"Her dance with Mr. Clifford was rather acrobatic, but by no means unusual. The finish was an Arab Whirl."
So reads a 1914 Richmond News Leader article detailing the on-stage arrest of performer Evelyn Nesbit Thaw. The officer who took her into custody in front of a packed house accused her of causing “serious moral harm to the community.”
The controversy is covered in a blog post today from the Valentine Richmond History Center dedicated to the Scenes and Scandals of city theater scene of yore.
Was Thaw allowed to keep dancing? Would controversy only serve to increase ticket sales? How has Richmond theater gotten less perverted over the past 100 years?
Why can’t it be extended to Innsbrook and Short Pump? That’s the first question GRTC Transit System administrators fielded last night from a crowd of more than 150 people, who came to get an update on a proposal for a new $70 million rapid route between Willow Lawn and Rocketts Landing.
The query drew a round of loud applause. The Rev. Ben Campbell, a longtime advocate for regional rapid transit, says the fact that a large enough crowd was there to generate applause was a major step forward. Lately, he says, the level of support for rapid transit has increased exponentially.
“I was at a meeting three or four years ago when basically the same proposal was presented, and there were only 20 people there,” Campbell says. “So this is a very different thing to have this level of energy.”
Attendance and enthusiasm levels aside, something else unusual happened: Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas, who’d been sitting quietly in the audience, stood, unprompted, to offer Henrico County’s perspective on the “Why not to Short Pump?” question.
“We’ve spent $25 million over the past five years on the GRTC,” he told the crowd. “Do you know how much the locality to the south [Chesterfield] spent? $600,000 over five years.”
Then, in a drop-the-mic moment, Vithoulkas added: “This is an exciting project, but if you want to talk about transit in the Richmond region, talk about transit in the Richmond region. Thank you.”
He may have been bullish and done little more than bounce the ball into Chesterfield’s court. But GRTC administrators say the decision of a Henrico County official to attend was a significant -- and unprecedented -- step forward. Rapid transit advocates had a similar take. “There was no reason why the Henrico County manager had to be there,” Campbell says. “He chose to be there. And I see that as significant.”
After the meeting, Style spoke with Vithoulkas about what he thinks needs to happen to make a functional, region-wide, rapid-transit system a reality. In short, he said GRTC is in the best position to put a plan forward and get the necessary buy-in from the counties. But -- and this is a big but -- cost is going to be a huge issue. Here's the exchange:
Style: You said very clearly that this needs to be a regional conversation. My question is where and when -- realistically -- is this conversation is going to happen? We’ve been talking about this stuff for years.
Vithoulkas: So I think right now you’ve got, realistically, a transit company that can provide service. You’ve got the mechanism. It’s there. You have GRTC that can provide the service. If you want to talk about enhancing service, you’re talking about expanding routes. That’s a fairly … you know -- that’s not a complicated question. What complicates it is resources. In the case of Henrico, we’re putting in over $7 million worth of local dollars into transit efforts. In the case of the city, I think they’re putting in $12 million. In the case of Chesterfield County, I think their number is $300,000 a year. There is an inequity there as far as what’s being funded.
In terms of a resolution is it just anybody’s guess how that will happen?
No, I think the first thing that has to happen, is you’ve got to start the conversation and not be afraid of the conversation.
Whose job is it to start the conversation?
I think groups like this are doing a good job.
GRTC administrators and transit advocates describe the Broad Street rapid transit line as a kind of pilot project for a bigger system. If they can show it works in the city, they say they’ll have an easier time making a pitch for expansion to the counties.
A final round of public meetings will be held next spring. If the public is on board, GRTC can start applying for federal funding.
The typically dour U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor apparently crowded into Harlem’s Apollo Theater with a ton of dancing celebrities over the weekend.
