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.”
After dropping out of college—first UGA, then Georgia State—and a stint in California, Cooley managed a pizza joint on Roswell Road. It wasn’t doing well, so he brought in doo-wop performers, but it still went bust. A few months later, driving to Miami, he heard a radio station announce the Miami Pop Festival. He went and was blown away. Back in Atlanta, he and seventeen partners started the first Atlanta International Pop Festival. Janis Joplin showed up and said to him, “I want a drink and a fuck. In that order.” In July of 1969, weeks before Woodstock, she, Chuck Berry, and Led Zeppelin performed for more than 100,000 at the Atlanta International Raceway. Cooley later launched the Electric Ballroom and the Roxy, started Music Midtown with partner Peter Conlon (now president of Live Nation Atlanta), and was instrumental in saving the Fox. Last year he consulted on the renovation of the Buckhead Theatre. “Music,” he says, “has been my life. Now rock is respectable, though, which takes a little something away from it.”
When Quatrano and husband/business partner Clifford Harrison moved Bacchanalia—their nationally renowned fine-dining restaurant—from a Buckhead cottage to uncharted Westside in 1999, foodies fretted over whether it would survive. Not only did it flourish, but it also sparked redevelopment that eventually made Westside the city’s hottest dining neighborhood. With three other restaurants (Floataway Cafe, Quinones at Bacchanalia, and the latest, Abattoir) and gourmet market Star Provisions to run, Quatrano tries to spend time at each every day.