Media

Entry Category: Media

Besser, Matthew Gregory (Matt)

Matthew Gregory Besser is an Arkansan comedian, actor, writer, director, and teacher best known as a founding member of the sketch-comedy group the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB). In his comedy, Besser draws upon his background as the child of a Jewish father and a Presbyterian mother from a fundamentalist family, exploring what this means for someone growing up in Arkansas. Matt Besser was born on September 22, 1967, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Sanford Michael Besser of Little Rock, who was an investment banker, and Diane Patricia Pettit Besser of Harrison (Boone County), a homemaker and volunteer in the Little Rock arts community. Besser is a first cousin twice removed of comic actor Joe Besser, who was a member …

Billingsley, ReShonda Tate

ReShonda Tate Billingsley is a journalist, public speaker, publisher, editor, ghostwriter, and producer; however, it is for her work as an award-winning national bestselling author that she is most known. Since publishing her first novel, My Brother’s Keeper (2001), through her own publishing company before Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books began publishing it, she has authored more than forty additional novels and contributed to several anthologies. Most of her novels have been published by Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books and have spanned several genres, including nonfiction and both teen and adult fiction. She was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2010. ReShonda Tate was born in Kansas City, Missouri, to Bruce Tate and Nancy Kilgore. She moved to Arkansas …

Biloxi Blues

Biloxi Blues is a 1988 movie made entirely in Arkansas. Shooting locations included Van Buren (Crawford County), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Barling (Sebastian County), and Fort Chaffee. The film, written by humorist Neil Simon, is semi-autobiographical with elements of both comedy and drama. It was directed by Academy Award winner Mike Nichols, and it starred Matthew Broderick along with Academy Award winner Christopher Walken. In 1985, Simon had written a semi-autobiographical play of the same title. Biloxi Blues was the second in what is known as the “Eugene trilogy,” with the first being Brighton Beach Memoirs and the third being Broadway Bound. He adapted Biloxi Blues for the screen, maintaining the characters and plot elements of the play. Broderick, who …

Bindursky, Esther

Esther Bindursky, editor of the weekly Lepanto News Record for thirty-four years, was an award-winning journalist and photographer known for her perceptive feature and column writing, newsworthy pictures, and selfless community service. Esther Bindursky was born on January 28, 1904, in Drew, Mississippi. Her father, Meyer Bindursky, born in Bessarabia (which was divided between Moldova and Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union), was a merchant, and her mother, Minnie Iskiwitch, a native of Poland, was a homemaker. Bindursky had three brothers. Shortly after her graduation from high school in 1922, she moved with her parents to Lepanto (Poinsett County). As a young woman, she played the piano for silent movies in the Lepanto movie theater. When the devastating …

Bloody Mama

In 1969, Roger Corman, who had found success directing and producing low-budget exploitation films for American International Pictures, chose as his next project a fictionalized account of the exploits of the infamous Ma Barker and her gang. After a scouting trip to Arkansas, Corman decided to shoot the film in the Ozark Mountains and around the Little Rock (Pulaski County) area. Corman described the experience as one of the “smoothest and most successful” shoots of his career. For the part of the notorious Ma Barker, Corman had only one actress in mind—Oscar-winner Shelley Winters. After agreeing to the role, Winters helped Corman cast the film. She showed him a video of Robert De Niro performing in a low-budget Brian De Palma film, …

Blount, Lisa Suzanne

Lisa Blount was an actress who appeared in numerous films and television shows, most notably as Lynette Pomeroy in An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. Along with her husband, actor Ray McKinnon, she received an Academy Award for the 2002 short film The Accountant. Lisa Suzanne Blount was born on July 1, 1957, in Fayetteville (Washington County) to Glen Roscoe Blount and Louise Martin Blount, natives of Floral (Independence County); she had one brother, Greg. The family moved to Jacksonville (Pulaski County). Blount graduated from Jacksonville High School in 1975 and attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville, beginning classes there when she was sixteen; she left UA before …

