Kool Kat of the Week: Bernadette Seacrest: From Ballet Dancer to Punk Rock Girl to Torch Song Provocateur

Posted on: Sep 19th, 2012 By:

By Torchy Taboo
Contributing Writer

In an ocean of great musical talent in Atlanta, we’ve discovered a shiny pearl perched on a high rock on the shore. ATLRetro’s Torchy Taboo had the opportunity to chat with singer Bernadette Seacrest and was immediately enchanted by her humble nature and artistic approach to giving performances. Bernadette plays the last Tuesday of every month with a revolving list of local favorites accompanying her at various intimate settings. On September 25, you can catch her at Sister Louisa’s CHURCH of the Living Room & Ping Pong Emporium; the show is upstairs from 8 to 10 p.m. and there’s never a cover. Bernadette opts to play small venues where she feels she is sharing the evening with the audience, the bartenders and wait-staff, everyone in the room. This intimate approach is informed, she explained to me by the deep creative  fulfillment she gets from performing, one that began as she was growing up fully immersed in the world of ballet.
Torchy Taboo: You are originally from Cali; North or South and is that where your performance background began?
Bernadette Seacrest: Yes, I grew up part of the time in California. My mom and dad split up when I was four. My dad stayed in NYC and my mom moved back to San Francisco but went back and forth between San Francisco and Venice Beach. My sister and I figured it out and all-in-all we spent the majority of our youth in Venice. Because we moved around so much I ended up attending ballet schools at the San Francisco Ballet, the Los Angeles Ballet and the American Ballet Theater in NYC.
Bernadette, as with all true ballerinas, grew up obsessed with the dance. It influenced every part of her growing psyche and was all she knew or wanted. Then all that suddenly ended. She suffered a tragic injury in ballet rehearsal which ended a promising dance career after which she ended up in NYC. How did you cope with that abrupt change and loss?
I dropped out of high school when I was injured; had a bit of a break-down when I couldn’t dance, was living in a foster home at 15,  and went to beauty school when I turned 16 (LA and Kansas City). Then I moved to NYC on my own in ’82 [at] 17 years old and lived in the East Village.
Is that where and when you developed your unique individual style? Did the punk undercurrent of the time in NYC give your angst a place to make itself useful?
I worked for a punk rock designer and started dabbling in fashion, and I also did a bunch of stylist work and modeling and junk – all with the crazy underground punk rock fetish peoples. No formal education in the fashion. I ended up moving to LA and creating a clothing line for a company called NANA. I took a few classes in fashion at Santa Monica Community College, but mostly I just figured shit out on my own. The women who influenced me back then, designers that I sold in the store I worked at [Enz’s – still in existence], were Vivienne Westwood, Dianne Brill and the like. Betsey Johnson had her little store just around the corner from one of the stores I managed. These ladies were kind of self-taught, too. It was the “punk rock” way, you know – if you wanted to play music, you played music, you picked up an instrument or whatever. I did have friends in school, but most of the folks I hung out with were doers.
How long have you been singing? And what was your first show?
I’ve been singing for just over 10 years. My first show was with Pat Bova in Albuquerque, NM. I was a wreck! I had had really bad stage fright all my life  – I was also a mess when performing with the ballet or doing any runway modeling. So I hated my first show! But I had always wanted to sing and I made a little promise to myself that I would perform five times, and if at the end of the fifth show I still felt the same way, I would stop. I would stop knowing I had given it my best. Luckily I was completely addicted by maybe the third or fourth show!
How much influence and input do you have in the writing of your songs? You describe them as “heavy”; does the phrase “Torchy'” (hahaha) also apply?
Torchy is most definitely a good description. I feel very fortunate to have found writers that I resonate with; it’s a real gift. They have all been my bandmates and have come to know me well. I am a feeling-based person more than anything. My guys bring me songs, I listen and see how I feel. It’s very simple. I don’t come at them with ideas- I allow them space to do their thing, the same way they allow me space to interpret their material the way I feel it. It’s a beautiful thing.
Your performance style is so personal. How does singing male-written lyrics affect that, if at all?
Actually, I had kind of a major epiphany this year regarding the song-writing. I have struggled with major insecurity about the fact I don’t write my own material, for as long as I’ve been singing. Really down on myself about it, not feeling confident about myself as an “artist” feeling like the cliche – “fraud.”  But this year I met with Pat Bova while I was visiting New Mexico and it hit me like a tidal wave. I’ll try and articulate it, but I am not sure I have the words to convey the depth of what it felt like to realize that my gift is to interpret his brilliant, and to me profound, material. It is equally as important for me to sing his songs as it would be my own. His songs need a voice. They need to reach people, they’re important. I feel they are important. They have such deep meaning for me. He knows me so well, knows my struggles and heartache, etc. He has been struggling the last several years, not performing himself as much, life kind of hitting him hard in some ways, and as I sat there with him, listening to him sing these songs he wrote I was filled with this feeling of “Oh my god! I HAVE to sing his songs, people need to hear this!” A wave of emotion came over me with an understanding like I’d never had before.
Bernadette explained to me the relief of finally finding that same complete fulfillment on stage that she’s experienced in the ballet. The list of accompanist is impressive, including local favorites RL Martin on guitar, Kris Dale on bass and Marlon Patton on drums. One week she found herself in a last-minute need of a drummer and as luck would have it, Kingsized‘s own king of the pipes, Big Mike Geier himself took a seat at the skins. Now that IS a creative approach.
All photographs are courtesy of Bernadette Seacrest.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Shakin’ It Up with “Big Mike” Geier on His Burning Love for Elvis and Other Musical Matters

