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WATERMELON FEET: A winner at Hope contest.
  • WATERMELON FEET: A winner at Hope contest.

Sticky Feetz

Gary Higgins of Alexander, with this photo “Watermelon Feet,” was the winner of the Arkansas Times’ “This Is Arkansas” photo contest at this year’s State Fair. His depiction of the aftermath of a watermelon-eating contest won $75 in addition to the blue ribbon. Tim Ferrell of Benton was second and Donna K. Smith of Greenbrier was third.

It’s no Gossip: Singer ‘coolest’

Beth Ditto, a native of Searcy who fronts the punk-soul-experimental band the Gossip, now based out of Portland, Ore., was recently named by the top-selling weekly British music magazine NME as No. 1 on its annual 50-member Cool List. The list is usually devoted to male stars, but Ditto led a parade of women in this year’s top 10 and is the first woman at the top of the list.

The magazine said in the Nov. 25 feature about Ditto, “Raised trailer-park poor in Bible-belt state Arkansas, Ditto was bullied for her weight, frowned upon for her record collection and threatened with eternal damnation for her sexuality [she’s a lesbian]” and it said the Gossip is “the greatest punk ’n’ disco soul band on the planet in years … taking over indie dance floors everywhere.”

Ditto and her three-piece band left Searcy after high school and settled in Olympia, Wash., but for the past three years they’ve been based in Portland. Ditto’s words are as outsized as she is, whether on gay rights, sympathy for school shooters or explicit song lyrics. She also talks often about escaping her home state for a better political climate. The Gossip’s new single, “Standing in the Way,” is a rant against Republican homophobia and is the band’s breakthrough hit in Britain.

Critics say Ditto’s voice rivals Janis Joplin’s. Check it yourself at the Gossip’s MySpace page, www.myspace.com/gossipband/.

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