Kool Kat of the Week: Dancin’ to His Own Boylesque Beat: Russell Bruner Takes Off His Top Hat and More at Southern Fried

Posted on: Mar 20th, 2013 By:

Russell Bruner, Reigning King of Burlesque. Photo credit: Insomniac Studios

Stars both of the Burlesque Revival and of classic tease arrive in Atlanta this week for the third annual Southern Fried Burlesque Festival Thurs. March 21-24 at  the Wyndham Atlanta Galleria. Read our full festival preview here.

Just a quick glance at the line-up suggests this year will be just as good performance-wise as the first two, if not even better. But we have to admit that we’re especially excited to see Portland, Oregon’s Russell Bruner, reigning King of Burlesque, at the Free Range Burlesque show on Fri. March 22, after seeing him perform at our own Kool Kat Kitty Love‘s first Sultry Sunday of the year back in January. Male exotic dancers may be notoriously boring, but dressed in a pin-stripe seersucker suit, top hat and debonair curled moustache, let’s just say Russell wasn’t just sexy but sassy–really capturing the spirit of the tease in ways that most male dancers simply don’t. Of course, that underlines the essential difference between burlesque, or in this case “boylesque,” and striptease/exotic dance. Burlesque comes from vaudeville and variety and is all about having fun–which, well, they say gals love a guy with a sense of humor.

A little online research revealed that Bruner is a Vancouver, Washington native and Mormon-raised boy who eschewed football for the cheer squad and comes to burlesque via swing dance (He won a trophy at the Balboa Tempo Marathon in 2006) and a stint as the acrobatic Villain of Portland’s Wanderlust Circus. Needless to say, we had to make him Kool Kat of the Week just to find out more about what drew him from a tech career with a dancing hobby to a professional performer, how he developed his unique style, his influences and his act at SFBF!

So you were working for Intel, your job ended and you ran away to join the circus? Is that basically how your career in burlesque/variety got started? 

Well, the electrical engineering field wasn’t too bad. I enjoyed the work, but kept thinking about how if I was ever going to do performance art, I should do it before I get any older.

Russell Bruner, Master of the Hat and Cane Routine. Photo credit: Adam Scherer.

Just about every lady I know thinks there’s nothing duller than watching a Chippendale. You have a completely different look and approach to dancing off your clothes. To what extent do you think that playing against the expected is the key to your success? 

You’re right, I’m no Chippendale. I cater to the audience as I understand them with what I have to offer. I’m not playing against the idea of the Chippendale; I’m just more turned on by men like Gene Kelly, Tom Waits and Ray Bolger.

Your routines remind me of a cross between Fred Astaire – who also danced with a hat rack in a famous number and you’ve said is an inspiration -to ‘20s comedy cinema actors like Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin. Did you grow up on classic movies with dance and comedy numbers or when/how did you discover them? How influential are they on your routines? 

I didn’t see very many movies or see much television growing up, but there was this great movie place that I discovered when I first moved to Portland that’s called Movie Madness. They have nearly everything with Fred Astaire, WC Fields, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, etc. I’ve since taken advantage of the inspiration found there, and in other sources that have old vaudeville acts film.

Were you at all nervous when you first stripped down? Any advice to men who want to do burlesque but are a little shy about it? 

I was nervous about it. Any time I do something in front of an audience for the first time I’m always concerned about things going well. If someone is shy about performing, I think it’s normal and shows they too have concern for doing well.

Who are your inspirations, either male or female, classic or revival, in burlesque?

Aside from the mentioned persons of yesteryear, for males, I am inspired by Leapin’ Louie Lichtenstein, Armitage Shanks, the Stage Door Johnnies, Burlesquire, Tod Alan, Evil Hate Monkey, Mr. Gorgeous, Waxie Moon, Captain Kidd, Curtis Carlyle, Dahktur Sick, Jonathan Burns, Scott Maxwell, Luther Bangert, Nanda, Neil E Dee, Funny Eddie Dot Com, Bobbie Burlesque, Bellini Twins, Charlie Brown the Juggler, Donny Vomit, Scotty the Blue Bunny, Ben Delacreme, Jasper St. James, the cast of Meatfest in LA, the Boxers are Brief Boylesk, William Batty in Wanderlust Circus, and many others. All those are variety performers and not necessarily burlesque. The women that inspire me is a much longer list, so let me get back to you on that when I have more time to list everyone.

