Tonys and Tigers, and Rhinos, Oh My!

A backward glance thrusts us forward into a new decade


By Billy Eye

“The past is always tense, the future perfect.” – Zadie Smith

With the start of a brand-new year, let’s take a merciless look back at some of our city’s “Memorable (And Farcically Forgettable) Milestones of 2019.”

You Snooze, You News

Maddie, a UNCG co-ed living off-campus, had come to believe over a period of weeks she had bats in her belfry or perhaps a restless spirit haunting her apartment. Shirts and pants were going missing, mysterious handprints began appearing on the bathroom wall, along with a vague rustling sound seemingly nearby, and yet with no one in sight. One Saturday afternoon, with more indistinct commotion accompanied by a stench emanating from her bedroom closet, Maddie cried out in hopeless frustration, “Who’s there?” An answer came, “Oh, my name is Drew!” Throwing open her closet door, to her horror she discovered that 30-year old transient Andrew Swofford had been residing in there, fully attired in the co-ed’s wardrobe right down to the socks and shoes, clutching a book bag filled with unwashed unmentionables. Talk about your tiny houses . . .

The Mr. Congeniality Award Goes To . . .

When Danny Rogers sprang from behind to defeat B.J. Barnes for Guilford County Sheriff, the guy who calls himself B.J. was less than congratulatory, characterizing Rogers’ approach to crime-fighting as something akin to “hug a thug,” as opposed to Barnes’ more straightforward, shoot-from-the-artificial-hip methodology. What followed was a slew of catty internet posts and faux-concern media trolling from the former sheriff. “I’m a little bit concerned about the security of my folks going into this particular thing,” Barnes mock-confessed to WFMY. Asked point-blank if he believed Rogers would make a good Sheriff, “No, I don’t,” the ousted lawman replied. “I wish him luck. But, to be honest with you, I don’t.” Now that Barnes has been elected mayor of Summerfield, maybe he’ll move on other targets.

Today’s Lesson: Save A Nickel A Day, 41 Years Later You’ll Have $750

In June an anonymous Greensboro Public Library patron returned an overdue book, Symbols of Magic Amulets and Talismans, that was due back in 1978. One wonders, before he dispatched that manual on how never to pick up girls, why this mystic-minded delinquent didn’t use the book to cast a spell over librarians before running up a pro-rata fine of over $750.

Gate City Theater Nerds Conquer The Great White Way

Go ahead and call our fair city Greensboring but consider that in March of 2019, UNCG alumnus Deon’te Goodman joined the ensemble cast of Broadway’s hottest ticket, Hamilton. Another UNCG grad, Beth Leavel, was nominated that year for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical for The Prom, her third nomination. Leavel brought home a Tony Award in 2006 for her role as a “strutting, martini-swigging vamp” in The Drowsy Chaperone. Her portrait hangs at Sardi’s, ya’ll.

Meanwhile, Greensboro’s own Isaac Powell landed the role of Tony in the highly anticipated Broadway revival of West Side Story. As a middle-schooler, this dreamy-eyed romantic lead honed his acting chops in Community Theatre of Greensboro productions and years later portrayed Nikos in Barn Dinner Theater’s 2013 production of Legally Blonde.

Little House On The Pavement

Sitting unnoticed for decades, surrounded by the various fast food joints and big-box grocery stores that make up the retail corridor of West Market Street, was a farmhouse dating back to the 1930s, schoolteacher Rosemary Barker’s lifelong home. Her house fronted 4 acres, one of the most beautiful horticultural habitats in the state, with an impressive array of indigenous plant represented. Over time it became Greensboro’s own Grey Gardens where Barker and her sister spent the last couple of decades in a futile attempt to maintain this paradise lost. For the most part unattended, the azaleas and fruit trees continued blooming during the summer between Barker’s passing and the sale of the property in 2018. A lone pine tree from this botanical wonderland is all that remains, towering over the parking lot of our newest Biscuitville.

For Engaging In Public Heavy Petting . . .

