The Side Hustler
The Proverbial Steady Gig Is But a Means To Marcy Evans-Crump’s Dreams
Local PR maven Marcy Evans-Crump opens the door of her West Baltimore home one unseasonably warm March Friday wearing a turquoise sweater and cropped jeans. Her straight hair is pulled back in a ponytail, exposing a smile that illuminates her olive-skinned face. She looks like any working mother who has to juggle too many things—not the woman locally renowned as Baltimore’s “Social Butterfly,” a party promoter who can draw 1,000 ghetto-fabulous folks and urban professionals to an event.
That’s the little-known truth behind this successful fortysomething: Evans-Crump may go out looking glam to work a party, but her success isn’t superficial. She didn’t turn a 40-member e-mail list originally started to hook friends up with free passes to a Washington nightclub into a 15,000-member network and magazine just because she’s an attractive party girl. Intelligent and cultured, she also makes you feel like she’s your homegirl from back in the day. And today’s Evans-Crump sits at the helm of a hot, emerging local entertainment and lifestyle magazine that is in both spirit and practice the fruit of what she calls the “side hustle.”
Though the sixth glossy issue of The Flywire just dropped, the enterprise remains a labor of love. “I run this magazine from these,” Evans-Crump says, indicating her blue-jean-clad hips while standing in the middle of her living room. She does have the help of an unpaid staff for the magazine’s articles, ads, and copy designs, but Evans-Crump literally manages it from a breakfast tray balanced on her hips. “Most of the time I work from my bed,” she says. “But sometimes I work over here [or] over there.” She points to a wooden coffee table and a kitchen table in the breakfast nook.
Previous issues of the magazine stare up from the coffee table as Evans-Crump describes its birth. It came from her desire to counter a myopic view of Baltimore. Shows such as The Wire depict one side of black life in Harm City: slinging drugs and committing crimes. “[But] you can’t look at The Wire if you want to know all of what black people are like in Baltimore,” she says.
The untold story of Baltimore black life is found in the everyday people who have finished school, started a family, have a 9-5 job, and create a business out of what Crump calls their “creative side” or a “need for a side hustle.” They include entrepreneurs who have made their living doing hair, ordinary folks you see walking down the street every day.
“I know guys who have their own construction businesses,” Evans-Crump says. “[You] would probably think he doesn’t have a job because he’s dirty and scruffy. But he owns a business that might not be one of the top 100 [in town], but might be bringing in a half a million dollars a year.”
And while Flywire is geared toward African-Americans, Crump hopes everyone picks it up. “So many people here really think that they’re in it alone,” she says. They think, “I have a dream, [but] everybody’s telling me, ‘Girl, just get a job at the post office or Social Security.’ That’s OK, but why stop there if you know that for you there’s something more?”
Evans-Crump’s “something more” are the six issues of The Flywire that she has published since July 2005, available for free at area stores, via paid subscription, or free pdf download.
In them you can find articles about everything from Bossman’s homegrown hip-hop to hometown basketball star Juan Dixon. It also includes fashion spreads shot in unexpected places, such a neighborhood barbershop in the latest issue. Up and comers are on blast, too, such as WEAA Listen Up radio host Farajii Muhammad, alongside lesser known black architects, businesspeople, and professionals who succeed just under the mantle of mainstream success.
The magazine looks and feels sleek, complete with bold and brazen ads, such as the one for Baltimore attorney Warren Brown. It boasts a curvy woman—Brown’s wife—looking like a new version of Pam Grier’s Coffy, barely wearing a half top and sitting on a stool holding a cigar to her mouth. Its style recalls the 1970s, with warren brown attorney at law running below the covered crotch of her long black skirt.
The magazine takes risks with its content, too. Issue No. 6, as Evans-Crump discloses in her “Love Notes” column, is devoted to hair, admitting a preoccupation from which the black community usually prefers to demur. “So what—we are obsessed with our hair,” she writes “It’s in our roots.” That obsession is declared on the cover: a head shot of a beautiful woman sporting an outrageous ’do. Her hair stands straight up in the air with soft Marcel waves.
“I’ve never been one to follow the rules,” Evans-Crump says.
Rebellion and writing are in her blood. Her mother, Sonjia Evans Duncan, and her father, former Afro-American newspaper editor Ralph Matthews, met when her father interviewed her mother, who was arrested at an early-’60s protest.
Evans-Crump grew up between Baltimore, Pikesville, and Columbia—graduating from Walbrook High School, 1982—in a pro-black household where her parents gave her black dolls to play with and she only visited black Santas at Christmas. “We were never allowed to go to school on Martin Luther King’s birthday, way before it became a holiday,” she says. “We marched on Washington to bring about the national holiday that it is now. And we always knew when Malcolm X’s birthday was.”
