Twenty years: An Arkansas Times retrospective 

A look back at the highs and lows of the last two decades, through the eyes of the Arkansas Times.


May 7: The weekly tabloid edition of the Arkansas Times debuts with an 86-page edition. John Brummett, who moves from editor to political editor, trails Gov. Bill Clinton in New York and Chicago. "Go home, racist. Go back to your country club," he hears blacks in New York jeering at Clinton, who, days earlier, was photographed playing golf at the then all-white Little Rock Country Club. "I'd never heard Bill Clinton and racist used in the same sentence," Rodney Slater tells Brummett. "I could tell by the look on his face that it was like someone had stabbed him in the stomach." Brummett also profiles James Carville, who he writes looks like a cross between "Walter Hussman and E.T." The debut issue features 13 sections (including crime and punishment, trends and fashion) and 11 columnists (Jim Bailey on sports, Max Brantley, John Brummett, Jack Butler on food, Janet Carson on gardening, Ernest Dumas, Bob Lancaster, Deborah Mathis, Robert McCord, Doug Smith and guest writer James O. Powell on airline regulation). A front-of-the-book feature includes a list of well-known Arkansans and the cars they drive: Connie Hamzy (1981 Mercury Lynx), Orval Faubus (1985 Chevrolet Cavalier), Harry Thomason (1992 Range Rover), Dr. Joycelyn Elders (1987 Dodge K car).

June 4: In her campaign to unseat 24-year incumbent U.S. Rep. Bill Alexander, Blanche Lambert used Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman" for her traveling music. Might the song suggest sexism or vanity or recall the recent hit movie about a hooker? "It never occurred to us," Lambert tells editor Max Brantley. "We were just looking for something spunky, to catch attention." Lambert would win the election and a second term, under her married name Blanche Lincoln, in 1994. She later would serve as U.S. senator from Arkansas for two terms until her defeat in 2010 by U.S. Rep. John Boozman.

Aug. 13: A festival called August in Arkansas debuts (despite earlier skepticism about the wisdom of the timing). Among the performers: Toots & The Maytals, R. Kelly & Public Announcement, Joe Ely, Lyle Lovett & His Large Band, Gunbunnies, Social Distortion, Willie Nelson, Branford Marsalis, Sounds of Blackness, Billy Joe Shaver, Nanci Griffith & The Blue Moon Orchestra, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Ringo Starr & His All Starr Band, Rufus Thomas, Rosemary Clooney, Carlene Carter, Brave Combo, Thomas Mapfumo & The Blacks Unlimited, and Culture. Oddly, despite the lineup and unnaturally cool weather, attendance is paltry.

Aug. 20: In an article on his U.S. Senate campaign against Sen. Dale Bumpers, Rev. Mike Huckabee tells John Brummett, "The most bare-knuckled, hard-fisted, heads-up politics I've ever encountered, and that includes this race, so far, was my two years as president of the Arkansas Baptist Convention. People who call me a newcomer to politics don't understand the Baptist Church."

Sept. 10: In a profile of poet and University of Arkansas professor Miller Williams and his daughter, Lucinda Wiliams, Mara Leveritt asks about Lucinda's childhood, when she says she "soaked up" a lot of "soul" just by hanging out with her father and his friends — writers like Richard Wilbur, Howard Nemerov, Maxine Kumin and Charles Bukowski. "Flannery O'Connor was a friend of ours," Miller Williams remembers, "and we would go to her farm and Lucinda would chase her famous peacocks. And Flannery didn't mind, knowing that Lucinda wouldn't be able to catch them."

Nov. 5: In the 24 hours leading up to Bill Clinton's presidential election victory, staff writer Richard Martin spots Tom Cruise at the Capital Hotel bar and sees Texas columnist Molly Ivins join Vic Snyder for dinner at Doe's, with Hunter S. Thompson slugging margaritas nearby. Later, in the Clinton "War Room," James Carville wears a gold sheriff's badge glued to his forehead and chants, "More! More! More!" At the headquarters, Thompson, "in his ravaged Fifth-Horseman-of-the-Apocalypse voice" tells Martin, "Early in this race, I saw chaos coming ... but the more I saw of him, I saw he was a warrior and a winner." At the Republican headquarters in the Holiday Inn West on Shackleford Road, a gaunt man asks why the media hasn't hounded Clinton on "tax and spend" and insists the soon-to-be president-elect is the Antichrist. Pressed for exit-poll results, Skip Rutherford, former state Democratic chairman and a Clinton campaign worker, says, "Off the record? It's big. It's really big." In Josephine's in the Excelsior Hotel, actor Richard Dreyfus tells the press, "There's a larger event going on here. It's a mass movement. It's bigger than Clinton. The energy is just beginning." With the crowd surging toward the Old State House lawn, the Philander Smith Choir belts out "America the Beautiful." Finally, President-elect Clinton comes out of the Old Statehouse doors: "My fellow Americans. Tonight, the people of America have come together with high hopes and with brave hearts to vote for a new beginning ..."

Dec. 17: "Moderation is not in his vocabulary," Mitzi Osborne says of her husband, Jennings Osborne, in staff writer David Mabury's cover profile, "The Prince of Lightness." Mabury interviews the couple and their 12-year-old daughter, Breezy, in the house's 1,700-square-foot "big room," which he describes as "an ocean of plush raspberry carpet lit by eight chandeliers. The largest, which rotates, is a miniature replica of a chandelier in the old MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, a favorite vacation spot of the Osbornes." As for the notorious Christmas lights, "Breezy asked for a few lights and that's what she got," Mitzi said. How much do the lights cost? "If I told anybody they wouldn't believe it. Beyond comprehension," Jennings says.


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