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

Love and law at the drive-in, kissing, and telling.

Q: Is heavy petting legal at drive-in theaters? What about making whoopee? I hear they look for rocking cars at the Starlight.

Having fogged up a few windows in my day, I share your concern—though not your fondness for outdated sex slang. I’ve consulted three lawyers (well, two eager law students and one retired attorney) and have concluded that, as one member of my crack legal team says, “It looks like you could get away with a fair bit.”

The key is determining whether or not what you and your sweetie plan to do is “lewd” or “indecent” (sexual intercourse, genital exposure, and mere fondling all qualify in Georgia), and then whether that act will occur in a “public” space. The latter condition is the heart—or loin—of the matter here, since I assume you intend to do more than neck in your Nissan at Paul Blart: Mall Cop. According to the Georgia Jurisprudence encyclopedia, the following places have been deemed “public” by court of law: massage parlor cubicles, shopping-center parking lots, and the visible interior of a car. It’s a distinction the jury will decide, but be warned: No matter how much tinting you’ve done to your vehicle, the front windshield remains transparent.

“I’m not voyeuristic,” says Jim Stacy, manager of Atlanta’s Starlight Six Drive-In, the last of its kind in the city. “And we’re pretty laid-back here. But this is still a family-oriented place.” To that end, Stacy employs a few off-duty DeKalb County cops to patrol the Starlight, to make sure that everyone has “respect for those next to you.” But, he says, he rarely runs off foggers. “They’ve been doing it since your folks were kids.” I wouldn’t take a convertible, though.

A member of my legal team concludes: “If the [experience] is worth a misdemeanor . . . go for it, buddy! Chances are you can get it thrown out with a pimp-ass attorney on your side.” Contact me for this soon-to-be pimp-ass attorney’s phone number. He graduates from law school this May.

Q: Where is the best scenic make-out spot in Atlanta?

Conventional wisdom says that our gently rolling piedmont landscape doesn’t offer classic “lookout points” like in the Hollywood Hills. But there are a few semiromantic vistas I discovered in high school that I’m willing to reveal. The Dusty’s Barbecue parking lot on Briarcliff offers a view of the Atlanta skyline. More importantly, it emits the arousing scent of pulled pork. It’s also a bone’s throw from the Pitch and Putt where I bought my first underage booze, which led to my first . . . well, enough about me.

A casual poll reveals these amorous locales: the hidden bench by the lake on Piedmont Park’s east side, the Carter Center pond (“great for skinny-dipping at night”), the gardens of Decatur’s Columbia Theological Seminary (blasphemy!), the upstairs terrace at the Virginia-Highland Ben & Jerry’s (“take the stairs from the terrace to the top of the building, which is secluded”), the Stone Mountain Park hayride, the lower canopy of the magnolia at the north end of Winn Park, and the red light at the west end of Freedom Parkway (“view of the city, and the light stays red for a real long time”).

Got an Atlanta question? E-mail Charles Bethea at