Bogard, Benjamin Marcus

Benjamin Marcus Bogard, founder and head of the American Baptist Association, was Arkansas’s leading fundamentalist Christian in the 1920s. In 1928, his efforts resulted in a law banning the teaching of evolution in Arkansas public schools; it remained in place until 1968, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned it. Bogard was born on March 9, 1868, in Hardin County, Kentucky. He was the only son of tobacco tenant farmers M. L. and Nancy Bogard; the couple also had five daughters. In 1873, the Bogards moved to Caseyville, Kentucky, where Bogard attended school, Woodland Baptist Church, and evangelical camp meetings. In February 1885, he was baptized in an ice-covered pond during a church service. In 1887 and 1888, he attended Georgetown …

Bonner, Frank

aka: Frank Woodrow Boers Jr.
Best known for his role of sales manager Herb Tarlek on the television sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, which began in 1978, Frank Bonner is an actor and television director. He has also appeared in such popular shows as Saved by the Bell: The New Class, Just the Ten of Us, Murder, She Wrote, and Night Court. Frank Bonner was born Frank Woodrow Boers Jr. on February 28, 1942, in Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Frank Woodrow Boers, a saxophone player, and Grace Dobbins Boers, who had a singing career in the 1930s and 1940s. He has a sister, a brother, and a step-brother. He grew up Catholic, attending St. Edward’s and Our Lady of Good Counsel schools, before his family moved …

Bootleggers

aka: Deadeye Dewey and the Arkansas Kid
The 1974 movie billed on its original posters as Charles B. Pierce’s BOOTLEGGERS was later re-released as Deadeye Dewey and the Arkansas Kid, and yet again as Charles B. Pierce’s THE BOOTLEGGER’S ANGEL. The 115-minute film was shot on location in the Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas near Calico Rock (Izard County). It chronicles two feuding families of bootleggers, the Pruitts and the Woodalls, in rural Arkansas during the 1930s. Its original poster contained the tagline “Revenge, Love and Liquid Dynamite!” Significant is the billing of two of its minor cast members: “Introducing Jaclyn Smith” followed by “AND Slim Pickens.” Variously categorized as an action/adventure, a revenge drama, and a period comedy, the low-budget movie earned more than $4 million …

Boxcar Bertha

Boxcar Bertha (1972) was the second exploitation film shot in Arkansas by B-movie director Roger Corman. The first was Bloody Mama (1970), and both were set in the 1930s. Corman chose Arkansas because many rural areas in the state could still pass for the Depression-era South. Interiors and street scenes for Bertha were shot around Camden (Ouachita County). Train sequences and other exteriors were shot on the Possum Trot Line of the Reader Railroad in Nevada and Ouachita counties. Rather than direct the film himself, Corman served as producer and hired a relatively unknown young director, Martin Scorsese, who had impressed Corman with his first feature film, Who’s That Knocking on My Door (1967), also titled I Call First. Corman gave Scorsese …

Boy Erased

Garrard Conley’s 2016 memoir Boy Erased recounts his experiences at the Memphis, Tennessee, “ex-gay” therapy program Love in Action, to which his parents sent him in 2004 upon learning that he was gay. A movie adaptation of the book was released in November 2018. Conley, who was born in Memphis and grew up in northern Arkansas—first in Cherokee Village (Sharp and Fulton counties), then in Mountain Home (Baxter County)—is the son of Hershel Conley and Martha Caudill Conley. His father served as a Missionary Baptist pastor in Mountain Home. Conley was a Lyon College freshman when another student outed him as gay. In response, his parents sent him to Love in Action. His memoir is a painful reflection on his …

