Feel The Power Of The Great American Pyramid
June 2, 2020 3:27 PM   Subscribe

"It is one of the largest pyramids in the northern hemisphere and may be among the top 10 biggest pyramids in the world, depending upon how you measure. It has been called the “Tomb of Doom” and is rumored to have been cursed by the removal of a crystal skull. It’s also a Bass Pro Shop, and it’s located in Memphis, Tennessee."

Thinking About the Pyramid: An (Un)Called-for Proposal
With this in mind, we may perhaps envision the Pyramid as an ideal site for what Gregory Ulmer describes as an "abject monument," one that commemorates a sacrifice that a society is unwilling or unable to recognize. Unlike the bronze statues and marble columns that typically populate our parks and civic plazas, ones that praise the bravery of our war heroes or the stoic resolve of our political leaders, abject monuments call attention to lives given, hardships endured, or humiliations suffered for causes that we will never see engraved in granite. To maintain a way of life it deems sacred, a society requires such sacrifices, but it remains oblivious to, indifferent toward, or ashamed to admit them. By calling attention to these sacrifices, however embarrassing or even confounding such attention may be, an abject monument encourages us to reflect on the values that shape our collective identity and to challenge or even to re-form the way we view ourselves.
From Folly to Megastore: Inside the Great American Pyramid of Memphis, Tennessee
Stop whatever you're doing right now, Memphis, and watch this video from 1990 pitching "The Great American Pyramid," to potential investment partners. [YouTube]
posted by the man of twists and turns (51 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
The new store is home to a hotel with rooms designed to look like cabins in a cypress swamp, a shooting and archery range, an undersea-themed bowling alley, a man-made swamp, and the tallest freestanding elevator in America. At the top of the elevator is an observation deck built in imitation of the Grand Canyon skywalk, from which visitors can look out over Memphis or the Mississippi River and, perhaps on a particularly clear night, imagine that they are in ancient Egypt.

Ah yes, a beautiful evocation of Giza and its cypress swamps.
posted by zompist at 3:41 PM on June 2 [4 favorites]


That actually sounds like a fun place to visit, and I'm not Bass Pro's target market by any stretch.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:45 PM on June 2 [4 favorites]


Well, I did plant dwarf papyrus in my water garden this year.

The Pyramid’s neat! I’m glad it’s not empty anymore!
posted by Huffy Puffy at 3:49 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


Everything's So Dumb, and It's Going to get Dumber
posted by loquacious at 3:50 PM on June 2 [9 favorites]


There was also a big statue of Ramesses the Great out in front, cast from an original that they had exhibited in the late 80’s. They had planned to show it in pieces (as it had been in Egypt), but “Pharaohs do not recline outside of the sands of Egypt.”

They moved Ramesses to the campus of the University of Memphis when the Bass Pro Shop moved in.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 3:53 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


That thing freaked us out from a distance on our last cross-country drive. Sadly, we were on a tight schedule and couldn't go see it up close. Funny thing was, it was our second major pyramid sighting on the drive, though we actually went inside the Luxor during our Las Vegas leg.

That actually sounds like a fun place to visit, and I'm not Bass Pro's target market by any stretch.

The Bass Pro Shop in Dania Beach, FL, located adjacent to the old site of the Fishing Hall of Fame, was pretty cool the few times I've been, with live fish tanks and all sorts of thematic fishing/hunting/camping decor amongst the merch. Even though I haven't camped in years, I really wanna see the Memphis shop.
posted by May Kasahara at 4:22 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


Drove through Memphis a few years ago.

