I type with humor and nostalgia – a point I must make before describing my experience viewing The Help at the Martin Theatre. Stomach swelling with turkey and pecan pie, eyelids still heavy with wine, I drove my mother and sister to my hometown cineplex on Black Friday. As children Timber and I were forbidden from meeting friends at the movies, and my parents closely monitored our exposure to cinematic material. In second grade my best friend hosted her Birthday party at the Martin Theatre, where her guests watched Batman Returns. However, per the film’s violent content (The Penguin bites off a publicist’s nose!), my mother insisted on chaperoning me throughout House Sitter on the screen one room over.
Despite the signage, town residents call the theatre the Martin Triple, which became the Martin Double after a tornado struck the building in the mid-2000s. The third screen eventually was restored, along with the theatre’s original nickname.
So, bloated like a deviled egg, I drove my mother and sister to the Martin Triple this past Black Friday, blasting the Oak Ridge Boys on our trek “to town.” (I grew up on the outskirts.)
“B-Bob-b-Bob-b-Bobbie Sue, can’t you see my love is true?” I hollered while I turned onto the Strip, the road that extends past Burger King and K-Mart and leads to the Martin Triple. “I wanna m-m-m-m-marry you–”
“Come ON, Bobbin!” Timber scolded my 10-mile-per-hour skulking.
“Really, Bobbin…” Mother sighed.
I quadrupled my speed and turned into the Martin Triple parking lot, swerving to a row of spaces in the center.
“And now you’re taking your time finding us the best parking space…” Timber halfway laughed.
“We’re going to be late,” Mother pointed out while unbuckling her safety belt. On the way, Mother informed us that the Martin Theatre recently has reduced its ticket prices to $2. “Because it’s so awful,” she clarified.
My $2 admission to The Help was worth the cost, despite the distorted screen size during the first 20 minutes. Somehow, the picture scrunched downward, resulting in overly wide dimensions. At first, I thought Emma Stone had gained 100 pounds, but soon my mother poked me in the arm and starting laughing. An entire row of old people behind me unabashedly guffawed.
“The screen ain’t doin’ much for they figures, is it?” one man yelled. Every patron cackled.
During one scene, the camera slid up Jessica Chastain’s pumps, revealing corpulent legs and a plus-sized retro bathing suit; moving cars appeared long and flat; A-list actresses looked like overweight midgets. Eventually, a technician returned the screen’s dimensions to normal, igniting a round of applause.
Black Friday added another vignette to my arsenal of Martin Triple nostalgia.
I need a lot of auditory motivation while I jog – beyond nature’s soundtrack of chirping birds, rustling tree limbs and cooing winds. I require loud music blaring from my ear buds to make my legs mechanically move. I find heaving to a halt difficult when Freddie Mercury suggests I am a champion or Bon Scott makes me feel like dynamite. An upbeat iPod rotation makes all the difference.
Lately I’ve been running to songs with a slower beat – perhaps because I am less in shape. Either way, New Animal’s eponymous album matches the mood I get into while jogging through late autumn fog. The dreamy pre-recorded samples, lo-fi quality overall and hollering-yet-harmonizing lyricism mirror the mental fuzz that hits me on the cusp of the holidaze. How appropriate, then, that New Animal just performed in front of a splattering of Christmas lights at the Cottage.
Despite the complex looping effects, guitarist Kris Hermstad and bassist Derek Burdette exert maximum effort on their live instrumentation as well. (I can’t find the drummer’s name anywhere.) I’m talking popping forehead veins and jittering Adam’s apples.
Choosing album stand-outs is hard, as New Animal writes impressive hooks that don’t wear away after a couple initial listens. I mentioned my affinity for “Looking for the Sun” to Derek at the Cottage and learned it is the first song New Animal recorded – and a last-minute addition to their album. The lyrics stick with me:
Feet sink in the ice and snow, and I don’t think I’ll ever know what I am. I am traveling down this road, and I don’t think I’ll ever know who I am.
“Nightmares of Candy Yang & The Black Italian” apparently is popular on Spotify - and rightly so, as the patchwork of energetic drumming and yelling combined with slow drawn-out bridges makes even a white girl like me want to hop and tap my toes.
The songwriting always is smart and at times romantic (“All I want to do is waste my life with you and just let go…”). Beneath their hoodies and plaid button-ups beat hearts!
