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November-December 2007

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
December 19, 2007

A few years ago, I wrote a column where I reminisced about the Batesville of my youth. Memories of Magic Mart, Minute Man and the White River Drive-In all emerged from the dusty backrooms of my brain, and I received a large amount of e-mails and letters from readers who offered their thoughts of Batesville past.

For the past few months, I've been making weekly trips to Little Rock, and it got me to reminiscing about that city from years ago. Since my grandparents lived in Little Rock for a while during my elementary school years, I vividly remember many restaurants and places that are now long gone.

There was the burger joint on Markham with the big rotating Frosty root beer mug on its roof. There was the original Bruno's Little Italy on Asher Avenue where through a large kitchen window kids could watch the Brunos pound out and flip the pizza dough.

On old Cantrell Road, I remember the tasty ham sandwiches from the gourmet grocery store, Cordell's, and across the street, there was, for a brief time, a Shakey's Pizza Parlor. Just up from Cordell's and Shakey's was the Steak and Ale where I first enjoyed a big steak, and down from there was the Razorback Drive-In theatre.

Movie theatres played a big part of my time in Little Rock with the grandparents, and I deeply miss the big cinemas where I saw so many great movies. At the UA Four off Geyer Springs, I remember seeing The Return of the Pink Panther in a packed house. The sleek and large Heights theatre offered me first-time viewings of Rocky and The Spy Who Loved Me. At the ABC Cinema I & II on Markham, I first saw Star Wars, and I tricked my grandmother into taking me to see National Lampoon's Animal House -- a shock from which she has yet to recover. And let's not forget the UA Cinema 150, still the finest movie theatre I've ever attended, where I saw The Towering Inferno, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman, The Empire Strikes Back, Alien, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Apocalypse Now on its enormous curved screen.

Discount Records on University Avenue was always a required stop for my 8-Track, 45 and LP purchases, as was Moses in the University Mall. Also in University Mall, I remember eating many delicious meals at Franke's Cafeteria and smelling the fresh baked goodies from Kohler's Bakery. While mom or grandmother shopped in M.M. Cohn's, I would get a kick riding the escalator or playing in an old V.W. van the store had set up in the shoe department.

Across the river in McCain Mall, it was always a treat for the kids to eat at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor before or after a movie at the National General Cinema I & II where I once snuck into the R-rated horror film, An American Werewolf in London. And across the street at the Other Center, I could pick up an album at Davy's Locker or catch a movie at the Other Center Cinema.

In downtown Little Rock, where I had to visit my orthodontist, Dr. Aldstadt, I can remember the now-refurbished Capital Hotel sitting empty and dilapidated with broken windows all around. If we had to stay in a hotel downtown, it was always the Sam Peck where I devoured their pancakes every morning and kept a lookout for any visiting celebrities. (Burt Reynolds stayed there when he made his Arkansas moonshine classic, White Lightning, in and around Little Rock.)

I always had to make my mom and dad take me to Bozo's Toy Store, and to the first McDonald's I remember, located down on University close to Discount Records. I'm not sure if that particular McDonald's is still standing, but the sign was huge with two yellow arches planted in the ground, parallel to each other.

Finally, there were the shows at Barton Coliseum I attended: Elvis, Ted Nugent (when I was in fifth grade, no less), Foreigner, Styx, Tina Turner, and a very young Billy Joel.

I must stop because I feel like I'm drifting into Duffie Bryant territory with all of my remembrances, and here at Arkansas Weekly, such reminiscing is The Roving Fisherman's specialty, not mine.

Rob Grace is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

 

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
December 5, 2007

This time next year, I'll know who will be the next president of the United States. This time next year, I'll know how the new Arkansas Razorbacks football coach fared during his first season. This time next year, I'll know how the new coach of the Ole Miss Rebels fared as well.

This time next year, I'll know what it feels like to be 42. This time next year, I'll know if I made it to age 42 without any type of major hospitalization. This time next year, I might be down in my back or my knees, or I might just be one healthy 42-year-old guy.

This time next year, I'll know if the 15 to 20 pounds that left me this year have decided to come back home to stay for good. This time next year, I'll know if I really did start that fitness program my doctor recently told me to begin. This time next year, I'll know if my preference for sloth and pizza eventually overruled that fitness program.

This time next year, my little girl will be in junior high and my son will be in fifth grade. This time next year, they won't look as little as they do now.

This time next year, I'll know if our kids enjoyed the recent Hannah Montana concert in Little Rock. This time next year, I'll know if the new Indiana Jones movie was any good. This time next year, I'll know if Bruce Springsteen can still put on the best rock show on the face of the Earth.

