Retro Review: Revisiting THE VISITOR, The Most Insane Non-Indie Horror Movie Ever Filmed in Atlanta

Posted on: Jul 12th, 2014 By:

Contraband Cinema presents THE VISITOR (1979); Dir. Michael J. Paradise; Starring John Huston, Paige Conner, Glenn Ford, Shelley Winters, Lance Henriksen; One Night Only, July 12 @7:00pm, Eyedrum; Tickets $7.00 at the door and actress Paige Conner will be attendance.

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

Early in THE VISITOR, an 8-year-old girl opens a wrapped present at her birthday party. Because we’ve been watching the movie, we know that the present contains a tacky statue of a bird, but now the girl inexplicably finds a gun. She grins, points it at partygoers, but then casually tosses it onto a table, which causes it to fire a slug into the back of another character, who then waits the length of a dramatic pause before collapsing to the ground. The entire incident goes from gift-giving to gunfire tragedy in less than 10 seconds.

The reaction among my friends watching the film in my living room was loud. “Wait, what?” “What the hell just happened?!” After a few moments and a few laughs, they calmed, awaiting the explanation that was sure to come.

But, of course, this is THE VISITOR we’re talking about. Explanations aren’t on its agenda, not when every second of screen time is another opportunity to smash a morsel of blazing, brain-melting insanity directly into the film. This is a movie in which legendary Hollywood director John Huston plays an “intergalactic warrior” matching wits with his greatest nemesis, a pre-tween telekinetic and her pet falcon. This is a movie in which director Sam Peckinpah plays an abortion doctor and Lance Henriksen an evil basketball team owner. This is a movie in which skating rinks and street food shops are the sites of supernatural murders. This is a movie in which the fate of the universe is decided in late-1970s Atlanta. But, above all, this is a movie that exists.

THE VISITOR fits loosely into the subgenre of supernatural child movies that bloomed in the wake of William Friedkin’s THE EXORCIST (1973). Instead of a demon, little Katy Collins (Paige Conner) is under the sway of an evil intergalactic force named, of all things, Sateen, whose fractured soul is being reborn into children on Earth. I think. Honestly, the film is a tough to puzzle out, as if its heady ideas were being translated through some unfamiliar language which, in a literal sense, they were. The film was an Italian-American coproduction, written and directed by Italians and then translated into English for the sometimes-baffled American cast. But the film also routinely garbles cinematic language, connecting scenes and images that don’t make logical sense, dropping plot threads as soon as they’re introduced, and failing to explain, well, anything. In THE VISITOR, a guardian can tell a character that nothing bad will ever happen to her again about five nanoseconds before someone runs that character into a glass aquarium, and it’s not just OK, it’s expected. Anything less insane would belong to another movie.

THE VISITOR is the fevered brainchild of Italian schlock producer Ovidio Assonitis. He was The Asylum of his day, grabbing any idea that had traction in the public and churning out his own low-cost replica. From THE EXORCIST he invented BEYOND THE DOOR (1974). From JAWS (1975) he developed TENTACLES (1977) (also starring Huston!). From PIRANHA (1978) came, well, PIRANHA II: THE SPAWNING (1981). Right away, however, something felt a bit different about THE VISITOR. The production had a whiff of class about it as Huston’s name and cachet attracted more big names to the cast, including the likes of Mel Ferrer, Shelley Winters and Glenn Ford. Assonitis even shot scenes in Rome, Italy, before moving the production to the tax-friendly vistas of downtown Atlanta.

Paige Conner in THE VISITOR (1979). Drafthouse Films.

For locals the film not only exists as a virtual tour through a past version of the city—including looks at Underground Atlanta, The Omni and other retro locales—but as a dubious legacy for some of the Atlanta’s most famous figures. The credits reserve a special thanks for Mayor Maynard Jackson, who worked hard to bring the production to town, and the film owes memorable scenes and locations to the cavalier whims of Ted Turner. According to legend, Assonitis wagered the fate of the production on a Hawks game with Turner. If the Hawks won, the production would get access to Turner’s home as a shooting location free of charge. The Hawks did indeed win, and the production not only gained access to Turner’s home, but the Omni as well for a key scene in which the possessed little girl explodes a basketball with her mind. (Supposedly, eagle-eyed fans can spot Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the scene as well as radio personalities Neal Boortz and Steve Somers. So there’s that.)

