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Amateur archaeologists unearth Pensacola's past

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Written by REBECCA ROSS, Pensacola News Journal   
Friday, 27 May 2011 09:49
The empty bottles left and center are from Crystal Pharmacy in Pensacola and D'Alemberte's Pharmacy, Pensacola, respectively. The tall soda pop bottle is marked ‘Drink Try-Me’ and is from Northport, Ala. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Flomaton Antique Auction. PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) – Chad Fitzgerald and Frank Phillips aren't your typical treasure seekers.

Instead of dusty tombs or vine-covered temples, they explore their own yard. Armed with buckets and spades, they dig, unearthing bits and pieces of Pensacola's past.

If one man's trash is another man's treasure, these amateur archaeologists are rich beyond measure.

Their story begins, as all good mysteries do, with a clue.

Fitzgerald and Phillips bought their home – in a modest, older neighborhood off Pace Boulevard – in 2005. The house had sat empty for three years; broken glass was strewn across the front yard.

“I thought, ‘What a shame, so much littering.’” Fitzgerald, 45, recalled. “But when we picked up the fragments, we could tell they were pretty old.”

The mysterious glass turned up again when Phillips, 60, tried to install fencing in the backyard.

“I couldn't get any post holes dug, because I kept hitting bottles,” he said, shaking his head. “I felt bad about breaking them, but I really didn't know what we were dealing with.”

Phillips couldn't have guessed where those old bottles would lead them. Or how deep.

For the last 15 months, the couple has unearthed a staggering variety of objects on their property.

An enormous mound of colorful glass and pottery shards – an estimated three tons – dominates their backyard. Inside the house, vintage bottles – nearly 2,000 intact specimens have been found – line the walls. Cabinets and tables display curious collections of found objects including buttons, bullets, pipe stems, wooden toothbrush handles and crystal bottle stoppers.

There's even a gun – a heavy, battered revolver.

“It's kind of taken over,” Fitzgerald said, with an impish grin. “But we love it.”

And they love “fitting the puzzle pieces” almost as much as finding them.

According to local archaeologists, the digging duo's neighborhood was most likely built on a former city dump site.

“They suspect it might have been part of the old W Street dump, which closed around 1940,” Fitzgerald said. “But we kind of question that, because we haven't found anything ‘younger’ than 1915.”

The exact origins of the dump site may be murky, but probably not too unusual.

Elizabeth Benchley, the director of the Archaeology Institute at the University of West Florida, said her teams uncover dump sites at many of their local digs.

“Just about every house in downtown Pensacola had a trash heap in its backyard,” she said. “People threw it out back in a heap, or down old wells and outhouses.”

Many of Fitzgerald's and Phillip's finds date from the mid- to late 1800s to the early 1900s.

One of their most delicate treasures, a tiny gold medallion from a rosary, bears the date of 1850. Fitzgerald, who painstakingly unearthed and cleaned the object, handles it with reverence.

“It makes you wonder about the people who owned these objects,” he said. “Each piece has a story.”

But with so many pieces, the couple wants to share their good fortune. They are inviting the art community to make use of the glass and pottery shards – out back in the “Shard Yard” – for a mere $7 per pound.

“The possibilities are endless,” Fitzgerald said. “Stepping stones, mosaics, you name it.”

Bill Clover, a Pensacola State College professor of art and ceramics instructor, was an early customer.

He plans to make molds from some porcelain dolls that the couple found.

“They're amazingly detailed,” Clover said. “I also bought some giant pottery shards to show my students. It's an amazing hoard they've found.”

Shard sales will make room for more. With one 9-foot hole excavated, Phillips and Fitzgerald are carefully shoveling their way down another.

“We've learned a lot about safety since we started,” Phillips said. “Now, we have a system.”

Benchley, who has advised the men on their pet project, cautions other homeowners against amateur yard excavations.

“Digging in unstable earth is extremely dangerous,” she said. “And, if you're living in downtown Pensacola, you could potentially dig through, and destroy, Colonial artifacts.”

Phillips and Fitzgerald are wary of their digging, but not weary. Not yet.

With the rest of their property to explore, they remain enamored of their earthy obsession. They believe they were fated to own the treasure-studded property.

“Frankie told me at the beginning, that people walk across their fortunes every day,” Fitzgerald said. “In our case, it isn't about the money. But we feel very blessed.”

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-05-25-11 2046GMT


The empty bottles left and center are from Crystal Pharmacy in Pensacola and D'Alemberte's Pharmacy, Pensacola, respectively. The tall soda pop bottle is marked ‘Drink Try-Me’ and is from Northport, Ala. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Flomaton Antique Auction.
Last Updated on Friday, 27 May 2011 09:59

Last cigar factory shuttered in Red Lion, Pa.

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Written by CHRISTINA KAUFFMAN, The York Dispatch   
Friday, 27 May 2011 09:09
J.C. Winter & Co. of Red Lion, Pa., also manufactured chewing tobacco. This metal thermometer advertises the company’s Happy Jim brand. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Morphy Auctions. RED LION, Pa. (AP) – Joe Jacobs, now 63, can remember the smell of tobacco curing as he drove into Red Lion as a teen.