Check out the below footage of New Animal opening for Architecture in Helsinki at the Masquerade. The video conveniently kicks off with the last fragment of “Grow Back Out,” which contains the lyrics I cite in the previous paragraph:
When I discovered Scoutmob I became a retailer’s dream and Dave Ramsey’s nightmare. I didn’t know I needed an African print dress until I sauntered into Boogaloos with a half-off coupon; I never thought of donning red sandals that cuff mid-calf before I raced to Squash Blossom with a discount; and Sole Shoes & Accessories only looked attractive after my Android app allowed me to afford a pair of Jeffrey Campbell wedges.
As my father (and many dads nationwide) would bellow, “Ain’t a bargain if ye didn’t need it in the first place!”
How budgetarily destructive, then, for me to come up with Double Scoutmob Dipping. I’m sure tons of girls do it: max out their own coupon at a local boutique, mentally note other cute merchandise and use their boyfriend’s or husband’s coupon later. Because Ryan can’t function without his iPhone for long, he travels to said stores with me and waits patiently on the sidewalk or a bench. Best case scenario he brings a book; I have my reasons for dropping Drew Magary’s Postmortal into his Halloween goody bag!
Ninety-nine percent of the time I break out of the store without suspicion of double dipping. Either different staff members check me out, or the same employee simply doesn’t remember me. However, the owner of an Inman Park home furnishing shop recently vocally noted my sneaky Scoutmob strategy. Upon my first visit I racked up on mid-century accents for my apartment rejuvenation project: a green metal chest, a banged-up wooden crate, a tasty candle, a tennis ball hopper to serve as a fruit bowl. I barely hit half the $200 max discount. A couple weeks later I found a distressed English chest and asked Ryan to pay for it in the store, so I could benefit from his coupon and reimburse him later.
“Nice to see you in the store again,” the owner looked at me while Ryan handed her his credit card.
“Oh yeah, no problem. This is a beautiful store.”
“Thanks for shopping here a second time!” she yelled while we struggled to manuever the chest out of the door.
“My pleasure – see you again soon!” I hollered over my shoulder. I felt slightly guilty and mentioned it to my mother.
“But he had his own coupon, Bobbin! He had his own coupon!”
This is true. Ryan had his own coupon, and without me it would have gone to waste. In a way I’ve become a retailer’s worst nightmare, too.
On Sunday my friend K came over for breakfast, and the conversation wound its way to my newish Rhodes keyboard. Because she is one of my best friends, I showed her some of the more embarrassing selections from my sheet music collection. This blog post will benefit from my admitting to owning such songs; I wince as I type this.
“‘Iris’ by the Goo Goo Dolls,” I revealed, shaking it in her face.
“No way,” she laughed.
(I think “Iris” aired four times at my eighth grade “prom.”)
“‘Somewhere Out There,’” I awaited her guffaw, dangling the cover image: Fievel the mouse marching across a bridge amidst huge, human feet.
“Oh, now that’s one of the prettiest songs ever written! Play it for me!”
Since I’m comfortable with K I churned it out and felt only minimally nervous.
“Nuh, nuh, nuhhhh, someone’s thinking of meeee,” she chimed in at times.
Then I continued shuffling through my wooden crate of sheet music, unabashedly flashing Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You” and Bryan Adams’ “Everything I Do, I Do It for You.”
“Check THIS out,” I stomped while suspending “The Wind Beneath My Wings” mid-air.
“That’s pretty, too! From Beaches.”
“I’ve never seen Beaches.”
K pursed her lips. I fretted our friendship was over. “You have to see Beaches.”
I banged on my keyboard for a while later that night, particularly focusing on “The Wind Beneath My Wings.” I never truly had processed the lyrics; in the ’80s my level of comprehension plateaued during episodes of 3-2-1 Contact and Zoobilee Zoo. The amp was cranked up pretty high despite my stumbling, echoing warm cacophony through my apartment and perhaps the whole house. I became a bit teary during “Did you ever know that you’re my hero and everything I’d like to be?”
What is going on? I asked myself as mist formed in my eyes.
It got worse on “I can fly higher than an eagle,” not to mention “Oh fly, fly.” My pressure on the damper pedal weakened, and my bottom lip shook like Elvis. “Thank you, thank you,” I croaked aloud, thinking of my sister. “Thank God for you.” I rested my head on my keyboard lid. “Why?” I shuddered and wiped my face with my forearm. “Why am I like this?”
