Kool Kat of the Week: Speaking Easy About Volstead Nights With Ruby Le Chatte; There’s No Prohibiting The Fat Cat Cabaret’s Meow

Posted on: Jun 25th, 2013 By:

Ruby Le Chatte. Photo credit: Mike Curtis, Treehouse Studio.

Ever since Gatsby’s, Atlanta’s Roaring ’20s themed night club opened this spring in Midtown, it seems like there’s a cool Retro event happening there almost every week. This Saturday June 29, it’s Volstead Nights – A Speakeasy Review presented by Fat Cat Cabaret. The ’20s themed night will feature lots of our favorite things – burlesque, cabaret, comedy, aerial silks, magic, hooping and more performed byFat Cat Cabaret troupe members and special guest artists from Atlanta and Nashville, followed by a dance. These include Nashville-based magician John Pyka “Big Daddy Cool,” Atlanta aerial silks performer extraordinaire Persephone Phoenix,  and Rebecca “HoopEssence” DeShon, hula hoop mistress who also has been an ATLRetro Kool Kat of the Week. Tickets are $15, and the show starts at 8.

ATLRetro managed to tease out a scandalous sneak preview from Ruby Le Chatte, Fat Cat Cabaret’s troupe manager and co-founder with Jacqueline Trade. While relatively new the burlesque scene, Ruby has been practicing Egyptian Cabaret style belly dance for over 10 years in both Texas and Georgia. Ruby’s name is derived from her favorite things, her shining red birthstone and her favorite color, as well as “le Chatte” the female feline.. As she says: “Don’t mistake her for a common house cat, the only thing domestic about her is that she lives indoors.”

ATLRetro: As Ruby le Chatte, you take inspiration from your birthstone and the female feline. Did you have a special cat or is it more the long tradition of sexy, mysterious feline-inspired characters/performers from Catwoman to the lethal beauties in Russ Meyer’s FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!?

Ruby Le Chatte: Yes, it’s more the history of the feline. Even in Egyptian times the feline was a symbol of grace and poise.

Julie Newmar as Catwoman in the 1960s BATMAN TV series.

Do you have a favorite feline-inspired character/performer? If yes, why?

As a child I loved watching reruns of the BATMAN TV show with Julie Newmar as Catwoman. She was always sexy and mysterious.

You came to burlesque via Egyptian Cabaret style belly dance. For those less familiar with bellydancing, how does this differ from more traditional belly dance and what drew you to this performance art form?

Egyptian Cabaret is the style of bellydancing that most Americans are used to seeing in Mediterranean restaurants. The performances can be quite sensual, and the costumes are often covered in rhinestones. Around Atlanta, at faires and festivals, it is more likely that you will see a style of belly dance called American Tribal Style dance. The costumes consist of more earthy colors, cowrie shells and large hair flower headdresses. ATS is an amazing style of dance, usually done in group numbers where one dancer takes the lead and her movement dictates the next series of moves that she and the other performers will do. Egyptian Cabaret is more commonly a solo performance, and many props – veils, swords, candles, fans – can be used. I admit, I was first drawn to the style of dance because I am a terrible flirt. *wink*

Ruby Le Chatte. Photo credit: NewUncleMe@yahoo.com

Is there a vibrant Egyptian Cabaret style belly dance scene in Atlanta? In the Southeast?

There is a vibrant belly dance scene in Atlanta and the Southeast, though there are more ATS performers than Egyptian Cabaret  it seems. There’s also a large burlesque community, and the two different groups often work together in Atlanta to put on fabulous shows throughout the year.

Is there a story behind your passage from belly dance to burlesque? And how does your belly dance experience inform/influence your burlesque acts?