Brickell, Beth

Beth Brickell is an actor, producer, and writer with many stage and screen credits, and is especially known for her leading role on the television series Gentle Ben. She has also engaged in film production and investigative journalism, the latter relating to the 1957 disappearance of Maud Crawford. Beth Brickell was born on November 13, 1936, in Brinkley (Monroe County) and was raised in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) and Camden (Ouachita County). She graduated from Camden High School in 1954, and then attended Arkansas State Teachers College (today’s University of Central Arkansas) in Conway (Faulkner County) and the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), where she majored in history and political science. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree …

Bridges, James

James Bridges was an Arkansan who became a movie producer, director, and screenwriter. He was known for some of the biggest hit films of the 1970s and 1980s, such as The China Syndrome and Urban Cowboy. He also filmed one of his movies, 9/30/55, in Conway (Faulkner County). James Bridges was born on February 3, 1936, in Paris (Logan County) in western Arkansas. From 1954 to 1956, he attended Arkansas State Teachers College (now the University of Central Arkansas) in Conway, where he was drum major with the marching band and was involved with the performing arts. While in school, Bridges heard about the death of screen legend James Dean on September 30, 1955, an event that later influenced Bridges’s …

Britt, Terri Utley Amos

Terri Britt, who was Terri Utley at the time, was named Miss Arkansas USA in 1982, going on to win the title of 1982’s Miss USA and compete in the Miss Universe pageant, in which she was a finalist. She remains the only Miss USA to come from Arkansas. When Elizabeth Ward, who was Miss Arkansas, was named Miss America in 1982, it became the only time both Miss America and Miss Universe titleholders were from the same state in the same year. After a career in the entertainment industry, Britt went on to become a successful motivational speaker and author. Terri Lea Utley was born on January 1, 1961. In her hometown of Cabot (Lonoke County), she was involved …

Brooks, John Doyle

John Doyle Brooks was a stuntman and actor whose career included appearances in some of the most renowned television shows of the 1950s and 1960s, including The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin and Naked City, as well as several movies and commercials. Doyle Brooks was born on December 10, 1923, in Bethesda (Independence County) to John Henry Brooks and Deliah Ann Queary Brooks. Brooks developed an interest in show business at an early age, especially in the cowboy/western genre. On his parents’ farm in Bethesda, he learned to ride, rope, break horses, and shoot, becoming an expert marksman and sharpshooter. In 1942, he married Bernice Sheffield of Batesville (Independence County), who shared his interest in the entertainment industry. Together, they …

Brown, Helen Marie Gurley

Helen Gurley Brown was a native Arkansan whose career includes landmark achievements in advertising and publishing. She was considered a spokesperson for the women’s liberation movement and sexual revolution in the mid-twentieth century as author of the bestselling book Sex and the Single Girl (1962) and editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine. Helen Marie Gurley was born on February 18, 1922, in Green Forest (Carroll County) to a family of modest means. Her father, Ira Gurley, finished law school in 1923 and was soon elected a state legislator. The family moved to Little Rock (Pulaski County) and settled in the Pulaski Heights neighborhood. In 1932, as her father was preparing to run for Arkansas secretary of state, he was killed in an elevator …

Brubaker

Released in 1980, Brubaker is loosely based on the 1969 nonfiction book Accomplices to the Crime: The Arkansas Prison Scandal by Joe Hyams and Thomas O. Murton. Murton was hired as a prison warden in the late 1960s to modernize two prison farms: the Tucker State Prison Farm and the Cummins State Prison Farm. The controversial book and movie brought national attention to issues such as prisoner abuse, inhumane conditions in prisons, and the need for modernization. The movie follows Henry Brubaker, a new warden who has been hired to modernize and reform Wakefield Prison. Brubaker pretends to be a prisoner and mixes with the general population until he discovers widespread corruption and reveals himself in disgust. Though faced with …

