James Brown. Local hostility and discrimination cost the city in revenue, a local music tourism industry and publicity from James Brown's worldwide network of fans. It will be ironic if Augusta now benefits from the fame of a man that the city was ambivalent towards. In my view, the best way Augusta can honor James Brown and make up for past hurts is to make sure that talented and perhaps overlooked young, black youth in Augusta have good education, equal opportunity and backing by local resources. There are other James Browns in the ghettos and rural countryside of Augusta - be smart Augusta - don't lose again."

- Stephanie E. Myers

HOW TO GET RICH QUICK: Buy some of Augusta's elected officials for what they're worth and sell them for what they think they're worth.

A MODEST PROPOSAL FOR SAVING THE GEORGIA GOLF HALL OF FAME: Put a Tilt-A-Whirl on the grounds and charge admission. People might actually pay to get in.

WORSE THAN GOING TO THE DENTIST: Supporters, attorneys and judges from all of the three counties in the Augusta Judicial Circuit filled the courtroom last week to watch the swearing-in of the newest Superior Court judge, David Roper.

Among the robed dignitaries were U.S. District Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. and Judge John Ruffin, the chief judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals, who came to town especially for the ceremony and had to drive back to Atlanta the same day.

Conspicuously absent was the man whose seat on the bench Judge Roper won: now Senior Judge William M. Fleming Jr.

Just where was he?

At the dentist's office. He said he didn't see the e-mail notice of the ceremony until that very morning - too late to change the appointment.

City Ink thanks Staff Writer Sandy Hodson for her contribution to this week's column.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

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