Russell Bruner. Photo credit: PEZ Photo.

Where/when was your favorite performance and what made it so special?

My last performance with the Carnivalesque Tour at State Theater in Falls Church, VA, was a recent favorite of mine. It was special because it was the last show of a great run. I had a lot of fun working with Gilded Lily Burlesque & Co., and I really enjoyed the spacious stage with a nice wood floor. I really enjoy performing on stages with nice wood floors.

Without ruining any surprises, what can you tease us about your performance at SFBF? 

I think we’ve already given away that it involves working a hat rack like Fred Astaire. So other than hanging my hat up, you’ll also see some nice cane work.

What’s the secret of coiffing the perfect moustache? 

I use beeswax. I’m constantly running out of it or losing it as I’m on the road a lot, so I’m constantly using different products that have beeswax in it, and I use a woman’s personal trimmer that looks like a vibrator to trim it. And I just futz with it a lot. I stopped making circles at the ends because I can never get them to match so now I do more of a Salvador Dali type of styling.

Finally, what question do you wish someone would ask you to do but they never do? And of course, what’s the answer? 

I do wish I’d be asked to perform my partner acts more often. It’s harder to fit it in the budget for promoters and sometimes the stages are too small, but I enjoy doing partner acts the most. I would love to perform partner dance acts more often on the road.

 

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Kool Kat of the Week: Shakin’ It Up with “Big Mike” Geier on His Burning Love for Elvis and Other Musical Matters

Posted on: Aug 11th, 2011 By:

"Big Mike" Geier don't need no jumpsuit to celebrate Elvis. Serenading the audience during last year's ELVIS ROYALE. Photo Credit: Laura Newman.

Over the past 14 years, Kingsized’s Elvis Presley tribute show has grown from a family affair at the Star Bar into ELVIS ROYALE, an always sold-out Vegas-style multimedia Retro extravaganza with a 15-piece orchestra and glamorous glittery dancing girls, aka the Dames Aflame, at Variety Playhouse. Forget Elvis impersonators. “Big Mike” Geier don’t need no jumpsuit—his deep baritone voice, wide smile and signature charisma are more than enough to rival the stage presence of the undisputed King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, that is with that signature Geier twist. You’ll hear all the Presley hits with a sense of homage and humor, and some surprises along the way that Big Mike believes Elvis woulda sung had his life not been tragically cut short in 1977.

If you’re from Atlanta, skip on to the questions. If you’re new here or not from here, Big Mike has been big in Atlanta’s Retro revival scene since before we even knew we had one, and that’s not just because he’s six-foot-eight. He started performing in Richmond, Virginia, fronting the Useless Playboys, in 1989. That “swing noir” band attracted a national following and toured with Reverend Horton Heat, Southern Culture on the Skids and El Vez. But the Playboys also used to play here at the Star Bar so often it was hard to know he didn’t live here.

Mike Geier and wife Shannon Newton of the lovely Dames Aflame. Photo credit: David Stuart.

Then Big Mike came to Atlanta in 1995 to host the city’s first full neo-burlesque show, Go-Go and Torchy’s Taboo Revue, and he never left. Instead, he launched Kingsized—arguably Atlanta’s  best known and most popular swing band. In 2004, he started a Polynesian pop lounge band, Tongo Hiti, who are now Thurs. night regulars at Trader Vic’s downtown. Along the way he hooked up with burlesque troupe, Dames Aflame, led by his wife Shannon Newton. And that’s not to mention a slew of side projects, such as voiceover and music work for Cartoon Network and Puddles Pity Party, a cabaret clown act that recently toured with AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE LIVE.

So what do Big Mike, Kingsized and the Dames have in store at this year’s ELVIS ROYALE. Heck, let’s ask him…

You moved to Atlanta in 1995 at a very pivotal time for the Retro revival here. Obviously the opportunities have grown immensely here for performers who embrace a vintage style, but do you ever miss those more pioneering days? And do you have a favorite memory you’d like to share with those readers who were too young or moved here later?

I miss being able to fill up my 1960 Cadillac Coupe De Ville for $21. Gas was $1 a gallon! My favorite memory would be filling up my 1960 Cadillac Coupe De Ville for $21, then driving out past The Starlight Drive-In to Rio Vista for mountains of fried catfish and sweet tea with my super hot girlfriend who is now my super hot wife.