Posted on: Aug 11th, 2011 By:

"Big Mike" Geier don't need no jumpsuit to celebrate Elvis. Serenading the audience during last year's ELVIS ROYALE. Photo Credit: Laura Newman.

Over the past 14 years, Kingsized’s Elvis Presley tribute show has grown from a family affair at the Star Bar into ELVIS ROYALE, an always sold-out Vegas-style multimedia Retro extravaganza with a 15-piece orchestra and glamorous glittery dancing girls, aka the Dames Aflame, at Variety Playhouse. Forget Elvis impersonators. “Big Mike” Geier don’t need no jumpsuit—his deep baritone voice, wide smile and signature charisma are more than enough to rival the stage presence of the undisputed King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, that is with that signature Geier twist. You’ll hear all the Presley hits with a sense of homage and humor, and some surprises along the way that Big Mike believes Elvis woulda sung had his life not been tragically cut short in 1977.

If you’re from Atlanta, skip on to the questions. If you’re new here or not from here, Big Mike has been big in Atlanta’s Retro revival scene since before we even knew we had one, and that’s not just because he’s six-foot-eight. He started performing in Richmond, Virginia, fronting the Useless Playboys, in 1989. That “swing noir” band attracted a national following and toured with Reverend Horton Heat, Southern Culture on the Skids and El Vez. But the Playboys also used to play here at the Star Bar so often it was hard to know he didn’t live here.

Mike Geier and wife Shannon Newton of the lovely Dames Aflame. Photo credit: David Stuart.

Then Big Mike came to Atlanta in 1995 to host the city’s first full neo-burlesque show, Go-Go and Torchy’s Taboo Revue, and he never left. Instead, he launched Kingsized—arguably Atlanta’s  best known and most popular swing band. In 2004, he started a Polynesian pop lounge band, Tongo Hiti, who are now Thurs. night regulars at Trader Vic’s downtown. Along the way he hooked up with burlesque troupe, Dames Aflame, led by his wife Shannon Newton. And that’s not to mention a slew of side projects, such as voiceover and music work for Cartoon Network and Puddles Pity Party, a cabaret clown act that recently toured with AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE LIVE.

