Beloved manager of downtown theaters retires big!

Longtime Tennessee Theatre and Bijou General Manager Tom Bugg poses with the Tennessee’s executive director, Becky Hancock, at his retirement party earlier this month.

The hardest working man in show business retired earlier this month and, boy, what a party that generated!

Tom Bugg was general manager of both the Bijou and Tennessee Theatres for nearly two decades doing everything from dealing with artists — and their managers — to literally standing on a ladder and changing the letters on the marquee. (That’s what he was doing not too long ago when he fell and broke his arm!)

The sweet farewell event originally was planned to take place at the Bijou Theatre, but so many folks RSVPd to come, that the party was moved to the much larger Tennessee Theatre. More than 600 people came by to wish Bugg the best and share in a little walk down memory lane. Old friends came from as far away as Key West and California for the special night.

Vendors generously donated libations for the celebration: Cherokee Distributing and Eagle Distributing provided beer; TheoLeo gave wine; and bourbon came from Company Distilling. Needless to day, a fun time was had by all! Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Knoxville, Theater | 5 Comments

Great news! “Knoxville” is coming to Knoxville!

A poster for the Clarence Brown Theatre production of “Knoxville: The Musical.”

In a sweet little lunch gathering this past Saturday, Clarence Brown Theatre leadership gave supporters an update on construction on the new Jenny Boyd Carousel Theatre and announced plans for the upcoming theater season.

And that’s where the big news occurred. The play, “Knoxville: The Musical,” which was commissioned by Knoxville’s own lottery winner, Roy Cockrum, will be the season opener this fall.

The play, a moving musical based on the James Agee novel “A Death in the Family” and a subsequent movie, “All the Way Home,” had its debut in Sarasota, Florida, two years ago. Alan and I were on that fantastic trip and Cockrum said at the time that he would like to see the play come to Knoxville and then, hopefully, go on to Broadway. So, this is perhaps the beginning of that dream coming true!

Ken Martin, artistic director of the Clarence Brown Theatre and head of the University of Tennessee’s Department of Theatre, described the play as a powerful examination “of the forces that shape who we are.”

“It’s a sweeping musical, must-see event,” he said. Martin also said the cast has not yet been finalized, but will include “top-level acting talent.” Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Knoxville, Theater | 6 Comments

Painter John Woodrow Kelley returns to Knoxville after 45 years; is this year’s L’Amour du Vin featured artist

Artist John Kelley with Knoxville Museum of Art supporters Susan Farris, left, and Jackie Wilson at the Artist’s Luncheon last week.

Beloved Knoxville artist John Woodrow Kelley, who has been splitting his time between Knoxville and New York for the past 45 years, has finally returned to Knoxville full time and will be the featured artist at next month’s L’Amour du Vin, the largest fundraiser for the Knoxville Museum of Art.

Kelley was the centerpiece last week of the Artist’s Luncheon, a signature part of L’Amour du Vin, at the new location of Bistro by the Tracks in Bearden (in the former location of The Orangery).

“The Knoxville Museum of Art is one of the most important regional museums in America,” Kelley told those at the luncheon. He said that, as a former architecture student, he knows well the work of the late architect Edward Larrabee Barnes, who was commissioned to design the Knoxville Museum of Art. “KMA is one of his best,” Kelley said. The KMA opened in its current building in 1990.

Kelley, a West Knoxville native and Webb School of Knoxville graduate, said that, as a child, he took art classes at the Dulin Gallery of Art, then located at 3100 Kingston Pike and the precursor to the KMA. “Some of the happiest moments of my childhood were spent sitting on those steps overlooking the river and drawing and painting,” Kelley said. Continue reading

Filed under: Art, Events, Food | 7 Comments

Celebrating an old building and a slightly younger man!

There were so many reasons to celebrate that we just HAD to have a little drop-in party last Friday to raise a glass.

Jack Neely of the Knoxville History Project was one of the guests. I asked him to give a brief overview of the history of the Arcade Building. He was able to do it without blinking an eye — and without notes!

