Monthly Archives: November 2001

For Insomniacs Only

For Insomniacs Only

Peter Noone (far left), the one-time lead singer for Herman’s Hermits, opens the holiday shopping season at The Galleria on November 23.

Patience may be a Christmas lesson drilled into wide-eyed kids yearning daily for Santa, but for salivating holiday shoppers, it’s merely an old-fashioned term at which they scoff. Christmas bells officially begin ringing at the ungodly hour of 1 a.m. on Friday, November 23, at the Riverchase Galleria. So much for the long winter’s nap. Thanksgiving leftovers won’t even be cold by then.

The only thing remotely old-fashioned about this yuletide shopping spree is the presence of Peter Noone, more famously known as Herman, one-time lead singer for the 1960s hit-makers Herman’s Hermits. With 23 Top 10 hits and 52 million records sold, the band was among the monarchy of the British invasion that included The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Dave Clark Five, and a host of other limeys.

Herman’s Hermits’ classics such as “I’m Into Something Good,” “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter,” and the frivolous “I’m Henry the VIII” glued a generation of teens to AM radio and television shows such as “Hullabaloo” and “Shindig.” Along with their repertoire of irresistibly catchy pop hits, Herman’s Hermits were renowned for being one of the few British acts that sang in a heavy British dialect. “You had to have your own sound back then. You couldn’t sound like The Beatles or The Dave Clark Five. That’s why we did the first English accents on rock ‘n’ roll records,” Noone explains on his website.

Noone was 15 years old when Herman’s Hermits began topping the record charts. The squeaky clean Hermits image that alienated more serious, worldly teenagers was apparently no put-on, according to Noone in a 1999 interview with the Globe Correspondent. An admitted innocent, Noone recalls, “I hung out with the guys that knew what was going on, like The Beatles and The Stones. They were much more fun than the guys in my band.”

Peter Noone’s last show in Birmingham was 10 years ago at the Alabama State Fair, with local players enlisted as Hermits for the evening. Noone was every bit as enthusiastic and endearing as his showbiz persona, though the choirboy image took a couple of blows. Local drummer Leif Bondarenko recalls that Noone personally delivered a case of beer to the band before the show. Don Tinsley played bass that night, and recalls Noone’s penchant for cursing. “A very good-natured cuss word every other word,” Tinsley laughs.

City Hall — Live at the Apollo

City Hall


November 6, 2001 

Live at the Apollo 

The Apollo Entertainment Center on Bessemer Superhighway seeks a special retail license (including alcohol sales) to operate for specified events. Donald Blankenship, representing the Apollo, says that Bessemer Superhighway carries over 100,000 vehicles per day, thereby making it a “major arterial street.” Opposing the license is Robert Beard of the Green Acres Neighborhood Association, who outlines his objections to the Apollo.Beard is an elderly man who has lived 100 yards from property now occupied by the Apollo since 1963. “I was born and reared in West End. Lived there, will die there, and be buried there!” Beard says as Councilor Aldrich Gunn bellows, “Amen!” Beard suggests that the Apollo, which he calls a “whiskey outfit,” might be a parasite on the community. “We used to have an all-white community, and now it’s practically all-black except for the few of us that are still there. And we have good neighbors,” Beard says. In an apparent attempt to make clear that his grievance against the Apollo is not racially motivated, Beard adds that he wishes that “some [less desirable] white folks” in the area would move out and some “good black ones would move in!” Beard continues: “Who is the Apollo going to entertain? That’s a community group down there and we don’t particularly go in there to be entertained the way they want to entertain!”

Defending the facility’s location on a “major arterial artery,” Apollo attorney Donald Blankenship explains that the venue will attract private parties, receptions, and small concerts. Blankenship emphatically tells the council that they have no public safety reason to deny the request, “I think all the fears that have been placed before you are unfounded. And whether the folks there are black or white or good or bad [laughs], the fact remains that there is no public safety reason to deny this application.”