It’s unclear whether the city or Turner were grateful for the chance to contribute. THE VISITOR flopped miserably (and predictably) at the box office, perhaps because the world just wasn’t ready to see Franco Nero (DJANGO [1966]) as Jesus Christ or to see Lance Henriksen attacked by a ceramic switchblade bird. The film made a paltry amount of money at the box office, and that’s just counting the money they got to keep. In an interview on the film’s DVD, Henriksen talks about the film’s legendary badness and his embarrassment at a screening in New York when he heard audience members demanding their hard-earned money back. Henriksen’s opinion of the film represents the consensus at the time of its premiere, but time has a way of changing the story, and THE VISITOR’s story has changed.

The film’s first supporter was supposedly Huston himself, who immediately recognized something special hiding among the frames of the film and kept an elusive VHS of the movie near his deathbed. It took longer for audiences to catch on, but a few did, and a passionate cult helped the film become a regular at midnight screening and trendy repertory houses. Audiences came for the irony and stayed for the film’s unrivaled uniqueness. THE VISITOR doesn’t make a lot of sense, but compensates with mood. THE VISITOR has a dreamlike tone, cultivating something like madness out of its odd juxtapositions of tone and images, or of the powerful performances in service of a story that can’t be unraveled. The film appears assured and confident in the story it’s telling, leaving audiences wondering if the answers are in there after all, just waiting for a keystone piece of information to unlock them. Does it make sense that Henriksen’s evil, but certainly human, tycoon character needs to marry his girlfriend in order to create another wicked psychic child? Probably not, but Henriksen seems to believe it, so why shouldn’t we?

The big coup for THE VISITOR in its reassessment came earlier this year, when Drafthouse Films, the distribution arm of the trendsetting Alamo Drafthouse theater chain in Austin, Texas, released a wonderful new Blu-Ray edition of the film, made with the kind of loving care and attention usually reserved for a Criterion Collection release of a prestige classic. It’s safe to say that more eyes have been on the film in the past year than in the past few decades, and the movie seems to be well on its way to a complete rehabilitation.

By this point in the article, you probably have an idea if THE VISITOR is for you. If it is, then I highly recommend seeing it as soon as possible, and Eyedrum, along with Contraband Cinema, are giving you the chance. Saturday night, July 12, the art gallery is hosting a screening of the film with actress Paige Conner in attendance. Alongside the film will be an art exhibit featuring “new and original pieces based on this unique film by a variety of local artists.” This is a special opportunity to experience a forgotten piece of Atlanta cinema history in the midst of its revival and rediscovery.

THE VISITOR, at long last, has arrived.

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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Kool Kat of the Week: Dante Stephensen Takes Us Down the Hatch to Discover the Stories Behind the Iconic Atlanta Restaurant’s Interior Treasures

Posted on: Dec 19th, 2012 By:

A broad view of the interior of Dante's Down the Hatch. Photo courtesy of Dante's.

All good things must come to an end, the old saying goes, so it was with a heavy heart that we learned that Dante’s Down the Hatch will be closing its doors at the end of July 2013. One can understand why owner Dante Stephensen would decide to finally sell the property–he’s had a 42-year run living his dream and surely it’s time to allow him a comfortable retirement. In fact, it seems amazing that located on such prime real estate, Dante’s lasted as long as it did; it even survived a fire. What we can be thankful for is that at least, unlike so many Atlanta iconic restaurants from The Mansion (also designed by Dante; building now owned by SCAD) to Dailey’s, we have a chance to say good-bye.

I can remember the first time my dad took me to Dante’s as a child. How cool it was to step inside a coffin and descend even deeper into Underground Atlanta, the restaurant’s original location. Remember, that in the 1970s, Underground wasn’t an Epcotlike tiled shopping center. It was dark, lit only by gaslight, and one really felt transported into a bygone era of turn-of-the-century arcade machines, an old soda counter which even served Moxie, general shops full of those marvelous striped hard stick candies in every flavor you could imagine, a wax museum and a giant “Mighty Mortier” organ at the very end of the street. Its crown jewel was Dante’s, decorated to appear like a old sailing ship with a live jazz band performing and live crocodiles in the moat (you can see the graves of the original Throckmortons as you approach the current restaurant). Even the menu–fondue and cocktails in hurricane glasses–was all about sharing a true drinking and dining experience. It was the epitome of a ’70s theme restaurant, yes, but owner Dante, who was sure to stop by your table (he still does!), ensured it was never tacky or kitschy like so many of today’s attractions.

