Backstage at the Buckhead Theatre

Tales from the historic venue’s storied past
This summer, the Buckhead Theatre reappeared at Roswell and Peachtree roads. The flapper-era, Spanish Baroque–style building used to be the Roxy, which used to be the Buckhead Cinema, which used to be the Capri, which used to be the Buckhead Theatre. Opened as a successful burlesque house, it became a movie theater during the forties and fifties. “It’s been incarnated quite a few times,” says Alex Cooley, seventy, the legendary Atlanta concert promoter who has been involved with the venue for decades and is now helping with the latest version, purchased by Charlie Loudermilk. “It must be Buddhist,” Cooley quips. The 33,000-square-foot facility, which has a 2,500-seat capacity, has undergone a $6 million makeover since the Roxy closed in 2005. Below, Cooley—and longtime manager Dave Scruggs—reflect on some lesser-known moments of glory and shame.

D.S. There was a Gov’t Mule show one New Year’s Eve. The first thing staff asks is, “When’s it gonna be over?” I said 4:20. That’s what the band told me. Midnight comes and we pass out mini bottles of champagne. Around 1 a.m. the staff wants to pack it up. At 3:30 most of the crowd left. A couple dozen remained, and they were like trees blowing in the wind. But the band was still playing. 4:20 and they’re still on stage. Then it ended. They put out a live double album from that show.

A.C. Marky Mark, he was there. I was in my office. You could look down on the stage from a peephole. I looked and he was down to his underwear. To be honest, I didn’t have a clue who he was, other than a hot act—in more ways than one. I sent someone down to tell him not to go any further.

D.S. We had a private event at the Roxy one weekend. Bruce Hornsby was Monday. We were so tired we just stacked the chairs left over from the event and covered them in the corner. The crowd discovered them and set them on the floor. I thought, we’ll just roll with it. Pretty soon I got called into Hornsby’s dressing room. He was furious about the chairs. He put his finger in my face and said something like: “That’s bulls–t and it’ll f–k up my show.” He told me to take the chairs away from the people.

A.C. Prince, he and a woman got on a table or something. He had a belt that was strategically placed to make it look like [they were having sex]. So they did that. Now, relative to everything, it was really quite innocent. But at the time I was fairly shocked. I don’t shock easily.

Photograph by Judith Pishnery