Bumpass, Rodger

Rodger Bumpass is an actor and voice performer who was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) and attended Arkansas State University (ASU) in Jonesboro (Craighead County). Along with numerous television and film roles, he has achieved fame as the voice of the character Squidward in the popular SpongeBob SquarePants film and TV series. Rodger Bumpass was born on November 20, 1951, in Little Rock to Carroll C. Bumpass and Virginia Cathey Bumpass, owners of Bumpass Cleaners and Dyers in Little Rock. He had two siblings, Leonard and Cathey (the latter of whom died at birth), and attended Little Rock Central High School, where he obtained his first experience in theater, primarily in the area of comedy. In high school, he …

Burns, Bob

aka: Robin Burn
Bob Burns was a well-known national radio and film personality during the 1930s and 1940s. He was known by a variety of titles that referenced his hillbilly origins, such as “The Arkansas Traveler” and “The Arkansas Philosopher.” Burns was a musician and an actor who wove tales of life in the Arkansas hills with his musical performances. He earned his nickname, “Bazooka,” from an instrument he invented and named as a young man in a plumbing shop in Van Buren (Crawford County). The instrument, which was a simple device made of spare gas fittings and a whiskey funnel, eventually lent its name to the World War II anti-tank weapon due to its similar looks and Burns’s popularity among the troops who …

Campbell, Glen

aka: Glen Travis Campbell
Glen Travis Campbell was a commercially successful and critically acclaimed entertainer whose career lasted more than fifty years. As a guitarist, Campbell appeared on recordings by a diverse range of artists, including Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. As a singer and solo artist, Campbell sold millions of recordings and earned many awards. He also starred in films and hosted his own television programs. Glen Campbell was born on April 22, 1936, in the Billstown community, near Delight (Pike County). He was one of twelve children born to the farming family of Carrie Dell Stone Campbell and John Wesley Campbell. Many of his relatives were musicians, and young Campbell soon developed an interest in singing and playing. He received his first …

Carmen, Jeanne Laverne

During the 1950s and 1960s, Jeanne Carmen was a pin-up model, a trick shot golfer, and a B-movie actress. Jeanne Carmen was born Agnes Lavern Carmon in the Lafe community in Greene County near Paragould (Greene County) on August 4, 1930. Her mother was Georgia Ellen Wright, who was twenty years old and was not married to her daughter’s father. On March 20, 1930, Georgia Wright had appeared before the Greene County Court, explaining that she was pregnant and was due in August. She testified that Dennis “D. B.” Carmon was the father of her unborn child. She asked for an arrest warrant to hold him to answer to the charge. On August 4, she gave birth to Agnes and …

Carnall, John

John Carnall was a Virginia native who moved to Fort Smith (Sebastian County) in 1840. An educator, legislator, and newspaperman, he was one of the town’s most influential citizens over a period of more than four decades. John Carnall was born in Virginia on January 9, 1818, but little else is known about his early life. It is known that he came to Fort Smith in 1840 carrying a letter of introduction that identified him as a teacher and scholar. Upon his arrival, he quickly established one of the first schools in the area. His creation, Fort Smith Academy, was incorporated in 1845. He later started a second school on his farm on Massard Prairie. These efforts were memorialized in …

Castle, Irene

Irene Castle was a famous ballroom dancer in the 1910s to the 1930s who appeared in several silent movies and many Broadway shows. She lived in Arkansas for a time and worked for animal rights. In her autobiography, she wrote that she would like to be remembered more for her work to prevent animal cruelty than for her dance career. Irene Foote was born on April 17, 1893, in New Rochelle, New York, to Hubert Foote, a doctor, and Annie Elroy Thomas; she had one older sister. Foote attended several boarding schools as a child. She met Vernon Castle, a British citizen who was part of a comedy show, in 1910. He got her a dance audition with Lew Fields, …

Cates, Opal Taft (Opie)

Opie Cates was a popular bandleader, musician, and radio personality, known as one of the great clarinetists of the swing era (mid-1930s–mid-1940s). He was a familiar presence on radio in the 1940s, at one time appearing weekly on four different shows. By Cates’s own reckoning, his audience numbered over thirty-five million listeners. Some believe that the character of Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show was named after Opie Cates. Opal Taft Cates was born on October 10, 1909, in Clinton (Van Buren County). His parents, Abb Cates and Sarah Jacobs Cates, were farmers. Abb Cates died in 1914, Sarah Cates married Lee Andrew Reaves (or Reeves) in 1916. The blended family, which included several Reaves step-siblings and a younger …

