Little Rock Look Back: Birth of Jane Russell

Actress Jane Russell was born on June 21, 1921.

One of her best known film roles was as Dorothy Shaw in the 1953 film version of GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES.  In that movie duetted with Marilyn Monroe on the song “Little Girls from Little Rock.” (It was a revised version of the song “(I’m Just a) Little Girl from Little Rock” which was written for the original stage version.)

She also had the chance to spoof Monroe in the film by imitating her and hamming it up singing a snippet of “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” in a courtroom scene.  But it is the opening sequence of the movie which is one of Russell’s iconic moments on screen.

Here is a clip.

After a multi-decade career in film and humanitarian causes, Russell died in February 2011 at the age of 89.

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SCHOOL OF ROCK in the Rock tonight with Movies in the Park

The 2018 season of Movies in the Park continues with SCHOOL OF ROCK.  The 2003 film starts tonight at sundown at the First Security Amphitheatre in Riverfront Park.  (It will be shown adjacent to the Little Rock from which the City takes its name.)

After being kicked out of a rock band, Dewey Finn becomes a substitute teacher of a strict elementary private school, only to try and turn it into a rock band. The film stars Jack Black, Adam Pascal, Lucas Papaelias, Sarah Silverman, Joan Cusack and Miranda Cosgrove.

Little Rock’s Movies in the Park is sponsored by the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau and the City of Little Rock.  Movies are shown every Wednesday during the season and begin at sundown.

Families, picnics and pets are invited to the park to enjoy movies under the stars, no glass containers please. A parent or adult guardian must accompany all children and youth under the age of 18 and an ID is required. The amphitheater will open an hour before film showings and movies will start at sundown each week. For more information please visit http://moviesintheparklr.net.

Services announced for Dr David O. Belcher

Western Carolina University has announced the services for Dr David O. Belcher.

The memorial will be Saturday, June 23, 2018, at 1:00pm EDT. It will be at the Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center on the WCU campus, where Dr. Belcher often performed.

A dessert reception will follow the service in the Bardo Arts Center Star Lobby.

It will be livestreamed on the WCU website here. (12 noon for those from the Missouri State University and University of Arkansas at Little Rock communities who might want to watch it.)

Terror Tuesdays Film Series at CALS Ron Robinson Theater – DEAD MEN WALK

The Central Arkansas Library System’s (CALS) Ron Robinson Theater continues the $2 horror movies tonight with the 1943 film DEAD MEN WALK as part of the Terror Tuesday Summer Series. All showings are open to the public and start at 6:00 p.m.

Tickets are available at ronrobinsontheater.org.  They cost $2.00.

Shot in only six days, DEAD MEN WALK tells the story of twin brothers.  One a kindly physician, the other a sinister, Satanic-worshiper.  Concerned about his brother’s impact on society, the physician kills him.  But the dead brother returns from the dead to avenge his death and terrorize the town.

Little Rock Parks Master Plan

The Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department is updating its master plan.  As part of this, it is conducting a survey.

SInce the arts and culture are part of the programming focus of LR Parks, the link to the survey is provided here to help spread the word.

Please consider filling out the survey.

Remembering Dr. David O. Belcher

As a undergraduate and later graduate student at then-Southwest Missouri State University, I first became aware of Dr. David O. Belcher.  I had several friends who were music majors, and they would speak glowingly of him.  Another friend, an accounting major, took piano lessons from him.

As the College of Arts and Letters had leadership vacancies, Dr. Belcher was tapped to fill them.  He was chosen because he was a visionary, a perfectionist, and a consensus builder.

My favorite memory of him during the time we were both in Springfield, however, is of him playing the piano portion of “Rhapsody in Blue” at the Grand Opening Gala of Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts.  Backed by the Springfield Symphony, he deftly handled this classic piece.  As a graduate assistant on the staff, I was able to listen to several rehearsals.  He always gave his all during every run-through.

A few years after I returned to Little Rock, I received a phone call from Jo Jones in the Chancellor’s office at UALR.  Dr. Joel Anderson was considering David to be his Provost.  Jo (a family friend) knew I had attended SMSU and wanted to know my thoughts about him.  I told her that due to the fact I was not involved directly in the music department, I had probably said fewer than 10 words to him, outside of “Hello” but then proceeded to tell her of his reputation, of what I had observed, and what I had heard from others.   A week or so later, she called to tell me that Dr. Anderson had just announced to the UALR faculty the hiring of Dr. Belcher.

