Little Rock Culture Vulture

Cultural events, places and people in the Little Rock area


Movies in the Park – BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S

215px-Breakfast_at_TiffanysYou can’t eat breakfast at Tiffany’s, but you can enjoy the classic film and have a picnic supper tonight in Riverfront Park.  Movies in the Park presents the 1961 classic Blake Edwards film tonight at dusk.

Based on Truman Capote’s novella, the film was one of Audrey Hepburn’s iconic roles.  Joining her in the cast were George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Martin Balsam, Buddy Ebsen and Mickey Rooney.  The film features the famous song “Moon River” which Hepburn sings at one point in the movie.  (Audiences at Movies in the Park may be able to see the moon reflected on the Arkansas River at some point in the evening.)

The film was nominated for five Academy Awards including Best Actress (Hepburn), Best Adapted Screenplay (George Axelrod) and Best Art Direction. It won the Oscars for Best Song – “Moon River” (Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini) and Best Score (Mancini again).

Movies in the Park is a free outdoor movie series in Little Rock’s River Market. They take place at the First Security Amphitheatre. The mission of Movies in the Park is help foster a sense of community and enjoyment in downtown Little Rock and throughout Central Arkansas by bringing people together to enjoy a movie in a unique setting along the scenic banks of the Arkansas River.

The movie will start tonight at dark. Visitors are welcome to bring picnics but please no glass containers and pick up afterwards. Those choosing not to bring their own picnic,  Riverfront Park does have concessions available for sale.

Bring bug spray, picnic and family and have a good time!

The Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau Technical Services department provides all the equipment for the movies.


Little Rock Look Back: Mayor Jim Dailey

cityoflr_img_board_dailyOn July 31, 1942, future Little Rock Mayor Dalton James “Jim” Dailey, Jr. was born to Dalton and Ellen Dailey.  After graduating from Little Rock Catholic High School, he attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.  He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. He joined his father in the family business, Dailey’s Office Furniture.

In 1974, Dailey was elected to the City of Little Rock Board of Directors.  He served one four-year term. The last two years of that term, he was the Vice Mayor of Little Rock.

Following that term, he remained engaged in civic activities including serving in leadership capacities in community campaigns.  He also served as president of the National Office Products Association – the first Arkansan to do so.  Dailey also served as the founding chair of Leadership Greater Little Rock.

In 1988, Dailey was elected to return to the City Board.  He was reelected in 1992.  Dailey served as Vice Mayor in 1991 and 1992.  In January 1993, he was chosen by his fellow City Directors to serve a two year term as Mayor.  Under his leadership, the Future-Little Rock goal-setting process took place.

Following a voter-approved change to the City structure, the position of Mayor was changed to be elected by the people while maintaining the City Manager form of government.  On January 1, 1995, Jim Dailey was sworn in as the first popularly-elected Mayor of the City of Little Rock in over 38 years.

cityoflr_img_mayor_01Dailey has served on the Board of Directors for the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, Metroplan, Communities in Schools, Arkansas BioVentures and New Futures for Youth. He was appointed to the National League of Cities Board of Directors and the Municipalities in Transition on Public Finance.

As Mayor, he served as Chair of the Intergovernmental Advisory Committee of the Federal Communications Commission. He was also a member of the United States Conference of Mayor’s Communications Task Force.  He also served as president of the Arkansas Municipal League in 2002 and 2003.

While he was Mayor of Little Rock, he was a strong proponent of the development of the River Market and worked to locate the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock.  He also worked to increase public safety support.  He also oversaw the establishment of Central Arkansas Water, the development of downtown headquarters for Acxiom Corporation and Heifer International, and the creation of Prevention, Intervention and Treatment programs.  In addition, he was instrumental in leading the efforts for the 40th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock Central High in 1997.

Mayor Dailey was re-elected in 1998 and 2002.  His fourteen years as Mayor of Little Rock set a longevity record.  Upon his retirement the City’s fitness center was renamed the Jim Dailey Fitness and Aquatic Center.  This was in recognition of his lifelong interest in wellness activities.

Since leaving office, he has continued his civic involvement by serving as a member of the Little Rock Airport Commission which oversees the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.  He is also involved in commercial real estate.

Mayor Dailey has been married to Patti Murphy since 1965. They have two daughters, two sons and six grandchildren…a set of quadruplets, plus two.


