Memories of Celebrity and Local Entertainers - TribPapers

Memories of Celebrity and Local Entertainers

Bryce Dallas Howard, then 23, laughs with her father Ron Howard at the Asheville Film Festival in 2004. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Hendersonville – When I asked him about the creative Sixties, The Byrds’ folk rock singer Roger McGuinn reflected and called it a “wild ride.” My 35.5-year journalistic career has been an enjoyable ride – less wild than fascinating.

I got comic Bob Hope to chuckle, in breaking the ice for our interview after his comic show at Clemson. He was 90, but still sharp (unlike some presidents). He’s been called “America’s Funnyman.” “Flat Rock Funnyman” is what I call Flat Rock Theatre’s Scott Treadway. I saw Scott perform as a FRP apprenticed 40 years ago.

Montford Park Players have put on the state’s longest-running Shakespeare festival. I enjoyed writing about area community theaters, and acting in them and a professional outdoor summer show in Ohio.

Pat’s School of Dance performed at the Pop-Tarts Bowl’s halftime show on Dec. 28. Sher Shepherd Phillips helps her mother Pat run the studio. I recall when Sher won teen dance competitions in 1999.

Bele Chere, JAM, MVA

I covered local Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) playing with Grammy-winning Jim Lauderdale on Dec. 27. I look to mostly retire, but write largely on arts and entertainment.

I’ve enjoyed covering Music Video Asheville (MVA), Brevard’s White Squirrel Festival, Christmas at Connemara (Carl Sandburg Home), parades, and Hendersonville’s Bearfootin’ bear sidewalk figurines.

MVA has showcased local talents such as filmmaker Kira Bursky and pianist Ian Ridenhour. Asheville’s next Fringe Festival is on March 17-24. Puppeteer Keith Shubert (“Toybox”) is a regular act. Brits Joanne Tremarco and Christopher Murray (Fool Size Theatre) were a hoot in 2015. I showed them local waterfalls. I filmed 60 waterfalls one summer.

A 20-club, fee-based AVL Fest debuted last August. I miss its predecessor, the massive street fest Bele Chere (1979-2013) and other defunct cultural events: The Asheville Film Festival, Asheville Fashion Week, Henderson County Public Schools’ student talent gala, the circus, and festivals on plays and Kituwah Cherokee culture.


Caitlin Krisko and Abby Bryant each front fast-rising, locally-based rock bands. Classical pianist sensation Christopher Tavernier put on benefit concerts as a teen. He graduated from Florida State this year. Tavernier studies at Brooklyn College.

Grammy-winning bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers was fronted by singer-guitarist Woody Platt for 23 years, until he left in early 2022. I covered Platt in sports, starting when he played third base and SCR mandolinist Mike Guggino was Transylvania County 12-year-old baseball all-stars. Platt had a musical hit a year ago with The Duck (Hunting) Band.

I covered Sam Bush, Doc Watson and many other Grammy-winning bluegrass acts at the Flat Rock Music Festival in the early 2000s. I interviewed Bruce Hornsby. I played his chart-topper “The Way It Is” in 1986, as a radio DJ in Ohio.

I went to 40 of Jennifer Pickering’s LEAFs in a row in 2000-2019. I taught contra dancing on-the-fly to a LEAF-headlining folk rock act, Be Good Tanyas from Vancouver, B.C. I literally did “rock drumming” at at the late-night drum circle, by tapping two rocks together. The circle dwindled eventually to me solo, with others there on break. I kept the music going until they drew back in.

Art Sings to Me

Interviews with rock stars are big hits for me. Folk legend Art Garfunkel revealed origins of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” singing the chorus during our phone interview. Eric Burdon told me in person what he actually sung (“Spill the wine, take that pearl!”) in 1970 number one hit “Spill the Wine,” and its lewd meaning.

The Guess Who’s singer, Burton Cummings, jotted down lyrics to “No Time” as a keepsake for me. Jethro Tull’s flutist-vocalist Ian Anderson was also jovial.

Outside the Be Here Now club in 2003, Jefferson Airplane singer Marty Balin visually reenacted the 1969 Hell’s Angels concert and his leaping into the crowd to subdue a knife-wielder. The Grass Roots’ Rob Grill, Warren Haynes, and dynamic Grace Potter were also fun to chat with at Bele Chere.

Guitar whiz Derek Trucks (Tedeschi Trucks Band, Allman Bros.) was intrigued by New Age theory of guitar mystical energy. He was 23 in 2002, when I interviewed him. His fiancee-now-wife, Susan Tedeschi, joined him for an encore in what is now the Asheville Music Club.

Celebrity Tour Guide

I enjoyed showing actress Pamela Sue Martin around Asheville in 2000, on a weekend when she headlined a smaller film festival. We went to a downtown blues club, and a River Arts District arts crawl. Pamela was TV’s detective Nancy Drew, tall daughter Fallon on the number-one-rated series Dynasty, and in the original Poseidon Adventure film as a teen. She was down-to-earth and fun to chat with.

Film sets are interesting. I enjoyed chatting with Sandra Bullock while an extra in her 28 Days (2000), and hanging out with Jack Lemmon and James Garner on the Downtown Asheville set of My Fellow Americans (1996). It was fun to watch recently-aired Christmas at Biltmore get a scene filmed at the historic Hendersonville Train Depot a year ago.

‘One Shot’

Actors Kevin Costner, Kurt Russell and Dennis Quaid were great interviewees at the area BMW Charity Pro-Am golf tourney. Asheville Film Festival special guests included actresses Jennifer Tilley and Andie MacDowell, Ken Russell who made The Who’s rock opera film Tommy in 1975, and the entire Howard acting family (Ron, brother Clint, father Rance, and Ron’s daughter Bryce Dallas Howard) in 2004.

Bryce was 23 in ’04. She’s the Jurassic World series’ leading lady. Clint elbowed Ron then whispered about how much Ron resembled their father, as they viewed a film starring Rance in the Diana Wortham Theater. I sat right behind them, interviewed them, then snapped a photo of the Howards at Pack Square as they briefly awaited a ride.

In pitch dark, my hunch on how much flash to use was spot on. Perfect lighting and expressions, I saw with relief. “As De Niro said in The Deer Hunter,” I jested to the Howards. “One shot!” They grinned at the film reference, to getting it right the first time. The past 35 years have been one long, enjoyable “take.” It’s nearly a “wrap.”