Photo courtesy of Dante's Down the Hatch.

In 1981, when crime forced the old Underground to close, Dante moved the Hatch north to Buckhead, which was quickly taking over the mantle of Atlanta’s fine restaurant hub from a pre-Olympics increasingly daytime-only downtown. The relocation offered him the opportunity to redesign the restaurant in a larger space and make it even more magical, including outdoor space for his antique car collection. While he did reopen the original Dante’s from 1989-99 when Underground underwent its more mall-like rebirth, the Buckhead restaurant became the flagship and a chance for Dante to be a perfectionist in creating a truly special dining experience.

A while back, Dante gave ATLRetro a private tour of some of the many artifacts that decorate the Hatch, including stories about why they appealed to him and, how he found them–many come from antique auctions in Commerce, California, in the early ’80s. Sometimes the items trigger memories of his colorful life or observations on his passion for animals or the study of the world’s religions. I read a quote recently from author Theodora Goss that some people have adventures and other people are adventures. Dante surely is the latter. We hope you’ll enjoy this candid journey with Dante Stephenson to nine special places around the Hatch and also visit and support this Atlanta landmark treasure as many times as you can before it closes.

A stained glass window made of pieces from different eras. Photo credit: ATLRetro.com

1) The Art of Stained Glass Windows and Feng Shui. “With all the bombing [in Europe in WWII], somebody was going around digging up scraps of glass. Take this piece that I just happened to buy. The person who picked up the pieces must have been an art historian because the eight pieces of glass that were placed into it come from different periods by different artists over about a 400-year period. I just thought it was interesting and had a very unique story. It would have been built overseas, probably in Britain because I picked it up at an auction in California in 1979 or ‘80 when I was buying the antiques for this place. I had drawn the plans, and I had a very talented builder. Very few builders could build something like this, so he was able to take the antiques and the structure and blend them together artistically. I mean, this place is feng shui all over the place, although at the time I didn’t know what the word meant.”

Dante's interior incorporates many elements from Church fixtures to vintage signs and stained glass. Photo credit: ATLRetro.com.

2. Faith and Fondue. “There are two areas that I could cover in general. One is religion, and one is animals. I am a Biblical archaeologist. That’s a hobby of mine. My degrees are in archaeology, and I have grown to have a great interest in theology. In 2010, I was in Japan to satisfy another two hobbies—one is steam locomotives and I also visited some Shinto sites, which is one of the seven major religions of the world. The year before it was the Hindus and Sikhs in India, and before that the Buddhists in Tibet. In my quest to understand theology, I’m philosophically looking at all theologies. In the Hatch, I have artifacts from a number of different churches, primarily the Christian churches. I have a Lutheran pulpit behind me. I have a Presbyterian pulpit underneath one of the sails on the ship. I have Baptist pews, the red benches sitting over there. I have a Methodist communion rail up here. Those iron railings and banisters are all Church of England, which is our Episcopal church. On the lower deck, I have a Catholic confessional, and at the uppermost spot in the restaurant I have a Jewish Torah [guard-]rail.”

Owner Dante Stephensen and his broom of two personalities. Photo credit: ATLRetro.com.

3. Sailing the Seas of History. “The sails on my ship came from the 1800s ship called the Barba Negra, in Savannah. It was a Norwegian capital ship that was brought over here by a Danish-German skipper at the request of Mills Lane, who founded the C&S Bank, to be parked in the harbor at historic Savannah. It’s not there any more because it sank, but the only tall ship captain that we had in the state of Georgia was Gerhard Schwisow. He not only provided us with the sails. He did all the rigging and all the rope-tying here.

4. A Grin-worthy Garage Sale Find. Talk about interesting artifacts which I found in someone’s garage sale, I have a broom over there. It’s for people with split personalities. The restaurant is full of ways in which you can laugh at yourself.

5. Yes, Virginia, the Crocodile is Real. Pinocchio the Crocodile got his name because of the length of his nose. I could talk a lot about the crocodiles. It could be a whole article. In the late ‘60s, our Atlanta zoo lost its accreditation. I was one of those that organized to save it. I was not a major donor—I had no money back then—but I was a major volunteer. We had to work at the zoo while they were hiring new people, and because one of my degrees is in geology, I got placed into the reptile department. It was the only rescue house of its kind, as far as I know, in the nation for confiscated Crocodilia. That’s crocodiles and caimans, not alligators.