The town's cigar factories employed most of its people, and they sold more than 10 percent of the cigars manufactured in the United States, according to local historian Shirley Keeports.

She said most current Red Lion residents can still say they know someone who once worked in a Red Lion cigar factory.

But unless they know Jacobs or his receptionist, they don't know anyone who presently works in one.

Van Slyke & Horton Inc. was the last remaining factory from the industry that built the town – and it closed production about six weeks ago, said Jacobs, who manages the place.

He and his secretary are all that remain. After an auction of most of the manufacturer's possessions, they'll be gone, too.

“It certainly is the end of an era,” said Jacobs, whose father, Clark Jacobs, owns the factory. “There were a lot of people who lived a very good life because of it. The industry was responsible for Red Lion being such a flourishing community at that time, and there was a time when most men had a cigar in their mouth. We just always thought people would smoke.”

He said Van Slyke & Horton, 49 S. Pine St. in Red Lion, was also the last operational cigar factory in York County.

The Van Slyke building began manufacturing cigars in 1910 under then-owner J.C. Winters, Jacobs said.

It had about 60 employees in the height of cigar popularity and was producing millions of cigars per year.

Things had been “rolling downhill” for cigar manufacturers for decades, but the passage of a new tobacco tax a few years ago and the economic recession “pushed us over the cliff,” Jacobs said.

The factory made nearly a million cigars last year, selling them to locations all over the world. Workers would condition the loose tobacco and feed it into 20 machines that rolled cigars, and then they'd pack and ship them. But orders slowed and the handful of remaining employees were let go around two months ago, Jacobs said.

The machines were sold to an operation in Nicaragua and, on Thursday morning an auction was conducted to disperse decades worth of equipment and memorabilia, Jacobs said.

Items sold included labels and bands, antique hand-rolling items such as cutting boards and knives, cigar molds and 250-capacity trunks in which cigars were packed, he said.

The building is not for sale, and Jacobs said he's not sure what will come of it.

The cigar industry was so strong in Red Lion by the 1920s that the town was the richest place, per-capita, in the nation, said Keeports, who directs the Red Lion Historical Society's museum.

“I don't think there were many households that didn't do some kind of cigar manufacturing,” she said. “You could start stripping tobacco in your own home, and you were called a stripper. Most of the women were strippers, stripping the stem from the leaf.”

The town's opera house and theater were built on cigar profits. So were the lives of the townspeople.

Workers wrote songs and poems about the factories, and they treasured their jobs enough to fight for them. In 1934, cigar workers afraid of losing work to machines went on strike. State police were called to control rioters. Women lay down in front of delivery trucks. One Red Lion man was blinded by tear gas, and, according to Keeports, had to make brooms for the rest of his life.

Keeports said she's “greatly upset” by the last factory's closure. She planned to attend the auction and use Historical Society funds to buy and preserve as much of the memorabilia as possible.

Things might be tight, she said, because she recently “spent a lot” at the closing of Loyer's Pharmacy, another of the town's institutions.

“It's our history,” she said. “I don't like to see these things leave the town.”




Information from: The York Dispatch,

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-05-25-11 1926GMT


Last Updated on Sunday, 29 May 2011 11:40

Madonna donates boots to daughter's school auction

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Written by Associated Press   
Tuesday, 24 May 2011 10:25
Madonna at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival in New York. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. NEW YORK (AP) – Bale sales and raffles? So passé.

Now that it boasts Madonna as a parent, New York City's LaGuardia High School was able to auction off a pair of Chanel boots worn by the Material Mom at its spring fundraiser.

LaGuardia, the so-called “Fame” school, is a public high school specializing in the visual and performing arts. Madonna's daughter Lourdes enrolled there in September.

The Daily News reports that the LaGuardia auction also featured an item donated by novelist Jonathan Letham, who's an alum. He auctioned off a chance to become a character in his next book.

There was no information on what either of the lots sold for.

High-profile parents at some New York City schools are able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars at the schools' annual auctions.


Information from: Daily News,

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-05-23-11 1457GMT

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 May 2011 10:35

Christie's to sell photos of Beatles' first U.S. concert

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Written by ULA ILNYTZKY, Associated Press   
Tuesday, 24 May 2011 09:47
Meet the Beatles! Mike Mitchell’s backlighted shot of the Fab Four at a press conference is reminiscent of the Robert Freeman photo on the cover of the Beatles’ first album released in the U.S. Christie’s Images Ltd. 2011 NEW YORK (AP) – It was 1964. Beatlemania ruled. Two days after their momentous debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, the Fab Four boarded a train from New York for Washington, D.C., for their first U.S. concert. An enterprising 18-year-old Mike Mitchell was there, a press pass in hand, shooting photographs just feet away and even jumping onto the stage for the group's brief pre-concert press call.

Forty-seven years later, Mitchell has made 50 silver gelatin prints from his negatives of the event on Feb. 11, 1964 at Washington Coliseum and of the band's Sept. 13, 1964 performance at the Baltimore Civic Center. He's offering them for sale at Christie's New York auction house on July 20. The total presale estimate is $100,000; the images will be sold individually.

Mitchell laughs when he describes the scene at the indoor arena that night – not only of screaming fans but also of his unrestricted access to the stage. No cordoned-off media pens, no tight security.