So what do Big Mike, Kingsized and the Dames have in store at this year’s ELVIS ROYALE. Heck, let’s ask him…

You moved to Atlanta in 1995 at a very pivotal time for the Retro revival here. Obviously the opportunities have grown immensely here for performers who embrace a vintage style, but do you ever miss those more pioneering days? And do you have a favorite memory you’d like to share with those readers who were too young or moved here later?

I miss being able to fill up my 1960 Cadillac Coupe De Ville for $21. Gas was $1 a gallon! My favorite memory would be filling up my 1960 Cadillac Coupe De Ville for $21, then driving out past The Starlight Drive-In to Rio Vista for mountains of fried catfish and sweet tea with my super hot girlfriend who is now my super hot wife.

Can you talk a bit about the Elvis Royale’s humble origins and how it grew into the Vegas-style multimedia extravaganza it is today?

Imagine 350 people crammed in the Star Bar. It’s August and 80 degrees at 10 p.m. Everyone is chain-smoking and guzzling Rolling Rock. PBR’s ironic comeback is just beginning. The Grace Vault is where ya go to pay your respects to the King, among other things. Tim Lathrop used to perform the séance at midnight. The show didn’t even start until 11 o’clock. I had to move the show or else it would have killed me.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, July 25-31, 2011

Posted on: Jul 25th, 2011 By:

Monday July 25

From 3 PM on, savor tropical sounds and libations, as well as a Polynesian dinner during Mai Tai Monday at Smith’s Olde BarKingsized and Tongo Hiti lead singer Big Mike Geier is Monday night’s celebrity bartender at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong ParlorNorthside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday July 26

What’s in a name? Catchy coolness if you’re self-styled D.I.Y. rock ‘n’ roll band Swank Sinatra, playing tonight at Smith’s Olde Bar. Although their sound, fury and lyrics are inspired by Frank than “homeless people, pirates, ladies, shoes, ships, our hate of disco and breakfast.” Minor Stars and Kevin Dunbar Band open. Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. JT Speed plays the blues at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tues. Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday  July 27

The Temptations and The Four Tops make it a mini-Motown reunion at Classic Chastain tonight. Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard TavernDeacon Brandon Reeves bring the blues to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck blues it down at Northside Tavernrespectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdayspresented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven.

Thursday  July 28

It’s a cinematic night of pure (& twisted) imagination for the whole family as The Atlanta Opera screens classic 1971 movie WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY starring Gene Wilder at The Atlanta Opera Center (1575 Northside Drive, NW, Bldg 300, Suite 350, Atlanta, GA 30318). Attendees may win two (golden?) tickets to the company’s production of THE GOLDEN TICKET, also based on the Roald Dahl novel, in March, 2012.

Henry Porter, named after a legendary Dylan quote, bring their Western swing on DMT to Kathmandu Restaurant & Grill in Clarkston. Or is that post-rock mindset with 70’s AOR hooks? Or songs that Iggy Pop might could sing? Or the Eagles with credibility? Or CCR meets XTC? Heck if they even know for sure, but you can find out for free and eat some tasty Asian vittles at the same time.

Classic Tulsa Sound piano man Leon Russell opens for legendary folk rocker Bob Dylan at Chastain Park Amphitheatre. Go Retro-Polynesian to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum LoungeBreeze King and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe features The Burning Angels.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, July 11-17, 2011

Posted on: Jul 12th, 2011 By:

Monday July 11

From 3 PM on, savor tropical sounds and libations, as well as a Polynesian dinner during Mai Tai Monday at Smith’s Olde BarKingsized and Tongo Hiti lead singer Big Mike Geier is Monday night’s celebrity bartender at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong ParlorNorthside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday July 12

It’s a full moon movie Tuesday as two 35 mm classics featuring creatures on the prowl return to the big screens of Atlanta two most Retro cinemas. Elizabeth Taylor slinks like A CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. Read Dean Treadway‘s review of the 1958 film based on the Tennessee Williams play of the same title, also starring Paul Newman and Burl Ives here, and be sure to be there by 7 p.m. for the Mighty Mo‘ organ singalong, cartoon and vintage newsreel. Then at 9:30 p.m. at The Plaza, Splatter Cinema presents AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, the 1981 John Landis-directed cult favorite that introduced audiences to the full-body monster transformation with special make-up effects. Read Philip Nutman‘s review here.