Timber should receive a card from me soon describing my outburst and gratitude for her existence. She won’t be surprised. Anyone close to me knows that this was just another typical night.
Since moving to Atlanta in ’05 I’ve always rented apartments in old houses with a lot of “character.” One winter morning in Midtown I woke up scratching my forehead to find several cockroaches crawling across my face.
“Daddieeeee!” I screamed into the phone when he answered around 3 a.m.
“What’s the matter darlin’?”
“I woke up with roaches all over my face! Why?! Why were there roaches on my face?”
“‘Cause they thank you so sweet. Nah go on back to bed.”
A lot of people associate character with arched entryways, crown molding and high ceilings, and my first studio apartment boasted all three – but for me, character extends beyond the boundaries of architectural charm. Like no central heat or air. In winter I wheel around my space heater like an IV and drape my legs over it while typing or watching movies. It’s the only way I can afford to live alone. I pushed my limits when I signed a two-year lease on a two-bedroom attic space in a house that’s about to fall apart. Georgia Farm Bureau recently dropped me from my renters insurance plan, citing the rotting structure and general poor upkeep as its primary concerns – even though I loyally paid my premium for 6 years. Oh well, the rent is cheap, and my abundance of stuff masks the interior’s near-dilapidation.
The latest issue involves the combo heating/cooling window unit in my bedroom. It sounds like a dying car motor. My landlord usually responds to my maintenance requests within a couple days, but I suppose higher priorities are preventing him from attending to my heater. Ryan and I joked that I should leave him a prank voicemail from MacGyver in a snooty prep kitty accent:
Yes, this is MacGyver Wages at [address kept private]. I wanted to inquire about the heating unit in my bedroom, hmmmm. My heated cat bed will do for now, but as temperatures continue to cool, I will need the heating unit, too. ‘Tis much appreciated, hmmmm.
Then Ryan and I started discussing our own histories with prank phone calls.
“When I was 11 I called people asking if they thought O.J. Simpson was guilty or innocent,” I revealed.
“What? That’s not a prank phone call!” Ryan laughed.
“Yeah it is. I’d be like ‘Hi, I’m doing a project for my class, and I was wondering if you think O.J. Simpson was guilty or innocent.’ And the person would usually say ‘Guilty.’ And I’d say ‘Thank you very much’ and hang up… …”
… … …Silence… … ..
“You’re right,” I conceded. “I would do it at my friend’s house when her older brother was there. I thought it would make him think I was cool. They would just sit there and not even laugh and continue eating their Swiss Rolls. God, that’s so stupid. It’s not even a prank phone call.”
“It’s not, it’s just research!” Ryan guffawed.
Now I know. Now I know that my prank phone calls were more like feigned middle school assignments.
Maybe I should call my landlord pretending to be MacGyver. It might speed up my maintenance request. Plus, I will actually have made a true prank phone call.
In sixth grade my parents started giving my sister Timber and me a monthly clothing allowance – a hard lesson in budgeting but still an opportunity to slowly transform my closet from neon green Air Max sneakers and basketball camp t-shirts to polyester button-ups, bellbottoms and whatever else was on display in Contempo Casuals’ storefront. From then on my wardrobe intertwined with my identity, as embarrassing as some of my outfit transgressions now seem.
Transitioning from the freedom of a college dress code to the business casual guidelines my first corporate job imposed put a strain on both my self-expression and measly salary. The company CEO distributed a memo asking that we please be sure to update our shoes, as the nails protruding from certain employees’ heels had dented the newly renovated office’s hardwood floors. I lifted my shoes to discover bare nails sticking out of worn-away wood. I would have loved to purchase new mary janes, but I barely made enough to support my nightly dinner of scrambled eggs and peanut butter. So I started wearing my belated grandmother’s Alaskan moccasins instead.
My decision didn’t go over well. Among the other complaints my boss-boss listed in my annual beratement session/performance review, my wardrobe topped his list of reasons why I lacked professionalism and class. That performance review was one of the worst hours of my life, so within the subsequent 5 years I modified my conduct, particularly my choice of dress. I haven’t invested in a suit yet, although my necklines have risen and my skirt lengths, lowered to my knees. At a collegiate brunch a few years ago I sucked it up and wore a long-sleeve oxford top with a high-waisted pencil skirt.
