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A FITTING TRIBUTE TO TURLEY

Keith Turley, ex-magnate, is about to receive a tribute befitting his accomplishments, courtesy of Dennis Melgreen.

Everybody knows Turley; he's the guy who led Arizona's biggest utility, Arizona Public Service Company, to the brink of bankruptcy in two short years of ill-considered diversification. But who in the heck is Dennis Melgreen? The answer is, he's nobody . . . and everybody. He's just a guy trying to make a living in Phoenix these days, and in that respect, he's like everyone else who's suffering the effects of a system that rewards ambition, rather than hard work. One day recently, while he was brooding over the resemblance between his profit margin and the east face of Mount Everest, Melgreen got the inspiration to create a monument to what he calls "the Charlie Tuna generation of leadership--more into looking good than being competent."

The result is a ten-foot steel sculpture that Melgreen is building in the garage of his landscape-design business in north Phoenix. Melgreen describes his creation as "kind of an abstract duck rising from the ashes with two blue balls gorged with cash to symbolize the impact Turley and his kind have had on the local economy."

When finished, the sculpture will have a bronze plaque that reads, "Keith Turley Memorial Trophy: Dedicated to the man who took every businessperson's dream, a monopoly, and ran it into the ground." He plans to unveil the opus next week at his sister's art gallery in Scottsdale.

Melgreen, with three years of studying architecture at Arizona State University, cheerfully admits the thing is more apt to provoke laughter than praise from the art critics--or the public, for that matter. But he figures it beats crying.

"Everybody's had that same experience of sitting in their office at 1 a.m. looking at how the profit line on their business has slid off the page in the last couple of years," he says.

"The legislature's just ended with nobody saying a word about what we're gonna do about this recession, and it just made my blood boil. I figured if I'm gonna go out of business, I'm gonna go out with a bang, not a whimper. What the heck, we gonna have some fun.

"I thought, `I'd like to have something that would symbolize the incompetence of the business and legislative leadership in this town,' so I sit back and start thinking about a symbol of incompetence, and I keep thinking of Keith Turley. I felt like it wouldn't do me any good to lean out a window and yell, `I'm mad as hell,' but I figured I could build this structure and have something everyone could relate to."

Not only does Melgreen offer art others can relate to, he wants to give them a way to participate in it. "We're gonna have these little cheap plastic imitations of the structure that people can buy for ten bucks and give to the businessman of their choice," he says.

The statuettes will come with a card saying the recipient has been chosen because of "your poor judgment, insensitivity and lack of compassion toward your fellowman, as well as your ability to line your pockets. These are just a few of the mentionable qualities we feel qualify you for this award."

"We're going to keep track of who these things are sent to and have sort of a `board of directors' made up of the top vote getters," Melgreen says.

Melgreen is building a second objet d'art, an abstract wall sculpture he calls "Balls to the Wall." Those who purchase one of the plastic Turley trophies will be invited to paint their names in bright red lacquer on "Balls to the Wall," he says.

And may we expect more of Melgreen's creative genius in the future? Probably not. Melgreen says he's too busy trying to keep his head above water--and that of his wife and five kids--in a dead economy.

Melgreen plans to unveil the Turley trophy, blue balls and all, July 13, 6:30 p.m., at Lewis Fine Arts, 7125 East Second Street, Scottsdale. The public, needless to say, is invited to go and experience catharsis.--

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Kathleen Stanton