Kool Kat of the Week: An Artful Garden for an Artful Cause

Posted on: May 13th, 2011 By:

This week’s Kool Kat isn’t a person but a garden which happens to belong to a Retro home, one of those 1920s neo-Tudor-revival manors on Fairview Road where we can only imagine the Gatsby-style Charleston parties that once went on. Vintage Atlanta got a massive break in the early 1990s when a lawsuit finally took away the threat of Freedom Parkway being extended through what’s now Freedom Park. It was too late to save all of the historic homes that were demolished in the 1960s and ‘70s due to the specter of the “Stone Mountain Freeway,” but the threat of overlooking a highway lowered home prices in the parts of Druid Hills next door to it enough to make a deal for homeowners Christine Cozzens, an English professor at Agnes Scott College, and Ron Calabrese, a biology professor at Emory University. A potential view of asphalt vanquished, they planted a garden so beautiful that it’s a work of art, one of several that complement historic homes in Druid Hills, Morningside and Buckhead on The Artful Garden Tour, Sat. May 14 from 10 AM to 5 PM, which benefits the High Museum of Art.

Druid Hills itself could be called a garden neighborhood, designed to around curving interconnecting parks by pioneering landscape architect Frederik Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park in New York and the Chicago’s World Fair. Olmsted embraced living in nature, and so does this house. Cozzens grew up in a neo-Tudor revival house and loved the fact that former owners had never changed the floor plan, as has happened to many Druid Hills homes, but the one addition the couple did make was a conservatory. “The idea was that we needed some more living space but we wanted to be able to be outdoors year-round,” she says. The garden, designed by well-known Atlanta landscape architect Mary Palmer Dargan, of Dargan Landscape Architects, literally encircles the house so big windows in the front and back also provide breathtaking views.

When Cozzens and Calabrese moved in with her then-small three children, the only blooms endured for a few weeks in the spring, but now the house is surrounded by an eclectic variety of shrubs, native plants and perennials, allowing for year-round color without a lot of work to maintain the loveliness. The variety reminds Cozzens of Merrion Square and other places in Dublin which the Irish literature expert has visited while leading student trips. “It wouldn’t be miles of privet or boxwood,” she says. “It would be different leaf textures, different colors, different everything right next to each other—an incredible tapestry of leaves.”

Winding paths lead to other parts of the garden including a vegetable planting area with five beds, the Crepe Myrtle Parking Nook which makes for a breathtaking view from the kitchen window, and Emma’s Garden, named after the family’s daughter, which still contains the small unicorn statue the now-20-year-old loved at age 9. The house and garden took a tragic hit in 2009 when a giant tree fell, and the drought gave an extra hit, but the possibility to participate in this year’s Artful Garden Tour provided inspiration to revive the garden after that difficult time. It’s also been featured in the HGTV series GROUND BREAKERS.

Tickets for The Artful Garden Tour are available here.

 

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Retro Rides Add Magic to 75th Annual Dogwood Festival

Posted on: Apr 13th, 2011 By:

Atlanta’s quintessential weekend in the park, the Dogwood Festival at Piedmont Park has always been a crowded but laidback affair with bands, art vendors, food, kids’ activities and dogs who chase Frisbees. So when organizers looked for something to make its 75th anniversary year even more memorable, ATLRetro is jazzed that they decided to think backwards to a ride that has been the signature of world’s fairs, expositions and festivals of bygone days—a Ferris wheel.

And what a Ferris wheel they found—the Seattle Wheel. The largest traveling Ferris wheel in the nation at nine stories high, it seats four abreast in each car and was built in 1963 for the Seattle World’s Fair. That’s big for most Ferris wheels of today with the exception of stationary giants such as the London Eye. To put it into perspective, the first Big Wheel, designed to rival the Eiffel Tower in its mechanical wonder, was built for the legendary Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Its cars were 24 feet wide and carried up to 60 people!

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Category: Features | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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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Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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