ATLRetro’s Throwback to the 20th Century St. Valentine’s Day Guide 2016 – Our Top Picks for Gettin’ Comfy With Cupid, Retro-Style!

Posted on: Feb 10th, 2016 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Hey all you dapper fellas and glitzy gals! Cupid got your tongue? “Be Mine”, vintage-style this year and celebrate all that is vintage and Valentine’s in Retro Atlanta! Get romantic, retro-style and see what we have in store for you during this week of love and saucy seduction!2.14Venkman's

1. Crooners and Red Hot Jazz. Swing on by The Earl Smith Strand Theatre for Douglas Cameron’s 17-piece Big Band at 8pm (Feb. 12)! Rat Pack Now croons on down to the Red Clay Theatre (Feb. 12 at 8pm; Feb. 13 at 1:30pm)! Or jazz it up during the Emory Jazz Fest’s Big Band Night at the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts, featuring the Gary Motley Trio (Feb. 13) and includes free admission; performance at 8pm. Get lovey-dovey at Rialto Center for the ArtsValentine Love Concert featuring Michael Henderson, The Dramatics and Jean Carne, from 7-9pm (Feb. 14)! Venkman’s begins the day with their Valentine’s Day Brunch with the Higher Ground Jazz Duo, and follows that up with a Valentine’s Day Dinner featuring classical jazz with Le Grand Fromage and an a la carte menu prepared by Chef Nick Melvin (Feb. 14)! The Fox Theatre gets some soul and jazzes it up with their Valentine Celebration for Lovers & Friends featuring El DeBarge and Ken Ford (Feb. 14)!

12509808_10153171444695044_6348372291262665029_n2. Blackhearts Unite. It’s a night of murder ballads made popular by Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Nirvana and a whole lotta’ bloody maniacal mayhem at The Earl with their second annual Bloody Valentine’s event, featuring Kool Kat Aileen Loy with Till Someone Loses an Eye; circus shenanigans with The Thimberling Circus and more bloody romantic fun (Feb. 11)! Boogie down at The Star Bar’s Blackheart’s Ball, featuring The Midnight Larks, Shantih Shantih, Coma Girls, and Emily Marie Palmer & Kool Kat Jeffrey Butzer (Feb. 13)! Hey all you Kool Kittens and Kinky Kats! Grab your favorite guy or gal and rock on down to The Earl for their Sadie Hawkins Dance: Valentine’s Day Rock Show/Women’s Shelter Benefit featuring performances by Hymen Moments, Hank & Cupcakes, StarBenders and Kool Kat Kate Jan with SEX BBQ (Feb. 14)!12509526_950773688321079_8299033307681823085_n

3. Oh là là! Get sinfully seductive at 7 Stages during Kool Kat Katherine Lashe and the burly-Q gals of Syrens of the South’s 9th Annual Vixen’s Valentease Vaudeville & Variety Show (Feb. 12)! The Famous Pub welcomes you to the Spectacular! Come see what’s behind the red curtain at RITUAL’s Moulin Rouge Valentine’s Day Ball featuring The Black Sheep Ensemble and more! $10 gains entrance to this exciting extravaganza starting at 10pm (Feb. 12)! Or shimmy on down to the Shakespeare Tavern for Hearts A’Blaze Entertainment’s Pantheon of Divini-TEASE with Kool Kat Talloolah Love, Kool Kate Persephone Phoenix and more! (Feb. 13). Get a little naughty this Valentine’s Day at Paris On Ponce with Valentine’s Mischief with Madeline featuring a little jazzy cabaret with Suzy Sazerac & the Peels and Cat Vigor’s burly-Q troupe, Cat’s Kittens (Feb. 13)!

4. It’s Boogie Time. Boogie down because FUNKY GOOD TIME is coming to Aisle 5 for their Funky Good Time Valentine’s Dance bringing you the best Funk, Soul, Disco, Latin, Boogie, and R&B love songs on some piping 2.11Highlanderhot vinyl (Feb. 13)!

5. Art, Comedy & Theatre, OH MY! Blackhearts and anti-V-day miscreants, rock on down to The Highlander for their Broken Hearts & Bloody Valentines Art Show, delivering a night of multi-media art, including our pal Kool Kat Chris Hamer of Urbnpop and so much more (Feb. 11)! The Highwire Comedy Co. presents their Happy Valentine’s Day Mr. President comedy show at the Highland Inn Ballroom Lounge (Feb. 12)! The Red Light Café presents two THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES Valentine’s performances, benefitting One Billion Rising at 8pm (Feb. 12 & Feb. 13) at 8pm! Dig up some swell goodies for your sweet/blackheart and make your way to My Parents’ Basement for The Valentine’s Day Bizarre Bazaar featuring 13 local artists and designers, including Kool Kat Chris Hamer of Urbnpop, from 1-5pm (Feb. 13)! The Center for Puppetry Arts presents their Valentine’s Date Night (adults-only) with puppet shenanigans and complimentary desserts (Feb. 13)! The Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center transforms into a Parisian bohemian cabaret as the Atlanta Ballet presents “Moulin Rouge: The Ballet”, shaking a tail at 8pm (Feb. 13)!2.12ParkTavern

6. Medieval & Classic. And for all you knights in shining armor, get really retro and romantic with the royal one in your life and joust on down to Medieval Times for their Valentine’s Day Couples Package! $99 gets you 2 admissions, a photo, Valentine’s scroll, champagne in keepsake glasses, a light up rose and 2 admissions to the dungeon! Get classically romantic at Atlanta Symphony Hall as they present their Be Mine performance, featuring songs from the greatest young romances in classical music; Bizet’s “Carmen”; Puccinni’s “La Boheme” and more!

7. Groovin’ Up Slowly. Be a smooth operator and sail on down to Park Tavern in Piedmont Park for Valentine’s Day Eve-Eve (Feb. 12) with Yacht Rock Schooner! It’ll be an evening of smooth 70s and 80s love songs, so put on Casablancayour dancin’ shoes and come aboard! Doors at 7 pm! ATL Collective presents Sade’s “Love Deluxe” at Venkman’s (Feb. 13)! $15 advance/$20 door. Doors at 9:30pm.

8. Lovin’ on the Silver Screen. ‘Here’s looking at you kid!’ Take a peek at love and romance Old Hollywood-style at The Strand Theater as they screen Michael Curtiz’s classic romantic drama, CASABLANCA (1942), starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman at 8pm. Live organ pops variety show and sing-along featuring The Strand’s Mighty Allen Theatre Organ at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults and $7 for students, seniors, and military (Feb. 13).