“What’re you wearin’?” a colleague confronted me.
“I’m trying to look more professional today since the dean is here,” I shrugged.
“You don’t look right. This ain’t you,” she pointed from my head to my toes several times.
Just today in the bathroom, I complimented my coworker’s blazer and mentioned I still need to buy a suit.
“You’d look funny in a suit,” she echoed over her stall. “You always look great. Don’t worry about it.”
I suppose wearing a pinstripe-lined blazer with ironed slacks isn’t necessary, and my wardrobe has naturally matured over time, with a few slip-ups here and there.
“Don’t ever wear that shirt to work again,” my closest colleague W scolded me a couple winters ago.
“What?” I frowned, surveying my lavender off-the-shoulder boatneck with sheer material revealing skin to the near-dangerous depths of my chest. “Well… okay…”
So maybe I would look weird in a houndstooth skirt with a matching jacket, but dressing professionally forges an undeniable difference. While eating grits and grillades at my friend M’s loft on Sunday, she noted how airport staff treat her significantly better when she shows up looking like a brand manager instead of a carefree lady on holiday.
As I traipse across campus in patterned tights, ankle booties and feathered headbands, people still mistake me for a student. Hopefully my demeanor and work make an impression on the people who matter and who don’t care if I wear skinny jeans on Fridays.
Where do I strike a balance, then? I guess crawling a rung up the ladder and buying new shoes was an effective first step.
An affinity for hot dogs must be part of my genetic make-up. I inherited the majority of my mother’s phenotype – fair skin, yellow-brown eyes and what many people call a “butt chin” – but I clearly acquired my father’s fondness for frankage.
Daddy insists on making a chili dog pilgrimage to the Varsity whenever possible. One year the family convened at the grease pit’s original downtown Atlanta location on Father’s Day. But more often, Daddy requests that my mother bring him a box of wieners on her way back home from visiting me in Atlanta. (Now that a Varsity Junior opened at Town Center Mall in Kennesaw, it has been added to her list of regular shopping destinations along with DSW and Macy’s.)
When my sister Timber moved back in with our parents for a year, she became Daddy’s chili dog deliverer. While Timber and I chilled chewing brunch at Ria’s Bluebird one Saturday afternoon, my phone vibrated non-stop, greatly detracting from the enjoyment of my red pepper and herbed cheese omelette. Because I racked up seven missed calls and one voicemail, I listened to my message. (We’re big on phone etiquette.)
“Bobbin, please tell Timber to call me. I really need to talk to her. It’s URGENT,” my father pled.
“I think something might have happened to Mother,” I told Timber. “Do you have any missed calls from Daddy?”
“Yeah,” she swallowed a bite of caramelized banana pancake. “About four.”
An email immediately registered on my Android:
Bobbin, has Timber left Atlanta yet? If not please tell her to pick me up six chili dogs from the Varsity instead of three.
I can’t decide which amuses me more: that my father freaked out over doubling his order or that he probably inhaled the half-dozen dogs in one sitting.
At a recent family excursion to El Nopal, even, Daddy’s tastebuds got their way. After the Wages women ordered quesadilla rellenas or tacos, Daddy handed the waitress his menu and said, “Hot dawg.”
As part of my neverending eating disorder, I refused to consume meat, not for the sake of ethics but of caloric deprivation. I’d like to forget those frank-less years. Now I wallow in spicy mustard and sauerkraut.
I devoured the most amazing hot dog ever at clothing-optional Wreck Beach in Vancouver, served by a naked man while surrounded by naked children. While the jalapeño and cheddar baked into the meat contributed to its status as #1 Lifetime Weenie, I’m not going to lie – the panorama of mountain, ocean and forested cliff; live renditions of songs like “Light My Fire” and “Cocaine”; and exotic location in general have stapled its blue ribbon to my heart.
Pallookaville! corn dog truck
However, Jim Stacy’s Pallookaville! corn dog truck comes in at a distant second. After running in last Saturday’s Romp and Stomp 5K, neither fruit nor salad nor yogurt would satisfy me. Only a beef frank dipped in pepper batter, then fried and expanded to five times its original size, would sufficiently replace the calories I had burned. While Ryan and I left the race site, the bright red Pallookaville! truck rolled down Boulevard.
