Happy soon-to-be New Year, friends!
2018 may be closing on a sour note, what with the government shutdown and the stock market volatility and political turmoil and such, it’s true. So with that in mind, let’s take a last look at 2018 and high tail it off to 2019, what do you say?
Your mighty “In Other News…” column turned 5 in April, which works out to be 260 columns. As of this writing, I’m coming up on close to 300, give or take. Or 300 sleepless Thursdays. That’s another way to look at it.
I have to take one away this year, because this happened:
That little number caused me to miss my first week in five years due to a sword fighting injury during Kentucky Shakespeare’s “Henry IV Part I.” I never want to miss — I turned in a mighty “In Other News…” column even while on honeymoon — but if you have to miss, sword fight injury is a good excuse.
“Top Chef” Season 16 started filming in May in and around Louisville.
They hung out in NuLu a bit, hitting Feast, Red Herring, Garage Bar, Royals, Lueberry and more.
The season started on Dec. 6 and you can catch that Thursday nights at 9 p.m. on Bravo.
Justify won your 144th running of the Kentucky Derby.
The Eagles of Philadelphia defeated the Patriots of New England.
That’s not a Louisville thing, but it’s a thing.
And The Ohio The Ohio River rose more than 20 feet and put parts of Downtown Louisville under water in February.
It feels like it’s still rising.
And Louisville’s Collin Sage became your new “Forged in Fire” champion on The History Channel.
Listmania: And per usual, we made it onto a lot of lists.
Forbes proclaimed Louisville on its way to becoming “America’s aging capital.”
VinePair ranked Louisville No. 9 on its list of “The World’s Top 10 Beer Destinations for 2018.”
Kentucky ranked No. 46 overall on “2018’s Best & Worst States for Singles” from WalletHub.
Reader’s Digest chose The Kentucky Castle in Versailles as the most romantic dinner spot on their list of “The Most Romantic Valentine’s Day Restaurants in Every State.”
Forbes gave Louisville the top spot on its list of “The 10 Coolest U.S. Cities to Visit in 2018.”
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America ranked Louisville No. 2 in its report: “The Most Challenging Places to Live with Spring Allergies.”
TIME invited you “Meet the 31 People who are Changing the South” which included Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson of 21c Museum Hotels.
Louisville received a perfect score for the fourth year in a row on the 2018 Municipal Equality Index from The Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the Equality Federation Institute.
LendingTree ranked Louisville at No. 4 for the “Most Promising Places to Open a Restaurant” in the U.S.
Politics: A few local stories got a lot of national attention this year.
Kentucky became the first state to receive approval from the Trump administration to place a work requirement for Medicaid benefits in January.
Opponents said people would lose coverage; proponents said people would lose coverage. Health experts said the whole thing was a bad idea. Governor Matt Bevin threatened to end coverage if any part of his Medicaid revamp was challenged.
Which it was. Opponents fought it in court, arguing Trump administration officials acted illegally and in conflict with Medicaid law when granting Kentucky approval to proceed. A federal judge blocked it in late June. The Trump administration approved Mr. Bevin’s plan a second time in November. Litigation will continue.
Kentucky passed Senate Bill 151 in March, an 11-page sewage bill that had transformed into a 291-page pension reform bill. Educators flooded the Capitol from all over the state to protest the bill as well as stress the need for increased education funding as a two-year state budget loomed.
Meanwhile, legislators put together a two-year state operating budget that includes record new spending for public education, which the governor vetoed, but with public pressure looming, Kentucky lawmakers overrode the veto.
A chagrined Gov. Bevin accused the protesters of being disrespectful on the Capitol lawn and said their absence from work put kids in harm’s way, going so far as to say:
Children were harmed — some physically, some sexually, some were introduced to drugs for the first time — because they were vulnerable and left alone.
That didn’t go over so well and he later apologized, kind of, to the people who misunderstood.
Meanwhile, Kentucky attorney general Andy Beshear filed a lawsuit the following morning, seeking to block the bill, saying its contents were illegal and its passage violated Kentucky’s constitution. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Supreme Court agreed. The court ruled the pension bill was passed in such a way it didn’t give state lawmakers a “fair opportunity” to consider it.
In November of 2017, Sen. Rand Paul suffered a set of injuries following a surprise assault from his neighbor while doing yard work. Rene Boucher, the man accused of the attack, pleaded guilty in March and sentenced to 30 days in prison in June.