9. Cupid’s Culinary Delights! Hula on over to Trader Vic’s and escape into the island atmosphere of love with their Tropical Valentine’s Day special entrée, Hong Kong Sea Bass at $35/person (Feb. 13 & 14). Have a bloody fantastic time and snag a few tasty morsels during Blast-Off Burlesque’s Cardiac Arrest: Eat Your Heart Out Bake Sale at the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club from 1-5pm (Feb. 14). 2.14EAYC

10. We Goth You Covered. For the darkly romantic, The Oakland Cemetery offers their Love Stories Tour, complete with tales of loves past led by a Victorian-era clad docent. Tours last an hour, just long enough to meet a kindred spirit or even a new love! Get loved to death while traversing the land of passionate souls longing for love. Tours haunt 3-5pm! $16 adults/$10 students (Feb. 13 & Feb. 14)! Or for a pre-Valentine’s event (Feb. 11) get your bloody heart ripped out at Mary’s for their Goth Nite St. Valentine’s Massacre event! It’ll be a Goth throw down featuring classic Goth rock, synth pop, post-punk and even tunes from the New Romantic era!

 

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RETRO REVIEW: Hanging Out With MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED at The Strand

Posted on: May 17th, 2014 By:

MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED (1976); Dir. Peter Yates; Starring Bill Cosby, Raquel Welch, Harvey Keitel, Larry Hagman;  May 18 at the Strand Theatre @ 3:00 PM.

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

One of the truest joys of watching retro movies is that so many of them could never, ever be made today. We like to think of culture as a steady march of progress, but it’s more like a cycle of tides, with some particular mood cresting before receding, like the way the risqué shocks of the 1920s eventually morphed into the repressed sexuality of the 1940s. Moments come and go all the time, and what made sense for one era and one particular group of people can seem like it was beamed in from another world just a few years down the line. It’s not that they “don’t make them like they used to.” It’s more of a question of how they were ever made that way to begin with.

For example, look at MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED, one of the strangest studio comedies produced during a very strange period of the mid-1970s when the rules about mainstream movies had shaken themselves apart and nobody quite knew how to put them back together. One part workplace comedy, another part slobs-versus-snobs, but also part serious social drama, MOTHER exists in a kind of weird pocket outside of genre. If you haven’t seen it, there’s no easy point of context to prepare you for what to expect.

Just going off the title, it’s easy to imagine MOTHER as a forerunner to the trucker-film craze kicked off by Burt Reynolds a year later in SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT (1977), but although the title characters are certainly drivers, their wheels are attached to Los Angeles ambulances instead of highway big rigs, and their antics are more in service of retaining their sanity over making a big score. Mother (Bill Cosby) is an irreverent veteran driver tasked with breaking in the rookie Speed (Harvey Keitel), so named because of his past selling drugs as an undercover cop. Mother and Speed encounter rival companies, tension with other drivers (including Larry Hagman in a pervy supporting role), and a loose collection of setups and punchlines, all the while hoping to make enough dollars to keep themselves and their business afloat. Meanwhile, the unfortunately-nicknamed Jugs (Raquel Welch) moves to escape her job as the dispatch and den mother for the boys and become the first female driver in her staunchly chauvinistic profession.

Welch’s plotline exemplifies the film’s jarring shifts in tone. Viewers are invited to laugh along with the drivers and the wacky ways in which they let off steam—Cosby, in particular, is at the peak of his talent and delivers plenty of laughs—but the film also aspires to blow the lid off of what was, at the time, a pretty scandalous industry. In an effort to maximize profits, drivers would sabotage rivals, bribe police officers, and invent phony fares to milk government kickbacks. Less the lifesavers that their marketing would have you believe, the ambulance business was more like a taxi service with steeper leverage over its customers. If you weren’t worth the driver’s time, then good luck finding another way to the emergency room.

MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED was the brainchild of animation giant Joseph Barbera (the latter half of the Hanna-Barbera empire) who enlisted Tom Mankiewicz to construct the screenplay. Mankiewicz was a veteran screenwriter who presided over the James Bond franchise during its transition from serious spy fare to pulpier, more audience-friendly material and his particular tastes are all over MOTHER, including pairing slapstick wit and sudden violence. Mankiewicz, in particular, knew how to construct a set piece, as did MOTHER’s director Peter Yates, who helmed the iconic Steve McQueen picture BULLITT (1968) and later the less-successful (but justly infamous) KRULL (1983). MOTHER is likewise stocked with big, high-concept moments that keep things from getting too limp or self-important, which would have been death for a movie that so desperately wants to be a good time.

Ultimately, the real appeal of the film is Cosby, Keitel, Welch, and the rest of the ragtag assembly of drivers. MOTHER, JUGS, AND SPEED is a “hangout movie,” one in which most of the fun comes from revisiting these characters like a group of old friends. That’s another appeal of retro cinema. For better or for worse, even as the world changes around us, our old friends remain exactly the same.

MOTHER, JUGS & SPEED plays @3:00 on May 18 at The Strand. Get tickets HERE.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game designer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He can be seen around town wherever there are movies, cheap beer and little else.

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ATLRetro’s Throwback to the 20th Century New Year’s Eve Guide – Our Top Ten Vitally Vintage Eras for Toasting 2014

Posted on: Dec 28th, 2013 By:
by Melanie Crew
Contributing Writer 

Ring in the New Year in vintage-style with Retro Atlanta!  Come celebrate what once was in 2013 and welcome with open arms what will be in 2014! Start your new year off with a bang with all the swell happenings we’ve found for you!

1. Red Hot Jazz & Dixieland. There’s nothing like gettin’ brassy, super early 20th century-style, to ring in the New Year! So, head on over to Alpharetta, grab a few cocktails and celebrate the year with New Orleans Jon at The Atlantic Seafood Company at 7pm! His Been One Hell of a Year event will have you crooning for more! Or improvise and make your way to The Village Theatre in Decatur for their hilarious Hollabration 6 event with an after party featuring the ever jazzy New Orleans brass of the Wasted Potential Brass Band at 9 pm! Cover is $35 which gets you a drink ticket plus champagne to toast 2014, a world-famous improv comedy show, an after party with the band and more!