Sultry and sexy ’80s torch-singer Sade performs with John Legend at Philips Arena. Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. JT Speed plays the blues at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday  July 13

Sade plays a second night with John Legend at Philips Arena. Vocalist Boz Scaggs sings American classics from Gershwin to Rodgers and Hart at Classic Chastain with former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald. Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard Tavern. Deacon Brandon Reeves bring the blues to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck blues it down at Northside Tavernrespectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven.

Thursday  July 14

The Craigger White Band bring back the spirit of ’70s rock at Kathmandu Restaurant & Grill in Clarkston. All Thursday shows at the Vietnamese restaurant are free and all-ages. Go Retro-Polynesian to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologneat Aurum LoungeBreeze Kings and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe features Hunger Valley Boys.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, June 27-July 3, 2011

Posted on: Jun 27th, 2011 By:

Just five months after quietly launching ATLRetro the last weekend of January, we’re up to our 100th post, blushing after a rockin’ review from Scoutmob, and averaging nearly 4,000 hits a month! Thanks, dear readers, for your support, and we hope you’ll stick around for an exciting site revamp in July featuring a mighty swell new logo courtesy of that swingin’ kat Derek Yaniger and new regular features on Retro restaurants, cocktails and vintage shopping.

Mike Geier and one of the lovely Dames Aflame.

Monday June 27

From 3 PM on, savor tropical sounds and libations, as well as a Polynesian dinner during Mai Tai Monday at Smith’s Olde BarKingsized and Tongo Hiti lead singer Big Mike Geier is Monday night’s celebrity bartender at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong ParlorNorthside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday June 28

Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. Fedora Blues is at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday  June 29

Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard TavernThe Hollidays bring a little soul to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck blues it down at Northside Tavern respectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven.

Thursday  June 30

You don’t need a golden ticket to enter in a world of Gene Wilder‘s imagination courtesy of trippy 1971 kids classic WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, this week’s movie at Piedmont Park‘s Screen on the Green.

Uncle Daddy & the Kissin’ Cousins get Twain’s a hoppin’, hillbilly style. Self-described Atlanta “modern retrobilly” band The Serenaders swing at Kathmandu Restaurant & Grill in Clarkston. All Thursday shows at the Vietnamese restaurant are free and all-ages. Go Polynesian to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum LoungeBreeze Kings and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe features Kris Youmans & the DC-3’s.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, June 20-26, 2011

Posted on: Jun 20th, 2011 By:

Monday June 20

Swing to Joe Gransden, trumpet player extraordinaire, and his 16-piece orchestra during Big Band Night at Cafe 290 on the first and third Monday of every month. From 3 PM on, savor tropical sounds and libations, as well as a Polynesian dinner during Mai Tai Monday at Smith’s Olde Bar. Kingsized and Tongo Hiti lead singer Big Mike Geier is Monday night’s celebrity bartender at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong ParlorNorthside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday June 21

Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. Fedora Blues is at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday  June 22

It’s an all-star night of jazz and swing at the Star Bar with Nat King Coal Miners, a dynamic new jazz trio made up of three seasoned musicians, February ATLRetro Kool Kat Spike Fullerton (Ghost Riders Car Club) on guitar, Matt Wauchope (Blair Crimmins & the Hookers) on piano and blues man Dave Roth (Burnt Bacon). Read more about them in a sneak preview with Spike Fullerton posting soon.

Chris Isaak may not have that perfect pompadour anymore but you can see him still shaking up alt-rock with that modern Sinatra vibe tonight at in the Classic Chastain series. Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard TavernThe Hollidays bring a little soul to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeckblues it down at Northside Tavern respectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven.