This time next year, Bruce Springsteen will be 59. This time next year, Mick Jagger will be 65. This time next year, Willie Nelson will be 75. This time next year, Elvis would have been 73.

This time next year, we will likely know if O.J. has been judged innocent or guilty. This time next year, we will know if Bin Laden made it another year without capture. This time next year, I hope we know that we're one step closer to some type of stability in the Middle East.

This time next year, we'll know if gas prices have gone above $4.00 a gallon or if they've dropped below $3.00 a gallon. This time next year, we'll know if the stock market has crashed or if it has reached a record high. This time next year, we'll know if Citibank is still in business.

This time next year, I will have decided whether or not to trade in my car for something with a little better gas mileage. This time next year, I might have that tattoo I've been threatening to get. (Don't ask.) This time next year, I might have finally gotten over my aversion to venison.

This time next year, I know my continuing personal boycott of watching American Idol will have been successful. This time next year, I know I will have seen the brilliant new Tommy Lee Jones movie, No Country for Old Men, at least twice (considering I've already seen it once). This time next year, I'll probably have it on DVD.

This time next year, I will likely still be stuffed from my Thanksgiving dinner. This time next year, I will likely be hooked on the new Popeye's. This time next year, I will also be wishing Batesville's Tommy's Kingburger and the Country Churn were still open.

This time next year, I know Harrison Street in Batesville will be a mess. This time two years from now, I know Harrison Street in Batesville will still be a mess.

This time next year, I know I will have likely dropped my cell phone about 34 more times. This time next year, I doubt my cell phone will still be working.

This time next year, I hope I will have laughed until I've cried more than once.

This time next year, I hope I have the meaning of it all figured out.

But I doubt I will.

Rob Grace is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburban-voodoo.blogspot.com.

 

One Headlight
by T. Blanston, Jr.
November 28, 2007

Greetings from Rancho Paradiso, my gorgeous getaway from the adventurous life I lead as an award-winning and ruggedly handsome journalist reporting from the front lines of war, terrorism and Hollywood nights with Paris Hilton and crew.

My ranch, which is hidden away on a 5,000 acre tract of land that overlooks Loch Greers Ferry, has not only been an idyllic escape from my everyday life of dodging bullets and the advances of Britney Spears, but it's also been a place where I can bring my many famous friends for a much-needed retreat.

And my friends are many. And famous.

Take a recent weekend where I hosted presidential candidate (and former Arkansas resident) Hillary Clinton; Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria; legendary actor Robert De Niro; 60 Minutes reporter Mike Wallace; and Arkansas football coach Houston Dale Nutt.

I flew the guests in my private jet to the Batesville airport on a Friday afternoon where my newly-hired assistant Ivanka Trump picked them up in my newly-purchased Hummer (which, by the way, I've personally engineered to get four miles per gallon just to irritate the environmentalists). After stopping six times for gas, the crew finally made it to Rancho Paradiso where my newly-hired personal chef, Giada De Laurentiis, served a delicious post-travel snack of mozzarella and tomatoes smothered in deviled ham and gravy from Spam.

Wine was poured. Cigars were lit. Good times were ahead.

As the autumn set over the loch, I summoned my newly-hired stenographer, CNN's Anderson Cooper, to record some of the stimulating conversation of the evening. Here are some highlights:

BLANSTON: Please, Ms. Clinton, I'd appreciate it if you would get off my lap.

CLINTON: Oh, of course...

LONGORIA: Oh, T., may I sit on your lap?

BLANSTON (long sigh): Oh, if you must. But only for a few moments.

NUTT: Heh...I love sittin' on laps. Really comfortable. Papa Broyles has a really comfy lap. You'd think he wouldn't. You'd think it'd be sorta bony. But, nope. He's got real strong thighs for a fella his age.

DE NIRO: I think I'm gonna be sick.

BLANSTON: Mike, tell us what you're working on for 60 Minutes.

WALLACE: Hold on for a sec...Anderson, I'd appreciate it if you got off my lap.

COOPER: Oh, sorry.

WALLACE: Now, what was that T.?

BLANSTON (slightly louder): I SAID TELL US WHAT YOU'RE WORKING ON FOR 60 MINUTES!

WALLACE: Oh, yes. Well, at my age, one thing I'm working on for a good sixty minutes is a decent bowel movement.

LONGORIA: Ewww...that's gross.

