Kool Kat of the Week: A Pop Culture Birthday to Remember: DeWitt Dawson on the Lost Art of Wrestling Management and Crowning the Champ of Monstrosity Championship Wrestling Fri. March 1 at Famous Pub

Posted on: Feb 28th, 2013 By:

Our BFF blog Wrestling with Pop Culture is celebrating its second anniversary with the biggest, baddest Monstrosity Championship Wrestling match yet this Fri. March 1 at 9 p.m. at Famous Pub in Toco Hills. The horror-movie-inspired league is crowning its first champion, Professor Morte and the Silver Scream SpookShow gang will be on hand for scary shenanigans and Metal Gaga will be providing unforgettable entertainment with heavy metal versions of Lady Gaga hits. Oh, and lest we forget, you’ll have another chance to win a Pine Street Market box of meat and other fun prizes in the raffle! All that and more for only $10!

The night’s fearsome and fun festivities include semifinal matches pitting the Phantom against “Bona Fide” Fred Yehi and Papa Marko against “The Undead Luchador” Supernatural! Witness a queer bar brawl where previous Kool Kat Johnny Danger and Dragula take their fight against the intolerant Alabama Wolfman and Kentucky Wolfman all over the bar! Quozzy Quozzbourne promises to bring a St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun to the party, Dark Mon vows to preach his own Easter sermon, and well, they tell us there’s much, much more.

We interviewed Jonathan Williams, the monster-mind behind Wrestling with Pop Culture, last year for WWPC’s first birthday, so this time we asked him who else will be the Koolest Kat in the bar. He suggested DeWitt Dawson, better known within wrestling circles as “Double D,” who will be managing Fred Yehi in the MCW tournament and also manages some of Georgia’s other top wrestling talents from Universal Independent Wrestling in Villa Rica, NWA Atlanta in Locust Grove, etc. After all, as Jonathan notes, “managers are kind of a lost art in wrestling.” So it was a special treat to ask DeWitt not just to go behind the scenes for a preview of this Friday’s action but also about what it takes to be a wrestling manager, what he loves about the sport and how he became a master at his craft.

ATLRetro: What role do you play as a manager?

DeWitt Dawson: Simply put. I am the eyes, the ears and the mouth for my charges. I am the best foot forward outside the ring, so all they have to think about is what goes on inside them ropes and turnbuckles. If they need to be somewhere, Double D gets ’em there early. If they need to leave somewhere, Double D gets ’em out before the first blue light hits the scene.

How do you select the men you manage?

I am looking for folks who can benefit from my counsel as much as I can benefit from their talent. Nothing under the sun is free but bad advice, and the ole Alabama Icon don’t give out nothing but golden nuggets of wisdom. So that must be repaid with championships. I am not here to manage folks who might get it, or who can get it done. I only open up my waiting arms to them that need that extra push to not just be good, but to be great.

Who do you manage?

Little darling, my clientele is not hard to validate, but I ain’t going to make it that easy on you. The bricks that are building Double D’s Empire are ever increasing. If you really want to know who I am managing, start taking stock of the titles that sit on the waists of the champions in this state, and I bet you won’t have to look far to see Dewitt Dawson somewhere close by.

What attracted you to professional wrestling?

Honey, you would have a whole heap less work if I told you what didn’t attract me to this business, ’cause I can honestly say that I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t in love with professional wrestling. One of my earliest memories is a young Double D huffin’ and weezin’ trying to catch his breath in the wee morning hours having my first asthma attack. I didn’t know up from down or Hell from Heaven, and the only way my lovin’ mama could get me to calm down was to tell me that she bet all the wrestlers that I loved so much were up getting ready to be on TV that Saturday morning. That settled me right down, and you can bet your last money that I went to the emergency room and got back home in time to see Ko Ko B Ware on the TV that morning.

