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Wednesday, August 20, 2014, 9:37 p.m.
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State’s Hall of Famers rule at Pine Bluff center

By JACK SCHNEDLER SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published February 20, 2014 at 2:57 a.m.

Visitors to the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame in Pine Bluff are greeted by an animatronic Johnny Cash. The figure strums the guitar when a button is pressed, as six songs play.

PINE BLUFF - The Johnny Cash who greets visitors entering the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame is poised with a guitar to perform. All it takes for the singing to begin is a press of the red button just below the glass enclosure.

This Man in Black is an animatronic figure with hands, lips and eyes that move during the playing of six Cash classics, including “I Walk the Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues.” The quality of the faux Johnny falls some distance short of Disney World standards, but it does give a live-action start to the visit.

The rest of the Hall of Fame, arranged in the auditorium lobby of the Pine Bluff Convention Center, has no moving parts. But its memorabilia, arrayed in a series of display cases, provide often fascinating testimony to the wealth of arts and entertainment notables with Natural State roots.

Although the General Assembly authorized the Hall of Fame in 1985, it took another 13 years before a permanent home in Pine Bluff was found. There are now more than 80 members, including such recent notables as Kris Allen, winner of American Idol’s eighth season in 2009.

But the renown of some inductees dates back to pre-television days - before radio in a few cases. Little Rock native Bronco Billy Anderson was the movies’ first cowboy star, appearing in 148 silent shorts. On display is a 1915 poster from Bronco Billy and the Greaser Deputy - “greaser” being a derogatory term for a Mexican that was commonly used in those days.

Visitors younger than 80 may be puzzled by a peculiar musical instrument made from two pieces of pipe and a funnel. It was the bazooka, a homemade trademark of Bob Burns, a national radio celebrity in the 1930s and ’40s who’d grown up in Van Buren. America’s prime anti-tank weapon of World War II took on the nickname “bazooka.”

On display are such printed items as Jerry Van Dyke’s Coach television scripts, a Sling Blade screenplay signed by Billy Bob Thornton, and a poster advertising Alan Ladd in the classic 1953 film Shane. Conway Twitty is represented by an ad for Twitty Burger, his ill-fated restaurant endeavor of the 1970s. The chain’s slogan: “Tweet Yourself to a Twitty Burger.”

One showcase holds a guitar that Ozarks music legend Jimmy Driftwood made in the 1950s and played until age 90. More recent items include a dress and hat that Mary Steenburgen donned for the 1983 film Cross Creek, as well as boots and a belt buckle worn by Tess Harper during the 2007 shooting of No Country for Old Men.

Visual artists are absent from the Hall of Fame. But they can be found elsewhere in downtown Pine Bluff at the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas, which presents temporary exhibitions of work by painters, sculptors, potters and the like with ties to the state. There’s also a gallery of hands-on scientific activities.

Monday is the final day for “Glazed With Fire,” a show of richly colored and roughly textured pots and jars by Joe Bruhin, whose studio is located at Fox in rural Stone County. Bruhin employs traditional Japanese wood-firing practices on an Anagama kiln he built a decade ago.

Continuing until April 25 is “Mud Pies and Other Stories,” whimsical mixed-media works by Megan Sue Collins, a Paragould native now living in St. Louis. Many of Collins’ pieces evoke childhood memories. Baptism, for example, recalls the compulsory water-hose shower administered after she’d made mud pies in her grandmother’s garden.

Admission is free to the Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame, One Convention Center Plaza in downtown Pine Bluff. The attraction is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday and sometimes on Saturday and Sunday. It’s wise to call ahead, (870) 536-7600. The website is arkansasentertainershalloffame.com.

The Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas, 701 S. Main St., Pine Bluff, is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 1-4 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free. For details call (870) 536-3375 or visit ArtsScience-Center.org.

Weekend, Pages 38 on 02/20/2014

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