by ron hudspeth
We're about to say goodbye to 2002. Good grief, 2002? Yours truly is working on his 33rd year of pounding a typewriter in the city of Atlanta, and let me tell you that's a lot of cocktails, folks. I plan to donate my liver to the Emory Medical School. They can use it as a doorstop.
Here are some high (and low) lights:
BEST FORGOTTEN BAR: Cobalt on East Paces Ferry. The club spawned two separate killings, one the Ray Lewis brawl, and stuck a dagger into once wonderful Buckhead nightlife from which it has never recovered.
BEST FORGOTTEN BAR CONCEPTS: Clubs patterned after South Beach bars. They rank somewhere between boring and phoney. Been to South Beach lately? Don't. Try Fort Lauderdale instead.
BEST X-RATED TALE: The original little Longhorn Steakhouse on Peachtree. It's been around for 21 years and isn't ever likely to revert to the X-rated bookstore and sex toy shop it was when George McKerrow, Jr. found the building in 1981.
BEST GREASY SPOON: The Krystal at Peachtree and Seventh Streets in Midtown which in a 20-year span that ended in 1997 hosted a steady and colorful nightly parade of hookers, pimps, winos, motorcycle hoods, street preachers, long-haired rednecks, runaways, gays, straights and assorted other living things that crawled from beneath rocks in those days before Midtown was cool.
BEST NIGHT-LIFE WEEK IN ATLANTA HISTORY: The 1994 Super Bowl. How good was it? A crowd of 35,000 showed up for a three-night span at Frankie's at the Prado and the Cheetah had a line to get in at 11 in the morning.
WORST NIGHT-LIFE WEEK IN ATLANTA HISTORY: (Tie) The 1996 Olympics and the 1988 Democratic National Convention. Waiters and bartenders all over the city twidled their thumbs. How bad was it? It was reported one wild-and-crazy Democratic delegate actually showed up at The Cheetah and paid the girls to put their clothes back on.
BEST BAR CONCEPT THAT DIDN'T WORK IN ATLANTA: Way down there in funky Key West, Sloppy Joe's is one helluva great bar with superb music, classic characters and a carefree fun-lovin' Conch party atmosphere. Must be the ocean. In landlocked Atlanta it was a fish out of water.
MOST POTENT RESTAURANT DISH EVER: The 'on the house' stuffed eggplant at McKinnon's served gratis, of course, if an expectant mother didn't deliver within 48 hours after eating it.
WHY FOOD CRITICS ARE SNOBS WHO SHOULD BACK UP TO THE PAY WINDOW: Cheesecake Factory, thoroughly panned as rotten by every food reviewer in the city, remains the top grossing Atlanta restaurant ($12 million and change, so I hear).
NO SHOES, NO SHIRT, NO SERVICE: Atlanta one-upped that catchy moniker phrase with an early 1970s law that required all men to wear coats and ties in bars or nightclubs after 8 p.m.
BEST BAR POETRY: (Tie) One is credited to one-time Atlanta tavern owners George (Crowley's) Watson and Jack (Harrison's on Peachtree) Loersch when they opened a bar in Costa Rica a few years back. The motto over the door: "You're never too old to waste the rest of your life." The other was Aunt Charley's, the neighborhood Buckhead tavern which had a 20-year run until 1995: "A Sunny Place For Shady People."
BEST QUICKIE CELEBRITY SPOTTING: Opening night at the cheesy Planet Hollywood downtown which drew the likes of Arnold Schwarznegger, Bruce Willis, Whoopi Goldberg, Brooke Shields, Wesley Snipes, Danny Glover, Samuel Jackson and Charlie Sheen. None of them ever came back.
BIGGEST BUST (AND IT WASN'T DOLLY'S): Country Star Cafe on Peachtree in the heart of Buckhead. It was country music's answer to movie-themed Planet Hollywood and music-themed Hard Rock Cafe (we should have known) and among its owners were Vince Gill and Reba McIntre. Some $10 million was spent on the 50,000 square feet restaurant-bar and it lasted four months. It was eventually replaced by ESPN The Zone, another loser.
THE NINE LIVES NIGHTSPOT: Name the concepts that graced the big building at the corner of Peachtree and Pharr roads before Three Dollar Cafe arrived in 1991 to give it stability. Ready? The one-time sports car dealership (Baker Motors) first became Animal Crackers and that concept was followed by Thrills, Buckhead Beach, The Piranha Room, Acapulco Bar, The Ocean Club, R&R USA and Poco Loco.
HOW TO REPULSE YOUR DATE: A young lady at Park Place Cafe accidentally discharged her mace capsule causing evacuation of the bar.
CAN'T GET A DATE?: In 1991 Atlanta led the nation with 148 pages of escort service ads in its phone book.
BEST MOVIE EVER FILMED IN ATLANTA: Rob Lowe's infamous home video with a young lady from Marietta he met at the Rio nightclub downtown during the Democratic National Convention.
Think you know Atlanta, huh?
So you want to be an Atlanta expert at the next party?
I guarantee you can declare yourself a real Atlantan and stump 'em with these gems about your city:
Want to talk about potential gridlock. The November 1971 referendum by voters to build MARTA passed by only 461 votes.
Cup of coffee: Oakland manager Tony LaRussa played in nines games with the Braves in 1971 as a 27-year-old second baseman and hit .286.
Sweet Home Atlanta? Lynyrd Skynyrd was once the house band at a club on Peachtree called Funocchio's.
Horsepower (sort of): The first Atlanta transit system was made up of trolley cars pulled by 114 mules.
I'll take the tent: The original Atlanta Zoo came into being in 1889 when a building contractor named Thomas James bought animals and equipment from a bankrupt circus. Jones wanted the equipment but gave the animals to the city.
