Rock the Oscars 2019: Opening of the Clinton Presidential Center

Probably the largest gathering of Oscar winners and Oscar nominees in Little Rock’s history took place in November 2004.

Though some Oscar winners and nominees had been present for the Clinton election night parties in 1992 and 1996, the opening of the Clinton Presidential Center brought luminaries from Hollywood en masse.

Among those present were Oscar winning actors Barbara Streisand, Robin Williams, and (of course) Arkansan Mary Steenburgen.  Future Oscar winner Morgan Freeman was also in attendance. Among the Oscar nominees who were present were Bono and The Edge (who performed at the ceremony) and Alfre Woodard.

Senator John Glenn, who had been featured as a character in the Oscar winning film The Right Stuff was also present for the festivities.  Former Vice President Al Gore did not actually win an Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth (the documentary awards go to the director), but was closely identified with this Oscar winning documentary.

There were plenty of rumors about other Oscar winners and nominees in town, though they were not true.

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Little Rock Look Back: The 2004 opening of the Clinton Presidential Center

wjc library openingIt has been fourteen years since the Clinton Presidential Center opened on a wet, cold Thursday.

The days leading up to it had been glorious.  And while the weather may have literally dampened spirits a bit, it was still an important day for Little Rock and Arkansas.

The events leading up to the opening included a concert by Aretha Franklin with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and an appearance by Senator John Glenn at the Museum of Discovery.  Events were hosted by the Arkansas Arts Center, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Historic Arkansas Museum, and Old State House Museum.  There were scores of receptions and parties as Hollywood, New York, and DC descended on Little Rock.

November 18 dawned rainy and cool.  As the day continued on the precipitation continued while the temperature did not warm up.  Years of planning for a grand opening ceremony came down to this.  But at the appointed time, festivities began.

On the site of an abandoned warehouse district and unofficial dump which had previously been a train station, many leaders of the free world were gathered.  They rubbed shoulders with thousands of Arkansans from probably every county in the state.

It had been seven years and eleven days since Bill Clinton had announced the site of his presidential library.  It had been five years since artifacts and articles started arriving from Washington DC in Little Rock.  There had been lawsuits, threats of lawsuits, the threat of a Counter-Clinton Library, and countless meetings.

After speeches from Presidents Carter, Bush 41 and Bush 43, remarks from President Clinton and then-Senator Clinton (who was made even wetter by water pouring off an ill-placed umbrella), and even a musical performance by Bono and The Edge, Chelsea Clinton turned over the ceremonial key from the Clinton Foundation to the National Archives to officially open the Clinton Presidential Center.

In his capacity leading the Clinton Foundation, Skip Rutherford oversaw the planning for the Clinton Library and the grand opening festivities.  He, along with the foundation’s Executive Director Stephanie S. Streett, oversaw a phalanx of volunteers and staff to anticipate every detail.  The 1,000 days countdown sign that had been on the construction site (the brainchild of Tyler Denton) finally reached 0.

Isabelle Rodriguez, Shannon Butler, Mariah Hatta, Jordan Johnson, Lucas Hargraves, Ben Beaumont, Denver Peacock — among others — had been putting in twelve plus hour days for months on end to get ready for the opening.  City Manager Bruce T. Moore led a team of City officials who had assisted on the planning and execution of the site preparation and making sure Little Rock was ready to welcome the world.  Moore and City Director Dean Kumpuris had been appointed by Little Rock Mayor Jim Dailey to lead Little Rock’s efforts to land the library.  After Clinton’s announcement of the site, Dailey, Kumpuris and Moore continued to work together to ensure the library would be successful.

Among those present were Oscar winning actors Barbara Streisand, Robin Williams, and (of course) Arkansan Mary Steenburgen.  Future Oscar winner Morgan Freeman was also in attendance. Among the Oscar nominees who were present were Bono and The Edge (who performed at the ceremony) and Alfre Woodard.  It was the first public appearance by Senator John Kerry after his loss earlier in the month to President George W. Bush. Scores of Senators and members of Congress as well as countless Clinton Administration staffers were also in attendance.

While the weather on November 18, 2004, may have been a disappointment, the people who were gathered knew they were witnesses to history.  And fourteen years later, is a day people still talk about.

 

 

Rock the Oscars: Opening of the Clinton Presidential Center

Probably the largest gathering of Oscar winners and Oscar nominees in Little Rock’s history took place in November 2004.

Though some Oscar winners and nominees had been present for the Clinton election night parties in 1992 and 1996, the opening of the Clinton Presidential Center brought luminaries from Hollywood en masse.