“There it is!” Ryan pointed.
“You’re my hero, Jim Stacy!” I suctioned myself to the passenger window.
We returned a few hours later for the Chomp and Stomp Chili Cook-Off and Bluegrass Festival, which kicks off every year with the abovementioned race. While most of the art and food booths stood relatively vacant, a crowd had formed at the Pallookaville! truck.
“Where is he?” I craned my neck to get a look at Jim Stacy – burly, bearded and covered in tattoos. He looks like Yukon Cornelius from the classic stop motion movie Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Only a burly, bearded man covered in tattoos could cook up a corn dog that settles so slowly and sweetly into one’s stomach. Ryan slathered his plain-battered Corndogula with grape jelly, horseradish and spicy mustard, while my classic mustard congealed into the deepest recesses of my lips.
At some point over the summer I received a tip that the anonymous pussy painter was scheduled to participate in a Drink ‘n’ Doodle event at a small gallery within Studioplex. Several local artists gathered to produce spontaneous pieces over the course of the night, and spectators watched during the final hour. All of the art would go on sale at the end of the evening. It had been raining, so I sauntered inside using my sunflower-patterened umbrella as a cane. A young man wearing a purple short-sleeved sweatshirt á la Lavar Burton sat in the middle of the table sketching a bunch of snakes with feline faces. I tiptoed behind him.
“I know who you are,” I breathed onto his neck.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he answered even-keel, filling in one snake-cat with green colored pencil.
“Oh. You know what I’m talking about.” I swaggered to the other side of the room to join Ryan and my friends.
“That is so him,” one friend M agreed.
I pulled up the camera on my Android and swooped toward the table like an eagle. However, my phone malfunctioned, so it took an awkward five or so minutes to snap a couple pictures of whom we were 99% positive is Catlanta. To double-check, I texted the image to my friend who knows Catlanta.
Is this Catlanta?
Yes! How did you know?! she responded.
By that time Catlanta had joined his friends outside during a smoke break. I purchased a cran-Vodka at the bar and made my way to the sidewalk.
“Do you realize what I’ve been through trying to get one of those damn cats?” I asked him, gulping my cocktail.
“Really, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You do. You do. It’s all right. I won’t tell anyone who you are.”
Once Catlanta returned to finishing his drawing, I lingered in his vicinity. I drooled over the final product: cat-faced snakes of different bold hues, but all with orange eyes.
“What I should do is ask the gallery manager if I can go ahead and buy it,” I notified Ryan.
“Yes, I’m just ready for this to be over so you can move on with your life.”
“Could I go ahead and buy the snake-cat drawing?” I approached a woman at the bar.
“Yeah, you can do that.”
“How much is it?”
“Awesome, I definitely want it.” Doves fluttered with joy inside my ribcage.
A few minutes later, another gallery employee gathered all the artwork and began hanging it on the wall. The woman walked toward him with a “Sold” sticker.
“Sorry, someone already bought this one,” he nonchalantly blocked her. He, Catlanta, the woman from the bar and I stood around the drawing in a semicircle.
“Oh,” I violently quivered, peering like a knife into Catlanta’s cold cold eyes. “I guess I’ll try to get one of your pieces… some other time.”
I scampered to the back corner.
“Did you get it? BOBBIN. Did you get it?” Ryan asked.
“S-s-s-sold. It’s already s-s-s-sold.”
“What are you doing? Are you CRYING?”
“N-n-n-no,” I struggled. “N-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n-no. GOD. I need to leave. Get me out of here.”
Needless to say, Ryan was humiliated. My friends attempted to console me.
“Why don’t you commission him?” M suggested. “I’ll go talk to him.”
“No! I just want… to go home…” I trailed off.
Thus, I truly swore Catlanta off after making a scene at Studioplex.
A couple weeks ago Ryan and I went for a hike at Sweetwater Creek State Park with some friends and returned to his house refreshed and rosy-cheeked. Plus, we picked up exotic fruit drinks at LottaFrutta on the way home. Could the afternoon possibly ripen into something more divine?!?!
Ryan’s roommate, whom I fondly call Kenny-Boo, entered the kitchen. “Bobbin, close your eyes and open your hand.”
