The pink trash tour of Nashville
By Jim Ridley
NOVEMBER 30, 1998: Every Saturday and Sunday, a rickety pink bus departs twice a day from the downtown Farmers Market on Eighth Avenue South. Its passengers include visitors, amused locals, even people a few degrees removed from somebody you may have heard of. And for an hour and a half, they get a wacky immersion in hardcore fandom and celebrity detritus--courtesy of two sisters with foot-high hair, inch-thick makeup, and a serious fixation on the color pink.
Ladies and gentlemen, meet the Juggs.
For a little more than a year, the Jugg sisters, Sheri Lynn and Brenda Kay, have been conducting a guided tour called Nash Trash that's unlike any city tour you've ever taken. For one thing, it's musical. For another, its passenger roster often includes more residents than tourists--largely because Nash Trash offers a glimpse of the city that can't be found in Fodor's. From the moment the bus lurches past the Bicentennial Mall toward Germantown, the Jugg sisters dance, sing, and spill the beans Music Row tries to keep hushed up. Divorces, affairs, addictions, arrests--no lurid stone goes unturned in the Juggs' Music City Confidential.
It's all in fun, of course. "We've got to do something to be in show business," says Brenda Kay, who moved to Nashville from Baltimore in 1989. She tried the conventional route, performing as a blues singer on her hours off from her day job as TPAC's box-office manager. After Sheri Lynn relocated here from L.A., though, the sisters bought and fixed up an old school bus, and the Juggs were born. Their tour is basically a rolling musical comedy, a two-act, 90-minute show that requires its cast to perform on a moving stage. And serve Easy Cheese besides.
They couldn't have picked a better place to set up shop. Nashvillians have many civic hang-ups, among them sex, religion, class, race, Atlanta, and a cultural inferiority complex measured in pro-sports franchises per cubic foot. However, none plagues and tantalizes us more than celebrity. We love to act blas about our brushes with greatness because it makes us cool. Let an out-of-towner ask what it's like to live in the capital of country music, and we stifle a yawn, as if, well, really, it's no big deal to bump heads with Mary Chapin Carpenter over the goat cheese at Corner Market.
The truth is, for all our airs, we're just as gaga when it comes to chance encounters with the rich and famous. Our central district downtown is lined with Planet Hollywood, the Hard Rock Cafe, and the NASCAR Cafe, temples to the idea that you too can come within breathing (or at least buying) distance of the golden few. With our theme parks and historic sites dwindling, celebrity is the main tourist attraction we have left. Yet we fool ourselves with the notion that it's their obsession, not ours--an illusion we muster every June when Fan Fair rolls around.
Not the Juggs. Once the bus door closes, everybody outside is famous, and everybody inside is a rubbernecker. And Brenda Kay and Sheri Lynn are determined to provide their passengers with a celebrity sighting they can share with the folks back home. Whether it's real hardly matters. "Hey, look, it's Garth Brooks!" hollers Brenda Kay, leaning out the window on Second Avenue. Passengers follow her pointed finger to a rotund, 50-ish man who's a dead ringer for Wallace Shawn. Hearing her words, "Garth" himself spins around so fast trying to look he almost falls into a sidewalk grate. No less dubious are the pedestrians identified, respectively, as Billy Ray Cyrus, Charley Pride, and "Tania Shwain."
But the funniest parts of the tour are devoted to country music's litany of scandals, and to Nashville's. Ever heard about that former cathouse smack in the middle of downtown? The Juggs have. Ever wondered where Elvis used to swim naked on Music Row? The Juggs know. Nash Trash has no time for false piety about tradition. The Juggs talk about Garth and George and Billy Ray and LeAnn with fond familiarity, as if they were squirrelly relatives, or the characters in a long-running soap. Nor does the tour try to paint a rosy portrait of the city. The bus winds past seeming acres of orange construction fence, past homeless men asleep on the steps of the Masonic Grand Lodge. In its dotty way, Nash Trash is an antidote to the lethal pomposity of entertainment-industry hype and civic self-promotion.
