Once You Saw Them (Now You Don't)

Some years ago, these Knoxvillians were highly visible, known for their public profile in politics or entertainment or business or education. Their names were the currency of our common discourse. Their images were woven into the fabric of everyday life. It seemed that everyone knew them and that it had been that way forever.

Then public attention shifts, or they move on to other opportunities, or they just quietly sink out of sight. And one day someone says, "I wonder whatever happened to ..." or "What's old ... doing now?" And the chase is on.

Here Metro Pulse tracks down seven of our most pondered missing ones and updates their careers for the benefit of everyone else who's curious.

The Scourge of Our Youth

About 25 years ago, all boys approaching puberty hereabouts hated Little Jimmy Hartsook. He was the country boy with the guitar who had a regular gig on local shows on all three local TV stations. His pudgy, smiling face was always too clean, his fluffy hair too well combed, his Brady Bunch collars too big and pointy. When most boys were getting their first jobs hacking privet and pulling up crabgrass for a dollar an hour, Little Jimmy Hartsook was too successful--cutting records, going on tour, appearing on internationally broadcast television. And worst of all, girls were crazy about him.

But meet Jim Hartsook of Lenoir City, any of you. We dare you. You'd like him.

At 36, he could pass for a dozen years younger, but he's a regular guy. He still grins a lot, but he's lost the cuteness that used to enrage his envious peers. He has short hair now. He's slender, with no trace of his trademark baby fat, down to earth, funny, and thoroughly unpretentious. Success--which, after all, lasted only four years or so, ending about 1974--didn't ruin him.

He moves, laughs, talks, and even sits energetically, as if he's struggling to hold something in. His job, as floor man for an automobile auction company, seems to fit his personality. The high-pressure, high-energy business would wear out a lower-watt spirit.

But when Jim Hartsook goes home, he works on his second career, which was really his first: singing, playing guitar, and songwriting. His songs have little in common with each other except that none of them have much in common with the work of Little Jimmy.

He's an animated talker, but often defers to his near-constant companion since childhood, David Price. Hartsook has known Price since the early days of his fame. When Price got married a decade ago, Hartsook sang at his wedding, maybe his closest thing to a public performance since the '70s. Price is now an Oak Ridge jeweler. But today, Price is Jim Hartsook's whole band, playing guitar, drums and keyboards, and producing their sounds on a complex but compact array of recording equipment Hartsook keeps in a room off his kitchen.

Even if you leave Little Jimmy out of the equation, Jim Hartsook is several people in one. For a high-pressure salesman, he lives an uncommonly thoughtful life in his tidy rental house, a brick rancher on a hill near the lake, on the rural fringe of a modest Loudon County neighborhood. He has a small collection of leather-bound nineteenth century books--including Dickens, Cooper, Dante, Irving--plus a larger collection of more than 100 western paperback novels of the Louis L'Amour variety. "I read a lot," he admits.

He says some still recognize him when he ventures into West Town, or eats at a Knoxville restaurant.

"Aren't you Little Jimmy Hartsook?" they ask.

"You'd think the Little was on my birth certificate," Hartsook says. Small in stature, he admits many of his neighbors have always called him "Little Jim." He seems to prefer that to "Shorty," a less personal nickname he sometimes hears on the auction floor.

He does use the first-person pronoun when he talks about "Little Jimmy Hartsook," but still makes him sound like someone else, a cute little relative he's especially fond of. He has a couple of framed portraits of Little Jimmy here and there, and his own Little Jimmy Hall of Fame: Little Jimmy and Jerry Lee Lewis (Hartsook found Lewis a likable character, and once even filled in for the Killer when he didn't show up on time); Little Jimmy sitting in Roy Acuff's lap; Little Jimmy and Glen Campbell and gubernatorial candidate John Jay Hooker; Little Jimmy and Fats Domino; Little Jimmy and "Whisperin' Bill" Anderson, who toured with Hartsook and made him a semi-regular on his national show.

All that's in his music room, a small bedroom off his kitchen where he keeps all the equipment that David Price knows how to use.

Price offers a sample of what they've taped lately. First comes a down-and-dirty electric blues piece with country-style vocals; then, a completely different sound, a version of a lament with Roxy Music-era production. The melancholy chorus goes: "Like the leaves I have to fall."

Hartsook is almost too modest about his contribution. "All I did was play guitar and sing," he says. Not to mention write the songs.

It's this modesty that gets you. It's not like he's tried and failed. Jim Hartsook thinks he hasn't played a public show since 1978, when he was in a loud rock band called Emerald that used to play at Bundulee's on Cumberland. He's been working on his own music seriously only since last year.

