Hit Parade

During another taping, a couple of days later, that closeness is even more in evidence. Instead of just letting their song "Look at Us" play, they act along, Slim adding some heartfelt counterpoints while holding Zella Mae's hand and she contributing some verses, too. Over the air, the feel is curious, to say the least: The hosts blend their live voices with the taped voices; in the studio, it's a completely different feel: The pair acts like a couple of teenagers, as connected after 51 years as any couple has a right to be. Stories roll through the show, many directly pertaining to the hosts.

Slim, in particular, likes to talk, and he'll entertain you with stories about touring with the kids; about his roles as president of both the Chippewa-Broadway Business Association and the Chippewa Neighborhood Association; about the community garden that Gateway Greening has established with neighborhood resident Mark Rice, just across the street; and even his continuing service as a block captain.

Solidly locked into the neighborhood, Slim and Zella Mae live in a house behind the store and own an old auto lot next door; Slim wavers between wanting to rebuild the furniture store on that space and leasing to a restaurant that would need to be built from scratch. Clearly no one's told him that the neighborhood -- an area he's known intimately since opening the furniture business there some three decades ago -- has lost any of its luster.

The community garden, for instance, is a positive presence, with its local volunteers and 4,000-pound Bob Cassilly frog. This space wouldn't necessarily be the first thing you'd associate with Cox. Instead, you'd probably think of him playing the piano on Channel 24, or his big voice cutting through the vaguely tinny din of WEW. But talk to him enough and you get the idea there's a lot more to Slim Cox than the limiting notion of a media evangelist.

The neighborhood, for example, takes up a big portion of his thoughts: "We're not out in Clayton; we're not out in Ladue. We have to create something that is going to show that there are people here who care," he says. "That garden was a brainstorm of Mark Rice. He leased the lot from the city. Together we went to work. It was made to show that there is someone interested, someone who cares. We've gotten more comments about that, because of the frog. No one's had any objections to it, but people aren't beating down the door to volunteer, either, you know what I mean?

"The garden's not the answer to what's wrong on Chippewa Street. There's buildings to fill up; problems with the landlords who live in the county and don't take care of their structures -- if we got rid of some of them, we'd solve problems. It has changed here. But when I was elected president of the association, I said, 'Some people think that South St. Louis and the 10th Ward have outlived their usefulness, are going down the drain.' And I said, 'That's not true. There's hope.'"

If you need a dose of city confidence, go talk to Slim Cox.
If you want to hear some foot-stompin' gospel, tune in to Slim Cox.
If you need a queen-size bed, talk prices with Slim Cox.
And say hello to Zella Mae! They're quite a team.

HIT PARADE TOP SEVEN: This week, seven more St. Louisans who deserve enshrinement on the Walk of Fame, plus top-notch alternates! Let's pour some concrete down Delmar way!

7. Percy Green (Dave Drebes)
6. G. Duncan Bauman (Jamala Rogers)
5. Delores Shante (Joan Dames)
4. Harold Gibbons (Eric Vickers)
3. Mallarie Zimmer (Charles Klotzer)
2. Sterling Williams (Rich from Maryland Heights)
1. Derek Norton (Eve Abaray)

E-mail tips, quips and sight-'ems to Thomas_Crone@rftstl.com.

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