Louisville Magazine

JUL 2016

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 7.16 53 town banker — wanted Wilson to do the two things he, the father, couldn't: fght and dance. "Luckily Wicklife didn't have a boxing teacher," Wilson has said. "But I quickly became the favorite student at the Anita House School of Dance." In eighth grade he planned his own recital: a witch-doctor dance, complete with black leotards and masks and an African drum record. "I wanted a big fre in the middle of the stage, but since that was out of the question, I got those little chicken-pot-pie cans my mother collected and that sandy stuf mechanics used to soak up oil on the foor in my dad's farm shop," he says. "Because I'm a risk-taker, there was no dress rehearsal. I lit my little diesel-soaked fre pots, opened the curtains, and shocked the hell out of the little town of Wicklife." Smoke flled the auditorium and the school had to be evacuated. Wilson's father — by then the town mayor — was horrifed. Wilson once drew a horse on his bedroom wall without asking, and his mother installed a frame around the realistic rendering. Another time, he tried molding his little brother Brett's face into a death mask. At a party Wilson threw for his 4-H buddies, he transformed the house into a tropical paradise, with water pouring over a metal trash lid like a real-life waterfall, a maze of gang planks in place of porch steps and netting that dangled from porch columns, stufed full of kudzu Wilson and his sister collected. A barrel of burning diesel fuel like a Western Kentucky volcano. His sister, Melanie Wilson Kelley — who is admittedly less creative, more methodical, the good student in school, and now a lawyer — always helped him pull of the ideas. She idolized her brother. "Dad was a tough task master with a very strict worth ethic," she says. "Solidarity in the face of that made us close, or even closer." But dad never understood. Not even when Wilson documented in the local newspaper the sawmill his father, as mayor, brought to town. While cutting cattle on the farm, two separate times a horse fell on Wilson's leg, breaking it each time, subsequently messing up his hip. (Wilson has had three hip replacements and walks with a slightly uneven gait.) Would the risk-taker in Wilson — past, present, future — ever win his father's respect? Or were all those accomplishments — the 4-H horse and calf projects, the 4-H state council vice presidency — lost on him? When Wilson's dad bet against 15-year-old Wilson's plan to ride a horse 280 miles to the Kentucky State Fair — which he did, an 11-day trek "wearing out three horses and my bum" — was it because his dad thought he lacked stamina, courage? Sometimes it's hard to see what's right in front of you. "My life doesn't make any sense," Wilson says over a plate of fried chicken at Proof on Main. Proof: Where the host says, "You're with him?" and Wilson doesn't let the waitress take his plate away till his company is fnished. Where the neon wallpaper, itself an art installation, blooms with pictures of Woodland Farm fowers. Te "PDR," 21c lingo for "private dining room," is a shrine to Wilson and Brown. On one wall, the Death Clock, still alive and well, a blur to Wilson from his seat. Wilson wonders where he got his talents. "Te things I'm good at, the things I've accomplished, have nothing to do with where I was raised. Some people say, 'You have innate abilities.' Where does that come from? My mother was a musician. You could say, genetically ... I was raised to be a good dirt farmer. I wasn't around art, ballet. I never saw anything creative till we got a TV when I was eight. First time I saw anything outside the world of hard work." (He'd watch Te Ed Sullivan Show, Te Original Amateur Hour hosted by Ted Mack.) Could he possibly be some dead creative, passed down, alive again? Wilson says he doesn't know who he'd be the reincarnation of and he doesn't want this "article" going into "la la land." (Later, he texts, "Just remember, we want the Louisville community to respect me when they've fnished reading this story." Doesn't want to be thought of as a "kook.") He goes on: "I don't believe in reincarnation, but I just wonder where my abilities come from. I don't know. How do I identify art? I don't know. It's an emotional reaction and it seems to be an ability that I have." Steve as a boy in Wickliffe with parents James and Martha Wilson

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