From Snowpocalypse carnage to a Top Chef win, the Eldredge ATL Year in Review


We’re down to the last page of the 2011 calendar and time to take inventory of The Year In Scoop here at Eldredge ATL. From Snowpocalypse, the fall out from Dr. Beverly Hall’s unscheduled sojourn to Maui, Bishop Eddie Long’s wandering flock, a “Top Chef All Stars” victory by Richard Blais, untimely departures, unexpected recording rebirths and some sex tips from “Barbarella” herself, we dutifully — and happily — chronicled yet another crazy year in the history of our fair city for our devoted Atlanta magazine readers. Happy New Year and on to our annual (and extremely unscientific) year in review!

 BEST EXCUSE FOR A MAKEOVER: In January, during our week-long paralyzing Snowpocalypse, a driver in a Range Rover slid down an icy Virginia Avenue and straight into the iconic Woody’s Cheesesteaks sign on Monroe Drive, originally painted by 70s Atlanta public art guru J.J. From LA. The luxury auto remained lodged in the sign for 24 hours before it could be extracted. Woody’s owner Steven Renner told us: “The driver proved what my college physics professor taught me. I’m just glad she missed the kitchen.” The sign was completely renovated and restored later in the year.

 MOST INGENIOUS “REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ATLANTA” SATIRE: “The Real Housewives of Civil Rights” was unleashed on the world online in February by the brilliant Los Angeles comedy troupe, Elite Delta Force 3. In the jaw-dropping parody “starring” Coretta Scott King, Betty Shabazz, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, Winnie Mandela and Marilyn Monroe, Shabazz channels NeNe Leakes in the opening: “When I walk into a room, white people want to shoot me!” Explained EDF3 co-founder Angela Yarbrough: “Funny is funny. It’s about taking our place in American history as African Americans and turning it completely on its head.”

 BEST ADVANCE WARNING: The night before she announced her resignation on-air in March, Q100 news director Melissa Carter called to give Atlanta magazine the exclusive. The first out lesbian on Atlanta morning airwaves told us why she chose not to renew her contract with the wildly popular “Bert Show” after a successful decade-long run: “It’s just the right time to try something new. It’s time to challenge myself, take a risk and let the universe pull me in the direction I need to be in.”

 MOST HILARIOUS PHONE INTERVIEW: In March, we tried multiple times to chat with nine-time Emmy winner and “Raising Hope” actress Cloris Leachman about her one-woman show being staged at the Buckhead Theatre before she finally figured out how to use her granddaughter’s iPhone. When the contraption was handed to comic legend for a fourth time, we eavesdropped as Leachman exclaimed to her assistant: “Of course, I have the phone next to my ear. Where did you think I had it? My crotch?!”

 BEST SEPARATION OF CHEF AND CITY: On the eve of bringing home his big win on Bravo’s “Top Chef All Stars” in March, Atlanta chef Richard Blais succinctly articulated to us his complicated relationship with the city: “I never know where I stand with Atlanta, to be honest. I know I’ve been the bad boy of Atlanta and the hometown hero. I owe Atlanta a lot. You’re never going to separate ‘Richard Blais’ and ‘Atlanta’ in the same sentence. The city has made me and it’s a tremendous honor to represent the city in this way for sure.”

 BEST OBITUARY: When legendary Johnny’s Hideaway namesake Johnny Esposito passed away in April at age 79 after a lengthy battle with diabetes, we opted to let the three-decade Atlanta nightlife icon have the final word on his life via a series of recorded interviews we had conducted together over the years. Like his idol Frank Sinatra, Esposito tried retirement and promptly decided he hated the notion. “Retirement ain’t all that it’s cracked up to be,” he confided. “I don’t wanna die on the couch. I wanna die on the dance floor!”

 BEST REINVENTED FUNDRAISER: When veteran charitable fundraiser Sally Dorsey announced she was chairing May’s 2011 “A Tony Evening” benefit for the Alliance Theatre held at the St. Regis in Buckhead, she promised attendees would have “as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.” True to her word, the completely re-energized benefit showcased gloATL dancers gracefully inserting their bodies into cocktail conversations and a riotous show starring Tony winner and native Scot Alan Cumming (who brilliantly chafed some in the moneyed crowd by introducing the topics of masturbation, his husband and his U.S. citizenship test into his stage patter). The evening ended with burgers and fries on the terrace, tunes spun by New York City drag queen DJ Lady Bunny and a notable dance floor wardrobe malfunction by one of Buckhead’s Bettyiest residents.