Can you talk a bit about the Elvis Royale’s humble origins and how it grew into the Vegas-style multimedia extravaganza it is today?

Imagine 350 people crammed in the Star Bar. It’s August and 80 degrees at 10 p.m. Everyone is chain-smoking and guzzling Rolling Rock. PBR’s ironic comeback is just beginning. The Grace Vault is where ya go to pay your respects to the King, among other things. Tim Lathrop used to perform the séance at midnight. The show didn’t even start until 11 o’clock. I had to move the show or else it would have killed me.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, June 27-July 3, 2011

Posted on: Jun 27th, 2011 By:

Just five months after quietly launching ATLRetro the last weekend of January, we’re up to our 100th post, blushing after a rockin’ review from Scoutmob, and averaging nearly 4,000 hits a month! Thanks, dear readers, for your support, and we hope you’ll stick around for an exciting site revamp in July featuring a mighty swell new logo courtesy of that swingin’ kat Derek Yaniger and new regular features on Retro restaurants, cocktails and vintage shopping.

Mike Geier and one of the lovely Dames Aflame.

Monday June 27

From 3 PM on, savor tropical sounds and libations, as well as a Polynesian dinner during Mai Tai Monday at Smith’s Olde BarKingsized and Tongo Hiti lead singer Big Mike Geier is Monday night’s celebrity bartender at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong ParlorNorthside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday June 28

Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. Fedora Blues is at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday  June 29

Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard TavernThe Hollidays bring a little soul to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck blues it down at Northside Tavern respectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven.

Thursday  June 30

You don’t need a golden ticket to enter in a world of Gene Wilder‘s imagination courtesy of trippy 1971 kids classic WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, this week’s movie at Piedmont Park‘s Screen on the Green.

Uncle Daddy & the Kissin’ Cousins get Twain’s a hoppin’, hillbilly style. Self-described Atlanta “modern retrobilly” band The Serenaders swing at Kathmandu Restaurant & Grill in Clarkston. All Thursday shows at the Vietnamese restaurant are free and all-ages. Go Polynesian to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum LoungeBreeze Kings and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe features Kris Youmans & the DC-3’s.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, June 13-19, 2011

Posted on: Jun 13th, 2011 By:

Monday June 13

From 3 PM on, savor tropical sounds and libations, as well as a Polynesian dinner during Mai Tai Monday at Smith’s Olde Bar. Kingsized and Tongo Hiti lead singer Big Mike Geier is Monday night’s celebrity bartender at Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong ParlorNorthside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday June 14

Watch Dennis Hopper battle crazed redneck cannibals as Splatter Cinema presents THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2 at the Plaza Theatre tonight at 9:30 PM. Read Geoff Slade‘s bloody review here.  Hear UK ’70s hard rock band Uriah Heap at Variety Playhouse. Attend the Atlanta launch of THE SWEETEST THING, a novel about two remarkable women during the Great Depression, by award-winning writer Elizabeth Musser, author of The Swan House, at the Atlanta History Center. Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday  June 15

It’s only halfway through the work week, but Syrens of the South Productions are ready to make it go a little faster with Hump Day Honeys, a weeknight burlesque show at The Shelter featuring both local favorites, such as Katherine Lashe and Kittie Katrina, as well as hot out-of-town guests such as Burlesque Nouveau from Greensboro, NC. Shows start promptly at 10 PM, end at midnight, and include a raffle to benefit the Southern Fried Burlesque Fest. Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard TavernThe Hollidays bring a little soul to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck blues it down at Northside Tavern respectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven.

Thursday  June 16

Slim Chance & the Convicts

Slim, Dangerous Dan and Tony Drummer reunite for the first time in five years and replay their very first set from June 4, 1986 to celebrate The 25th Anniversary of Slim Chance & the Convicts at Kathmandu Kitchen & Grill (formerly Pho Truc) in Clarkston. Opening for the Redneck Underground icons is Spooky Partridge. No cover charge, no smoking and all ages!

Beloved Atlanta chanteuse Libby Whittemore returns to Actor’s Express for a four-day run (June 16-19) of LISA & LIBBY’S SUMMER CAMP, joining singer Lisa Paige and musical director/accompanist Robert Strickland for a summer-themed new installment to the Libby’s at the Express series. The show combines standards, Broadway tunes, and more, and in the second act, the 31st Lady of Country Music Connie Sue Day. Shows start at 7:30 PM. Relive the pangs and pleasures of ’80s high school romance via John Hughes’ 1984 hit SIXTEEN CANDLES at Piedmont Park‘s Screen on the Green. Listen to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum LoungeBreeze Kings and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe features He Sang She Sang and Hopfrog.

