Renowned filmmaker and author Michael Crisp debuts his most recent work, “A Cut Above: The Legend of Larry Roberts,” Friday, Aug. 23, at the place the film’s subject was most famous: Georgetown, Ky.
Cosmic Book News Managing Editor Byron Brewer is featured in the movie because he was one of the first as a reporter to promote and cover Roberts’ famed Bluegrass Tobacco Festival.
“We absolutely wanted Byron to be a part of this film because of his knowledge of Larry and his feats,” Crisp said. “Byron’s description of how Larry first entered his newspaper office alone is worth the price of admission. Byron is very much a part of the ‘feel’ of this film that I am so proud of.”
Brewer wrote the following comments about Larry for his column in the Georgetown News-Graphic:
No one could tackle a problem like my late friend, Larry Roberts, self-proclaimed fastest tobacco cutter on Planet Earth.
Since arriving in Georgetown in 1982, many were the folks I had seen request, beg and, yea, demand approvals and monies from Georgetown City Council, Scott Fiscal Court and the Planning Commission. Thumbs-down or mounds of red tape were the norm.
Larry took this in stride in the early 1980s as he presented, for at least a good four or five years, his Bluegrass Tobacco (or as Larry had put it, “Ta-back-errrr”) Festival.
Now this never caught on like the Festival of the Horse or today’s Kite Festival, but for a certain portion of the population this was it! Folks from tobacco states and others surroundingKentucky actually planned their vacations around this, they told me. Many were vying to beat Larry’s 1979 cutting record of 2,358 sticks in 8 ½ hours.
Larry, a friendly bear of a man with a broad smile, booming voice and firm handshake, was a savvy businessman – even though the suit-and-tie folk walking between the courthouse and city hall may have believed otherwise since Larry always wore a big beard, farm cap and bibbed overalls. Very deceptive, and don’t think Larry didn’t know it!
He widened his festival’s interest by having a carnival come into town for the kiddies, holding a beauty pageant at the old Country World for the gals, and at Scott County High School the University of Kentucky Lady Cats scrimmaged for two years!
I remember in 1982 when Tammie McKenney swung her blade through that tobacco patch on Pete Wise’s farm, the only woman in her cutting class. In five hours, Tammie whacked down 500 tobacco plants, establishing a new cutting record for a woman, Larry told me at the time.
Larry became such a Georgetown character there were actually “Larry stories” that became part of Scott County lore.
Such as Larry wrestling with the bear at the Georgetown Flea Market. He and two of his children went to the market one day to shop and found out there was a guy there who was in town for the day that was challenging people to wrestle his bear. With some encouragement from his son Wayne, Larry wrestled and defeated the bear in a ring that was set up for the spectacle. Larry’s wife Dora didn’t go to the flea market that day, so she was kind of shocked to hear that Larry wrestled a bear once the family got home!
Or Larry cutting down (and I cannot tell a lie) a 97-foot cherry tree that was starting to rot inside. The 101-year-old tree was on South Broadway near Hiawatha, and he used his chainsaw to cut it down. Before he made the last cut on the tree, he walked into the street and drew an “X” and told everyone who was watching that the tree would land exactly on that “X.” He made the final cut on the tree and, amazingly, it landed exactly where he made the mark!
Larry was also notorious for his sense of humor. Example? Larry had a heart attack in the late 1970s. A couple of years later, he was ordering food at the city’s first McDonald’s (next to the old Pizza Hut) when he decided to play a prank. In front of a packed dinner crowd, Larry clutched his chest and fell to the ground while in the ordering line, prompting store manager (and Roberts family friend) Karen Gray to frantically surge across the counter to help him. When she asked him if he was okay, he looked up and screamed, “I’m having a Big Mac Attack!” (Those around at the time will remember the popular tagline from several McDonald’s commercials.)
Everyone accuses me of being “out there” with my humor, and even I haven’t done that … yet.
The movie opens Friday night, Aug. 23, for three showings at the Theatres of Georgetown with a possible fourth showing the following Monday.
Keep in touch with “A Cut Above: The Legend of Larry Roberts” at the film’s official Facebook Page.