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How many jobs start with a day of paintball and cheese dip tasting? That’s what the first weeks of Sync were like. Next up, apple pie, cheese fries, and spinning classes to work it all off. And believe it or not, sometimes we were a little ahead of the curve. Back in May of 2007, our writer Shea Stewart was of the first in central Arkansas to have a Twitter account, which he has subsequently ignored. Anyway, as we fondly look back over our five years of quirky people and assignments in central Arkansas, we’d like to share some of our favorite memories of interviews, mishaps, food tastings and awkward situations.

Aug. 8, 2007 (or Oct. 21, 2009)

Writing about music each week for five years, I’m often asked who is the biggest musician I’ve ever interviewed. It’s a good question. Hard to answer. I usually say, “Alice Cooper.” That was for an Aug. 8, 2007, profile. Cooper was playing golf in Hawaii when I called. He couldn’t have been nicer. But there are hundreds of local musicians I’ve interviewed. Too many for naming here, and I’ve honestly enjoyed every one of those talks. And I’ve interviewed hundreds of regional and national musicians. Glenn Danzig stands out. Mark Olson, too, and Seth Avett of The Avett Brothers. Kinky Friedman and Alejandro Escovedo. Ryan Bingham. But Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers is tied with Cooper. Hood and I chatted for about 45 minutes. About 20 minutes of it as part of an interview for an Oct. 21, 2009, profile. The rest was just two music fans talking. (ss)

August 2007: Restaurant 1620

Back in the sweltering days of 2007, Restaurant 1620 chef Timothy Morton schooled me in the ways of commandeering a gourmet kitchen. Morton spent his youth peeling shrimp and polishing silver for his family’s catering company, as he learned European-style cooking skills as well as how to create Southern standards like biscuits and grits. My night in the 1620 kitchen was a fascinating peek behind the curtain. It gave me a deeper appreciation for fast-paced food kitchens everywhere. (mt)

October 2007: Evelle LeChat

The Conway-based hostess of the Night Frights program graced the cover of Sync, and she has to be one of the most interesting interviews I’ve ever had. LeChat exudes a macabre Morticia Addams-esque air that’s unrivaled by anyone anywhere. Though the interview was fairly normal, the photographer did admit to being a little spooked by LeChat’s lair. But the photos were pretty amazing. These days, LeChat can be found at horror-centric events in places like Indiana and Tennesee. (mt)

March 2008: Cheese fries

Oh, man. Taste tests. Occasionally Sync sets out to find the very best of a particular dish in central Arkansas. Apple pie. Cheese dip. Barbecue. By far the most scarring had to be the cheese fries taste test. The amount of greasy goodness consumed in the span of two weeks would have gotten us stern lectures from every cardiologist in town. But they can hold their words. That taste test was enough to last a lifetime. I haven’t had a single cheese fry since. (mt)

August 2008: Backstage anecdote

I could honestly fill this whole space with lots of great moments meeting people and catching shows in local theaters (Rent at The Weekend Theater being my favorite), but one of the most amusing came very much off stage. The marketing director at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre had met for an interview and afterward offered a tour of the facility, including all the workshops and storage. I wasn’t taking notes at the time, but halfway through the props area we ran across a coffin. She noted it had been borrowed for a show and was surprised that it was still there because the lender probably needed it back. It hadn’t been intended as a joke, because it wasn’t actually a used coffin, rather a display from a funeral home (I believe). I still think about it and laugh because of the way it sounded, though. (sw)

Sept. 3, 2008: In the shadows

This series on homelessness in Little Rock introduced me to men and women I still think about just about every day. Some I know have moved on to better things. Some I still see around town. Some have vanished. There needs to be less debate and talk about homelessness in Little Rock and in this country, and more action. (ss)

September 2008: Chocolate gravy

As a kid, I’d stay with my grandparents back when Cabot was “the country” and they’d make chocolate gravy and biscuits on Saturday mornings, which I took to be a traditional Southern thing. So I set out to find this regional oddity, focusing mostly on small, independent country kitchens. I found one in the Wagon Wheel, a truly wholesome and welcoming place on U.S. 65 in Greenbrier. But not before the search had me driving first to a prospect in England (that didn’t pan out) and then back to Greenbrier all the in same morning. And that was only to be told the day’s batch had already run out. It took another day and another roundtrip — all told about 250 miles (the most, I think, for a 24-hour span). But I deemed the reward well worth it. (sw)

Oct. 15, 2008: Second time’s a charm

Remember the 1994 HBO documentary Gang War: Bangin’ In Little Rock?. Well, this is a tale of redemption. There are second acts; just look at Leifel Jackson. (ss)

December 2008/August 2009: Sports tours

Once upon a time, Sync used to do a weekly feature where we’d follow around folks with interesting or somehow out of the ordinary jobs. The two most notable for me were meeting the folks who keep the ice rink running year-round at the Arkansas Skatium and getting a top to bottom tour of War Memorial Stadium from manager Charlie Staggs. The ice rink was fascinating, simply out of personal curiosity at all the mechanisms that go into making it possible. War Memorial, of course, has always been an almost hallowed place to me as a life-long Arkansas resident and Razorback fan, and the manager couldn’t be a nicer person. (sw)