Could it have been the cocaine? When Doc Pemberton first marketed Coca-Cola, it was called "The Ideal Brain Tonic" and Pemberton spent a whopping $73.56 on advertising the first year.
Duck it's Delta: Delta Air Service, from which Delta Air Lines eventually involved, was known for its crop dusting.
Shakin' at Snake Nation
The place to be seen: First planned neighborhood in Atlanta was Inman Park in the 1880s. It was the garden suburban reality of developer Joseph Inman. An electric street car connected Inman Park to Hurt's downtown skyscraper, the eight-story Hurt Building.
Doing the nasty: Snake Nation was the rowdiest Atlanta neighborhood ever, the place to be from 1840 to 1853. It was where Atlantans first drank, danced and fooled around. The area, located where Castleberry Hills is today, was filled with taverns, gambling halls, brothels and dance clubs before a raid by the White Caps, forerunners of the Klu Klux Klan, wiped it out in 1853.
Which is the mob and which are the good guys? Ask Jimmy Carter today and he'll tell you his favorite Atlanta restaurant was Gene & Gabe's in Virginia-Highland. While President, he dined in the classic-looking Italian restaurant many times surrounded by Secret Service Agents in suits and dark glasses. The eatery closed in 1991 after 26 years.
No welcome for Yankees
Hippies and gays were not the first to hang out in Midtown: Union spy James Andrews, captured after stealing the locomotive the General, was hanged June 7, 1862 at the present-day intersection of Third and Juniper streets and buried under a nearby pine tree.
Need a suit? The Cotton States Building on Roswell Road across from Rio Bravo was formerly owned by the Klu Klux Klan, which manufactured its infamous sheets and hoods there.
Hey, Bill, you listening? In January of 1860, Luther J. Glenn was elected to his third term as mayor of Atlanta and his salary was increased from $500 to $1000 a year.
No MD 20-20, please (or Merlot for that matter): Robert Woodruff, the late Coca-Cola magnet, donated Buckhead Triangle Park in the heart of Buckhead to the city of Atlanta in the 1970s. The land was worth nearly $1 million at the time but Woodruff's only decree was don't put any benches there because it would encourage winos to congregate to sleep.
It won't be docking at Lanier: Atlanta may be landlocked but it has a representative at sea. The USS Atlanta, a nuclear submarine, was commissioned on March 7, 1982.
Atlanta's original jazz club: The Royal Peacock on Auburn Avenue, once known as "Atlanta's Club Beautiful," opened in the 1930s as the Tophat Club and hosted such musical greats as Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway.
Did you get an invitation? On October 26, 1970, Muhammad Ali pounded Jerry Quarry into submission in the old downtown Sports Arena in the biggest fight ever held in Atlanta. Later that night 200 were robbed and forced to strip naked by gangsters at a post-fight party thrown at the house of the infamous Chicken Man.
No one asked but here goes anyway...
by ron hudspeth
True confessions from the cluttered mind of a columnist:
No one I know has ever made any money in the stock market. Problem is, even when the stock is worth more than they paid for it, they never know when to sell.
It says a lot about the sad state of nightlife in Buckhead's East Village when owner Jonathan Sheer announces he is moving his successful Tin Roof Cantina to Midtown because the neighborhood is sleazy.
Why isn't Osama Ben Linden talking? It's difficult to speak when you're dead.
I love the smell of newsprint. When I first broke into the newspaper business, I used to go to the press room just to smell the newsprint and listen to the presses grind away.
All my buddies are playing golf, but I still think it's a four-hour bore played by people who are otherwise bored. Man hits little white object with stick and walks after it. Yawn.
There are a multitude of thrills nightly in after-dark Atlanta but none better than when an attractive stranger says, "You're the nicest person I've met tonight."
Okay, guys, let's here it for Tavern at The Phipps GM Larry Miller. His recruiting techniques for a wait staff at the popular bar-restaurant would impress Hugh Hefner.
America's war on drugs remains a pathetic failure. Legalize 'em, treat the abusers like the sick people they are and get with a program that makes sense - like the real truth about each high and its risks. Of course, that won't happen in a million years.
The corporation scandals only confirm what the rest of the world knows about us. We are the greediest people on earth.
Airport security is a necessary evil in these weird times and also a joke, reminding me of the movie "Airplane" where guys in guerrilla uniforms carrying AK47s walked through unmolested while security tossed a little old lady in her 80s up against the wall. The other day in front of me, a security guard spent five minutes searching and patting down a 50-year-old female flight attendant in uniform.
In my next life I'm coming back as the lead singer in a rock band. Who has more fun? Unfortunately, in this life I can't carry a tune in the shower.
People I know who spend every waking hour of the day trying to make money are generally miserable.
There's nothing prettier than the green of Atlanta after a fresh thunderstorm.
The dumbest act of all? Getting into a barroom brawl.
I predicted in the year 2075 old white males will be placed on the endangered species list. Only a handful of people can recall what they were for.
Forget the crime statistics, the most dangerous thing you do daily in Atlanta is get into your automobile.
People who drink martinis are brave.
Blondes have more fun (at least in my neighborhood).
People who work in hospital emergency rooms have a special something.
Kids who have to hang out in shopping malls for good times and never got to grow in small towns are underprivileged.
Atlanta's trees remain its unsung heroes.
People who get excited about everything and never grow up are the most fun to be around.
