Best and Worst of Arkansas, 2012 

Worst deja vu all over again

Just like New Year's Eve 2011, New Year's Eve 2012 saw Beebe once again covered in tiny corpses as over 400 blackbirds dropped dead, littering yards on New Year's Day. Authorities blamed illegal fireworks, which roused the night-blind birds from their roosts and caused them to run into buildings, trees and cars.

Worst conflict resolution

The Little Rock Police Department SWAT Team rolled on a house near downtown in January after 911 operators received a call from a woman saying she was being held hostage by a man with a gun. After a tense standoff in which several tear gas canisters were fired into the house, both the man and woman emerged. Only then, police said, did the woman tell officers that she had actually called 911 to try and scare the man into giving her a set of car keys.

Best missing the point

A girl was shot in Little Rock during a street brawl that police said began when two groups started arguing while watching the city's annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. parade

Worst train/motorcycle wreck

On April Fool's Day, University of Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino took a spill on his Harley while riding on a twisty rural road in North Arkansas, which might have not been big news if the 51-year-old married father of four hadn't had his comely, 25-year-old mistress — who Petrino had hired as a team coordinator four days before the wreck — on the back of the bike. After waiting over a week to 'fess up to an "improper relationship," Petrino was canned on April 10.

Best expensive

Petrino was fired from the University "with cause," which meant he didn't get the $18 million dollar buyout stipulated in his contract.

Best name

That would be one Nimrod Lumpkin, who filed for a marriage license in Pulaski County in late February. At press time, William Faulkner was unavailable for comment on how a character had escaped from one of his books.

Worst date

During the discovery phase for a federal discrimination lawsuit filed by former Pulaski County Coroner Garland Camper, it was disclosed that Camper had admitted to having sex with a stripper in the county morgue.

Worst bromance

In June, two men were arrested at the Lowe's home improvement store in Fayetteville after they passed out in a parking lot floral display after huffing a can of keyboard duster.

Best random

In March, a teenager in Rogers pulled a prank in which she texted "I hid the body... now what?" to a random phone number. That random number happened to belong to a local police detective, who quickly tracked her down. She was let go with a warning.

Worst draw

In March, police in Lake Village said that two Louisiana men were so busy fist-fighting in the middle of Highway 82 in Chicot County around 1:30 a.m. that they never saw an oncoming 18-wheeler. Both were killed.

Worst passing

Levon Helm, the Arkansas-born musician who fronted The Band, died on April 19.

Best herd

The Humane Society of the Ozarks put out an urgent call for foster families in November after 65 Chihuahuas were rescued from a single mobile home in West Fork.

Worst logic

An Associated Press story in March about attempts by the town of Harrison (which the head of the Southern Poverty Law Center said is "a gathering point for white supremacists") to shed its racist image featured one white resident quoted as saying: "How can it be a racist town if there's no blacks here?"

Worst weapon

In April, a man attempted the armed robbery of a convenience store in Fort Smith. His weapon: a pair of hot dog tongs from the store's food counter. "He attempted to rob the place," a Fort Smith Police Department spokesman later told a local TV station, "but really, I guess, nobody took him seriously enough to actually give him money." The man was arrested and charged with robbery.

Second worst weapon

In September, state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson called 911 to inform Little Rock police that his girlfriend had assaulted him with the preserved head of a dead alligator.

Worst slippery slope

In June, a preacher in Bald Knob made Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" for his public call to end a charity bingo game for senior citizens, which he warned could lead to vandalism, methamphetamine use, burglary and sex.

Worst sleepy

After an all-day search by police and volunteers in early December, a popular Little Rock radio DJ who had been reported missing materialized, and told police he'd been sleeping in his own attic.

Best school spirit

That would have to be Texarkana's Patience Beard, who made the elite University of Arkansas cheerleading squad in 2012 despite the fact that she had her foot and ankle amputated at nine years old due to a childhood disease. She does all the fancy flips while wearing a zebra-striped artificial limb.