Hartsook scowls remembering one writer who called him "the Donnie Osmond of Country" and the series of circumstances, some sponsor-related, some personal, that once wedged him out of show business. But he still recalls his brief experience with stardom in a positive light.

"I just learned so much about people and life, about what's real and what's not," he says. He credits his mother, who supported but never pressured him, for his equilibrium (she still lives about a mile from his house).

"Sometimes it's hard, though, becoming an adult," he admits. "You do wonder, 'How can I top that?'"

But for the first time since the '70s, he shrugs, "Little Jim and Company's at it again."

Back to the Seashore

Fifteen years ago, what we now call the Old City was a dark, silent ghetto of closed storefronts and empty warehouses. The first person to bring it back to life was perhaps the least likely: a slight, dark-eyed dancer from coastal England.

Her name was Annie Delisle, and the French restaurant she opened on Central near the railroad tracks became an unlikely success, first for its food, and soon for its live jazz. Annie's expanded, doubled in size, acquired an elaborate patio. In the six years she was the Grande Dame of the Old City, Delisle personally witnessed the once-abandoned district's metamorphosis into perhaps East Tennessee's liveliest dozen acres.

Then, about six years ago, Delisle abruptly sold her business. Annie's became Lucille's. Her move probably seemed more sudden to casual acquaintances than it did to her.

"The restaurant was doing well, but I wasn't making much money," she says. "It's the hardest business, 18 to 20 hours a day, home at 4 in the morning. It was just constant. I was at the end of my tether. I walked in there one night, I had everyone calling my name. These people love me, but I'm tired.

"It was disappointing, in a way. And yet I had a six-year party. We had some great parties: Melissa Gilbert, David Keith. I miss those parties. I miss knowing so many people. I miss the artists as much as anything. I live a very quiet life here."

"I honestly didn't think I wanted to spend the rest of my life in Knoxville," admits Delisle, who grew up in an English seaside village in Hampshire. Here between the mountains, she missed the seashore acutely.

"Also, I was very insecure" running her own business in Knoxville, she says. "I thought, why not go into corporate and be taken care of, with my benefits paid for."

After an extended visit with her brother in Australia, she settled in Florida.

"I drove into Palm Beach, I said to myself, This is where I want to live." Even if it wasn't Hampshire, exactly. "This is like Nirvana. I felt I've died and gone to heaven."

Delisle went to work for the Ritz-Carlton hotel chain and also considered work as an airline hostess. She now works as a receptionist for an upscale banking company. "We're in investments and trust accounts. We don't deal with anyone with less than a couple million." That's a big difference from Annie's days, when she was dealing with anybody who had two dollars for a beer.

She now lives in a little house of her own in West Palm Beach. She misses friends. "Not enough people from Tennessee come to visit me," she says with the merest trace of petulance "They love that Knoxville so much."

She does visit occasionally, most recently in November, and takes an interest in downtown's growth. She approves of the current management of Lucille's, which opted to nurture the proven Annie's ambiance.

"I walked in on a Saturday night and the same band was playing--Donald Brown and Keith on drums--like nothing had changed."

Forward to the Past

Wade Houston didn't have to break new ground when he left the University of Tennessee in 1994. He simply picked up most of his activities from the life he had led before taking the job of head coach for the UT men's basketball program.

Houston, who had been an assistant coach at the University of Louisville, returned to the Kentucky city to a trucking business in which he'd had an interest before coming to Tennessee. His wife, Alice, had been actively involved in the business since 1982.

"We have four different companies that do specialized hauling," Houston says. "The company I run is the flatbed trucking division, which hauls aluminum, steel, heavy machinery and oversized loads."

Houston left UT after his teams posted weak records for several years. His main contact with sports now is watching his children perform.

"Up to this point, most of my basketball has been watching Allan play," Houston says. His son, Allan, was the star player on Houston's UT teams and now plays for the Detroit Pistons. "I also have season tickets to watch my old school (the University of Louisville) play."

He has a new sport to follow as well. Daughter Lynn at Georgia Tech recently won the high-jump championship of the Atlantic Coast Conference. While in Knoxville, Lynn had been on four track-and-field championship teams at Farragut High School. Houston says she hopes to go for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, but will have to improve her jumps by a couple of inches to be competitive.

Alcoa is one of Houston's trucking clients, and he comes back to the area to call on them and to visit family in Blount County.

"I normally come down for a weekend," he says. "I enjoy seeing parents, friends and relatives."