In fact, she thought all black families were like this, until she went to the all-black Virginia Union University in the mid-’80s and discovered that her freshman counterparts were coming to class missing such a cultural education. “Other kids didn’t know that Beethoven was black,” she says. “And some didn’t know that a black man designed D.C.”
She majored in broadcast journalism and graduated in 1988, and after college she began accruing the professional skills that eventually fueled Flywire, taking a 1990 summer internship that added graphic design to her personal portfolio. She worked jobs that built on her combination of writing and design expertise. In 1994 she started planning and promoting events for the Baltimore City Public School System, and eventually worked pubic relations for the school system in 1997 and the city Department of Recreation and Parks in 2004.
Seeds for the social skills behind today’s Evans-Crump were sown in 1993, when she met the man who became her husband. They’re divorced today, but in addition to her 7-year-old son Shawn, their union also pointed out an alternate career path for Evans-Crump.
Phillip Crump’s family owned Micah’s Cafeteria in Northwest Baltimore, and he was promoting parties around town when he met Marcy. She joined his company, Two Fierce Productions, and put on Genesis parties at places like Martin’s West and the Baltimore Grand. Their biggest party was in 1995 at the Baltimore Convention Center, where, Evans-Crumps says, “we attracted, like, 6,000 people.”
She loved the party atmosphere. Two Fierce Productions spotlighted people who defied the preconceived notions about Baltimore’s black powerbrokers. “At those parties, the girls would want the hustler guys or the corporate guys,” Evans-Crump says. “But they didn’t realize that the guys wearing the crocodile shoes and the $1,000 suits were actually UPS guys, barbers, building contractors.”
They promoted parties from 1993 to ’99, with Crump and Evans marrying in 1996. Four years into it, though, she realized the two of them were moving in separate directions. “I told him, ‘I’m not the woman for you,’” she says. “‘’Cause you don’t come home, and I’m not going to become another woman, [one] who is going to make you come home by saying, Where the hell were you?’”
Evans-Crump felt it better to part as friends, saying, “I want you to have the woman that you want to come home to. And I want a man who’s going to come home to me without me asking.”
Evans-Crump’s life didn’t become a sad chick flick following her marriage’s dissolution. In fact, she says, divorce is the best thing that has happened to her. It reminded her of a few lessons in being fiercely independent that she had forgotten along the way.
“A lot of women, when they reach their 30s, they think, This is what a woman is supposed to do,” Evans-Crump says. “So we do things that we think that we’re supposed to do instead of what we want to do. And in the process, we lose ourselves. I vowed never to lose myself again.”
Evans-Crump’s marriage was already over by the time Washington’s Dream nightclub opened in 2001. It was the ultimate adult playground for the black see-and-be-seen set, and all of her friends were trying to get on the coveted free-before-11 p.m. guest list. Evans-Crump found a way to get them on the list via e-mail invites sent from the club to preferred customers. Soon, her e-mail list ballooned into an information vine, keeping everyone informed of other area events. And when the list grew from 40 to 1,200 people, Evans-Crump realized she had to take it seriously.
In 2004 she created the www.thefly
wire.com to help her promote events and keep everyone informed. “I came up with the name because my promoter alias was Social Butterfly,” she says. “I was working with the city school system doing PR and I was responsible for transmitting information out via e-mail, like a newswire, internally and to the public. So ‘fly’ is a derivative of social butterfly, which also means cool and hot. And ‘wire’ is all about the 411.”
Her amicable divorce also bore fruit. Around that same time her ex reminded her that she had created a short-lived publication called Two Fierce in the mid-’90s, their company’s popular newsletter turned into a full-color magazine: Why don’t you create your own magazine?
She started working on her first issue last April, and The Flywire debuted in late June. She creates these glossy publications with a team of writers, photographers, and other employees who volunteer their time. One of them is her father. Many others are mothers who bring their children to staff meetings. “I tell them to bring the kids, because I don’t want not having child care to stop them from anything they want to do,” she says.
When she’s not working she is still the social butterfly, and Evans-Crump’s smiling face can be found in The Flywire’s pages, in the party pictures of Baltimoreans around town at social events. These days, though, she can no longer make it to every event. “I’m a single mother—I don’t have time to party like that anymore,” she says.
So Friday and Saturday nights now, when the cool and beautiful hit the hot spots, an exhausted Social Butterfly sits in her room watching HGTV, tapping her laptop’s keys. “I’ll call the club and say, ‘So and so is showing up right now in a limo, [and] I need you to make sure that they’re on the list,’” she chuckles. “They would die if they knew that I’m not in the club or what I’m looking like at that moment.”
And if promoters squawk because she’s not making an appearance, she asks them point blank: “Is it more important for you to see me? Or for the masses to come?”
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