‘Awkward’ grass skirt adorned Wal-Mart meeting host

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 106 views 

FAYETTEVILLE — Singer and actor Justin Timberlake handled Friday’s Wal-Mart shareholders meeting much like a Saturday Night Live guest appearance, walking on stage in a grass skirt and a halo made of Hawaiian leis.

It seemed like a good idea, he said. “Now it just feels kind of awkward.”

Throughout the four-hour meeting, Timberlake also appeared in several videos, including one where he worked as a Walmart associate. He ran through a store carrying big-ticket items, clumsily learned how to scan products using a pricing gun and learned the art of “zoning” — the practice of lining items on shelves so that they stand or hang in a straight line.

The stage’s centerpiece was a replica of Sam Walton’s Five & Dime store sandwiched among quaint storefronts and accented with planters, lamp posts and a hanging “theater” sign outlined in lights. A circle in the center of the stage rotated so that while it faced front, another act could set up on the back side.

The first musical number featured Victoria Matlock, who starred in both Wicked and the Million Dollar Quartet. Matlock, bedecked in a knee-length strapless dress of royal Wal-Mart blue, led a mixed chorus as they danced their way from one end of the stage to the other. They sang, “Associates, there’s nothing we can’t do because we have the power, the truth, the will …”

Marquee performances also came from Taylor Swift, who hadn’t played to a Walmart shareholder audience since 2008, the same year she released her album Fearless, which went on to become the most-awarded album in country music history. This time she came sans her band, playing her rhinestone-covered guitar for “Love Story” and a banjo for “Mean.”

Timberlake introduced Swift on the floor of Bud Walton Arena by saying she was a Wal-Mart shopper he found to interview during the meeting. Swift appeared
wearing bright-red lipstick, a slimming sundress and straight hair with bangs.

The Zac Brown Band and its tobaggan-wearing namesake performed “Colder Weather” and a new song “Wind,” that will be out on a new album in Walmart oh so soon. Other performances included an extended version of “It’s a Wonderful World” by the a cappella gospel group Take 6; some rousing tunes by Columbian artist Juanes and Lioneld Ritchie, who did “Easy (Like a Sunday Morning)” and “All Night Long.”

Some said there was more entertainment than usual for a shareholder meeting. However, Timberlake never performed — he only provided comical banter with the performers. An SNL-type orchestra also played short interludes between speakers and acts.

With a bit of melancholy, Timberlake told the tale of how his stepfather in Tennessee bought him 50 shares of Wal-Mart stock for his 10th birthday. After the stock split — and then split again —  he cashed out his 200 shares and spent it on toys at the closest Wal-Mart, which was 30 miles away.

Timberlake indicated it was a business lesson he wouldn’t have to learn twice.

The show closed with Celine Dion. The superstar — dressed in straight-legged jeans, an off-white tuxedo jacket and a glimmering gold cami and pumps — sang portions of “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” and “I’m Your Lady,” among others.