Among those present were Oscar winning actors Barbara Streisand, Robin Williams, and (of course) Arkansan Mary Steenburgen.  Future Oscar winner Morgan Freeman was also in attendance. Among the Oscar nominees who were present were Bono and The Edge (who performed at the ceremony) and Alfre Woodard.

Senator John Glenn, who had been featured as a character in the Oscar winning film The Right Stuff was also present for the festivities.  Former Vice President Al Gore did not actually win an Oscar for An Inconvenient Truth (the documentary awards go to the director), but was closely identified with this Oscar winning documentary.

There were plenty of rumors about other Oscar winners and nominees in town, though they were not true.

 

Black History Month Spotlight: Henry Shead

bhm shedHenry Wallace Shead, Sr., better known as “Shed” was born in Fordyce, Arkansas, on March 31, 1941.  He was raised in Little Rock, the son of a reverend, Henry Arthur Shead.  At the tender age of six, Henry was introduced to the keyboards by his mother, Willie LeBethel, who immediately recognized his natural talent. Henry’s mother saw to it that her son had piano lessons, while his father’s church provided the place for his early public performances.

At the start of his career, he performed regularly on a local American Bandstand-type TV show called Center Stage. He also became a fixture at the Little Rock Country Club. He made his mark playing in intimate settings as a solo artist, dazzling listeners with his absolute mastery of the piano, singing in that slightly raspy, yet smooth sounding baritone voice. Shead was awarded a scholarship to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and majored in music while entertaining around the area. Henry met his wife, Jeanette Mazique, while attending college in Pine Bluff. They married in January of 1964 and had four children.

He became a high school choral director and music teacher, all the while continuing to work in local nightspots like the Drummer‘s Club in Little Rock. In 1971, he moved to Los Angeles where he made his acting debut appearing with Henry Fonda, Richard Dreyfuss and Jane Alexander in William Saroyan’s The Time of Your Life. He wrote and arranged music for stage plays and television, sang the title song for a United Artist film, did studio work on a Johnny Mathis album, and recorded for the Liberty/United Artists and Cream labels.

Shed created national radio jingles and appeared on network television with Dinah Shore, Johnny Carson and Jerry Lewis. He has also performed at parties for the Rockefellers, Pearl Bailey, The Carpenters, President Lyndon Johnson, President Bill Clinton, Henry Mancini, Sergio Mendes, hotelier Peter Morton, Ed McMahon and Barbra Streisand.

In Las Vegas, the city where he lived since 1974, Shed entertained at most of the major hotels, with long engagements at the Aladdin, Stardust, Hacienda, MGM Grand, Caesar’s Palace and Sahara. In 1977, the Henry Shead Band with Denise Clemente was voted Las Vegas’ Best Lounge Act of the Year. His last long-term run was at AJ’s Steakhouse at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, retiring in 2007. In October 2006, he was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.

He died on October 5, 2012 in Las Vegas and is buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Hollywood CA.

For more on Henry Shead and other inductees into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, visit the permanent exhibit at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. That museum is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

 

ROCKing the TONY AWARDS – Clinton Library Opening with Spacey, Streisand and Hipp

Rock the Tonys KS BS PHKevin Spacey, Barbra Streisand, Paul Hipp

Little Rock connection: All three were in attendance in Little Rock for the opening of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in November 2004.

Tony Awards connection: Spacey has a Tony Award for Featured Actor in a Play for 1991’s Lost in Yonkers. He has also been nominated for Actor in a Play in 1999 for The Iceman Cometh.

Streisand was nominated for Tony Awards in 1962 (Featured Actress in a Musical – I Can Get It for You Wholesale) and 1964 (Actress in a Musical – Funny Girl) and received a Special Tony in 1970.

Hipp was nominated for Actor in a Musical in 1991 for Buddy- The Buddy Holly Story.

While Bono and The Edge played at the Clinton Presidential Center opening and also penned the score for Spiderman, they failed to win a Tony nomination.

(The Culture Vulture met Spacey at a reception at the Arkansas Arts Center and had a conversation with Hipp and his girlfriend at a reception hosted by the Downtown Little Rock Partnership.)

ROCKing the TONY AWARDS – Christopher J. Hanke

Rock the TonysChrisHankeyHeadshotCHRISTOPHER J. HANKE

Little Rock connection: A native of Central Arkansas, he starred in the Arkansas Rep production of Damn Yankees.

Tony Award connection: Performed on the Tony Awards ceremonies with casts of Cry-Baby and How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying. Currently he is starring Off Broadway in Buyer and Cellar playing a fictional employee of double Tony nominee Barbra Streisand.