NUTT: Papa Broyles tells me he's pretty regular. That's good. Says lots of celery is the key. It's the key!

DE NIRO: I think I'm gonna be sick.

BLANSTON: Let's change the subject, shall we?

LONGORIA: T., when can we get in the hot tub?

CLINTON: T., I'd really like to discuss some foreign policy issues with you...alone...first...in, um, the hot tub...if I could.

DE NIRO: I think I'm gonna be sick.

BLANSTON: Ladies, ladies...I assure you hot tub time is on the agenda. First, let's ask Coach Nutt how he feels about the upcoming match-up with Tennessee. Coach Nutt?

NUTT: Thanks, T.! Really appreciate the opportunity to be here! T., here's what's gonna happen when we meet the Volunteers. First: we're gonna get on the field! That's important! We gotta get on the field! To play the game! I think anyone will tell you that if we're not on the field, we're not gonna win the game! So we gotta be on the field! Then, we gotta get the football! We gotta get the football! And, this is important, we gotta get the football in the end zone! Cause, I think we all can agree, that we're not gonna win the game if we don't get the football in the end zone! And, as long as we get the football in the end zone more times than Tennessee, we got a real good chance at winning! Real good chance!

DE NIRO: 'Scuse me for a second. 'Scuse me. I'm not really a college football aficionado sos to speak, but um, Coach Nutts...

NUTT: That's Nutt, Bob. Nutt. Singular.

DE NIRO: Yeah, whatever. So, all that stuff you mentioned about getting on the field, getting the football in the end zone...that's your grand strategy?

NUTT: Yes sir. Yes sir. I done run it by Papa Broyles and his wife this morning. She was feeding him some Cream of Wheat, and he was noddin' and all that while I was talkin' and such.

DE NIRO: And, you're being paid a few million dollars a year to do this? To implement these...what'd you call 'em? Strategies?

NUTT: Yes sir. Yes sir. You bet.

DE NIRO: I think I'm gonna be sick.

* * *

And with that, I end this glimpse into an exciting evening at Rancho Paradiso with me, T. Blanston, Jr.

I hope all of you had a great Thanksgiving, and until next time, I'll keep the hot tub bubbling!

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
November 21, 2007

This week, I'm supposed to be writing about our 10th anniversary here at Arkansas Weekly. Frankly, I think our own Gary Bridgman did an excellent job reminiscing about the past decade on the cover of this week's issue, but I'll add a few feelings.

First, while his thoughts were entertaining, I would like to admonish Mr. Bridgman on one particular point regarding our history. Gary implies (or is it infers? -- I'm too lazy to pick up my dictionary right now) that I have something to do with sometime-AW columnist, T. Blanston, Jr. Namely, Gary delicately suggests that Mr. Blanston and I might be one and the same.

So let me take a moment to hoist and aim my double-barreled shotgun right now and blast that suggestion out of the sky. I am not T. Blanston, Jr. Yes, I do know Mr. Blanston, and he does deal directly with me when it comes time to publish one of his articles in these pages, but that doesn't necessarily mean that he is me. Mr. Blanston prefers to keep a low profile because of his fame as a legendary journalist and also because he has several opportunistic women eager to serve him with child support papers.

Besides, to me, secret pen names have always seemed to be the products of writers with somewhat schizophrenic personalities. And T. and I agree that I am not schizophrenic. Right, T.?

Right, Rob.

Where was I? Oh, other than that, I believe Gary's look back into the 10-year history of this little publication-that-could was a pleasurable read.

I would like to echo his thoughts on the lovable and sometimes grumpy character that was John Purtle. His lively contributions are missed, but not more than his presence. Other folks whose efforts and work added greatly to these pages: Valerie Wells, Bob Connell, Terri Faith, George Kimmer, LaVon Post and Karin Mohlke. And, let's not forget Steven Story, the right hand man for Stacy Fields, our graphics designer.

Oh, and it wouldn't be an Arkansas Weekly issue without Duffie Bryant and his "Roving Fisherman" column. It's always fun reading his thoughts and memories although I do draw the line at sampling some of his recipes. Squirrel and possum are meats I do not care to consume -- ever.

Matt Johnson and his sales team have done an astounding job at ensuring Arkansas Weekly continues to grow each year, and to pat Matt and his crew on the back, this year has been our best ever. When it comes to print advertising, we reach more households -- 23,000 each week, in fact -- than any other area paper and we do it through direct mail. So if you want to advertise your business, or if you simply want to take advantage of our free classifieds for your personal use, you will reach the largest possible number of eyes through Arkansas Weekly.