I sent him an email to welcome him to Little Rock. Since he was a musician, and cultural affairs were part of my duties at the City of Little Rock, I was especially excited to have him come.  Some mutual friends asked me to also reach out to Susan. (I think they were not yet married but were engaged.) I was thrilled to do so.

Once they arrived, the Little Rock arts community embraced them, and they embraced it.  It was a definite mutual admiration society.  They became involved with the Symphony, the Rep, Wildwood, the Arts Center,  Accademia dell’Arte, and numerous music organizations.  They promoted the UALR arts to the community and supported on-campus efforts with their attendance and participation.  I was eventually able to convince David to serve on the City’s Arts+Culture Commission.  After service of  few months, he was asked to be the chair. Though busy with numerous major tasks at UALR, he agreed.

From time to time we would meet for lunch. Our conversations would veer between Springfield, Little Rock, and the arts in general.  They were always delightful.

In 2005, he was a finalist to become the next president at what would be Missouri State University.  At the time, I joked to Dr. Anderson that either way the selection went, I would benefit. He responded with a smile that he appreciated my response, but that he did not benefit if David left. He followed up by saying, “He is so good, I know I won’t be able to keep him here forever, but I want a few more years.”

While it was not meant for David and Susan to return to Springfield, he maintained many close ties. (He also poached several excellent faculty and administrators from Springfield to come to Little Rock.)

Alas for Little Rock, in 2011 he was hired by Western Carolina University to lead that campus.  Not only did it give him the chance to be a Chancellor, but it also took him closer to his family and his roots.

By all accounts, he was as dynamic and respected at WCU as he had been in Springfield and Little Rock.  Unfortunately, in 2016, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Through two years of treatments, surgery, improvements, and setbacks, he kept up as well as possible with his duties.

A page on the WCU website posted updates. He felt it was important for the faculty, students, and donors to know about his status.  A photo on that page shows hundreds of people standing in the rain at a rally to show support for him as he battled this.  On August 1, 2017, he announced the tumor had returned.  Later in the semester, he announced he would be going on medical leave effective December 31, 2017.

On June 14, 2018, the first update of the year was made. It noted he was in a care facility and receiving only family and close friends. It encouraged people to write notes and stressed that the Belchers wanted any tributes to be made for scholarships at WCU.

Following his death on June 17, 2018, his obituary also encouraged memorials be made to Furman (his alma mater), Missouri State University, and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.  Unselfish to the end, his last wishes paid tribute to the institutions which had prepared him to lead WCU.

Godspeed Dr. David O. Belcher.  The music will continue to play. But it will be a slightly different tune without your contributions.

Little Rock Look Back: 1945 Commissioning of USS Little Rock

Following the 1944 launch of the USS Little Rock, there were still several months before the ship was ready to officially join the US Navy fleet.

On June 17, 1945, the USS Little Rock was officially commissioned and joined the fleet.  While Europe had surrendered by this time, the war in the Pacific continued.

The commissioning took place at the US Naval Yard in Philadelphia.  At the start of the ceremony, an invocation was given by the Ship’s Chaplain, Lt. C. L. Dickey.  Then Rear Admiral Draemel, the Commandant of the Fourth Naval District gave an address.

The simultaneous raising  the ensign, jack and commissioning pennant were accompanied by the National Anthem.  This marked the actual moment the ship joined the fleet.  Captain W. E. Miller, then ceremonially reported to the Commandant that the ship had been placed into commission.  He was then formally placed in command of the USS Little Rock.

The First Watch was set, followed by an introduction of Little Rock Mayor Dan T. Sprick.  Captain Miller then made an address, and Chaplain Dickey provided a benediction. The crew of the USS Little Rock was dismissed, followed by “Retreat” on the bugle. The program ended with tea being served to the crew in the respect messes.

Any member of the original crew  during the ceremony was issued a card indicating he was a Plank owner.  This entitled him to ownership of one of the planks on the weather deck of the ship.