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Dick Dale: The Guitar Master is Rocking in the Moment and Having the Time of His Life at 74 Years Young

Posted on: Jun 10th, 2011 By:

The Earl, Friday June 11, 8:30 PM; with Laramie Dean opening; nonsmoking.

Photo courtesy of Dick Dale.

Dick Dale insists he’s not a master of any trade, but fans of the undisputed King of the Surf Guitar would disagree. After all, who else pioneered the Fender Stratocaster guitar and rocked the strings so hard that he blew up a battalion of amps before Leo Fender developed one that could withstand Dick Dale? The man, after all, has a career spanning more than five decades. At age 74, he hasn’t tuned down the noise and even a recent bout of cancer and extreme high blood sugar episodes from diabetes haven’t slowed down his touring. In fact, you get the impression that touring and playing is what keeps him alive in a way that most people would envy.

Dick’s current tour is a special treat, in that he’s hitting smaller clubs like The Earl in a 17-city circuit. Former-roadie-turned-protégé Laramie Dean (Agent Orange) is the one to thank for suggesting the idea, as well as Dick’s wanting to support his son Jimmy Dale, who plays with Dean and is blossoming into one hell of a drummer himself. I had a list of 10 or so questions prepared, but as soon as I dialed up Dick, relaxing in his hotel room before his Austin gig on Tuesday night, it was clear he had a few things on his chest that he wanted to talk about. So I just rode the wave he offered, enjoying surfing through Dale’s passion for supporting Jimmy, recent highlights from the road, his health challenges, the pleasures of clean living (he’s never drank alcohol nor taken drugs, and he quit smoking and red meat years ago) and his lifelong love affair with country music. I’ve edited the conversation down a little bit only for space and repetition and divided his comments by subject, but what follows is mostly unexpurgated, authentic Dick.

On how martial arts gave him his philosophy of life – the joy of living in the moment

To set a foundation for this conversation, I’ve been doing martial arts all my life, and I’ve been all over the world with different masters. I’ve been with the monks with their way of thinking, and that’s the way I can put up with the cancer and all the crap that’s happened with me and being on stage without taking drugs. I once asked my master, “why I can’t I be the best of something and just be unbeatable?” He said, “yes, you can, but you have to give up everything in your life. You must eat and sleep and breathe it.” So he said, “let me ask you something, “would you rather be a master of one or you would rather be a jack of all trades, master of none?” He said, “if you are master of one, you’d be awfully dull at a gathering, wouldn’t you?” It’d be like Einstein. He wouldn’t be able to talk to somebody who’s a contractor or flies an airplane or is shooting bows and arrows or surfing huge waves and surfing little waves. So I chose to learn about as many things as I could—everything from raising canaries to welding to building houses to whatever. I’d have libraries ceiling to floor on all these things, and I’d then ask people who are very successful and be humble in asking.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, April 18-24, 2011

Posted on: Apr 20th, 2011 By:

Monday April 18

Swing to Joe Gransden, trumpet player extraordinaire, and his 16-piece orchestra and celebrate the release of his newest recording this week during Big Band Night at Cafe 290 on the first and third Monday of every month. Northside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday April 19

Head back to the ’70s and ’80s with Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band at Philips Arena. Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. The Emory Jazz Ensemble is also playing tonight at the Schwartz Center J.T. Speed plays the blues at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday April 20

Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard TavernDeacon Brandon Reeves and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck bring on the blues at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Northside Tavern respectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven, starting at 8 PM.

Thursday April 21

Not sure either of these bands is exactly Retro, but they certainly are wacky, making this perhaps the quirkiest night of the year in Atlanta concerts. At The Earl, forget Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots, Atlanta’s own crimefightin’ Falcon Lords face off in a no-holds-barred rock challenge against Captured by Robots promises Sci-fi fun with lead singer JBOT and the rest of his band robots built by him because he couldn’t get along with people. However, the crafty cyborgs have enslaved him by sticking a chip in his head, so they’re all robots now. Retro question, do they obey Asimov’s laws of robotics or are they more the Cyberdine kind? Nearby at the Masquerade, Japan’s Peelander-Z are well-known to Anime Weekend Atlanta attendees for their anime-inspired brightly-colored superhero suits, silly hats and their crazy antics which involve some serious audience interaction! Oh, and some dude named Charlie Sheen (I think he was pretty good in that movie PLATOON back in the ’80s but now he’s gone a little wild) is at the Fox Theatre tonight, too.