Thanks to Ginger Johnson and Donna Ernest for keeping our paperwork in order and our bills paid, and thanks to Leslie Sessums for making sure she greets all of our visitors to our office with a smile. And, to Doug, Clyde, Cecilia and Calvin, a hearty thank you for ensuring the paper is printed and at the post office on time.

Finally, thanks to you. We could not have made it this far without the support, kind words, and consistent readership of our dear readers.

Oh, and T. Blanston wanted me to tell you that he's still sorry about the Pamela Anderson column from a few years ago. However, he refuses to apologize for any and all anti-Yanni remarks.

And I don't blame him.

Rob Grace is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

All Over the Map
by Rob Grace
November 7, 2007

I went to the Fayetteville Barnes & Noble this morning, picked up a couple of magazines, the local paper and the New York Times.

I also thought I could use a good book, so I took some time to browse. I haven't read a decent novel or non-fiction title in a while because nothing in the literary world has really sparked my interest. I thumbed through political humorist Stephen Colbert's I Am America (And So Can You!), but nothing really cracked me up. I was halfway interested in buying the biography of Peanuts creator Charles Schultz, but I'm not really into learning that Snoopy's mastermind was a deeply depressed individual for most of his life. I thought about picking up Harlan Coben's 2001 mystery Tell No One because word has it that it's been turned into a terrific French film, but then I thought I could just wait and see the movie.

And then it hit me: I was obviously looking for reasons not to buy a book. Those were three perfectly acceptable titles, yet I was trying to find some small and insignificant fault in them. Which was silly because the bookstore was stuffed with books I would never purchase in my life. In fact, just for fun, I started mentally compiling titles of books that I would never buy.

Books like Donald Trump's latest masterpiece: Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life. Would someone please slap this man? And while you're at it slap that Dog Whisperer guy, Cesar Millan, who also has a new book. Why do people fall for stuff like this? Dogs have no idea what we are saying, all right? They are dogs. They do not understand English, Spanish, Hindu, Klingon, etc., etc. They ain't gonna respond to Donald Trump, the Dog Whisperer, or Dog the Bounty Hunter.

Speaking of Dog the Bounty Hunter: I'm never going to buy his book, menacingly titled You Can Run But You Can't Hide. Seeing that, as of this writing, Dog might be out of a television gig due to some racist comments he made, there's a good chance people aren't going to be running to the bookstore to buy this title.

I generally enjoy reading Christopher Hitchens as well as listening to his sarcastic commentary on some of the news programs, but I'm going to ignore his latest book, God Is Not Great, because God is great, and I'm quite sick of The Man Upstairs being ridiculed as well as the act of believing in Him. Shut up and have another scotch, Christopher.

I know I will skip Lyrics by Sting. I like The Police and some of Sting's solo stuff, but paying $28 to read "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da" is like buying a book by a man who whispers to canines.

Any book by Bill O'Reilly, Lou Dobbs, Ann Coulter or Glenn Beck can be scratched off my list. Blowhards, they all are. (That last comment, coming from me, is somewhat like the pot calling the kettle black, no?)

I am quite certain that I won't be reading The Heroin Diaries by Motley Crue musician Nikki Sixx. True tales of a drug abusing heavy metal musician hitting rock bottom by waking up in his own defecation really isn't my cup of tea.

Finally, any book by L. Ron Hubbard won't end up on my bookshelf, but if I'm in the mood for a good laugh someday, I might change my mind.

* * *

I did purchase The Rejection Collection, Vol. 2; it's a set of cartoons by various artists that were rejected for being too crude for the esteemed weekly magazine, The New Yorker.

My wife bought the first volume of The Rejection Collection for me last year, knowing I have a truly demented sense of humor. The new book contains such jewels as a little boy coming home with bloody stumps where his hands were, excitedly proclaiming to his mother in the kitchen, "Look, ma!" Look, ma, no hands indeed.

Other twisted contributions: a sad-looking little girl finding her doll house burned to a crisp and her three little doll house family members laid outside with blankets covering their bodies; a nurse standing over an obviously dead patient, reading his temperature and excitedly proclaiming: "Oh my, your fever's way down!"; and shocked partygoers giving the Heimlich to a witch while a man stands in front of her mouth, exclaiming, "Keep pushing -- I can see the baby's head!"

Tasteless, but hilarious stuff, no?

Rob Grace is the president of W.R.D. Entertainment. Feel free to e-mail him at rgmax99@yahoo.com, and check out his blog: www.suburbanvoodoo.blogspot.com.

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