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The guide to Arkansas entertainment

Eat Arkansas

For food lovers

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On art in Arkansas

Street Jazz

A view from Northwest Arkansas

Eat Arkansas

It's the most wonderful time of the year, for beer

What a great year it's been in Arkansas for beer lovers, and as the last month quickly gets crossed off the calendars it become pretty evident that 2015 is going to be just as rewarding.

Pupuseria Mi Chalateca serves elite Salvadoran cuisine

Fans of food trucks and Salvadoran food alike will find a lot to love about one of Hot Springs' most popular destinations for good eats.

Yes, Virginia, there is more than one way to make eggnog

The Historic Arkansas Museum's website is the place to go for winning eggnog recipes.

Dining Review

Still the best

December 18, 2014
Still the best
One Eleven, formerly know as Ashley's, hits all the right notes. /more/

Dining Search

A&E Feature

Q&A: Let's Talk Figures

December 18, 2014
Q&A: Let's Talk Figures
The warped visionaries behind the Fayetteville record label open up (sort of). /more/

To-Do List

"Blue Velvet" at Ron Robinson Thursday

December 18, 2014
"Blue Velvet" at Ron Robinson Thursday
Also, 'Texas Love Letter' Listening Party at South on Main, Celebrity Karaoke at Verizon Arena, Jimbo Mathus at White Water, Improv at the Public Theater and Rick Ross at Barton Coliseum. /more/

Columnists

Max Brantley

Women's work in the House

The new Republican majority in Arkansas came with the support of female majorities in some key races. /more/

Ernest Dumas

Good policies, bad politics

Democrats are like Republicans in one way. One party or the other suffers devastating losses at least every eight years and then engages in a noisy search for blame and atonement. /more/

Gene Lyons

'Rape culture' merits scrutiny

If the great Rolling Stone campus rape hoax proved nothing else, it's that True Believers make lousy reporters. I've always found it useful to keep in mind what my brother and I call the state motto of our native New Jersey: "Oh yeah, who says?" /more/

Movie Reviews

Old Testament in CGI

December 18, 2014
Old Testament in CGI
'Exodus' wows, but skimps on storytelling. /more/

Pearls About Swine

Portis must carry Hogs

December 18, 2014
Arkansas basketball is such a weird, aggravating thing. I don't know if the karmic tradeoff for one blissful year of "40 Minutes of Hell" was two ensuing decades of purgatory, but it sure seems that way. /more/

Blog Roll

Arkansas Blog

Hourly news and comment

Rock Candy

The guide to Arkansas entertainment

Eat Arkansas

For food lovers

Eye Candy

On art in Arkansas

Street Jazz

A view from Northwest Arkansas

Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, December 17, 2014 - 17:40:00

Ownership change in works for Doubletree Hotel

click to enlarge CHANGE OF MANAGEMENT: A proposal is pending for a new owner of leases of the Doubletree Hotel.
  • CHANGE OF MANAGEMENT: A proposal is pending for a new owner of leases of the Doubletree Hotel.

A New York investment group that owns the operating leases for the Doubletree  Hotel has struck a deal to sell its interest to another New York investment group and it will bring in a new management firm.

The deal, with undisclosed terms, will go before the Little Rock Advertising and Promotion Commission Tuesday morning. The Commission and the city of Little Rock lease the building and air rights to the hotel, which is part of a convention center development around the Robinson Center, currently undergoing renovation.

If approved, the management firm of the hotel will change from Associated Hotels of Chicago to the Waterford Hotel Group of Hartford. The hotel will remain a Doubletree, but the deal includes an as-yet undisclosed amount of improvements to the property. The deal is viewed positively by the city, said Gretchen Hall, the director of the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau.

I expect to get more documents on the deal tomorrow morning. The meeting is at 10 a.m. A newly formed corporation, FAC-W Markham LLC, would be the new lessee. It was incorporated by a New York property manager. The information should provide some clue about the financial background of the investors in the new LLC formed to do the deal.

 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014 - 15:05:00

The Wednesday open line and video roundup


Here's the midweek open line and our video news roundup.

 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014 - 14:52:00

Terror threat scraps release of 'The Interview'

click to enlarge imgres.jpg

CNN reports:

Most of the country's largest theater chains will not show Sony's "The Interview," a comedy about the assaassination of the president of North Korea, because of a warning on Tuesday from anonymous hackers that people should avoid going to theaters where "The Interview" is playing. Sony plans to release the film Christmas day, but chains that have decided not to show it include Regal, Cinemark, Carmike Cinemas, Arclight and Southern. 