Cadillac Jones serves up some serious jazz funk at Atlanta’s tastiest new concert venue, Kathmandu Kitchen and Grill, formerly Pho Truc, in Clarkston from 8-10 PM. Listen to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Wayne K. Li, Oliver Professor of Practice in Design and Engineering at Georgia Tech, delivers a gallery talk on “Experience in Motor Design” and get a chance to catch the special exhibit PASSIONE ITALIANA: DESIGN OF THE ITALIAN MOTORCYCLE during MODA‘s Thursday night Drink in Design from 6-8 PM. Read ATLRetro’s Kool Kat piece on curator Joe Remling here. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum Lounge.  Breeze Kings and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.Johnny Roquemore & the Apostles of Bluegrass are on the bill for Bluegrass Thursday at Red Light Cafe.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, April 11-17, 2011

Posted on: Apr 12th, 2011 By:

Last week was fairly quiet when it came to Retro-inspired activities in Atlanta, So ATLRetro took a bit of a rest. This week starts slowly, too, but once Saturday hits, even I’m not sure what to do. Let’s just say EVERYTHING happens all at once and ATLRetro revs back up, too, with a bunch of special features including a bedazzling look back at last month’s Southern Fried Burlesque courtesy of the tantalizing Talloolah Love, an exclusive preview of Saturday night’s The Chamber Reunion courtesy of Kool Kat of the Week Mon Cherie, the Dogwood Festival celebrates its 75th anniversary with two vintage amusement rides, and more.

Monday April 11

An acclaimed musician whom B.B. King says has “soul,” D.B. Rielly takes rock and country back to its roots at Smith’s Olde Bar, with back-to-the-basics, ’70s-rock-inspired Saturn 5 and alt-folk Little Brave also on the bill. Northside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday April 12

Splatter Cinema travels back to 1985 with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 2: FREDDY’S REVENGE at 9:30 PM at the Plaza Theatre. While ATLRetro reviewer Mark Arson admits the first sequel may not be the most creative of the Krueger movies, it still features a lot of fun scares, and you know the Splatter gang will dream up a photo op that will haunt your sleep.

Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. J.T. Speed plays the blues at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits. Or go really retro with the Atlanta Opera‘s COSI FAN TUTTE at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. In Mozart’s comedic masterpiece, two Italian officers boast of their fiancees’ faithfulness, only to have a clever friend put it to the test.

Wednesday April 13

Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard Tavern. Deacon Brandon Reeves and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck bring on the blues at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack and Northside Tavern respectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven, starting at 8 PM.

Thursday April 14

ATHENS BURNING, a documentary about the history of the historic Georgia Theatre, a key venue in the college town’s famous music scene, screens at The Plaza Theatre at 7:30 PM. Cowboy Envy strums up some mighty fine traditional and original Western tunes at Atlanta’s tastiest new concert venue, Kathmandu Kitchen and Grill, formerly Pho Truc, in Clarkston from 8-10 PM. Listen to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Watch the classic Gregory PeckAudrey Hepburn romance-on-a-motorscooter movie ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953), drink some wine, hear Free Poems on Demand, and check out PASSIONE ITALIANA: DESIGN OF THE ITALIAN MOTORCYCLE during MODA‘s Thursday night Drink in Design from 6-8 PM. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum Lounge.  Breeze Kings and Chickenshack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta, March 28-April 3, 2011

Posted on: Mar 29th, 2011 By:

Here’s your weekly guide to where and why to get out…

Monday March 28

Francine Reed belts out some beautiful blues every other Monday at Cafe Circa. Northside Tavern hosts its weekly Blues Jam.

Tuesday March 29

Cathy Whitlock, author of DESIGNS ON FILM: A CENTURY OF HOLLYWOOD ART DIRECTION, provides a behind-the-scenes look at the masterful set design of GONE WITH THE WIND at the Margaret Mitchell House at 7 PM as part of the GONE WITH THE WIND 75th Anniversary Celebration. Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. Fedora Blues plays Fatt Matt’s Rib Shack. Notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland. Catch the official grand opening of Tuesday Retro in the Metro nights at Midtown’s Deadwood Saloon, featuring live video mixes of ’80s, ’90s, and 2Ks hits.