Best turf protection

Back in May, it was revealed that one of the secretive backers of a campaign called "Stop Casinos Now!" — aimed at bringing down an attempt to win approval for casinos and "poker palaces" in Pulaski, Miller, Crittenden and Franklin Counties — was Delaware North, owner of Southland Park Gaming and Racing in West Memphis. Ostensibly still a dog-racing track, Southland gets the vast majority of its receipts these days from "electronic games of skill."

Worst thief (duet performance)

Police said that two White County men who came upon the body of a suicide victim in a truck near Judsonia in September dumped the man's body in the road before stealing his vehicle and the gun the man had used to kill himself. They were charged with theft and abuse of a corpse.

Worst thief (solo performance)

In May, a Little Rock family — which had been the victim of a burglary in which more than $1,000 worth of electronics were stolen — was contacted by the thief, who offered to return the photos stored on their purloined computer in exchange for the password. A 23-year-old North Little Rock man was arrested after police were able to somehow track the criminal mastermind down.

Best campaign promise

In a campaign flyer circulated by Libertarian 4th Congressional District candidate Bobby Tullis, Tullis told the voters: "The only promise I will make is that I will try to get Elvis on the $100 bill."

Worst campaign promise

In the days leading up to the election, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee provided voiceover for an ad — featuring images of orange flames against a black background — that informed Christians that their vote "will be recorded in eternity" and should be cast in a way that "will stand the test of fire." Hellfire bedamned, Mitt Romney still lost.

Best lunch for the 1 percenters

In May, Little Rock hot dog cart owner Michael "Hot Dog Mike" Juiliano sold four examples of what he claimed to be the world's most expensive hot dog, featuring a quarter-pound tubesteak topped with lobster tail, saffron aioli and gold flakes. Price: $1,501, which apparently bested the old world record by $1,401. With prices like that, he's lucky he didn't get robbed by a guy with a pair of hot dog tongs.

Best award

One of this year's James Beard Awards — often called the Oscars of Food, and usually dished out to top chefs and ritzy, linen-tablecloth eateries — went to Marianna's Jones Barbecue, a tiny, family-owned barbecue restaurant that has been in business since 1910.

Best charity

In the weeks before Christmas, Platinum Cabaret, a Fayetteville strip club, held a charity drive called "Toys for Ta-Tas" in which they offered two-for-one lap dances to any customer who donated a new toy. A child's toy, you pervert.

Best oops

Back in September, a contractor hired by the city to demolish a condemned house on Harrison Street in Little Rock tore down the house next door instead. Luckily, no one was home.

Worst down-home cuisine

In her new memoir, "Coal to Diamonds," Judsonia native and international pop star Beth Ditto said one of her father's favorite meals was squirrel brains boiled in the skull, then sucked out through the nose.

Worst beatdown

Do we even have to say it? Has to be Alabama's old-school, behind-the-woodshed spanking of the Arkansas Razorbacks in mid-September, with the Hogs leaving the field in shame after a 52-0 shutout.

Best non-consensual smiles

On the Monday after the 52-0 demolition, University of Arkansas head coach John L. Smith refused to start a scheduled press conference unless the assembled members of the press all smiled at him, with a frowning, deranged-looking Smith leaning around the microphone to single out those not in compliance while yelling: "Get your chin up! Smile! SMILE! Dang! You guys — all right? IF NOT, I'M NOT TALKING!"

Best surrender

The same week, Smith accidentally referred to the state he was standing in as Alabama while speaking to the Little Rock Touchdown Club, reportedly telling the assembled, long-faced faithful: "Don't give up on us. It's our program. It's a state of Alabama program."

Best estate sale

Back in June, it took auctioneers three days to work through the estate of the late philanthropist and businessman Jennings Osborne, a vast horde which included — among other things — a monster truck with four-wheel steering, a giant barbecue smoker shaped like a pig, a grill made from a wooden barrel, a huge bronze statue of a mermaid, several James Bond-grade Minox spy cameras and more than a dozen ventriloquist dummies.

