The Entertainment Collectors exhibit at the J.D. Williams Library on the Ole Miss campus was unveiled in 2015 and was scheduled to be removed from its designated space in the Special Collections hall located on the third floor last December. However, it was recently announced that the exhibit is being extended through May 13 of this year.
The official full title of the exhibit is “Entertainment Collectors, Authors and Critics: Selections from the Mamie and Ellis Nassour Arts and Entertainment, Stark Young and Herschel Brickell Collections.” That’s a serious mouthful of verbiage for a very serious and inclusive exhibit.
Though the exhibit salutes two famous Mississippians – Stark Young and Herschel Brickell – the ‘entertainment’ section makes up more than 85 percent of the exhibit, and features items from The Mamie and Ellis Nassour Arts and Entertainment Collection, which was officially dedicated in 2004 in memory of the parents of Ole Miss alum Ellis Nassour, a native of Vicksburg. The collection is an ever growing source of all manner of items from the world of entertainment.
Dr. Jennifer Ford, head of Special Collections and associate professor, said, “We’re very glad about the extension. We’ve had a great response to the exhibit and we just wanted to keep it up since we felt like it didn’t have its full run.”
The extension was granted not only because of its popularity, but also to show students and faculty its importance as a valuable resource for entertainment and research. Theater arts and music students especially will find an incredible array of materials.
Hours of operation for the exhibit were reduced at one point for much needed preservation work on the facility. This also played a part in the decision to extend the exhibit.
“Part of Mr. Nassour’s collection is in the circulation library, so those materials are available to be checked out,” Dr. Ford said.
“The Nassour items in the main library can be checked out,” she added, “but the archival items are only available for use in Special Collections.”
According to Dr. Ford, Nassour has added to the collection extensively throughout the years; so those who may have viewed or used the resource materials previously, may want a to have a second look.
Collecting as a journalist, author, playwright and native Mississippian (Vicksburg) – Nassour’s assemblage is vast – spreading from Archives on the third floor to several thousand items in circulation to faculty and students. The collection is said to be of extreme value to students who are conducting research for art and entertainment projects at UM. He perhaps came by his passion for collecting historical entertainment memorabilia naturally as he served as chairman of the Associated Student Body Social Affairs Committee at Ole Miss in the early-60s.
Nassour was drawn to the world of entertainment, he says, “since the fifth grade. But it was at Ole Miss where former ASB President Doug Abraham, Richard Wilson and Tom Cleveland put me in charge of expanding campus entertainment opportunities.”
He was in charge of booking Homecoming entertainment, weekend dance parties and movies for Fulton Chapel. Under Wilson and Cleveland, is when Nassour served as chair of the Social Affairs Committee (mentioned above).
“I was fortunate to work with a supportive Dean of Student Activities, Tom Hines, and at least three committees of very dedicated students; not to mention Rebel coach Johnny Vaught, who allowed use of game footage to be shown on movie nights,” Nassour said. “Though silent, there was always commentary by one of the star players.”
Souvenirs of Nassour’s career working in journalism, film, and theater are in the exhibit along with fascinating artifacts from the Young and Brickell Collections.
Ole Miss alum Young (a native of Como; 1881-1963) was a noted essayist, playwright and author (So Red the Rose); Brickell (a native of Senatobia, who grew up in Yazoo City; 1889 -1952), also and Ole Miss alum who later attended Columbia University, was a writer, critic, and journalist (New York Post). The exhibit features a bust of Mr. Young.
“I only met Mr. Young once,” points out Nassour, “in Texas, some two years before his death. I was a fan of his novel So Red the Rose, and the film adaptation. He was quite the gentleman and a very good listener. His unique, hand-crafted novels are one of the highlights of the exhibit. In spite of Mom’s side of the family having lots of Yazoo City connections, I’d never heard of Mr. Bricknell. When Dr. Ford brought his name up in the naming of the exhibit, I did some digging. He was certainly a man of letters, even won a Guggenheim Fellowship [in Creative Arts], and wrote with great depth – but not in an inaccessible way. Visitors to the exhibit are in for a number of treats and discovery about two fascinating Mississippians.”
Souvenirs of Nassour’s life (Ole Miss alum-1964), accomplishments and past friendships are exhibited for university students and the world to see: rare movie posters, letters between authors and actors and memorabilia of Ole Miss in bygone days. The exhibition also features historical documents on traveling circuses, signed playbills, theatre and film posters, items from actors and actresses past, and a very intriguing corner featuring America’s favorite Honky Tonk Angel – Patsy Cline – who remains an important subject of Nassour’s research and expertise.
Nassour’s knowledge in all things “Patsy” perhaps led to his greatest writing accomplishment by immortalizing the late songstress with two biographies: Honky Tonk Angel: the Intimate Story of Patsy Cline. The 1993 collector’s edition hard cover titled Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline (photo below).
The exhibit is hardly limited to Patsy Cline memorabilia however, evidenced by a gold record Nassour earned for his efforts in documenting the rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, via his first book published in 1973 (Rock Opera: The Creation of Jesus Christ Superstar), which is still used in theater classes today (see photo below).
“These are some wonderful pieces – very colorful,” Dr. Ford said. “In fact, this was one of the most colorful exhibits we’ve ever put together. Some of my favorite pieces on display are the signed playbills from Mr. Nassour’s collection, including a signed one by Julie Andrews’ “My Fair Lady.”
“I think students and visitors will get an idea of theater and film history and its relevance to Mississippi,” Dr. Ford said. “I think what makes this exhibit so unique is that it shows how Mississippians, especially Mr. Nassour, have contributed to entertainment history and the growth of the performing arts.”
The magnitude of the exhibit can’t possibly be represented in this feature or by the photographs and videos shown here. Thankfully, we have until mid-May to get our “Nassour” on and experience this comprehensive exhibit firsthand by visiting the JD Williams Library located in the heart of the Ole Miss campus. Just hike to the third floor, hang a left and whisper HOTTY TODDY. Dr. Ford will surely find you soon after that.
Callie Daniels Bryant is the senior managing editor for HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.