I admit, when I moved to Texas from Georgia in 2007 and tried to find Egyptian Cabaret classes to attend – it’s always important to continue your education – I was unable to find classes in that style near my home. I did take a few ATS classes, and while beautiful and challenging, I was not drawn to that style of dance as I was to Egyptian Cabaret. In December 2010, I attended my first burlesque show with a friend and a light bulb went off in my head. Burlesque can include humor, sensuality, drama, tease. It can tell a story; it can make your heart skip a beat. I enrolled in classes with Syrens of the South shortly thereafter and have not had a second thought since.

How did Fat Cat Cabaret get started?

My good friend Jacqueline Trade and I had performed together on a couple of occasions, during which we’d spoken about the things we love about burlesque.  She and I sat down over diner and drinks and hashed out what we’d like to see, who we wanted to include and our roles. She is our Creative Director, ensuring that our shows go off without a hitch, and I am our Manger, here to make sure that all the ducks are in a row.

Can you talk a little bit about what a Fat Cat Cabaret show is like and how it fits in and/or differs from the Atlanta burlesque revival scene?

Jackie and I felt there was a place in Atlanta for a vaudeville style troop of performers and crew who wanted to create classy shows with a nod to history. Fat Cat Cabaret shows include 1920-1950s style performances, and while not everything we do is historically accurate, we create our numbers with those shows in mind. The burlesque performers of that time are praised even today for their style, creativity, femininity and flair. Our shows have a storyteller who acts as our MC; the audience is fully immersed in the show with us. It’s similar to attending the Renaissance Festival. Sure you can go as a patron and enjoy the food and watching the performers, but isn’t it a little more fun when you let your hair down and interact with them a little? Don’t be surprised if you get a wink from Sally Strumpet or if Dante Roberto takes you out on the dance floor for a spin.

The Cast of Fat Cat Cabaret, ready to speak easy at Volstead Nights! Photo credit: Mike Curtis, Treehouse Studio.

Why the name “Volstead Nights”? Without giving away all the surprises, what can you tease us about Saturday’s performance?

Ah, well, The Volstead Act was enacted to carry out the 18th amendment to the U.S. constitution on January 17, 1920. The 18th amendment is better known as Prohibition. Under the laws of the time, the sale of alcohol was forbidden, and anyone who wanted a taste of “giggle water” had to find a way to get it in secret, like in a speakeasy. In our show, Benjamin Gravitt – our MC for the night – is the owner of one of those speakeasys, and he named it the Volstead as a humorous jab at the law.

Do you have anything special personally planned for your own act Saturday?

I do! You will be the first audience to see me perform with a beautiful pair of “Isis Wings.” They are like a veil or a fan, however they’re made from pleated fabric and look like the wings on images of the goddess Isis. Who knows what may, or may not, be visible when I twirl them around my body as I dance.

At ATLRetro, we’re really excited about Gatsby’s. For folks who haven’t been there, what makes it so special?

I’m so glad to hear that you’re excited. We are too! Gatsby’s is a lovely venue for many reasons. It has a beautiful art deco style, huge dance floor, expertly crafted and reasonably priced drinks (they even have specialty coffees before 10 p.m.), desserts, tons of free parking. They allow 18 and up and are a nonsmoking venue. What more does one need?

What’s next for Ruby le Chatte and Fat Cat Cabaret?

We always have something in the works. The nature of our shows involve a lot of planning and many long nights rehearsing. I believe I speak for everyone involved in Fat Cat Cabaret when I say that we are very passionate about our art. We’ve discussed our next show being 1950s in theme and maybe doing some video performances that are campy versions of the “educational/informational” old films on how to be a responsible housewife or how young ladies should dress to be respected. Whatever we do next, I can assure you that you will be teased, tempted, amused and entertained!