“If a state store can be there, anything can be there!” thunders Councilor Leroy Bandy who points out that the grocery store that used to occupy the Apollo space sold beer and wine. Admitting that he generally defers to the neighborhood, Councilor Lee Loder remains opposed to the Apollo due to his commitment to allow only businesses that enhance neighborhoods. “That will be the only way we can put our neighborhoods back to the condition that the community wants us to be,” he explains, referencing past problems at the Apollo under different ownership. Council President Bell says that Loder’s logic of siding with neighborhoods would have kept out a nearby YMCA opposed by some area residents. Bell lauds the entertainment facility as well run and properly maintained, with good security. Councilor Jimmy Blake urges Loder to remember that he has taken an oath as councilor to follow the law and not bow to neighborhood associations. Blake says that no danger to public health, safety, or morality is evident in the case of the Apollo, and condemns the neighborhood for opposition to every liquor store and dance facility in the area. Noting that empty buildings attract blight, Blake explains, “Business drives out crime. More accurately put, crime drives out business.” Loder thanks Blake for his comments, but responds that he’s seen the council “do whatever it wants to do whenever it wants to do it,” regardless of the law. Loder promises to be consistent and challenge laws that are not beneficial to neighborhoods. The Apollo license is approved.

Council passes the buck on Serra Chevrolet proposal

Annexation of Serra Chevrolet property by the city prompts councilor Sandra Little to express relief that she will no longer be on the hot seat. Serra will lease the property for 10 years, with an agreement to repurchase the property after that time. Today’s resolution is not a binding agreement, but serves as a good-faith support for Serra from the council. The purchase includes undeveloped parcels, which will eventually have retail operations. Councilor Don MacDermott is concerned about neighborhood preservation, especially reductions in property values. MacDermott wants assurance that the property will be developed, or that it does not languish until the city tries to “pawn it off and can’t get rid of it a few years from now.”

“Mr. MacDermott, we won’t have to be blamed anymore. Thank God for that one. Hallelujah!” laughs Councilor Sandra Little. Little says she hopes the issue will be delayed until the new council comes in. Councilor Blake continues to criticize what he defines as government favoring one business entity over another. Highly critical of “giving dirt away” to attract business, Blake complains, “One municipality is at war with another as to who can offer the biggest bribe to private business.” Blake says the Mayor should not be blamed when business leaves for a better deal. Rather, the blame should be directed at the federal and state level for allowing such practices, which he calls “fascism.”

Noting that the city must be competitive when surrounding municipalities are trying to lure away businesses, Mayor Kincaid argues the economic benefit to Birmingham. “Until the laws are changed, it’s the American way,” says Kincaid as he stresses that the deal does not ask for tax abatement. The city stands to reap an $8.5 million to $11 million profit. Councilor Little says the issue should be in the hands of the incoming council, and the council votes to delay the issue for three weeks, at which time the new council will be sworn in.


November 13, 2001Worm in the apple Blake


Councilor Blake grumbles that the city has no business acting on a 20-year $2 million HUD Section 108 loan to Heavy Metal Birmingham LLC (interest rate to be determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development). “We are putting the council and the city in the business of being banks. I don’t think that’s the proper function of government,” says Blake, adding, “We’re playing with other people’s money, and frankly, we’re not qualified to do it.” Blake is the only councilor to oppose the measure.Blake opposes other loans on today’s agenda for the same reason, stressing the unfairness that “regular folk” and small businesses “don’t have the clout to pull off these kind of operations.” The councilor presses for change. “We ought to be going to the Alabama legislature and saying we need to make it against the law for a governmental entity to use tax dollars to lure a business from one Alabama location to another Alabama location. It’s common sense,” urges Blake, condemning government for pretending to be investment bankers. “I’m going to vote ‘no’ on every special interest deal.”