“It was a long time ago. Things weren't that way then,” the 65-year-old said in a telephone interview from Washington, where he lives and works as an art photographer. “It was as low-tech as the concert itself. The concert was in a sports venue and the sound system was the sound system of a sports venue.”

Equally astonishing is how few other photographs from that first concert exist. Simeon Lipman, Christie's pop culture consultant, said it's not clear why, but he said Mitchell's black and white photographs were remarkable for their quality.

“They're very close-up, very animated. The light is very interesting. They're very intimate shots,” Lipman said

In addition, Beatlemania was at its peak, so much so that the Beatles stopped performing live in 1966 – their last concert was in Candlestick Park in San Francisco – “because they couldn't hear themselves sing. The girls were so hysterical,” Lipman noted.

Mitchell stored the negatives all these years in a box in the basement of his home. For the silver gelatin prints in the auction, he used digital technology to do “much better ‘darkroom’ work that could ever have been done in a traditional darkroom.”

The batch of prints, showing the Beatles in their early signature mop hairdos and suit and tie outfits, also will have a nearly invisible “secret moniker” that will not be used for any other of his images, he said.

The highlight of the sale is a backlit photograph of the band with light halos around their heads that Mitchell shot at the press call while standing directly behind the group. Christie's has not yet determined what it's expected to fetch.

But Cathy Elkies, Christie's director of iconic collections, explained that the auction is pricing the collection “in an attractive way” for two reasons: Mitchell was not an established photographer at the time and the auction house wants to appeal to a wide base of fans and collectors. But she expected bidding to exceed the estimates, saying, “Beatles fans are fierce. To uncover this trove of images that's never been published will really excite people.”

Mitchell said he had not thought much about the photos until now because he has been focused on developing a body of photographic work about light that took him on a different aesthetic journey. And until recently, he said, the images “couldn't be restored to the extent that they have.”

“They benefit from a historical perspective,” Mitchell added.

He said he got the press pass for the Beatles' first concert from a small Washington magazine that had a short life and for which he did some work.

The Washington Coliseum stage was a boxing ring, which meant the Beatles were constantly turning around so they could face all of the fans. Ringo's drums were set on a lazy Susan-type platform. The press was allowed to move freely around the stage, Mitchell said.

In addition to jumping on the stage during the press call, he hurled himself up after the concert ended. Even though the Beatles made a swift exit after performing such favorites as Roll Over Beethoven, From Me to You and All My Loving, Mitchell said, “the crowd was so boisterous” that he feared for his safety.

The photographs will be displayed at Christie's London galleries on June 11-12, and then at several other London venues before being shown July 11-20 at Christie's New York prior to the auction.



Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-05-20-11 1623GMT


Meet the Beatles! Mike Mitchell’s backlighted shot of the Fab Four at a press conference is reminiscent of the Robert Freeman photo on the cover of the Beatles’ first album released in the U.S. Christie’s Images Ltd. 2011 George Harrison. Christie’s Images Ltd. 2011 Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Christie’s Images Ltd. 2011 Ringo Starr. Christie’s Images Ltd. 2011
Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 May 2011 10:56

Comic stores hope superhero movies help sales

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Written by PETER PANEPINTO, Carroll County Times   
Tuesday, 17 May 2011 09:35
Thor, pictured on the cover of ‘The Mighty Thor No. 136,’ has been a smash hit at the box office. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Pioneer Auction Gallery. The Mighty Thor and all Marvel characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks & Copyright © 1966 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved. WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) – A Westminster business is hoping Thor, Captain America and the Green Lantern can help generate sales this summer. After all, this business is selling products with the superheroes' faces on them.

Gotham Comics owner Keith Forney stocked up on Green Lantern, Thor and Captain America comics, graphic novels, T-shirts, action figures and posters, and he's hoping the hype surrounding the upcoming films can generate more business this summer.

“I'm looking forward to the release of the movies and hopefully they do well,” Forney said. “And if they do, I anticipate they will generate more business for me, but, more importantly, I hope the movies are good and everyone enjoys them.”

Thor opened in theaters on May 6, Green Lantern opens June 17 and Captain American: The First Avenger opens July 22. Forney doubled his stock of Thor and Captain America comics and graphic novels. He usually has about 11 different volumes, but he now has more than 20 in stock. He's also increased his stock of Green Lantern comics and graphic novels by 50 percent, and he stocked up on back issues in case a reader wants to catch up on a series before a movie is released, Forney said.

Sometimes comic book adapted films have a positive impact on business, Forney said, but sometimes they do not.

“It really depends if it's a good movie or not,” Forney said. “If it's a bad movie, there's very little chance it's going to motivate people to come in the shop.”

For Forney, the most recent biggest impact a film had on business was in 1989 when Batman, starring Michael Keaton was released.

“That was a well-received movie with an all-star cast,” Forney said. “It was also darker and grittier than previous superhero movies, so that kind of gave way to new possibilities for comic book movies.”

More recent films The Watchmen and The Dark Knight also increased sales at Forney's store. The movie trailer of The Watchmen, shown before The Dark Knight, drove customers to Forney's shop, and the demand for the graphic novel skyrocketed, he said.