I guess [as] a youngern,  it was the crazy characters that I loved – the Ultimate Warriors, the Stings and the Blue Blazers of the world. As I got a little older, I was infatuated with the talkers – the American Dreams and Nature Boys. After that it was the showmen – The Heart Break Kids, the RVDs and the Eddie Guerreros. These days, it is the driven ones who ain’t making a penny over the bare-ass minimum, but they still go out there and put on a hell of a show for the people – the Shane Marxes, the Jagged Edges and the Demigods of the world.

From whom do you draw inspiration?

My inspiration comes from the folks I mentioned just now and from the red clay and white fields of the great state of Alabama. Everybody wants to know why I sound the way I do and say things that they ain’t never heard before. Simply put, it is because these roots run right through the cotton fields and contradictions of Alabama the beautiful. I draw as much inspiration from my brother The Pretty Boy, and Donnie Tidwell, and my uncles, and my mama nem as I do Dusty Rhodes and Shawn Michaels.

How is wrestling different now than in your youth?

I know a lot of people will tell you how everything has gone plum to Hell with wrestling over the last few years, and they make some fine points. But when you get right down to it, good wrestling is the same as it ever was. You tell a good story, somebody gets their ass whipped, and you do it all again the next week.

Which crowds are your favorite?

A paying one. What other kind of crowd is there? Hell, I got a closet full of shotguns that ain’t as loaded as that damn question. But if you got balls big enough to ask it, I got balls big enough to answer it. The only thing that a wrestling crowd needs is passion and a little bit of sense. As long as they got their eyes focused on the action and their mouths open and yelling at who they don’t like and cheering who they do like, they will be just fine. They ain’t got to know every damn hold under the sun, and they ain’t got to be able to name all the damn Villanos to have a good time so long as they ain’t dumb enough to try to put their hands on me and they don’t [think] they’re smarter than everybody else there, then I bet they have a good time.

Why aren’t you a nicer man? Have you considered therapy?

I am as gentle as a pussy cat in the right environs. When I settle into here at the ole home place and I pull off my boots, pop the top on a Paul Bryant beer, cut on them ole Drive-by Truckers, I tell you I am as sweet as pumpkin pie. Because of that, I don’t have no reservation about raising pure hell every time I am anywhere near a squared circle, and the only therapy I need is to see my Empire bathed in the gold of champions.

What are your ambitions in wrestling?

My only ambition in wrestling is to give this business half as much as it has given me and to burn a trail in Georgia that makes General Sherman look like a lightning bug in a damn super nova.

What appeals to you personally about Monstrosity Championship Wrestling (MCW)?

On any night at a MCW show, you ain’t got clue 1 as to what in the blue Hell is going to come through that curtain next. It might be one of the best technical wrestlers you ever laid eyes on, or it might be some kind of half-dead zombie-assed sasquatch monster. You might not know whether to clap your hands or clinch pucker your assshole. It is just like ole Double D; you don’t what you are going to get, but you know good and well it is going to be entertaining as all get out.

What are you looking forward to the most about MCW this Friday?

Aw honey, that is simple. We are going to crown our first champion, and that is always a special occasion in any wrestling show’s history. When you look at the folks that are still kicking in this tournament, then you know it is going to be a champion who is plenty worthy.

Why should even someone who is not a big wrestling fan attend?

Well, if you like drinking cold beer, your ort to be there. If you like womerns who ain’t bashful about showing you a little of that thang, you ort to be there. If you like that damn banging and clanging or some kind of heavy metal outfit, you ort to be there. If you like boxes of meat, you ort to be there. And if you would like to hear the golden voice of the best damn commentator that you have ever heard in your long-legged life, you damn well better have you asses front and center.

A special thank you to Kool Kat Chuck Porterfield for his help with this article.

All photos are courtesy of DeWitt Dawson. All rights reserved.

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Deoch. Ceol. Bia. Rince. Finding Simple Retro Pleasures at Rí Rá Irish Pub Just in Time for St. Patrick’s Day

Posted on: Feb 27th, 2013 By:

By Rachel Marshall
Contributing Writer

Deoch. Ceol. Bia. Rince.

