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March 28th

HOLLENBECK: Movie icon left indelible mark on industry

March 28, 2011

Celebrities influence our lives a lot more than we’re aware. Case in point: Elizabeth Taylor.
When I heard that she had died, I got a big lump in my throat.
This woman was the epitome of stardom and magnetism. No matter what weight she happened to be — and she went up and down the scales almost as you watched her — she could out-pizzazz all the rest of them.
She was one of the main reasons I used to look forward to the Academy Awards show on TV.
In earlier years I had seen every picture nominated — some more than once — but that’s not been true in a lot of years. Now I do well to see a movie when it comes out on DVD and then it sits on the shelf for a long time before I get around to it.
I still like to watch the Academy Awards show because of the glitz and glamor and sometimes the entertainment.
I don’t know when Liz made her last appearance at the Oscars, but she was still turning heads whenever it was. She always stood out in a crowd.
There are many gorgeous entertainers today, but I can’t think of a one that could touch Liz in regard to sheer beauty and allure. She had something that was unique only to her — and it was a lot more than her violet eyes, which were amazing in themselves.
Yes, people can get them that way today with contacts, but as far as I know, Liz was the only one who had the real thing.
Growing up in Cotton Plant, where James Theatre was the hub of our social world, I saw many movies featuring this amazing actress.
I continue to watch her movies. Two of my favorites, for a lot of reasons, are “Father of the Bride” and “Father’s Little Dividend.” She couldn’t have been more beautiful than she was in those two flicks. She was young and charming and outwardly unscathed.
They’re also special to me because the relationship of Liz’s character and the one portrayed by Spencer Tracy as her father, which was so similar to the one I had in real life with my father.
Another favorite for me was “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof,” which had one of the best overall casts of just about any movie I’ve ever seen. Liz, Paul Newman, Burl Ives, Jack Carson, and whoever played Big Mamma and Sister Woman (don’t know their names at the moment, but they were great). What a mix of sheer talent at work on the screen in that wonderful Tennessee Williams story.
If I were asked to rate her best performance — her worst was still good and most were outstanding — my vote would be for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” I’ve never seen any woman argue with more zeal than Liz exhibited with Richard Burton. They may have had their troubles off-screen, but when you stuck them before a camera, there was a kind of magic that took place.
And then came “Cleopatra.” I don’t remember the year that film was released — I think it was sometime in the ‘60s — but I do remember the trip to see it. My Cotton Plant cousins and I saw it in Memphis and had a wonderful time. I’m trying to remember the name of the theater where it was shown, and all I can recall is that it had a buff brick exterior and was located near what was then the big Sears & Roebuck store.
Liz made more than 60 films and twice won the Oscar for best actress: as a call girl who meets with tragedy in “Butterfield 8” (1960), based on the John O’Hara novella; and as the braying, slovenly wife of a professor in “Virginia Woolf,” which was adapted from Edward Albee’s play about marital warfare.
Rosemary Proctor Hamilton, one of my lifetime friends, bears an uncanny resemblance to Taylor. She looked like her as a kid and still does today. A beauty queen herself, Rosemary won many titles and at those times frequently received comparisons between her and the magnetic star.
Liz, though, epitomized Hollywood glamor with her wardrobe of chic sheaths that she could top off with a tiara or a turban. Heck, she looked good even if she wore bandanas and burlap.
The aging process changed her somewhat, but it didn’t take away her style. And of course she had enough diamond accessories to light up a railroad track.
I have a sparkly atomizer from her White Diamonds fragrance collection. Think it’s probably worth a little more now than it was a week ago, but I wouldn’t want to part with it. Every time I use it I’ll think of the bewitching star and remember what marvelous contributions she made to the entertainment industry.
And there’s one more thing: She loved dogs. That raises anyone a notch or two in my estimation.

Lynda Hollenbeck is associate editor of the Courier.

Question of the Week: What do you think about our JPs...

March 28, 2011

What do you think about Saline County Quorum Court members, our Justices of the Peace, making 37 percent more than the average salary paid to their counterparts in a recent six-county salary study, even as dozens of county employees make "far below" the minimum suggested pay for their respective positions, according to the JESAP report released recently?

