Posts Tagged ‘Opryland Hotel’

I’m Ready To Move!

I can’t believe that I’ve already been back to work four days now from our mini-vacation.

Last Wednesday after I got off work, we headed south.  Ray and I were going to spend a few days at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, and my sister, Tammy, rode along with us to spend three days with her two kids and her two granddaughters, just northwest of Nashville.

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Driving down, the weather was incredible with mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the low-to-mid-70s.

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Our first stop for the night was in Grand Rivers, Kentucky, to eat at my favorite restaurant, Patti’s 1880s, which was lit up with a million lights.

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We started off with Patti’s whole milk mozzarella cheese sticks dipped in a dark beer batter and deep-fried and the flowering colossal onion.

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I had “Ella Mae’s Chicken”, which is a grilled chicken breast topped with slices of black forest ham with sautéed mushroom and freshly grilled asparagus and smothered in a homemade cheese sauce!

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And, for dessert, we had Bill’s Boatsinker pie (a rich, dark double fudge pie topped with coffee ice cream, piled high with whipped cream, “drizzled” with chocolate syrup and topped with a cherry) and a piece of coconut cake.

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The food at Patti’s 1880s is so delicious.  And, I got to see my old college roommate, Perry, who is the executive chef there.  I last saw him in 1986!

On Thursday, we visited the “Reba:  All The Women I Am” exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame, which featured career mementos including awards, records, rodeo clothing, and many of Reba’s most famous outfits, including several red “Fancy” dresses.

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We also saw the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes, but pictures weren’t allowed.  That’s a bummer because the sets and the costumes were incredible.

On Friday, we visited the most incredible display, “ICE!” featuring “Frosty The Snowman”.  Everyone’s favorite snowman comes alive with hand-sculpted characters from the television classic made from more than two million pounds of ice created by 40 ice artists from China this fall.

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This exhibit took me back to my childhood and I really felt like I was on the refrigerated boxcar with Frosty since the temperature inside the exhibit was 8°!

Ray and I also went down the ice slide!

 

Friday night, we spent the evening at “Lorrie Morgan’s Enchanted Christmas Dinner & Show”.

While she performed mainly Christmas standards and hits from her 1993 album, “Merry Christmas From London”, she opened the show with her country hits “Something in Red”, Except For Monday” (my favorite Lorrie song), and “Watch Me”.

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Lorrie looked flawless and her voice was so crystal clear.  I can’t wait to see her again and I may get my chance in the summer.  I’ve read that she and Pam Tillis will be playing two nights in Clinton, Iowa, next June.

 

On Saturday, we had a lunch cruise aboard the General Jackson Showboat on the Cumberland River.  Our lunch was turkey and all the traditional Thanksgiving fixings and since I didn’t get enough last month, it was perfect.

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The entertainment on the cruise was comedian/singer Steve Hall and the Shotgun Red Band.  Steve was hilarious and his female vocalist, Jennifer Bruce was fantastic.

Steve was even funny when they walked through the crowds shaking hands after the show.  He shook my hand, looked at my shirt and said, “they can make anything out of a shower curtain!” 🙂

This is the shirt and yes, we fell for the photography sales trap of buying tourist pictures.  In retrospective, I wish we had done the same for the Lorrie Morgan show.

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Saturday night, we attended the historic Grand Ole Opry show at the Ryman.

Country legends Bill Anderson, Connie Smith, and Jean Shepard hosted and performed with up and comers Greg Bates and Sunny Sweeney.

Pictured below are Chris Carmack (“Will Lexington” on the ABC show, “Nashville”), Kathy Mattea, and Vince Gill  and his wife, Amy Grant, and their daughter.

 

It was fun to finally experience the Opry, which supplied the music that I grew up on in Kentucky.

 

The scariest moment of the show was when 80-year-old country legend Jean Shepard fell backwards off a stool and almost hit her head on the piano.  However, she was a true sport and entertainer.  She sat on stage and finished hosting her 30-minute segment of the Opry, performed another song, and even cracked jokes about her misfortune.