 BEST USE OF KICKSTARTER BY A DEFUNCT ATLANTA BAND: In June, the now far-flung members of Uncle Green created an online Kickstarter campaign to finance the mixing and the issue of the former 1980s and 90s Atlanta rock quartet’s never released double album, “Rycopa.” In just 36 hours, the band (who later recorded for Sony under the name 3 Lb. Thrill), had raised the entire budget needed to release “Rycopa” to the masses, 16 years after it was recorded (fans have described the project as the band’s equivalent of  The Beatles’ “The White Album” or The Beach Boy’s long-lost “Smile” project). The discs were sent to fundraising fans (and to Wax n Facts and Decatur CD) this month and an album release reunion gig is now set for February 25 at Smith’s Olde Bar. Observed the band’s long-time prince of understatement/drummer Pete McDade: “Leave it to us to have an album saved by technology that didn’t exist when we recorded it.”

 BEST REALITY CHECK FROM AN ICONIC TV NEWS ANCHOR: In July, a jetlagged Monica Pearson returned home from assignment to an avalanche of viewer emails criticizing the decision made by her WSB-TV Action News bosses to send her to Hawaii to track down Dr. Beverly Hall, the, um, elusive central figure in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal. “Some of it’s been downright ugly,” Pearson confided to us. “I’ve received emails accusing me of trying to tear her down. Apparently, since I’m a black woman, I shouldn’t do anything to make another black woman look bad. That’s not my job. My job is to ask questions. And that’s what I did.”

 BEST SEX TALK: In September, two-time Oscar winner and former Atlantan Jane Fonda rang up to discuss her upcoming GCAPP benefit and fascinating her new book, “Prime Time: Love, Health, Sex, Fitness, Friendship, Spirit; Making the Most of all Your Life.” Of the book’s racy “The Lowdown on Getting It Up in the Third Act” chapter, Fonda shared: “It’s all very useful information. It’s all real. I wanted to put everything in there that I personally wanted to know more about; and, of course, sex was a big part of that.” But when Fonda gave us the really explicit lowdown on her self-pleasuring ritual (let’s just say, she multi-tasks. . .), our editor kept us out of trouble by wisely winnowing down the sex speak. In other words, sometimes smaller is better.

 BEST SCHOOLING BY A TWO-TIME TONY WINNER: On a press junket tour around the country this summer, the cast and director Tate Taylor from  “The Help” held a series of media roundtable discussions. In Atlanta, we instantly engaged the film’s lead actress Viola Davis when we asked why a two-time Tony winner and Oscar nominee would take a chance on working with a rookie director (not to mention the childhood friend of “The Help” Atlanta novelist Kathryn Stockett) to play a maid in early 60s Mississippi. Davis promptly put us right. “Here’s the thing,” she explained. “You’re thinking, I’m a two-time Tony winner and an Oscar nominee and there must be tons of directors out there coming at me from all directions with scripts. And I’m telling you, there is a deprivation of roles for black actresses and this man right here came to me with a role like Aibileen, richly drawn and a major role for a black actress. I’m not thinking, ‘He only has one or two directing credits.’ I’m thinking, “He’s coming at me with a great project and he seems fully capable of executing it.’ And that’s it!” Davis knew was she was doing. She’s currently on the short list of Best Actress nominees for next year’s Oscars.

 BEST BISHOP EDDIE LONG BOMBSHELL: During an advance tour of Frank Ski’s Restaurant & Lounge on Peachtree Road in September, the eatery’s namesake quietly disclosed he was no longer a member of Bishop Eddie Long’s dwindling flock at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church. This was a complete about face from 2010 when Long was first accused of enticing teen boys into sex and the V103 morning man took to the airwaves to announce his unconditional support for his pastor. “I’ve been waiting for things to pan out and see where they go,” Ski said in September. This month, Long’s wife filed for divorce and the self-appointed bishop announced he was taking an unspecified leave from the New Birth pulpit.

 INTERVIEW OF THE YEAR: Over the past 22 years, we’ve had the pleasure of interviewing singer Tony Bennett at various times in his career. And this summer, at age 85, when that legendary voice came onto the other end of the phone, Bennett still oozed sophistication, style, street smarts, a wry wit and a humility Justin Bieber should try incorporating into his act (“I was the Justin Bieber of my day!” he cracked at one point). He called to discuss his November show at the Fox Theatre, his new album “Duets II” and turning the big eight five. Of his secret to life, Bennett shared with Atlanta magazine readers, “Count your blessings. I have my health, I had good training so I’ve kept my voice in top shape and I still love to perform. I’m not going to retire either. I’m going to keep going. I sing and I paint everyday. You can’t ask for more out of life than that.” For his Fox encore, Bennett had all amplification turned off and he sang a cappella, bouncing his voice off the theater’s back wall.