It's a woman's world
by ron hudspeth
Most men would concede that in 2002 women rule and what better example than at the Cheetah &emdash; once famous for men drooling over unclothed dancers &emdash; which now offers a "Girls Night Out" with a women-only party &emdash; that's dancers, servers, djs and spectators &emdash; in its Executive Room. July's inagural party was a sellout, "maybe it was a fluke, but it looks like there's a market for our type of entertainment among Atlanta's female population," said Cheetah general manager Jack Braglia. Sorry, guys, you are now an endangered species... It's fall and all is not totally bad news. College football, the best of all sports, is upon us and two new sports bar looks &emdash; the 22-year-old newly-renovated Stooges on Collier Road and the newly decorated giant back room at Buckhead's Three Dollar Cafe &emdash; bear a look for your viewing pleasure if you love giant screens.
Speaking of dancing girls, males and females were lined up the other night to get into the new Coyote Ugly on East Paces Ferry to watch young ladies gyrate on the bar in a more PG-rated fashion&emdash;with clothes on. Coyote Ugly, in its first few days, has fared better than neighbors Mystique Cafe (in the old Peachtree Cafe) and Showbox (in the former Otto's) which both fell flat on their face. The former was shuttered when wild man chef and co-owner Paul Luna fled the scene and the latter, attempting to bring Las Vegas revue to the city, folded in what one observer said "was after being open a matter of a few hours.".... Among those who remain bullish about Buckhead is Tongue & Groove owner Michael Krohngold. "Our business is doing well with a whole new generation of clientele," says Krohngold, whose club celebrates its eighth anniversary this fall. "The crowds are younger and less inhibited with their spending habits, sociological tolerance and mode of dress. Bottom line, things are more energetic, more fun-loving and busier. (It doesn't hurt that people drink when times are good and when times are bad.) The Red Bull generation is not as concerned with market fluctuations and 401Ks and it's their enthusiasm and carefree attitude that can help the looming recession."
Greats and near-greats
The annual Great Characters of Atlanta party at Houck's on Johnson's Ferry was a roaring success and a walk through the heart of 30 years of Atlanta after-dark. Among those assembled in one room were comedian Jerry Farber, Atlanta deejay icon Bobby Harper, sportscasters Brad Nessler, Craig Sager and Bob Neal, restaurant owners Bill Swearingen (The Abbey), Hal Nowak (Hal's), Doug McKendrick (McKen drick's), hockey legends Eric (The Train) Vail and Tim Ecclestone, former Falcon Ken Burrow, former New York Jet Billy Mathis, ex-Baltimore Colt and sportscaster Alex Hawkins, longtime musical duo Banks Burgess and Paul Shane, Cheetah owner Bill Hagood, the legendary Johnny Esposito (now of Johnny's Sidedoor), Pete the Northside barkeep and maybe a couple thousand more greats, near-greats and never-will-bes. The entertainment, hard working and soulful Mike Veal and Barry Thrasher, made the night (put together by hard-working Norm Cates) even more special. Damn, this place has been a good town for a long time.... And speaking of the long run, has there ever been a better team in Atlanta's 30-year plus sports history than the current Braves? The answer is a resounding "no."
Popped into Fort Lauderdale for a weekend recently, and it should be required viewing for any Atlanta bar-restaurant operator or city official who wants to make Buckhead, midtown or downtown an entertainment center. Fort Lauderdale's Riverwalk area is a blueprint for what nightlife ought to be like. It's a several block area of bars, restaurants and sidewalks where crowds can walk freely with drink-in-hand and in and out of bars and restaurants with same. Even in an upscale environment like Fort Lauderdale prices are incredibly reasonable with sidewalk vendors selling cold beers for as little as $2. The crowd is well-behaved, well-dressed and there seemed to be no problems. So what's wrong with Atlanta? Don't get me started on that one.... And while in Florida I saw my favorite T-shirt enscripton on a fiftyish-looking dude. It read: "I Spent Most Of My Money On Wine and Women, The Rest I Wasted."..... All this hoopla over the Falcons and its new owner is overkill. Professional football in-person indoors remains a colossal bore and all the annoying hype and noise contrived to make it seem exciting, makes it even sillier. On top of that, the Falcons will be lucky to finish .500, Doug Johnson should be the quarterback and Michael Vick a running back-flanker type.
Bobble heads & 'Rona' chicks
by ron hudspeth
Random thoughts as another summer fades fast:
The new Skip Caray bobble head doll makes me chuckle and recall those days when the head of a much younger Caray bobbled more than once after dark at a Cheshire Bridge nightclub called the Brave-Falcon. That includes the one infamous night when Caray and Atlanta Journal sportswriter Frank Hyland occupied bar stools there too long one evening, then stumbled back to Channel 11 studios in an attempt to do Caray's late night sports show. Suffice it to say, the two were a classic and, yes, afterward Caray was canned... Caray's unique and cutting sense of humor surfaced often in those days, like the time he awarded yours truly, then grinding out a daily column for the Journal-Constitution, with a plane and trailing banner over Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium blaring: "For a good time, call Rona Hudspeth, 555-5555." My message machine the next day was filled with hundreds of calls ranging from lonely men to loonies, including one who called and flushed a toilet for about 10 minutes." Ah, yes, the good old days.
One more margarita...
Speaking of harmless and wonderful fun, I know it was a few weeks ago, but, man, was that some party in the Lakewood parking lot for the Jimmy Buffett concert. Everyone was having such a good time, shoot, I could have been at the Ramblin' Raft Race, Light Up Atlanta or any other number of great Atlanta events of the past that the Lifestyle Police have canceled because people were having too good a time. And how good a time did I have? Well, I arrived at 11 a.m. Saturday morning and didn't leave until 6:30 a.m. Sunday. Yes, there's life in these old bones yet... You only took your special honey to the Uptown Peasant in Phipps Plaza when it opened its doors 28 years ago. Then, it was only one of two or three romantic restaurants in the city, thanks to gorgeous glassed gardens and the wonderful staffs of the early Peasants. Now, it is gone and nothing lasts forever except maybe a frozen Ted Williams... My how time flies when you're having a good time. It seems only yesterday that the Rolling Stones were tapping their feet to the honky tonk sounds of Piano Red in the original Underground's Muhlenbrink's and the Allmans were playing for free to stoned flower children in Piedmont Park. Truth is it was more than 30 years ago. Both return to Atlanta in September, thumbing their noses with talent at this country's obsession with youth. Give 'em hell, Mick and Gregg. You can sleep when your dead.