Entertainer Jessica Mashburn launched the Guilford County Furr Frames Project in 2019, digital picture frames featuring shelter pets available for adoption, strategically positioned in businesses all around the county like the Carolina Theatre, Smith Street Diner, 1618 Midtown, Sticks & Stones, AMC Cinemas, and Potent Potables in Jamestown. These furry friends seem to enjoy having their pictures snapped in a photo booth that Jessica fashioned out of a portable kennel, complete with green screen backdrop to highlight just how adorable these critters are. By year’s end, thanks to this vivacious vocalist who performs with Evan Olson every Wednesday evening at Print Works Bistro, more than 200 cats and dogs found their forever homes. Furr Frames Project is on Instagram at theshelterpetsofguilfordcounty.

If Only Cordelia Kelly Could Bake Us A Cake . . .

WFMY turned 70 years old last year, which, coincidentally, is about the same age of their core demographic.

I’ll See Your History and Raise You One

In 2018, furniture executive Jason Harris and his wife, Jennifer, paid $2.4 million for Adamsleigh, an exquisite 11-bedroom, 17,000-square-foot, 90-year-old brick Tudor-style mansion, featuring panoramic views of the 12th, 14th and 15th holes of Sedgefield Country Club’s golf course. Besides the two swimming pools, distinctive features included stone fireplaces, a gazebo, plaster-molded ceilings, Ludowici tiled roof, and a sumptuous library adorned in hand-carved wood. Last year, the Harrises had Adamsleigh demolished, hauling away the remains like yesterday’s garbage.

We’re No. 1! (Which Explains A Lot)

Collating evidence from FBI crime statistics, CBS News declared Greensboro the 39th most dangerous city in America (neighboring High Point came in at No. 25). That CBS report didn’t indicate whether it was largely due to Lime Scooter wipeouts, contracting an STD (we’re high up on that list too), or folks tumbling drunkenly out of their vehicles. That last example isn’t so far-fetched, based on over 1 million data points. Greensboro topped QuoteWizard’s list of the “25 Drunkest Driving Cities in America.” And we thought this was before B.J. Barnes reduced crime by 65 percent!

Happiness Is Just A Thing Called Trader Joe’s (or Hey Joe, Where You Goin’ With That Plum In Your Hand?)

When Trader Joe’s at long last descended upon Greensboro, you’d think our alien masters had returned to Earth judging from the crush of humanity pouring through the doors on opening day. Last time Brassfield Shopping Center’s parking lot was this packed was decades ago, in the late ’80s when Fatal Attraction was playing at the Brassfield Cinema Ten and Eye screamed like a stuck pig when they pulled that toddler’s pet bunny out of a boiling pot.

Let Your Fingers Do The Walking Through The Mellow Pages

Citypost digital kiosks popped up around Hamburger Square this fall so that no matter where you are downtown you’re never more than a block or three away from one. Like a smartphone transported from Land of the Giants, these interactive Citizen Engagement Platforms assist visitors in locating events, scheduling public transit, searching for nearby restaurants, nightclubs and businesses, even providing free Wi-Fi while serving as a photo booth. About the only thing these information portals can’t help you find are your car keys.

Where The Wild Things Are / Were / Will Be

Construction got underway in 2019 on Greensboro Science Center’s Revolution Ridge, a major expansion to their wildlife menagerie, home with all the creature comforts for our first Malayan tiger, a male named Jaya. Concurrently, the zoo also added several new breeds of goats and chickens which, if I’m not mistaken, would make a Malayan tiger feel mighty welcome at dinnertime.

On the subject of exotic wildlife, work began last fall restoring the Rhinoceros Club to its former 1990s’ glory, polishing and faithfully refurbishing as many of the original fixtures as can be saved, including those ornately carved hardwood booths and that anachronistically antiquated overhead mechanical fan system. Look for the new Rhino this spring.  OH

My column last month, because of an earth-shattering act of editorial malfeasance, was credited to “writer” Billy Ingram. No one regrets this error more than Eye.

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