Central Arkansas Radio Emergency Network (CAREN)

The Central Arkansas Radio Emergency Net (CAREN) is the oldest of several amateur radio clubs in the central Arkansas area. CAREN’s focus is on providing public service event support and emergency communications. To facilitate these services, CAREN operates VHF/UHF radio repeater sites throughout the central region of the state. Ham radio operators are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) under Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 97 (Amateur Radio Service), after passing an examination for one of several classes of license. The Amateur Radio Service has five main purposes: 1) providing emergency communications as a noncommercial service, 2) advancing the radio art, 3) advancing communications and technical skills, 4) expanding a pool of trained operators, …

Chrystal

Chrystal is a film written and directed by longtime Arkansas resident Ray McKinnon. The movie stars McKinnon’s wife, Fayetteville (Washington County) native Lisa Blount, who played the title character alongside Hot Springs (Garland County) native Billy Bob Thornton, who played her husband. The movie was shot in and around Eureka Springs (Carroll County) in 2003 and is set in a small, unnamed community in the Ozark Mountains. It was the second project of Ginny Mule Productions, a company co-owned by McKinnon, Blount, and Walton Goggins, who also acted in the movie. The three had received an Academy Award for best live action short in 2001 for their first project, the film The Accountant. Chrystal centers upon the reunion of Joe (played …

Clark, William Allen

William Allen Clark was one of Arkansas’s “preacher-editors.” For nearly fifteen years, he occupied the editorial chair of one of Arkansas’s largest denominational newspapers, the old Arkansas Baptist, and was a pivotal figure in the Landmark Baptist movement within the state. W. A. Clark was born on May 24, 1844, near Rossville, Indiana, the son of wealthy farmer David C. Clark and his wife, Mary. In 1861, he entered Simonds Select School for Boys in Indianapolis, Indiana. During the Civil War, he served as a corporal in Company K, Seventy-Second Indiana Volunteer Mounted Infantry. In 1865, he moved to Kansas, where he married Jennie C. Jordan. They had three children. In May 1867, Clark was baptized into the Methodist Episcopal …

Clash of the Ozarks

In the winter and early spring of 2014, the Discovery Channel broadcast a short-lived reality show whose storyline involved a reported century-old family feud in the town of Hardy (Sharp County). Clash of the Ozarks, as it was called, ran for one six-episode season and was not renewed. David George, the vice president of Leftside Pictures and producer of two episodes of the series, was visiting the Ozarks seeking a cast for an entirely different storyline than Clash of the Ozarks. While visiting Hardy, he met Gary “Crowbar” Russell, the host of a local access television show, Ozark Outdoors. As George listened to Russell’s family stories, he became convinced they could provide material for a successful reality show. Russell had …

Clinton Chronicles, The

The Clinton Chronicles: An Investigation into the Alleged Criminal Activities of Bill Clinton is a 1994 video produced by Patrick Matrisciana that accuses former president Bill Clinton of crimes in Arkansas. The video, which has been called a propaganda piece, put forward a conspiracy theory, the “Clinton Body Count,” regarding individuals whom Clinton was alleged to have had killed. The Clinton Chronicles was produced by a group called Citizens for Honest Government of Westminster, California. Partially funded by Arkansan Larry Nichols, its parent organization was Creative Ministries, Inc. According to the New York Times, Nichols had been hired in the 1980s by Governor Clinton as marketing director for the Arkansas Development Finance Authority (ADFA). In 1988, Nichols was fired by …