I admit that I did feel a little uncomfortable a couple of times during the show and it got me to thinking about something that irks me about the Opry.  However, since this is a fun-filled blog, I’ll explain it in details in tomorrow’s “Random Friday Thoughts”.

During our stay in Nashville, we spent a lot of time walking around the beautiful Opryland Hotel, took many pictures, and enjoyed some nice bubbly!

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And, I did meet one celebrity while in Nashville and, sadly, it wasn’t Lorrie Morgan.

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On our next visit, we plan on visiting the Loveless Cafe for a meal. But, our favorite culinary treat on this trip was the first night in Nashville at Solario, a Mexican buffet, located in the Opryland Hotel.

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The two cheesecakes on the plate were mojito (left) and strawberry margarita.  The second set of desserts were individual pecan pie, key lime pie shooters, and goat cheese cheesecake.  And, of course, a strawberry margarita.

So, needless to say, I loved this trip and I’ve always wanted to move to Nashville.  Could that be where we retire in a few years?

Anthony

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Random Friday Thoughts — December 6, 2013

Happy Friday everyone.  I hope you’re having a great week and that you’re looking forward to the weekend.  Here are my random Friday thoughts.

GREETINGS FROM “MUSIC CITY USA”!

When we left the Quad Cities Wednesday, it was 47° and we drove seven hours to Grand Rivers, Kentucky, to check out the Christmas lights and have dinner at my favorite restaurant, Patti’s 1880’s and the temperature there was 72°.

Lights at Patti'sAnthony's Dinner

That’s my dinner.  It’s called “Ella Mae’s Chicken”:  freshly grilled asparagus over grilled chicken breast topped with black forest ham and sautéed mushrooms covered in homemade cheese sauce.  This was after appetizers of homemade cheese sticks and a blossoming onion and before we ate dessert!

On Thursday, we drove the final two hours to Nashville, Tennessee, dropping my sister off in Clarksville, about an hour northwest of Nashville, so she could spend the weekend with her kids and two granddaughters.

REBA EXHIBIT

Our first stop in Nashville before checking into the Opryland Hotel was a visit to the Reba McEntire exhibit, “All The Women I Am”, at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

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These are various “Fancy” performance dresses.

Reba Fancy Dresses

IT LOOKS LIKE CHRISTMAS AT OUR HOTEL

Opryland Hotel

THE ROCKETTES’

Last night, we saw the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes”.  The sets were incredible and the dancing was festive and fun.  Sadly, no pictures were allowed!

REST OF THE WEEKEND PLANS

Tonight, in a major ice storm, we’ll see “Lorrie Morgan’s Enchanted Christmas & Dinner Show”.  Tomorrow, it’s a lunch cruise on the Cumberland River on the General Jackson and tomorrow night, Opry at the Ryman, with Vince Gill, Kathy Mattea, Chris Carmack (who plays Will Lexington on ABC’s “Nashville”) and many others.

Chris Carmack

SINGER BECOMES BIG TIME SONG WRITER

Shane McAnally

25-year-old Texan Shane McAnally was signed to Curb Records and released his first single, “Say Anything” in 1999, which peaked at #41.  The follow-up single, “Are Your Eyes Still Blue” was his only Top 40 country hit, peaking at #31.

I loved both of those songs and I was probably one of the few people who took a chance on the newcomer and bought his debut and only album. After that, Shane dropped off the radar and moved to West Hollywood, California, and started bartending and performing as “Shane Mack”.

Shane Mack

In California, Shane was able to be openly gay.  Since he started living his life openly, he married his partner of six years, Michael Baum, in September 2012, and the couple welcomed a daughter and a son in December of last year.

I was pleasantly surprised this fall to see “Entertainment Weekly” give Shane the much overdue recognition that he deserves.