2. Puttin’ on the Ritz.  Roar into 2014 at STK Atlanta for their Great Gatsby-themed celebration!  The party kicks off at 5 pm in the lounge with 2 seating options, if you so desire! 5:30 for the early birds where $85 gets you a 3-course meal, 9:30 for the rest, where $115 gets you a 3-course meal with a complimentary champagne toast!  And for those who want to party the night away flapper-style, an open bar option is available for $75!  So, get glitzy and ring in the New Year in vintage style with the sounds of DJ London Thomas along with 20s-era performers, party favors and many more surprises! If you’ve got rhythm, then get ritzy and make your way to the Atlanta Symphony Hall and join the biggest band of them all, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as they head to Broadway to ring in the New Year!  Get glamorous 1930s-style and roll into the New Year to the tune of George and Ira Gershwin!  The ASO along with guest conductor, Jack Everly, vocalist Judy McLane and pianist Michael Chertock, lead the way to bring you your favorite Gershwin favorites including ‘I’ve Got Rhythm,’ and ‘They Can’t Take That Away from Me’!  Tickets range from $31 to $69 and show begins at 8 pm!

3. Deep Roots.  Ponder 2013 by getting to the root of it all!  For a New Year’s Eve filled with grit and soul, make your way to The Earl as they dispense a foot stompin’ night of celebration with Gringo Star, Turf War and MammaBear!  Or get sultry and spend New Year’s Eve with Michelle Malone and her old-school Americana and soul at Eddie’s Attic!  The Variety Playhouse hosts those infamous sons of Atlanta, Drivin’ n’  Cryin’ as they deliver some real rock, folk and country punk with special guests Ed Roland & The Sweet Tea Project! And for a cornucopia of rooty rock styles, swing on by Red Light Café for their New Year’s Eve party with Copious Jones, The Jugtime Ragband, Mary Lynn Buchanan and The Last Gonzo at 8pm!

4. That’s Why They Call it the Blues.  For some classic blues and jazz, shimmy on down to Blind Willie’s for their New Year’s Eve Party with the powerhouse vocals of Francine Reed & The Shadows! Doors at 7pm and $50 gets you guaranteed seating, party favors and a champagne toast at midnight!  And the Atlanta tradition continues at the Northside Tavern with Mudcat’s 20th New Year’s Eve Fiesta featuring Danny ‘Mudcat’ Dudeck, Eddie Tigner, Lola, the BluesDude and the Atlanta Horns!  $20 cover includes party favors and champagne with doors at 9pm!

5. It’s a Beach Party! Spend New Year’s Eve in paradise, Mai-Tai style at Trader Vic’s with the rockin’ surf, beach party tunes of Kool Kat Joshua Longino and Andrew & the Disapyramids!  $60 gets you a four-course dinner and admission to the party! Or, come for the show only which is $10 in advance or $15 at the door.  You won’t want to miss this island-style extravaganza!

6. Rock Across the Pond.  Kick off 2014 with Atlanta’s favorite Rolling Stones’ tribute band, The Jagged Stones with special guests The Big Chicken Beatles Band, paying homage to the Beatles, commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the British Invasion at The Strand Theater!  Doors at 9pm!

7. Groovin’ Up Slowly.  Get funky and ring in the New Year with a little psychedelic soul!  Toast the New Year at the Clermont Lounge, the seedy land of debauchery as they bring you a rockin’ celebration with Halls of Jupiter, the Kris Bell Band and Ledfoot Messiah at their New Year’s Eve Bash, where $15 gets you a groovin’ good time, party favors and a midnight champagne toast!  Or come on out to Smith’s Olde Bar and rock out with Zack Deputy, joined by the father of madness and absurdity himself, Col. Bruce Hampton along with Johnny Awesome and Voodoo Visionary!  Groove on over to Philips Arena and get psychedelic with Widespread Panic and their New Year’s Eve music and food-drive, ‘feeding people through music’ event!  Rock over to Terminal West and groove into the new year with Washed Out and the Mood Rings!  And join The Georgia Soul Council at The Family Dog for a funk-filled holiday fiesta!

8. We’re Stayin’ Alive!  In Retro Atlanta that is!  Boogie on down to Mary’s  in East Atlanta for their annual Attack of the New Year’s Eve Party Monster event, featuring DJ Bendito & DJ Sam Rothstein spinning your favorite disco, indie, house and rock!  There’s no cover and a complimentary champagne toast at midnight! Celebration begins at 9 pm!

9. The Cure for Bananarama.  New-Wave is the epitome of 80’s pop culture, so celebrate 2013 while toasting 2014 by making your way to The Shelter for their 5th Annual New Wave New Year’s Eve Retro Party!  Dress New-Wave, win prizes! The festivities begin at 9pm and $10 gets you party favors, a champagne toast at midnight, a ton of super rare New-Wave music videos and a bunch more surprises! Or for some New-Wave inspired synth-pop and a New-Wave revolution, slink on over to Noni’s Bar & Deli in the Old Fourth Ward for New Year’s Eve with Sonen!  Free cover, free champagne toast at midnight!

10. Hey! Ho! Let’s Go!  Get rebellious and rock into the New Year with some old school punk and plain ol’ retro-inspired rock-n-roll and metal!  Punk it up at the The Star Bar with The Biters, The Booze, The Forty-Fives’ MC45s, their all MC5 tribute, Fiend Without A Face, the Zoners and Dasher!  $10 cover.  Doors at 8pm!  Or spend New Year’s Eve in Hell hosted by the dynamic duo and circus side-show pair, Captain & Maybelle at The Masquerade featuring a gritty, rockin’ good time with The Six Shot Revival, Beitthemeans, the rockin’ all-female Elvis tribute band, the Pelvis Breastlies and Gunpowder Gray! $10 cover; Doors at 8pm.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Like a Jagged Stone: Keef Richards Gets What He Needs Paying Tribute to a Guitar Legend and Rocks Around the Christmas Tree Sat. Dec. 1

Posted on: Nov 28th, 2012 By:

Barry Zion, aka "Keef Richards," of The Jagged Stones.

Forget the Elvis impersonators. The Rocking Around the Christmas Tree benefit on Sat. Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. treats you to a rarer form of superstar tribute and a delightfully different holiday party courtesy of Nine Inch Neils, who channel Neil Diamond in his ‘70s heyday, and Jagged Stones, whose name should give away the act they idolize that also came of age in the late ’60s/’70s. In addition to two rockin’ fun bands, a humble suggested donation of $10 (kids free) serves up pizza from Mellow Mushroom Decatur, two glasses of beer or wine, free sodas and a dessert bar. There’s also a silent auction including some cool items like a signed movie poster from the TWILIGHT series and an original POWERPUFF GIRLS animation cell from Cartoon Network. Proceeds support the House of the Rock (also the site of the party; 731 Peachtree St., NE, corner of 4th Street) and Lutheran Community Food Ministries, which do amazing work feeding Midtown’s homeless. So if you can, also bring some cans to benefit the food ministry. And parking is free, too.