It is a big pyramid. So is the one in Las Vegas.
posted by Windopaene at 4:22 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


Home of Elvis, and the Ancient Greeks
posted by thelonius at 4:24 PM on June 2 [17 favorites]


What that I smell?
posted by Windopaene at 4:25 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


We drove by there on our way from Louisville to Little Rock for 2 parts of a wedding. We really wanted to stop by but were following other cars and didn't want to fall behind. It wasn't on our route on the way back but we decided to do a slight detour to take a couple of pictures of it from the parking lot.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:41 PM on June 2


this was in 'Dominion'
with bass shop made of stone-a
posted by clavdivs at 4:42 PM on June 2 [6 favorites]


Born in Arizona
Moved to Memphis...onia?
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:55 PM on June 2 [5 favorites]


Short story writing prompt. Your first sentence will be:

They moved Ramesses to the campus of the University of Memphis when the Bass Pro Shop moved in.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:03 PM on June 2 [31 favorites]


Rameses hoped the allegations wouldn't follow him there.
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:17 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


The new store is home to a hotel with rooms designed to look like cabins in a cypress swamp, a shooting and archery range, an undersea-themed bowling alley, a man-made swamp, and the tallest freestanding elevator in America.

Not sure who would want to spend the night in a room that looks like an elevator, but they must have a market.
posted by miguelcervantes at 5:18 PM on June 2 [15 favorites]


Do all the blades in the sporting goods store inside stay nice and sharp? It is a pyramid, so does it have the power?
posted by njohnson23 at 5:19 PM on June 2 [17 favorites]


They moved Ramesses to the campus of the University of Memphis when the Bass Pro Shop moved in.

But he kept coming back.
posted by potch at 5:22 PM on June 2 [3 favorites]


They moved Ramesses to the campus of the University of Memphis when the Bass Pro Shop moved in.

Oh, where is Richard Brautigan when we need him!
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 5:58 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


I don't know about Ramses, but I once saw Van Halen there.
posted by Miss Cellania at 6:09 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


Not sure who would want to spend the night in a room that looks like an elevator, but they must have a market

There's a market, though it has its ups and downs.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:12 PM on June 2 [18 favorites]


That actually sounds like a fun place to visit, and I'm not Bass Pro's target market by any stretch.

I've been to the Bass Pro Shops in Little Rock a few times. It's not as big as this one in Memphis, but it's big enough. IIRC the one in Kansas City is massive. I'm not the target market, either, and the racks and racks of hunting rifles was...not my thing. But the camping equipment section alone was pretty good, and I spent a lot of time there.
posted by zardoz at 6:13 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


My wife grew up in Memphis. She applied to a selective college in 1990, while the Pyramid was under construction. She was interviewed by an alumnus of that college in his office of the downtown law firm where he was a partner. His office had a view of the construction site. During the interview he proudly gestured to the site and asked her what she thought about the pyramid. (His firm represented the builder, which she knew.) She truthfully replied that she thought it was kind of a dumb idea and that it was bound to always be the second-coolest antiquity-based structure in Tennessee at best, after Nashville’s replica of the Parthenon. Perhaps unsurprisingly, she didn’t get into that college, and we met at another school.

All of which is to say, my life could’ve been very different in bad ways if that pyramid hadn’t been under construction at that time. Yay, Pyramid!
posted by cheapskatebay at 6:19 PM on June 2 [19 favorites]


If you ever find yourself, like many above, driving by with the pyramid in view, and you happen to be in a a car with folks who have (or maybe have not) seen the film Young Sherlock Holmes, and you have the aux cord, I highly recommend cueing this up.
posted by bartleby at 6:37 PM on June 2


For Bass Pro Shop in Reno Nevada has an indoor Ferris wheel. It's huge. Much bigger than many I've seen at amusement parks
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 6:37 PM on June 2


no. no one should see our shame.
posted by Bwentman at 6:40 PM on June 2


perhaps on a particularly clear night, imagine that they are in ancient Egypt.

Ah yes, a beautiful evocation of Giza and its cypress swamps.