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Kool Kat of the Week: It Ain’t Rockabilly If You Don’t Have the Right Pair of Shoes; Talking Smart, Sassy and Southern with Miss Mason of Mon Cherie’s Rockabilly Lounge

Posted on: Feb 6th, 2013 By:

Every other month for more than five years – that’s half a decade – Atlanta’s Retro hostess with the mostest Mon Cherie gathers her friends and throws a Rockabilly Lounge at The Masquerade. And we’re tickled pink that her Valentine’s Lounge this Saturday Feb. 9 features a bunch of Kool Kat alums. First off, Mon Cherie is one. Then shake rattlin and rollin’ will be one of our favorite Atlanta bands The Stumblers, featuring Kool Kat Keith Martin. The Sweetheart Burlesque Show includes performances by Stormy Knight and the magic of Chad Sanborn, not to mention Scarlett PageHada Pixie, and debuting for the first time anywhere: Sunshine Divine. Wear your jitterbug’ shoes because The Right Reverend Andy will be spinning swing, rockabilly and psychobilly favorites. And that’s not to mention the Ragin’ Raffle and vendors aplenty to help you find that perfect gift for your Retro-lovin’ Valentine. Doors are at 9 p.m. but it’s no exaggeration to say the fun always runs well past midnight, making it just about the best way to get a bang out of 10 bucks.

In the midst of all this Koolness, we realized there’s one kool kitty we hadn’t gotten to profile yet, the Rockabilly Lounge’s gorgeous, charming and dangerously clever emcee, Miss Mason. Not wanting to get stung by Cupid’s arrow in our rear, we decided we’d better remedy that situation right quick.

ATLRetro: Why Miss Mason? 

Miss Mason: It’s my maiden name. Incidentally it’s also the name I was often referred to when I was at trouble at school. Went like this: THEM: “Do you think you’re being funny, Miss Mason?” ME: “I KNOW I’m bein’ funny.”

Miss Mason and the Right Reverend Andy Hawley. Photo credit: Shawn Doughtie.

How did you get the nickname “The Mouth of the South”?

Ha, that one is courtesy of my parents, as I had – have! – the proclivity for talking when I shouldn’t, talking back, talking loud. Seemed a perfect fit for a tag line for a big-mouthed shit-talker!

To us, emceeing seems like an absolute art. How much of what you do is pre-scripted and how much is improvised?

I don’t fancy myself much of an artist. I’m just not afraid of crowds, not afraid to talk in front of one. As for scripting, information about the artists is something I collect so they can get a proper introduction. The artists work very hard at building their brand, and the last thing I want to do is mess that up. Sometimes they have developed intros to use for each performance, but there are plenty of artists who trust me to come up with something silly and fun. As time goes by and we all get to know each other better, the introductions get more and more clever. I rather enjoy it, and I hope it endears the artists to me.  So a little is scripted, but for the most part I just get up there and roll with the punches.

What do you love most about emceeing?

That’s easy: I love to make people laugh.

How did you get your start performing?

A little over five years ago I attended a birthday party for my friend’s son and Mon Cherie was there. She was just about to give birth to Rockabilly Lounge and asked if I’d like to be one of her Burlesque Beauties and give out Jell-O shots. Not long after our first Rockabilly Lounge, Mon Cherie asked if I’d introduce the band. I mentioned that I was surprised she wasn’t doing it on account of her history of being on stage and performing at The Chamber, and she said, “Believe it or not, I’m kinda shy!” – which cracks me up that THE Kitten With A Whip of Atlanta was too shy to say a few words on the mic! She tickles me like that. Anyhow, I did get up and intro the band, and she liked it, so the next time there were band intros, burlesque intros and much more. It was a happy accident. The rest is history.

How did you meet Mon Cherie and how long have you been collaborating with her?

I was introduced to Mon Cherie by Phil Solomon (AntiHeroes, Impotent Sea Snakes) for the first time at The Chamber in the early 90s. She had just come off stage. She was thrilling to watch. And I mean RAWR! We met again maybe a year or so later when she and Philip were touring with Impotent Sea Snakes in Miami. But it wasn’t until six years ago that we became reacquainted at a kid’s birthday party. There we were, grown up. HAHAHAHAHA! I’m kidding. We’re never growing up.