Last year ATLRetro interviewing Cage, lead singer of Nine Inch Neils, to find out what made him and the band a believer in Neil Diamond. This year, we decided we wouldn’t get no seasonal satisfaction without catching up with Barry Zion, aka Keef Richards, of The Jagged Stones.

ATLRetro: When’s the first time you heard the Rolling Stones and was it love at first listen?

Keef: When I was 13 years old, my older brother turned me onto the GET YER YA-YA’S OUT live album. I had been taking some bass lessons, and the guitar work on that album immediately grabbed me. I can remember playing the Chuck Berry cover “Carol,” about 200 times a day until I developed the strength to do that Keith Richards rhythm. It’s quite a physically challenging thing when you are first learning as it takes all of your fingers, barre technique, pinky strength and solid rhythm with the right hand, plus the added handicap of playing on a $20 acoustic guitar with string height action that was measured in feet rather than millimeters. But thanks to that, it helped me develop some very strong muscles in my left hand. After that it allowed me to focus on the other songs and I wore out that album.

It wasn’t until I was older that I mastered Keith’s tunings and techniques and got closer to his sound, and Mick Taylor‘s fluid lead playing was something that took me years to even understand and is something I am still working on today. Mick Taylor is in my opinion, the most under-rated guitarist in rock, and his time in the Stones is clearly the era that grabbed me the most and that I try to emulate in my playing.

There’s got to be a great story about how you all came together to found a Rolling Stones tribute band?

I had recently relocated to Atlanta from NY/NJ/PA, and I had been frequenting the Atlanta jam scene and been known as “that Allman Brothers guy, that did some Stones too.” Duane Allman and Dickey Betts are other influences on my playing. I was not really interested in being in a band for the usual reasons – low pay, long hours, lots of competition, playing songs you don’t like, smoky bars, etc. One of my jam friends saw on Craigslist an ad for an open audition for a Rolling Stones tribute band, and he dragged me to the tryout. Well, of course, everybody want’s to be Keith, and when I got there, the audition coordinator asked me if I wanted to take the lead guitar spot for the audition. Since I planned on trying out for Mick Taylor’s spot, I quickly set up. I think the first song we played was “Wild Horses,” and I guess I nailed it pretty good and stayed close to the album. Then while another Keith was setting up, Skip [Stephen Skipper, aka Mick Jagger in the band] and I were sitting around, and I started playing “Love In Vain.” The two of us just clicked, and from then on Skip put the pressure on me to be in the band.

Funny we clicked so well, that he asked me which of the Keiths I liked the best, and I told him, that I thought I could do a better Keith than any of the guys that had auditioned. Skip didn’t want to lose me as Mick Taylor, but I assured him that I could backfill a lead guitarist for my slot (Yeah, even back then I had Eddie Brodeur, our current guitarist in mind) and that it was more important to have a strong Keith guitarist in the band. Well, with some hesitation, Skip let me try it, and I guess I did pretty good during that audition and have been Keef ever since then.

Since then Skip and I have become “Soul Brothers,” and we share the same vision on where the band is going. All the guys in the band are the top musicians that I had met from the jam scene.  Dave Lang (keyboard/vocals/guitar/harmonica/kitchen sink) and I had met a few months before that at a Kennesaw jam. About a year before that, Eddie Brodeur (lead guitar/Ronnie Woods) and I had met  at a Southern Rock theme night jam where without a rehearsal we absolutely clicked. It’s a really rare thing to have two lead guitarists that can leave space for each other and have styles that are different enough yet similar enough for the magic to happen. Eddie is that guy for me. The bass player and drummer took a while to settle in, but Joel Edwards (bass) is one of the most sought after bass players in Atlanta, and he’s a scary good musician that can play just about any style, and also plays drums, keyboard and guitar very well. Frankly I was shocked that he wanted to play in The Jagged Stones. He has, in my opinion, solidified us and carried us over that hump of trying to establish a new band.   Martin Abbot was the drummer that same night I played with Eddie at the theme night, and I knew that day that he would be the rock steady drummer to anchor the rhythm section.

Keef Richards (Barry Zion) and Mick (Stephen Skipper) of The Jagged Stones.

How many Rolling Stones tribute bands are out there and where do The Jagged Stones fit in?

We definitely have some competition and that keeps us always trying to improve. I really love The Glimmer Twins from Philadelphia. I’ve seen them  on visits I make up north, and they are a vintage 70s Stones band. I think because we are a bit older, we are more of the recent Stones tribute, probably 90s/2000s. The GTs don’t travel much down here, and we don’t travel up there, so I like to think that we are mutually supportive of our respective bands, and territories. Their Mick (Keith Call) and Keith (Bernie Bollendorf) are masters at their craft, and they have a great supporting cast behind them and have been at it for quite some time and are successful at it.  I really respect Bernie and the attention he pays to the tunings and the version of the songs they play. I think what sets us apart from the other tributes, is that Skip nails the look and sound of Mick Jagger whereas most of the other tribute bands have a Mick Jagger lookalike, but they don’t sound much like him.

This is your second year doing the Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree show at the House of the Rock with the Nine Inch Neils, right? How did you get involved?

Cage (Neil Diamond from the Nine Inch Neils) was instrumental in getting Skip to go from a karaoke singer to a front man for The Jagged Stones. Last year’s event was really our first “real gig,” and thanks to Cage, we got that gig and met Jon Waterhouse and Pastor Matt. Jon has been a key to our success, and without his support and guidance we would probably not be together, so anything that we can do to help Jon out including playing his charity events we try to do. For me, once I saw what was going on at The HOTR last year, I was just really moved by the people that are involved with the church and the event. It was a real special event for me, and one that I will always remember. I think this year will be even better, as we are now more seasoned, and our current lineup is firing on all cylinders.  People have told me that they can see that we all have fun playing the music and that it carries over to the audience.

What can audiences expect from the Jagged Stones at Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree this Saturday? Holiday favorites? Greatest hits?

We always put a lot of thought into our setlist and tailor it to each show.  Dave Lang works hard on that and takes in all the parameters of the venue. You will definitely hear all the familiar Stones hits and a few deeper cuts for the Stones aficionado. They have such a vast catalog of hits, [so] it becomes challenging to try and cram them all into the time we have allotted.

Some people might think the event can’t be hip, because it’s at a church. But to us this just tells us the House of the Rock is mighty hip. Tell them why they’re wrong.