The Dark Knight boosted graphic novel sales by 50 to 100 percent in summer 2008, Forney said. Prior to the movie, the shop was selling five novels per week, but after the movie was released, Forney began selling 10 each week. The shop was selling one or two Watchmen novels per month, but after the trailer debuted, it sold about two or three per week, he said.

Comic book fan Samantha Weaver, 19, is planning to see both Thor and Green Lantern when they come out in theaters.

“For the comic books, Thor is great because it has really strong villains and Green Lantern is neat because of all the abnormal powers,” Weaver, of Westminster, said while shopping earlier this month at Gotham Comics. “If the movies are good people might be pushed to read the books.”

Sam Robinson, store manager at J&M Comics and Games in Eldersburg, said comic book movies help business, but more so leading up to the movie rather than after it.

“We see a lot of people coming in and trying to get the older books for whatever movie is coming out and we're seeing a lot of that for Green Lantern right now,” Robinson said. “People definitely like to refresh themselves on the story so they're all ready when they go to the movie.”

Other comic shops in Maryland and Pennsylvania are also stocking up on items to supply new and old customers.

When Iron Man was released in 2008, comic sales increased by 10 to 20 percent, said Charles Fitzsimmons, store manager of Cards Comics and Collectibles in Reisterstown. The shop was selling 30 Iron Man comics per month, but after the movie debuted the shop began selling 35 to 40 per month, he said.

With Thor and Green Lantern debuting soon, Fitzsimmons is expecting the store's stock of action figures to fly off the shelves.

“They are definitely going to sell,” Fitzsimmons said. “I think Thor could have the most impact because noncomic book fans may be interested in the mythological aspect of it.”

Comix Universe in Hanover, Pa., has added five to 10 Thor-based comics and graphics novels to its normal supply, said Rob Bream, co-owner of the comic shop. This summer, Bream said he is expecting a jump in comic and graphic novel sales because Thor and Captain America both tie in to next summer's release of The Avengers.

“Every year more and more people are getting interested in these movies,” Bream said.

In preparation for the Green Lantern, the store will be receiving a special collection of five comics, with each one showcasing a main character in the movie, Bream said.

Douglas Cathro, an employee at Beyond Comics in Frederick, said the shop has stocked up on Thor hammers and helmets, and Green Lantern mask and ring light up sets.

“Thor and Green Lantern are the two big ones right now,” Cathro said. “We're expecting a lot of new and old customers.”

Last month, a customer came in who read the Thor comic books when he was younger, Cathro said, and he purchased the older books when he learned the movie was being released. Other older customers came in and purchased copies of the Thor comic books for themselves and their children, he said.

Some new customers come in because they want to learn the history of a certain character, Cathro said.


Information from: Carroll County Times of Westminster, Md.,

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewrittin, or redistributed.

AP-WF-05-12-11 0126GMT


Thor, pictured on the cover of ‘The Mighty Thor No. 136,’ has been a smash hit at the box office. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and Pioneer Auction Gallery. The Mighty Thor and all Marvel characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks & Copyright © 1966 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 May 2011 09:58

Baseball tickets from 1870s are diamonds in the rough

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Written by TONY DOBROWOLSKI, Berkshire Eagle   
Monday, 16 May 2011 11:55
Currier & Ives published the lithograph 'The American National Game of Base Ball' in 1866, about the time Colin Twing's tickets were printed. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. PITTSFIELD, Mass. (AP) – At a local auction, Colin Twing bid $60 on what he thought were two 19th century railroad tickets, figuring each might be worth that much apiece.

As it turns out, the Pittsfield man acquired a pair of baseball tickets that two researchers are calling rare finds for the national pastime.

Twing, who has been shopping at auctions for 10 years, is now the owner of what looks like a season ticket from the late 1860s or ’70s to the Athletic Club Base Ball Club of Philadelphia and a ticket to the 11th annual National Association of Base-Ball Players convention that took place in Philadelphia on Dec. 11, 1867. The ball club and the association were precursors to the modern organizations.

“They are earlier than the earliest tickets that we have in our collection, and they date from 1871 to 1874,” said Tim Wiles, the director of research for the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. Wiles examined scanned images of the two tickets that Twing sent him via email.

But Wiles said he doesn't know if they are the earliest baseball tickets that exist. “We don't know what is in other private collections,” he said.

Wiles said it's hard to tell what price the tickets would fetch on the open market. The Hall of Fame doesn't appraise baseball items.

Twing has brought the tickets to the attention of some auction houses.

“Everybody's got a different opinion,” Twing said. “The auction houses are saying that it's hard to put a value on these because there's no precedent.”

The tickets are printed, but each ticket bears a handwritten, “Philadelphia Inquirer,” suggesting both had some connection to the newspaper at the time.

Renowned baseball historian John Thorn discovered Pittsfield's 1791 town bylaw banning “base ball” – currently the earliest known reference to the sport in North America – seven years ago. Thorn says the earliest known ticket having something to do with baseball is a social gathering given by members of the Magnolia Baseball Club on Feb. 9, 1843.

Thorn also examined Twing's tickets through pictures, and called them “very rare.”

“I've never seen a ticket to a National Association meeting before,” he said.