Cheers and more cheers
I've been around many a moon, but thanks to a packed happy hour crowd on the patio at The Tavern for my first standing ovation on a recent Friday night. It came after attempting to drive a motor home into the Phipps Plaza parking lot and forgetting about the over hang. The collision could be heard in Snellville and Smyrna. One new $500 air conditioner atop later, I took a sheepish bow... Two thumbs up to Cherry's new outside bar and patio, proving that outside is where it's at, at least until the first frost on the pumpkin. As you have heard me ramble so many times, Atlanta doesn't have enough outdoors, as exemplified by this summer's Wednesday madness at Brio... Watched an A&E biography on a young Joe Louis the other day, and, holy cow, he's a dead ringer for the Braves' Andruw Jones... Atlantan Norm Cates, a character himself, is reviving the annual 'Great Characters of Atlanta' party Tuesday, August 20 at Houck's on Johnson's Ferry and the live music - Barry Thrasher and wildman Mike Veal, is as good as it gets in this city. Cates has added several celeb 'characters' to the list of greats, near-greats, never-will-bes and never-was types who will be in attendance. They include KICKS 101's Moby, former Flame hockey player Tim Ecclestone and ex-Falcon quarterback Steve Bartkowski. Comic Jerry Farber and former deejay 'Skinny' Bobby Harper will emcee the affair.
How to upgrade Buckhead to its former self? Outlaw pitchers of beer sales, says nightlife veteran Charles Sullivan. A nice start, anyway... Most agree it's a longshot, but the new ShowBox in the former Otto's is a valiant effort to turn Buckhead in a new and better direction. Ditto to Paul Luna's restaurant across the street in the former Peachtree Cafe which is trying to happen on Thursday, a night in Atlanta no one owns as of the moment... Tavern barkeep Ramon Arocha's new Deli-Apras on Roswell Road&emdash;on the ground where Good 'Ol Days once cooked&emdash;is a winner. Great Latin flavors.
The return of happy hour!
by ron hudspeth
I'm about to utter a dirty word. Make that two dirty words:
Ever since the lifestyle police managed to get a law passed to outlaw special drink prices in our city in the early evening in the mid-'80s, happy hour has died a slow death.
Sad, because Atlanta was once the best happy hour town in America.
And a happier place because of it.
It's no bulletin that Atlanta is filled with stressful people doing stressful things to make a living these days. Most of them are nose-to-grindstone in traffic and ruthless business from 9 to 5.
After that, hey, you need a break.
That's why happy hour was created.
Loosen up. Have a cold one. Meet old friends or a new one. Wind down, then grab a bite to eat with your favorite person. Take a slow ride home, while noticing there are no traffic jams. Look at the clock. Hey, it's only 10:30. Say hello to a great night's sleep.
Most people figure I'm out researching restaurants and bars until the sun comes up. And I have been there, more than I like to remember, but for 33 years in Atlanta happy hour has always been my favorite mistress.
Happy hour in Atlanta, where ever it may be, serves as a substitute for this city's sad lack of neighborhoods with sidewalk cafes and outdoor patios where the real social fabric of any great city is woven.
I bring this all up because there is currently a phenomenon going on in Buckhead that has newcomers aghast and oldtimers dreaming of days past at Harrison's on Peachtree.
Each Wednesday shortly after 5 o'clock the crowd begins to build at Brio, a chain restaurant of all things. It is because Brio has a gorgeous, spacious outdoor area with an island bar. Atlantans are hungry for anything outdoors when the weather is as beautiful as it has been in recent weeks.
By seven o'clock Brio is a sea of people, inside and out, spilling onto the sidewalk and into nearby grassy areas. The crowd is a wonderful mix of young and old, something that Atlanta never does really well these days in a country hung up on youth in a silly way.
People meet, mix and mingle, laugh and talk. It is all that it special and nice about a big city like Atlanta. There needs to be so much more of it in these days where many seem to think it is unpatriotic to have a good time and be happy.
There is a hint that happy hour may indeed be on the rebound. The Tavern at Phipps is, of course, Atlanta's home office, but scores of other spots, and even semi-private functions, like the Wednesday Night Drinking Club, are attempting to create after-work fun and satisfaction for Atlantans.
The city that was once the greatest happy hour town on the planet deserves that.
If you've been around Atlanta awhile you'll recall these:
The Chalet on Peachtree: My first week in Atlanta I got caught in a horrible traffic jam in SoBuck (yes, we had 'em then too) and pulled in at 5:30, walking into a sea of humanity. Yes, I had arrived at the promised land.
Harrison's on Peachtree: The most fabled happy hour spot of them all. So hallowed that when it closed they auctioned off everything to regular customers, even the toilet seats.
The Second Sun: Succeeded The Chalet as another SoBuck hotspot.
Brothers Two: A Colony Square bar that was the place to be, and a little bit daffy at times. It was where a young woman asked me: "Do you know my good friend, Ron Hudspeth?"
Clarence Foster's: Bill Swearingen's great spot at Peachtree and Collier roads where regulars had their names goldplated on the bar.
Penrod's: Bob Penrod took happy hour to the suburbs from Cobb to Northlake.