Thursday  June 23

Expect “shimmies, shakes, glitter, glamour and, of course, tassels” as the burlesque beauties of Minette Magnifique take to the stage tonight in a new show titled Prohibition Exhibition *Making the Illicit Explict* at The Warren City Club. Read the ATLRetro Kool Kat profile of Shellie Schmals, aka Baroness VONSchmalhausen here.

In Conversations with Contemporary Artists: Radcliffe Bailey, the world-renowned artist discusses his work with diverse media in the new exhibition MEMORY AS MEDICINE, which opens Sun. June 26 and runs through Sept. 11 at High Museum of Art. Take a tour with the provocative artist in this week’s Kool Kat here. Tickets to the talk at the Woodruff Arts Center’s Rich Auditorium are free but limited to two per person, and advance reservations are recommended at (404) 733-5000.

Tongo Hiti

Classic horror (James Whale’s 1931 FRANKENSTEIN featuring Boris Karloff vs Hitchcock’s 1963 THE BIRDS) is the theme for viewer’s choice night at Piedmont Park‘s Screen on the Green. Listen to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Alt-country act McNary plays Kathmandu Kitchen & Grill (formerly Pho Truc) in Clarkston. All shows are no cover charge, no smoking and all ages. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum LoungeBreeze Kingsand Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe features Curtis Jones & Friends.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, June 13-19, 2011

Posted on: Jun 13th, 2011 By:

Monday June 13

From 3 PM on, savor tropical sounds and libations, as well as a Polynesian dinner during Mai Tai Monday at Smith’s Olde Bar. Kingsized and Tongo Hiti lead singer Big Mike Geier is Monday night’s celebrity bartender at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong ParlorNorthside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday June 14

Watch Dennis Hopper battle crazed redneck cannibals as Splatter Cinema presents THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 at the Plaza Theatre tonight at 9:30 PM. Read Geoff Slade‘s bloody review here.  Hear UK ’70s hard rock band Uriah Heap at Variety Playhouse. Attend the Atlanta launch of THE SWEETEST THING, a novel about two remarkable women during the Great Depression, by award-winning writer Elizabeth Musser, author of The Swan House, at the Atlanta History Center. Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday  June 15

It’s only halfway through the work week, but Syrens of the South Productions are ready to make it go a little faster with Hump Day Honeys, a weeknight burlesque show at The Shelter featuring both local favorites, such as Katherine Lashe and Kittie Katrina, as well as hot out-of-town guests such as Burlesque Nouveau from Greensboro, NC. Shows start promptly at 10 PM, end at midnight, and include a raffle to benefit the Southern Fried Burlesque Fest. Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard TavernThe Hollidays bring a little soul to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck blues it down at Northside Tavern respectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven.

Thursday  June 16

Slim Chance & the Convicts

Slim, Dangerous Dan and Tony Drummer reunite for the first time in five years and replay their very first set from June 4, 1986 to celebrate The 25th Anniversary of Slim Chance & the Convicts at Kathmandu Kitchen & Grill (formerly Pho Truc) in Clarkston. Opening for the Redneck Underground icons is Spooky Partridge. No cover charge, no smoking and all ages!

Beloved Atlanta chanteuse Libby Whittemore returns to Actor’s Express for a four-day run (June 16-19) of LISA & LIBBY’S SUMMER CAMP, joining singer Lisa Paige and musical director/accompanist Robert Strickland for a summer-themed new installment to the Libby’s at the Express series. The show combines standards, Broadway tunes, and more, and in the second act, the 31st Lady of Country Music Connie Sue Day. Shows start at 7:30 PM. Relive the pangs and pleasures of ’80s high school romance via John Hughes’ 1984 hit SIXTEEN CANDLES at Piedmont Park‘s Screen on the Green. Listen to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum LoungeBreeze Kings and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe features He Sang She Sang and Hopfrog.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, May 30-June 5, 2011

Posted on: May 31st, 2011 By:

Lots going on this week & still catching up after a Bubba-licious holiday weekend, so expect a few updates as the week goes along…

Monday May 30

Every Monday, find out if Kingsized and Tongo Hiti lead singer Big Mike Geier will croon a tune or two for tips during his second week as Monday night’s celebrity bartender at newly opened Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Parlor. Northside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday May 31

Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday June 1

Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard TavernFrankie’s Blues Mission and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck bring on the blues at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Northside Tavern respectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven.

