The University of Arkansas at Little Rock has 36 cheerleaders and a jazzy pep band set up in the east end of the new Jack Stephens Center. They keep things hopping when the Trojans’ basketball game is on a break. A court can look pretty busy with 36 cheerleaders around it.
But it’s not the cheerleaders, or the band — and sometimes it’s not even the basketball team — that draws the undivided attention of the stands at the Stephens Center. It’s Curtis.
Like Prince, Madonna and Elvis, Curtis Williams is simply known as Curtis around UALR games. That’s what you’re told if you happen to ask, “Who the heck is that guy?” Simply, “Curtis.”
Everyone looks forward Williams’ show, about a quarter of the way through every second half of every UALR home game, during a game timeout, when he gyrates and flexes and moves and grooves to such popular numbers as James Brown’s “I Feel Good.”
It doesn’t hurt Williams’ performance in the least that he’s hefty in the abdominal region. His stomach hangs over his belt like someone stuck a partially deflated medicine ball under his shirt.
He’s worn a different hat and shirt every time we’ve seen him. Last week, at UALR’s big game with Arkansas State University before about 5,000 fans, Curtis wore a white “The Man From Plaid” T-shirt from Wimp Sanderson’s days as UALR coach, complete with autographs of former Trojan players all over it.
Williams does his act on the opposition’s end of the floor. At November’s grand opening game in the Stephens Center, we caught a few of those staid, disciplined young men from the U.S. Naval Academy grinning at Curtis’ show while Navy’s coach was trying to get his starters to battle back against the Trojans.
Williams has a real job at the UALR School of Law library. But as far as UALR basketball fans are concerned, it’s not a real game until he’s shown up in the second half to bring smiles to their faces with his latest steps.
“The Scream” will be heard again when it goes on auction next week in Eureka Springs. The FBI, however, is not expected to be listening this time around.
A little over a year ago, when a famous painting by that name by Edvard Munch was pinched from a Norwegian museum, Eureka art dealer John Mitchell put a painting he’d bought at an AIDS benefit — a local version of “The Scream” — in the window of his shop. “Newly acquired” said a sign beside it, “inquire within.” The Lovely County Citizen got the joke; the FBI did not. It sent an agent to call on Mitchell.
The agent was no dummy, and he was smiling when he came in and flashed his badge and told Mitchell he was there “about a stolen painting.” The agent said he was new and didn’t get the tough assignments.
Because he bought “The Scream” at an AIDS benefit, Mitchell thought it fitting that the painting go up for auction again at the OARS (Ozark AIDS Resources and Services) benefit dinner and auction at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Inn of the Ozarks. He expects it to go for far more than the $30 he paid for it. “It’s worth $74 million,” he noted.
Munch’s “The Scream” — of a figure whose famously skeletal, open-mouthed face is set against a fiery red and orange background — is said to have been inspired by the eruption of Krakatoa. Mitchell’s “Scream,” painted by Eureka ceramist Karen Foster, expresses the feeling she got after squishing tent caterpillars.