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    Photos by Terrence Humphrey

    Because one of the presenters at this year’s IdeaFestival (Sept. 26-28 at the Kentucky Center) is CNN anchor John King, we decided to get two Louisville John Kings together to discuss their ideas. One John King is a 40-year-old known for co-creating the annual Louisville Zombie Attack walk through the Highlands (and is now in the middle of a lawsuit because a copycat organization has led people to believe it’s the original). He also compiles the Louisville Is For Lovers albums and organized 100 “we gon’ be alright” chalk messages near the Floyd Street overpass after the city covered up that spray-painted phrase. He’s now working with the city on a permanent mural. The other John King, 34, was formerly director of the Kentucky Guild of Brewers. He dropped his teaching gig at U of L last year to start Drunkwood, which turns bourbon and wine barrels into art and furniture. 

    We get the Kings — Zombie King and Beer King — together at the Chicken King on Broadway. At one point, Zombie King gets out his laptop and pulls up a picture of CNN’s John King. “John King’s a sexy man,” Beer King says. 

    “I think the three of us need to have some kind of round table,” Zombie King says.

    ZK: “We’re a little bit opposite. Actually, we’re a lot opposite in a couple of areas. I think the first email I got when they thought I was you was about beer. And I’ve been sober for a decade.”

    BK: “You’re from Kentucky, right? I’m from central Illinois.”

    ZK: “Well, both states get to share Lincoln.”

    BK: “Eh, he’s kind of more Illinois than Kentucky.”

    ZK: “No, he’s more Kentucky than Illinois. I did research on you last night.”


    Photo: Beer King (left) with Zombie King at Chicken King.

    BK: “Oh, I came up with a whole list of questions.” 

    ZK: “Do you want some tea?”

    BK: “I don’t drink tea.”

    ZK: “We have the same but opposite profile pic for Facebook.” (In BK’s, he’s in the car driving with his dog next to him; in ZK’s, he’s in the car driving with his cat next to him.)

    BK: “Did you have a nickname growing up?”

    ZK: “Junk. And when I turned 20 my family got together and said, ‘He’s no longer Junk. He’s a man.’ Which I kind of hate because my whole life that’s what they called me.”

    BK: “My dad’s named John, so I was Little John. When I go home the same people call me the same shit.”

    ZK: “On my first day at Berea College they said, ‘Name?’ and I said, ‘John King.’ They said, ‘There’s 18 of you. Which one?’ I was like, ‘There’s 18 John Kings in this school?’ In the southern Appalachian Mountains, ‘King’ is very common and the firstborn is always named John in that region.”

    BK: “Now I’m gonna say a word and you’re gonna say the first thing that comes to mind.”

    ZK: “Oh, god. There’s pressure building.”

    BK: “Portland.”

    ZK: “Unfairly targeted by (developer) Gill Holland after he unfairly targeted my neighborhood, which is Butchertown. I grew up there. My mother worked at the feed and grain storage. Now it says ‘Play’ really big on there and there’s people running around screaming, feeling great about their privilege, having $40 hamburgers over at Butchertown Grocery.”

    BK: “So what you’re saying — and I agree with you on some of that — is that you think the city of Louisville shouldn’t be focusing on Portland to try to gentrify?”

    ZK: “Doesn’t have to be gentrify/don’t gentrify. There’s middle ground. There’s no discussion of rent control for families who’ve lived in the neighborhood for 10, 15, 20 years. I find it wholly disgusting. I don’t understand why the mayor can’t come up with a strategy that makes everyone benefit. All the social programs on East Market Street are now fancy restaurants and bars.”

    BK: “There’s a ton of empty buildings downtown and in Butchertown. So you want to let them sit vacant?”

    ZK: “Does it have to be something that targets the upper class, or can it be mixed-use and hire people who are already living there? Gentrification in mid-level cities is like a virus right now. It’s blazing through. Cincinnati is the worst right now. Over-the-Rhine, there were books written about how fast it was gentrified.”

    BK: “No one used to go there though.”

    ZK: “Except for the people who lived there, and that’s the problem.”

    BK: “Revelry (Boutique Gallery) sells some of my stuff, so I can’t complain.”


    Photo: John King (left) and John King.

    Louisville Magazine: “What spurs your creative ideas?”

    BK: “Well, my idea was that I hated my job. The day I resigned was the day I closed on my house, so I took a risky move. I was tired of working at the university, tired of a boss that required me to put my vacation in for the whole year the first week of February. It was just this idea: If I work hard enough and trust in my product and trust hard enough in my own personality and how I work with people, I think I can turn it from a hobby into my job.”

    ZK: “Most of the things I do, I don’t think I realized what I was doing at the time, but they were absolutely projected by the thought of community and equality. It didn’t occur to me until later, probably when I went to Berea, which is a socialist school. You know about Berea College? You get a full scholarship, but you gotta work for the school. The new project I’m starting is called Pro Social Louisville. We’re hoping that Lousivillians and Louisville businesses will want to sign up to learn how they are punishing poor people without realizing it.”

    (They mention how a pass to IdeaFest is $250.)

    ZK: “Two hundred dollars a week is what I live on.” 

    BK: “Do you think you could make more than that? Do you want to make more than that?”

    ZK: “I do. The thing is, I work two jobs. And if I want to keep doing programs that I think might help others, I don’t have any other time. I’ve already been to two meetings today and am completely exhausted. I bartended till 3 in the morning at New Wave. My time is so limited but I feel like it’s incredibly important. It’s not like we’re celebrities, but we have some kind of pull in this town, you and I. I know I do. At least for the moment I have a little bit of a voice, right?” 

    BK: “Do you ever want to get into politics?”

    ZK: “Well, here’s a good story. About a year ago I heard a leader of the Black Lives Matter campaign in California. He was being interviewed on the radio, talking about how at a rally he was at a podium and he was talking about how this police violence against black people cannot stand. ‘We need to change things. We need to change the police force from the inside.’ And then from the podium he thought: Oh, shit, I have to become a police officer. So he became a police officer because he didn’t think it was right to tell folks we need to make it better without him doing it. Then two weeks ago I’m friggin’ watching TV and there’s Trump at a press conference being like, ‘Poor people in the government? Come on.’ And I thought: Oh, god, do I have to go into politics?”

    BK: “I have a lineage of mayors. My grandpa was the mayor of my hometown for like 10 years. My dad was for 16 years.”

    ZK: “Are you hearing this? King and King, double ticket.”

    This originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazine, click here. To find your very own copy of Louisville Magazine, click here. 

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