Clinton, Chelsea Victoria

Chelsea Clinton is the only child of former U.S. president Bill Clinton and his wife, former U.S. senator and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was the Democratic nominee for U.S. president in 2016. Chelsea Clinton has served as a correspondent, public speaker, and author, and she works with the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative. Chelsea Victoria Clinton was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on February 27, 1980. Hillary Clinton stated in her memoir that the name was inspired by a walk through the Chelsea district in London, England. Hearing the Joni Mitchell song, “Chelsea Morning,” Bill Clinton said, “If we ever have a daughter, we should name her Chelsea.” When their daughter was born, …

Come Early Morning

Released in 2006, Come Early Morning is a movie written and directed by Joey Lauren Adams, best known for her acting roles in Dazed and Confused (1993) and Chasing Amy (1997). It was filmed primarily in Adams’s hometown of North Little Rock (Pulaski County), with several scenes shot in her grandmother’s house. The movie stars Ashley Judd as a working-class woman who spends her weekends getting drunk in bars before going to a motel for one-night-stands, after which she quickly leaves “come early morning.” In the New York Times, reviewer Stephen Holden said that Adams, in her filmmaking debut, “knows how these people speak and has a finely tuned awareness of their relationship to an environment where beer flows like …

Come Next Spring

Come Next Spring was a 1956 dramatic feature film produced and distributed by Republic Pictures Corporation. The film is about the reconciliation of a rural, Prohibition-era Arkansas family split apart by alcohol abuse. Both the original story and screenplay were written by Montgomery Pittman, whose family connections, and possibly childhood experiences, in Independence County, Arkansas, are referenced obliquely throughout the film. The film premiered at the Center Theater in downtown Little Rock (Pulaski County) on February 1, 1956. The premiere included a personal appearance by one of the film’s stars, Steve Cochran. Released nationally in the United States the following month and internationally afterward, the film played in U.S. theaters well into 1957 and, in subsequent years, was broadcast many …

Command and Control

Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety is a 2013 book by investigative journalist Eric Schlossser that explores the history of the United States’ nuclear weapons, efforts to control them, and accidents involving them, focusing particularly on the September 1980 Titan II Missile explosion in Arkansas. The book was the basis for a 2016 documentary film directed by Robert Kenner. Author Eric Schlosser previously wrote the New York Times bestsellers Fast Food Nation (2001) and Reefer Madness (2003). The 632-page Command and Control, published by Penguin Press, explored the United States’ development of nuclear weapons and national policy regarding them from their origins in World War II into the twenty-first century. It also documented …

Cotton, Carolina

aka: Helen Hagstrom
Helen Hagstrom is best known for her country and western swing music and yodeling, as well as her appearances in numerous television specials, radio programs, and films under the name of Carolina Cotton. Nicknamed “The Yodeling Blonde Bombshell,” Hagstrom was an entertainer and teacher throughout her life. Helen Hagstrom was born on October 20, 1925, in Cash (Craighead County), where her parents, Fred and Helen Hagstrom, and maternal grandparents had a farm, growing many crops, including cotton and peanuts. During the Great Depression, Hagstrom’s father moved his wife and two daughters to San Francisco, California. Hagstrom began performing in traveling stage shows with the O’Neille Sisters Kiddie Revue. Then, after regularly visiting KYA Radio to watch Dude Martin’s Roundup Gang …

Counts, Will

aka: Ira Wilmer Counts
Ira Wilmer (Will) Counts Jr. was a photographer best known in Arkansas for his photographs during the 1957 desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock (Pulaski County). His photographs have been widely recognized as among the most memorable of the twentieth century. Will Counts was born on August 24, 1931, in Little Rock to Ira Counts Sr. and Jeanne Frances Adams Counts; he had one brother. The Counts family sharecropped near Rose Bud (White County) and then outside Cabot (Lonoke County) before moving in 1936 to the Resettlement Administration’s Plum Bayou Homestead in Jefferson County. When the family moved back to Little Rock, where Counts attended Little Rock High School (later Central High), he developed his initial interest in …