The big chains in Little Rock are on that list.

I am not second-guessing (and glad it's not me doing the guessing). But this is a slippery slope. When e-mailed terror threats shut down commerce it follows that other threats will be tried by others. "The hackers won," as one headline put it.

UPDATE: Matt Smith, who owns Riverdale 10 in Little Rock as well as other Arkansas theaters, said he still planned to run the movie.

I plan to run the movie. That's what I told them I would do. I think this is a big city, big cinema chain scare tactic. I'm an independent, I'm in small towns. I would speculate, though, that Sony might decide not to release the film. They may push back the release date. You're talking about 80% of the screens in the country. Sony might decide not to release it. I have not heard back from the person I know and work with at Sony. I'm sure those guys at Sony are over hitting the panic button and pulling their hair out. Things have changed a lot since 9 o'clock this morning. Threatening people and being able to do that, that is censorship on a mass scale. It really is. It's a silly comedy, man. Come on, brother. I hate to see something crushed that way. I hate that for the film company and for those two comedians. Unbelievable. I'd like to show it, but the choice might not be mine at this point. 

UPDATE II: Smith called back to say Sony is pulling the movie from release so it won't be available to screen.

Here's the Sony statement. It said it had halted release because of loss of a majority of screens, but said it shared the "paramount interest" of safety of employees and theater-goers."

 

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014 - 12:03:00

Buyers take note: Art market Friday in Argenta

click to enlarge "Uneasy Play," acrylic on canvas by Angela Davis Johnson.
  • "Uneasy Play," acrylic on canvas by Angela Davis Johnson.


Still shopping for art gifts? The Holiday Art Show, featuring the fellows of Artist INC and the students of Art Connection, will be open 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 19, at 413B Main St. in Argenta. (That's the other half of John Gaudin's gallery space. Religious icons by Sylvia Inzerella are on exhibit in 413A.) 

click to enlarge "Reflections," acrylic on canvas, by Christie Young
  • "Reflections," acrylic on canvas, by Christie Young
The gallery is also open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; the show runs through Jan. 5. You can also call Donna Hardcastle, executive director of the Argenta Downtown Council, at 993-1234, to see it by appointment.

The show features work by Artist INC fellows from 2013 and 2014, including paintings by Matt McLeod, Emily Wood, Angela Davis Johnson, Sandra Sell, Jon Shannon Rogers, Ray Wittenberg, Julie Holt, Perrion Hurd, Diane Harper, Dominique Simmons, Fran Austin, Robert Bean, Karlyn Holloway, Jeff Waddle, Steven Rockwell, Christie Young, Jennifer Wilson, Lilia Hernandez, Justin Bryant, Brian Elliott, Kelly Furr, Sally Nixon, Morgan Page and Denise White; sculpture by Jeff Waddle, Tod Swiecichowski and Kandy Jones; ceramics by Celia Storey and Chris Massingill; greeting cards by Melissa Kordsmeier, and music CDs by Kelly Franklin and Felice Magendanz Ferrell.

 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014 - 10:19:00

Photos from March for TC

click to enlarge BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson

/more/  

 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014 - 11:46:00

Psych of the South: The Mercenaries' 'Things Found Here'


Harold Ott is the founder and primary researcher of Psych of the South, a record label dedicated to unearthing rare Arkansas pop history.

Recently, a trove of band business cards from the golden era of Arkansas garage bands was discovered and put on eBay. I was able to purchase some of them, including one by a little known 1960s garage band from Little Rock named The Mercenaries. Their record, on the cult favorite MY records label based in Little Rock, was released in early 1967. Their songs, including the atmospheric and heavy “Things Found Here” along with the psychedelic tinged “Take It All” are obscure even by garage rock standards. They were not featured on the 1999 Butler Center MY records compilation and their story has not been told before. I ultimately found the daughter of the group's lead singer, Lemmie Ogles, who had recently passed away. She remembered a package that was sent to Ogles a few years ago containing the Mercenaries 45 with a return address on the envelope that led me to Jack Thomas, the Mercenaries drummer, and ultimately to the bass player and founder, Jerry Thompson.

