Central Arkansas venues have a full week of commemorative events planned
'HANDS ON A HARD BODY'
7 p.m. Ron Robinson Theater. $5.
UPDATE: This screening has been cancelled.
This month's Arkansas Times Film Series screening is "Hands on a Hard Body," the 1997 documentary about the contestants of the annual Longview, Texas, competition to see who can keep their hands on a pickup truck the longest. The Oxford American put the film on its essential Southern documentary list, and Quentin Tarantino, who commissioned a new 35mm print so he could screen it at his L.A. theater, has called it one of his favorite documentaries of all time. Says the New York Times: "This is accomplished documentary making, finding universal lessons in determination, struggle, planning, persistence and the relationship of mind and body. The experience turns out to be simultaneously primal and complex." And the Village Voice: "Scrappy, likable, and immensely absorbing, S.R. Bindler's chronicle of the "Hands on a Hard Body" contest (typically a four-to-five-day marathon) exploits the towering absurdity and unlikely intensity of its subject matter, without ever succumbing to yokel-Americana condescension." LM
THURSDAY 8/20-SUNDAY 8/23
RINGLING BROTHERS AND BARNUM & BAILEY
Various times. Verizon Arena. $21-$51.
The circus is in town this weekend. It's an exciting thing, but for many of us it also arrives under a kind of dark cloud representing its eerie vaudeville roots, its decades of horror movie associations and its vague intimations of exploitation. Dire predictions have followed the circus since at least the 1950s, when Ringling Brothers abandoned tents ("the big top") for indoor arenas. "A magical era had passed forever," Life magazine reported. When the company was sold in the late 1960s, the mandate was to become more family-oriented. The freak show was dropped, for instance. In more recent years, there have been accusations of animal cruelty. (The crew now tours with a full-time veterinary staff, and animals receive daily examinations.) It's a little different now, in other words, but also much the same: There will be clowns and jugglers and unicyclists, and you can win a painting done by an elephant. The ringmaster these days is a man named Andre McClain, whose father founded a rodeo in the '80s. McClain learned the ropes there (literally: he did mostly rope tricks). In a recent interview, he talked about reaching out to the circus to take his act to the next level, and working his way up the ladder until he ran the place. "It's a city on wheels," McClain said. "It's so funny. I still sometimes sit here in my luxurious train car and I'm amazed. I think, 'Am I really getting paid for this? ' " WS
THURSDAY 8/20-SUNDAY 8/23
7 p.m. Thu.-Sat., 2 p.m. Sun. The Studio Theater. $15-$20.
The musical "Dogfight," adapted for the stage from a 1991 movie starring River Phoenix and Lili Taylor, takes place on the eve of a signal event that knocked the scales from our Camelot-vision of America: The assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963. Three young Marines are about to ship out and decide on their final night to play a cruel game: to compete to find the ugliest girl to bring to a "dogfight" and win a pot of money. They're young, they're foolish and they have no idea of the real dogfight ahead of them in Southeast Asia. One of them gets lucky: The waitress he enlists for his date teaches him about love. The cast includes Bridget Davis, James Norris, Xavier Jones, Ethan Patterson, Chase Cundall, Rachel Caffey, Hayley Coughlin, Brooke Melton, Jennifer Restum and Georgeann Burbank. The musical is not for children. LNP
THIRD FRIDAY ARGENTA ARTWALK
5-8 p.m., downtown North Little Rock galleries.
The hot weather seems to have broken just in time for North Little Rock's after-hours gallery stroll, which this Friday features illustrations and dog-themed and abstract art at galleries within walking distance of each other. The "Dog Days" exhibit at Mugs Cafe, 515 Main St., features canine-themed paintings, drawings and prints by Fran Austin, Tanya Hollifield and Debilynn Fendley. (The exhibit name refers to the time of year, we guess, not the town's old nickname, though several Argenta events have turned that old slander on its head by celebrating man's best friend.) The Thea Foundation, 401 Main St., is exhibiting illustrations by Sally Nixon in a show that's part of its Art Department series, featuring works by emerging professionals. Greg Thompson Fine Art, 429 Main St., continues its show "Southern Abstraction," featuring work by Dusti Bonge, Ida Kohlmeyer, Andrew Bucci, Wolf Kahn, Sammy Peters, Robyn Horn, James Hendricks, Pinkney Herbert and Gay Bechtelheimer (through Sept. 12). There's more Southern abstraction at the Laman Library Argenta Branch gallery, 420 Main St., which is partnering with Boswell-Mourot Fine Art to host the exhibition "Windows Within: The Art of Elizabeth Weber." Off the beaten path but always worth the detour is Art Connection, 204 E. Fourth St., where the teen members of the arts-related leadership program exhibit their work. LNP
HANK WILLIAMS JR.
7:30 p.m. Walmart AMP, Rogers. $40.
In 1975, Hank Williams Jr. slipped off a mountain in Montana called Ajax Peak and fell 500 feet to the rocks below. The only son of country legend Hank Williams — who died when Junior was 3, and who had once sung "My son calls another man daddy/He'll ne'er know my name nor my face" — Williams Jr. had enacted the ultimate Freudian fantasy in attaching himself to his father's legacy and very explicitly stepping into his role. His first recording, in 1964, was one of his dad's, the surprisingly upbeat "Long Gone Lonesome Blues." That same year he lent his vocals to the Hank Williams biopic, "Your Cheatin' Heart," literally displacing his father's voice. He became his father, or tried to. We've become so used to his presence in music that the poignant strangeness of these gestures has been lost — his closest cultural analogues in this respect are probably Dale Earnhardt Jr. and George W. Bush. Men who never rejected their upbringings, who decided their fathers had it right and that they'd like to have it the same way. In photographs of the younger Williams Jr., the resemblance to his father is striking (the cover of his album "Country Shadows" is downright ghostly). But then came the accident in Montana. The fall was severe, near-fatal, disfiguring. To hide his scars, Williams Jr. grew a beard. A beard he would never shave — it became the centerpiece of a new persona, one he'd outline on later songs like "Man of Steel." "I kinda toughed up and learned not to feel," he sang on that song. "They started calling me the man of steel." WS
8 p.m. Ron Robinson Theater. $5.
Alfred Hitchcock "discovered" Tippi Hedren in a commercial for a long-since-defunct diet drink called Sego, which came on television one morning while he was watching "The Today Show." She had something, he thought, and so he cast her in "The Birds" — in hindsight, one of the director's strangest and bleakest films. "She displayed jaunty assuredness, pertness, an attractive throw of the head," he later said of her performance. In the mid-'70s, the actress began to find Hitchcock "too possessive and too demanding" (and too lecherous), which led to a falling out. Her next big role, however, was a return to the animal epic format of her breakthrough: the long-forgotten 1981 thriller "Roar," at once a disaster film and a disastrous one. Co-starring hundreds of lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars and cheetahs, the film resulted in an unusually large number of injuries on the part of the production team, inspiring one of the great advertising taglines in movies: "No animals were harmed in the making of this movie," the slogan went. "70 members of the cast and crew were." The cinematographer was scalped by a lion (and received 220 stitches). Co-star Noel Marshall was clawed by a cheetah and attacked so repeatedly that he developed gangrene. Hedren herself fractured a leg, badly wounded her head, was bucked by an elephant and bitten in the neck by a lion. The film bombed fantastically. Hedren later wrote that she'd hoped it would "show the possibilities of human-big cat relationships," which it presumably did: The actress went on to start a successful big cat sanctuary 40 miles outside of Los Angeles. WS