According to the self-descriptions that have been emblazoned at times across the top of its front page, it is "The Newspaper that the Tulsa Bigshots Fear!" and "The Paper that the Tulsa Phonies, Quacks and Hypocrites Fear!"
Although such descriptions would be accurate for the publication you now hold in your hands, the paper under discussion is not the Urban Tulsa Weekly, but the Tulsa Crime Monthly.
And anyone who belongs to its considerable cult following knows why it might be a source of dread for "quacks" and "bigshots" alike.
With the exception of the bartending beauties regularly featured on the back page (with an eye-catching teaser in the lower right quarter of the front page), almost no one whose name or image appears in TCM's pages is portrayed in a particularly flattering light.
From elected officials to religious leaders, street criminals to restaurateurs, everyone--even those brave or foolhardy enough to send in letters to the editor--is held up to ridicule and caricature.
The latest issue features an article about the recent spat between Mayor Kathy Taylor and City Councilor Jack Henderson.
For art, photographs of Taylor and Henderson's heads were cut-and-pasted onto the bodies of boxers (not the canine variety, but the kind with gloves and weight divisions).
For content, a few . . . embellishments were made.
The article commences by claiming that the Mayor recently divulged to "close aides" her private opinion of Henderson. "'He's a big-headed fool,' she told a close confidante . . . " the article reads.
"Kathy is very paranoid, close aides told TCM, that Henderson has hired some 'Hoova' Crips from North Tulsa to bitch-slap and mug her. Jack, quite naturally, would deny such crazy unfounded allegations and consequently think(s) Kathy is losing it," the piece continues.
While the slightly exaggerated exploits and foibles of certain elected officials make up a significant portion of TCM's content, the bulk of the paper is devoted to holding Tulsa's street criminals, drug dealers, prostitutes, child molesters, rapists, wife beaters and gangs up to mockery and contempt, with a healthy dose of humorous commentary thrown in at their expense (which isn't always . . . or ever, really, of the family-friendly variety).
"Weirdo Woman Beater Sentenced to 10 Years in Joint! Dirty Dog Barely Escapes Murder Charges," reads one headline about 42-year-old Kyle Richard Eckhardt, who was recently sentenced for beating the late Terry Welch last year.
"At TCM we're mad--boiling steaming mad! That's because this hillbilly trailer trash . . . will only serve 10 years behind bars. Eckhardt should be facing the gallows," the article opens, going on to explain that, due to Welch's high blood-alcohol content at the time of her death, the medical examiner could not determine conclusively that Eckhardt's brutality led to her demise.
"So on Wed. Feb. 20, the scum pled guilty and was given 10 years for beating Welch. He should have hanged," the piece concluded.
There is a section devoted to the latest drug arrests, the "Women Accused of Giving Coochie for Cash"-section, a line-up of the latest robbery suspects, the "Misguided Dogs who Physically Abuse Others"-section and numerous other corners of the paper devoted to shaming and ridiculing various classifications of recent arrestees.
Another self-description that's been printed across the front-page banner is "The Newspaper that's Comparable to None!"
Like a few of the paper's other nuggets of reportage, that declaration is of somewhat dubious accuracy, as TCM's founder, publisher and editor told UTW that readers and fans often describe his publication as a cross between Mad Magazine and the National Enquirer.
If TCM is Tulsa's own version of Mad Magazine, then T-Town's very own "Alfred E. Newman" would be 50-something Cornell Williams (we would have been more precise about his age, but he swore us to secrecy).
The mastermind behind Tulsa Crime Monthly took some time out from ridiculing the city's underworld and roasting local elected officials to grant UTW a rare interview, which began thus: You're the editor, publisher and founder of the Tulsa Crime Monthly?
"Uhhh . . . Should I be proud of that?" Williams answered, laughing freely at his own expense.
Recovering, he said, "Sure, sure... I have columnists, though," tongue-in-cheek emphasizing the word "columnists" as a mark of respectability.
He said he has four such contributors, one of whom writes the "Tulsa Church News"-section of TCM: "the Rev." Archibald Lee Washington.
Williams said that's his real name, but he's not sure about the title.
"He says he's a 'reverend,' but I wouldn't go to his church!" the publisher said, laughing prodigiously.
Actually, most of Williams' comments were accompanied by raucous laughter which, he seemed to hint, also describes the process by which he writes and/or edits TCM.
About his "church news" reporter, he continued, "I think he's a madman. He belongs in a straightjacket!"
Williams described the sanity-challenged "holy man" writing for him as a pugnacious runt who, at 5'5" tall, is always eager for a scrap.
In fact, the latest "church news" consisted solely of Washington's account of his "Violent Fight with a Northside Baptist Preacher!"
The preacher was not identified except as a "slow talkin' geechie Baptist preacher" who reportedly borrowed $500 from Washington to help fund a revival several years ago, which he did not repay until "the Reverend" recently beat it out of him.
"Did that make any sense to you?" Williams asked about Washington's latest journalistic offering.
Apparently, most of Washington's coverage of Tulsa's religious scene consists of such fare.