At the 1867 convention, the National Association's nominating committee banned black teams from joining the group, which marked the beginning of the color line in baseball, Thorn said.

“So it's definitely an historic ticket,” Thorn said. “It's the real thing.”

Thorn said he believes that the Athletic Club of Philadelphia ticket is most likely a season pass, because it contains perforations that indicate each time it was presented, the number of games was punched.

Thorn also believes the pass may date from the early 1870s because it appears similar to season ticket passes that were issued in 1874. The Athletic Club of Philadelphia is not related to the Philadelphia Athletics, the major league team that exists today as the Oakland A's.

Twing, who buys and sells antiques, rare books and musical instruments, said he didn't realize how significant the tickets were until he returned home from Fontaine's Antique Auction Gallery in Pittsfield and examined them in greater detail. He bought them in what's known as a box lot.

John Fontaine, owner of Fontaine’s Antique Auction Gallery, said he was unaware of the tickets and that they were likely included in a box lot.

“I looked at what was on the tickets, and I saw the date, 1867, and I said, ‘Oh, boy,’” he said. “So I did a little research of my own, then I called the Hall of Fame.”

“It's a piece of good fortune,” he said. “You look for these kinds of things. You go to estate sales and you look for things that are really going to pay off. You settle for things that you can buy for $50 and sell for $100. But if you can buy something for $50 and sell it for $5,000, that's what you look for. It happens two or three times a year.”

Twing said he plans to sell the tickets – “I'm not financially well off where I can donate these things” – but would be interested in selling them to someone who was willing to donate them to the Hall of Fame. The Hall only displays items that are donated or on loan.

The tickets are “worth what someone is willing to pay” for them, Thorn said.


Information from:

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


AP-WF-05-14-11 0403GMT


Last Updated on Monday, 16 May 2011 12:36

Hall of Fame pays tribute to pioneering lady rockers

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Written by MEGHAN BARR, Associated Press   
Friday, 13 May 2011 14:03
Wanda Jackson, ‘the queen of rockabilly,’ in a mid-1950s publicity photo. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. CLEVELAND (AP) – When Wanda Jackson was a teenager with a gravelly voice who opened for Elvis Presley in the 1950s, nobody had ever heard a woman sing like that before.

By then, Presley was already gyrating his way to superstardom. But Jackson – called the "queen of rockabilly" for her gritty, feisty performances – couldn't even get her songs played on the radio.

“It's like they just got their heads together and said, ‘We will not help this girl do it,’” the 73-year-old Jackson recalls. “They just wouldn't play my records if it was the rock stuff. So it didn't take long before I was putting a country song on one side of a record and a rock song on the other.”

Jackson's old acoustic guitar will be featured at a new exhibit dedicated to female artists that opens Friday at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in downtown Cleveland. “Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power” chronicles the pioneering role of women in rock 'n' roll, from Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith to Bikini Kill and Lady GaGa.

The hall of fame had toyed with the idea of opening such an exhibit for years, and it gained traction after Cyndi Lauper paid a visit last year and watched a film about the roots of rock, said Jim Henke, vice president of exhibitions and curatorial affairs.

“She thought it was too male-dominated,” Henke says, “and she wondered where the female artists were.”

Museum officials say just about 9 percent of its inductees are women – a reflection of the rock industry, which was a macho culture at its core, says Glenn Altschuler, a Cornell University professor who wrote the book All Shook Up: How Rock n' Roll Changed America.

“Women were the subjects of songs,” Altschuler says. “They were the objects of affection. But they appeared in the audience and not on the stage.”

There weren't many role models for women who wanted to make it big in the early years, says Shirley Alston Reeves, a member of the hit 1960s girl group The Shirelles.

“You know, somebody has to break the ice,” Reeves says. “We wanted to do it because we enjoyed the male groups and the harmonies, and we thought it would be a good idea.”

Darlene Love, who is considered to be one of the greatest background singers of all time, says many women sang backup vocals because the prevailing belief was that they ought to stay in the background. At the peak of her career, Love sang on records for the likes of The Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra and Luther Vandross.

“Women are the backbone of rock,” she says. “If you listen to every record that has probably been recorded in the last 60, 70 years, there are women in the background, not men.”

Gender discrimination was still alive and well in the 1970s, when some radio stations would not allow deejays to play two singles by female artists in a row. And for women such as Nancy and Ann Wilson, who were just beginning to form a their rock band called Heart, there were industry assumptions about who they were supposed to be as artists.

“You can't be aggressive, you know – you have to be a little shy, retiring female,” says Ann Wilson, who some critics say is one of the best rock singers in music. “Well, you know, that doesn't fly with us.”

Since rock was “invented by men to get girls,” as Wilson puts it, female artists struggled to mold the industry in their own image.

“Just because we're female, we don't necessarily think we have to come out dressed as porn stars,” she says. “There's more than one way that it can be. You have choices.”

The museum exhibit itself is an exercise in contrasts. There's the gold bustier Madonna wore during her "Blond Ambition" tour and handwritten lyrics from Joni Mitchell's first album. There's Bonnie Raitt's dobro guitar and a Mickey Mouse Club jacket worn by Christina Aguilera. There's the nude rhinestone outfit that Britney Spears famously revealed at MTV's Video Music Awards in 2000 and Stevie Nicks' handwritten lyrics to Stand Back. Oh, and let's not forget Lady GaGa's infamous "meat dress," which is also on display.