J. Paul's: Included a 100-year bar where Capone had supposedly bellied up to and filled the gap after Harrison's closed.
Those are just to few. The '70s and '80 were filled full of good times and fun after work.
I propose a toast to the return of happy hour. Big time.
How did it get to be 2002?
by ron hudspeth
On June 19, 2002, I will celebrate my 33rd year in Atlanta. Thirty three! And how long is that? Well, in 1969 you couldn't get a drink in Atlanta after eight o'clock without a coat and tie. Now I don't even own a tie.
Want more? Lisa, my latest wife, was barely three years old when I hit Peachtree to begin researching.
Funny thing I wanted to be a pirate, not a newspaper man and old landlocked Atlanta seemed an unlikely hangout for a would-be swashbuckler at first glance. But let's not jump to conclusions. When I sailed into Atlanta that sunny June day in 1969, the spirit of adventure came in waves.
Atlanta, circa 1969, was total adventure for someone who had grown up in South Florida's swamps, and, I suspect for anyone else who migrated from the 49 states or such sleepy south Georgia towns as Ty Ty and Hahira.
Atlanta was truly Southern in those days. No New Yorkers, and maybe about 19 people from other countries. The rest ranged from Southern genteel to Southern party to Southern redneck. And in case you don't know it, they all secretly believe and know for a fact, one way or the other, that anyone born in the South was truly blessed in a way that no one from Buffalo or Istanbul will ever understand.
But, let's get to the meat of the issue: Just how much is present day Atlanta in the year 2002 different from that old 1969 Atlanta?
Let me tell you the ways:
In 1970s Atlanta when we were really hungry we drove over to an old house in Inman Park and paid $3 to have lunch cooked by an elderly woman named Ma Hall. You could sit on the porch or at a table in the yard in the shade of a big oak tree and an average sit-down would include fried chicken or country fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, fried okra, fresh creamed corn, lima beans, blackeyed peas, fried green tomatoes and maybe a helping or two of squash or broccoli casserole, all washed with a gallon of sweetened iced tea and homemade banana pudding.
Today's there's no time for such, but if you want to get a feel for same, check out Carver's Grocery west of downtown on Marietta Street. It is an authentic touch of the old Atlanta. Of course, today we eat at the computer or rush through the drive-thru. No time because the 1 p.m. appointment is waiting.
One day 33 years ago I took a ride up Georgia 400. Talk about strange. It was a silly super highway to nowhere, surely, created by pork barrel politics. Just before I exited at Roswell I spotted the only other car on Georgia 400 that day.
In those early days I was a Journal-Constitution baseball writer covering the Braves. It was anything but glamorous.
On a good night maybe 7,000 would show up to watch the Braves lose another one. The most valuable player was an inventive public relations director whose bizarre promotions like the night he held a wet T-shirt contest immediately after the game along the first base line and grounds crew hosed down a shivering collection of young ladies. The crowd, mostly looped college guys who had come for nickel beer in the cheap seats, cheered and leered. Today, the PR director would probably be arrested.
In early Atlanta if you had a job that made you work past 5 o'clock in the afternoon, you quit. No one missed happy hour and soon some bars were offering four, five and six drinks for the price of one to lure customers. You could literally get looped, fall in love, dine and do your taxes, all before 9 o'clock. Today, some bars aren't even open yet at 9 p.m.
Strip clubs were almost non-existent (who needed strip clubs when the women were as sexually liberated as men and willing as men?), but there was a downtown restaurant featuring hot dogs at lunch for businessmen. The twist was while you munched on your $1.25 hot dog and sipped your Coca-Cola (no alcohol) sitting at a school desk, topless girls danced on a makeshift stage. Today, a businessman goes to a strip club for lunch and the bill could be four figures.
In 1969 Atlanta life revolved around the apartment complex. Neighbors became fast friends (I still have many today), pools teemed with weekend parties, some complexes even had clubhouses that functioned as nightclubs and each apartment was equipped with closed circuit TVs where one could check out the action in the clubhouse.
Today's swinging single is more apt to live in a Buckhead or Midtown highrise and not have a clue who his or her neighbor is. For entertainment, he or she chooses from 6,000 restaurants and 4,000 bars.
Yep, there's a thousand light years difference between 2002 Atlanta and 1969 Atlanta.
And I've loved every minute of it.
The old girl has changed 180 degrees. She's a tougher, swifter place headed on a wild ride in which no one is quite certain where it will take us.
But one thing's certain, and take it from someone who has researched all the so-called great American cities. If you want to live in the big city, Atlanta's still got 'em all beat.
Here's Johnny and more!
Stop the presses!
The legendary Johnny Esposito reportedly coming out of retirement to open another nightclub. The town is definitely big enough for another Hideaway.
Paul Luna's new Cafe Mystique is definitely a positive step for after-dark life in Buckhead's entertainment district and so should be a Las Vegas-styled nightclub, Showbox, headed to the former Otto's space across East Paces Ferry.
But an inspection of late-night Buckhead the other evening shows it is still inhabited by a less-than-cool crowd of kids bordering on underage and urban cruisers.
Luna's new spot has an interior design reminiscent of Midtown and will shock those who once inhabited the legendary Peachtree Cafe, the spot that first made Buckhead a nightlife destination two decades ago.
It appears the return to its once after-dark greatness will simply take time. As upscale apartments and high-rises close in on the East Village complex, the joints catering to 21-year-olds and nothing else will disappear, replaced by bar-restaurant combos more like The Tavern at Phipps and Brio Tuscan Grille.
Most importantly, they should ALL have outdoor seating. Buckhead will never be the place it should be, and neither will any other Atlanta neighborhood, without outdoor cafes. They are the lifeblood of great cities, the social fabric and Atlanta is woefully lacking in same.