Jazz in the Park – Dizzy 7

jazzinparkThe Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau continues Jazz in the Park tonight. The featured musicians are Dizzy 7

Dizzy7Logo-Small1Dizzy 7 plays music that ranges from Motown to Big Band, Latin to Dixie. It features a full rhythm section, a three-man horn section, and female and male vocalists. Dizzy 7 is composed of accomplished musicians who love what they do. In addition to playing private parties, fundraisers and weddings, the group performs a monthly gig at Dizzy’s Gypsy Bistro.  Joining Dizzy 7 will be vocalist Craig Wilson.

Jazz in the Park takes place Wednesday night in June and July from 5:30pm to 7:30pm. They will take place in the History Pavilion in Riverfront Park (between the Junction Bridge and Peabody Park).

Beer & Wine will be available for sale – to benefit Sculpture at the River Market…so no coolers, please. Free to attend!

 


Little Rock Look Back: Ben Piazza

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Piazza at LR High School

Actor-director-playwright Ben Piazza was born on July 30, 1933, in Little Rock.  Piazza graduated from Little Rock High School in 1951 as valedictorian. He also had starred in the senior play that year (The Man Who Came to Dinner) and edited the literary magazine.

Keeping the Tiger as his mascot, Piazza attended college at Princeton University.  While there he continued acting, including an appearance in a Theatre Intime production of Othello.  Following his 1955 graduation, he moved to New York City and studied at the Actor’s Studio.

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Piazza at Princeton

Piazza was an understudy in the 1956 play, Too Late the Phalarope at the Belasco Theatre.  In February 1958, he starred in Winesburg, Ohio sharing the National (now Nederlander) Theatre stage with James Whitmore, Dorothy McGuire, and Leon Ames. Other cast members included Claudia McNeil (who originated the part of Lena in A Raisin in the Sun) and Sandra Church (who originated the part of Gypsy Rose Lee in Gypsy).

In April 1959, Piazza starred in Kataki at the Ambassador Theatre. This two actor play also featured Sessue Hayakawa, who played a Japanese soldier who spoke only his native language.  Therefore, Piazza’s part was largely a very lengthy monologue.  For his performance, Piazza received one of the 1959 Theatre World Awards.

As the 1960s dawned, Piazza joined a small cadre of actors who had achieved status on Broadway who then also returned to acting Off Broadway.  Colleen Dewhurst, George C. Scott, and James Earl Jones were others in this select group who helped establish Off Broadway as an entity in itself, instead of being just a farm team for Broadway.

Piazza started the 1960s on Broadway starring at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre in A Second Stringwith Shirley Booth, Jean-Pierre Aumont, Nina Foch, Cathleen Nesbitt, and Carrie Nye.   Following that, he started his association with Edward Albee by appearing as the title character inThe American Dream.  That play opened at the York Playhouse in January 1961.  Later that year, he appeared in Albee’s The Zoo Story opposite original cast member William Daniels at the East End Theatre.

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Also in 1961 Piazza starred in several plays during a South American tour sponsored by the American Repertory Company.  He played Christopher Isherwood in I Am a Cameraand Chance Wayne in Sweet Bird of Youth.  In 1962, he starred in a series of plays at the Cherry Lane Theatre.  Piazza returned to Broadway to star along with Jane Fonda and Dyan Cannon in The Fun Couple at the Lyceum Theatre. This play had a troubled rehearsal period, which was documented in a short film about Jane Fonda.

Ben Piazza stayed on Broadway and returned to Albee in February 1963.  He took over the role of Nick in the original run of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? when original actor George Grizzard left to play Hamlet at the Guthrie Theatre.  (He had participated in earlier readings of the play prior to it being mounted on Broadway.)

This play was at the Billy Rose Theatre, which marked a return for Piazza. He had acted at this theatre when it was the National while doing Winseburg.  Piazza played Nick for the remainder of the run and acted with Uta Hagen, Arthur Hill, fellow Arkansan Melinda Dillon, Eileen Fulton, Nancy Kelly, Mercedes McCambridge, Rochelle Oliver and Sheppard Strudwick.

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During the run of this show, Piazza’s novel The Exact and Very Strange Truth was published.  It is a fictionalized account of his growing up in Little Rock during the 1930s and 1940s.  The book is filled with references to Centennial Elementary, Westside Junior High, Central High School, Immanuel Baptist Church and various stores and shops in Little Rock during that era.  The Piazza Shoe Store, located on Main Street, was called Gallanti’s.

