HAIR shone in on Robinson Auditorium starting on January 18, 1972

Ad for the original production of HAIR in Little Rock. Note the ticket prices. And that they could be purchased at Moses Music Shops.

Forty-eight years ago today, on January 18, 1972, the musical Hair settled in for a week-long run at Robinson Auditorium.  The saga to bring the national tour to Little Rock had actually begun eleven months earlier.

In February 1971, a young Little Rock attorney named Phil Kaplan petitioned the Little Rock Board of Censors to see if it would allow a production of Hair to play in the city. He was asking on behalf of a client who was interested in bringing a national tour to Arkansas’ capital city. The show, which had opened on Broadway to great acclaim in April 1968 after an Off Broadway run in 1967, was known for containing a nude scene as well for a script which was fairly liberally sprinkled with four-letter words. The Censors stated they could not offer an opinion without having seen a production.

By July 1971, Kaplan and his client (who by then had been identified as Southwest Productions) were seeking permission for a January 1972 booking of Hair from the City’s Auditorium Commission which was charged with overseeing operations at Robinson Auditorium. At its July meeting, the Commissioners voted against allowing Hair because of its “brief nude scene” and “bawdy language.”

Kaplan decried the decision. He stated that the body couldn’t “sit in censorship of legitimate theatrical productions.” He noted courts had held that Hair  could be produced and that the Auditorium Commission, as an agent for the State, “clearly can’t exercise prior censorship.” He proffered that if the production was obscene it would be a matter for law enforcement not the Auditorium Commission.

The Commission countered that they had an opinion from City Attorney Joseph Kemp stating they had the authority. One of the Commissioners, Mrs. Grady Miller (sister-in-law of the building’s namesake the late Senator Robinson, she had served on the Commission since 1940), expressed her concern that allowing Hair would open the door to other productions such as Oh! Calcutta!

On July 26, 1971, Southwest Productions filed suit against the Auditorium Commission. Four days later there was a hearing before federal Judge G. Thomas Eisele. Judge Eisele offered a ruling on August 11 which compelled the Auditorium Commission to allow Hair to be performed. Prior to the ruling, some of the Auditorium Commissioners had publicly stated that if they had to allow Hair, they would close it after the first performance on the grounds of obscenity. To combat this, Judge Eisele stated that the Commission had to allow Hair to perform the entire six day engagement it sought.

Upon hearing of the Judge’s ruling, Commissioner Emily Miller offered a succinct, two word response. “Oh, Dear!”

In the end, the production of Hair at Robinson would not be the first performance of that musical in the state.  The tour came through Fayetteville for two performances in October 1971 at Barnhill Arena.

On January 18, 1972, Hair played the first of its 8 performances over 6 days at Robinson Auditorium.  In his review the next day, the Arkansas Gazette’s Bill Lewis noted that Hair “threw out all it had to offer” and that Little Rock had survived.

The ads promoting the production carried the tagline “Arkansas will never be the same.”  Tickets (from $2 all the way up to $8.50–the equivalent of $12.23 to $51.99 in 2020 dollars) could be purchased at Moses Melody Shops both downtown and in “The Mall” (meaning Park Plaza). That business is gone from downtown, but the scion of that family, Jimmy Moses, is actively involved in building downtown through countless projects. His sons are carrying on the family tradition too.

Little Rock was by no means unique in trying to stop productions of Hair.  St. Louis, Birmingham, Los Angeles, Tallahassee, Boston, Atlanta, Charlotte NC, West Palm Beach, Oklahoma City, Mobile and Chattanooga all tried unsuccessfully to stop performances in their public auditoriums.  Despite Judge Eisele’s ruling against the City of Little Rock, members of the Fort Smith City Council also tried to stop a production later in 1972 in that city. This was despite warnings from City staff that there was not legal standing.

Within a few years, the Board of Censors of the City of Little Rock would be dissolved (as similar bodies also were disappearing across the US). Likewise, the Auditorium Commission was discontinued before Hair even opened, with its duties being taken over by the Advertising and Promotion Commission and the Convention & Visitors Bureau staff.  This was not connected to the Hair decision; it was, instead, related to expanding convention facilities in Robinson and the new adjacent hotel.  Regardless of the reasons for their demise, both bygone bodies were vestiges of earlier and differently focused days in Little Rock.

Dino Day today at the Museum of Discovery!