Visitors can watch a short story about how women in rock have shaped music, and the museum will host educational programming throughout the year highlighting the history of female recording artists. On Friday, Jackson and Lauper will headline the museum's annual benefit concert.

It is a triumphant moment for Jackson, who is enjoying the most success she can remember as she tours the country performing with Jack White, formerly of The White Stripes, promoting the new album they recorded together.

“The new fans of our little simple ’50s rock music, they have gone back and found all these songs and sing along with me,” Jackson says, “And I thought, ‘Man, this is what I wanted in the ’50s and ’60s but never had that opportunity. So I'm certainly enjoying it big-time now.”

Some artists, though, are not so sure that times have changed as much as they'd like. The industry still pressures female artists to play up their sexuality because that's what sells, says Liz Phair, who is most lauded for her 1993 album, Exile in Guyville. The pressure was so intense, Phair says, that she felt she had been stuffed into a “little typical box” and tried to turn the exploitation on its head.

But she has since learned to coexist with the status quo.

“There was a moment when the cool girls were kicking ass and taking names,” Phair says. “And right now it's the hot girl. I'm happy, personally, as long as our numbers are up.”

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-05-12-11 1907GMT

Wanda Jackson, ‘the queen of rockabilly,’ in a mid-1950s publicity photo. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Last Updated on Friday, 13 May 2011 14:30

Princess Beatrice's wedding hat to be auctioned

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Written by CAROLINE MORROW, Associated Press   
Friday, 13 May 2011 13:39
Princess Beatrice wearing the hat designed by Philip Treacy. Image courtesy of LONDON (AP) – The eye-popping hat worn by Princess Beatrice at Britain's royal wedding is to be auctioned to raise money for charity, Buckingham Palace said Thursday.

The famous creation – which some said looked like antlers – will be sold on eBay with the proceeds to go to the charities UNICEF and Children in Crisis.

The hat was the handiwork of Britain's leading milliner, Philip Treacy, who designed many of the ladies' hats worn at the April 29 nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton, now known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The unusual design of the beige hat has sparked a Facebook fan page called “Princess Beatrice's ridiculous Royal Wedding hat,” and one computer-altered picture showed President Barack Obama and his national security team all wearing the hat as they watched the commando raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan.

The sale was announced by Beatrice's mother, Sarah Ferguson, on the Oprah Winfrey show. A palace spokesman confirmed the sale while speaking on condition of anonymity in line with policy.

Many have said the hat looked outlandish, but Treacy has defended it in comments to the British press, saying Beatrice looked “gorgeous” at the wedding.

Beatrice, 22, also defended it in a recent interview with Grazia magazine. She said it was “wonderful that it's had such a reaction.”

She added: “It's an incredible response to a hat, really. I'm glad it provoked so much conversation.”

UNICEF and Children in Crisis said in a statement on their website that they are looking forward to working with Beatrice to raise as much money as possible for children around the world.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-05-12-11 1302GMT

Princess Beatrice wearing the hat designed by Philip Treacy. Image courtesy of
Last Updated on Friday, 13 May 2011 13:58

Tucson weighs future of its iconic neon signs

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Written by RHONDA BODFIELD, Arizona Daily Star   
Friday, 13 May 2011 09:53
Neon tubes highlight the marquee on the Fox Theater in downtown Tucson. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) – When history buff Carlos Lozano rolled into town 25 years ago, he was struck immediately by the neon signs along Miracle Mile and Oracle Road.

“They're just so magical,” he said, noting they expressed a cheerfulness and exuberance about life that in some ways modern culture has lost. “I knew when I saw them that there was something special about Tucson.”

Decades later, about 75 percent are gone. No longer does a Godzilla-sized Marilyn Monroe entice travelers to a motel. The Ye Olde Lantern sign no longer lures Tucson foodies to one of the area's fanciest restaurants in its day. Some have been destroyed. Others have been snapped up by collectors or hawked on eBay.

Most of those remaining are at risk. And Tucson is diminished because of it, Lozano said.

The city's sign-code committee is now going over a proposed change in the law that would make it easier to save historic signs, but at its last meeting the group failed to agree on a recommendation to send to the City Council, instead scheduling a follow-up meeting next week.

When Tucson updated its sign code, many old signs were too big, too tall or too near the public rights-of-way to meet the new criteria. They were allowed to remain, but if they ever came down, even for repairs, they couldn't go back up. Also, if the business changed use, the sign would have to come down.

Advocates point to the rusted-out, badly-aged “diving girl,” who, for 65 years, has beckoned visitors to the Pueblo Hotel and Apartments’ swimming pool as the poster child for sign purgatory.

She's flat illegal since the use of the building changed to a lawyer's office. The city's sign code administrator, Glenn Moyer, acknowledged that, technically, if an administrator took over who was not sympathetic to historic signs, the diving girl – and any like her – could be ordered down.