With the above in mind, I salute Milan, which fronts the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Buckhead, as the sexiest restaurant-bar design in many an Atlanta moon.
A beautiful bar opens up to Peachtree (and I mean totally open) with outdoor seating. It's got to be a great Spring spot of the future, although parking is a bit of a problem. But, hey, if you build it good, they will come.
Just as I was about to get totally down on the city's young crowd (all they seem to want to do was stand in line and be treated rudely by disco doormen), along comes the Wednesday night drinking club throwing happy hour parties about town.
They rocked the old Otto's recently and threw a killer block party the other night between Lava and Cosmopolitan.
Two thumbs up. Atlanta was once America's greatest happy hour and it can be again.
A salute to Steve, Ramon, David, Church, Scott and the rest of the bartending crew at The Tavern at Phipps. They carry on a tradition of great Atlanta barkeeps ranging back to Pete the Northside Barkeep and his cohorts of a quarter century ago at Harrison's. Pete, incidentally, can be found still at the newly renovated Park Bench on East Paces Ferry in Buckhead. You'll like the new look of the place with the live entertainment in the window.
Incidentally, Brio Tuscan Grille's fun Wednesday nights are now the happening in the city, but Pete and The Tavern boys could show the wait staff a thing or two about pouring drinks. Aside from one barkeep there, the staff acts as if they were trained at McDonald's.
Carey Dunn has closed his hamburger and watering hole joint on Cobb Parkway after a 25-year run, which reminds me of a Lewis Grizzard night there.
Lewis phoned me one night and asked to meet me at J. Paul's for a drink.
"I'm lonely and I ain't got nobody," said Lewis, who could take misery to an art form, after his second double-screwdriver with a splash of orange juice.
I was headed out to a party for a group of reporters and Andy Young at Carey's and said, "Come on and go with me."
"But I don't have a date," he said.
"We'll get you one," I said without thinking. Suddenly, I realized I didn't have a clue how to fix Lewis up with a date at such a late hour. Then I remembered a piece of paper in my wallet.
In my research earlier, I had stopped into The Cheetah to say hello to owner Bill Hagood, an old friend. A dancer had walked up to me and said, "Hi, I'm Shelley. I like your writing and Lewis.' I'd like to be a writer. Here's my number. Call me sometime." I dug into my wallet and there was Shelley's number.
"Here, Lewis," I said, "this is the number of a nice girl I met at The Cheetah the other evening. She likes writers."
Lewis had had just enough double screwdrivers. In a matter of minutes he had bolted to a phone booth, made a date with Shelley, and sent a limo after her (he was a millionaire, no problem). She was to meet us at the party at Carey's.
An hour later all conversation at Carey's was cut short by Shelley's entrance. In she strolled, and I mean strolled, wearing a micro mini-skirt and black patent leather boots that climbed almost the length of her very long, shapely legs. All she needed was a whip. You could have heard a pin drop. There were maybe two dozen big-mouthed journalists in the room, but Shelley effectively shut them all up, except for a few gasps.
That night at Carey's Shelley and Lewis became an item.
When they finally broke up a couple years later, Shelley drove off in Lewis' Mercedes, a parting gift. It wasn't exactly "Love Story" but that was Lewis and Shelley.
A toast to Carey's, certainly a candidate for the Joints' Hall of Fame.
Hello, old friend...
by ron hudspeth
March 20 marked the eighth anniversary of Lewis Grizzard's death. In one sense for this friend, it is yesterday. In another, it seems like forever. I talk to Lewis occasionally and catch him up on things. He sometimes answers.
Hope they're serving country fried steak and mashed potatoes smothered in gravy up there. Me and Pete the Northside barkeep have found your kind of place called Carver's Grocery on West Marietta. What a Southern lunch, right out of 1956, complete with all the sweet tea you can drink and framed pictures of Marilyn Monroe.
Atlanta's changed a lot in the last few years. They're so many cars on the roads, you can't move. Yea, most of them are Yankees. What's that? No, your deal about getting rid of them with the slogan "Delta's Ready When You Are" doesn't work anymore. These days Delta's only ready when you bend over.
No one types on your beloved Royal typewriter anymore. Not even Furman Bisher. I got an honest-to-goodness e-mail from him the other day. What? What's an e-mail? It's a computer thing. I'm afraid we're all a slave to them now, and some people even try to have sex on 'em. Yea, you're right. I never felt that way about my old Royal either.
The Bulldogs are still winning football games, but they've gone through a lot of coaches trying to be the No. 1 Big Dawg in the country again. Of course, you've probably got a better feel for that than most since Dedra spread your ashes at the 50-yard line at Sanford Stadium. Hard to believe Herschel Walker turned 39-years-old the other day, isn't it?
Speaking of Athens, the best known musical group out of there is a wimp band named R.E.M. You wouldn't care for them, but you'll be happy to know somewhere, someplace tonight The Tams and Swinging Medallions are tearing up some college campus.
Bill Clinton, the president, got caught trying to do an intern in The White House. It was pretty embarrassing, like that time you met the cute little thing in a bar and spent the night at her place in a shaky part of Decatur and came out the next morning to find your tires gone and your car on blocks.
The best bars in Atlanta these days serve coffee. Yea, enough said about that.
The Gold Club is closed and I know you'll chuckle about that. Recall the rainy day you got a conference call from the day shift girls asking you to come over to play and you told me, "That was God's way of telling me I was spending too much time there?"
Worst news, Lewis, is The Atlanta Journal, the place where you and I first broke in as sportswriters thirtysomething years ago, is gone. Well, at least no one in the newspaper business has to get up at 5 a.m. to get to work after getting in at 3 a.m. The oldtimers at the paper say it ain't what used to be.
