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Website highlights St. Joseph's unique personality

Friday, January 7, 2011 | 2:55 p.m. CST

ST. JOSEPH — Cory Stephens appreciates what his city has to offer. He can be seen checking out local bands and stand-up comedy shows and loves various forms of artwork. But he admits being able to perform himself is another story.

"I've never played an instrument," the 29-year-old St. Joseph native says. "The only musical adventure that I tried is DJ mash-ups. I steal other people's music and make it as obnoxious as possible."

What Stephens lacks in creative talent he makes up for in passion, and he's gone on to utilize it with his website KeepStJoeWeird.com.

Before Stephens created the website, he went to school for journalism at Missouri Western. Stephens eventually dropped out and went on to take numerous odd jobs, which included screen printing and twice managing a tour for Kansas City indie rock band Blackpool Lights.

One of those road stops in Austin, Texas, led to some future inspiration. Stephens learned about the website KeepAustinWeird.com, which highlighted all things artistic, unique and peculiar in the eclectic Texas town.

Stephens, who also lived in parts of Kansas and Iowa in his childhood, thought St. Joseph had its own weird characteristics worth documenting.

"It always seems to be slightly odd," Stephens says. "I just started gathering all the strange things I like about St. Joe and put them up on a blog."

Since creating the website in 2009, Stephens has been building and adding events, video clips and unique tidbits of St. Joseph's history to KeepStJoeWeird.com — not to mention his "Submit James Montee Phonebook Art" section, which features several creative modifications to the attorney's perpetual Yellowbook advertisements.

Instead of referring to city icons like the Pony Express and Jesse James, he'll write about St. Joseph natives like Disney animator Paul Murry or wrestlers like Jody "The Assassin" Hamilton. While most people cite large-scale movie productions like the Oscar-winning "Paper Moon" being filmed in St. Joseph, Stephens is more fascinated that the cheesetastic '70s flick "Supervan" was shot there.

And he uses KeepStJoeWeird.com to highlight businesses with unique flair, like Magoon's and Art.I.Facts, and live shows from original bands to help them attract an audience.

"Most of the bands I put up, it's either someone who has a distinct sound or a very interesting original sound," Stephens says. "I want to help them get the word out as much as possible. Fliers only go so far. Word of mouth only travels in circles of friends."

Stephens says that as long as there are traces of originality and heritage to uncover in St. Joseph, he plans on celebrating the strange by making sure KeepStJoeWeird.com stays up and running.

"Somebody told me that I'm like Flavor Flav of St. Joe because I hype everything up," he says. "I feel like it's a compulsion, like, I need to do this."


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