Shane returned to Nashville in a big way in 2008 as a co-writer of LeAnn Womack’s Top 15 hit, “Last Call”.  Since then, he has written #1 songs for Kenny Chesney, Jake Owens, The Band Perry, Lady Antebellum, and Miranda Lambert.  He also penned three songs for Reba McEntire’s 2010 album, “All The Women I Am” album.

Music Review Kacey Musgraves

And, this year, he co-produced my favorite country album 0f 2013, the #1 “Same Trailer Different Park” by Kacey Musgraves.

Shane, I wish you, Michael, and your children much happiness in 2014 and here’s to continued success in country music.  I hope to hear more of your singing in the future, too.

MEANWHILE, NOT SO GOOD TENNESSEE NEWS

While we’re having a good time in Nashville, a recent report from “24/7 Wall Street” doesn’t paint a rosy picture of Tennessee, ranking it as “the most dangerous state” in the United States.

It’s followed by Nevada, Alaska, New Mexico, South Carolina, Delaware, Louisiana, Florida, Maryland, and Oklahoma!

Tennessee Violent Crimes

The site ranks Tennessee #1 for aggravated assaults and in the top ten for murders and robbery.  In 2012, there were 388 murders, which is up for the second straight year.

Across the nation, Memphis ranks fifth and Nashville is at #18 for violent crimes.

Take this ranking and the information from “24/7 Wall Street” with a grain of salt, since the “Crime in Chicago” website reported 537 murders in the “Windy City” in 2012.  (As of December 1st, the site reports there have been 422 murders in Chicago in 2013.)

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

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ICE STORM SOUTH, SNOW IN THE QUAD CITIES

Two rounds of ice will be heavily glazing the Nashville, Tennessee, area tonight and, again, Saturday night.  It’s going to get scary down here.  Meanwhile, on Sunday, several inches of snow are expected in the Quad Cities.  It looks like, at least, two inches are likely.

I’ll have more on this tomorrow to keep you ahead of the snow in Illinois and Iowa.

FRESH VENDING MACHINE SALAD

I know it’s easy to grab fast food or something out a vending machine when you’re working and eat it at your desk.  However, if you had the option, would you choose a fresh salad from a vending machine for a healthy alternative?

That is the option for people living or working near the Loop in Chicago near Clark and Lake.

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Farmer’s Fridge has installed its first vending machine salad, fruits, and vegetables prepared fresh daily and packaged in recyclable plastic jar.

The $8 salads are available at 10 a.m. and come in seven varieties including North Napa, Mediterranean, Crunchy Thai, The Cheater, and three other flavors.  The dressings include lemon tahini, spicy soy peanut, red wine vinaigrette, and four other flavors.

ISRAELIS TAKE A STAND AGAINST RUSSIA

As you know from reading my blog, I’ve been very outspoken against Russia’s homophobic laws and the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which are two months away.  There’s now a new Israeli campaign speaking out about the bloodshed and violence against the LGBT community in Russia.

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“Red Flag”, similar to the American NOH8 campaign, was started by David and Jonathan, the publisher of the international lifestyle magazine, “F.O.D.”, for the Tel-Aviv gay man community.

Actors, singers, activists, drag queens, and the LGBT community were encouraged to take part in the photo shoot wearing Russian army uniforms with blood coming out of their mouths to bring attention to the violence brought against Russian and Ukrainian LGBT people.

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Organizers say, “Russia 2013 is a death trap for the LGBT community. This discriminating law is backed up with aggressive enforcement by the army and the police. Arresting activists in the LGBT community or any person suspected of being involved in “propaganda” has become a normal routine. This law refers to tourists from out-of-state and even athletes participating in the winter Olympics.”

PICK HIT

Earlier in the blog, I profiled Shane McAnally and mentioned that he co-produced Kacey Musgraves’ debut album.

He also co-wrote nine of the album’s twelve songs, including the first three singles:  “Merry Go Round” (#14), “Blowin’ Smoke” (#31 peak), and her current single, “Follow Your Arrow”,which is at #28.

