Actress Ashley Judd, in town for the filming of Joey Lauren Adams’ movie, “Come Early Morning,” is creating quite a stir. She’s living in a rental in the Country Club neighborhood and venturing out occasionally during off hours. Our witness said diners in Ciao Baci were embarrassing they fawned over her so much during a recent Judd dinner visit.
The Beebe campaign
Chris Masingill, the district director for U.S. Rep. Mike Ross who has been serving as interim executive director of the Arkansas Democratic Party, will be campaign manager of Attorney General Mike Beebe’s gubernatorial campaign.
(Of course, Beebe has not actually announced his intention to run for governor yet. Trust us.)
Masingill will officially leave Ross’ office at the end of May and launch Beebe’s operation in early June.
Turns out Levon Helm played two gigs in Little Rock within the last week. As we reported first on the Arkansas Blog, he and daughter Amy and blues man Little Sammy Davis were among the musicians on stage at the Country Club of Little Rock Saturday night for the wedding reception honoring Alltel exec Randy Wilborn’s daughter Hayden and husband Thomas Edward Shurgar Jr. Then, the band did a private gig Monday night in the Next Level Events catering facility at the Train Station.
The second party had multiple sponsors from the business community. All legislators and spouses were among those invited. Sen. Steve Bryles of Blytheville (who sponsored legislation to put a marker in Twist, Ark., to commemorate the spot where B.B. King named his guitar Lucille in 1949) reports: “The music was fantastic. As you probably know, Levon had throat surgery for cancer several years ago and has just recently started singing again. He’s spent the last several years performing without being able to sing and to hear him sing again, and sing so well, was an emotional event for several — including me. I did not think that I’d ever hear that classic voice again.”
Hit the road
We got a glimpse recently of the design proposal for a 250-unit apartment complex that a Houston developer plans across the street from Alltel Arena in North Little Rock. It’s a handsome retro look. Since it’ll cater to young, upward types who just might like to stroll across the Junction Bridge to the River Market when the bridge is converted for pedestrian use, some other neighborhood improvements are being discussed. A chief one would be relocating the nearby Greyhound bus station. A local realtor is at work on the idea.
We’re trying to make a regular Insider feature a catchup on items that we’ve posted on the Arkansas Daily Blog (www.arkansasblog.com) but haven’t published in the print edition of the Times.
We were reminded again to do this by daily news accounts this week about the independent gubernatorial candidacy of Rod Bryan, Little Rock record store owner and musician, whose intentions we reported on the Blog more than a month ago. And, no, we didn’t neglect to repeat the news because Bryan once called the Times, after we dissed Ralph Nader, “a perfect example of the shared disconnection that has rendered the Democrats and Republicans indistinguishable.” We just forgot. Some more blog stuff:
• Civic gadfly Kathy Wells bought some Deltic Timber stock last February so she could attend the company’s recent stockholders meeting last week and pose a few questions about the company’s push for legislation to erode Central Arkansas Water’s control of development in the Lake Maumelle watershed. That’s where Deltic wants to build a pricey subdivision.
Wells reported to us later that Deltic officials had been quite cordial, even though she reportedly was the first stockholder to ask a question at an annual meeting and even though she accused the company of dishonorable behavior on account of comments made about Central Arkansas Water through legislators and Deltic’s hired guns. She also asked for an accounting of the company’s lobbying expenditures. Company officials promised her a formal reply.
• Mary Steenburgen, the actress from North Little Rock, has opened a retail shop in Santa Monica, the LA Times reports. Porch “is packed with French bistro chairs, mossy English garden concrete statuary, shell-studded birdbaths, Asian and Indian accents, wrought-iron candle holders and oil paintings by David Settino Scott.”
• Sen. Terry Smith of Hot Springs was quoted in the Sentinel-Record last week as saying $56 million in construction would be needed to accommodate new gambling machines at Oaklawn Park once voters approve them under new legislation that takes effect in August. We put a pencil to it. At a hefty $200 per square foot, that’s 280,000 square feet worth of building. Bigger than a bread box. As big as a casino.
• We got an early look at Gov. Mike Huckabee’s new book, “Quit Digging Your Grave With a Knife and Fork,” now in stores. It includes plenty of familiar after-dinner jokes and even a touch of poignancy when he relates sitting down in — and busting — an antique chair when he joined a meeting of 52 cabinet and state agency heads in the governor’s conference room. It was humiliating, he writes. The health content is mostly familiar advice on watching what you eat, getting lots of exercises and understanding that it’s a slow process. Turn off the TV (how would you ever see the guv?) and read the Bible, too.
The Blog offered some questions for national press interviewers of our governor.
Isn’t it easier when you have a Mansion with house staff to cook carefully constructed meals? What does a working stiff do to compensate? How much did you pay for your supervised medical treatment at the state’s premier medical institution? Should state insurance plans cover that same treatment for others? Once and for all, did you have any sort of surgical procedure to aid this weight loss, as some rumors have had it? Did you use fen-phen or an equivalent drug, in a previous dramatic weight loss effort in which the weight came back? If so, did you get a heart test as a result and, if you did, what did you find? And, about that advice on removing tempting items from your house: Why wouldn’t you back removal of soft drink and snack machines from secondary schools?
Hog fans just can't quit blaming the refs for the NCAA men's basketball tournament loss to North Carolina. Now the Arkansas Senate has gotten in on the act, with this resolution introduced by Democratic Sen. Keith Ingram and getting bipartisan co-sponsorship from that brutish and short sandlot roundball player, Republican Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson.
IndieWire breaks news long whispered downtown — a more ambitious successor to the Little Rock Film Festival is in the works, with backing from writer/director Jeff Nichols, a Little Rock native. His "Loving" has won wide acclaim recently.
Old habits die hard. We may have a new Republican majority in the legislature, but like the old Democratic majority, it still doesn't hurt to have a lawmaker spouse to land a part-time job during the legislative session.
When we first asked Gov. Mike Beebe about the "circuit breaker" idea out of Arizona (automatically opting out of Medicaid expansion if the feds reduce the matching rates in the future), he said it was fine but noted that states can already opt out at any time, an assurance he got in writing from the feds.
An interesting controversy is brewing in Conway Public Schools, periodically a scene of discord as more liberal constituents object to the heavy dose of religion that powerful local churches have tried to inject into the schools, particularly in sex education short on science and long on abstinence.