In February, Sen. Paul temporarily held up a bipartisan budget deal citing its effect on the deficit. That was our first government shutdown of the year, albeit a brief one. His colleague, Republican Sen. Charles Dent of Pennsylvania, said:
When Rand Paul pulls a stunt like this, it easy to understand why it’s difficult to be Rand Paul’s next-door neighbor.
In August, not long after the President Trump’s Helsinki meeting and press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Sen. Paul took a trip to Russia. Sen. Paul was a voice of support amid a wave of criticism and confusion regarding the president’s performance.
He first wrote about the trip in a Politico Op-Ed a few weeks ago:
In just a few weeks, I will take my own trip to Russia in an attempt to discuss common ground with their leaders and help prevent further, unnecessary escalation of tensions. We will discuss trade, cultural exchanges and how to better work for peace and prosperity in the world. I look forward to consulting with Trump between his visit and mine and to working with diplomats from both countries to have a successful trip and better relationships. Millions of lives could be at stake.
While there, Senator Paul said he was honored to deliver a letter from the President to President Putin.
But then the White House said that’s not what happened at all.
So a little bit of a puffing up on the part of Sen. Paul.
Staying with the Senate, Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell became the longest-serving Republican leader in Senate history, surpassing former senator Bob Dole.
Sen. Mitch McConnell faced an unusual challenge from a candidate in West Virginia’s GOP primary. Don Blankenship ran this ad, calling him “swamp captain” and “cocaine Mitch”:
Surprisingly, Mr. Blankenship came in a distant third in that race. Sen. McConnell’s team released this:
That’s a reference to the show “Narcos” and maybe rubbing Mr. Blankenship’s nose in the mess a little.
As the midterm elections approached, The Washington Post looked at what’s going on behind the curtain in its piece: “With little fanfare, Trump and McConnell reshape the nation’s circuit courts.” Which, according to University of Pittsburgh law professor Arthur D. Hellman, is where the real power sits:
The Supreme Court gets the bulk of the attention, but the circuit courts decide the bulk of the cases. Because the Supreme Court these days is taking so few cases, the law of the circuit is, on many, many issues, the final law for the people who live in that circuit.
Speaking of midterms, as predicted by most, Democrats took control in the House while Republicans increased their majority in the Senate.
Closer to home, Democrat Elwood Caudill Jr. defeated Kim Davis for Rowan County Clerk. This was the first time Ms. Davis was up for re-election following The Great 2015 Marriage License Debacle, in which she refused to issue marriage licenses following the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of marriage equality.
Republican Andy Barr defeated Democratic challenger Amy McGrath in another high profile race.
There’s talk she may run for Governor. There’s precedent for that. Governor Bevin ran after losing his primary challenge to Mitch McConnell in 2014.
And Democrat Jim Glenn beat incumbent Republican D.J. Johnson in the race for Kentucky’s state House District 13 (Owensboro) — winning by a single vote. Every vote counts, indeed.
Sportsball: A bit of a rough year for Louisville sports, but a few bright spots with even brighter ones on the horizon.
The fallout from the University of Louisville’s recent scandals continued into 2018.
In February, the NCAA upheld its ruling Louisville must forfeit over 100 wins including its 2013 National Championship. The NCAA made its initial ruling in June of 2017 as a result of the 2015 escort scandal.
My long lost cousin Kevin Ware was a guard on the 2013 championship team. He had this to say:
It’s the first time a Division I basketball team has been stripped of the title.
Then there’s the Adidas scandal. You may recall in 2017, an FBI investigation alleged reps from Adidas paid Brian Bowen’s family $100,000 to secure his commitment to the University of Louisville.
Coach Rick Pitino and AD Tom Jurich were fired and Bowen eventually transferred to play for the Gamecocks of South Carolina in January. But ongoing issues with his eligibility made in impossible to play college ball, Brain Bowen Jr. now plays for the Sydney Kings in Australia, hoping to get the attention of the NBA.
In March, Rick Pitino said he’d like to coach again, he just needed it to be “someone who believes in me.” But by September, he’d given up on that.
While promoting his book, “Pitino: My Story” he told ESPN’s Mike Greenberg he was done coaching.
That stayed true for a few months.