What’s so special about Mon Cherie’s Rockabilly Lounge and especially about this month’s Valentine-themed event?

Well, first off, there is something special about a promoter who puts her heart and soul in her work, and that is bound to translate into a great show. And this month’s edition features The Stumblers! Aaaaaand we have fresh meat debuting in the burlesque set! Aaaaaand I’m wearing my favorite red heels! I’m excited. Can we go there now?

What’s the best pair of shoes you’ve bought lately, where did you buy them, and why did you just have to have them?

Oh,man, I’ve been a good girl lately with the shoe shopping, but the last pair I bought are a fierce pair of black leather ankle booties with an architectural heel and a zipper up the back. Once I found them, it was love, and when it’s love I don’t care about the price. They’re absolutely more fetish/rock than they are anything, but I am that girl, too. Sigh, I love shoes. I have a closet full.

Miss Mason shows off her favorite pair of rocket red Betsey Johnson Mary Janes. Photo credit: Shawn Doughtie.

What’s your favorite cocktail and who in Atlanta makes it the best?

Oooooh, my favorite cocktail? That’s like asking which pair of shoes is my favorite pair!!!!  I love so many. Damn. Honestly my favorite cocktail, The Pink Lady, is made by meeeeeeee. It’s Smooth Ambler Spirits Gin and Cherry Limeade. But then I have vodka moods, SoCo moods, and I’m always in the mood for a frosty PBR.

What do you do when you aren’t being the fabulous hostess of Mon Cherie’s Rockabilly Lounge? 

When I’m not on stage, I’m a wife to The Mister and a mom to The Boy – who’s got a big old case of The Show Biz bug! – and puppet to Lily and Ginger, better known as Puggy Goodness, LLC . We love entertaining at Chateau Mason! I love to make a wicked cocktail, bake anything under the sun, make weird ice creams, and especially enjoy creating things with bacon, cayenne, Nutella, and/or bourbon. Ask around.  My skills are that of local legend! I’m a fledgling cyclist. I’ve committed to riding two centuries (that’s 100 miles! eek!) this year. Oh! And sometimes I hoop! I love to hoop!

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Kool Kat of the Week: Hele mei hoohiwahiwa means “Come celebrate” with Calu Cordeiro at the Rockabilly Luau and Mai Tai Tahitian Tuesdays at Dark Horse Tavern

Posted on: Aug 2nd, 2012 By:

Tiki Cocktail Goddess Calu Cordeira. Photo courtesy of Calu Cordeira.

By Torchy Taboo
Contributing Writer

From Tiki-inspired dance to tattoo arts, this week’s Kool Kat Calu Cordeiro is a well-established and highly sought-after talent in Atlanta’s retro-style nightlife. We talked to her about many things Tiki including the upcoming Rockabilly Luau on Saturday Aug. 4 at the Holiday Inn Northlake (check out our full preview here). To those unfamiliar with Polynesian pop culture, it may seem like more glibly appropriated ethnic flavor – patio torches and grocery store Mai Tai mix. But to a true-blue Tiki lover like Calu, it’s a smoldering yet soul-soothing treat for all the senses. We share a deep adoration for the beauty of these cultures popularized in mainland America in the mid-20th century, so I asked about some of the ways she works to bring to Atlanta the instant vacation that Tiki events offer so easily.

Aloha! Tell our ALTRetro readers, when did you first become a Tiki-phile? What drew you to the genre?

I have always loved all things Tiki. I guess it comes from my mum and step-dad. Trader Vic’s was their fave restaurant. My first Trader Vic’s experience was in London at around 7ish. I was hooked.

I was lucky enough to have cocktails with your mother on one of her visits. It’s clear where you inherited your beauty and charm. You’ve been actively nurturing the Poly-pop scene from behind the bar here in Atlanta for a while; give us the scoop on your current Mai Tai Tahitian Tuesdays?