“Okay,” I cooperated. Something light plopped into my palm. I jerked to discover a Catlanta cut-out practically purring across my lifeline. Jasper Johns’ famous “Map” print filled the wood – zoomed in on Georgia. Kenny-Boo captured the cut-out at CNN during an afternoon kitten drop.
“I couldn’t believe it was still there,” he recounted. “A skinny white hipster with an afro and skinny jeans came running up right after I found it, and he screamed ‘Nooooo!’ I tiptoed away.”
Oh, sweet Kenny-Boo!
Good luck, skinny white hipster with afro. I don’t know what else to tell you.
I am rudest to my most-loved ones. The level of comfort and acceptance I have achieved with them transforms me into a Medusa, irritability and bitchery rising like snakes and striking my poor family and boyfriend. I find it neither funny nor right.
It’s not just me. I mentioned this phenomenon to a friend several years ago, who said, “I’m that way with my mother. I’m like, ‘Why am I being so mean to you right now?!’”
I caught myself acting needlessly barbaric toward Ryan at this weekend’s Candler Park Fall Fest 5K, which made me wonder:
Why are people often rude to the ones they should treat with the most kindness of all?
I trained for the race all summer, easily finishing my 3-mile route around Little Five Points several evenings per week. But I spent 7 days on vacation and upon my first jog post-Vancouver felt like I’d never practiced at all. I heaved past Star Bar while listening to Metallica’s “One,” nodding on “Nothing is real but pain now. Hold my breath as I wish for death – oh please God wake me!”
Needless to say I wasn’t prepared for the Candler Park Fall Fest 5K, which practically starts in my yard. For the past two years I’ve stumbled outside with a cup of coffee to discover a herd of runners congregated on the sidewalk in front of my house. To avoid feeling like a loser, I signed up this year.
Ryan attempted to hug me while I gathered my thoughts in the living room.
“Huggg meee,” he hungoveredly slurred.
“Get OFF! You’re pushing me out of The Zone!!!” I shoved him onto a couch cushion.
I prepare for the gun shot as if I were launching into the 100-yard dash.
“Sorry, Bobfontaine,” Ryan backed away, christening my runner name – and the name for my inner bitch. Ryan walked with me to the Start line, a large banner suspended over the road. I sprinted in place and jumped up and down to encourage blood flow, drawing minimal stares (after all, I live in a neighborhood that brims with fellow weirdos). I also propped my tennis shoes against imaginary blocks as if I were an Olympic sprinter launching into the 100-yard dash, clearing an area on the pavement. I needed my space.
“Bobfontaine has GOT THIS,” Ryan cheered prior to the gun shot. “You’ll run really fast to the front of the pack and then fall behind,” he joked.
“Yeah!” I clapped and laughed.
He was kind of right.
My legs and lungs cooperated until about mile 2, when the route turned painfully hilly. On the incline up Candler Park Drive and during the near-final stretch on Oakdale, I had to power-walk for a few seconds at a time.
“You go on, then. Good for you,” I commented to a muscular man who passed me. I forced myself to catch up to him and stop, catch up to him and stop. If I could just beat him I’d be okay.
“Fuck!” I stomped through a pile of orange-green leaves.
A child tottered ahead and up the hill, blond ponytail swishing obnoxiously.
“Come on, you’ve got this!” the guy with whom I’d entered into a personal competition heartened me.
“Ugh, okay,” I scowled, picking up speed. I steered myself around the corner and swerved through the competition, improving from 25th female finisher to 21st in the final one-sixteenth of a mile. I immediately collapsed in the finish corridor, creating a bit of a bottleneck.
“Keep moving,” a race volunteer giggled at me.
Ryan emerged from behind a group of trees several feet away.
“Where WERE you?” I shrugged. “You weren’t there to see me pass all these people!!!”
“And you said you were going to bring me a Vitamin Water,” I crossed my arms, staring at the half-empty Hawaiian Punch bottle he found in my refrigerator.
“I wouldn’t CARE if you hadn’t OFFERED to BRING one,” I continued. The people around us squinted at me and probably pitied Ryan.
Perhaps gauging bystanders’ disgust after the 5K inspired a new chapter of self-awareness. Knowing that my parents, sister and boyfriend tolerate my emotional outbursts says a lot about unconditional love but doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try to control my inner Bobfontaine. The people who have stuck with me after seeing me at my nastiest deserve me at my best. Orienting myself to be as patient with my closest loved ones as I am with my friends and colleagues will be hard – but hopefully not as hard as the Candler Park Fall Fest 5K.