As I said above, the event was an incredibly moving experience for me last year. I was surprised that the Church has a state-of-the-art sound system, lighting and a nice size stage for Skip to strut his stuff on. The people who organize and staff the event are cool cats and chicks and are more of the hippie generation, and certainly not that image I had of little old church ladies pulling bingo balls. Pastor Matt is quite a musician himself and has a pretty good band that plays regularly at the HOTR. I live close by and it truly touched me how they are helping the hungry in downtown Atlanta. I have been shopping the whole week for canned food to bring with me and encouraging all our friends to go above the ‘suggested one can of food. Also it’s such a bargain at $10 for two excellent bands, let alone Mellow Mushroom Pizza and two drinks. You’d be hard pressed to find that anywhere around Atlanta.

What’s gives you the most satisfaction about being a Rolling Stone impersonator?

Well if you look up the definition of ‘Rock & Roll’ in a dictionary, there should only be a picture of Keith Richards there. He is Rock & Roll, and what better character could anybody want to portray then Keith?! Lots of people think Keith is not a very good guitar player, but he finished in the #10 spot in Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 100 Greatest Guitarists of all time. I think it’s easy to take him for granted as he is not flashy or incredibly fast or a very innovative kead player. However he is the riff-master. There are only a handful of guitarists that you can identify by their tone, and Keith’s tone is one of those. It doesn’t take more than a few notes to identify a Rolling Stones song on the radio. I try really hard to reproduce the subtleties of his tone by using his tunings, instruments, attack and, of course, dressing up like him and moving around like him.

What’s next for you and the Jagged Stones in terms of gigs? Any recordings?

Recordings are not something I have given much thought to, but Skip has been in the studio recently recording some corporate stuff that needed some Jagger-like vocals. We love playing live and thrive at auditoriums and festivals. Skip has a knack of working a big stage and reaching a big crowd. In addition to the HOTR show, we are really looking forward to our New Years Eve show at The Strand.

What do you do when you are not a Jagged Stone?

Besides sleeping? For fun, I like to take long walks in dimly lit cemetaries. Seriously I enjoy the jam scene around Atlanta, and have a day job that keeps me pretty busy. The joke I have is that I am an “Antique Consultant,” which has its origin in women giving me the usual interrogation to assess my datability quotient:

Woman: What’s your name?
Me: Barry
Woman: What do you do?
Me (over loud music): IT Consulting,
Woman, yelling: Wow that’s so interesting. Have you ever been on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW???
Me: No, not antiques. IT like computers.
Woman:  Oh ok, cya.

So I learned to just go with the antiques and say I speacialize in Queen Anne chairs, and the interrogation proceeds a few more questions, before the woman leaves.

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A Sexy Silent Scandal at The Strand Theatre: Daring to Reopen Louise Brooks’ PANDORA’S BOX

Posted on: Nov 21st, 2012 By:

PANDORA’S BOX (1929); Dir: Georg Wilhelm Pabst; Starring Louise Brooks, Francis Lederer; with live organ accompaniment by Ron Carter; Sun. Nov. 25 3:00 p.m.; The Strand Theatre

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

Ever since The Earl Smith Strand Theatre found new life on the Square in Marietta, the theater’s event schedule has cast a wide net. In between the usual live events and mainstream film titles, The Strand quietly stands as one of the last venues in Atlanta to regularly seek out and book classic silent films, a callback to its roots as an old movie house. (The Strand’s first ever show was the 1935 Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers vehicle, TOP HAT.) Except that by the time The Strand opened, the talkies had already taken hold, so the decision to run silent pictures in an increasingly-noisy age of media strikes me as more than nostalgia. It’s incredibly brave.

And so, fittingly, The Strand has found a brave picture to screen. There are few silents more daring than PANDORA’S BOX (1929), playing Sunday afternoon Nov. 25 at 3 p.m.—even braver!—accompanied by a full organ score. PANDORA’S BOX doesn’t fit the mold of the typical silent melodrama. Louise Brooks stars as Lulu, a young woman whose ambition is eclipsed only by her voracious sexual appetite. She uses sex as a weapon to get what she wants, or who she wants, and the film largely deals with an escalating series of consequences, from murder, to imprisonment, and finally… well, I won’t spoil it, but Lulu’s story crosses with a famous historical figure, and her final reward is a spot in historical infamy.

PANDORA’S BOX is directed by the great Austrian director G.W. Pabst, whose list of leading ladies includes such names as Greta Garbo and Leni Riefenstahl, but he cast no lady as magnetic or iconic as Brooks, whose distinctive flapper style and bobbed haircut are more famous today than her name. Brooks was an American actress who rubbed elbows with names like William Randolph Hearst, but who grew dissatisfied with the American system and fled to Europe, where audiences came out in droves to see her magnetism and sexuality portrayed on screen. Lulu is a part born for Brooks and, although the film met with a fair amount of pushback from concerned censors, eventually made Brooks an international star. Today, her name is inseparable from the film’s title.

I mentioned censors, but it’s important to note that PANDORA’S BOX was a pre-code picture. In fact, the film came to America in December 1929, only three months before the adoption of the Hays Code that put a lid on the titillation and sexual experimentation of the earliest studio pictures. (Even in the ’20s, people knew the truth about film audiences—sex sells tickets.) PANDORA’S BOX contains a litany of elements that would soon disappear from American cinemas, such as frank sexuality and a disrespect for marriage. Just a decade later, Lulu’s actions would have classified her as a femme fatale, and she’d certainly snare a young hero or two to their doom. Here, the reality is a bit more complicated, and although it’s true that Lulu faces retribution for her loose morals, it’s hard to ignore the allure of her behavior, which is what the Hays Code was trying to snuff out in the first place.

Alice Roberts as Countess Anna Geschwitz and Louise Brooks (center) as Lulu in PANDORA'S BOX (1929), directed by G.W. Pabst. Credit: UCLA Film and Television Archive

PANDORA’S BOX is also a landmark film in queer cinema, as it does contain (if briefly) one of the first ever screen representations of a lesbian. Played by Alice Roberts, the Countess Geschwitz enters the film dressed in men’s clothes—a tuxedo—and fawns over Lulu, suggesting that the two have a sexual past. Within a year, even such a minor reference to homosexuality would be strictly outlawed on American screens.

PANDORA’S BOX is widely available online, but as with all films, especially from this era, it belongs on the screen (and trust me when I say that a live organ makes all the difference in the world). The film arrived at the end of the golden period of silent films, the end of the pre-code movies, and even puts a symbolic coda on the decade of decadence that was the 1920s. It stands proud as a threshold between two very different eras of cinema. But its sexuality, its spectacle and the compelling nature of its tragic antihero also remind us of another, sometimes-forgotten fact: what excites and thrills us today is the same as it ever was. We didn’t change—the pictures did.