Mayor Kincaid responds that businesses receiving HUD loans must meet certain standards. Kincaid emphasizes that the money has specific designations, and admonishes Blake for suggesting that the federal funds be used for infrastructure. The Mayor says that it’s not fair for Blake to insinuate that the city is not acting within the law regarding the HUD loan expenditure. Blake again is the lone dissenting councilor. &

Sticky Fingers

Sticky Fingers


Krispy Kreme doughnuts must be indulged with caution. The irresistible urge to lick one’s fingers after fumbling through a box while driving makes them more dangerous than cell phones. But for a couple of generations of Southerners, Krispy Kreme doughnuts have been indispensable staples of hearty breakfasts, after-school treats for car-pooled kids, or late-night gratification for bar-hoppers. Yet once the fabled doughnuts began migrating north to Wall Street, Krispy Kreme assumed a new aura, transformed into a national delicacy as Yankees first gawked, then giddily embraced cravings for fried shortening, flour, and sugar. Metaphors poured forth like sparkling waterfalls of sugary glaze as stockbrokers, jet-setters, and glamorous patrons of the arts compared the doughnut’s craftsmanship to manicured stock portfolios and Stradivarius violins. Krispy Kreme’s praises have been sung in publications as diverse as Elle, Forbes, and The New Yorker.

Krispy Kreme doughnuts were either invented or discovered in 1933, depending on how one interprets history. That year, Krispy Kreme founder Vernon Rudolph bought a Paducah, Kentucky, doughnut shop and a secret yeast-raised doughnut recipe from a New Orleans chef. The shop eventually relocated to Nashville in search of a larger market, where it was primarily a supplier for grocery stores. In 1937, Rudolph moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The alluring aroma of hot, fresh doughnuts drew locals to Rudolph’s doughnut emporium; endless requests for a dozen, which sold for 25 cents, convinced him to open the first sit-down Krispy Kreme doughnut shop.

Vince McAleer, owner of the Birmingham franchise, which includes stores in East Lake, Midfield, and now Hoover, started working at Krispy Kreme in Birmingham in 1975 at age 14, following in the footsteps of his father and uncle, who went to work for the company in 1953. There was no automated, mass production in those days. A cookie-cutter stamped out the circles of dough, which were tossed into frying kettles where they were flipped with chop sticks. McAleer brags that his father could put seven doughnuts on his thumb while operating two hand-fryers with a co-worker, turning out 400 dozen an hour. “It took 13 big-haired ladies to box them up,” McAleer laughs. “Hot glazed is number one, chocolate glazed is number two, the chocolate creme-filled is number three, and the creme-filled is number four. Ninety percent of our sales are those four items. But if you go up North, some of the stores sell more cake doughnuts than they do yeast doughnuts. I think we make the perfect glazed doughnut.”

In less than two minutes, Krispy Kreme’s national stores can make enough doughnuts to stack as high as the Empire State Building. In one year, the company produces enough doughnuts to encircle the Earth twice. And the recent induction of Krispy Kreme’s 60-year history into the Smithsonian officially anoints the doughnut as American as credit card debt and apple pie.

Kid’s Day at the new Hoover Krispy Kreme (1990 New Patton Chapel Road at Highway 31) will be Saturday, November 10, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Brave New World

By Ed Reynolds

Hailed by local political observers as the greatest revolution in Birmingham politics since Bull Connor and his oppressive pals were chased out of City Hall 38 years ago, voters finished the job they started October 9 by eliminating almost every incumbent from the City Council during the October 30 runoff election. Only Councilor Lee Loder, an easy victor in the general election, was unaffected. A happy Mayor Bernard Kincaid bragged more than once during runoff night that he had been seeking a “council that would work with me.” Kincaid has been preaching public revolt for two years, ever since the council assumed many of the Mayor’s powers in order to bolster its control over city government.