To be fair, there were ancient Egyptians who on clear nights looked out onto Memphis.
posted by straight at 7:28 PM on June 2 [7 favorites]


"Once thriving with the Nile that flowed right into the Giza Plateau, the pyramids of Giza were built overlooking the ancient Egyptian capital city of Memphis" — and the Mediterranean cypress survives that far south, looks like.
posted by clew at 8:03 PM on June 2


no kidding, last year the pyramid cost $112 million
posted by FB500 at 8:06 PM on June 2


When I was a child, I lived in West Tennessee. The pyramid in Memphis got all the traveling "blockbuster" exhibits; I remember the King Tut and Titanic shows. Much better than the Vegas pyramid!
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:14 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


I'm not from Memphis, but we got the Memphis paper when I was a kid--it was the closest decent one--and it was full of debates and editorial cartoons about what a bad idea it was. But when I was ten and obsessed with Egypt, it was, so far as I was concerned, the best possible use of municipal funds.

They used to host the other traveling exhibitions of the Wonders series in the Pyramid--works from the Russian royal courts, the Titanic--and it was a pretty exhausting venue for a guest. Lots and lots of walking around long sides.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:18 PM on June 2 [1 favorite]


I love how it shows its ass to the river.
posted by Ickster at 8:44 PM on June 2


It's got nothing on all those enormous southern hemisphere pyramids.
posted by St. Oops at 9:15 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


Love this ridiculous place, as we 're always driving through Memphis at night. One day we 'll be able to visit the mud island river park nearby.
posted by eustatic at 1:22 AM on June 3


Bartleby, that's a great video, but my love of weird youtube compels me to favor this gem: Bass Pro Shop Party Rock Anthem.
posted by midmarch snowman at 4:23 AM on June 3 [4 favorites]


("duh, what you think it was?" oh man, lol)
posted by midmarch snowman at 4:24 AM on June 3


~Home of Elvis, and the Ancient Greeks
~What that I smell?


I smell home cookin'
posted by Thorzdad at 5:31 AM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I skipped my high school graduation ceremony to go see Fleetwood Mac play the Pyramid in the late 90s. Whatever revisionists and architects and historians want to say about the place now, kids growing up in the region sure thought it was cool as hell. I lived in Little Rock, a bit more than two hours away, and our school system took us on field trips to Memphis constantly. Every one of those trips included swinging by the Pyramid.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 5:52 AM on June 3 [5 favorites]


The Pyramid was relatively new when I came to Memphis in the mid-90s, and I thought that it was pretty cool, although if you were driving on the bridge over the Mississippi at just the wrong time of day, the glare made things a bit dangerous. I always figured that the developers looked north along the river to St. Louis and the Gateway Arch and said, "We need something like that, only more Memphisy." The Titanic exhibit was neat and I'm pretty sure that that's where I saw Paul Simon and Bob Dylan on their duo tour (Simon was fine, but Dylan was probably at or near the top of his latter-day form--he had Charlie Sexton in his band, and they did about the heaviest cover ever of "Not Fade Away").

But, as big as the thing is, it wasn't big (or had enough premium suites/skyboxes) enough for an NBA pro team, and when FedEx built a stadium for the Grizzlies, that was pretty much that. I might look around inside if/when I ever go back to Memphis, but I was there a few years ago and had too many other places to visit; if you're in town, I'm not sure that I'd even put it on the short list (the National Civil Rights Museum and Graceland would be on it).
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:27 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I remember passing it on my drive across country to relocate to the west coast. I think it took a while for me to get from ?a pyramid in Tennessee? to oh, *Memphis*.
posted by tavella at 7:49 AM on June 3


The Memphis Pyramid was largely the product of Sidney Shlenker.

As some other posters mention, the Pyramid was previously a sports arena and concert venue. I saw Aerosmith play from one of the boxes back in the day. The Grateful Dead played a show there in '95. When the facility opened the acoustics and lighting were awful, and didn't improve that much even after efforts to improve them.
posted by grimjeer at 7:56 AM on June 3


There's also the Parthenon in Nashville, the Colossus of Johnson City, the Hanging Gardens of Knoxville, and the Temple of Artemis in South Pittsburg.

