July 2009
Charles at Large: A fifth-generation Atlantan explains the city

Stripping for cash, praising the lord, and cursing our traffic lights

Q: Whatever happened to the Gold Club strip joint? I heard it became a church.

In 2001, when the Gold Club was revealed to be both the sexual playground of pro athletes and financial Laundromat of the Gambino crime family, I was almost old enough to get in. Owner Steve Kaplan went down in a racketeering and prostitution trial featuring the relatively mundane revelation that a nineteen-year-old Andruw Jones watched a live sex show between two GC performers and then had sex with them (admitting, during the trial, “To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t remember one of their faces right now”). So there went my adolescent plan to see the show one day.

Now the building (which the feds sold to developer Wayne Mason and the estate of late developer Kim King for $5.25 million) is empty; its gilded lettering has faded and patrons’ moans have long ceased to echo. But briefly, for six months in 2004, it was indeed a church. The story goes like so: The Reverend Dan Garrett was driving up Piedmont Road one day, near Lindbergh, looking for a better space for the Christian Church Buckhead, when his wife, Carol, asked, “Why not rent the old Gold Club?” In the fall of 2003, Garrett wrote in a brief online history of his now-former church, “200 volunteers . . . helped renovate the Gold Club into God’s Club.” In the summer of 2004, Garrett and his evangelical congregation picked up shop and began worshipping at a marginally more conventional (and more affordable) location: the AMC theater at Phipps Plaza.

According to Garrett, some of the strip club’s mirrors remain. In early April a group called F&C Buckhead Investments proposed putting an upscale, clothing-mandatory nightclub at the infamous 2416 Piedmont Road address. You won’t find me or Patrick Ewing there.

Q: Why do the traffic lights go out here so often? I’ve lived in places with worse weather without that problem.

The City of Atlanta’s Department of Public Works is responsible for maintaining all traffic signals within the city. But traffic signals receive their power through Georgia Power’s grid, which uses aboveground lines (which are ten times cheaper to implement than belowground lines) in about 65 percent of the state. “During storms or high winds,” says DPW Commissioner Joe Basista, “it’s not unusual for overhead power lines to be damaged,” wreaking havoc on traffic lights. De facto four-way stops! Panic at blinking yellows!

Basista cites two reasons it may appear that our traffic signals are interrupted more than those in similar-sized metro areas: “Other cities have more of their power grid underground,” which protects it from storms and looks nicer. “And Atlanta is the ‘City of Trees.’ Fallen limbs and downed trees are the primary cause for our loss of overhead power.” But don’t expect a switch to belowground soon—Georgia Power says only new neighborhoods are getting the invisible stuff.

Got an Atlanta question? E-mail Charles Bethea at askcharles@atlantamag.emmis.com.

Illustration by Edwin Fotheringham