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It Was an Uptown Hoedown for the 'King of Country'

Newsmakers

February 21, 1988|DAVE JOHNSON

--Still steaming along, the King of Country Music celebrated his 50th year with the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Roy Acuff, who first performed with the Opry on Feb. 5, 1938, played his signature "Wabash Cannonball" and other favorites to a standing ovation. Acuff, 84, saluted his sidekick, Dobro player Pete Kirby, known as Bashful Brother Oswald. Acuff said: "We haven't had a fight yet," though Kirby also was celebrating 50 years with the show. Other Opry stars, including Del Reeves and Porter Wagoner, joined in honoring Acuff. Scheduled guests included Minnie Pearl and Chet Atkins. Of his debut, Acuff said: "My fiddling wasn't any good." But his songs, beginning with "The Great Speckled Bird," won him several encores. Mail poured into WSM-AM, and he became a regular of the Opry cast on Feb. 19. For all his experience, he said: "When I go on the Opry even now I'm tense, waiting for that curtain to go up."

--A Brooklyn landlord who was sentenced to 15 days in one of his rundown apartments was released early, but tenants noisily protested outside the court. They chanted: "We want justice!" and carried a banner that read: "Don't let the reptile go free." Judge Ira Harkavy said that the building owner, Morris Gross, had learned the lesson that building code violations cannot be ignored. Gross, 72, served eight days wearing an electronic monitor that would warn authorities if he left the apartment. He said: "I've retired from the real estate business. I have served my sentence. Repairs are being done continuously." Gross was convicted of contempt for his failure to obey a court order to correct 420 code violations. Officials said the work was continuing. Bugs, rodents, leaking ceilings, holes in walls and a lack of heat and hot water were among the complaints.

--Seventy men in Soviet army uniforms and 40 men and women in folk costumes serenaded Pope John Paul II in Vatican City, with baritone Iosif Kobzov singing "Ave Maria" in Italian. The Polish-born pontiff told the Red Army Chorus members that their music "touches the heart of man" and blessed them, their families, their loved ones and their country. John Paul said in Russian that he was sending the Soviet Union "a greeting and a wish for well-being and prosperity." The chorus is on a tour of Italy and made its first trip to the Vatican. It gave the Pope a small wooden carving of a bear, the Russian symbol, and he gave the singers medals of his pontificate, rosaries and key chains bearing his seals. Tenor Vladimir Baka and the chorus performed "Kalinka."

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