Just as you’re leaving the main bar of Midtown’s Rí Rá location, glance over your shoulder on the way to the Harbour Bar and you’ll see these words. They mean: Drink. Music. Food. Dance. Consider some of the other chain restaurants you have been to or fast food gambles you have made – telling you there’s nothing like the neighborhood, or implying you have nothing better to do, so you “gotta eat.”  So, when you work for a site that specializes in the Retro, the nostalgic, and the wonderfully weird… what is one to do with a restaurant that has a dozen locations across the U.S.?

The simple answer to the question is:  “Deoch. Ceol. Bia. Rince.”

Rí Rá’s layout is heavy with homeland and family nostalgia. The founders were passionate about capturing a “proper Irish pub” experience. There are some obvious decisions in the decorations, but then there is something subtle that begins to take over: the warm wooden architecture, the open space and the fact there are large “group tables” scattered throughout the restaurant, actively encouraging patrons to celebrate with friends. Two and four tops throughout the restaurant also cater to those looking for something more intimate or relevant to a date night, but the best experience you can have at Ri Ra comes from sitting down to a large table, surrounded by happy faces that become rosier and louder with each course and each drink.

Friendly bartenders Adam and Eoghan at RiRa.

Crammed into the Harbour Bar with other lovers of food and drink, I entered expecting to hear the lilting Irish “stock” music that often pops up at self-proclaimed “Irish pubs.” Instead? Dropkick Murphies. Flogging Molly. The list just kept going, and before I knew it, the grinding voice of Dave King had enabled me to tuck into yet another Smithwicks. The room was buzzing with photographers and writers and travelers, all of them discussing their own journeys –  if they are going to the upcoming beer festival, if they managed to check out that restaurant they suggested at the last gathering. These are marathon eaters and comprise a total thiasus to all things Bacchus. We sat down ready to dine, ready to drink, ready for the music and the dance of a four-course meal.

Pear and goat-cheese salad at RiRa

Getting into the full array of the tasting menu would push the boundaries of the review. You are a busy reader with things to do, after all! But Chef Kelly Sollinger played an incredible balancing act with his meals. Each dish was playful and a special, worthy introduction to Irish eatery. He respects the qualities of an ingredient that make it subtle or overwhelming. For example, cheddar, an ingredient I believe some chefs play very fast and loose with, became a subtle binder for a boxty cake, decorated with sautéed arugula and balsamic vinaigrette. Earthy rosemary cut the rich density of a ground lamb slider, which also boasted pickled red onion taming the sharpness of a goat cheese spread. Not only are his dishes in perfect synch with their ingredients, but they pair very well with the Harpers, Guinness and Smithwicks on tap – especially the pear and blue cheese salad which melded perfectly with its champagne vinaigrette and the Smithwicks served alongside.

Before we reached dessert, the table enjoyed a 14-day house-brined beef brisket and ale-battered haddock. Brines are tough for me, so is cabbage, but the flavor is there, and the parsley-cream sauce and fluffy piping of mashed potato kept everything in line. Chef Kelly’s background with seafood is delightfully present. The haddock was battered respectfully, giving the diner that satisfying crunch, but letting the haddock’s tenderness and texture take over from there.

Dessert at RiRa: sticky toffee pudding and Guinness and brown bread ice cream.

By dessert, I was in a very happy place with my surroundings and my table-mates. The sponge cake with dates and toffee pudding neighbored a Guinness and brown bread ice cream, sharp on the back end as if I had just finished off a long draw from a tall glass of the same stout. The Irish coffee served was made with the French press method, my favorite when it comes to coffee – you just get so much more flavor from the ground bean that way! One of our bartenders, Eoghan, was circling the table with his third song of the evening – U2‘s “Where the Streets Have No Name.” I have heard that song 101 times, but here we were – all of us from different walks of life and different backgrounds, different beliefs and different moralities, all gathered around a table. The song is about the ideal world where a person is not defined by the “street” where they live, a world where there are no divisions of any sort. At a table like this, at no point do any of us think about one another’s class, race, wealth or some other criteria that has been deemed important. We only think about the food, the drink, the music, and how our conversations simply dance.