In the book, he maintains his innocence in the Cardinal scandals and says he wrote the book for closure.
The trial surrounding the Adidas pay-to-play recruiting scandal began in early October. Late in the trial, former Adidas consultant and ex-AAU coach T.J. Gassnola testified Pitino was not aware of the deal, corroborating Pitino’s story. And that may have helped pave the way for Pitino to return to coaching after all. He was hired as the head coach of the Greek EuroLeague’s Panathinaikos, based in Athens, announced just last week.
As for your battling basketball Cardinals, David Padgett did an admirable job holding the team together following the abrupt loss of Pitino last fall. They were even a point away from beating No. 1 ranked Virginia. But Padgett wouldn’t shake the “Interim” label and at the end of March, your Cardinals hired Xavier’s Chris Mack to take over the program in a seven-year deal worth about $4 million per year.
The men’s team did not make the NCAA tournament field of 64, but the women sure did. They were the No. 1 seed, making it all the way to the Final Four where they lost to the Bulldogs of Mississippi State, 73-63.
And Up the street over in Lexington, your University of Kentucky winning Wildcats entered the tournament as the No. 5 seed. They went as far as the Sweet 16 where they fell to the Wildcats of Kansas State.
Your battling basketball Cardinals (9-3) will face your No. 16 winning Wildcats (9-2) tomorrow here at the YUM! Center at 2 p.m. ESPN2 will carry the game.
Over to football, Lamar Jackson played his last game as a University of Louisville fighting football Cardinals in a 31-27 loss to the Bulldogs of Mississippi State in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
The following week he declared himself eligible for the NFL draft. Here’s what he had to say:
My time in Louisville has produced some of the best memories of my life. I have had the pleasure of being in the presence of some of the best professors, coaches, advisers, training staff, athletes and fans, in the nation. With their help, I have been able to grow not only as a quarterback, but as a teammate, student, and most of all, a man.
In the months leading up to the NFL draft, his star seemed to fluctuate, with scouts speculating whether the former Heisman winner’s skills would translate to the NFL. But with the last pick in the first round, he went to the Baltimore Ravens, a team virtually no prognosticator predicted he’d land.
On Nov. 19, he picked up his first start due to an injured Joe Flacco, defeating the Bengals of Cincinnati 24-21. He’s been the starter ever since with a record of 5-1 (the Ravens are currently 9-6), he may have saved his coach’s job and the Ravens are now looking at a potential playoff spot.
So he’s just doing what he does.
The Ravens finish the regular season in Baltimore versus the Cleveland Browns this Sunday.
Unfortunately, the loss of Jackson devastated the Cardinals. Either they hadn’t fully calculated what that loss would mean or the team was already pretty bad and having the best player in college football masked all the flaws.
They won two of their first three outings, but the cracks were already showing and just a few weeks into the season, Yahoo! Sports named the Louisville one of the five “most disappointing teams in college football so far” and questioned how long head coach Bobby Petrino would keep his job. The line at the time was he’d stay at least through the end of the season.
But by Nov. 11, with the Cardinals losing most of their games and allowing a healthy amount of their opponents to score 50 points or more, they fired him. The Cardinals also let go of the rest of the Petrino family: his son, quarterbacks coach Nick Petrino and his sons-in-law, linebackers coach Ryan Beard and defensive line coach L.D. Scott.
From the first whispers of a coaching change in September, Jeff Brohm’s name was the one on most people’s lips. Brohm was a local favorite, currently making good progress as head coach at Purdue. He opted to stay at Purdue, which I think is was the right call for everyone, really.
That was the minority opinion, however, as people were burning his jerseys (and his brother’s) and saying all kinds of nonsense. Like Thor Wiljanen of Louisville, for instance, who police say posted to his Twitter account under the handle “Proud Clarion”: “If Jeff Brohm doesn’t come, we burn down Trinity.”
That series of tweets caught the attention of St. Matthews police. They alerted the school and on Thursday, and Trinity canceled classes, just to be on the safe side. Police arrested Mr. Wiljanen for second-degree terroristic threatening.
The Cardinals would go on to hire Appalachian State’s Scott Satterfield. He’s already on the job.
Papa John’s: In July, John Schnatter, founder and chairman of Papa John’s International, resigned as chairman after Forbes reported him using a racial slur on a conference call with marketing firm Laundry Service.