For more about The Strand’s efforts to screen silents as they should be with live organ scores, read our Kool Kat interview with organist Ron Carter, who will be accompanying PANDORA’s BOX here

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30 Days of The Plaza, Day 29: Vintage Vertigo That’s Not Just for the Birds: Hitchcock Takes Atlanta by Storm at The Plaza and the Strand This November!

Posted on: Nov 1st, 2012 By:

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

With November upon us and the gusts of the coming winter already chilling our bones, what better time than now to pay tribute to the king of spine-tingling thrillers, Sir Alfred Hitchcock? Thanks to the Plaza Theatre in Atlanta and Marietta’s Earl Smith Strand Theatre, you can spend some quality time this month with the Master of Suspense in his preferred setting: on the big screen and even better – remastered and in high definition!

Atlanta’s historic Plaza Theatre’s series promises special guests and vintage Hitchcock interview footage before each screening (show times TBA). They kick off the month with 1948’s James Stewart-starring ROPE, showing November 2-4. Hitchcock’s first color film, ROPE was based on the infamous 1924 Leopold and Loeb “perfect murder” scandal and seemingly unfolds in one continuous take. (Actually, it was shot in 10 shorter segments, with editing trickery covering up the fact that the cameraman would have to change the film magazine every 10 minutes.)

Up next is the film that ushered in what is now considered Hitch’s golden age—1951’s STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, showing November 16-18. The tense story of two men—played by Farley Granger and Robert Walker—who agree (the former, however, unwittingly) to “swap” targets of murder, the film contains some of Hitch’s most inventive and still-studied optical effects.

The Plaza follows this with a weekend of VERTIGO, showing November 23-25. Frequent Hitch collaborator James Stewart returns to star with Kim Novak in this 1958 tale of madness and obsession. A critical and commercial flop at the time of its release, the movie today is acknowledged as one of Hitchcock’s most personal films and topped the British Film Institute’s 2012 Sight & Sound critic’s poll as the greatest film ever made.

The Plaza closes out the month as THE BIRDS attack the coastal city of Bodega Bay from November 30 to December 2. The 1963 film stars Tippi Hedren and Rod Taylor, and was based both on a Daphne du Maurier short story and an actual case of birds infesting a California town. Though it was scored by Hitch’s frequent composer Bernard Herrmann, you’ll note that no actual music (aside from schoolchildren singing unaccompanied) is heard. Instead, Herrmann layers the soundtrack with electronically-created bird noises.

The Earl Smith Strand Theatre opens this month’s continuation of its series (all events begin at 8 p.m.) with a November 2 screening of THE BIRDS (tickets here). The pre-show entertainment starts with organist Misha Stefanuk (of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Theater Organ Society, or ACATOS) accompanying vocalists Kennedy Bastow and Cierra Ollis.

On November 16, the Strand brings us what is perhaps Hitchcock’s best-known film, 1960’s PSYCHO (tickets here). The story of a boy (Anthony Perkins), his mother and the girl who threatens to come between them (Janet Leigh), the film was shot at the studios used for ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS and was independently produced by Hitchcock on a small budget. The famous “shower scene” took an entire week to shoot and contains 77 different camera angles.

The Strand closes its Hitchcock series with 1959’s NORTH BY NORTHWEST (tickets here). Cary Grant comes as close to playing James Bond as he ever got in the role of Roger O. Thornhill, one of the “Mad Men” of Madison Avenue’s advertising world, who finds himself mistaken for a secret agent and pursued across the country. Besides the film being recognized as one of Hitch’s best (and on a personal note, I’d say it’s also his most fun), GQ magazine voted Cary Grant’s gray suit (which he wears almost throughout the entire film) as the best suit in film history.

So escape the frosty autumn air this November for some big-screen chills and thrills with these Hitchcock classics. And keep your eyes peeled for Hitch’s cameos!

Editor’s Note: Remember every time you shell out a few bucks to see a classic movie on the big screen, you are keeping the theatrical experience alive in vintage independent cinemas that are Atlanta-area historic treasures. ATLRetro will be running separate reviews/essays on some of these films. 

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

 

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‘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.

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ATLRetro’s Ultimate Stuck in the 20th Century New Year’s Eve Guide – Our Top Seven Picks for Partying Like It’s 1999

Posted on: Dec 28th, 2011 By:

OK, the New Year is about passing the torch and moving in the future, but at ATLRetro, we think you ought to be able to do that with vintage style. Here are our top seven picks for counting down 2011 and toasting 2012 while partying like it’s 1999 or earlier.

1. Disco ain’t dead. No decade knew how to get down like the 1970s and no DJ knows how to play that funky music than the Funk Godfather himself, Romeo Cologne. Plus since the venue is the sensationally seedy Clermont Lounge, for extra points, wear a bit of blue velvet with your silver lame and have a David Lynchian flashback to the ‘80s. All night long; $6 cover 10-11 pm; $10 cover after 11 p.m.

 

 

2. Get back to the roots. The Variety Playhouse serves up a double portion of roots, rhythm & funky blues, rock and country with JJ Grey & Mofro and Honey Island Swamp Band. The former hail from Jacksonville, Fla., and are proudly influenced by classic soul heroes and other native Southern sounds. Founded by New Orleans musicians stuck in San Francisco after Hurricane Katrina, the latter play a Bayou Americana sound that is both their own and yet forged in the spirit of a heady blend of Little Feat, Taj Mahal, Earl King, Jerry Garcia, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown and Jimmy Reed. Doors at 8 p.m., Show at 9 p.m.; $35-40.

3. Ring the Holiday Inn. Relive the glamour of a 1930s/1940s New Year’s Eve with Atlanta’s biggest band, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Michael Krajewski conducts an eclectic line-up of music ranging from Offenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld” (Can-Can) to Gershwin, Berlin and Rodgers and Hammerstein.London and Broadway stage stars Joan Hess and Kirby Ward dance to the swing classics in a tribute to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers. 8 p.m.; $30-$68.

 

4. Do the Monster Mash. Greet the New Year in ghoulish and goofy style with Professor Morte and the Silver Scream Spookshow gang at the Plaza Theatre. In addition to the antics of their always entertaining stage show, on the big screen is a rare special treat—MAD MONSTER PARTY (1967). This stop-motion puppet story was the only feature made by Rankin-Bass, the same folks that created RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER and so many beloved holiday specials, but features a cast of classic creatures such as Dracula, the Werewolf, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and more. Boris Karloff voices Baron von Frankenstein and Phyllis Diller is his creation’s Bride. Proceeds benefit Atlanta’s longest continuously running vintage art deco (and now nonprofit) cinema, which is currently up for sale. Let’s not let the Plaza become another lost landmark of Atlanta’s past. Evening show starts at 10 pm (tickets are $12), plus if you’ve got glamorous evening plans or don’t want the kids to stay up too late, there’s also an afternoon matinee at 1 pm (kids free; adults just $7).