Some things haven't changed. The Falcons are still bad. They did get lucky one year but lost a Super Bowl after a born-again defensive back was caught soliciting hookers the night before the game, but now they're back to their old selves. Home Depot just bought 'em, which could mean, if nothing else, one day they'll have orange uniforms.
Yea, I got married again. Remember the time I was waiting at Bitsy Grant Tennis Center to play tennis with you and you never showed. Instead, you caught a train and got married. I always knew you loved trains, but that was a bit much.
I'm livin' much of my life now in a bungalow overlooking the Pacific in Costa Rica and you'll be happy to know that on a cliff across the bay they're building an Arnold Palmer golf course. I know how much you loved golf in those last few years, as much as country music and lunch at The Colonnade.
I promise when the course is finished, I'll put Willie Nelson on the stereo, turn it up so loud it'll shake the monkeys out of the trees, and drink a toast to you. Your favorite, of course, a double screwdriver with a splash of orange juice.
Yea, the ones you used to pour down in the Crown Room before you got on one of those gawdawful planes you hated so much. Well, planes aren't so much about screwdrivers these days, but religious screwballs.
I'll tell you about that one next time, Lewis. Say hello to Catfish for me.
(A Tribute to Lewis Grizzard is scheduled for May 13 at The Fox. For info, call 404.817.8700.)
Tasty pig's ear sandwich?
by ron hudspeth
Observations of 2002 Atlanta:
Why was Mike Tyson spotted dining at The Fish Market? Did no one tell him about Williams Barbecue on Martin Luther King Boulevard where you can get a pig-ear sandwich? Just watch for the little hairs growing out of it, Mike.
One day soon the mother of all traffic jams will happen when cars begin to back up from Cumming to Peachtree City and then it will start to rain and then it will really get bad
OK, we have enough fru-fru restaurants where the chefs and the waiters are trying to be stars. About half a million at last count. Let's try something new, like a eatery with solid food, free poured drinks, friendly waiters and barkeeps who don't take themselves so seriously.
Downtown is still going nowhere. Every other neighborhood in the city will first have to have a resurgence before downtown happens. That's from 30 years of observation and memories of an early '70s downtown that rocked with the original Underground Atlanta.
I have never seen so many men and so few women standing in Atlanta bars and nightclubs. Where have all the females gone? Don't ask me.
Ray Lewis and his thug buddies got away with murder in Atlanta, but Mike Tyson, who as far as I know has never broken the law here, can't fight. Does that mean Lewis should be banned from playing when the Ravens next come to town?
The aquarium is a nice addition to the city, but Atlanta again missed the boat by not turning the Atlantic Steel remodeling into a walking area of shops, restaurants, parks and sidewalk cafes. Another shopping center is not what we need.
Caught the first game in Georgia Tech's new baseball park the other day. What a great way to spend a sunny afternoon. Of course, it would have been a bit better with a cold one.
Wednesday nights at Brio remains the hottest happening in the city weeknights.
Don't you miss Planet Hollywood? Only kidding.
Atlanta used to be a kid in a candy store place for singles. No more. Now I do believe it is a better place for marrieds and those hooked up.
Guess it's a spinoff of Catcher in the Rye (Catcher in the Raw?) as Braves' backstop Javy Lopez poses with his wife in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition. If Javy doesn't rebound this season, you can bet he'll hear a few SI catcalls from the opposing dugout.
I truly think Atlanta has changed more in the last 25 years than any other city in the United States. You can judge whether its good or bad, or a combo. But I do think it's in the city's genes, because there will never be any stopping of the sprawl that will one day reach past Dahlonega and almost to Macon.
I'm embarrassed to use a cellphone in a car. That's just me.
A friend who just turned 40 calls the current generation of 20 and 30 somethings "a lost generation. They don't have a clue, especially the guys. I take that back. They do know about computers." His words, not mine.
My feeling is that Little Five Points is now the city's coolest area, followed closely by Virginia-Highland. Buckhead has been shellshocked by a 10-year invasion of mostly unwanteds and Midtown seems to want to be South Beach (an overrated happening more about glitz than substance and genuine good times).
With the Gold Club gone, word I get is The Cheetah, which has always treated patrons with respect, is doing gangbusters business.
Chastain Park is undergoing a renovation as you read this. Easy, guys, it is Atlanta's answer to Fenway Park and Wrigley Field. Don't tamper too much.
I used to want to have my ashes spread over Peachtree. But in Georgia, who knows? "Night of The Living Dead in North Georgia" may be coming to a theatre near you soon.
Check out Ernie Geyer's and Lou Locricchio's Thumbs Up Cafe on Edgewood Avenue (finding it is half the fun). It's a killer breakfast fit for a king that'll make your socks roll up and down.
Once you travel you realize Atlanta will never be a great city until it has more parks and sidewalk cafes. They are the lifeblood of wonderful cities.
Get happy. Another Atlanta spring is coming soon to a dogwood or azalea near you.
Calling all characters...
by ron hudspeth
I was thinking about Billy Ryckman the other day.
Billy Ryckman played football for the Falcons back in the early 1980s. But Ryckman was first a genuine character, and, secondly, a football player.
Billy, a Cajun, was still working on his degree at Louisiana Tech. "I took photography, camp counseling and weightlifting during the off-season," said Billy, cradling a pinch of Copenhagen under his gum and doing his customary barefooted interview. "Truth is, I may have to beg the college president to get my degree."
Billy told me he began drinking Cajun champagne (beer served with ice) when he was young: "Drank it until I was 15, then I broke the habit. Quit using ice."
Billy was a true character, which got to me thinking the other day: Where have all the characters gone?
There was a day when I combed the streets of Atlanta, they were everywhere. But no more. In today's rat race, uptight big-city life, the characters have caught a bus for elsewhere it appears.