Those of you who read my blog post “I Love You, Southern Comfort” probably will be excited to read this Q&A with Dee Dee Anderson, owner of A&M Entertainment & Karaoke and the heart behind SoCo’s karaoke phenomenon. She has a voice like Janis Joplin and a soul like Patsy Cline, and treats SoCo patrons with Dolly Parton class. Below, read just a few reasons why SoCo is like Cheers on a larger (and much more Southern) scale.
BW: What is your favorite karaoke song?
DDA: “The Rose” sung by both Conway Twitty and Bette Midler. Though believe me, I have many favorites!
BW: What is your personal “go-to” karaoke song?
DDA: It changes with my mood. “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac or “Sweet Dreams” by Patsy Cline are two of my favorites. I do requests a lot!
BW: What karaoke songs make you cringe?
DDA: Songs that use bad language for no apparent reason and songs that are derogatory toward a group of people such as women offend me. I am not now and never have been a ho!
BW: On busy nights it’s hard to keep Southern Comfort patrons’ attention. What does it take for a karaoke performer to completely engage the bar and have people clapping, cheering and interacting?
DDA: Personality and heart are the beginnings of what it takes to entertain a room of people. Talent is merely an added bonus. One of the original young folks who started this phenomenon is not a talented singer at all – it is his personality and expressions that bring joy to my heart. The truth is, it is and should be about having a good time.
BW: Now that you mention “one of the original young folks,” I have to say it’s impossible not to notice the dichotomy of demographics at SoCo: gritty, older locals intermixed with twentysomething East Atlantans. When did the young crowd start coming?
DDA: It started with a table of about eight young people two or three years ago. Most of them call me Momma Dee Dee. We put out flyers and made use of Facebook, MySpace, word of mouth and other free means of advertisement. A couple high-profile movies were filmed at SoCo, and music videos sometimes are shot here, which helps expose the club to others as well. It just exploded!
BW: How do the locals interact with the “new crowd”?
DDA: Honestly on more than one occasion I defended this new crowd. A few people had small difficulties at first, but when they actually mixed with the young people, big smiles returned to their faces. A lot of the young people surprise the locals by performing songs that are older than they are!
Over the years I have watched Southern Comfort change in many ways, from a club with a bad reputation along with changes of ownership, and management demanding personal responsibility from the employees and patrons for their actions. I love the diversity and see the young people as a breath of fresh air!
BW: What about a dark, smoky trucker bar attracts Atlanta scenesters?
DDA: I believe people return with their friends because of how they are treated. I think of SoCo like Cheers on a much larger scale (and more Southern of course), and in this you have true Southern Hospitality.
BW: The Black Lips recently performed at SoCo. Will you continue booking shows like that to attract more scenesters?
DDA: Southern Comfort owner George F. Jones has said he would do it again, but that’s his decision, not mine. The Black Lips show went really well. It was a huge gathering of people, and there were no confrontations. I totally support venues giving young talent opportunities to perform. And I am grateful the Black Lips supported one of the last great American honky tonks!
BW: A lot of SoCo first-timers ask to see the song list and act surprised to discover there isn’t one. Besides the fact that your library comprises more than 80,000 songs, is there a reason you don’t provide a list?
DDA: We once provided large books with titles and artists, which I hand-typed, but I decided to stop wasting paper – my contribution to being green and to stop spreading who knows how many germs! The experience is a lot more personal when people come to the table and sign up. Looking over my song files gives them a lot more options. Plus, creating a more personal business has allowed us to make many new acquaintances and friends. SoCo is like my second home, and the people there are my extended family.
BW: Speaking of family, your son Michael helps run your karaoke business. What’s that like?
DDA: I brought Michael onboard because of his knowledge of the equipment and musical abilities. We make a great team! He was raised among many local/road musicians and learned to play guitar and drums as a child. I expect him to outgrow this business soon, and I pray he does move on to the bigger and better opportunities he deserves. He currently is recording a CD in the studio with some friends.
BW: Do you have any tips for first-time SoCo karaoke participants, other than to just have a good time?
DDA: You can’t bribe me to get bumped up in line! It has been tried many times. I take a lot of pride in running what I call the fairest karaoke show in town.
If you’re reading this, I hope you come and join us!