Following Virginia Woolf, he starred in The Zoo Story at the Cherry Lane Theatre in 1965.  In August of 1967, his play The Sunday Agreement premiered at LaMaMa.  This was Piazza’s first playwright output to be professionally staged.

As Sunday Agreement was opening, Piazza was in rehearsal for his next Broadway opening. He appeared with Alfred Drake in The Song of the Grasshopper in September 1967.  In 1968, he returned to Albee and starred in The Death of Bessie Smith and The Zoo Story in repertory on Broadway at the Billy Rose Theatre.

Later that season, in March 1969, a double bill of his one-acts: Lime Green/Khaki Blue opened at the Provincetown Playhouse.  It was directed by future Tony nominee Peter Masterson and starred Louise Lasser, Robert Walden (starred in the 2013 production of Death of a Salesman at Arkansas Repertory Theatre), Clinton Allmon and Dolores Dorn-Heft, to whom Piazza was married at the time.

Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, Piazza toured in many plays nationally and internationally. He also appeared in major regional theatres as an actor and a director.  During this time period he was in productions of Bus Stop, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, You Know I Can’t Hear You when the Water’s Running  and Savages.  In 1970, he starred as Stanley Kowalski in a production of A Streetcar Named Desire in New Orleans.  As the 1970s progressed, he turned his focus to television and movies.

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Piazza headshot for HANGING TREE

Piazza’s film debut was in a 1959 Canadian film called The Dangerous Age. That same year, his Hollywood film debut came opposite Gary Cooper, Karl Malden, Maria Schell and George C. Scott in The Hanging Tree.  Though he received positive reviews for his performances, Piazza chose to return to New York and perform in stage and TV productions.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he appeared in a number of TV shows including Studio One, Kraft Theatre, Zane Grey Theatre, The Naked City and Dick Powell Theatre.  He had a recurring role during one season of Ben Casey and appeared on the soap opera Love of Life.

In the 1970s, he starred in the films Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon; The Candy Snatchers and I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.  He also starred as the City Councilman who recruits Walter Matthau to coach a baseball team in The Bad News Bears.

Among his numerous TV appearances in the 1970s were The Waltons, Mannix, Switch, Barnaby Jones, Gunsmoke, Mod Squad and Lou Grant (where he was reunited with Walden).

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Piazza in the late 1980s

In the 1980s, he appeared in The Blues Brothers, The Rockford Files, Barney Miller, Hart to Hart, Family Ties, The Winds of War, Dallas, Dynasty, Too Close for Comfort, The A Team, Saint Elsewhere, Santa Barbara, The Facts of Life, Mr. Belvedere, Moonlighting and Matlock.

Piazza’s final big screen appearance was in the 1991 film Guilty by Suspicion.  He played studio head Darryl Zanuck in this Robert DeNiro-Annette Bening tale of Hollywood during the Red scare.

Ben Piazza died on September 7, 1991.


McKuin Receives National Certification in Historic Real Estate Development

Vanessa_McKuinEarlier this month, Vanessa Norton McKuin, executive director of the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas (HPAA) received certification as a Historic Real Estate Development Finance Professional (HHDFP) from the National Development Council (NDC).

HPAA is Arkansas’s only statewide historic preservation organization.

HHDFP Certification is a professional credential given to individuals who successfully complete the NDC’s intensive historic real estate development finance training series. The training provides individuals working in the field of community development with instruction in housing development finance, rental housing development finance including problem solving and deal structuring, and the creation and implementation of development programs.

The National Development Council was established in 1969 and is a non-profit organization specializing in economic and housing development training and technical assistance for community development.

Vanessa McKuin is an Arkansas native with family ties in South Arkansas and in the Ozark Mountains. As the Executive Director of the Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas, Mrs. McKuin promotes historic preservation as a community development and revitalization too. Ms. McKuin oversees operations, development, advocacy and outreach for the organization. As the director of the Alliance, Mrs. McKuin served as the lead advocate for the Arkansas Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit (Act 498 of 2009), which created a 25% credit for the rehabilitation of historic structures, providing an incentive that leverages private investment for preservation. Mrs. McKuin also serves as the Arkansas Coordinator for Preservation Action, a national non-profit that promotes preservation legislation.