Here are some of them:

  • My new office building, the beautiful, historic Arcade Building on Gay Street is 100 years old this year;
  • Alan turned 77 last week;
  • And everyone has been asking to see some of the oil paintings he’s been working on since his “retirement” from the public relations rat race, and we had a few to show them.

Don’t you think those sound like good reasons?

So, we engaged our friend Judith Foltz, who has launched a new business of her own, an events company, JF Events, and we had ourselves a swell little party!

Here and here are a couple of links to articles about the history of the Arcade Building. For me, it’s kind of a full-circle feeling because the Arcade Building is where the Knoxville Journal first started publishing. The Journal is what brought me to Knoxville in 1980 to work as a reporter, although it had long departed from the Arcade Building by the time I arrived. There still are old photographs of  journalists – mostly “newspapermen” – around the building  and they bring a smile to my face. Continue reading

Filed under: Downtown, Events, Historic preservation | 17 Comments

Sentimental “ghost light” ceremony brings tears, signals changing times for UT’s cherished Carousel Theatre

Jenny Boyd, after whom the new 20,000-square-foot Carousel Theatre will be named, extinguishes the ghost light at the old theater building.

A “ghost light” in the theater world is a single incandescent light that remains lit when the theater is unoccupied and would otherwise be completely dark. It is usually placed center stage on a portable stand.

The practical use of a ghost light is for safety. It enables one to navigate the theater to find the lighting control console and to avoid accidents such as falling into the orchestra pit or tripping over cords or pieces of the set that might remain on the stage.

On Tuesday, in a touching ceremony, theater-lovers witnessed the switching off of the ghost light in the University of Tennessee’s 73-year-old Carousel Theatre for the last time. The building is about to be disassembled and taken away to make room for a brand new theater building — one that will have state of the art sound and lighting technology, space to hold receptions, and, perhaps most important of all, restrooms! Until now, patrons have had to go next door to the Clarence Brown Theatre to avail themselves of toilets.

Carol Mayo Jenkins, a veteran TV, stage and film actress who retired last year after 22 years as an artist in residence in UT’s Theatre Department, spoke at the ceremony about the significance of ghost lights to theater people.

“We theater people are a fanciful lot,” she said. “We attribute spiritual meaning to our ghost lights.” Jenkins said some think the lights ward off mischievous spirits, while others believe they light the way for the ghosts, who are believed to inhabit every theater. Some even say the lights provide opportunities for the ghosts to perform onstage when no one is watching, thus appeasing them and preventing them from cursing the theater. Continue reading

Filed under: Knoxville, Theater | 19 Comments

“A Michelin-quality meal” — without a plane flight!

J.C. Holdway chef-owner Joseph Lenn and his fiancee Laura Cole. She helps out in the restaurant when she gets a break from her “real” job as director of the Masters Investment Learning Center at the UT Haslam College of Business.

I understand how paying $296 per plate for dinner in Knoxville, TN, might seem a bit extravagant. But my friends and I felt like we got a bargain when we shelled out that amount for New Year’s Eve dinner (and fun!) at J.C. Holdway.

Why? The ingredients and the preparation for the seven-course evening-long repast made for an experience usually only available in major culinary cities like New York or Chicago. So, the way we look at it, we saved the cost of plane tickets!

Two examples. First, the white truffles on one of the courses cost the restaurant $3,000 per pound! I didn’t find that out until after the meal was over — and now I am kicking myself because I think I left some of them in the bowl.

Another case in point: one dish on the menu took eight hours to prepare. And I don’t mean simmering away for eight hours — I mean eight hours of intense labor.

