Peter Nappi, named after a 19th-century Italian immigrant shoemaker, doesn’t sell cowboy boots, despite its hometown address in Music City. And what a coincidence: The creator and executive producer of the TV show “Nashville,” which plumbs the country music scene, doesn’t wear the trademark footwear, either.
“I went through that phase,” she said. “I’m over it.”
Callie’s boots of choice — 15-year-old Ann Demeulemeesters — shatter the stereotype of hee-haw Nashville, as does her preferred form of chew (toothpicks, not tobacco or straw). She also steers her show, which debuted on ABC last fall and returned to its Wednesday night spot on Jan. 9, away from the cliched dirt track — although some of the characters do sport sequins and cowboy boots. Therefore, it was of little surprise that on a recent tour of Nashville, with Callie calling the shots, the Academy-Award-winning screenwriter (“Thelma and Louise”) flipped Music City over, revealing its rare B side.
“I just love Nashville. There’s something about this place,” she said. “The music, well, it’s not just that. This town has a wonderful creative energy.”
I met Callie on a sunny Saturday in the parking lot of the Ryman Auditorium, the legendary live music venue that hosted the Grand Ole Opry radio show from 1943 to 1974 (it returns for a few months in the winter). She was dressed in the bicoastal uniform of fitted black coat, skinny jeans, petal pink scarf, diamond studs and those boots. Her sidekick and fellow executive prodicer, Steve Buchanan, was trailing a few steps behind. When he caught up, we three became the starter kit for a band, or a mini-entourage in Nashvillewood.
We set off down Fourth Avenue North toward Lower Broadway, the Bourbon Street of Tennessee, minus the hurricane cocktails and the harlots draped like curtains in the doorways. Signs trumpeted beer, barbecue and heel-stompin’ tunes. Cacophony is Nashville’s loud mistress.
“See that ‘CKS’?” Callie said of the only letters visible through a tangle of neon. “I hate to admit it, but it’s really good barbecue.” (The remaining letters: JA--- Bar-B-Que.)
Callie has her culinary limits, though. “I never had it and I never will,” she said of the fried bologna sandwich at Robert’s Western World.
Few visit Robert’s for the vittles, except to sop up the booze puddled in their bellies. They come for the music, no matter the hour (roughly 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.) or the musicians (Rachael Hester & The Tennessee Walkers, Monte Good & Honky-Tonk Heroes, the Don Kelley Band, Jesse Lee & Brazilbilly).