Like most revolutions, it all started at the top. Elias Hendricks defeated Council President William Bell in a District Five landslide, lauding the “quality and caliber” of campaign workers that secured his victory. “My people were dedicated. They cared about what we were doing, and they also could articulate how I felt about certain issues because they took the time to listen,” Hendricks gushed. He defined his campaign as “the way politics really should be. It doesn’t have to be cutthroat, it does not have to be name-calling. It can be issue-driven. It can be conducted like ladies and gentlemen.”

When asked if he anticipated any butting of heads with Mayor Kincaid, Hendricks replied, “I hope we’re all dancing to the same page. I’m hoping that all the butting heads can happen in pre-council when people can explain their position and we can all come out with a goal that is for the greater good of the city.”

As expected, Hendricks side-stepped queries on his interest in replacing Bell as council president. “I think it’s a little premature for that. I think that what we should be concerned about is not necessarily who’s the head of it, but who’s going to be over Street and Sanitation, who’s going to be over the parks. That’s the work that has to be done. Who ends up being the person that conducts the meeting is kind of showboating,” he explained. “How do we work through those kind of things as a council, the real meat and potatoes of government. Who gets to be in Hollywood every Tuesday night [laughs] is not as important as who gets the real work done.”

At Jake’s Pit Bar-B-Q, where Carol Reynolds celebrated her lopsided runoff victory over District Two incumbent Bill Johnson, homemade paper signs touted reynolds’ attributes: “Honor,” “Integrity,” “Very Smart,” and “Trustworthy.” “We went out there with a vision about Birmingham: Returning accountability to government,” said Reynolds. “We talked it the whole time, and we never strayed off of it. We committed to a vision to rebuild Birmingham, to restore pride. We stuck to it. We never did any negative campaigning. We’re very excited.” Reynolds laughed as she admitted her main concern, now that the runoff results were in, was that the Yankees win the World Series.

Responding to a question about her interest in being council president, Reynolds explained, “We’re going to have four female councilors. Women look at things differently than men do. We want the basic services and the basic dignity returned to Birmingham. I’m not jockeying for any position. We just have to see when we all sit down and start talking about who needs to be where. At that time we’ll make the decision. I want the very best person, male or female, as council president. We have an all new council. This truly is the beginning of the millennium. It truly is.”

A funeral pall loomed over the headquarters of ousted Council President William Bell. A subdued, defeated Bell searched for a silver lining as he admitted that he could relax now that the council runoff was over. “I’ll get a chance to sleep a little bit later,” he said with resignation. Standing next to a pair of “Vote William Bell” vans plastered with signs that offered free rides to the polls, Bell recalled the lesson learned after 22 years in office: “The human spirit will always rise. I really believe that.” When asked if former mayor Richard Arrington’s failure to include him in a list of Jefferson County Citizens Coalition incumbents that Arrington wanted to see re-elected had prompted his defeat, Bell replied, “I don’t speculate on what helps or what hurt. This is fate, this is God’s will. We gave it our all, but the people of Birmingham decided something different, and I’m at peace with that.”

Apparently, Bell was not the only councilor God wanted removed from office. Councilor Sandra Little told local television newscameras, “Some things are gonna happen now, and God don’t [sic] want me to be a part of that.” Little went on to explain that serving her constituents “is like a ministry, and you’re always more concerned about other people than yourself. So now I don’t have to have the weight of the city on my shoulders.”

Bert Miller, who defeated Little in the District Seven bid, flashed across television screens later that evening with some subtle but funky dance moves as he entered his campaign headquarters on runoff night. When asked by Channel 33/40 News reporter Kevyn Stewart if there is any credibility to Sandra Little’s claims that Mayor Kincaid is hard to work with, Miller adamantly declined to respond. “I don’t even wanna discuss that. That’s her thing. That campaign is over!” Miller promised that there’s “a new Birmingham coming up in November.”

