Talk of the Towns: 5.5.21
clayton | Some kids might prefer listening to the latest viral jam from their new fave TikTok phenom, but in school, they’ll probably be exposed to more traditional pieces. Hey, it’s school. But it’s also the radio. Later this month, Classic 107.3, ‘The Voice for the Arts in St. Louis,’ will premiere a new episode of “Musical Ancestries,” its educational series designed to teach children about the diversity of world music and culture. The episode explores the music, instruments, dance, festivals and cultural traditions of Thailand. The series is made possible by a PNC Foundation grant through the PNC Arts Alive initiative. “Musical Ancestries: Thailand” airs at 10 a.m. May 22, right after “Classics 4 Kids,” the Clayton station’s weekly show that introduces children to great classical works. It will air again May 23 at 7 p.m. and May 26 at 2 p.m. In addition to the three radio broadcasts, teachers, students and families can delve deeper with the resources on Classic 107.3’s website, which incorporates images, maps, audio and video clips, and hands-on activities (classic1073.org/musical-ancestries). Students can follow along with the broadcasts by using online materials or access the information anytime online. They can enhance their cultural experience by noshing on some Thai food, some of the best cuisine in the universe. Following the Thailand episode in June will be “Musical Ancestries: Bosnia.” Rich in music and culture, the Bosnian community in St. Louis is the largest in the United States. I hear the food from there is pretty darn good, too! Anyone tried Balkan Treat Box? (Somebody’s stomach just growled. Oh, mine? Must be after lunchtime.)
Some people jump for joy upon getting their second Moderna or Pfizer shots, but others just shrug and go, “meh.” Curious. Some 65 years ago, another lifesaving vaccine was met with unbridled enthusiasm. Upon hearing that the Salk polio vaccine was safe, folks got as giddy as they had at victory in World War II. They embraced total strangers on the sidewalk. Church bells rang. Let’s compare that epidemic to this pandemic, shall we? By the first part of the 20th century, poliomyelitis was a specter: It could lead to paralysis or death. Researchers worked tirelessly—for decades—to find a cure. In 1921, it struck FDR, requiring him to use a wheelchair or leg braces from age 39 on. The door-to-door March of Dimes began; paralyzed ‘poster children’ were photographed in the iron lungs that breathed for them. In April 1954, trials involving millions of kids began; in April 1955, the vaccine was deemed safe and effective. After a long haul and speedy trial, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Jonas Salk, inventor of the vaccine, achieved hero status. But today, some view expert epidemiologist Dr. Anthony Fauci as just another pundit. The novel coronavirus shut down life as we know it in 2020. Meanwhile, three vaccines were developed and began to be distributed by early 2021—warp speed, if you will. And the pandemic rages on, from Michigan to India. Masks are an infringement on your personal freedom? C’mon. We’re smack in the middle of this mess, and opinions do not amount to a hill of beans. Once there’s proof of a theory, it’s a law of science. Well, opinions can neither make up a deadly disease or make it just go away. Only our actions, mine and yours, can get us closer to herd immunity … the cure.
My father didn’t much like Jack Nicklaus. Starting in the 1950s and on into the ’60s, dad called the legendary golfer Fat Jack. Nicklaus wasn’t fat, but dad’s hero, the late Arnold Palmer, was thinner. Dad could have been a foot soldier in ‘Arnie’s Army’—he was apoplectic anytime ‘The Golden Bear’ bested Palmer on the links. As much of a champion as Palmer was then, most of us only know of him today from his image on cans of iced tea and lemonade. Nicklaus, 81, now owns a company that designs golf courses. And he’s thrown his, um, weight behind revitalizing the historic Normandie Golf Club in the North County hamlet of Bel-Nor, open since 1901 and one of the oldest public courses west of the Mississippi. Two nonprofits, Beyond Housing and the Metropolitan Golf Foundation, envision a project that will encompass renovating the course and transforming it into a locus for community events and programs. Beyond Housing’s 24:1 initiative targets development in the 24, count ’em, 24 municipalities located within the Normandy School District. Fundraising has only just begun. Nicklaus is expected to assist in those efforts throughout this summer and fall. The prime movers behind the project hope to raise between $10 million and $15 million, depending on the final design. It also will establish an endowment designed to ensure long-term viability of the course. If the capital campaign goes well, construction could begin by the end of this year; the new Normandie could open by the spring of 2023. That’s all well and good, but my father the curmudgeon would probably still grumble something about the benefactor’s supposed corpulence.
When is the last time you—well, anybody—actually saw a movie? Streaming services like Amazon Prime or Netflix don’t count. We mean going out to a theater, buying treats and drinks at a concession stand, and crowding in with a bunch of other people in the dark. For one thing, it can be expensive. For another, you may have heard there’s something going around: face masks, social distancing, yadi-yadi-ya are still de rigueur. Along with the rest of us, Dan Buck, founder and managing partner of Big Sports Properties, was thrown for a loop by the pandemic a year ago. “We had to pivot,” he said. An understatement, indeed. His company had been working on POWERplex, a major metamorphosis at the former St. Louis Mills shopping mall in Hazelwood. But when things went a little nuts, he invented a nutcracker. A couple, actually. Drive-In St. Louis has been one outgrowth, using a 12-acre parking lot to welcome 600-some cars in for a rock performance and a classic movie. But first, he focused on the high school class of 2020—what the heck could they possibly do? “We concentrated on giving them a rockstar graduation,” Buck says. The stage was already there, and instead of the bands it had been built to accommodate, about 3,700 area seniors walked across it in caps and gowns to receive their diplomas. Back to rock: About 62,000 folks attended shows last year. Starting tomorrow—Thursday, May 6—the first of 45 concerts and/or movies (through October) will go on: Christian band Casting Crowns is sold out. From there, Friday night shows get bigger: Superjam plays classic rock from Boston, STYX, Journey, Foreigner, et al., followed by the movie Iron Man (a pretty good segue, we must say, as its soundtrack includes a passel of AC/DC songs). Anyhow, the shows have it all: a great local band, a movie, food trucks and a ‘barrel of monkeys’ provided by you, family and friends. Sounds like a great date night, too. Check out coming attractions at driveinstlouis.com. Rockstar graduations resume soon as well, with two more schools, 1,200-plus more grads. Meanwhile, Buck and his team continue working on POWERplex, where eventually there will be 13 restaurants, retail (Cabela’s is already there) and more sports options than you could shake a pickleball racket, er, paddle, at. For dudes like me and any others among the generally clueless, pickleball is the fastest growing sport in this great land. “It’s like tennis and ping-pong had a baby,” notes Buck … Buck?! Thought that name rang a bell, and he certainly anticipated such a question. He’s not related to Joe Buck or his dad, Hall of Fame broadcaster Jack Buck. “Cardinals blood is the only family connection,” Dan Buck clarifies. “But it’s always been a great compliment.” Chances are, however, you already know him: Buck started with “Show-Me St. Louis” when the long-running show premiered in 1994 on KSDK (Channel 5). As CEO of St. Patrick Center, he helped grow the nonprofit from a $7 million operation to a $14 million one. He was on the marketing team that brainstormed Cardinal Glennon’s fundraiser Homers for Health. And, as a dad and coach, building character through sportsmanship is key: instilling an “attitude of gratitude.” Alas, some parents just can’t play well with others. “We say, ‘Play ball!’” Buck pauses, then sighs. “It’s not ‘Argue ball.’”