A View from San Francisco

A focal point of the panoramic view from Phillip Moffitt's hillside home just north of San Francisco is the Golden Gate Bridge. It's very name is emblematic of the passage to a new life which Moffitt made following the 1986 breakup of the then thriving media empire he co-founded with Chris Whittle.

Moffitt's 20-year alter-ego relationship with Whittle, dating back to their student days at UT in the 1960s, had turned into one full of altercations. When they split, Moffitt took their flagship publication, Esquire, which he had moved to New York to run after they audaciously acquired it in 1979. That left Whittle with the potpourri of publications based in Knoxville which became the nucleus of the now defunct Whittle Communications.

Unlike Whittle, Moffitt, then 40, didn't crave a monumental media empire of his own. And before 1986 was over he'd sold Esquire to Hearst Corp. for a payoff that made him a millionaire many times over.

Then came the relocation to the San Francisco Bay area with a resolve to keep his pot of gold intact and to focus on more personal endeavors. "Don't even get near me" with propositions for any new publishing ventures, he says. While his penchant for the printed word still stirs, he's channeled it instead into co-authorship of two photo-journalism books on medicine. He is also writing a novel.

And while Moffitt's devotion to yoga and other forms of meditation dates back to his youthful years in Knoxville, he's now devoting considerably more time to teaching as well as practicing these arts.

"I know this sounds esoteric to a lot of people, but I'm very practical about it," Moffitt says. "Yoga has been a source of self-understanding and empowerment in my life, and I'm interested in helping other people empower themselves as well."

For all of the transcendence in his life, Moffitt hasn't totally rejected the business world. In 1990, he co-founded a software company in a Marin County community near his home. He now serves as its chairman, but not in a full-time executive capacity. The company, Light Source, hasn't rivaled the big Silicon Valley success stories of the decade. But Moffitt says its software for the measurement and communication of color has been a boon to highly color-conscious desktop publishers.

Moffitt has also maintained ties to Knoxville, where his two brothers live, and to his boyhood home of Kingsport, where his parents reside. He visits once or twice a year, and still owns a cabin in South Knoxville that's part of a complex where compatriots from a bygone era gather every now and then.

Still Seeing the Conservative Light

One prominent political observer calls former Knoxville state representative Charles Pete Drew a chameleon. While the black ex-legislator never changed his color, he certainly changed his stripe, embracing the conservative Republican faith in 1985 after a lifetime of liberal Democratic stewardship.

"I didn't see the liberal social agenda ever putting inner city people in a position where they could survive in a capitalist society," says Drew, who now lives in St. Elmo, a low-to-moderate-income district of Chattanooga. "That's what drove me to leave the Democratic party."

Drew, 57, served three terms as a Knox County commissioner before capturing the District 15 seat in the state House of Representatives in 1982. After winning a second term in '84, the former hard-line Democrat changed parties and won again, as a Republican, in 1986.

Drew describes his conversion as an evolution, influenced by U.S. Senate Republican moderates Bill Brock and Howard Baker, and brought to fruition by Maryville's red-flannel Republican, Lamar Alexander.

Others note that, upon switching, Drew received a hefty fee to serve as a minority consultant to the Republican Party and that then-governor Alexander made plenty of political hay by parading his high-profile convert across the state like a prize-winning show horse.

"There definitely appeared to be a conflict of interest, although I'm not so sure Pete wasn't getting used more than he was doing the using," says a local conservative leader. "Pete may well be sincere about his philosophical shift, but I think the party change had more to do with buckram politics than anything."

While the switch may have seemed opportunistic, Drew has toed the line ideologically ever since--even, he says, when his conservative credo proved less than politically advantageous.

"I have a tendency to take my commitment a little farther than my ability to protect myself," Drew says. "You can only function at the level where you can protect yourself for the next election, and I very often got out a little too far from an ideological standpoint."

That's what Drew says happened in 1988, when he lost his house seat to liberal black Democrat Joe Armstrong. With his Knoxville contracting business facing several lawsuits and his stream of political capital running dry, Drew moved to Nashville in 1990 to lobby for Tennessee Right to Life. He pulled up stakes again in 1993, accepting a job with the Chattanooga Resource Foundation, a conservative Christian leadership coalition with an aggressive political agenda.

Nowadays, he and his wife, Joyce, live in St. Elmo with their two sons, Charles Kennedy and Christopher. Drew oversees Chattanooga Food Source, a food distribution program that began under the auspices of the foundation, and he and Joyce both work as tutors for low-income students through Bill Clinton's Americorps program.

