If there is another state that would have poured out in such big numbers to Las Vegas to support its boxing star, we can’t think of it. An estimated 5,000 fans from Arkansas were in Vegas in support of Jermain Taylor last week. Likewise, a large number of folks who couldn’t make it out west found a TV set showing the HBO pay-per-view broadcast to see Taylor outlast the slow-to-start, ferocious-at-the-finish Bernard Hopkins on Saturday night and win the undisputed world middleweight championship.
Unlike Taylor, who had an Arkansas Razorback- like following, Hopkins didn’t have thousands of Philadelphia-area residents hollering “B-Hop, B-Hop” or invoking the Penn State cheer for its Nittany Lions in the MGM Grand’s arena during the fight. And Hopkins’ shorts weren’t emblazoned with “Philly” or “Penn” or anything signifying his love for his home base. Funny, though, that Hopkins still felt it necessary the days leading up to the fight to run down Taylor’s home state, which supported its hero en masse.
That’s Arkansas and its sports heroes in a nutshell. The sports stars seem to have a unique loyalty to this little state, and Arkansas loves its sports stars. Saturday, about 30 people connected with a Little Rock law firm were packed into a room not much bigger than what you’d find in a college dormitory. The judges’ results were being revealed, and the pro-Taylor crowd was expecting the worst as the last judge’s card was read. The instant iconic ring announcer Michael Buffer said, “… and NEW world middleweight champion,” the room exploded with 30 people screaming joyously. I’m sure the scene was repeated all over this area.
We heard reports from Vegas of pep rallies and the like that seldom accompany the usual title fight in Sin City. To some in Las Vegas it might have been a head-scratcher. To those of us who understand Arkansas and its sports heroes, it made perfect sense.
n We mentioned our new entertainment blog, “Little Rocking,” last week, and after we went to press it was almost immediately moved to the Arkansas Times website, www.arktimes.com, where it should get more visibility and where you can keep up with the newest happenings in area entertainment or opine about the latest concerts, movies and such. Join in on last week’s hot topic, which was the quiet summer concert scene at the larger concert venues, notably Riverfest Amphitheatre.
n Speaking of concerts, they aren’t the real Beatles, of course, but “1964” … The Tribute mimics the Fab Four so well, the show on Thursday, July 28, at Robinson Center Music Hall is a must-see for any Beatles fan. The group will cover the best of the Beatles from ’64 through ’66, wrapping up with music from the “Revolver” album, and including such favorites as “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You,” “I Feel Fine” and “Twist and Shout.”
“1964” is the brainchild of longtime Akron, Ohio, buddies Mark Benson and Gary Grimes, who formed the band in 1984 after being in several cover bands that did occasional Beatles songs. It’s grown from a fun gig touring colleges to now playing such concert venues as Colorado’s Red Rocks. Rolling Stone in February called “1964” the No. 1 Beatles tribute band.
“More than anything, it’s the costume, the suits and boots they wore and the energy of the players,” Grimes said. “It’s hard to describe what we do until you get somebody in the audience.”
Grimes, who grew up as a right-handed guitar player, has the Paul McCartney role and even learned to play the bass left-handed to bring authenticity to the part. Benson fills the John Lennon part, but says he looks “more like John Lithgow.” For dead-ringers, drummer Greg George has always made people think of Ringo Starr. He was already friends with Benson and Grimes but playing in another group when they told him he had to be in “1964.” Jimmy Pou, the band’s George Harrison, is the only non-Akron native in the group; he’s from California.
Tickets are $20-$35 and are available through Celebrity Attractions, 244-8800. Showtime is 8 p.m.