Business owners often sacrifice to keep the signs. Since diving girl takes up all of the business's allotment for signs, the Piccarreta Davis law firm can't put its own sign out front. It still gets inquiries about vacancies. Like many older signs, restoring it would be expensive, but the law firm is willing to do it, if only it were allowed.

Likewise, Steve Fenton, who owns the long-empty Reilly Funeral Home on East Pennington Street, says he'd love to fix up the vintage 1920s neon sign that is original to the building.

“That sign is an integral part of the history of that building,” he said. Fenton said he's unable to say how much work the sign will need, because to date it's been a moot point.

“Historic signs are part of the historic fabric of Tucson, so it's only logical that we should try to keep them in place,” Fenton said.

Bob Vincent's Southwest Animal Health on North First Avenue stands in the shadow of a large boot, outlined in neon, with a fluorescent orange spur, which has marked the entrance to the business complex for more than 50 years. When it's fixed up, it can be seen from blocks away, he said.

It worked when he moved in 17 years ago, but has fallen into disrepair. “I hate to see it all dilapidated,” Vincent said. “It makes my business look bad.”

City leaders, acknowledging the role the distinctive signs played in the rise of the Oracle-Drachman corridor, even put a 30-foot-tall neon sculpture of a saguaro in the median at the gateway of the old tourist court strip, as an homage to its history.

Still, the wheels of government turn slowly. It's been two years since the City Council turned the job over to an ad hoc citizens’ committee in June 2009.

The group identified about 200 signs that might qualify as historic. Since then, they had many a spirited debate about what criteria to use to keep out signs without historic value, said Jonathan Mabry, the city's historic preservation officer.

Take the No-Tel Motel. The naughty little witticism might lend a sense of place, but the sign itself isn't anything special, Mabry said.

What they ended up agreeing to was a special designation for signs installed prior to 1961, as well as transitional signs installed between 1961 and 1974. They would have to meet nine criteria for automatic approval, from having neon or incandescent lighting, to being non-rectangular and exemplifying historic heritage. Those that don't meet all nine can still petition for the designation.

Business owners looking to incorporate new text, such as their name, into a sign may be able to do so, as long as it doesn't change the sign's character.

No longer would the historic signs count toward the business’ signage area, allowing them to put up their own sign.

Two provisions ran into some turbulence with sign-code advisers, who have long fought against visual blight – letting historic signs be relocated to an area with a concentration of historic signs allowing replicas as long as they are installed on the original premises. Commissioners feared those provisions would reopen the door to the types of signage that in the 1970s gave Tucson brief notoriety as having the nation's ugliest street – Speedway.

But advocates of historic restoration say that, in a sea of plastic uniformity, there is a need to preserve examples of quirky American folk art.

Sharon Chadwick told the sign code advisory committee that losing historical elements will hurt. “You'll become like a person who doesn't have a memory.”

But Mark Mayer, a longtime billboard opponent, objected that rather than being narrowly focused on just the most worthy signs, he thought the law would “open a wide door where grossly oversized signs” could be restored, relocated or replicated.

Mayer urged dumping the measure, and instead making a list of signs worth keeping.

Mabry said a list wouldn't work. “That's exactly the kind of approach we should not take,” he said, adding that what makes a sign “historic” is not nostalgia or even personal opinions about its aesthetic.

The sign committee will meet again May 19 to discuss the change and forward their take on the proposal. It could go to mayor and council for action possibly in June.


Information from: Arizona Daily Star,

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-05-12-11 0857GMT

Neon tubes highlight the marquee on the Fox Theater in downtown Tucson. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Last Updated on Friday, 13 May 2011 10:31

Dr. J ABA jersey hits $190,414 in Grey Flannel's $2.4M auction

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Written by Auction House PR   
Thursday, 12 May 2011 15:22
1972-73 Julius Dr. J' Erving Virginia Squires ABA game-used and autographed road jersey, sold for $190,414 in Grey Flannel’s May 11, 2011 Summer Games Auction. Grey Flannel Auctions image.

WESTHAMPTON, N.Y. – An autographed Virginia Squires ABA road jersey game worn in 1972-73 by the great Julius “Dr. J” Erving smashed through the existing record for a basketball jersey at auction in Grey Flannel’s May 11, 2011 sale with a final bid of $190,414 (all prices quoted include 20% buyer’s premium). In total, the event took in $2.4 million, the highest auction gross ever achieved by Grey Flannel.

Finishing as the auction’s top lot, the Dr. J jersey was a rare style in use for only one year in the ABA. “We had never even seen a common jersey of this type, let alone a Dr. J game-worn example. We knew it had an excellent chance of making $100,000 at auction. It did that and much more,” said Richard E. Russek, president of Grey Flannel Auctions.

The iconic navy and gold UCLA staff jacket that beloved basketball coach John Wooden (1910-2010) wore throughout his career with the invincible Bruins was another slam-dunk winner in the sale. Offered with a letter of authenticity signed by Wooden, it garnered 17 bids before settling at $183,500.

Downtown Freddie Brown took it all the way to an uptown bank with a winning bid of $115,242 on his 1979 Seattle SuperSonics World Championship player’s ring. The sharp-shooting captain of Seattle’s 1978-79 team is a sports legend in the NBA; he holds the Sonics’ all-time record for points in a regular season – 58. Brown’s 14K gold Championship player’s ring, emblazoned “NBA WORLD CHAMPIONS” and featuring a large central diamond, was accompanied by a letter of authenticity from Brown.