It was the rabbit course. The rabbits had to be cleaned and dressed out with the leg meat being turned into sausage. The sausage was then piped next to the loin and the rabbit’s belly was wrapped around that. Finally, all that was wrapped in bacon! And not the pre-sliced bacon that we all get from the grocery store. The bacon also had to be sliced! For plating, the “jus” upon which the dish was served actually consisted of two different sauces, also prepared from scratch, of course. “It’s just a long process,” the restaurant’s chef-owner, Joseph Lenn, allowed. Continue reading

Filed under: Business, Downtown, Food, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Lilou: A trip to France in downtown Knoxville

Jessica King, who owns Lilou with husband and business partner Aaron Thompson. She’s focused on the cocktail program.

Bon appetit! Welcome to downtown Knoxville’s first upscale full-on French restaurant.

Lilou, located at 428 S. Gay Street, will open to the general public on Jan. 4. It already is taking reservations. After attending a “friends and family” soft opening over the weekend, my husband, Alan, and I are making ours! Continue reading

Filed under: Business, Downtown, Food | 13 Comments

KSO Board toasts Christmas — and some good news!

Knoxville Symphony Board Chair Rick Fox addresses his Christmas guests while his partner, Ralph Cianelli, documents the occasion!

Knoxville Symphony Orchestra Board Chair Rick Fox and his partner, Ralph Cianelli, invited the other members of the board and the KSO staff to their beautiful home in the Middlebrook mansion recently to celebrate the season — and to announce some good news.

A KSO Board initiative — launched only a couple of months ago — has reached its goal of raising $100,000 for the Young Musician Opportunity Fund. This fund is important because it pays for summer enrichment opportunities for promising young musicians.

“This fund will have a meaningful impact on the future of our community’s most talented young musicians,” Fox said.”That could be in the form of support for a student musician to attend a  summer music program; it could pay for them to receive lessons with KSO musicians or other teachers; or it could allow them to participate in smaller workshops held across the country.”

The establishment of the permanent endowment fund, which was the result of the KSO Board members holding a brainstorming session during a regular board meeting, coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra. Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Music | 2 Comments

20th Christmas cookie exchange is in the books!

Katie Kline getting ready to pounce on the cookies when the signal is given!

It’s a crazy, loud party, but we love it! It’s our annual Christmas cookie exchange — held the Sunday after Thanksgiving weekend each year at high noon. We eat salads, drink wine, mimosas and Bloody Marys, and swap cookies — and gossip! After 20 years, we have it down to a science.

Here are some things we have learned over the years, in case you would like to plan your own cookie exchange:

  • Have everyone make six dozen cookies. I know it seems like a lot, but it’s really just a double batch of most cookie recipes.
  • Folks should bring all their cookies on one platter or in a container. Don’t divide them up into individual baggies because we never know exactly how many folks are coming and you’ll just end up having to re-make the bags.
  • Do provide Ziplock sandwich bags for folks to place their cookies in when they leave. This is important because if you put all the cookies together, you’ll end up with a mess as strong-flavored cookies like peppermint, peanut butter, or ginger will leach their tastes onto the other cookies. Plus, soft cookies will make hard cookies get soft!

Continue reading

Filed under: Events, Food | 12 Comments

Artsclamation!: An art market within a party!

Artist Sarah Pollock of Knoxville specializes in oil paintings of landscapes and cityscapes. She is a former color stylist for Walt Disney Feature Animation.

Artsclamation! is an annual fine arts sale that is the only fundraiser for Covenant Health’s behavioral health unit, Peninsula Hospital. It’s also a heck of a fun party and a great way to kick off the holiday season — and maybe get some shopping done at the same time.

Held each year in early December in the Cathedral Hall of the Catholic Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus on Northshore Drive in Bearden, it showcases the juried art of more than 35 local and regional artisans. Judging by the crowd at its preview party last Friday, the exceedingly popular event has almost outgrown its venue.

The unfortunate fact is that one in four people in East Tennessee suffers from a mental health illness. However, there is a significant gap in funding for programs to serve these individuals compared to those with other diseases and diagnoses. Over the past 21 years, patrons of Artsclamation! have provided almost $2 million toward Peninsula’s mission. And they have scored some darned good art in the process! Continue reading

Filed under: Art, Events | 3 Comments