Before joining the Alliance in 2008, Mrs. McKuin managed programs and operations at the New York Preservation Archive Project, a non-profit historic preservation group in New York City. Mrs. McKuin holds a B.A. degree in Art from Hendrix College in Conway and a M.S. degree in Historic Preservation from Pratt Institute in New York City.

The Historic Preservation Alliance of Arkansas is the statewide non-profit organization dedicated to promoting preservation and continued use of historic and culturally significant places in Arkansas. Through public programs, advocacy and education, the Alliance works to assist owners of historic properties with the means and expertise to preserve and restore important structures. More than just saving old buildings, historic preservation creates and maintains vital, sustainable communities and offers unique quality of life benefits.

For more information about the Alliance visit PreserveArkansas.org.


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Art Porter Music Education’s 2013 Jazz Week this week

artporterThe 2013 Art Porter Music Education Jazz Week runs from Monday, July 29 through Saturday August 3 at various locations in Little Rock.

The week kicks off at Little Rock City Hall on Monday.  The City of Little Rock will host the first concert as young musicians will take center stage in the City Hall Rotunda on Monday, July 29 at noon.  This is a free event.

Other events this week include

Jazz on the Plaza at the Metropolitan BankPlaza – Tuesday, July 30 at noon – FREE

Walter Beasley and Eric Struthers at Cajun’s Wharf – Wednesday, July 31 at 7:00 pm – ticketed event

Martha Burks at Club Sway – Thursday, August 1 at 7:30pm – ticketed event

Porter Players at The Afterthought – Friday, August 2 – FREE

Pieces of A Dream at the Metroplex Event Center – August 3 at 8pm – ticketed event

All proceeds benefit the Art Porter Music Education (APME) scholarship program. Ticket information is available at www.ArtPorter.org or call (501) 492-9120.

The APME was created by friends and family of Little Rock natives – Art Porter Sr and Art Porter Jr – both amazingly talented musicians. The purpose of the APME is two-fold:

  • To provide scholarships to talented Arkansas music students in need of financial assistance to pursue higher education from an accredited college or university.
  • To provide musical enhancement opportunities through workshops and seminars.


Hogs Broadcasters focus of new book from Butler Center Books

bc-purvisRazorback football season is just a few short weeks away.  As thoughts start turning to the gridiron, it is time to think about the legacy of the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Established more than sixty years ago, the Razorback broadcasting network was a pioneering effort in collegiate sports. With announcers such as Bud Campbell and Paul Eells at the microphone, it has become an enduring feature of life in Arkansas. The Razorback network, from its modest beginning to its growth into a major force in sports broadcasting, is the basis of Voices of the Razorbacks, by Hoyt Purvis and Stanley Sharp, which has just been released by Butler Center Books.

The Razorback broadcasting network helped build interest in the Razorbacks and a loyal following for them but also forged strong links among Razorback fans and the broadcasters who became “voices” of the Razorbacks. A sense of kinship developed within the audience, and the broadcasts of Razorback sports became an essential part of the state’s culture.

Although an announcer today may say, This is the Razorback Sports Network from IMG College,” the Arkansas broadcast network is a direct descendant of the Razorback network Bob Cheyne assembled in the early 1950s at the direction of Athletic Director John Barnhill. There had been earlier broadcasts of Razorback sports, including games announced by Bob Fulton in the 1940s, but the Razorback network Cheyne developed help turn broadcasters into cultural icons.

Voices of the Razorbacks traces the history of the broadcasters and the memorable events and highlights over the decades, and it features interviews with many of the key figures in that history. It is hard to find anyone in Arkansas, or Razorback fans anywhere, without special memories of listening to or watching broadcasts of Razorback games. Voices of the Razorbacks brings all those memories back.

Co-author Hoyt Purvis has taught journalism, international relations, and political science at the University of Arkansas since 1982. He established the first sports journalism course at UA and taught it for twenty-five years. Co-author Stanley Sharp of Booneville, Arkansas, has followed Razorback sports all his life and has a master’s degree in journalism from UA.

            Voices of the Razorbacks is available from River Market Books & Gifts, 120 River Market Ave., and from the University of Arkansas Press, Butler Center Books’ distributor. Butler Center Books is a division of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, a department of the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS). The Butler Center’s research collections, art galleries, and offices are located in the Arkansas Studies Institute building at 401 PresidentClinton Ave. on the campus of the CALS Main Library. For more information, contact Rod Lorenzen at (501) 320-5716 or rlorenzen@cals.org.