Christmas 2008: Oh, holy light

You get a story on Christmas lights, and you question how to make it novel. It’s been done before, and the most famous Yuletide display has come and gone for central Arkansas, having been for many years at the estate of the late Jennings Osborne. Then you meet Tim Bir. You don’t just remember him for his name, which he’s good-natured enough to joke about, but you remember his yard. Or rather, you remember that you can’t see even a square foot of his lawn for all the decorations. Lights, inflatables, wooden cutouts. You name it, Bir has it, along with an $800 electric bill in December. To top it off, he sits curbside dressed as Santa Claus handing out candy, complete with volunteer elves. (sw)

March 25, 2009: In pursuit of the portrait

I still dig this lede: “Stephen Cefalo has a perfect beard.” (ss)

May 5, 2010: A college, community revival

Arkansas Baptist College is changing inner-city Little Rock, and President Fitz Hill with the help of others is leading the way. You want to witness progress? Go visit the campus and its neighborhood. (ss)

March 2010: Tyson Beckford

The Designer’s Choice Fashion Preview allowed me to meet both Jerell Scott and Tyson Beckford, both hosts of the show along with designer Korto Momolu. (I tried to brag to friends about the upcoming interview and about half said, “Tyson who?”) Both interviews were pretty surreal experiences. But playing it cool while very pregnant with twins and sitting in a Little Rock room with Tyson Beckford has to be the very definition of awkward journalism. He was forthcoming but yet a little aloof as he talked about modeling, music and even a little bit about universal health care. (mt)

Oct. 20, 2010: Art of the handshake

Most political campaigns today are judged by bites of information. Either in newspapers, on TV, radio, Facebook, in email or other places. But after spending a day with Tim Griffin on the Arkansas 2nd Congressional District campaign trail, I believe some campaigns in Arkansas are still won by shaking hands and meeting voters. (ss)

March 2011: Penguin poop

No anniversary issue is complete without the requisite poop story. Oh, yes. We borrowed a red carpet for a photo shoot starring one of the new penguins at the Little Rock Zoo, and because birds of all kinds continue to be my archenemies, it decided to leave us a little present on the carpet. We had to vacuum and shampoo the mess before returning the carpet and explaining exactly what had happened while it was in our possession. All in a day’s work, you guys. (mt)

June 1, 2011: Photographing a rising star

Elvis Presley is a god in my book, and Alfred Wertheimer took photographs of Presley before he became the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Those photographs from March and July 1956 were part of the Elvis at 21 exhibit at the Clinton Presidential Center last year. When Wertheimer came and talked at the exhibit’s opening, I met the photographer, and I thanked him for the memories. He told me he loved the story. (ss)

June 6, 2011: Urban farming

While interviewing for this story on central Arkansas urban farmers, I had the pleasure of meeting many like-minded individuals with the common goal of getting back to their roots. They also didn’t mind sharing their bounty, plucking ripe strawberries and gathering fresh eggs for us to take home. Of course, the best moment for this animal lover was getting to pose for a photograph holding one of Dunbar Community Garden Project’s pygmy goats. (sb)

Aug. 24, 2011: Dirty work

As part of an exposé on some of the filthiest jobs around, I toured Heifer Ranch to see just how dirty volunteers get. I was not entirely prepared for what I witnessed. Livestock coordinator Chuck Harrod got elbows deep in, well, a cow. It’s all part of preg-checking the heifers after which the ranch is named. Before I left, volunteers taught me how to “kiss” a camel. It’s when you place a piece of fruit between your lips and hope the salivating beast doesn’t drench your entire face when it nabs the food out of your mouth. (sb)

Nov. 23, 2011: Inside Occupy Little Rock

No matter what side you think you fall on in this debate, go speak with these patriots before stereotyping them. (And before the city of Little Rock moves their camp.) All they want is a discourse. (ss)

March 28, 2012: Spring Fashion

I’m especially proud of the work Arshia and I did conceptualizing, organizing and executing this fashion feature. Driving all over town, meticulously shopping, searching for the perfect models and hair and makeup artists and scouting locations paid off enormously. I remember at one point driving around Hillcrest swerving at times because the dog we borrowed for the shoot was climbing all over me. It was definitely worth the effort. I wouldn’t change one thing about it. (sb)

April 4, 2012: You forgive, but you never forget

Sometimes as a writer you are simply told a great story, and all you do is write it. This story about the 30th anniversary of a vicious attack on KSSN 96 FM on-air personality and local legend Bob Robbins is one of them. Thanks to Robbins and his lovely wife Susan Spears. (ss)

PICTURED:

2007: The Soul Issue

Artist, fashion designer and yoga teacher Erin Lorenzen demonstrated a few poses for an issue back in June of 2007. These days, Lorenzen can be found running the Argenta Healing Arts studio located on Main Street between Ristorante Capeo and Starving Artist Cafe in North Little Rock.

As the manager of the studio, she says she’s most excited about bringing in yoga teachers she’s worked with outside of the state for workshops in central Arkansas.