“Follow Your Arrow” is witty and poignant.  Here’s a sample of the lyrics:  “You’re damned if you do/and you’re damned if you don’t/so you might as well do whatever you want, so make lots of noise/kiss lots of boys/kiss lots of girls/if that’s something you’re into”

Cheers, Kacey & Shane!

DALLAS BUYER’S CLUB

“And, the Academy Award for Best Actor Matthew McConaughey for “Dallas Buyers Club”.

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The movie is based on a true story.  Ron Woodruff was a homophobic, hard-living, good ol’ Texas boy who loved his liquor, drugs, and women.  In 1986, he was diagnosed with AIDS and told that he had 30 days to live.

He tried to get on the AZT trials that were being rushed onto the market to fight the AIDS pandemic.  Since he was denied that opportunity, Woodruff started buying it on the black market.  When he almost died, he came up with a plan to smuggle medications out of Mexico to try to stay alive.  Since Ron couldn’t sell the drugs, he started a membership only “buyers club” to distribute the Food & Drug Administration-unapproved medication.

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McConaughey, who plays Woodruff, lost about 50 pounds for the role and his co-star, Jared Leto, who plays transgender AIDS patient, Rayon, who befriends Woodruff, lost about 40 pounds for the role.

Both actors were electrifying and sold the story.  After initially gasping at McConaughey’s first appearance in the movie, I was sold for the next two hours that both actors were HIV-positive people fighting for their lives, while the government dragged its feet.

If you lived through the 1980s and saw friends getting sick and dying, you saw those friends in Ron and Rayon.  If you know people who have become HIV-positive in the past decade, where with medication, healthier living, diet, and exercise, it’s become a manageable disease, there’s a sense of relief that AIDS is no longer a certain death sentence.

GRADE:  A

CHRISTMAS PICK HIT

I just added “A Mary Christmas” by Mary J. Blige and “Christmas, With Love” by British singer Leona Lewis to my holiday collection this week.

Leona Lewis  Christmas With Love

Leona’s fourth album and her first Christmas colelction featured seven classics and three new songs, including the first single, “One More Sleep”.

Many of you probably remember Leona from her debut #1 single in 2008, “Bleeding Love” and its followup, “Better In Time”.

“SHELTER”

While I love “Dexter”, “The Walking Dead” and “American Horror Story”, love stories are at the top of my list, too.  “Pretty Woman” (1990), “Latter Days” (2003), “Shelter” (2007), “Weekend” (2011), and “Out in the Dark” (2012) are the ones that I can watch over and over and over.

Shane Mack (Shane McAnally) performed five songs on the “Shelter” soundtrack and since I’m in Nashville and I’m a strong advocate for being out and proud, here’s another one from Shane.

ENJOY YOUR WEEKEND

Have a fantastic weekend and I appreciate you checking out my random thoughts this week.  Let me know what you think.

Bundle up if you live across the eastern part of the country.  It’s going to be cold.

Anthony

My Own Personal Reba Exhibit

This past March, the Country Music Hall of Fame announced that Reba:  All the Women I Am”, an exhibit showing off memorabilia from Reba’s almost 40-year career, would be on display from August 2013 through June 2014.

Reba Exhibit

A few weeks ago, with a couple of extra vacation days left, I asked Ray if he’d like to take a quick trip back to Nashville to see the exhibit.

On the way, we could stop in my neck of the woods of western Kentucky and eat at my favorite restaurant, Patti’s 1880’s in Grand Rivers, Kentucky, while it was decorated for Christmas.  I hear it’s really pretty there this time of the year.  It’s been a couple of years since we last dined there and from this picture, you can tell that it was fall.

Pattis Fall 2011

I’m excited about the food and seeing my old college roommate, P-Byrd, who is the Executive Chef there.

