Party Spirit: Remembering Horace Pittman, aka Ali Akbar

"Swifty, you never change!" That was one of the last things Horace Pittman said to me when I saw him earlier this year. I've hated that nickname for decades. But from Horace, I took it as the highest compliment. He was Knoxville's philosopher king.

I first met Horace at Vic & Bill's in 1984, and I thought he was crazy. I soon came to the realization that he was a shaman, straddling the DMZ between the bizarre and the real as a channeler of the party spirit. He embodied that party spirit for the almost three decades I knew him, sweetening with age but never, never flagging in his eternal charge through the highest realms of good times.

A fixture of Knoxville's rock 'n' roll and underground party scenes, Horace also had a more thoughtful side, which surfaced in his colorful paintings. Like Horace himself, his art was warm, vibrant, and exploding with uncontainable energy.

Horace was a Vietnam veteran who surely experienced untold horrors that haunted him for a lifetime. But his backstory rarely surfaced. Horace would drive away any and all negativity with an off-the-wall joke, a hearty laugh, and a long exuberant dance. Whenever Horace showed up, the party went into hyperdrive.