Mai Tai Tiki nights are something I invented for myself to make my bartending week more pleasurable [and] bring a li’l bit of the beach to ATL bars. I have been doing this for over 10 years and will take it with me wherever I go. It now resides at the Dark Horse Tavern in the Virginia Highlands – Mai Tai Tahitan Tuesdays, 9 p.m.-Drunk.

Photo courtesy of Calu Cordeira.

I’m looking forward to your cocktails pool side this weekend. What are you looking forward to most about the Rockabilly Luau.

I am so excited to bring my drinks to the Rockabilly Luau. I just love making people drunk with my luscious libations. Well, that certainly works out nicely, ha, ha, ha.

You and I have been talking about setting up a cocktail class with the famous Tiki mixologist and author Beachbum Berry in Oct. Are you still game?

I would be honored to take any class pointers from Beachbum Berry, so yes!

I first met the Beach Bum at the world famous Mai-Kai [in Fort Lauderdale, FL], during the Hukilau, the East coast’s big annual Tiki festival. Are you up for a Tiki field trip to South Florida for next years festival and afternoons sipping Mutinies & Rum Barrels in the Molokai Bar

The Hukilau!.Next year! It’s OOOOn!

You have some gorgeous skin art.

I started getting tattooed at 23 – and just from there went full force.

When did you decide to get on the other side of the machine?

I’m kind of at a stopping point [getting tattooed] except for fun things here and there and getting existing stuff finished, so now I like tattooing others. It’s just another medium of art for me.

What other talents have you that we haven’t seen yet? Are there Tiki mugs and carvings I don’t know about?

I love to paint, carve, sculpt, glue, sew, whatever. I love a challenge .

So what should we look for next from you?

My new love is hot yoga and at some point want to get certified for that – Hottikiyoga – watch out, ha,ha.

So as happy-hour called to us, she on her side of the bar and I on mine, I said Mahalo and settled back with a lovely rum concoction and let that little vacation in a glass wash in like the tide.  Hope to see you all by the pool!

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Kool Kat of the Week: A Jazz Interlude With Kayla Taylor: Why She Loves ‘30s/’40s Classics, the Unsurprising Success of Her New CD and the Pleasures of Playing the Vintage Artmore Hotel This Friday

Posted on: Nov 16th, 2011 By:

Atlantans who love classic jazz won’t be surprised to hear that Kayla Taylor’s new and sixth CD YOU”D BE SURPRISED hit #23 on the CMJ Jazz charts this week and is receiving airplay across the nation and throughout Europe. Instead, we’re liable to say it’s delovely and just one of those things that had to happen. But then local audiences have had the treat of listening to this Atlanta native and chanteuse extraordinaire resurrect top tunes from the ‘30s,  ‘40s and ’50s  live for a decade or more with musical partner/guitarist Steve Moore. And because this Friday night, Kayla will be performing at one of Atlanta’s coolest vintage venues, the courtyard of the Artmore Hotel in Midtown whose building dates back to 1924, we thought the timing couldn’t be more perfect to make her Kool Kat of the Week.

One of those rare actual Atlanta natives, Kayla literally grew up singing, in her school chorus, church choir and in the shower, but winning two awards in a 7th grade talent show cemented her ambition to make music a career. Along the way, she has performed country music, gospel, R&B and classic and original rock ‘n’ roll until she finally found her heart resided in the golden era of Cole Porter, George Gershwin and Irving Berlin—all of whom are represented on YOU’D BE SURPRISED’s playlist. ATLRetro caught up with Kayla to find out more about why she decided to embrace one of our favorite musical eras, what she has planned for this Friday night at the Artmore, her new CD, what’s next and where you might catch her singing while shopping…

ATLRetro: According to your bio, you always sang even as a little girl, and through the years, in addition to jazz, you’ve performed country, gospel, R&B and rock n roll, too. How did you come to embrace vintage jazz?

