Saturday, March 26, 2011

This is, by a wide margin, the greatest article I have ever seen.

You in my vast reading audience are well aware of my feelings regarding the state of Tennessee (in two words: They're insane). We could get into why I feel that way, but most of you either know the story, or don't care.

Suffice it to say I have come to depend upon Tennessee to give me periodic examples of that insanity. So when I saw this New York Times headline--

In Tennessee, Grand Plans for a $750 Million Theme Park Raise Great Doubt

--I clicked away with great interest. What I found was a treasure trove of insanity beyond my wildest dreams. The deeper you go, the crazier it gets. To begin:

SPRING HILL, Tenn. — Earlier this month, at a news conference in an empty field on the east side of the city, a man named Dennis W. Peterson announced that he was bringing a theme park to the Tennessee countryside.

People had a few questions: Who was this man? What was his background? Where was he getting the money for all this? What happened to his front teeth? (They were recently lost, he explained to reporters, to a crispy chicken wing at Hooters.)

Already, I love this. A bumpkin would-be theme park owner. But as I promised...there's more...

Michael Dinwiddie, the mayor of Spring Hill, was one of the only people to know about the project, having quietly worked on it with Mr. Peterson for two months. It thrilled him. For a small city like Spring Hill, 45 minutes from Nashville, it was the magic kingdom of economic development.

"Mayor Dinwiddie." The man's name and title is "Mayor Dinwiddie." What is this, an 18th-century children's book?

"Mayor Dinwiddie and the Mystery of the Empty Chair."

"Mayor Dinwiddie and the Ice-Cream Social."

"Mayor Dinwiddie Takes a Wife."

"Mayor Dinwiddie Has Two Mommies." (OK, maybe that last one's not from the 18th century)

We continue:

Still, there was something curious about the whole thing. For one, no one had contacted state authorities about the plans.

Hmmmmm. Yes, that does seem curious. You'd think Mayor Dinwiddie would've thought of that.

Local reporters and bloggers uncovered more oddities, starting with Mr. Peterson’s company, the Big International Group of Entertainment. The company, it was discovered, had its license revoked last year by the State of Nevada. The company’s president, Roger Kidneigh, who did not return messages seeking comment, had declared personal bankruptcy, claiming assets of less than $200,000.

Okay...first of all...just how Pythonesque is that company name? "Mr. Peterson now formed a big international group, which he called, 'The Big International Group." Further:

Reached by phone, the woman listed as the company’s treasurer said she had never actually worked for Big International Group and did not want her name associated with it.

"I don't know them, I tell you! Leave me alone!" Before the cock crows, you will deny the Big International Group three times.

Festival Tennessee was not the company’s only dream. Several music magazines had been discussed, as was a theme park in Las Vegas. There were plans for “The Way of the Unicorn,” an animated movie about an orphan named Sailor — to have been voiced by Michael Jackson — who saves the world with the help of some endangered species.

They fell through.

Pity, that sounds as if it could've been a right winner. I'll bet you Robert Zemickis is still kicking himself (not hard enough for my liking...but that's another post).

Thomas Maierle, who is listed as a former officer of Big International Group, said Festival Tennessee would be different.

“It’s not easy putting something like this together,” said Mr. Maierle, who has something of a troubled record himself but says he still advises Mr. Peterson on business dealings. Asked what his position was with the company now, Mr. Maierle, who is on parole in Michigan for possession of “child sexually abusive material,” said that was “a subjective question.” But he said he had faith in Mr. Peterson.

Follow along with me now: A "Magic Kingdom"-style amusement park, which by definition would attract a largely child clientele, and they also wanted to be in business with Michael Jackson, and one of their former officers is a pervert. Are you beginning to sense why this article simply made my heart sing?

Still something missing, though...

David Anthony, a Nashville lawyer, had heard about Festival Tennessee before just about anyone around here. Last year, he said, a man facing foreclosure on several homes came forward with a promise that a millionaire in Florida was planning to buy three of the homes, at an inflated price of around $7 million. As proof of his financial resources, Mr. Anthony said, the millionaire — Mr. Peterson, as it turned out — sent the man a packet of material about vaguely planned projects, including Festival Tennessee and the “Unicorn” movie, with promises that the money would come later.

“These were magic beans,” Mr. Anthony said. The bank he represented in the case was unmoved.

That's it! Magic beans!

But of course, you know, not all the lawmakers of this Tennessee town can be such credulous fools.

This sort of thing gives pause to many Spring Hill residents, including Jonathan Duda, a city alderman. Mr. Duda said he had the same concerns now as he did last year when a man identifying himself as a Nigerian king — a claim viewed skeptically by everyone from the State Department to the Spring Hill police chief — was received with a ceremony on the steps of City Hall.

Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, I mean err um, see?

(He didn't even have to do it through Cyberspace, for god's sake...)

Finally, to return to our hero, Mayor Dinwiddie...

“It should be a very positive story,” Mr. Dinwiddie said in an interview at the Cracker Barrel, where the hostess urged him to ignore all the negativity and asked if her daughter-in-law’s Irish dance troupe could get a show at the theme park.

"In an interview at the Cracker Barrel."

I just love any article that can justifiably use that phrase.

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