Wednesday March 30

It’s TNT, Tommy Lee and Tammy Renee in a knockdown funky drag-out “Keytar Loser Leave Grudge Match” vs. Lust at Star Bar. TNT perform hits from the ’70s to today but are especially known for their fun takes on ’70s and ’80s funkilicious, R&B and disco favorites like Stevie Wonder‘s “Superstition.” Cabaret theatrics meet post-punk adult-themed rawk in Lust, featuring another pair of powerhouse vocalists Susanne Gibboney and Blast-Off Burlesque‘s “Barbilicious” Hays.

At The Earl, New Zealand’s Surf City takes inspiration from surf music, Jesus and Mary Chain (originally “Kill Surf City” after that band’s song) and Velvet Underground. Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at Graveyard Tavern. Catch Joe Gransden every Wednesday night at 8:30 PM at Jerry Farber’s Side DoorThe Hollidays and Danny “Mudcat” Dudeck bring on the blues at Fatt Matt’s Rib Shack and Northside Tavern respectively. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven, starting at 8 PM. Cover band ’80s Band of Destiny is in the Atlanta Room at Smith’s Olde Bar.

Thursday March 31

'64 MV Agusta 500cc is one of 11 vintage and contemporary Italian motorcycles on display at MoDA. Photo courtesy of Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum

Drink some wine and enjoy a gallery tour of PASSIONE ITALIANA: DESIGN OF THE ITALIAN MOTORCYCLE by previous Kool Kat curator Joe Remling during MODA‘s first Thursday night Drink in Design from 6-8 PM. Murphreesboro, Tenn. alt-country band The Only Sons plays Kathmandu Kitchen and Grill, formerly Pho Truc in Clarkston from 8-10 PM. Listen to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’sJoe Gransden jazzes up Tantra now on Thursdays. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum Lounge.  Breeze Kings and Chicken Shack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta March 7-13

Posted on: Mar 7th, 2011 By:

Wow, there’s a lot flying and frying this week Retro-wise in Atlanta from Phoenix Flies to Southern Fried Burlesque Fest to a host of pop and rock performers who got their start in the ’80s. Here’s your weekly guide to where and why to get out…

Monday March 7

Atlanta Preservation Center continues its annual The Phoenix Flies: A Celebration of Living Landmarks, so-named after the iconic symbol of Atlanta—the mythical bird that burns and is reborn similar to the city post-Civil War. The event which runs through March 20 offers a chance to take its neighborhood historical walking tours for free, as well as experience additional behind-the-scenes peeks inside Atlanta’s most famous buildings of eras gone by. Today’s tours include The Temple synagogue (1930), designed by legendary Atlanta architect Philip Trammel Shutze at 10:30 AM; the Gothic revival Peachtree Christian Church (1925) at noon; and Grant Park at 5 PM. Reservations are recommended. After dark, Joe Gransden & his smokin’ 16-piece orchestra present another Big Band Night of jazz at Café 290, featuring Sinatra, Bennett, Basie and Joe’s originals. Blues chanteuse Francine Reed is back at Cafe CircaNorthside Tavern hosts a Blues Jam.

Tuesday March 8

Phoenix Flies features the Swan House at the Atlanta History Center (AHC), site of lavish parties in the 1920s and ’30s; other AHC facilities such as the 1840 Tullie Smith Farm and Cherokee Garden Library and Kenan Research Center, which both house rare photos and documents of Atlanta history; neoclassic First Church of Christ, Scientist (cornerstone laid 1903); Hinman Home (1896), now Stonehurst Place Bed & Breakfast; Midtown’s The Castle; a general Historic Midtown tour; and Wimbish House (1906), one of the last remaining homes on Peachtree Street’s once posh Mansion Row now the headquarters of Atlanta Women’s Club.

Splatter Cinema presents 1980s vampire classic NEAR DARK at 9:30 PM. Read Mark Arson’s Retro Revue to see why you shouldn’t miss this hard-edged horror Western directed by Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow and starring Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton. Grab your horn and head to Twain’s in Decatur for a Joe Gransden jazz jam session starting at 9 PM. Fedora Blues plays Fatt Matt’s Rib Shack. Atlanta’s notorious DJ Romeo Cologne spins the best ‘70s funk and disco at 10 High in Virginia-Highland.