Kayla Taylor: I have always loved vintage jazz. The charm and romance of the ‘30s and ‘40s was something that always attracted me. I love how clever the lyrics are. When I was a kid, I watched a lot of old movies that were filmed and set during that time period and found all of it to be a natural embrace. Then in the mid-‘80s, Linda Ronstadt—one of my rock heroes—came out with her Big Band albums with The Nelson Riddle Orchestra and the romance started all over again.

Photo credit: John Lee Matney.

I understand that your earliest award was for singing Irene Cara’s “Out Here on My Own” from FAME? What’s the story and how big an early influence on you was the movie, FAME?

I wouldn’t say that FAME had a big influence on me, but the music and Irene Cara’s voice definitely did. I loved the pure emotion that was in her voice when she sang “Out Here On My Own.” The school talent show was coming up, and so I decided that I’d sing that song. I practiced for weeks in my room with the door closed. I must have played that record hundreds of times. My parents had no idea. I wasn’t trying to win—I just wanted to sing in front of all those people. I was also in a girls’ trio that performed “Sincerely”— a tune from the ‘50s. Well, the trio took 1st place, and I took 2nd place. I was so thrilled and excited. My parents had always been supportive of whatever I wanted to try, but at that point, they jumped completely onboard with my singing adventures.

Who are some of your favorite classic jazz composers and performers, and why do you think their music remains so timeless and relevant today?

Cole Porter, The Gershwins, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Johnny Mercer . . . there are so many amazing composers from that era that I adore, but these are just a few of my top picks. As far as performers, Julie London, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Peggy Lee, Etta James, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. I think the music is so well-crafted that it can’t help but remain timeless and relevant. Most of the songs are about love or the loss of love—that will always be timeless and relevant.

How did you meet Steve Moore and end up working together?

Great Story! Steve Moore was in a rock band called A Fine Line—an original rock project. They ran an ad in the Creative Loafing looking for a female vocalist. (That’s what you did 19 years ago—you ran an ad in a printed publication if you were looking for a musician.) I called about the position. They sent me a demo of some of their tunes, and I thought they were really cool, so I learned them and showed up at the audition. Later that night, Steve Moore was the one who called me to tell me I had gotten the job. That was the beginning of an amazing relationship as friends, co-writers and business partners. We went through several original rock projects together (A Fine Line, OneWithout) and even an acoustic duo (The Adventures of Kayla & Steve). One day we were talking about all these great jazz standards that we both loved and how much we would both love to play that music one day and to have our own jazz combo. Five minutes later we had made a decision to start working towards that direction. That was over 10 years ago, and we’ve been at it ever since.

Kayla Taylor and Steve Moore. Photo credit: John Lee Matney.

Can you tell us a bit about YOU’D BE SURPRISED came together, and what it means to you that it’s doing so well?

To say we are excited is an understatement. OVER THE MOON with excitement might scratch the surface. All of this came about because we hired an expert to handle it for us. We’re indy artists—SmartyKat Records—that’s our own label. We don’t have the connections personally to make this kind of airplay and exposure happen, so we hired Kari Gaffney and Jeff Williams of Kari-On Productions to handle all of it for us. Kari has over 21 years experience promoting and marketing CDs to radio and print media. I have never seen anyone work as hard as she has been working. I don’t know when she even has time to sleep. She’s done a fabulous job for us.

What’s your favorite song on the CD to perform and why?

WOW. To pick one tune—that’s tough because I love every song that’s on the CD. It’s like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. If I have to pick one, though, I’d have to say the title track—“You’d Be Suprised.” What I love about that song are the great lyrics. They are so clever!!! I love the Marilyn Monroe version.

The Jazz in the Courtyard series at the Artmore, where the building dates back to 1924, promises an urban escape with “sultry music, sexy vibes and sinful drinks.” And the signature cocktail is “The Prohibition.” Can we surmise that the goal is to create a speakeasy atmosphere, and will you be tossing some Roaring ‘20s tunes into the mix?