“I think it’s very significant that seven out of the top 10 lots in this sale were associated with basketball. It’s a category that has continued to attract many new and serious collectors to our auctions over the past few years,” said Russek.

Among the top basketball lots were Wilt Chamberlain’s 1968-69 L.A. Lakers Playoffs game-used road jersey, $73,409; a circa-1897 leather-laced basketball with side-panel construction, $59,135; and 1981 NBA Finals MVP Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell’s Boston Celtics World Championship player’s ring with a letter of authenticity from Maxwell, $55,152.

The priciest football-related item was Steve Wright’s 1973 Green Bay Packers Super Bowl I player’s ring, with LOA, which scored a winning bid of $73,409. “To our knowledge, it is the only player’s ring from the first Super Bowl ever to be offered in a public auction,” said Russek.

Baseball lots were dominated by a 1959 Roberto Clemente Pittsburgh Pirates game-used flannel home jersey vest, which knocked it out of the park at $55,152.

Russek commented that the excitement level for the sale was “unprecedented…The phones ran hot till 6:55 a.m. We knew that the Dr. J jersey, John Wooden jacket and multiple Championship rings would finish at the top, but we didn’t know in what order. It was a great sale, and we want to thank everyone who participated in the bidding.”

Grey Flannel's annual auction held at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is slated for Aug. 12 this year. The Hall of Fame is located in Springfield, Massachusetts.

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1972-73 Julius Dr. J' Erving Virginia Squires ABA game-used and autographed road jersey, sold for $190,414 in Grey Flannel’s May 11, 2011 Summer Games Auction. Grey Flannel Auctions image.
Last Updated on Monday, 23 May 2011 19:47

Opera house poscards convey civic pride

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Written by TONY HERRMAN, Hastings Tribune   
Monday, 09 May 2011 09:31
Author Willa Cather’s childhood home is located in Red Cloud, Neb. Built circa 1878, it is on the National Register of Historic Places. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. RED CLOUD, Neb. (AP) – When Guide Rock's International Order of Odd Fellows Opera House opened in 1905, it was indicative of the optimism spreading across Nebraska at that time.

“Guide Rock built their opera house in 1905, when the town had 419 people, and they built an opera house that had 400 seats in it,” said Jay Yost, president emeritus of the Willa Cather Foundation board of governors. “To me that was the height of optimism, because it's not as if you're going to get the same 400 people in town for four performances, so they thought the town would get much bigger. It just showed you what people thought would happen with their towns.”

That opera house in Guide Rock is just one of 63 from across Nebraska represented by the Yost/Leak collection of postcards and memorabilia displayed in the Red Cloud Opera House. The total collection includes more than 200 opera houses. The collection will return to the Red Cloud Opera House Aug. 15 and remain in the gallery until Sept. 10.

Yost, who grew up in Red Cloud, now is a New York City banker. He discussed the collection and the opera houses in “Social Networking 1890: Nebraska Opera Houses in their Heyday,” a presentation he made as part of the 56th annual Willa Cather Spring Conference.

“Now we have Twitter and Facebook and all those ways for people to connect,” he said during an interview.

“Back in the 1890s and 1910s, one of the major ways people were able to connect with other people was getting together at the opera house. That was for community plays or weddings or dances as well as performances by traveling troops or musical companies or opera companies. Things like that.”

Stephany Thompson, director of foundation programming, said the Yost/Leak collection provides a local context to the overall theme of the annual Willa Cather conference.

“I think it brings a sense of what the state of Nebraska's history of popular culture was,” she said. “I think many of the topics discussed in the conference will be of an international theme. The fact that we have a collection of Nebraska postcards really brings it to back to this state, to this area.”

Yost began collecting artifacts relating to pre-World War I performance spaces in Nebraska and Kansas around 2000.

“I got on the Cather Board in the late ’90s,” he said. “We were in the process of raising money to do this restoration (of the Red Cloud Opera House), and eBay was just coming out then. I thought it would be cool to start collecting opera house memorabilia thinking someday we would want to do something like this.”

The Yost/Leak collection includes more than just postcards. In the Opera House gallery now there are souvenirs such as spoons from the Arapahoe Opera House.

“Again, it shows you how important the thing was when they were doing commemorative souvenirs of these places, because it was one of the places in town that somebody would want to remember,” Yost said. He said at one time there were 513 documented opera houses in Nebraska. A study in the late 1980s showed only about 25 percent of those opera houses remained by then and only about 25 percent of those hadn't been significantly damaged.

“For me it's just sad that so many small towns don't have a place to come together now,” Yost said. “You might have a community hall, but there's really no soul to it. You can't put on a performance, or we have had the prom dinner here the last couple of years, so people are recreating those memories three generations down the road.”


Information from: Hastings Tribune,

Copyright 2011 Associated Press.

All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-05-06-11 2248GMT

Author Willa Cather’s childhood home is located in Red Cloud, Neb. Built circa 1878, it is on the National Register of Historic Places. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Last Updated on Monday, 09 May 2011 10:04
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