Stripping for cash, praising the lord, and cursing our traffic lights

Charles at Large: A fifth-generation Atlantan explains the city

Q: Whatever happened to the Gold Club strip joint? I heard it became a church.

In 2001, when the Gold Club was revealed to be both the sexual
playground of pro athletes and financial Laundromat of the Gambino
crime family, I was almost old enough to get in. Owner Steve Kaplan
went down in a racketeering and prostitution trial featuring the
relatively mundane revelation that a nineteen-year-old Andruw Jones
watched a live sex show between two GC performers and then had sex with
them (admitting, during the trial, “To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t
remember one of their faces right now”). So there went my adolescent
plan to see the show one day.

Now the building (which the feds sold to developer Wayne Mason and the
estate of late developer Kim King for $5.25 million) is empty; its
gilded lettering has faded and patrons’ moans have long ceased to echo.
But briefly, for six months in 2004, it was indeed a church. The story
goes like so: The Reverend Dan Garrett was driving up Piedmont Road one
day, near Lindbergh, looking for a better space for the Christian
Church Buckhead, when his wife, Carol, asked, “Why not rent the old
Gold Club?” In the fall of 2003, Garrett wrote in a brief online
history of his now-former church, “200 volunteers . . . helped renovate
the Gold Club into God’s Club.” In the summer of 2004, Garrett and his
evangelical congregation picked up shop and began worshipping at a
marginally more conventional (and more affordable) location: the AMC
theater at Phipps Plaza.

According to Garrett, some of the strip club’s mirrors remain. In early
April a group called F&C Buckhead Investments proposed putting an
upscale, clothing-mandatory nightclub at the infamous 2416 Piedmont
Road address. You won’t find me or Patrick Ewing there.

Q: Why do the traffic lights go out here so often? I’ve lived in places with worse weather without that problem.

The City of Atlanta’s Department of Public Works is responsible for
maintaining all traffic signals within the city. But traffic signals
receive their power through Georgia Power’s grid, which uses
aboveground lines (which are ten times cheaper to implement than
belowground lines) in about 65 percent of the state. “During storms or
high winds,” says DPW Commissioner Joe Basista, “it’s not unusual for
overhead power lines to be damaged,” wreaking havoc on traffic lights.
De facto four-way stops! Panic at blinking yellows!

Basista cites two reasons it may appear that our traffic signals are
interrupted more than those in similar-sized metro areas: “Other cities
have more of their power grid underground,” which protects it from
storms and looks nicer. “And Atlanta is the ‘City of Trees.’ Fallen
limbs and downed trees are the primary cause for our loss of overhead
power.” But don’t expect a switch to belowground soon—Georgia Power
says only new neighborhoods are getting the invisible stuff.

Illustration by Edwin Fotheringham

Got an Atlanta question? E-mail Charles Bethea at