But Drew says his days of stumping and hand-pumping aren't over yet. He ran for Hamilton County Commission shortly after moving to Chattanooga, losing badly by most accounts. Undaunted, he plans another run for the state legislature in '96, mounting his campaign on a pro-life, get-the-government-out-of-the-inner-city platform.

Does Republican Drew see any incongruity in advocating inner city self-sufficiency while working for a Democratic president's inner city welfare outreach?

"We work in that particular area of the program because of what it does," Drew says simply. "Not because of who founded it."

UT Pioneer for Congress

The woman many credit with first bringing a feminist perspective to the University of Tennessee in the early '70s is hoping to take it to Congress as a U.S. representative from West Virginia.

Sharon Lord, a self-described "hillbilly feminist radical" from Williamson, W. Va., taught psychology and education at UT from 1969 to 1980.

"In 1971, she was the first woman many of us had ever heard talk about women's rights, women and power, and the role of women," says one of her intimates from that time. "She had the audacity to say things no one had ever said before."

Lord taught the psychology of women, of sex role development and of the disadvantaged child, using the courses to explore the empowerment of individuals and groups.

"It was a wonderful thing she did," says one who knew her then.

She was not without critics. Friends from that period say the university administration wasn't especially pleased to have the white male power structure challenged. And her own attraction to power brought her criticism from other women who worked with and around her, and accused her of suffering from the "queen bee syndrome."

Her philosophy of education as a window of opportunity for helping others motivated her to work on the develop of the school's Women's Studies program and to begin a network of women in Knoxville that is still influential today.

She was also involved in revamping the woman's athletic program, working closely with Archie Dykes, which resulted in Pat Head being hired as the woman's head coach.

"I've been called the grandmother of the Lady Vols," she says, "When I left UT, it wasn't because it hadn't been wonderful."

She departed in 1980 with the intention of working full-time at her own business, a human-resources consulting firm, but she was hired by the U.S. Department of Defense. There she became the highest ranking female in the Defense Department, a civilian position comparable to a three-star general.

"I was quite honored, but there should have already been higher-ranking females," Lord says.

During the Reagan years, she played a pivotal role in creating the sexual harassment policy for the Armed Forces. For her work, she was awarded the second-highest civilian medal for outstanding public service.

Lord also continued working part-time with her consulting firm and has done work for the governments of Australia and New Zealand. She sits on the board of trustees of the University of West Virginia and has just recently decided to run for Congress from southern West Virginia.

Lord still has a piece of land in the Smokies, which she calls Paradise Valley. "Paradise Valley is where my heart is," Lord says, "I try to spend time there writing. It keeps my feet on the ground."

On the Entrepreneurial Trail

Dwight Kessel says he doesn't talk a lot about politics these days, but he does have a pithy observation about Steve Forbes:

"People won't give you money (political contributions) if you have money. They know they can't control you."

This is something Kessel, who served in public office for 31 years, knows a good bit about. His wealth is legendary, and so is his ornery independence. Not long ago, some UT officials held a roast to thank Kessel and his wife Gloria for giving the school a gazillion bucks, and his old friend Jim Haslam called him "a guy that never had a political organization in his life and never wanted one." Kessel doesn't know if Haslam meant that as a compliment, but he thinks it's pretty accurate.

If you ask him what he's doing, the first thing the former county executive mentions is co-teaching the Adult Three Sunday school class at First Baptist Church.

"Adult Three. If you say it real quick it sounds nasty," he jokes.

Kessel, who served as a city councilman, county clerk and county executive, left office in September 1994 after he was defeated in a reelection bid. These days, he operates out of an office at Knox Air, which has a contract to refuel all military aircraft in the Southeast, as well as Delta, TWA, USAir and assorted small craft that come and go from Knoxville.

He is working on the startup of the JCL Corporation, which has developed a highly accurate test to diagnose lung and colon cancer. He is on the board of directors, and (although he doesn't say it) he has probably helped financially. He does admit that he "got them lined up with the British market," and he's hoping the product will be ready soon.

He's on the board of Geriatric Medical Services, which runs geriatric wards in seven states. His partner in that business is a geriatric psychologist. "That's why we get along so good," Kessel says.

He's also developing a condominium subdivision, helping an Internet company get off the ground, and is president of a multistate real estate concern.

He sits on a bunch of charitable boards, including the East Tennessee Foundation, heads a fund-raising drive for the UT College of Engineering, and takes a keen interest in the students who are pursuing engineering degrees on Kessel-funded scholarships.

He's still playing racquetball at the Downtown YMCA with John Harber, Don Leake, Randy Vineyard and some other guys two or three times a week, and says he's feeling good.

And that he's just about as busy as he wants to be.

© 1996 MetroPulse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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