CAMDEN By SHEA WILSON
The author of two books about the disappearance of a prominent Camden woman has been denied booth space to sell her wares at an upcoming city festival due to the controversial nature of her products and anti-Semitic posts made by the author on social media, festival organizers say. Beth Brickell, author of “The Disappearance of Maud Crawford” and “In Their Own Voice: Interviews from the Maud Crawford Investigation,” had her vendor application and check returned by the committee that organizes the Camden Daffodil Festival, which is scheduled for March 8 and 9.
Brickell shared the news last week with Facebook followers.
Emily Jordan-Robertson, festival committee chairperson, said numerous applications are declined each year for various reasons, but that Brickell was denied space because her books and public Facebooks post are detrimental to the organization’s goal of promoting unity in the community.
“As the organizing committee of the Camden Daffodil Festival, we reserve the right to accept or deny any applications we receive from potential vendors,” Robertson said in a statement. “Mrs. Brickell’s application was denied because of the controversial and divisive nature of her product, including the title and content. As stated in our letter to Mrs. Brickell, the goal of the festival is to promote unity in our town, and we believe her product is detrimental to that goal.”
Robertson said anti-Semitic Facebook posts also were a consideration in declining Brickell’s application. Merriam-Webster defines anti-Semitism as prejudice or hostility against Jews.
“Mrs. Brickell’s use of anti-Semitic language in several of her public Facebook posts was another serious factor in our decision,” Robertson said. “We denounce racism in all forms and believe it has no place at the Camden Daffodil Festival.”
Brickell, who grew up in Camden, is an actress and director in addition to being a writer. She acknowledged the Facebook posts and responded to questions from the Camden News via email.
Brickell said one of the statements was made during the time President Donald Trump was choosing his first U.S. Supreme Court replacement.
“I said that four of the current Justices were Catholic and four were Jewish and that I hoped he would choose a Protestant. He did. Justice Gorsuch is a Protestant,” Brickell said.
The second post made was in response to someone’s question about whether she thought Hollywood would make a movie about the Maud Crawford disappearance.
“I said I didn’t think Hollywood would make a movie about a greedy Jew who killed someone for money. I based the opinion on a lunch date I once had with a producer in Hollywood. I was hoping she would help me get financing for my movie, ‘Mr. Christmas.’ She said she couldn’t get involved because the Barbra Streisand Foundation on the UCLA campus tells Jewish executives and producers in Hollywood never to make a decision without asking ‘Is it good for the Jews?’”
Brickell said she felt the real objection to her presence at the festival was the findings of investigative work in the 1980s, which implicated a long-deceased prominent local resident.
In 1985, Brickell returned to Camden with the intention of writing a screenplay for a movie about the Crawford mystery. All of the original police investigators were still alive and willing to give information to Brickell, including information they had been unwilling to divulge publicly at the time Crawford disappeared in 1957. She spent 16 months investigating the disappearance and wrote a 19-article series for the Arkansas Gazette.
“The Disappearance of Maud Crawford” is an introduction and reprint of that investigative series.
Brickell said her second book, “In Their Own Voice: Interviews from the Maud Crawford Investigation, “is a compilation of transcribed interviews from her original investigative work.”
She said her goal in publishing the book “was to allow people to read the recorded and transcribed interviews and draw their own conclusions about what happened to Maud Crawford.”
Theories and rumors about what happened to Crawford have persisted through the years, though no one was ever arrested or prosecuted and the case remains officially unsolved. Brickell said that not allowing her to participate as a vendor in the festival goes against the community’s slogan.
“The slogan of the Daffodil Festival is ‘where history lives.’ An important part of Camden’s history is Maud Crawford’s disappearance on March 2, 1957, and it should never be forgotten,” said Brickell “She was so important to the outstanding community I grew up in during the 40s and 50s.”
Brickell said she has always been thrilled to return to Camden because of what it meant to her as a teenager, and was disappointed when the Daffodil Festival turned down her request for a booth.
“The letter said the festival wanted more diversity, and I interpreted that to mean what talk of diversity usually means, which is the desire for more African-American and Hispanic vendors,” Brickel stated. “Of course this puzzled me, and I began asking my many Facebook friends in Camden how I might participate that weekend with my Maud Crawford books.”
Robertson said the committee’s decision to exclude Brickell was simply an effort to avoid controversy for a positive city event.
“We decline numerous applications every year for various reasons, including but not limited to past conduct, quality level, and duplications among other vendors,” she said. “Our guidelines and application are available on our website, www.camdendaffodilfestival.com . The Camden Daffodil Festival is a family-oriented event, and we would never intentionally invite or create controversy.”