An e-mail to the editor published in the latest TCM reads, "Rev. Washington, why do most of your columns contain stories about physical violence on your part? Why, as a man of God, do you fight so much?"
Washington answered, "I am short, and people always picked on me, so I fought a lot and liked it. God fights a lot. He fights evil 24/7."
Another columnist is identified in print simply as "the Food Nazi."
As the name obliquely suggests, he reviews restaurants, but woe to the restaurants he reviews.
His rating system starts at "0 Barfs" as the highest ranking, with "5 Barfs" as the worst.
If a restaurant ranks that poorly, readers are advised, "Call your Physician After Eating This Garbage (Or Undertaker)."
The three establishments "reviewed" in the latest edition received 3 Barfs, 2 Barfs and 4.85 Barfs, respectively.
And, no--we're not going to divulge which restaurants were featured.
Apart from the Food Nazi and the fighting Reverend, there are no bylines in TCM, so the other two contributors remain anonymous as they spin their journalistic gold.
"I've got some crazy columnists," Williams chuckled.
For the most part, Williams gives them free reign to write whatever they want "unless they just totally libel or vilify somebody," he said, without the barest hint of irony.
To this reporter's resultant wide-eyed look of incredulity, Williams said, "You'd be surprised by what I have to take out of their articles."
In the interest of being surprised, he was questioned about some of that content outside the bounds of his journalistic standards, but the conversation instead quickly veered off somehow into comic books, old horror movies and stop-animation films, and a long, seemingly endless list of Williams' other cultural interests.
Also, the interview took place in a local bar, according to Williams' preference, where the publisher seemed to know nine out of 10 people who walked through the door, further distracting from the main topic of discussion.
While the bar seemed to be his own personal "Cheers" (everybody knew his name), Williams' poison of choice was good old-fashioned H20 on the rocks.
"I haven't had a drink since 1995," he said.
Of course, that prompted a whole other line of questions only the nosiest and most prying of reporters would ask, but Green Lantern comic books somehow seemed a more appropriate subject of discussion into which Williams segued (and, incidentally, he knows the "Green Lantern oath" by heart, for the four or five other dorks like us out there who know what that is).
After he was respectfully asked to straighten up, fly right and be serious for at least a few minutes, he was then asked what possessed him to start putting out the Tulsa Crime Monthly.
"This guy," Williams answered, pointing to a portrait on the front page of his premiere issue from May 2004.
"His name was Ples Vann, and he was murdered by some Hoover Crips--he and his wife," he explained and, for the first time in the interview, did not punctuate his remarks with barely controlled laughter.
"And he was always a hero of mine. He played basketball under Eddie Sutton at Central High School, and he was just a standout guy that I always looked up to," Williams explained, still maintaining his uncharacteristic seriousness.
He and Vann were schoolmates at Roosevelt Junior High School back during the desegregation era.
"It was scary during that time--we were always being attacked by white kids," Williams said.
In a hushed tone, he leaned in and said, "Today, it's the black kids who are going around kicking people's asses, but back then, it was the black kids getting their asses kicked all the time."
Some exceptions, though, were Williams and the rest of his newly desegregated schoolmates, who looked to Vann for protection.
He said, even as a junior high school student, Vann was 6'2", and already becoming the athlete he was known to be, as a star basketball player at Central High School.
"Ples Vann was the biggest black guy in school, and we were so scared at the time: we would be attacked, and things were being thrown at us, and we were being called names, so what we would do, we would all walk behind Ples Vann," Williams recounted.
And, the strategy worked, he said. Nobody hiding in Vann's long shadow had any trouble from racist schoolmates during that time.
After junior high, though, the two went to different high schools, so Williams had to learn how to deal with bullies on his own, so he took up boxing at the downtown YMCA, fighting in a few amateur fights.
"I whooped them all," Williams boasted, before leaning in to divulge through stifled laughter, "There were only four!"
He would have spent more time pursuing a career in the amateur circuit, but "my dad wanted me to go to college," Williams said.
Which he did, attending the University of Tulsa and attaining, of all things, a degree in political science.
After graduating college, he went into his family's real estate business, where he has remained since.
But, he never lost his interest or involvement in boxing.
He started the Main St. Gym in 1987.
"It was a program for less-fortunate kids, to kind of release their frustration and anger through boxing," Williams explained.
"Everyone who was anybody visited the gym, to kind of inspire the kids, from George Foreman, Muhammad Ali, Ernie Shavers, Roy Jones, Jr., Jake LaMotta... Everybody. It was a great experience," he said.
But, that experience came to an end when he closed the gym in 1999.
"I never really got any corporate sponsorship for it, so I was more or less keeping the program going with my own money, but then I had children to put in college," Williams explained.
He had a weekly boxing show on "the Buzz" from 1995 to 2005, which was the same period in which he served on the state Boxing Commission. He also had his own column in the Oklahoma Eagle--"Thoughts from Ringside," from about 1990 to 2000.
He tried his hand at publishing a few years ago, shortly before undertaking TCM, putting out three issues of Oklahoma Casino Boxing in 2004.