Best quackery

In October, 500 people gathered on top of Hot Springs Mountain in Hot Springs to hold an "om circle" which hoped to magnify the gathering's peaceful vibrations through the quartz crystal in the surrounding hills.

Second best quackery

In honor of 12/12/12, a few hundred people descended on a hotel in downtown Little Rock for a New Age convention in which the guest of honor was a crystal skull named "Max."

Worst questionable

The July death of 21-year-old Chavis Carter, who was shot in the head while sitting with his hands cuffed behind his back in the backseat of a Jonesboro police car, was ruled a suicide.

Best newspaperman

Bill Simmons, the former state Associated Press bureau chief and the political editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, passed away in late October after a long illness. During his final months, Simmons reportedly told his bosses he knew he didn't have long left, but wanted to keep reporting the news until the end. He apparently did just that, often working from a wheelchair.

Best headline

From the Dem-Gaz in late October: "Moss grows where the sun don't shine."

Second best headline

From the Dem-Gaz sports section in early November: "ASU QB has love for glove."

Worst Dirty Harry impersonation

In November, after witnessing a robbery and shooting at a bank near the Kroger store on Chenal Parkway in Little Rock, a bystander pulled out a handgun (for which he had a concealed-carry permit) and blazed away across the parking lot at the fleeing robbers, missing them but managing to hit a passing car.

Best Dirty Harry impersonation

While stumping for Republican candidate Todd Akin in Missouri just before the election, former Arkansas First Lady Janet Huckabee reportedly encouraged the crowd to go vote by telling them: "I'm not going to hold a revolver to your head, but I could. I'm packing most of the time."

Worst overkill

In December, citing an increase in crime, Paragould Police Chief Todd Stovall announced a "Stop and ID" plan to put officers in SWAT gear carrying AR-15 assault rifles on foot patrol, telling the Paragould Daily Press: "If you're out walking, we're going to stop you, ask why you're out walking, [and] check your I.D." Paragould, by the way, is a town of 26,501 souls.

Best granny

In October, a 67-year-old woman from the tiny town of Harriet was arrested after the Searcy County sheriff said she sold an undercover deputy two jugs of moonshine. A search of her home uncovered 41 gallons of illegal likker and a still.

Best improbable cause

While explaining the new policy, the Constitutionally-impaired Chief Stovall reportedly told a gathering of Paragould citizens: "To ask you for your ID, I have to have a reason. Well, I've got statistical reasons that say I've got a lot of crime right now, which gives me probable cause to ask what you're doing out."

Best previous experience

Newly hired Razorback football coach Bret Bielema, who grew up on a farm in Illinois, called the Hogs at his first press conference and said, "That was my first public Pig-Sooie. From the ages of 4 to 18 when I called them, my only partners were pigs."

Worst news for Arkansas actors who kinda look like Jesus

A news release in September said that the 6,000-seat, 45-year-old "Great Passion Play" in Eureka Springs was on the verge of closing due to declining attendance and revenue, with organizers calling on the public for donations. No prayers being answered, the play officially closed in October.

Worst redesign

In November, Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines proposed a plan to rechristen the replacement for the Broadway Bridge "America's Bridge" and paint it red, white and blue, adding stars, patriotic quotes and "virtual fireworks displays" via computerized LED lighting. Though Villines said the design had tested well with veterans, overall public reaction to the star-spangled idea was a collective raspberry.

Worst sign and/or portent of Armageddon

With the Mayan Calendar End of the World date bearing down, the sight of a creek running a dark, bloody red in the Little Rock neighborhood of Stifft Station in early December surely made a few folks nervous. It was later determined to have been caused by dye, possibly from a water leak at UAMS.

Best staredown

Just after Thanksgiving, a Salvation Army bell ringer in front of a J.C. Penney store in Conway told police that a man in a car had pulled up, given him a $1 donation, then pointed a handgun at him and demanded his kettle. The ringer told cops he'd refused and engaged in an intense staredown with the gunman. Eventually, the robber gave up and drove away, $1 poorer.


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