On the happy occasion of Rufus Thomas' 100th birthday, I wanted to posted this interview that my friend Dan Hopper and I did with the World's Oldest Teenager in 1989.
The was a class project I made as a film student at Memphis State, predecessor of University of Memphis. The project was supposed to be of the form you do for a news interview, with b-roll cut in. In the summer of 1989, they were in the process of demolishing the Capitol Theatre, aka Stax, on McLemore Avenue. For a short period, activists were able to stop the demolition after it had started. We decided we were going to try and interview Mr. Thomas for this project.
How did I make contact with Rufus? I found his number in the phone book and called him cold. That's right. Rufus Thomas was in the phone book and he answered his phone. Giants did indeed walk among us.
Rufus was awesome and agreed immediately to the interview. Very scary and very exciting for us. However, on the day we had set for the interview, I had a wisdom tooth flareup and I had to reschedule the interview. I called Rufus. Mr. Thomas was as cool as you could ever want anyone to be and he agreeably set a new date.
On the rescheduled date, Dan picked me up and we headed out to our appointment with this legend. As bad luck would have it, our car broke down on the way. !!! Rather than risk another phone call to Rufus for another reschedule, we called a friend who swung by in his Cadillac and we headed to Rufus' house. This is the result.
What a great privilege to meet and interview Rufus and have him talk about the great place called Stax. And seeing it again, what a dead on thing he said about Stax vs. Sun and White vs. Black.
If you don't know it, the story had a unhappy, then happy, ending. The owners of the property at the time completed the demolition within a few months of this interview in 1989. However, 14 years after the demolition, a separate ownership group rebuilt and recreated the entire complex, and christened it the Stax Museum, in 2003.
Happy 100th Birthday Rufus Thomas!