Nash Trash just celebrated its first year in August, and already the Juggs have had some celebrity visitors...sort of. "George Lindsey--you know, Goober?" enthuses the starry-eyed Sheri Lynn. "Well, his neighbors came out." Then there was Dwight Yoakam's cousin, followed by a friend of Deana Carter. What about their obvious inspiration, Naomi Judd? "She was going on the tour," recalls Brenda Kay, "but it was the week Princess Di died, and she had to do this Tennessean article on stalking."
Whether they're performing for celebrities or commoners, though, the Juggs stand more than prepared to entertain. Their Pepto Bismol-colored bus sits right over there in the parking lot; a seat awaits you on board. Step right this way, and watch your hair....
Even if you somehow fail to notice the Juggs, you can't miss their bismuth-colored coach, The Big Pink Bus. The sisters purchased the former school bus in Flint, Mich.; their father, a skilled mechanic, not only fixed up the engine but helped them drive the beast all the way down I-65 South.
The interior is decorated with confetti fringe, crepe-paper bells, and a shrine to Elvis arranged from tabloid photos. Their mother painted the exterior and picked out the color. The Juggs liked it so much they bought plastic sunglasses, leopard-print blouses, and nylon hair ribbons to match.
From the moment the Juggs' bouncy bus leaves the Farmers Market parking lot, the tour's credo is all Nash, all trash. Sheri Lynn and Brenda Kay Jugg have left no Weekly World News unscoured in their hunt for the dish, and they pass it along to you, the passenger--usually in musical form. A trip past the downtown Metro jail prompts the Juggs to sing Merle Haggard's arrest record, while Brenda Kay solemnly reads a scroll of the hoosegow's most famous temporary tenants: "Willie Nelson...George Jones, several times...Hank Williams Jr. ...Kris Kristofferson...Waylon Jennings...Hank Williams Jr. ..." Then they name-check Tanya Tucker's Herculean love life to the tune of "Delta Dawn," starting with Mac Davis and Glen Campbell.
By the time they get to Music Row, they're explaining who really runs this town. "There's this gang here, the 'Gay Lords,' " explains Brenda Kay. Adds Sheri Lynn, "They put their name on everything."
The Juggs promise (wink, wink, fingers crossed behind their backs) that you'll see real, live, honest-to-gosh country stars on your tour. That leads to a spin past Buddy Killen's celeb-friendly Stock-Yard restaurant, where the Juggs speculate Burt Reynolds may once have made out in a booth.
Unfortunately, this is Saturday morning, and as any astronomer will tell you, the stars just don't come out at noon. Likewise, a jaunt through Germantown proves to be a dud on the Celeb-O-Meter. You do find out from Sheri Lynn, however, that Germantown got its name because "everybody spoke German for some reason." In the spirit of citizenship, Brenda Kay shouts "Welcome to America!" to a Germantown construction worker, who stares back puzzled. "He must be fresh off the boat," she shrugs.
Sure, most tours offer entertainment and exotic destinations, but the Jugg sisters provide something extra: education. For example, they're remarkably willing to share their beauty tips. In fact, one lucky passenger each trip gets made over Jugg-style. (On this trip, the victim was Scene photographer Susan Adcock, who mysteriously failed to capture the results on film.) A Jugg rule of thumb: When you apply the amount of hair spray it takes to keep the Juggs' imposing 'dos aloft, watch out for open flames. "I plumb forgot about that Virginia Slims hangin' out of my mouth," cautions Sheri Lynn, "and I went up like an aluminum Christmas tree."
As The Big Pink Bus leaves Music Row and heads back to Jugg Central, Sheri Lynn and Brenda Kay wind up for their big finish. Their passengers are left, for a moment, to reflect on the information they've been given. What Shania Twain must say to her husband, producer Mutt Lange, in bed. ("Oh, Mutt.... Don't stop, Mutt.... Please, Mutt.") What Reba McEntire would want with a helipad. "Must be a giant feminine-hygiene product," wonders Brenda Kay. "Maybe six-sided."
Before long, the bus is safely returned to the Farmers Market, and we disembark. We're left with a lot of laughs, a morning of memories, and something tangible we can take home to show the folks--our own personal Clip 'n' Save copy of Kathy Mattea's favorite goulash recipe.
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