PRINCESS THEATRE - Raising the Curtain: June 2009

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Like I said in the previous post, Muse Watson was in town this week to support and promote the work being done to make the Princess Theater a center piece for a regional arts education and entertainment and communications center. The fulfillment of this dream by Gary Baker, Muse Watson, Chris Mason, and many local leaders and educators will also revitalize Downtown Harriman, Roane, and surrounding counties.

Several film clips promoting this dream were shot in front of the Princess Theater Friday afternoon, necessitating shutting down west bound traffic on Roane Street for several minutes. The people driving slowly by were treated to glimpses of Muse and Bill Landry standing in the middle of the street talking loudly to Doug Mills’ camera! Doug is famous in his own right, having filmed most of “The Heartlandepisodes with Bill.

You’ll be able to see the spots soon, but from what I overheard; Muse and Bill were both very excited about the future of the Princess and the local area. When people with this kind of clout and determination get involved in a project it usually happens! All that remains is gaining the support of the local population – you! You can help by attending events produced by Princess Productions and by letting your local, state, and federal law makers know you believe in and support the Princess project.

Later Friday evening more promos were shot on the Roane Theater stage before the crowd was allowed into the auditorium at 7. Roane County Executive Mike Farmer and Harriman Mayor Chris Mason joined Muse and Bill on stage. Mike Farmer said he may be from Kingston, but the success of the Princess project, and the revitalization of Downtown Harriman, will be good from the entire county. He and Chris urged everyone, every citizen, to get involved now!

As Muse often says, “WE…can do this!

Chris Mason added, “I want to ‘one up’ Muse and say WE WILL do this! He further added, “You can support Harriman and Roane County by attending all the events each city puts on, like 'Cruisin’ in Harriman', 'Hooray for Harriman', the 'Farmers Market', now on Wednesdays and Saturdays at Riverfront Park, and other such activities.”

Prior to the main event, the audience saw the trailer for the upcoming “Appalachian DreamsDVD, which Brooks had just finished an hour before arriving. This DVD will soon be available, and I will let you know HERE when and where you can obtain a copy. If you attended the show, you’ll one a copy to show friends and family what they missed. If you didn’t attend…it’s obvious that you need a personal copy too! Muse, who was unable to attend, was amazed at the talent that was assembled on the stage at Roane State for that show.

Finally, Muse introduced Brooks Benjamin to the audience. Brooks explained the reason behind the movie he had just finished editing, the version shown was finished just a couple of hours before the showing. The crowd was treated to a viewing, at the cost of a mere $5, of the latest “cut”. No one else has ever seen this version,” he explained.

During the movie there were many moments of laughter, and at the conclusion, there was a rousing hand of applause, and again after the hilarious outtakes!

After the movie, Muse Watson opened up a Q & A Session, and questions flowed from the audience, and each attending member (Casey Payne, Allison Varnes (pictured at right), Linds Edwards, and Joe Wright that arranged the music) of the film took turns answering their questions.

After the event, several people, including Muse and Brooks, celebrated with a late supper at Los Premios in Harriman. To me, that was the best part of the evening…great fellowship!

Friday, June 26, 2009


Muse Watson is in town to promote Brooks Benjamin’s “Boys of Summerville”, that will be shown tonight (Friday June 26) at the Roane State Theater, beginning at 7 PM. He is also here to do promos for Harriman, Roane County, and the Princess Project with Chris Mason and Bill Landry.

Wednesday evening, at the Roane County farm he calls his “hideout”, Muse served up an old fashioned wiener and marshmallow roast! It was a hoot, and all about family and fellowship! Several area friends were on hand to welcome Muse home and to just sit and listen to his “Hollywood” stories – most I wouldn’t dare repeat! I could have stayed all night, but the family only had enough tents for themselves.

That’s right; Muse, wife Nancy, and daughter Sophie camped out under the stars over Roane County. They love the area and the outdoors. As a matter of fact, a hike down around Clifty Creek was scheduled for early Thursday morning. I was invited, but I’m too big a coward…I’ve seen the snakes down in that area this time of year!

Anyway, it was great finally meeting Muse face-to-face. We’ve spoken on the phone and numerous times via email, but this was our first personal meeting. I was impressed with Muse. He’s just a great down-to-earth county boy who is very engaging and interesting.

Wearing his cowboy hat and boots, he immediately began building a fire in the middle of a ring of bricks he had previously arranged. As soon as he saw me with the camera he displayed that big friendly smile of his. It’s the same smile he gets when he looks Nancy and Sophie’s direction. He’s very proud of his family.

I didn’t want to become the paparazzi, so I kept a low profile with the camera and shot using the available lighting. One shot was of him just as the setting sun broke through the trees and lit up his face beneath the brim of his hat. I think it captured all the character that Hollywood sees in his rugged face.

I just wanted you to see my new friend in the place that relaxes him the most – right here in Roane County.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Last Saturday was my first visit to a “Cruisin’ in Harriman” classic car show, but it won’t be my last! I was thoroughly impressed by the number and quality of cars attending the meet. They were lined up on both sides of Roane Street from the Harriman Utility Building all the way down to the old Miller & Brewer Building. The street was alive with local people looking at the old classic and hotrod cars. I took over 75 photos and still didn’t capture them all. CLICK HERE to see my car shots!

