Little Rock bids “HELLO” to Carol Channing in November 1966

53 years ago tonight, on November 15, 1966, Carol Channing opened a six day stint in HELLO, DOLLY! at Robinson Auditorium.  She would play 8 sold out shows over those six days.

Channing, who had won the 1964 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her role in this show, had recently returned to the national tour.  She had just wrapped filming THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE (for which she would receive an Oscar nomination). She had specifically requested that Little Rock be added to the tour.

Her breakout role was in 1949’s GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDS. In that show she introduced the song “Little Girl from Little Rock.”  Since it had helped make her a star, she had long felt an affinity for the Arkansas capital.  Therefore when she rejoined the tour, she required that LR be one of her stops before she left the tour.

While in Little Rock, Channing was entertained at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion and feted at parties.  She was made an honorary citizen of Little Rock, as well.

But she was here to perform. And perform she did. She was rarely known to miss a performance and always gave her utmost.  Bill Lewis, in his review in the ARKANSAS GAZETTE, stated “To hear Channing sing ‘Hello, Dolly!’ Is one of the great experiences of all musical theater to date…”

In assessing the show’s run in Little Rock (which would be seen by more than 20,000 people), Lewis summed up what many felt at the time — and to hear the reminiscences from a half century later, it still is a heartfelt sentiment — “A week’s too little.”

200 Years since Arkansas Gazette was founded is focus of 2nd Friday Art Night at Historic Arkansas Museum

2nd Friday Art Night at Historic Arkansas Museum will celebrate 200 years since the Arkansas Gazette, the oldest paper west of the Mississippi, printed its first paper at Arkansas Post.
They will have a special mini-exhibit for the evening that will showcase items related to the newspaper and its founder, William Woodruff.
At 6 pm, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist Rex Nelson will give a talk in the Ottenheimer Theater about the newspaper’s long-running history and its impact on the state, referencing his columns on the subject.
In addition, the Woodruff Print Shop on the museum’s grounds will be open with activities happening on both floors. Upstairs, there will be a demonstration of the kind of press Woodruff used in 1819—a Ramage Press—and some background on Woodruff, printing, and the press in Arkansas. Downstairs, guests will be able to try out mini-presses with the Gazette masthead.
Plus, #ArkansasMade beer by Lost Forty Brewing, music by Charlotte Taylor and artist K. Ellyse Fraizer in the Museum Store.

Tricks and Treats on Little Rock Streets: Halloween 1950 in Downtown

A recent romp through an ARKANSAS GAZETTE gave insight into Halloween in Little Rock in the middle of the 20th Century.

Apparently by late afternoon on Halloween 1950, downtown Little Rock was filled with kids and teens in costumes. Much of the focus seemed to be on tricks as many of these revelers were utilizing water guns to soak people, throwing enough talcum powder to create an aroma downtown, shooting off firecrackers, and soaping store windows. Several industrious store owners had coated there windows with glycerine so that soap would not mark them.

The mayhem was enough to cause even more problems to traffic at rush hour. Police officers were helpless as they were directing traffic.  One city bus filled with passengers was attacked by a phalanx of waterguns, until the windows were all closed.

GAZETTE writer noted that two teen boys were dressed rather convincingly as girls. One was described as “rather pretty.” It was not until the teen let out an expletive (which the paper reported as “g— d—–”) that the reporter was certain it was a male.

Not everyone was focused on tricks.  Merchants in the Heights neighborhood created a block party with a carnival. It was deemed to be so successful that it would become an annual event.