“There it was, man, pop culture in the middle of an unreal dust bowl with a wide asphalt rim.” Thus wrote the Atlanta Constitution’s Albert Scardino forty-two years ago about the first Atlanta International Pop Festival, which took place on the Fourth of July weekend in 1969.
When Ashanti Floyd, twenty-six, was a fifth grader in Tallahassee, his classmates laughed at him for playing the violin. With Tupac Shakur cranking out multiplatinum records, there were few young African American violinists, let alone ones traveling to Europe for classical music competitions. But by high school, Floyd’s gym performances inspired such bedlam that the principal had to shut down student assemblies.
Veteran novelist and former Atlanta magazine staffer Anne Rivers Siddons sets her eighteenth novel, Burnt Mountain (Grand Central Publishing), in the metro area. These days Siddons divides her time between Maine and coastal South Carolina, but Atlanta “is burned into my heart and retinas,” she says. “I’ve kept all I know of it.” Indeed, Siddons captures the lush, old-money neighborhoods and the prickly Perimeter wars—inside or out?—with clear affection. “There are maybe ten small towns and communities orbiting Atlanta like dwarf moons,” she writes. “Most of them are close enough to the city to lie, figuratively, under its canopy, like fruit dropped from a great tree.” Burnt Mountain is steeped in Celtic myth, loss, and breathtaking betrayal. Thayer Wentworth grows up a tomboy in a proper family. In one magical summer at camp, she meets her first love and has her first heartbreak. Years later she marries Aengus O’Neill, an Irish professor with “banked-fire blue” eyes that only hint of the dark magic to come. Throughout Thayer’s life, her twisted relationship with her mother provides a powerful undertow. Siddons, now seventy-five, sometimes lays the drama on pretty thick, but her skill at drawing nuanced characters, painting beautiful scenes, and simply writing perfect sentences is on full display here.
This month at the Fox Theatre, American Idol rocker Constantine Maroulis reprises the 2009 Tony-Award-nominated role he debuted in Rock of Ages, an homage to eighties hair bands that the New York Times has described as both “absurdly enjoyable” and “Xanadu for straight people.” Here’s what he told us from the tour bus:
Nothing much has changed at Johnny’s Hideaway, the cougar bar buried in the strip mall homogeneity of Roswell Road. Not the disco ball or the parquet floor or the glamour shots of dead and dying celebrities. Divorcées in tight jeans and halter tops still troll the perimeter. The oldies soundtrack is the same, though founder Johnny Esposito, “Mr. Nightlife,” passed away in April at age seventy-nine. Chris Dauria, the son of Esposito’s partner Mike Dana, has run the place for years—still guarding the door with his entourage of big, bald bouncers, as if something valuable were inside. And maybe, in this age of disposable bars, there is.
Artist Radcliffe Bailey, forty-two, is as close to a celebrity as the Atlanta art scene gets, with his iconic dandyish fedoras and glamorous it-coupledom with writer and TV soap star wife, Victoria Rowell. Even the High Museum—not known for consistently exhibiting local talent—is acknowledging his achievements, staging a major survey of his work, Memory as Medicine (through September 11).
“GWTW” author’s evolution on race provides a fascinating focal point for new GPB “Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel” doc premiering tonight
Perhaps like many "Gone With the Wind" weary Atlantans, GPB executive director Teya Ryan openly admits to being "lukewarm" to producing an in-house original documentary on the life and career of the novel's Atlanta author Margaret Mitchell. "I thought the idea was kind of old, kind of passe," Ryan said during a recent advance media screening of the beautifully produced film directed and written by Pamela Roberts. The documentary premieres tonight at 8 p.m. on GPB followed at 9 p.m. with an encore presentation and a simultaneous online chat with Roberts on GPB.org.
Atlanta author Lisa Baron had many responsibilities as spokesperson for Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed and GOP political operative. However, it is the job she performed for future George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer on her knees in a Greenville hotel room during the 2000 Republican presidential primary that is liable to cause some exploding heads at Fox News this week.