The New York Post reports today that the Republican House Majority Leader from Henrico was spotted Saturday at a fundraiser for the famed New York theater. The event featured Jamie Foxx, Lenny Kravitz, Jon Bon Jovi, Mary J. Blige and Darlene Love. They were joined on stage by Katie Holmes and, inexplicably, Colin Powell.
But the Post says the “crowd offstage was just as starry, including Billy Joel, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Howard Stern, Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie, who was dancing on a chair by the evening’s end.”
While the Post lists Cantor as an attendee, it doesn’t report on the congressman’s dancing style, or if he danced, but his presence at the event isn’t totally out of character. Last year, Cantor revealed he’s a kind of rap aficionado during an interview with Politico.
“You have a little Jay-Z, Young Jeezy, and Wiz Khalifa and the rest on there,” Cantor told the publication. "Honestly the lyrics are horrendous and we try and have the cleaned up version."
It was a bit less glamorous than it sounds, but U.S. Sen. Mark Warner had at least two beers today during a 10 a.m. visit to Hardywood Park Craft Brewery.
As part of a state-wide tour, Warner stopped at Hardywood to taste and talk business with brewers from across Virginia, including local heavyweights Legend, Center of the Universe and Strangeways.
Warner announced his decision to sign on as a co-sponsor for a bill that would lower the federal excise tax on small brewers. He also talked about how the Affordable Care Act would impact small breweries and delivered a U.S. flag that had flown over the Capitol to Hardywood's owners, Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh.
Most importantly, Warner fielded a handful of relatively asinine questions from Style about beer, Richmond and bars. Here’s the exchange:
Style: What beer did you taste today?
Warner: I had the Singel.
What did you think? Do you have any tasting notes?
I thought it was good. I could really taste the fruit on the front end of it. But I’m really more of a wine guy. I think these craft breweries -- I could get into them.
Do you think you'll start brewing yourself? You already have a vineyard, though you mentioned things aren't necessarily going well.
Yeah, I've got some vine rot and we've taken out most of it.
When did you taste your first sip of beer?
[Laughs.] You know, a day after my 21st birthday. How about that to make sure everybody knows I'm totally lying.
What's your favorite bar in Richmond?
I go to Acacia a lot, but that’s more of a restaurant than a bar. I guess Millie’s.
The interview was cut short before we could get his stance on pumpkin beer because an AP reporter -- who, by the way, was also drinking -- wasted a lot of time asking about employment programs for veterans.
Will Smith must have been booked. Alfonso Ribeiro, a.k.a. Carlton Banks of "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" fame, is appearing at the Diamond tomorrow to mark the Richmond Flying Squirrel’s “Peanut Tribute Night,” which, naturally, is presented by the Virginia Association of Peanut Farmers.
It gets better: For $25 fans can meet Riberio before the game and enjoy an all you can eat buffet. It also happens to be the night the Squirrels sell $2 beers. Lucky.
In the realm of Minor League Baseball promotions, this is nearly as brilliant as the Pennsylvania team that's offering a free funeral giveaway tonight for its "Celebration of Life" night.
Many Richmonders let out a collective groan of disgust upon learning of a local group’s plan to install a Confederate flag just off Interstate 95 in Richmond.
One of the first suggestions to come in on Style’s Facebook page: On an adjacent parcel construct a 300-foot-tall statue of Calvin pissing toward it.
The conversation moved quickly from there, and now words like “counter messaging” are being thrown out and cheeky mock-ups of billboards are flying around on social media.
Richmond graphic designer Doug Dobey created the one above. “It kind of speaks for itself,” he tells Style. “I don’t think that I need to say much more on it.”
City Councilman Jon Baliles shared a tamer take on his campaign’s Facebook page. It features the RVA logo and says “This is RVA / Not the C.S.A.”
Baliles says he respects Virginia Flaggers’ right to fly the flag. But he also thinks it’s important to offer a response. “We also need to let the world know that Richmond is a much different place than it was 15 years ago, much less 150 years ago,” Baliles says.