Irish coffee tops off an Irish feast at RiRa.

How retro can you get? Before any of the movies came out that we fell in love with and defend its kitch to this day, before we first played a plumber trying to save a princess from an angry monkey, before the first radio broadcast was played… we gathered around the table. Rí Rá, if you give it the chance you need to give it, is not just a chain, not just one in 12, not just another corporation. The restaurant wants you to sit for a while, to have a drink, to eat some food, and to celebrate just being there. This message becomes clearer if you speak to co-founder David Kelly who said, of this “reintroduction” of Rí Rá, that the message is simply: “We exist.”

So, if you aren’t doing anything this St. Patrick’s Day, or hell, this weekend? Head over to Midtown, and pull up a seat at the bar in Rí Rá. Make sure you dance. Make sure you listen to the “music” surrounding you. Make sure you drink. Make sure you eat. Simply exist.

Beginning Tuesday, March 12, Rí Rá will host friends, family and local Irish patriots as they kick-off their six-day toast to St. Patrick, highlighted by a block party celebration, closing off a portion of Crescent Avenue on Saturday, March 16 and Sunday, March 17 for live music performances and other fun activities. For more info on each day’s festivities and other special events, such as whiskey tastings, visit www.rira.com/atlanta/.

Category: Wednesday Happy Hour & Supper Club | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

‘Tis the Season To Be Bono: Yacht Rock Revue Kicks Off St. Patrick’s Day Early at Park Tavern and Muses on Stepping Into the Shoes of So Many Rock Icons

Posted on: Mar 1st, 2012 By:

Photo courtesy of Yacht Rock Revue.

Shamrock with Yacht Rock Revue kicks off Atlanta’s St. Patrick’s Day shenanigans early this year with the ultimate U2 tribute experience on Sat. March 3 at Park Tavern at Piedmont Park. The event, featuring one of Atlanta’s most popular classic rock cover bands, kicks off at 2 p.m. and live music starts at 4 p.m. with special guests Saturday Night Beaver presenting a glamorous stage show that celebrates the artists that brought sex appeal to popular music such as Rick James, Rod Stewart and George Michael. Then U2 tribute band Uno Dos Tres Catorce performs followed by two sets by Yacht Rock Revue. Drink and eat up with an ultimate Bloody Mary bar, green beer and plenty of hearty fare. ATLRetro caught up with two of the six members of Yacht Rock Revue, Nick Niespodziani and Peter Olson to find out more about the Gaelic goings on and what it’s like to step into the shoes of so many classic rock icons.

What do you have planned for March 3? Will it be an all-U2 show?

Our plan starts with Irish Car Bombs. Then Uno Dos Tres Catorce – starring Bueno and the Wedges. I play Bueno, everyone else is a version of the Wedge. Then it’s a long block of soft rock in our Yacht Rock Revue persona. Actually two long blocks. That’s a lot of music, especially after doing Led Zeppelin IV and Dark Side [of the Moon] last night at the 40 Watt and Sgt. Pepper’s tonight at Smith’s.

Yacht Rock Revue does so many specialty shows from Beatles tributes to Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of the Moon played in sync with WIZARD OF OZ at the Strand last fall. Fans of different bands can have high levels of scrutiny, so what do you do to prepare in general for gigs that focus on a specific band? And what will you be doing to prepare for stepping into the shoes of Bono and The Edge?

Each of the shows requires a totally different approach. It’s a lot like being an actor in the theater. Led Zeppelin is the guns-blazing action star. Yacht Rock is the like-able bad guy in an ’80s movie. How do you play Prince and MJ without coming off as a perverted prick who can’t dance as well as those guys? How do you pay tribute to the Beatles without coming off as a smarmy mop-top wanna-be? These are the questions that challenge us at our job.

U2 is the unironic one-dimensional sci-fi hero.  It’s not much of a stretch for me to play the self-righteous, self-aggrandizing social activist role of Bono…  since it’s basically who I am in real life, without the religion and millions. Their music definitely gets your adrenaline pumping. Vocally, it’s a real workout. So I’ve been increasing my throat push-up regimen in preparation.