Thursday June 2

Spanky & The Love Handles brings the blues to Clarkston-based Kathmandu Kitchen & Grill‘s Thursday free concert series.  Listen to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologneat Aurum LoungeBreeze Kings and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe presents Country Fried Karaoke Night with Red Light All Stars Band.

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Weekend Update, April 8-10, 2011

Posted on: Apr 8th, 2011 By:

Friday, April 8

Mike Geier and one of the lovely Dames Aflame.

Kingsized swings, lounges and rock and rolls the Star Bar in that wondrous way that only “Big Mike” Geier can.  Master mandolin player and one of the fathers of bluegrass music, Ricky Skaggs and his band Kentucky Thunder play Variety PlayhouseAlex Lattimore brings jazz, R&B and a light touch of blues to Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAX.  Joe Gransden and Kenny Banks jazz up Twelve at Atlantic Station.

Film Love‘s Yoko Ono: Reality Dreams short film series concludes with a free screening of Bottoms at 8 PM at Emory University‘s White Hall Room 206.  Ono’s most notorious film literally reveals the backsides of several hundred “saints of our time. All Film Love events are curated by recent Kool Kat Andy Ditzler.

Saturday April 9

Celebrate the 19th birthday of The Highlander with a free concert by musical masters of the circus freak show, Greasepaint, featuring Atlanta’s own insane clown posse of Puddles, aka Big Mike Geier (Kingsized), and the Reverend Uncle Laffo, aka Jim Stacy (Grand Moff Tarkin). Also on the bill is Super X-13, featuring Shane Morton (Gargantua, Silver Scream Spook Show) on bass in a big hair wig and crazy Ultraman-inspired jumpsuit (well that’s the whole band actually)!

 

Cuba’s greatest rumba ensemble for more than 50 years, Los Munequitos de Matanzas proves “without rumba, there is no Cuba, and without Cuba, there is no rumba” at GSU’s Rialto Center for the Arts. Legendary ’80s industrial/ experimental rock band Savage Republic revs up The EarlBetter Than The Beatles pays tribute to the Fab Four at Jerry Farber’s Side Door. DJ Romeo Cologne transforms the sensationally seedy Clermont Lounge into a ’70s disco/funk inferno.

Sunday April 10

Tinkerbell (Yetter) flies with Peter Pan (Ciaran Joyce). Photo credit: Ed Krieger.

Tom Gentry & Co. serve up the blues at “dunch” between 1 and 4 PM at The Earl. And today is the last day to catch KOOL KAT Emily Yetter starring as a precocious, politically incorrect Tinkerbell in J.M. BARRIE’S PETER PAN under the big tent at Pemberton Place, next to the World of Coca-Cola.

 

Ongoing

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec died in 1901, but it’s not a stretch to say that his vibrant posters and prints of showgirls, nightclub stars and the café culture influenced the 20th century romantic view of Paris and still inspire today’s burlesque performers. The High Museum of Art’s dynamic new special exhibition, TOULOUSE-LAUTREC AND FRIENDS: THE IRENE AND HOWARD STEIN COLLECTION, runs through May 1. Also at the High through May 29 is the MOMA-organized HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON: THE MODERN CENTURY, another blockbuster exhibit showcasing a photographer and photojournalist who captured on film many of the seminal moments  of the 20th century from World War II to the assassination of Ghandi, China’s cultural revolution to civil rights and consumer culture in America.

Tune back in on Monday for This Week in Retro Atlanta. If you know of a cool happening we’ve missed, send suggestions to ATLRetro@gmail.com.


