Atlanta Must Reads for the Week: Tyler Perry, tales of a former Grady paramedic, and Gram Parsons’s Nudie suit

Plus, how to survive a shooting and Atlanta’s luxury apartment blues
Gram Parsons
Gram Parsons (second from the right) in his Nudie suit on the cover of 'The Gilded Palace of Sin'

Rembert Browne in New York on Tyler Perry.

In one of his first pieces since leaving Grantland, Rembert Browne returns to his hometown to profile Perry. As the two drive past the Atlanta movie mogul’s old haunts in a Porsche Cayenne, Browne reflects on whether criticism of the rags-to-riches filmmaker—whose onscreen characters are considered by some to be African American caricatures—holds water. To do so, the writer digs deep with his personal thoughts on the auteur’s body of work:

I was suddenly hit with the reality that I would need to be honest with Perry. I knew I had been wrong about him, to some degree, and I wanted him to know that. But I’d also have to tell him that I spent years disliking him and his work, thinking his characters were negatively affecting me as a black person in a white world. That I knew black people were often judged by what people saw or heard, more than what they knew. That I felt black people were often collectively judged by their perceived failures instead of their perceived successes—the latter of which have long been treated as exceptions. That I knew research existed that analyzed the complicated relationships black people have with the images we see of ourselves on the screen, telling us that those images can inspire, but they can also cause great anxiety. That some black people took black characters merely as “entertainment,” but others saw them as images that they needed to instill racial pride, strengthen racial identity, counter racism, and be role models.

A decade of thoughts about Tyler Perry ran through my mind in that moment, and even if he’d made me laugh in Brooklyn, I thought I owed it to him—and myself—to say that, for years, when he was the foremost black person presenting black characters and telling black stories, I thought Tyler Perry’s films and shows made my life harder.

Read: The Brand Keeping Oprah in Business

Bill Torpy in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Atlanta’s apartment attack.

If you look up in Atlanta, there’s a good chance you’ll spot a new apartment building rising out of the ground, replacing well-known destinations like East Andrews Entertainment District in Buckhead and Alfredo’s Italian restaurant on Cheshire Bridge Road. What have been lost aren’t just individual businesses, but authentic elements of our city. Even Manuel’s Tavern is changing. Torpy laments the loss of timeworn Atlanta establishments:

If the Phoenix flying out of the ashes is Atlanta’s symbol, then the “construction crane” would be that soot-covered bird’s roost. And as the cranes go up, several popular Atlanta-area nightspots and beloved eateries are going down. It’s the Atlanta Way. In with the high-end mixed-use. Out with the old and unique.

Read: Out with the old, in with the live/work/play

Kevin Hazzard on NPR’s Fresh Air about being a Grady Hospital paramedic.

In a conversation with WHYY host Terry Gross, Atlanta paramedic-turned-writer Kevin Hazzard chatted about his new book, A Thousand Naked Strangers, a memoir about his decade of driving ambulances, mostly for Grady Memorial Hospital. Whether you listen to the interview or read the transcript, Hazzard’s candor on the difficulty of treating “speedball” overdoses, the paucity of training required for ambulance drivers, and the mess of delivering babies offers insight into the unpredictable world of responding to 911 calls. Here, Hazzard discusses the rewards of answering respiratory calls:

Respiratory calls are really, really common—which was great because there are few things that you can do outside of the hospital that take someone from near death to looking at you and saying, “Do I still need to go?” And respiratory is one of those calls. We ran so many of them on everything from infants to the elderly, it was great. Everybody thinks shooting is exciting, “Oh, man, I’m going to run to this shooting, and I’m on my way!” And it’s crazy. There are cops there and police helicopters and it’s madness, but there’s really nothing for you to do. That’s really a job for the surgeons. Whereas a respiratory call, that person is in acute distress and they are going to die, you can see it in their face, and they know it and you know it. And you just happen to have this bag full of tricks that you get to kneel on their floor and talk to them and calm them down and slowly begin to give them one medication after another.

Sometimes it doesn’t work, sometimes you throw the book at them and they’re still just about as dead as when you found them, but oftentimes you can make a huge difference in that person’s life, and it’s both rewarding and exciting because you wouldn’t be there if you didn’t want to open your bag and start throwing medicine at people.

Interview: Paramedic Shares His Wild Ride Treating ‘A Thousand Naked Strangers’

Richard Fausset in the New York Times on Douglasville’s “Active Shooter” seminar.

Unlike most Douglasville town hall meetings, “Active Shooter: A Citizen’s Guide to Planning for Survival” was packed with residents seeking tips on what to do upon crossing paths with a gunman. The Gray Lady’s Atlanta bureau chief captures the oddities of a “part folksy pep talk and part pragmatic self-defense lecture” focused on one goal: survival. Fausset reports on lessons learned from Police Chief Gary Sparks that start with running away and end with biting a gunman’s nose off:

The world has changed, he told the crowd: Google the floor plans of stadiums and concert sites before going to them. Study the layout of your grocery store. Make a note of places to make a quick exit or to hide. And be ready to pounce, if you must, with maximum aggression.

“You can’t go out here and not have a mind-set to win the fight,” Chief Sparks said. “Can’t go around here with no sheepish-type mind-set. There ain’t no sheep dogs. Everybody in Douglasville, we tigers, lions, bears, elephants, whatever you want to be.”

Read: Georgia Town Teaches ‘Fight Back’ as Option in Mass Shootings

Elyssa East in the Oxford American on Gram Parsons’s Nudie suit.

“Rodeo Tailor” Nudie Cohn designed Western outfits for some of country’s most famous cowboys (John Wayne) and country music’s biggest stars (Johnny Cash). But the “Sin City” suit he made for Gram Parsons for the cover of the debut Flying Burrito Brothers album, The Gilded Palace of Sin, is widely considered his masterpiece. (One critic called it “the Sistine Chapel ceiling of cowboy attire.”) However, little did Cohn or Parsons know the suit itself would predict the Waycross native’s descent into drug use and death at age 26. East writes:

The 1960s were coming to a close when rising country rock musician Gram Parsons posed next to Nudie Cohn, the celebrated Western-wear designer more than three times his senior. Raeanne Rubenstein shot their portrait for Show: The Magazine of the Arts at Nudie’s Los Angeles workshop. Over a smooth bare chest and midriff, the twenty-something Parsons wore the suit Nudie designed for him for the cover of the Flying Burrito Brothers’ debut album, The Gilded Palace of Sin. Made of white cavalry twill, it was embroidered with crudely rendered naked ladies, rhinestone-studded marijuana leaves, and sequin-dotted poppies. Tuinal and Seconal capsules and sugar cubes laced with LSD decorated the sleeves. On the back shined a giant, gleaming cross. Flames licked the sides of both bell-bottom legs. Rubenstein’s shutter clicked, capturing the near-familial warmth and affection between the two men, neither of whom would have predicted that the suit, which went on to help make Parsons a legend, also foretold of his death.

Read: Nudie and the Cosmic American