In my hometown, Memphis, TN, where Summer Avenue and National
Street meet, there used to be a barbecue restaurant called Little Pigs. There
were several Little Pigs places, in fact, and they all had large signs supported by cartoon-figure, pig-shaped posts.
the early ‘80’s, the Little Pigs restaurant at Summer and National went out of business,
and the location became the home of what is euphemistically referred to as a
“gentlemen's club”. In spite of renovations and typical of Memphis, which does
everything in a uniquely half-assed way, the brand new “Dancing Dolls” sign was
still supported by cartoon pig figures.
one cared. “King of the Memphis Strip Clubs” Danny Owens didn’t care. The club
made money. Money was the bottom line for Danny Owens.
Myths and legends arise from a need to understand, and a need to explain. Bloody
Mary. Chupacabra. In Memphis, Danny Owens.
Memphis, in a time, you couldn’t pick up a newspaper without seeing his picture. Fair-haired, stout and clear-eyed, as many times as I’ve seen him on
the news, I have never seen Danny Owens smile. Danny Owens, it seems, is all business.
business of gambling, prostitution, and drugs, in addition to the strip clubs. Business
that comes with a price; in 1985, Danny Owens was convicted of assault. As part
of an ongoing turf-war, he beat the holy crap out of several members of a local motorcycle gang.
1978, when a rival strip-club owner was found murdered in his home, Danny Owens quickly became the prime suspect. For
all intents and purposes, Owens ran the Memphis underworld until 1992 when
the feds raided his home. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were seized, guns, real estate records, drugs. In 1995, Danny Owens and 26 of his henchmen,
including his son, Blake, were indicted on racketeering and money laundering charges.
Danny Owens met with rivals he came armed with a baseball bat, a more-than-visual aid to
explain his business principles.
so legend has it. True or not, no one cares, like with the Dancing Dolls sign; black-eyed
children, demon dogs and Danny Owens. Myths and legends arise from a need to
understand and a need to explain. The sacrifice of truth is just the price of doing
business where mere mortals are concerned.
The strip club scene in Memphis is indeed the stuff of legends, and Danny Owens is something of an icon. Having served 21 years of a 27-year sentence, he was released in 2015 and today he is living god knows where. Recently, the city fathers passed what amounts to a lap-dance ban.
Maybe that got a smile from Danny Owens.