(Some of these might be fake)
posted by glonous keming at 9:05 AM on June 3 [3 favorites]


Related: MEMPHIS BASS PRO SHOP PYRAMID PARTY ROCK ANTHEM

Also! Just in case you think all we have is a giant, tacky pyramid, watch my favorite (unoffical) Memphis tourist video!
posted by absalom at 9:11 AM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I went to a Prince concert at the Pyramid in 1997. He was amazing.
posted by heathergirl at 9:25 AM on June 3


It occurred to me overnight that it would be neat if there was some spot where the Memphis Pyramid lined up with the Knoxville Sunsphere, to make something like the Vulcan IDIC symbol.
(The only defense against the resulting Solar Death Ray being the long-lost Sacred Diamond of Arkansas, naturally.) Maybe I should stop eating right before bedtime.
posted by bartleby at 10:22 AM on June 3


The Portalist's opening paragraph was great.

...but what is it about Hard Rock Cafe and hiding crystal skulls?!
posted by doctornemo at 10:31 AM on June 3


I"m going to self-link, but it's on topic. I once got an assignment to spend two days inside the Pyramid. It was surreal. My story doesn't really do it justice. The funniest thing that happened that didn't make it in the magazine was this: Bass Pro has both an archery range and a shooting range. They will supply the bow and arrows, but you have to bring your own gun. When our tour guide/handler was showing us the shooting range, she said, "This is the only place in Downtown Memphis where you can shoot your own gun!"

"That's not even remotely true," I said. She just nodded.

I've long been obsessed with the crystal skull story. I had just moved to Memphis when it happened. Before Alex Jones picked up on it, I would tell newcomers about it, and usually they wouldn't believe me. Last year, I wrote a screenplay that includes the skull as a McGuffin. As I researching it, I contacted John Branson, the reporter linked above who wrote the original stories about the skull in 1989-1990. I asked him if it was true, and he said frankly he didn't know how much of it was true, or what had ultimately happened to the skull. It was a long time ago, and he had never personally laid eyes on the skull. Then, after I wrote the script, I happened to be at a party with Pat Kerr Tigrett, the stepmother of Issac Tigrett, who put the skull in the pyramid. I got up the nerve to ask her about it. She said yes, it was all 100% true! Furthermore, after it all blew over, she had managed to talk the Mayor's office into returning the skull. She had given it back to Issac Tigrett as a birthday present.
posted by vibrotronica at 2:11 PM on June 3 [10 favorites]


vibrotronica, when things are more normalized we need to toss back beverages at the Bass Pro, maybe at the Mississippi Terrace

I can't believe I didn't mention that I have bowled at Bass Pro "Big Cypress Lodge" "Fishbowl" bowling.
posted by grimjeer at 3:51 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


vibrotronica, I completely take back what I said about it not being on the short list after reading your article. Holy cats.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:16 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


The Memphis Pyramid was largely the product of Sidney Shlenker.

Oh come now. Are we actually supposed to believe these rustic natives with their primitive hand tools could build such a monument? Obviously not. The sophistication of the constitution obviously points to it having been built by Atlantis, undoubtedly using the technology and knowledge of ancient aliens.
posted by happyroach at 9:27 PM on June 3 [5 favorites]


A crystal skull as depicted in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

My wife works at a company that works with Lucasfilms, and one of the perks is that we occasionally get to see movies before they're released, and we saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at the awesome Lucasfilms office in the Presidio in San Francisco. The movie was very much not awesome, and when it ended it was really awkward to very likely be sitting in the same theater with some of the people who made it and not talk to each other about how much it sucked.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:12 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


the Parthenon in Nashville

Huh. Weird that they didn't put it in Athens, GA.

the Colossus of Johnson City

Now they're just getting filthy...it's also billed as:

"...the world’s largest center-hung TV display."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:42 PM on June 4


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