 

5. Who Knows Where the Time Goes? It’s been three decades since Guadalcanal Diary formed in Marietta, but one of metro Atlanta’s top seminal alt-rock bands regrouped last summer at Athfest and Smith’s Olde Bar and tonight they are “Bringing It on Home to The Strand,” the art deco former movie palace in Marietta’s Square, along with special guests Flamingo Royale and the Dex Romweber Duo. If you missed our feature interview with lead singer/guitarist Murray Attaway last summer, catch up on your reading here. The all ages show has doors at 7 p.m.; tickets are $30 for concert only, $20 for after-midnight party only, and $45 for both show and party, with proceeds supporting fine and performing arts in City of Marietta Schools.

6. Lady Sings the Blues. Classic blues and jazz chanteuse Francine Reed brings her powerhouse vocals to Blind Willie’s with The Shadows and special guest Houserocker Johnson. $50 gets you party favors and champagne. Doors at 7 p.m.

 

 

7. Carry on, Way Downtown. Seventies superstar rockers Kansas headline Peach Drop 2012, the Southeast’s biggest NYE celebration at Underground Atlanta. Festivities test your stamina by starting at 11 am Dec. 31 with loads of family-friendly activities from carnival rides to photos with exotic birds, and running until 3 am on Jan. 1.There’s also a slew of other bands on two stages.  It’s free if you’re willing to brave the crowds and the likely chill of being outdoors.

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Retro Review: It’s a Wonderful Life With George Bailey in It: See the Capra Holiday Classic with Family and Friends on the Big Screen at the Vintage Earl Smith Strand Theatre

Posted on: Dec 18th, 2011 By:

By Thomas Drake
Contributing Writer

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946); Dir: Frank Capra; Starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Henry Travers; Wed. Dec. 21 8 p.m. at Earl Strand Smith Theatre; traditional TV screening on Christmas Eve on NBC (Channel 11) at 8 p.m.; Trailer here.

Short: “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

Medium: George Bailey is a man with big dreams and a big heart. As a youth he decides to set out for the big city and become an architect and explore the world. While he loves his family, he looks down with scorn on his small hometown, BedfordFalls. But on the day he is set to go out into the world, his father becomes ill. The problem is, George learns that the film’s villain, Mr. Potter (No Relation to Harry Potter of the Same Name), plans to take over the bank and remake the town in his dark image. George is forced to take up his father’s mantle and save the town, initially only for a little while, but as he puts roots and settles down, the years slog on. Until fate gives Potter a chance to destroy Bailey. Bailey is at the end of his rope and considers his life a total failure.

Heaven itself hears the prayers of the town and sends an incompetent angel in the form of Clarence to help out. Clarence gets the brilliant idea of showing George Bailey the world without him in it. Horrified, George repents of his wish for death and rushes back to the happy ending typical of Hollywood movies of the era.

George Bailey (James Stewart) at a low moment in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. His wife Mary (Donna Reed) and children try to trim the tree and enjoy Christmas. Copyright: Paramont Pictures, 1945.

Maximum Verbosity: This is one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s not every day that a movie can establish a new kind of story that is copied over and over again in many mediums. There might be a story that did this before IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, but this Frank Capra-directed holiday classic certainly turned the idea of showing someone what the world would be like them on its head if it did. I’ve seen more television episodes and cartoons that show how critical a piece someone makes in the lives of others roughly based on IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE than I can even remember. And I can remember a lot.

When the film originally came out, it didn’t really do so well. In fact, it might have been doomed to an ignoble death like so many otherwise excellent Hollywood films until someone discovered that it had ‘slipped through’ the copyright trap, and thus became exceedingly cheap for small television stations to run over and over again around Christmas. So it became an American favorite and a classic. Now the American Film Institute, on one of its many arbitrary lists, calls IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE one of the 100 best films ever made—and I’d agree with them on this one. Of course, that was not to last, as eventually the zaibatsus managed to loophole the loophole and now only NBC can show it (Dec. 24 at 8 p.m.).

In a rare holiday treat, the film itself, however, is going to be shown at the Earl Smith Strand Theatre, an art-deco former movie palace in Marietta. With all of the trouble iconic Atlanta film venues have been going through recently such as the Plaza up for sale; with the zaibatsus getting rid of their 35mm film collections; and even books themselves slowly going the way of the Kindle, supporting such grand old institutions as the Earl Smith is more important than ever. An artistic experience isn’t just about the performance, it’s who and where it is being performed. [Ed. note: this screening is not in 35mm, but we still think it’s mighty special to see even a digital print at such a cool Retro venue, esp. if the kids have only seen it in TV.]

Bumbling angel Clarence (Henry Travers) startles George (Stewart) by showing up in a nightgown. Copyright Paramount Pictures 1945.

So why do I love this movie? Let me count the ways. Jimmy Stewart is the most awesome actor in all of Hollywood history, and given some of the people that have worked in film, that’s saying a lot. The man was humble and had a genuine all-American quality to him that I found fantastic. That combined with one of his [and Frank Capra’s] other great seminal works, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, to me sums up what it means to be an American. He is the true Everyman hero, the one who stands up for what is right when all others demand that you surrender to the wrong. Indeed, if every man would be as Jimmy Stewart, then the very foundations of evil would be shaken from the world forever. Not that that’s going to happen.

Let’s talk Clarence (Henry Travers). Clarence is a delightful fuck-up. When one thinks Angel, one traditionally thinks Cherubim and a Flaming Sword guarding the Garden of Eden, not a bumbling old guy in a hat who doesn’t even have his wings yet. Of course, don’t underestimate old Clarence, because the old guy can turn visible or invisible at will and rewrites the very laws of reality to weave out George Bailey. If that’s what an angel without wings does, you can imagine how many power-up’s you’d need to take on a fully developed one. But his bumbling incompetence is why I like him. I like the idea that God, or at least his minions, are well meaning but not all powerful. But maybe that’s just me. It’s easier to accept the world the way it is if you think that.

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE also is a great romance. Donna Reed is easy to lose in the crowd among all of the things that are going on in the film, but as a subplot, George Bailey’s courtship—both before and after they are married—is a true classic. She went on later to have her own highly successful sitcom, but seeing her in this is like all of those obscure ‘80s movies that have actors in them before they became truly famous. Like Kate Mulgrew in REMO WILLIAMS (1985).