Artmore is a great hotel, and the courtyard is a beautiful venue. We have a great time playing there and love that they have embraced our music. We’ll still be hanging out in the ‘30s and ‘40s era but love that they have created a speakeasy feel—with a modern twist. All concerts take place in the courtyard, and there is a fabulous firepit and heaters to keep everything warm. If it should rain or turn freezing cold—we’ll move the show into their basement speakeasy lounge. I think we might be good to have this final concert of the season out in the courtyard, though.

Anything else you’d like to share about Friday’s gig at the Artmore?

Reservations are not required, but if you want to reserve a seat, you can email them at sales@artmorehotel.com. Come prepared to have a great time. I have a retro-styled microphone that is wireless so I can move all over the courtyard, and I love to come by and sing to anyone who seems like they might be receptive. Trust me, though—if it’s clear you’re there with a date and you just want to make eyes at each other—I’ll stay out of your way.

Where else will you be playing in Atlanta soon, and any plans for a tour to promote YOU’D BE SURPRISED?

Our next big show will be at Feast in Decatur on Saturday, December 3. This will be a great show because it’s the beginning of the holiday & Christmas season, and we’ll have some of the great jazzy Christmas tunes from the era to throw into the mix. This show generally sells out, so it’s a really good idea to call them to make a reservation. We play from 7:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. with the five-piece combo. The food at Feast is fantastic and we always have a great time. [Call] 404.370.2000 – for reservations.  As far as a tour to promote YOU’D BE SURPRISED—definitely something we are thinking long and hard about we just have to make the numbers work out.

Do you really burst into song at the grocery store? If yes, where do you shop?

Not every time I’m in the grocery store, but yes, I have been known to burst into song in the middle of a shopping excursion. My sweet husband, Scott, has been so good about dealing with those moments and I know they have been embarrassing—but sometimes a song just wells up inside and I have to blurt it out. For the record, my favorite place to shop locally is Publix—the stores are smaller and easier to navigate and everyone is super-friendly. If I’m going to travel away from my neighborhood to shop, you’ll find me at Whole Foods.

Finally, we’ve got to ask. What would we be most surprised to know about you?

Two things: first, I am an avid gardener. I love digging holes and putting plants in them and then nurturing them and watching them grow. It fascinates me! The next thing . . . I actually suffer from stage fright on occasion. It’s true.

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Really Retro: Why MonkeyZuma Dubs Charles Darwin the Original King of the Swingers and Other Survival Tips for an Island Adventure Martinis & IMAX

Posted on: Sep 29th, 2011 By:

OK, Charles Darwin doesn’t look like all that swinging a guy with that big bushy beard and Victorian suit, but DARWIN, a new special exhibition which just opened last weekend and runs through Jan. 1, 2012 at Fernbank Museum of Natural History, reveals more than a few surprises about the 19th century naturalist who took a five-year sea voyage of discovery on the HMS Beagle and turned the scientific world upside-down with his theory of evolution. For example, his grandfather’s own radical writings helped inspire Mary Shelley to write FRANKENSTEIN, both his mother and wife hailed from the Wedgewood family of pottery fame, he got his stint on the HMS Beagle because Captain FitzRoy wanted “not just a naturalist but a gentleman,” on that trip he rode with gauchos in Patagonia and his letters home included such colorful language as describing an area “red-hot with spiders.” Excuse us, but eek!

Darwin’s most famous stop, of course, was the Galapagos Islands and the entire journey was an adventure, so it seems only fitting that Martinis & IMAX on Friday Sept. 30 has the theme of Island Adventure. Explore the exhibit, follow in Darwin’s footsteps via IMAX to GALAPAGOS, sip on a Galapagos Gimlet and strike a natural or unnatural pose at the Darwin Dress-Up Photo Booth. The evening’s ship of fun is captained by “Big Mike” Geier and notorious Atlanta tiki band Tongo Hiti. His crew inevitably includes some of the most glamorous gals you’d ever want to encounter on a jungle island – the Dames Aflame, featuring Atlanta’s closest connection to the missing link, MonkeyZuma.