I was seeing parents show up at the zoo with their three-foot semi-tame crocodile that they innocently bought at a pet store thinking it was a lizard for their child when it was about 8 inches long. Because of my degree in zoology which makes me almost a ranger, I decided to apply for a permit for my downtown club to receive the confiscated animals, because up until that time when they were brought to the zoo, they were ultimately put to sleep by Fish and Game. You can’t take an animal that’s been hand-raised like that and let it loose in the swamps. These came from South and Central America. These were not alligators, so the cost to send them down there and let them loose was ridiculous, too.

Pinocchio and friend. Photo courtesy of Dante's Down the Hatch.

This one [Pinocchio] almost did harm to me, because we had to give him a shot and you wouldn’t think that an animal like that would have a sense of pain nerves as we do. But the three of us—a vet, my manager and I—we snuck up on him while he was sleeping. I wear a rubber suit because it’s waist-deep water. All of a sudden all three of us grabbed him at the same time because crocodiles are very strong. One holds the head, the other holds the body, and the other holds the tail. Then we put a towel over the head so that it’s dark to him, and then he calms down for the complete physical. Well, the vet had to give some intravenous fluids to this particular animal, and that was fine. But then he wanted to give him an injection of an antibiotic, and I’ve got to tell you when that needle went into[Pinocchio], he jolted to the point that all three of us were almost thrown. He’s only seven feet long. We held him, but he held his anger so that at the end of the event, the vet pulled away first, and then my manager pulled away. I’m holding him alone with the towel at one end and the tail at the other. As I removed the towel and stepped back, he went for me, and his head hit the pole because he was angry because I was part of this event that caused him to get pricked. That’s the only time in 40 years I’ve had a really close call. God’s on my side. She’s always been on my side.

Since Aunt Agatha is photo-shy, here's a different angle into the main bar area. Photo credit: ATLRetro.com.

6. The Witch in the Ladies Room. So let’s go to the bathroom. All my older four sisters said to me when I was much younger and thinking about building a unique place for people to relax that I had to protect the woman’s right to dine alone. So we do that here. If you come in alone or with a girlfriend that you hadn’t seen in years, you would particularly care if strangers came up and started to put the make on you because you’re talking to an old friend from way back. This is not a pick-up bar. So what happens is I’ll walk over to the table and just stand next to the guy. Nothing makes a guy madder than some other guy listening to his line, which he thinks is very unique but it isn’t. So finally the guy says “who are you?” “Oh, I’m Dante; I own the place. I see you’ve found my niece Louise.” He goes back to his table, and the ladies thank me.

Now let’s take that into the bathroom. I’m out at an antique auction in Commerce, California. I’d already drawn the plans and we’d already started the building. I’d gone to a restaurant with a group of guys who have chain restaurants, the Chart House, the Steak and Ale and so forth. I’m in the bathroom washing my hands after attending to business and looking in the mirror, as males like to do, wondering why they aren’t getting more dates. All of a sudden the lights go up over my head and a light comes on behind the mirror I’m looking into, and there sits a naked, elderly woman, topless with a crystal ball, winking at me. Well, I’ve had just enough wine that I believed it, so I’m hitting myself in the head as the light goes off and wondering if am I hallucinating. I go out of the door, come back in and the same thing happens again. I say, wow, what a neat idea. So I quickly run to the phone, wake up my builder and say “I know you’re on the lower bathroom level. Where are you in the structure?” “Well, I just finished closing in the mens room and the ladies room will be done tomorrow,” he says. I say, “don’t close in the last wall. I’ve got an idea.”

Mark Twain is one of several famous wax figures you may encounter at Dante's. Photo credit: ATLRetro.com.

Have you been to the bathroom? Have you met Aunt Agatha? Well, she is a Madame Tussaud wax figure, ugly as sin. I had an actress do the first set of voiceovers, and then when [Agatha] got wet in our fire, I had it redone by one of my staff. There are seven speeches that she gives where she makes fun of the women. That has really become the most popular singular thing in the restaurant. People remember Aunt Agatha more than anything else. I have to be careful with children, though. Different personalities react differently to the witch, and if the child screams and is really scared, we let them use the handicapped bathroom obviously. That’s the only problem that comes up.