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is a wonderful romance, too, between George (Stewart) and Mary (Reed). Copyright Paramount Pictures 1945.

But I think above all, the philosophy of the film is why I love so much. Life isn’t about wealth. You can’t take it with you, and while it can certainly help in some circumstances, you can’t eat it and it won’t love you. “Remember George, no man is a failure who has friends.” I guess somehow when I heard that, it translated in my mind as, “The true measure of the worth of a human’s life is in the quality and strength of the relations he keeps.” And I’ve lived my life that way ever since. People matter. Friends matter. Family matters. And this movie is the quintessential guide to that.

It might be hokey. It might even have a healthy dose of sappy cheddar compared to the realities of corruption, malfeasance and dereliction we have today. The world needs more George Baileys, because God knows we’ve sure as hell got enough Mr. Potters running around with their derivatives and their credit default swaps and their vast indifference to the suffering of humanity. Our world has come to more resemble the dark mirror of George’s life, where people don’t give a shit about each other. But this is the Holiday season, damn it, and whatever your affiliation (Kwanza, Hannikua, Christmas, Festivus, X-mas), they are all about love and being greater than yourself. (Well…maybe not X-mas which is largely about buying as much as you can and trompling your neighbor in the process.)

Celebrate Christmas by living a bit of it each day of your life. And the best way to do that, is to be like George Bailey. Merry Christmas.

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A Charlie Brown Christmas Is What It’s All About: Jeffrey Butzer and TT Mahony’s Jazzy Musical Tribute to Vince Guaraldi’s PEANUTS Score Comes to The Earl & The Earl Smith Strand

Posted on: Dec 16th, 2011 By:

Jeffrey Butzer channels Schroeder & Vince Guaraldi in A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, his annual holiday show with TT Mahony.

Not just nostalgic adults, but kids, too, will get to enjoy Jeffrey Butzer and T.T. Mahony’s jazzy musical tribute to Vince Guaraldi’s A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS this year with the duo presenting it at two Earls – first at The Earl Fri. Dec. 16 and Sat. Dec. 17 (both 9 p.m.) and then at the Earl Smith Strand Theatre in Marietta Tues. Dec. 20 (3 p.m. and 8 p.m.). All shows will feature an opening instrumental set by Jeffrey’s band, The Bicycle Eaters, and surf favorites from THE VENTURES CHRISTMAS ALBUM  rendered by Chad Shivers and Friends.

The seasonal sell-out shows of A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS are clearly a labor of love for Jeffrey, a musician/composer whose solo works tend towards the minimalism of the simple Christmas tree in the iconic Charles Schultz special. Inspired by melodic French musette, pieces on two albums SHE TRADED HER LEG (2006) and THE GARDEN OF SCISSORS (2009), both released by Lona Records, incorporate such eclectic instruments as accordions, bass drum, piano, glockenspiel and—perhaps inspired by a childhood admiration for Schroeder—toy piano. His band, the Bicycle Eaters, takes a different bend, inspired by Ennio Morricone spaghetti western scores, klezmer and gypsy, the former suggesting that their opening set will be more than appropriate for a vintage art deco movie theatre like the Strand. He’s also down a film soundtracks (Raymond Carr’s WILD IS THE WIND), collaborated live with Molly Harvey of The Residents and has ventured lately into the world of live scoring to Buster Keaton’s THE BALLOONATIC. And frankly that’s just a small taste of the musical adventures of this diverse Atlanta performer and affirmed cineaste.

Today though, ATLRetro caught up with Jeffrey to chat about A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS, what to expect at The Earl and The Strand, and what’s next for him with The Bicycle Eaters and as a solo composer/musician.

How old were you when you first saw A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS on TV and what did the show and its music mean to you when growing up?

I don’t remember a time NOT knowing who Charlie Brown was. It is like Bruce Lee, Elvis or Grandma, something that seemed to always exist to me. Growing up, it was always my favorite special. I liked how blue it was. Both literally and figuratively. Cartoon music in general affects you strangely. Like Carl Stalling and Raymond Scott with the Looney Toons, I wasn’t aware of them until I was older and started playing music. But again, it is hard to remember a time when I didn’t listen to that record every year.

How did you and TT Mahony get the idea of developing A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS holiday show, and for how many years have you been doing it?

This is year four. I approached TT after he played a Leonard Cohen/Tom Waits/Nick Cave tribute show I worked on. He is an amazing piano player, very witty , too. I had kicked around the idea of doing a holiday show in the past but never really knew a pianist that could handle Guaraldi. Robby Handley is the best upright bass player I know. Great hair, too. And here is an odd fact about TT. He can jump really, really high. I’ve told him he should find some way to compete. I once saw him jump from the ground onto the top of a Toyota.

I understand last year’s shows were packed. Were you surprised that so many adults were so enthusiastic about music from a 1960s kids TV show/Christmas LP? What kind of comments did you get after your performance?

Yes, we were hoping for the best, that our fans and friends would enjoy the show and hopefully some new faces would come out. But the response has been overwhelming. Last year we had to start doing two nights. As far as comments, the one we get the most is “Can you do an all-ages one too…for the babies?” The reason we haven’t is because. the mood we set in The Earl seems to really suit Snoopy and the gang. It is cozy, dark, and has energy almost like a rock show. We are really looking forward to adjusting it for a sitting crowd at The Strand. We love the room. It is like a miniature Fox Theatre. And playing for children will be a blast. My 2-year-old son Francis dances every time he hears “Linus and Lucy.”

What audiences can expect at The Earl this weekend?

Cookies, dancing… It is basically a big Holiday Party with 300 of your closest, newest friends.

What are you doing at The Strand to make it even more kid-friendly?

The show will not change much. We do have a kid’s choir with us at the Strand!

Why pair Peanuts with The Ventures?

Well, the albums were released around the same time for one thing. They are both classic ‘60s albums. They are both easy to dance to.

Jeffrey Butzer. Photo credit: Melissa J. Butzer.

And what about that opening set from Jeffrey Butzer and the Bicycle Eaters?

My band (The Bicycle Eaters) play Frenchy-Jazzy-Spaghetti Western-inspired instrumentals. We are releasing a limited EP at the show

What else are you and the Bicycle Eaters up to? Any 2012 gigs or recordings you’d like to tell readers about?

We almost all have children, so we’ve been laying low, only doing select shows. But we will have an official release for our new 7” at The Earl in March. I’m also working on a score for PETER PAN at The Center for Puppetry Arts. Then I have a solo record coming out named COLLAPSIBLE. Then off to play some dates inPoland.

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