A number of events planned for upcoming Tallulah tribute

By Nicole Smith, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 6/5/16

The second annual Tallulah Bankhead Tribute is less than a week away and is set to be an event for all “dahlings,” young and old.

Last year’s inaugural tribute to celebrate actress and Walker County native Tallulah Bankhead brought people …

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A number of events planned for upcoming Tallulah tribute


The second annual Tallulah Bankhead Tribute is less than a week away and is set to be an event for all “dahlings,” young and old.

Last year’s inaugural tribute to celebrate actress and Walker County native Tallulah Bankhead brought people from around the country to Jasper, and this year’s tribute schedule is continuing to spark public interest.

The tribute will kick off Thursday, June 9th, at the historic Bankhead House & Heritage Center, with musical performances from Rick and Jilda Watson and The Spook House Saints from 7 until 8 p.m. Afterwards, a documentary, “The Bankheads: A Film about Three Generations of one of Alabama’s Most Historic Families,” will screen for guests.

“That documentary is really interesting, and anybody who’s into local history would love that documentary,” Jasper Main Street Executive Director and Tallulah tribute organizer Mike Putman said. “It’s not about Tallulah, it’s about all the Bankheads.”

The one-hour documentary is produced by the University of Alabama Center for Public Television, and a trailer can be viewed at https://vimeo.com/167899155.

The music and documentary screening are free for the public to attend.

Friday night will be the social highlight of the tribute, with a celebration to mark the 50th anniversary of author Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball from Nov. 28, 1966.

The ball, once referred to as the “party of the century,” was hosted by Capote at the Plaza Hotel in New York City in honor of Katharine Graham, who was the president of the Washington Post and Newsweek. Many social elite were on the guest list, including actor Henry Fonda, Ford Motor Company CEO Henry Ford II, singer Frank Sinatra, actress Lauren Bacall, artist Andy Warhol, journalist and feminist Gloria Steinem and the daughters of three presidents, just to name a few.

Missing from the guest list? Tallulah.

“She was one of the ones that was not invited to the party. Some celebrities went out of town during that party because they knew they weren’t going to be invited. ... They had the excuse that they were going out of town,” Putman said. “Well, Tallulah was not invited, and, as you know, she didn’t care for that, so she just crashed it in grand Tallulah style, which is what she’s known for.”

Putman added that celebrating the Black and White Ball is important because Tallulah attended the party just two years before her passing.

“As Truman’s star was rising, hers was fading. Not only was her star fading, but her life was fading,” he said.

Jasper’s version of the star-studded affair will be held at Musgrove County Club from 7 to 10 p.m. on June 10th, with jazz and dancing with Kool Katz. In addition, Joel Vig will perform a one-man show as Truman Capote to discuss Tallulah crashing his party in 1966.

Tickets are $52 each and can be purchased at www.tallulahbankheadtribute.com. The deadline to purchase tickets is Monday, June 6th, at noon. As expected, guests should wear black and white cocktail attire and a masquerade mask, if they choose. Masks will be available at Musgrove Country Club the night of the event, along with heavy hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar.

The largest event of the tribute will begin early Saturday morning with the Tallulah Half Marathon and 5K. Putman says 250 runners and counting have already registered, and the half marathon will be the first of its kind in the downtown district.

Runners can still register to participate at www.tallulahhalf.com, and pre-registration will be provided the morning of the event, June 11th, beginning at 5:30 a.m. The half marathon will commence at 7 a.m., followed by the 5K at 7:30 a.m. The event is scheduled to last until 11 a.m.

Alabama House Rep. Connie Rowe will serve as the event’s balloon lady to sweep the field of runners when time is cutting close, and Sen. Greg Reed will announce the winners of the half marathon and 5K.

Other events of the day will include live music on the downtown square from noon to 2 p.m., and a “Where’s Tallulah” card game will be available to encourage event attendees to visit downtown retail and dining establishments. Game cards can be picked up at Bernard’s, and the journey will begin to spot Tallulah’s face in participating businesses.

The tribute will conclude with an evening of family programming from 7:30 to 10 p.m. in downtown Jasper. First, “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour” episode starring Tallulah will play, followed by Disney’s “101 Dalmations.” The film’s villain, Cruella de Vil, was actually inspired by Tallulah.

“Dalmations” playwright Dodie Smith based the character on an evil version of Tallulah, and Betty Lou Gerson, the voice of Cruella de Vil, crafted her phonetic style as inspired by Tallulah’s iconic, raspy voice.

Putman says this year’s tribute has something for the whole family to enjoy.

“Tallulah appeals to all ages. She’s not just this caricature. She was a real person with real ideas, and of course she was a party girl, but she also was a civil rights activist. She was very serious about her politics, and clearly she loved children, because she loved her god children,” Putman said. “I think it’s important that Alabamians, much less people from Walker County, realize that she contributed a lot to us, not just her but her entire family. ... We tend to forget that because it was so long ago, and nobody’s trying to live on their history, but we are trying to celebrate it.”