Wednesday March 9

Phoenix Flies tours the Fabulous Fox Theatre and offers a rare peek inside The Herndon Home, a beautiful 1910 mansion built by Atlanta’s first African-American millionaire Alonzo Herndon which has many eclectic aspects thanks also to his drama teacher wife Adrienne who would put on theater productions occasionally on the roof.

Get ready to rumba, cha-cha and jitterbug at the weekly Swing Night at The Glenwood. Catch Joe Gransden every Wednesday night at 8:30 PM at Jerry Farber’s Side Door. The Hollidays bring on the blues at Fatt Matt’s Rib Shack. Dance to ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s hits during Retro in the Metro Wednesdays presented by Godiva Vodka, at Pub 71 in Brookhaven, starting at 8 PM. Cover band ’80s Band of Destiny is in the Atlanta Room at Smith’s Olde Bar.

Thursday March 10

Stonehenge Mansion, one of today's Phoenix Flies tours.

Another busy day for Phoenix Flies including tours of Fox Theatre; early Edgewood-Candler Park; Unseen Underground exploring parts of the old railway lines and viaduct system not usually open to public view; Burns Club (1910), a replica of Scottish poet Robert Burns’ birth home with Burns poetry reading; City Hall; Stonehenge Mansion & Sanctuary, a Gothic mansion in Druid Hills built as a residence but now houses St. John’s Lutheran Church; and the Georgia Capitol.

The first annual Southern Fried Burlesque Fest kicks off with the Atlanta premiere of award-winning documentary DIRTY MARTINI & THE NEW BURLESQUE, with a Q&A afterwards with director Gary Beeber and Neo-Burlesque Revival superstar Dirty Martini, at the Holiday Inn & Conference Center in Decatur. Be sure to read our fest preview here. Chickens and Pigs play Pho Truc in Clarkston from 8-10 PM. Listen to Tongo Hiti’s luxurious live lounge sounds, as well as some trippy takes on iconic pop songs, just about every Thursday night at Trader Vic’s. Party ‘70s style with DJ Romeo Cologne at Aurum Lounge.  Breeze Kings and Chicken Shack bring on the blues respectively at Northside Tavern and Fat Matt’s Rib Shack.

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Kool Kat of the Week: David Spencer Has Gotta Dance, Gotta Swing, & He’ll Teach You How, Too, at Callanwolde This Spring

Posted on: Mar 1st, 2011 By:

“Dancing is like dreaming with your feet,” goes the famous quote by Constanze. If that’s true, David Spencer has spent his life in dreams. Since he was a little boy, he let his feet guide him, and they haven’t led him astray from becoming a sought-after high school date to professional ballroom dancing shows and competitions. For the past 30 years, he’s also been a ballroom dance instructor, and he currently shares his secrets to fantastic footwork at Allure Ballroom Atlanta, near Cumberland Mall, and at the Atlanta Ballroom Dance Centre in Sandy Springs.

However, aspiring and seasoned ballroom dancers wanting to hone their moves will get to practice in top-hat style this spring as David leads a pair of Thursday night 10-week classes for beginners (7 PM) and continuing dancers (8 PM) starting March 24 at Callanwolde. For those not versed in vintage Atlanta, this magnificent Gothic-Tudor-style mansion in Druid Hills was completed in 1920 and once belonged to Howard Candler, president of The Coca-Cola Company and son of its founder Asa Candler. Now it’s a cultural arts center and special occasion venue listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but one can only imagine the Gatsby-like grand gatherings that happened here in days gone by.

ATLRetro recently caught up with David to find out why he has such a passion for ballroom dance and also get a preview of these special Callanwolde classes, which represent just a few of the visual and performing arts seminars at the mansion this spring.

1. How did you first get into ballroom dancing and is there any story behind that?

I was very fortunate to have a mother that would sit and watch all the old, classic movies with me as a child—everything from musicals to horror films. We would pile up on the sofa or the bed and watch with a big tub of popcorn. By the age of 7, I made the decision that when I grew up, I wanted to be Gene Kelly. It is no wonder that I teach dancing for a living now. Oddly enough, with Mr. Kelly as my role model, tap dancing is the only form of dance I have not studied—yet.

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