Thomas and Thompson met while in the Marines in the early 1960s. When Thompson returned, he played with a group called the Londales, featuring Lonnie Cole and his brothers, who later became the Light Brigade and released their own MY record. Thompson left the group to form his own in 1965 and brought in Thomas on drums and a former band mate, Jimmy Williams, on rhythm guitar.

click to enlarge Mercenaries_card_b.jpg

Williams knew a young singer named Lemmie Ogles and asked him to join. Ogles brought in his friend, Bobby Knepper, on keyboards. At the time, the center of the local music scene was Boyd’s Music Store on 12th street in Little Rock. Many of the musicians that formed local bands worked at the store, including a talented young guitarist named Butch Homan, who met Thompson there and joined. The band practiced in Ogles’ house in Lakewood, the setting for the group’s only known photo. In the early days of the group, Williams left to take a job out of town.

The Mercenaries idolized the Rolling Stones and followed their every move, including growing out their hair and dressing the part, complete with a stylish wardrobe sent in from Memphis. However, they had one hold out, Jack Thomas. He was a Marine and refused to grow out his hair, opting to keep his trademark flattop haircut. The band pleaded with him and even asked him to wear a wig, but Thomas wasn’t having any of it, so they had to relent and let him keep his signature look, which became a running gag for the band.

In 1966, one of the biggest groups in Little Rock was The Romans, who dressed up like Roman soldiers on stage, and walked down Main Street in Little Rock, where the area’s biggest music store, Moses Melody Shop, was located, selling their 45s. Thompson was friends with the Romans’ drummer, Greg Kempner, who introduced him to Earl Fox, the owner of E&M recording studio and MY records. Fox connected them with Southwest Booking Agency, who also booked the Romans.

As styles continued to evolve in the mid 60s, the soul sound made popular in Memphis took some local groups in a new direction. This included the Romans, mostly from Hall High School and Gary Hall and the Playboys, based out of Central High. The two bands joined forces and formed a large group with a full horn section. They celebrated this merger by changing their band name to The Merging Traffic and became the top group on Southwest Booking Agency’s roster.

click to enlarge The Mercenaries
  • The Mercenaries

The Mercenaries benefited from The Merging Traffic’s success and ended up taking their throwaway gigs. They traveled all over Arkansas playing at colleges, clubs and events. During this time, Lake Nixon, a local swimming park, was packed with teens every weekend and became a proving ground for bands trying to get a name for themselves, including The Mercenaries, who did well there. Thomas and Thompson, who were in their mid-20s at the time, wanted to branch out to the scores of nightclubs that dotted the map around Central Arkansas. A club in Hot Springs booked the group for a nine-week gig. As the band grew in popularity, a problem began to emerge. Knepper and Homan were still in high school and their parents didn’t approve of their traipsing around the state unsupervised, so they curtailed some of the gigging.

It was at this time, early in 1967, that Fox suggested that they make a record at his studio and put it out on MY records. The group used lyrics written by a female fan along with music written by Thompson and Homan on “Things Found Here” and Knepper on “Take It All.” They quickly ran through “Things Found Here ” in the studio but “Take It All” was another story. It took all night to record, but Knepper and Homan had to leave early since they weren’t allowed to stay until vocals were done. To finish the song, Thompson and Ogles recorded all the backing vocals by themselves using over dubbing in the small, but innovative studio.

John Hannon, the studio engineer, took the band’s recording of “Take It All” and shopped it to RCA in Nashville, as well as contacts in New York and California. RCA called him back and were interested in bringing them to Nashville to produce a demo. In New York, a nightclub wanted to book the group for an eight-week gig, with the possibility of more to follow. Knepper and Homan’s parents were not too keen on the idea and refused to play ball and both opportunities were squandered. Thompson left the group shortly afterwards and Jack Thomas joined Charlie Rich’s band. Ogles joined his brother Terry’s group, The Dutch Masters, and sang lead on the group’s second MY record, featuring the psychedelic gem “The Expectation” and went on to sing in the local hard rock group, Blackfoot, featured on "Lost Souls Volume 1." 

click to enlarge Mercenaires_-_Things_Found_Here_copy.jpg

 

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Arkansas Reporter

Unrestricted high explosives, available at a sporting goods store near you

December 18, 2014
Unrestricted high explosives, available at a sporting goods store near you
It's 'dangerous stuff,' according to a Little Rock bomb squad member. /more/
 

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