But outside of work, Lorenzen designs T-shirts that allow locals to proclaim their love for the Natural State. Her graphic tees with slogans like “I Heart AR” and “There’s no place like home” can be found at stores like Box Turtle, the Historic Arkansas Museum gift shop, Scarlet, Green Corner Store and more in central Arkansas.

2008: Notable Names

A few years ago, Sericia Rouse was helping to get speakers for Philander Smith College’s Bless the Mic series, among other duties. Though she’s no longer on the staff, she still has a little input.

“I have been fortunate to be able to freely exchange ideas about the lecture series, or anything else, with [outgoing Philander Smith College President] Dr. Kimbrough,” she said. “I am going to miss his leadership tremendously, but I am also excited for him and for the future of the college under incoming president Dr. Johnny Moore.” 

These days Rouse is the director of external affairs for Gov. Mike Beebe. She works with nonprofit organizations, minority groups and the faith-based community on behalf of the governor.

Back in 2008, Rouse also had plans to write a nonfiction memoir, but says she has yet to make progress on that front.

“My dream is still to write that book! Like many other working wives and mothers, I struggle with trying to make time to do and have it all. However, now that my children are older, hopefully I’ll be able to make good on this promise to myself,” she said.

2009: Humble Abodes

Back in 2009, Sync told the stories of a few locals taking unconventional spaces, such as a former school and an old cement factory, and turning them into home, sweet, home. Among them was Henson Flye. He took an old Little Rock storefront at 23rd and Arch streets and attempted to turn it into a 3,750-square-foot residence. But what became of the project is “a sad story,” Flye said. His dad got sick and money was tight. Heating and cooling the poorly insulated store was a financial drain, too.

He ended up selling the place.

But he said he learned a lot from the experience, “and next time, I’ll know.”

Today he works part time at The Root Cafe and helps to refinish furniture for local interior designers.

“I also worked as a set dresser on the movie, Mud,” he said, an Arkansas film that starred Reese Witherspoon and Matthew McConaughey.

2010: Pin-up Style

If you’ve enjoyed a burlesque show in central Arkansas, you probably have Bre Schrader to thank for it. In 2010, the movement was just getting started locally. She and four other local ladies performed as the Diamond Dames whenever they could find a venue. These days, the Dames are still going strong with monthly shows at Juanita’s. They’re bringing in guest performers from all over the area, Schrader said. In the future is a Natural State Burlesque Festival in 2013, a three-day event for fans of the genre.

Schrader says the response from Arkansans has been positive.

“There’s always new people who come up after the show and say, ‘I’ve never seen this before, but I’m going to come back.’ And they do.”

And for those who’d like to try being a burlesque performer? Schrader says the Dames are always looking for new talent and the best place to look for auditions and show information is on Facebook or Twitter. (Bre, right, is pictured below with fellow burlesque dancer, Ro Manic.)

2011: Homeless Heretic

In 2011, Aaron Reddin was one man with a van who wanted to help the homeless. He would load up donated supplies like water, food and toiletries and deliver them to people living in the woods or under bridges. Just a year later, he’s working on a fleet of vans. He just launched one in Atlanta at the end of February. He has purchased one that’s meant for service in Memphis.

And he’s also putting down roots in North Little Rock, literally.

“We just got a grant from the city of North Little Rock to start an urban farm to help sustain our efforts,” he said. It’s a three-acre plot near his warehouse on Faulkner Lake Road.

Reddin knows nothing about farming, but “I know people who do,” he said, adding that P. Allen Smith will be part of the urban farm project.

His ultimate goal for the farm will be to provide fresh food and jobs for some of the city’s homeless population.

What do you think? What’s your favorite Sync story from the past? Tell us on Facebook.

BIRTHDAY PARTY DETAILS

Celebrate Sync’s 5th birthday and the kickoff to summer at the Peabody Hotel’s RiverTop Party on Friday. Get free admission if you’re one of the first 150 to bring in the Sync ad featured in this issue. Party begins at 9 p.m. and lasts until 1 a.m. Admission is $8 at the door.

For the party, the Peabody is bringing in South Beach’s DJ Doc Roc. This talented “DJVJ” remixes, produces for major record labels and hosts live club gigs across the country. He has opened for artists including Pitbull, Flo Rida, Snoop Dogg, Three 6 Mafia, Ying Yang Twins and Digital Underground to name a few. Doc Roc has been featured numerous times on MTV’s Spring Break in Panama City. Doc Roc will be joined at the kickoff by Little Rock’s own Tre’ Day and Epiphany.

Sync also has some fun things planned for this night including a “Sync Dance Off” where the winner will receive free admission to each of the Peabody Rooftop Parties.

Sync is a sponsor of the entire summer RiverTop Party season (every Friday through July 6 with the exception of May 25) which has developed into Little Rock’s newest nightclub EXHALE for the first year. Each Friday, you can register to win the Red Hot Sync Summer Giveaway which includes: four tickets to the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert in October, two hotel rooms at The Peabody Hotel and dinner for four at the hotel’s restaurant, limo transportation to the concert and much more! All you have to do is register at each of the Friday night parties and at the end of the season (July 6) we will select a winner.

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