During a roleplaying exercise, he reportedly said, “Colonel Sanders called blacks n—–s” and never faced any backlash for it. He would later go on to describe his childhood in Indiana, saying people would drag African-Americans from trucks until they died.
Those remarks may have been intended to show his disdain for racism, but that’s not how some on the call took it, according to Forbes story.
Stocks fell. Partners suspended campaigns or sponsorship agreements with Papa Johns. By 2 p.m. he had apologized and accepted responsibility; by late afternoon, he resigned.
Stocks came back up and the company took steps away from the chaos and began to plot its future.
That lasted for all of a few days as the following week saw Mr. Schnatter change course, calling his resignation a “mistake” and saying he wanted back in. He filed a lawsuit to get documents related to his resignation and cast doubt in the ability of Papa John’s CEO Steve Richie to lead the company.
The New York Times reported Papa John’s board adopted a “poison pill” strategy to prevent anyone from taking over the company by buying a controlling share, in this case, Mr. Schnatter, who currently owns 29 percent.
And as all this is playing out, it’s the individual franchises taking the financial hit.
Also that week, the grandson and great granddaughter of Colonel Sanders said the colonel never used that kind of language.
For Mr. Schnatter to use the colonel as a scapegoat for his own horrible, disgusting mouth and racist beliefs is inexcusable.
Mr. Schnatter remained undeterred, saying he should remain the face of the organization even as the company quickly sought to remove it from its branding. He said in an interview with The Associated Press:
At this point, experts opine if Papa John’s can survive the war between founder and company.
Eric Schiffer, chairman of Reputation Management Consultants:
We’re witnessing the single greatest brand suicide in recent consumer history.
And later that week, Papa John’s jumped off of Cardinal Stadium.
Ball State University, Mr. Schnatter’s alma matter, followed suit, removing his name from its Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise.
Meanwhile, franchisees were still suffering, with 6.1 percent drop in same-store sales. In a note addressed to the “franchise community,” Papa John’s CEO Steve Ritchie said the company would offer financial relief in the form of reduced royalty payments in the third and fourth quarters, lower food costs and money for “reimage costs.”
Like his letter to franchisees more aggressively calling out Steve Richie:
The source of the company’s poor performance is rot at the top. The company’s HR department has detailed evidence of sexual misconduct, harassment and intimidation by virtually everyone in Steve’s inner circle, and relating to Board members as well.
He also asserts that the company wanted him back as executive chairman, which the company refutes. Papa John’s released a statement saying:
Once again, John Schnatter is making untrue and disparaging statements in a self-serving attempt to distract from the damaging impact his own words and actions have had on the company and our stakeholders.
The last update looks to be sometime in September.
JPMorgan, one of Papa John’s International’s largest shareholders, “slashed” its stake in the company in September and rumors of a potential auction to sell itself to another company or private equity firm came not far behind.
By week 11, Papa John’s released their first big ad campaign for the post-Schnatter era, “Voices,” designed to refocus the message from one voice, Mr. Schantter’s, to the many voices of the employees and franchisees.
That ad played in the movie theater I was in a couple of weeks ago and the guy behind us told his companion, “I like that. It’s like everybody’s in it together.” So it’s working on that guy.
Crime: Kentucky experienced two mass shootings this year.
A student opened fire at Marshall County High School in Benton, Ky., in January. A 15-year-old shot at students headed to class around 8 a.m., killing two and injuring another 18 people, police said.
Bailey Holt, 15, died at the scene; Preston Ryan Cope, also 15, died at the hospital. Kentucky State Police said 16 were injured by gunfire, the others were injured trying to escape.
The shooter’s attorney alleges witness tampering; the evidentiary hearing will be on Feb. 1.
On Wednesday, Oct. 24, Gregory Bush, walked into the Kroger at 9080 Taylorsville Road around 2:54 p.m. and according to the arrest report, shot Maurice Stallard, 69, in the back of the head and, left the store and shot Vickie Jones, 67, in the parking lot.
Both Mr. Stallard and Ms. Jones were pronounced dead at the scene.
Ed Harrell came into contact with the gunman in the parking lot. Mr. Harrell says he called out to ask what was going on, and the gunman said: “Don’t shoot me. I won’t shoot you. Whites don’t shoot whites.”