At Gwen Sykes’ Boutwell Auditorium headquarters, supporters surrounded her as they lined up to dance in unison, pausing long enough to allow Sykes to lead them as they simultaneously turned their backwards campaign caps to the front, chanting, “Since we have straightened it out, then we’ll turn our hats around!” Sykes promised Channel 33/40′s Pam Huff that there will be no more bickering between the Mayor and City Council.

District Nine councilor-elect Roderick Royal told Fox 6 News reporter Cynthia Gould that everything in his district needs to be addressed. “The district is in such a mess that anywhere is a good place to start.” District One’s Joel Montgomery minced few words expressing what is owed the people of Birmingham. “The people deserve to have a city council that people don’t laugh at — and that people don’t consider a circus act,” Montgomery told Fox 6 News. “We’re gonna do the taxpayers’ business and we’re gonna do it in a respectful manner.”

Inside Councilor Aldrich Gunn’s East Lake headquarters, the hum of a tiny space heater interrupted the silence while the defeated councilor, standing near a painting of Christ, reflected on his future after 12 years of council service. “I got a little bitty Aldrich Gunn that high (gesturing two feet off the floor). And to be as old as I am and to have a little grandson like that, two years old, named Aldrich — cause I never thought I would have someone to carry my name on . . .” Gunn still believes that the weakened Jefferson County Citizens Coalition that voted him into office in three council elections is a viable entity. “I think it’s wise to have a coalition,” he noted as he elaborated on the importance of political alignment. “Playing ping-pong or yo-yo are the only things you can play by yourself.”

When told that his malapropisms had added an irresistible charm to council meetings, Gunn recited a poem, as he frequently did during sessions. “‘A wise old owl lives in the oak. The more he saw, the less he spoke. The less he spoke, the more he heard. Why can’t you be like that wise old bird?’ Now that applies to me,” smiled Gunn. “I can say that. That’s called colloquialism. People talk about me splitting a verb. You do that for psyche things. You say something and they say, ‘Oh, he split a verb,’ or you say ‘peoples.’ Put an ‘s’ on ‘people’ and they get all excited, but you be done got what you want back there, and they be focusing on that!” laughed Gunn. “Just to be able to serve on that council means a lot to me.” When asked to comment on possible reasons for defeat, Gunn sighed, “I still believe if I had my old district, I would have prevailed. That just cut me down, the way they drew the lines. But I have no complaint. I’m content.”

Former mayor Richard Arrington sat down with Fox 6 News anchor Scott Richards in the days after the runoff election to offer opinions about the three main figures on the Birmingham political scene for the past two years. Admitting that he and William Bell fought out of the public eye over the years, Arrington said it was Bell’s idea to take over as interim mayor four months before Arrington’s 20-year tenure ended. “I felt I owed it to him,” the former mayor said of his agreement to step down early so that Bell could run against Kincaid as a semi-incumbent mayor. “Quite frankly, the corporate community was really pressuring me. And while they weren’t all that excited about William, I couldn’t give them anybody better than William that I thought could be elected. I still don’t know today how he lost that race. I have never been able to forgive him for losing that race to Bernard Kincaid,” Arrington laughed.

Arrington said that Kincaid was “a disciple of mine” when Arrington was a dean at Miles College. Arrington said he invited Kincaid to work on his team, but Kincaid felt that some members of Arrington’s organization were “incompetent,” even to the extent of “not liking the way they express themselves.” The former mayor called Kincaid a “bright guy, but he’s a nitpicker.”

Finally, Arrington offered an assessment of Councilor Jimmy Blake, who kept a promise eight years ago not to seek his council seat after two terms. “I consider Jimmy to be the most controversial, most dishonest individual I ever met. Jimmy brought a style of politics to City Hall that nobody was accustomed to,” said Arrington. “My perception of Jimmy Blake is a politician who’s a demagogue, who is very, very bright. He’s very good at handling people and winning them over, and Jimmy is always there. I grew old being very proud of the fact that I never met a person that I didn’t like, and then I met Jimmy Blake.” &