Photo courtesy of Yacht Rock Revue.

Is there a particular U2 song you are especially looking forward to playing live?

We’ve never done “Pride” before, and we’re trying it this year.  It’s impossible to sing, so we’ll see how it goes. It seems especially appropriate to play it in the home city of MLK.

What’s your favorite tribute show you’ve done so far?

Purple Rain and Thriller was pretty epic last year – we had a 25-person choir in purple robes singing all of the backing vocals. We’re all big Prince fans, so taking on that album for the first time was a very fulfilling challenge. And then we played Thriller in Storm Trooper outfits.

What’s been your most challenging gig? 

The most challenging gigs are the ones where the music isn’t the reason people are there.  We’re spoiled, in that every time we play a show in public we get so much positive energy back from the audience.  When we get into some (not all) of these corporate event situations and we don’t get that vibe back from the crowd, it becomes a lot more difficult to do our job.

Is there a tribute show you’re really dying to do but haven’t had the opportunity yet?

Queen’s “Night at the Opera” versus Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation 1814.”  Also, some of our guys have a project called “Dwight Snake” that re-envisions White Snake’s best tunes through the lens of Dwight Yoakam.  I can’t wait for that show.

How do stay fresh while working with classic cover material?

We always try to put some of our own stank on the tunes – it’s the only way to make it happen.  The key is not to treat the music with kid gloves, you’ve got to smack it around and roll with it in the dirt.  We treat these tunes irreverently, as if they’re our own songs.  That’s the attitude that makes the music and the show compelling.

What are your parameters in terms of what qualifies as a Yacht Rock Revue song?

Whatever we say goes.  And it can’t be written by Jimmy Buffett.

What’s the story behind how Yacht Rock Revue get started?

We were doing a variety show at the 10 High called the Surprise Party where we did a different show every week, including classic albums, comedy, our own original material, etc.  We thought a ’70s AM Gold Show would be hilarious.  It was spearheaded by our drummer Mark and our guitarist Mark.  I didn’t even know half of the songs.  And now it’s the joke that keeps on giving, as the saying doesn’t go.

St. Paddy’s Day is still coming, so do you have plans for any more U2-inspired shows?

Not this year – Park Tavern is the only one.  So catch it whilst thou can.

What else does Yacht Rock Revue have planned for this spring?

We’re recording a studio album, mixing a live album, planning more national-scale tours, launching another Summer Series at the Park Tavern, and cloning ourselves.

What question do you wish someone would ask you but nobody ever does? And what’s the answer?

Q:  Where’d you get your boots?  A:  I’ll never tell.

Category: Tis the Season To Be... | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Weekend Update March 4-6

Posted on: Mar 4th, 2011 By:

Decided it might make more sense to run Weekend Update on Friday mornings than on Thursdays. You can still find out about Thursday activities, of course, in This Week in Retro Atlanta on Mondays. And of course, you can plan ahead for the whole weekend.

Friday March 4

Blair Crimmins.

Legendary pianist George Winston tickles the ivories at Variety PlayhouseBlair Crimmins and the Hookers provide a 1920s Vaudeville atmosphere during amagical Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAX themed“Night of the Kraken” tying in with its current MYTHIC CREATURES: DRAGONS, UNICORNS AND MERMAIDS special exhibition which will be open for viewing that night. Also, hear they’ll be serving up special mythic-themed cocktails, including a Krakentini, featuring Kraken rum, Silver Scream Spookshow‘s Professor Morte will be a special guest, and there’s a costume contest planned, too, so don your most mythical duds. Just about to post a last-minute interview with Blair about the fanciful festivities, so be sure to check that out.

Celebrate Mardi Gras early and decadently, or rather BART-I GRAS, with the insane crew of Avondale Estates’ Bart Webb Studios and the sexy and sassy Syrens of the South, Big Easy cuisine provided by Zatarain’s, beads, masks, and the first Bart-i Bra contest where the best decorated bra will be judged to crown the first Queen or King of Bart-i Gras.

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