I was also impressed by the sound quality of the music coming out of the speakers all up and down Roane Street. It was perfect and I even got a photo of the sound system that makes it all possible. It’s state of the art equipment, and you have no trouble hearing or understanding what’s being played. Makes you want to dance!

The car shows are held the 2nd Saturday in each month during the summer…come on down! They usually begin around 3:30 and all the cars “cruise” out of town around 6:30.

I saw some old friends and met lots of nice people…people like Katie Barnett, this year’s “Miss Polk Salad”! I asked David Webb why it’s spelled “polk” and he pointed out Elvis spelled it that way (actually it was Tony Joe White who wrote the song) in “Polk Salad Annie”! I had long wondered, and now I know!

Gary Baker, one of the original “Hooray for Harriman” organizers, was kind enough to drive me around in a golf cart. “Cruisin’” actually spun off of the “Hooray” Labor Day celebrations, and gets bigger with each show.

Gary also took the time to show me inside the building that will become the radio and TV studios next door to the Princess Theater. This building, to the left of the theater, and the building to the right will become part of the “complex” of entertainment and communications once the “dream” comes alive. The building on the right will be the teleconferencing center. The main theater will be reserved for stage shows, parties, and other local events.

Anyway, I just wanted you to see some of the volunteers that make the downtown events happen, see some of the cars, and let you know that the Princess dream is alive and well.

See you soon…hopefully at Brooks Benjamin’s premiere at the Roane State Theater Friday the 26th! Get your tickets now…they’re only $5!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Princess Productions, specifically Gary Baker, Doug Mills, and yours truly, began filming another round of personal interviews of notable people in Roane County this afternoon. After almost 4 hours of shooting, we had 4 interviews in “the can”, or in today’s terminology on “memory packs”!

When filming begins, you can start looking forward to the next Princess Productions stage show at Roane State. However, it will be sometime yet before the next one, but we began today to start documenting interesting and informative content for the future production.

Today’s interviews were with James W. (Dub) Harmon, Dr. Julian Ahler, David Webb, and Lewis Spivey. The time flew by for me, because I was completely wrapped up in the history spewing forth from their memories! It would have been a shame not to document the experiences these gentlemen have had, even if there was never to be another show. It should be a lesson to all us to start talking to our parents and grandparents about their memories, before it’s too late.

Not surprisingly, many of the stories overlapped and became a seamless history of the many theaters that were once on Roane Street in Harriman. From their earliest memories to their thoughts on the future, each told their stories as if they happened yesterday, and they spoke positively about Harriman’s future. However, each warned that we (citizens of Harriman and Roane County) need to act now!

Dr. Ahler reflected on the beginnings of Harriman Hospital, all the doctors that mentored him, and how medical practice in Roane County has changed over the years. Many of the doctors I had not thought of in years like, Hooper, Cunningham, Kellifer, and Bowman. All were instrumental in making the hospital what it is today. Doctor Ahler and all the past doctors chose to live in Harriman and Roane because they, like us, loved it here.

I want so much to tell you about everything that I heard tonight, but that would spoil the next show for you. You’ll just have to wait!

Let me remind you of the upcoming “Boys of Summerville”. Brooks Benjamin will be showing his movie, shot in Roane County, at the Roane State Theater at 7PM on Friday, June 26th. I personally saw the tickets this afternoon, so they should be at the Rocky Top General Store and the Harriman Jewelry Exchange sometime tomorrow or Friday. You might call ahead to be sure.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Here’s a little personal note from me, the blog master…My wife dragged me to Atlanta this past Sunday to see the “Jersey Boys” and I am sure glad she did.

The show was fantastic…I loved it, although I hated to admit to Judy! We were in the third row, just behind the “pit” area. Great seats (thanks Bill!)!

Anyway, my sister-in-law, Terri Sudderth, was with us and she accompanied me on a tour of the grand Fox Theatre, with our good friend Bill Foreman, who had promised us a look behind the scenes.

Bill has worked there as an usher for years and still helps out on occasion in other capacities. On the rounds, we happened to run into Len Tucker, Director of Operations, of Atlanta’s Fox Theatre. Bill introduced us and Len took us even further behind the scenes and into the main offices, the Grand Salon banquet room, the kitchen, and the famous Egyptian Ballroom. It was a very exciting tour and I was thrilled, to say the least.

Terri is a very talkative lady, just like her sister…my wife! She wanted Les to know that I was working with a group attempting to restore the Princess and how much I was appreciating the privileged “back stage” tour. His ears literally perked up!

It turns out the Fox Theatre helps theaters all around the country (around 150) and they are more than happy to share their knowledge. They even assisted the Tennessee Theater project with "lessons learned" on HVAC issues.

Long story short, Len, a very nice gentleman, wanted us to contact him…Gary did just that today. Len passed Gary’s number on to the Fox department that works on restoration projects…this can only be good for us! Len wants to come see the Princess as she is today, so he can watch her come alive!

It seems destiny has again smiled on the Princess…a pleasure trip turned out to be a “networking connection” that just may help an ol’ Princess learn from a wise ol’ Fox! Fingers crossed everyone!

So, sit back now and CLICK HERE, and take a tour of the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. I had a ball taking the shots, and only wish I could have used my DSLR and flash for some of them. However, the pocket Nikon did a pretty fair job.

I’d like to give my thanks to Bill, Terri, and Len for a very informative and productive trip. Oh yes, thanks dear for “making” me go!

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