No more are there characters like these of the past:
The Bird Man: Surely, if you've been around Atlanta a few years you recall the The Bird Man jogging down Peachtree, his arms flailing wildly like a spastic buzzard attempting to take flight.
The Great Gorilla Robber: He robbed a Buckhead McDonald's wearing a gorilla mask, packing a banana disguised as a gun. "A high-caliber banana," explained this 21-year-old, who told me later, "it was a rash act trying to impress a girl to win her back. A real stupid thing to do."
The Foot Freak: This guy, always extremely polite to the point of meekness, stalked Atlanta's malls and parking lots, offering to buy the shoes off numerous Atlanta females. More than one went home barefooted and $100 richer. Years into his habit, he walked up to me in a Atlanta watering hole one evening and proudly introduced himself as "The Great Atlanta Foot Freak." If the shoe fits, you gotta wear it.
Smiling Jack: He was a colorful wino who would have scoffed at the term "homeless." Jack, who had piercing blue eyes that made ladies swoon, lived in a wrecked luxury sports car parked on a lot near Baltimore. He was a wino with class, right down to the King Cotton wine he so loved.
Frank the Pigman: Frank shared his apartment with 82 pigs. Or, we should say piggy banks, all with names, including one he carried on to the town with him called Eve-Maree-Chris-Delores. Why? "Eve is my cousin who gave me the piggy bank," he explained. "Maree is a Mormon who tried to save my soul. Chris was a go-go dancer who had eyes like a pig. Delores was a member of a sect that was against such things as sin."
And then, of course, there was Alex Hawkins, the one-time pro football player, who admitted his best friends were "mostly bartenders, petty hoodlums, and worthless newspapermen."
Hawkins' stories are plentiful but there is the one about the night he got involved in an all-night card game and arrived home as the sun was coming up. Wife Libby was already up getting the kids ready for school.
"Where have you been?" demanded Libby, a classy woman.
"Well," Alex said, "it was so late when I got in I didn't want to wake you, so I just crawled into the hammock in the backyard and went to sleep."
"Alex," said Libby, "I took down the hammock three weeks ago."
"I don't care," said Alex, not blinking an eye, "that's my story and I'm sticking to it."
Hello, characters? Are there any of you left out there? If so, give me a call. We need a few laughs these days. The world's gotten all too serious.
Time flies when you're having fun
by ron hudspeth
Two thousand and two. Yes, 2002. Can you believe it?
Atlanta has been good to most of us who have been around awhile and every day some new bright-eyed newcomer pulls into town for the first time wondering what this place is like.
Well, she's always been a good-time gal, always ready to please, asking little in return except a little stroking here and there. The old girl is a survivor, thanks in no small part to those who love her and manage to come to her rescue.
Whatever she has been, she is racing at lightspeed to somewhere else. I am not about to even suggest the destination is good or bad. Hell, the new Atlanta may be better in the end than hot buttered grits. All I can say is the Atlanta you and I have known is all but gone with the wind.
She hasn't been a "big little town" &emdash;as we used to call it&emdash; in more than a decade. The old sign in front of the Darlington Apartments had barely stroked one million when I arrived and now there are more than four million of us. Bigger is hardly better but if you stand still you die or go backwards. She is still as good as gets for big cities in the year 2002.
She is on a mission to recreate new models of herself in Midtown (heck, even downtown may be the place to be by 2010) and to the far reaches up Georgia 400 and elsewhere.
One day in the early 2000s a person sitting atop a mountain near Dahlonega looking back at the golden towners of Buckhead and Midtown on a clear day will call himself an Atlantan and no one will blink an eye.
'Happy' New Year
Most of the news of late has been doom and gloom and the economy sucks, so let me give you 10 'Don't Worry, Be Happy' suggestions for the new year:
If you hate your job, quit (if you've already been fired, you're one step ahead). Find something that excites you, even if it pays less.
Change your environment with travel. If your funds are to short to get you to the islands, try the serenity of the North Georgia mountains.
Volunteer for something. You'll feel good.
Learn to laugh and don't take life so seriously.
Do something special for the person you love.
Cut down on television watching time. What a waste.
Exercise. Sure it hurts, but the results are marvelous.
Learn to deal with urban gremlins like rush hour traffic. Get tapes and learn another language while caught in the gridlock.
Dream and go for it.
Think positive. It's the best bet for positive happenings to follow.
So Atlanta is going to get a new aquarium.
No, it's not going to make the city an international destination for fun, but looking at fish is nice.
And maybe no one will notice the real mullet, Underground Atlanta.
Speaking of Underground, got into a contest with several other veteran Atlanta nightlifers recently over the biggest busts to ever hit the city. No, this has nothing to do with women.
Here they are:
The Big Kahuna: It opened in the former Confetti on Roswell Road and lasted 17 days.
Cobalt: In one night, Ray Lewis and his thugs changed Buckhead forever.
Country Star Atlanta: Scores of country music stars, including Vince Gill and Reba McIntre, showed up for a great opening party in this building that is now ESPN The Zone. Unfortunately, Vince or Reba nor anyone else showed up after that.
The Bubble Room: Designed for champagne drinkers in the former Fat Tuesday in Buckhead, it did the obvious - it burst.
Sloppy Joe's: Proved you can't bring Key West's magic atmosphere to Atlanta, or anywhere else for that matter.
The Brasserie: Ringo Starr's downtown restaurant, which opened with a party that was supposed to attract George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Roger Daltry, Willie Nelson and Joan Collins. Ringo did show and so did Jerry Lee Lewis to save the night with his music, but the restaurant folded in less than a year.
And of course:
Underground Atlanta II: The original was wonderful, the current remains an embarrassment.