We can only imagine what Darwin would have thought of that legendary simian-sapien, but you don’t have to imagine what MonkeyZuma thinks of old man Charles because, well, we asked her…

Are you the missing link, or what’s the origin of your species?

MonkeyZuma is half girl, half monkey-girl.

What do Charles Darwin and evolution mean to you personally?

Zuma loves Charles Darwin because he was known for bridging the gap between humans and animals.  He was the original king of the swingers, a jungle V.I.P.! His evolution theory means that someday, we’re going to have little bitty, really pointy fingers and thumbs so we can all clickity-clickity lickity-splickity on our smartphones and iPads and miniature-microwaves.

What do you hope to learn from the Darwin exhibition?

Zuma wonders: boxers or briefs?  Since he was a naturalist, probably neither!

What special plans do you have to get creative at this week’s Martinis & IMAX (with a little help from Kingsized and Dames Aflame, of course)?

MonkeyZuma never makes any plans. She is barely controlled chaos and will most likely be found sticking her finger in your nachos or knockin’ back several of Fernbank’s signature Pineapple Mojitos while Dames Aflame’s own Shockaboom and Chico teach all the local natives some exotic Island dances to the Tongo Hiti soundtrack.  It’s best not to look Zuma in the eye if she is approaching. Just bring some extra cash and buy the sexy simian some booze.  She’ll let ya “huele” her “dedo” and then be on her way, to destroy someone else’s date night.

All photos courtesy of Dames Aflame.

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Blair Crimmins Releases the Kraken at Fernbank’s Martinis & IMAX Tonight

Posted on: Mar 4th, 2011 By:

Forget Hollywood’s cheesy 3-D CLASH OF THE TITANS. In fact, ATLRetro hopes you already have. Instead you’ll have much more fun at this week’s Martinis & IMAX at Fernbank Museum of Natural History, redubbed “Night of the Kraken,” which promises to be fantastically out of time and marvelously in tune with the recently opened MYTHIC CREATURES: DRAGONS, UNICORNS AND MERMAIDS special exhibition. Attendees are encouraged to compete in a fantasy-inspired costume contest hosted by Professor Morte, “ghost host with the most” of the Silver Scream Spookshow. Bartenders will be serving up mythic-themed cocktails including a Krakentini, featuring Kraken rum. And playing in the shadow of the skeletons of the world’s most gigantic dinosaurs—primeval beasts whose bones perhaps inspired medieval belief in dragons—fittingly is one of Atlanta’s most imaginative bands, Blair Crimmins and the Hookers.

You might think of ragtime as kind of quaint, but you wouldn’t be talking about Crimmins’ take on this 1920s form of jazz. Remember that they didn’t call the Twenties Roaring for nothing. In fact, you might even describe Crimmins’ high-energy style as “in your face” as rock ‘n’ roll. Except the groupies would be flapper girls, and the band is playing instruments your grandparents would approve of from banjo to accordion, saxophone to piano, trumpet to trombone—and may be accompanied by antics inspired by the best vaudeville comedy. What does this have to do with mythic monsters? Well, let’s just say in the midst of the madcap mania, some of the lyrics are also decadently dark.

ATLRetro caught up with the mastermind behind this one-of-a-kind act for a last-minute preview of this not-to-be-missed hootenanny themed around a giant monster of the deep.

1. What drew you personally to the ragtime, 1920s sound?

Early Ragtime jazz and Dixieland represents a time when jazz was brand new and exciting. People [were] taking classical instruments and making these wild sounds with them. It’s like the first time someone turned up the overdrive on their guitar amp. It made people turn their heads and say “What the hell is that sound?!”

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