The restaurant sells thousands of tacos weekly, but Hernandez's fried fish taco, with poblano tartar sauce and pickled jalapenos, always tops the charts. “ When people go on trips and come back to Atlanta, they come straight from the airport to get a fish taco,” Hernandez says.
Through thousands of newspaper columns and twenty books, the Georgia-born humorist forged a bond with Southern readers—whether he wrote about football-carrying Dawgs in Athens, the chili variety at the Varsity, or his beloved black Lab, Catfish. At twenty-three the UGA alum became the youngest sports editor in the history of the Atlanta Journal, where he worked alongside his idol Furman Bisher. But when the Atlanta Constitution assigned him to write a column in 1977, Grizzard became a star, syndicated in 450 newspapers and with recurring visits to Johnny Carson’s couch on The Tonight Show. He died from heart failure at age forty-seven. A portion of his ashes was scattered on the fifty-yard line at Sanford Stadium.
In 1989 the McKinneys became the first simultaneous father-daughter Georgia reps, and Cynthia went on to become the state’s first African American U.S. congresswoman. Both politicians proved fiery advocates for the poor and disenfranchised. Billy was one of Atlanta’s first black police officers—which didn’t stop him from forming a one-man picket line to demand the city hire more. A firm believer in equal-opportunity offensives, Billy cochaired Sidney Marcus’s (unsuccessful) mayoral campaign against Andy Young in 1981. Cynthia, who literally learned the ropes of civil action upon her father’s shoulders, served six terms in the U.S. House and was the Green Party’s presidential candidate in 2008. She lost credibility over conspiracy theories, such as implying that President Bush had prior knowledge of 9/11 and that, after Katrina, the Department of Defense secretly disposed of 5,000 bodies bearing single gunshots to the head.
Eaves was controversial from day one, after his college classmate Mayor Maynard Jackson named him Atlanta’s top cop in 1974. He defiantly used public money to pay for extra options on his fully loaded city vehicle: “If I can’t ride in a little bit of comfort, to hell with it.” (He later reimbursed the city for the difference.) Jackson forced Eaves out in 1978 for helping officers cheat on promotions tests. Within a few years, after winning a seat on the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, he was pocketing payments to help a local businessman, prosecutors said later. A federal jury convicted Eaves of extortion in 1988 after he was caught selling his vote on two rezonings.
Vanity, thy name is Linda Schrenko. The former state school superintendent paid for a $9,300 face-lift with tax money intended for deaf students, then showed up in court wearing a faux-fur-accented coat. Schrenko squeaked into office in 1994 as the first woman to win a partisan statewide election. She served two terms, then fizzled out in a losing bid for governor financed in part with embezzled federal funds. Schrenko later admitted diverting more than $600,000 to a computer contractor for work that was never performed, then funneling about half to her campaign. She pleaded guilty a week and a half into her 2006 trial before Merle Temple, her deputy superintendent and ex-lover, could testify against her. She’ll get out of prison in 2013.
Who says there are no second acts in American lives? Yes, Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels harbored the fighting, torturing, and execution of underperforming pit bulls. And yes, Vick participated in the killing of six to eight dogs, some by drowning, hanging, or electrocuting. And yes, he served most of a twenty-three-month prison sentence. But remember: The man knows his way around a gridiron. In February, after a stellar season with the Eagles, he was named the NFL’s Comeback Player of the Year. A month later, he signed a one-year contract with the team, estimated to bring in around $20 million. That’s a lot of doggie biscuits.
When Blank and partner Bernie Marcus opened their first Home Depot store in the northern suburbs in 1979, Marcus’s three children handed out dollar bills to attract customers. These days, after two decades spent building their home-improvement warehouse concept into the second-largest retail chain in the country, Blank is again handing out money as one of Atlanta’s most prominent philanthropists and civic boosters.
Whether you flock to Fandango to purchase advance tickets for the latest Madea movie or chortled along with last year’s lacerating parody on Adult Swim’s The Boondocks, one thing is certain: Atlanta filmmaker Perry is the only major Hollywood player dedicated to cranking out hits from his adopted hometown. Only five years after shooting his first film (for one scene, he took a chain saw to a couch inside his own house), he was directing Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg and Grammy winner Janet Jackson in last year’s film adaptation of playwright Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf—partially shot at his sprawling thirty-acre Tyler Perry Studios in southwest Atlanta. At the TPS grand-opening party in 2008, Perry surprised mentors Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, and Cicely Tyson by dedicating soundstages in their honor as Will Smith beamed and Oprah Winfrey cried her eyelashes off. An awed Tyson said, “I never dreamed I would witness this in my lifetime. What I’ve achieved in my career is minuscule in comparison to this.”