"It didn't go very well," he said.
Shortly after the demise of his short-lived magazine, Williams received some devastating news.
He saw a TV news report about the murder of Ples Vann, whom he hadn't seen since junior high.
"It was shocking. It was just shocking. I cried. That was the first time I had cried in I don't know how long. He was such a great guy. He was inspirational," Williams said.
"I never forgot how he protected us back then. That's why it hurt me so much when he'd been murdered. By Hoover Crips. Hoover Crips murdered him. Scums. You've got to put that in, too. I mean, that's all they are: scums," said Williams, this time appearing to stifle tears rather than his characteristic laughter.
"It convinced me that I had to do something about the crime in Tulsa. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, but I had to do something," he continued.
"That's when I said, maybe I could do something to at least give the public some . . . you know, exposure about what's going on," he added.
"Tulsa didn't used to be like this. When I finished college at TU, Tulsa was a beautiful place to stay. It was a wonderful place. A murder would make headlines for four or five days. But, now, it's put in a 1" by 10" column. I mean, Tulsa's gotten real bad, and face it--it's the breakdown of the family that's caused it," Williams lamented.
So, local news providers weren't making the public aware enough about local crime?
"I didn't think they were (leading up to May 2004), but I think they do a good job now," he said.
Williams explained that the purpose of Tulsa Crime Monthly has never been just to make the public aware of the city's crime, but to ridicule the crime, to take whatever glamour there might be out of it, and to show criminals their own idiocy and absurdity.
So, why bring the Mayor, County Commissioners and religious leaders into it? What's the purpose of that?
"To piss people off," answered Williams.
Why do you want to piss people off?
"Because it's fun--especially people with no sense of humor," he answered.
"You know, there's a lot of bullshit going on in Tulsa. You know that . . . Hey, don't quote me saying that!" he said, as he observed this reporter taking notes.
What?! After the stuff you print in Tulsa Crime Monthly, you don't want me quoting you saying that?
"Ok, Ok, go ahead," he acquiesced.
"That river tax con" was an immediate example of the cow excrement Williams had in mind.
"That really pushed it. We need more police officers, the police officers need better pay, the firemen need to be paid more money, there's just so many things that needed to be done for Tulsa, and yet, the Mayor was pushing this river tax and all of these high-rollers were trying to cram this down the throats of the average Tulsan," he explained.
So, how seriously should people take the "news" you report?
"That's up to them," the publisher answered.
He said he gets some of his news from the Tulsa Police Department, but wouldn't elaborate further (we at UTW wouldn't divulge our sources either, if it meant they'd dry up).
However, TPD spokesman Officer Leland Ashley told UTW, "He's never called and interviewed me."
But, based on some of the accurate crime-related information he sees in TCM that hadn't been released to the public, Ashley said, "He's getting his information from someone."
The crimefighter declined to offer any advice to readers on how much stock to put into TCM's reliability as a news source, though.
"That's up to the reader to put as much credibility as they want into it, just like with any news source," Ashley said.
Ashley said he's never researched any of TCM's crime stories to see how true-to-life they actually are, but said nothing jumped out to him as false.
He said the only time he's ever spoken to Williams was when he called Ashley to seek his permission to use his picture in the "Fetch a Felon" section of TCM, which each month features a member of "Tulsa Most Wanted!"
"I told him I didn't have a problem with that," Ashley said.
During the telephone discussion, upon hearing mention of the "Fetch a Felon"-section, Officer Jason Willingham, TPD's other spokesman, could be heard shouting from across the room, "That's a good public service!"
In explanation, Ashley said readers have called TPD's Crime Stoppers office before to inform on featured felons, based on the information they read in TCM.
While Ashley and Willingham wouldn't comment on the comparative reliability of TCM, other Tulsa police officers told UTW that a stack of papers is delivered to them each month, and the copies quickly disappear.
"It's hilarious," said one officer, who didn't want his name used, lest his comments somehow be taken by readers as an official endorsement of TCM by the Tulsa Police Department.
While police will vouch from some of the crime-related news content of TCM, and some of the political commentary is based on dubious information, Williams said the ultimate benefit he hopes to provide readers is, "I hope they get entertained."
"I think if people read a paper just about crime, it'll depress them," he added.
And, apparently, people are entertained.
Williams said he puts out 10,000 copies each month, at 50 cents per copy and $22 for a yearlong subscription.
He distributes it in 62 convenience stores of various franchises in the Tulsa metro area, numerous downtown clubs and several locations in the Midtown area.
Williams said he has subscribers from as far away as Los Angeles and New York City, and two, even, in the Bahamas.
He said a short-term goal for the year is to make a deal with QuikTrip, to distribute in their stores.
A long-term goal, he said, is to make a significant dent in Tulsa's criminal underworld, not necessarily by shaming and ridiculing criminals with his paper, but by making enough money to be able to open another gym.
In one of his few serious, almost misty-eyed moments, Williams said, "I've had kids come up to me years later and say, "You trained me at the Main Street gym and, if not for that, I'd be in jail right now.'"
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