No photo description available.DINOSAURS ARE TAKING OVER MUSEUM OF DISCOVERY! What better way to celebrate the opening of “Dinosaurs: Fossils Exposed,” the feature exhibit opening Saturday, January 18, than with a dino party complete with prehistoric activities and demos!  The fun runs from 10am to 3pm.

Here are some of the activities we have planned (subject to change):
-Meet a paleontologist
-Explore fossils
-Make dino tracks
-Create your own Jurassic Park sound effects
-Excavate a chocolate chip cookie
-Dig the layers of the Earth (Sensory play, great for littles)
-Eggs-cavation
-Dinosaur loose parts play (great for littles)
-More

Dino Day at Museum of Discovery is included in regular museum admission or free for museum members.

“Dinosaurs: Fossils Exposed” explores the bones and fossils belonging to the giant creatures that once roamed the Earth. Visitors can view and even touch six full dinosaur skeletal molds including a Triceratops, Tyrannosaurs Rex and Velociraptor. There are additional molds of skulls, arms, legs, eggs, footprints and a 6-foot-1 Apatosaurus femur. Visitors will also enjoy a dig box where they can use paleontology tools to unearth dinosaur bones. The exhibit will remain at the museum until July 18 (date subject to change.)

Pulaski Heights officially became Little Rock’s Ninth Ward on January 13, 1916

On January 13, 1916, the Little Rock City Council formally accepted Pulaski Heights into the City of Little Rock.

The Council had held a regular meeting on Monday, January 10, 1916, which was the same evening as the final meeting of the Pulaski Heights City Council.

Three days later, on Thursday, January 13, 1916, Mayor Charles Taylor again convened the Little Rock City Council to take the steps to officially annex Pulaski Heights into Little Rock.

By Ordinance 2259, the City’s boundaries were increased to include the land which had been Pulaski Heights.  Resolution 918 directed city staff to replat the land, which was necessary to bring the land in accordance with existing city plats and documents.

Resolution 919 set forth January 20 as a special election date to elect the two new members of the Little Rock City Council who would represent the new Ninth Ward of Little Rock.  Those who won would serve until April 1916.  The election would also serve as the primary for the April election.  Back then, winning the Democratic primary for a City race was tantamount to winning the race.  Since there were two seats being created, one would have a two year term, the other would be for only one year.  The candidate receiving the most votes on January 20 would, after April, take up the two year term and be able to run for re-election in April 1918. The candidate with the second highest total of votes would win the one-year term and be up for re-election in April 1917.  At the time, there were three publicly declared candidates for the two seats.  Another had been interested, but dropped out that morning.

Making Pulaski Heights the Ninth Ward was not the only focus of the City Council meeting.  An ordinance was also approved which allocated $438 for the purchase of beds, mattresses, chairs and other furniture for the City hospital.  (That is the equivalent of nearly $10,000 today.)  The Council then reimbursed a doctor the $438, which presumably had been spent on making the purchases.

Flannel Up and Join the Little Rock Zoo as they celebrate Zaara’s 1st Birthday

Image result for zaara the bear

You only turn one once, so don’t miss your chance to wish the Little Rock Zoo’s sloth bear cub, Zaara, a happy first birthday!

All are invited to come to the Zoo on Saturday, January 11, 2020, at 11 a.m. to wish her another great year.  This flannel and bear lodge-themed party, held in indoors in Café Africa, will be great winter fun!  Beginning at 11:30 a.m., guests are invited to enjoy cake and refreshments while supplies last.

This special celebration will include story time by the fireplace, bear keeper chats, craft-making, hot chocolate, and s’mores.  Guests will enjoy a slide show presentation on Zaara’s first year.  Guests will also have a chance to meet the Zoo staff who hand-raised Zaara. Each of these birthday activities are included in admission prices.

Café Africa will feature a specially-priced hearty meal that will include a choice of soup and/or salad and/or a sandwich for $7.

Zaara’s birthday is so important because The Little Rock Zoo was one of only two zoos in North America to have a sloth bear cub birth. Of the 40 sloth bears housed in Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited Zoos in the United States, the Little Rock Zoo has four of them; that’s 10 percent!

Zaara’s birth came as a recommendation of the American Species Survival Plan ® Program, known as SSP.  The SSP Program, developed in 1981 by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), helps to ensure the survival of select species in zoos and aquariums, which are either threatened or endangered in the wild. Native to the Indian subcontinent, sloth bears are listed as a vulnerable species, meaning one that is likely to become endangered unless the circumstances that are threatening its survival and reproduction improve.

Learn more about Zaara and other endangered animals at their birthday celebrations throughout 2020.