Louisville sophomore tight end Kemari Averett was charged with threatening to kill his girlfriend and pointing a gun at her head. The altercation stemmed from Averett’s missing laptop, left in his girlfriend’s care. He pleaded not guilty.
Finally, Louisville Metro Police put a stop to the alleged Gnome Thief.
KFC: KFC, man. They get their own section this year, mostly as one big tip of the hat to their marketing and creative people.
They started 2018 with a French ad featuring a larger than life Colonel Sanders — riding alligators, performing death-defying motorcycle stunts, walking alongside time-traveling luminaries and by golly, even walking the face of the Earth as a giant.
They also brought us gravy cocktails that same month.
Another promotion came in August, with KFC offering $11,000 toward college tuition to the first family to name their kid Harland born September 9.
And I won’t keep you in suspense: yes, someone did it.
Her parents say they’ll call her Harley.
They released a line of streetwear in partnership with Human Made designer Nigo.
And people are genuinely excited about that. And a couple of weeks ago, KFC announced a firewood log that smells like fried chicken.
In partnership with Enviro-Log, the 11 Herbs and Spices Firelog is made up of 100 percent recycled materials, weighing in at five pounds and can burn up to three hours. It sold out the same day.
The parade of Colonel Sanders impersonators continued. Past colonels included Christopher Boyer, Ray Liotta, Rob Lowe, Billy Zane, Vincent Kartheiser, Rob Riggle, Dolph Ziggler, George Hamilton, Jim Gaffigan, Norm Macdonald and Darrell Hammond; 2018 gave us Reba McEntire. That one brought the Internet to its knees.
Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane on “Game of Thrones” and legit world’s strongest man took on Colonel duties for the Double Crispy Colonel Sandwich promotion.
And the folks at KFC were so on target, even when things went wrong, the company’s PR was brilliant. When restaurants ran out of chicken in England back in February, for example, it left customers so bereft they called emergency services. The company responded with this:
Jennifer Lawrence: Jennifer Lawrence has still been pretty darned active for someone taking the year off.
She started her year off with a dubious nominated for a Razzie Award for her work on “mother!” Razzies are given each year to honor the worst the film industry had to offer, which polarizing as that movie may have been, experts said the nomination was off-base. The Razzie went to Tyler Perry for “BOO! 2: A Madea Halloween.”
“Red Sparrow” opened on March 2. Critics called the film “adequate,” with it settling in at just under 50 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, though Ms. Lawrence still received a good amount of love for her performance.
She entered into some sort of feud with Lala Kent of Bravo’s reality show, “Vanderpump Rules.” That lasted for a couple of weeks. She was exonerated in the case of “who bit Beyoncé on the face.”And she started dating N.Y.C. Art Gallery Director Cooke Maroney earlier this year. That went public in June and looks to be going strong.
She became the face of Dior’s fragrance, Joy.
Here’s what François Demachy, Dior perfumer-creator, has to say about Joy:
JOY by Dior expresses this remarkable feeling of joy by offering a olfactive interpretation of light.
This perfume resembles certain pointillist paintings that are rich with a precise, yet not too obvious, technique. It is constructed with multiple nuances, a myriad facets that lead to an expression that is clear and self-evident.
Bringing a new Dior perfume to life is an event. For the entire House, as well as for me. It should rally and delight both women and men.
All that’ll set you back about $100.
She launched her own production company in October with producing partner Justine Polsky, says The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline. It’s called Excellent Cadaver.
We won’t have to wait for Excellent Cadaver’s first outing, mind you; her next film, “X-Men” Dark Phoenix” hits June 7, 2019.
And on Christmas Eve, she made her annual visit to Norton’s Children’s Hospital.
The Great 2018 Media Dump:
Harry Dean Stanton
Red Sparrow Trailer
I’m With Her
Jurassic Super Bowl Spot
Gambino Girl Scout Cookies
Swedish Rapper’s Delight
Emilia Clarke Does Her Wookie
Avengers: Infinity War Gag Reel
Hafthor “Thor” Bjornsson Truck Pull
Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage
X-Men: Dark Phoenix
Seal hits man with Octopus
KFC Cat Climber
Audrey Nethery on Rachael Ray
Toy Story 4
English Gnome Thief
Godzilla King of Monsters
Men in Black
Have the safest of New Year’s and I look forward to hanging out with you in 2019. All the best and thank you for stopping by.
See you next week.