(For the record, the Virginia Flaggers dispute that the flag is racist or offensive. There's more on that in our last story.)
How realistic a billboard is depends on how much money people are willing to throw behind it. They can run anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 a month depending on the location. Beyond indicating that it will be just south of the city on I-95, the flaggers declined to say exactly where their flag will go.
So far, no fundraising appeals have appeared. Sam Davies, a local IT consultant, formed an online discussion board to hash out what one might lookout. He says the group is less interested in chiding the Confederates with a countering billboard than in harnessing Richmonders’ distaste to raise money for causes that counter racism. He hopes to have a plan and website in place by early next week.
“My first instinct was to troll the troll,” Davies says. “The strong opinion right now is to meet the hostility with some kind of kindness.
“The price we pay for free speech is that a very vocal, extreme minority can take over the message. The Confederate flag does not represent even the smallest fraction of Richmonders. So while I respect anyone’s right to free speech, we also have a right to use our free speech to show we don’t care for it.”
The director of the NAACP in Virginia isn’t remotely surprised by plans to fly a giant Confederate flag just off of Interstate 95 in Richmond. “We’re in the Capitol of the Confederacy,” King Salim Khalfani says. “The Civil War never ended for them."
That’s not to say Khalfani doesn’t have thoughts about the impression a 15-foot-wide Confederate battle flag might leave with tourists and visitors passing through Richmond.
“There goes the rebranding -- with ‘RVA’ and all that stuff,” he says. “Anybody in the city that has any consciousness should be appalled that that’s going to be one of the symbols introducing people to Richmond.
“I know, at least for people of African descent, if they see it and they’re not from here, they’ll be like, ‘Damn, what kind of yokel joint is this?’”
Indeed, the national political magazine Mother Jones broke the news earlier today that a group called Virginia Flaggers intends to install the road-side flag by Sept. 28. The tone of the article isn't exactly flattering to Richmond.
But Susan Hathaway, the spokeswoman for the flaggers, says the plan is only meant to honor southerners, not denigrate them.
“The flag will serve to welcome visitors and commuters to Richmond, and remind them of our honorable Confederate history and heritage,” she says, in an announcement posted Saturday on an obscure conservative blog.
The flag will fly on the interstate just south of the city. In an interview with Style, she declines to give the exact location, saying she’s worried about possible threats and vandalism.
The total cost -- she says they got a really good deal on the flag pole -- comes to around $3,000.
Does Hathaway view her group’s plans as they will be widely interpreted -- a deliberately provocative gesture?
“Absolutely not,” she says in an interview with Style. “We’re putting this up for one reason and one reason only -- as a memorial. It’s not a stick in anybody’s eye. There are lots of place we could put it if we wanted to intentionally stir up trouble.”
She says Khalfani and others are attaching the wrong meaning to the flag, arguing historical facts when asked how a flag flown by a group of people fighting -- at least in part -- to preserve the institution of slavery could represent anything other than oppression to black residents. And she points out that slavery was a legal practice in the United States for years, but that no one argues the U.S. flag is a symbol of hate.
“I think that society has allowed us to become almost ashamed to our heritage because of the mistruths that are taught,” she says. “Some people want to put a stigma on one flag and rather than stand up and say this flag is my great, great grandfather’s flag.”
This wouldn’t be the first Confederate to fly near an interstate in the South. Until recently a 30 by 60 foot version of the stars and bars flew off I-75 in Tampa, Fla. It was hugely controversial and later was replaced with a slightly smaller flag, though only because the original wore out.
There are others, Hathaway says. And the practice is what inspired her group to pursue the tactic in Richmond.
Meanwhile, Khalfani of the NAACP says the whole thing is an embarrassment, and an affront to what Richmond is becoming. The prospect of a giant Confederate flag welcoming visitors to Richmond fills him with sarcasm. “That’s going to attract a lot of people,” he says. “Yeah. Great.”