7. Some Famous Regulars. There used to be a [Josephine] Tussaud’s Wax Museum in Underground Atlanta in the 1970s. Then David Hawthorne, who had it, moved it to Helen, Georgia. He sold off some of his figures, and I bought some for here. I’ve got Einstein. I’ve got Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer, General Hood who burned Atlanta, John Wilkes Booth and a pirate – who originally was the detective holding Oswald when Ruby shot him. People ask me why do I have so many wax figures. I say at every full moon, they wake up and clean.

Dante relaxes in the downstairs Barbershop lounge. Photo credit: ATLRetro.com

8. The Basement Barbershop.  The barbershop is interesting, too. It dates back to 1880-something from England. We had this room that’s the butt-end of the moat of the crocodile, and the bathroom is below us—an ideal place for a lounge. Well, I decided, well, wait a minute, I bought this barbershop—why don’t I use it for the reason why I bought it. I bought it with the thought of being part of a lounge. I remember haircuts when they were 17 cents. I’m that old.

9. Magnificent Murals. One of the beauties of this place is you can totally think you are taking off. You look at this wall here and you don’t see much, but if you sit on the steps there, it’s three-dimensional, and you’re looking down a street. If you stand at the top of the stairs looking over there, you’re looking at a building, but if you get up next to it, it’s a flat surface. So I have a muralist who is a bit of a magician who can draw things in three dimensions which at the right angle will take you to one place.

A seascape mural adds to the nautical ambiance. Photo courtesy of Dante's.

Let’s walk up there right quick. The diorama of the ship was built by a handicapped worker whose hobby and passion was to build ships from scratch without kits. My hobby is trains and I did the train-setting which is much less interesting but nevertheless a part of it. It was built from the plans I drew.

Located at 3380 Peachtree Street just south of Lenox Square, Dante’s Down the Hatch  features live jazz six days a week (Tues-Sun) with acoustic guitar and vocalist on Mondays. But get there quick as the restaurant closes its doors forever on March 31, 2013. Reservations are recommended. Call 404-266-1600.

 

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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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Weekend Update: March 18 – 20

Posted on: Mar 18th, 2011 By:

Friday, March 18

Phoenix Flies tours go into their final weekend with Ivy Hall (Peters House, now SCAD Writing Center), Edward Gay House, Inman Park Arboretum, Historic DowntownCatholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, whose beginnings date back to 1848 and cornerstone was laid 1869.

Glenn Phillips and Swimming Pool Qs play Red Light CafeBryan Adams rocks Atlanta Symphony Hall with a solo acoustic night. SFJAZZ Collective performs hits of Stevie Wonder at Emory University’s Schwartz Center. It’s Salsa Night with Salsambo Dance Lessons & Entertainment at Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s Martinis and IMAXFatt Matt’s Rib Shack serves up roots, blues and BBQ with Atlanta Boogie. Better Than the Beatles with Johnny Porazzo and David Lowell pays tribute to the Fab Four at Jerry Farber’s Side Door.

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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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Wednesday Happy Hour and Supper Club

Posted on: Jan 26th, 2011 By:

Welcome to the first Wednesday Happy Hour and Supper Club. Starting in March, check back for the latest news, reviews and features on Atlanta restaurants, bars, lounges and nightclubs with a Retro location, menu or attitude. ATLRetro also will search the city for the most authentic and delicious retro or retro-inspired cocktails and recipes, or teach you how to make it at home.

Soon I’ll be posting our first major restaurant feature in which Dante Stephensen provides a tour of some of his favorite artifacts decorating the walls at Dante’s Down the Hatch. I remember when I first visited Dante’s at Underground Atlanta as a child and the sense of anticipation and mystery when I descended down the stairs into a giant coffin to find myself on the deck of a magnificent sailing ship. Combine that with live jazz music and fondue and you have the perfect example of a mid-century theme restaurant, conceived with care and creativity rather than the artificiality of many of today’s chains. In the 1980s when the old Underground closed (look for an upcoming Lost Atlanta feature revisiting its uniqueness, too), Dante moved the restaurant to Buckhead and rebuilt it even bigger and better. If you haven’t eaten there lately or you’ve never been, it’s a true Retro treasure.

Photo credit: Philip Nutman, 2010

Also in the works is a feature on Livingston. While Livingston has only been around for a few years, it’s located in the opulent art-deco Georgian Terrace Hotel. I’ll be asking Chef Zeb Stephenson about how its Retro location influences his recipes, giving a sneak preview of its current seasonal menu and sipping a few cocktails, too.

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