Kool Kat of the Week: The Day the Music Lives Again: Celebrating Deacon Lunchbox and Benjamin Sat. Night Jan. 28 at the Plaza Theatre

Posted on: Jan 27th, 2012 By:

This Saturday night Jan. 28 at the Plaza Theatre, redneck street poet laureate Deacon Lunchbox will live again at the The Love that Won’t Shut Up Memorial Show and Screening: A celebration of the lives, loves, music and friends of Benjamin and Deacon Lunchbox.” If you say, “who?” then shame on you; it’s time to get educated and why we’re declaring Deacon our first posthumous Kool Kat.

For Atlanta’s Cabbagetown alt-music scene, the April 1992 auto accident that cut short the lives of Timothy Tyson Ruttenber, aka Deacon Lunchbox, drummer Rob Clayton and bassist Robert Hayes of the incredible Jody Grind was the Day the Music Died—as impactful as the plane crash that stole away Buddy Hollen. Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper was to a nation falling in love with rock ‘n’ roll in 1959. The Jody Grind was on the cusp of a national breakthrough and had been featured recently in Rolling Stone. Deacon Lunchbox coined the term “Redneck Underground” and had a crazy style all his own that went beyond performance artist and street poet and was, well… Cabbagetown personified and then some. The Sat. night event at the Plaza also honors Benjamin Smoke, the marvelously manic cross-dressing lead vocalist of Smoke and the Opal Foxx Quartet whose life was cut too short by hepatitis C in 1999. If you don’t know about Deacon, Benjamin and how pivotal the Cabbagetown art/music scene was back in the late 1980s/’90s, Creative Loafing wrote a great piece about it in the June 24, 2010 issue called “The Triumph and Tragedy of the Cabbagetown Sound.” The article was composed as an oral history featuring interviews with more than a dozen people who were part of that scene.

The Plaza event includes screenings of the short film, LAWRENCE OF LAWRENCEVILLE HIGHWAY by Neil Fried, which starred Deacon, and the documentary BENJAMIN SMOKE (2000) by Jem Cohen and Pete Sillen, as well as an amazing line-up of Atlanta independent music scene  veterans who were collaborators and friends with Deacon and Benjamin including Smoke That City, Debbey Richardson, Slim Chance and many others. The Jody Grind’s lead vocalist Kelly Hogan even is coming down from Chicago. And you know the Deacon Lunchbox set by Jim Stacy (AM Gold, Grand Moff Tarkin, GreasePaint, LaBrea Stompers, Pallookaville, Starlight Drive-In, etc.) will be something to behold. We hope the rumors are true  that he’ll be doing a choice selection of Deacon’s signature Atlanta-inspired numbers such as “Omni Beer” and “Lewis Grizzard, I’m Calling You Out!” Amazingly this whole crazy shindig is just $10, with proceeds supporting the nonprofit Plaza. Think about dropping a little extra at the door, though, because independent cinemas like the Plaza are having a really rough time right now and we don’t want to be singing about the Day the Movies Died in Atlanta, too. As Deacon would say, “Brown bag it Ladies and Gents!”

ATLRetro asked Jim Stacy to share a few personal memories of Deacon, one Kool Kat that Cabbagetown and Atlanta lost way too soon. If you have any stories to share about Deacon, drop us a line at atlretro@gmail.com and we’ll add them to this feature, too. Hope to see you Saturday at the Plaza when the South may not rise again, but Cabbagetown sure will.

ATLRetro: In your opinion, what was special about Deacon Lunchbox?

Jim Stacy: For me he was like an older brother or uncle. He was, for sure, one of my heroes. He was the first time I had seen someone craft a persona that was more than just a performance foil. He was Tim, but Deacon was larger than Tim. Deacon could be more outspoken because he was a character. Now that’s not to say that Deacon wasn’t Tim and Tim wasn’t Deacon; it’s just Deacon amplified whatever Tim needed to say. I was really influenced by this process. I’ve spent my career inventing persona after persona to do the same thing. I think being able to provide a voice from a Character rather than “a Guy” allows for much more concise points to be made, in a shorter time, with no questions. It works like this: Here’s this guy on stage, he looks like this, he said this, he did this, this is what I think about what he just did and said.

Deacon, it was almost a cartoon of Tim. Though he looked and acted like Tim, when he put on the “Deacon” persona, the audience didn’t have to get to know the performer, they only needed to get to know Deacon, listen to what he said and then viscerally react. That all can happen through a Character. It’s no different than Alice Cooper or Ziggy Stardust. I just didn’t know it could be done by regular people.

Do you have a favorite memory/story about Deacon?

I have tons, but the most special is not really the most fun. Deacon called me either before or after the last show the day they were killed. He always started the conversation with, “FUCK YOU!” I don’t remember when. He called asking if I wanted to do another Psycholympics with him at the old Cotton Club. Told me we’d talk more after he got home. It was sometime later I got the call Robert, Robert and Deacon had been killed.

I still have a random dream where an old dial phone will ring and I’ll pick it up and someone will yell “FUCK YOU!” out of it.

Before the wreck, during Desert Storm I, he called me, telling me I had been drafted and hadn’t shown up at my induction. Told me that a car would be pulling up to “Get your pansy ass ready to serve your Country.” He had me convinced for 15 minutes I was going in the Army that night.

What will you be doing Sat. night at The Love That Won’t Shut Up Memorial?

I’ll be doing a few Deacon numbers as Deacon on some of Deacon’s props. It will be a pale substitute for the real thing. Pale indeed.

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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. Continue reading “Kool Kat of the Week: Time-Traveling with Torchy Taboo to the Roots of the Neo-Burlesque Revival in Atlanta” »

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