Kevin’s World Wrestling

The year was 2006 — and one signature event stands out: the Women’s Arm Wrestling Championship and Hot Dog Eating Contest on the Kevin’s World patio. But first, let me roll back the tape a few years.

I’d spent 25 years helping to build a small but significant chain of Missouri-based record stores into a respected retail presence. After 9/11, the bottom fell out of the entertainment market. And after five years of buyouts and bankruptcies, I walked away with nothing but my pride.

I felt the need to apologize to customers, friends and local musicians, so I set out to make amends. I also wanted to expose a new generation of music enthusiasts to obsolete but much-missed retail systems like barter, the honor system and “running a tab.” No sales would be final. All offers considered. I wanted to provide unfettered access to all the stuff that was out there.

Most of all, I wanted to have fun with music again.

And so, Kevin Walsh’s World of Popular Music (DBA “Kevin’s World”) was conceived. It was an idea that had long incubated in my mind as I had watched music buyers grow farther and farther away from the retail experiences that had drawn me to the record industry in the first place.

My original retail plan was a “pop up” concept, bouncing from vacant space to space. But in 2006 mid-Missouri, no one could quite grasp that concept, so I settled on a brick-and-mortar location I hoped would become “that weird place” run by “that guy” — much like the Chinese restaurant on Broadway in the ’60s that allowed you to pay what you thought the meal was worth.

This would be vindication.

That April, I opened a small “shoppe” on Ninth Street across from The Blue Note in the original location of John Pham’s Bangkok Gardens. For the next two years that Kevin’s World co-existed in the real world, there were dozens of concerts, cookouts and impromptu happenings. The plan was never to make money and, in that sense, the place was wildly successful.

There was a refrigerator with exotic soft drinks, chocolate and beer for those who knew where to look — all on the honor system: you left what you thought you should. When I’d leave, I’d put a random customer in charge or hang out the “Gone F***ing” sign.

One signature event stands out, in August 2006: the Women’s Arm Wrestling Championship and Hot Dog Eating Contest on the Kevin’s World patio.

Staged by Shirrelle C. Limes (aka local musician/provocateur Shannon Diaz) and the newly founded CAT-TV’s “Das Karnival” host Ian Cognito (Chase Thompson, now a Stephens College digital film professor), this gathering attracted every stripe and strata of CoMo woman. It was a true first.

In time, I had to close up shop and look for a “real” job with benefits. A lot of the younger “Kevin’s World” clientele has stuck around and become contributors to CoMo’s cultural scene. “When will Kevin’s World— like Brigadoon — reappear?” they ask.

Ten years seems as good a time as any.

So on Sat. Aug. 20 — while J’den Cox wrestles in Rio — Café Berlin will host the 10th Anniversary Kevin’s World Female Arm Wrestling Competition and Music Fest — in commemoration.

Starting at 6 p.m., there will be a short film about Kevin’s World by Thompson and videographer Scott Wilson, followed by one sweet musical lineup: Steph Foley’s Vulvette (formerly of the “oFF tHE wALL” Art Studio on Ninth Street); True/False film programmer Chris Boeckman who, at age 16, performed as Tape Store at a Kevin’s World New Year’s party, and Gabe Wallace (aka Relevant Hairstyles) down from Chicago.

After music comes the arm wrestling, featuring Limes with help from CoMo’s LGBTQ community, as well as the CoMo Derby Dames.

Let’s think of it as a rest stop — a chance to throw away the map for a night and forget about where we’re headed as we enjoy where we are and how we got here.