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Kool Kat of the Week: Time-Traveling with Torchy Taboo to the Roots of the Neo-Burlesque Revival in Atlanta

Posted on: Mar 10th, 2011 By:

Ask anyone in Atlanta’s neo-burlesque scene who started it here, and one name inevitably comes up— Eve “Torchy Taboo” Warren. She’s been dubbed the “Godfather of Atlanta Burlesque” and nothing seems more natural than her hosting the Dirty South Burlesque Showcase, a late-night cabaret on Saturday night for some of the best regional performers, one of several star-studded performance events at this weekend’s Southern Fried Burlesque Fest [read ATLRetro’s preview here].

With all the burlesque troupes and production companies performing here now, it’s hard to imagine that just 16 years ago, none of that existed. While Atlanta was home to one of the nation’s largest collections of adult entertainment venues, those venues had long ago left behind any appreciation of the art of the tease. Among all the stagnant bump and grind for big bucks, however, one dancer had a dream.

This red-haired 5-foot-nothing Rita Hayworth lookalike never had been an ordinary stripper. When she wasn’t dancing, she was vagabonding across Europe, performing at drag shows at The Sports Page, studying art history, sipping Polynesian cocktails, waxing poetically about corndogs and jitterbugging to rockabilly bands at the Star Bar. That’s how I met her in 1995 through my friend “Go-Go” Max Bernardi, another Star Bar regular and a singer, painter and performance artist whose artwork and acts were often seen at 800 East, an Inman Park warehouse that at the time was a haven for the city’s alternative creative scene.

The cast of Go-Go and Torchy's Taboo Revue including Eve "Torchy Taboo" Warren, "Go-Go Max" Bernardi, Wanda Baker, Tim Monteith, Ivy Godiva, Dave Olsen and the Queen Bee. Photo credit: April Stevens

Together, Eve and Max cooked up this crazy idea to put on a tribute to the burlesque variety shows of the mid-20th century which they would come to call GO-GO AND TORCHY’S TABOO REVUE. It took place at the Catch City Club, next to Center Stage in Midtown, on October 14-15, 1995, and included many top players in Atlanta’s burgeoning rockabilly, lounge and performance art scene. Useless Playboys former front man “Big Mike” Geier even returned to Atlanta from Richmond, Va., to emcee. Later on he’d found some band called Kingsized and perform with a neo-burlesque company called Dames Aflame, which incidentally also was founded by Torchy Taboo. Another reason why it’s only fittin’ that Big Mike will be hosting and the Dames Aflame are special guests at the FreeRange Burlesque Show Friday night at Southern Fried.

“Go-Go” Max Bernardi clowns in her cowboy boots before her Taboo Revue opening number as Cleopatra.

Kelly Hogan (The Jody Grind, Rock*A*Teens), Wanda Baker (Bleu Velveeta) and Dave Olsen (Atlanta rockabilly swing icons The Lost Continentals) sang solo numbers, and almost every number was performed live by a seven-member lounge band, featuring Olson and other members of The Lost Continentals. Dashing up-and-coming illusionist, Christopher Tracy, provided magic, and Ivy Godiva, the weekly guest star of the then-infamous Go-Go Rama dances at the Star Bar, delivered laughs as his ravishingly redneck assistant, as well as a red-hot striptease to a revved-up rockabilly version of Dion and the Belmonts’ “Ruby Baby.” Puppeteer Tim Monteith boogied woogied as all three Andrews Sisters; he still regularly performs at Syrens of the South and other local shows and is competing in the first annual Southern Fried Burlesque Pageant earlier on Saturday night. In an artistic interlude, modern dancers Anik Keuller and Sonya Sconiers re-interpreted the Greek myth of Persephone without removing a stitch. And a certain ATLRetro writer/editor danced and sang as a 1920s art deco Bumble Bee Queen, with Bee-ettes “Saasha Foo” Wilson, hostess to many of 800 East’s zany variety shows, and her friend and fellow disco dancer Faith Farley.

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