As you know from reading my “Random Friday Thoughts” blog last week, that simple, quick trip is now going to be over the top. 🙂  We purchased the a Gaylord/Opryland Hotel package that includes Lorrie Morgan’s Christmas show, a night at the Opry, the Rockettes’ Christmas show, a lunch cruise on the General Jackson showboat on the Cumberland River, and much more.

But, this trip all started with a trip to Patti’s and the Reba exhibit.  So, this got me to thinking about my own Reba exhibit that I want to share with you.

This is the “Meet & Greet” pass that got me backstage to meet my Idol back in 2005, which led to…

Reba Meet Greet

my most prized Reba possession!

Reba Art

I met Reba in April 2005 when she kicked off her tour that year on a very cold and blustery night in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Reba Anthony 2005

I had my ticket, the two pictures of us together, and the shirt I was wearing that she autographed framed, along with the 45 rpm single of my favorite Reba song.

Also, dear to my heart is this painting of the “Read My Mind” album cover from 1994.  It was painted for me as a going away present when I lived in Chicago from 1994-1996 and worked at Charlie’s.  This beautiful piece was painted by my friend, David Krumwiede.  Drop in at Charlie’s and say hello to Fifi for me!

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Yes, my bedroom wall is a bright “Autumn Harvest” and there is a reason.

After leaving my television job in Salisbury, Maryland, in late 2005, my old news director, Dawn Mitchell, emailed me one day and asked for my new address.  Since she was instrumental to me meeting Reba in early 2005, I thought she was sending me a promotional poster for Reba’s WB “Reba” show since we were the ABC and WB affiliate.

Days later, a delivery truck showed up with a box that looked like a door!  The delivery man said, “it isn’t heavy”.  I thought, “what could it be”?

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And, this is what it is and it’s absolutely gorgeous!  So, other than orange and yellow being my favorite colors, this is the reason my bedroom is so bright.

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Two more friends, Christopher and Betty, were visiting Nashville back in the early 2000s when Reba was playing Annie Oakley in “Annie Get Your Gun” in her Broadway debut that ran from January 26-June 22, 2001.

This “Annie” promotional poster was in the bathroom of a Nashville establishment and Christopher talked the manager out of it and it’s now matted and framed on my wall.

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Also, back in the 1990s, I started collecting Reba 45s.  As you recall, those are the things we used to play on record players and that were in jukeboxes. 🙂  My thought process, at the time, was to collect all of Reba’s 45s and have them framed for my wall for a real personal exhibit.

I have many of them, but I still must search out the others.

Reba 45s

And, I have found a few Reba albums.  Now, I need to get at least one 8-track Reba recording!

Reba Albums

I also have tour guides, calendars, Reba bears, clocks, fan club magazines, Reba Visa credit cards and more.

Reba Fun Stuff

Also, I cherish this Christmas card that Reba sent to her fan club members in the 1990s.

Reba Christmas Card

And, since we’re talking about Christmas.  Of course, I have the Reba ornament that plays “The Secret of Giving” that is already placed on our Christmas tree this year.

Reba Ornament

There is still another thing that I want and have yet to get for my Reba collection.

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Yes, I want the doll and this could be the year!

While I’m talking about my love and admiration of Reba, there’s the saying that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”.

Back in the mid-1990s, at Charlie’s, a country bar and nightclub in Boystown, I performed as Reba first for an employee talent night, then for an AIDS benefit, and a third and final time, at my going away party in Chicago.  Fifi, thank you for doing the hair and make-up!

Anthony as Reba

Thank you for taking the time to check out my tribute to my idol, Reba.  I can’t wait to see the Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit Thursday afternoon!

Oh, by the way, earlier when I mentioned that I had the 45 rpm single of my favorite Reba song framed in that my most prized art possession, I didn’t mention the song.

There’s a reason.  In my continuing tribute to Reba, I’m featuring my 20 favorite Reba album tracks and singles that were never officially released tomorrow and then on Thursday, I’m sharing my 20 favorite Reba hit songs of all time.

Anthony