March 25th

BRENT DAVIS/Resident Boomer: Everything can change, in the blink of an eye

March 25, 2011

The glare of the morning sun caused me to pull down the visor as I drove into work. My windshield was in need of a good cleaning. The pollen and remnants of insects paired against a washed out cloudless sky put the surroundings in a light haze.
Springtime had arrived. Time had shifted and this particular stretch of highway climbed upward, directly into the sun. Circumstances being what they were, it was not unusual for traffic to slow to a crawl.
But on this morning, the crawl became a stop. Years of this daily commute has taught me those three lanes coming to a complete stop means one thing only: a wreck.
All three lanes were still. Each line pointed toward the morning sun. The shadow of the first car fell upon the second car and so on down the line.
We squinted and glanced toward our watches and clocks, silently calculating how much time was passing and hoping that whatever the delay beyond the rise in the road ahead would not make us late for work.
I switched the radio from the news of terror and despair around the world to whatever CD was in the player. It had been so long since I had actually listened to music on the drive to work that I had forgotten what would be awaiting me.
The speakers were silent but just for a moment. And then the soft notes of a single piano player took me back to a familiar and favorite tune. A voice started to sing: “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me.” I felt my body relax. “Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.” A calm came over me.
But the silence and calm were broken by the blaring sound of sirens. I glanced at my rearview mirror and speeding toward me on the inside shoulder was an ambulance. A dirt cloud swirled around as it passed in a hurry. “And in my hour of darkness, she is standing right in front of me. Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.”
Ambulances are routinely sent to accident locations, just in case they are needed. I had seen them so many times that they had become part of the commute scenery.
The lines moved a few feet. We took our place in the shadow of the one in front of us, making sure that the distance was close but not too close. Far enough away to give the impression that we all were paying attention and being considerate to the other drivers behind us.
Stopped once again, still aiming toward the sun, my attention went back to the song. In the distance, again, a siren blared.
A quick glance in the same mirror as before caught a glimpse of flashing lights and a police car passing quickly on the shoulder. “Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be. Whisper words of wisdom. Let it be.”
Another siren. Another vehicle. This time, a fire truck. It passed by in the same urgent way as the others who came before it. “And when the brokenhearted people, living in the world agree, there will be an answer. Let it be”
The line began to move slowly. We reached the crest of the hill. Before us was a sight that shook my soul. “For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see. There will be an answer. Let it be.
“Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be. There will be an answer. Let it be.”
Lights of red and blue swirled from atop the emergency vehicles ahead, flashing upon our faces, mixed with the bright sunshine. A big truck blocked the middle or the road. Beyond it, the crumpled remains of what once was a passenger car. The back door of the ambulance closed and it sped away, carrying the injured to safety.
“And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me. Shine on until tomorrow. Let it be.”
The blue lights of the police car in the middle of the road let us know to divide into separate lanes, passing along either side of the moment of tragedy.
I chose the left side. Others went right. But each line passed slowly, with full recognition of what had just occurred over the rise in the road we had previously been stopped upon. Some were humbled. Some were angered at the inconvenience.
“I wake up to the sound of music. Mother Mary comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom. Let it be.”
Each car in succession accelerated rapidly, continuing our journey that morning, almost as if nothing had happened.
The scene was no longer in front of us but was growing smaller and smaller in our rearview mirrors. But the scene was still tragic for those involved who could not move forward from that spot on the road.
I arrived at my destination, right on time. Without delay. Without a struggle. I thought about what I had seen and I thanked the good Lord that I was safe. But on this day, in the blink of an eye, with a flash of light and the blare of sirens, it was not the same for others.
“Let it be. Let it be. Yeah. Let it be. Let it be. Whisper words of wisdom. Let it be.”

Brent Davis is a lifelong resident of Benton and Saline County. The Courier has been part of his life for as long as he can remember. He is a graduate of Benton High School. His column appears twice a week: on Fridays on Page 3 of The Saline Courier and on www.bentoncourier.com, and on the Opinion Page in Sunday’s edition of The Saline Courier.
davisb@flash.net

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