Many books have been written -- both fiction and nonfiction -- about this beloved city. And while most nonfiction can be taken for fact, many natives will tell you that a lot of the fiction holds nearly as many truths (and some not-so-secret skeletons) about Atlanta and the folks who've lived here through the decades.
Archival Atlanta: Forgotten Facts and Well-Kept Secrets from Our City's Past, by Perry Buffington and Kim Underwood, is a light read, packed with fascinating historical tidbits -- some of which are sure to surprise even the most knowledgeable Atlanta history buff. The book includes its share of humorous anecdotes.
For those more interested in looking at pictures than reading, Andy Ambrose, deputy director of the Atlanta History Center, compiled Atlanta: An Illustrated History, filled with images from Atlanta's archives. From the days of saloons and brothels in the early 1800s to the city's renaissance beginning in the 1960s, this account explores everything from Atlanta's troubling racial past to the celebrated, historically rich neighborhoods of Ansley Park and Buckhead.
Michael Rose's Atlanta Then and Now delivers an illustrated juxtaposition of Atlanta's past and present. The photos allow first-time visitors as well as old friends to see just how far this southern city has come in the past century.
For an account of some of the down-and-dirty backroom dealings that brought Atlanta to the forefront as an international city, many readers swear by Frederick Allen's Atlanta Rising: The Invention of an International City 1946-1996. This mostly objective account of Atlanta's dealings over the past 50 years describes the relationships among the city's decision makers as various events unfold.
Of course, Margaret Mitchell's novel Gone With the Wind is a given for those who wish to take in a Civil War-era depiction of this area.
Author Fred Willard has a big following, which began with his Atlanta-based satirical mystery, Down on Ponce, and continued with Princess Naughty and the Voodoo Cadillac. Those folks who know the area intimately will swear to the authenticity of the Deep South social outcasts who inhabit a side of Atlanta that most residents would rather keep quiet.
Anne Rivers Siddons was reared just 20 miles from the big city, and Hills Town, King's Oak, and Homeplace are all set in Georgia. Her Peachtree Road is a dark, hypnotic tale of Buckhead high society in the mid-20th century, when money and civil rights were the fuel on which the city ran. Her Downtown depicts Atlanta's last years of innocence: "Atlanta in the autumn of 1966 was a city being born, and the energy and promise of that lying-in sent out subterranean vibrations all over the just-stirring South, like underground shock waves -- a call to those who could hear it best, the young. And they came, they came in droves, from small, sleeping towns and large, drowsing universities, from farms and industrial suburbs and backwaters so still that even the building firestorm of the civil rights movement had not yet rippled the surface."
And while he doesn't live in Atlanta, Tom Wolfe ruffled more than a few feathers with his 1998 tome A Man in Full. As Wolfe states in the book, Atlanta is a place "where your 'honor' is the thing you possess." More critics than not thought his depiction of the slums and socialites of Atlanta might do more harm than good in boosting the tourism economy here.
Atlanta's biggest connection to film is, of course, Gone With the Wind, taken from the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name written in 1936 by Margaret Mitchell of Atlanta. The 1939 Academy Award-winning film depicted Atlanta and the Old South during the Civil War as seen from the viewpoint of a rebellious southern belle, Scarlett O'Hara, whose home, a plantation called Tara, is taken over by the Northern opposition. The movie première was held in the ballroom of Atlanta's Georgian Terrace, still a grand working hotel today, on Peachtree Street, across from the Fox Theatre. In attendance were actors from the film, including Vivien Leigh (Scarlett) and Clark Gable (Rhett Butler).
Atlanta playwright Alfred Uhry penned a play from which the movie Driving Miss Daisy was adapted. The plot follows a 72-year-old Atlanta widow, Miss Daisy Werthan, in 1948 as she deals with issues of aging, race relations (she is white and Jewish; her son hires an African-American chauffeur after she has a fender bender), religion, fear, and relationships. Miss Daisy was played by Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman starred as Hoke Colburn, the chauffeur. She's initially embarrassed -- because of age or her fear of appearing too rich -- to be driven around and even walks to the grocery store in defiance. Once she accepts the fact that she is unable to drive herself, she and Colburn warm up to one another and she teaches him to read. On a trip out of town for a family occasion, Miss Daisy is awakened to the prejudicial treatment her new friend encounters. When her synagogue is bombed, she realizes that she, too, is subjected to racism as a Jew. The elderly lady eventually goes into a retirement home, to be visited frequently by Colburn, the two having become best friends. The film took four awards from nine nominations at the 62nd Academy Awards in 1989. It is the only film based on an off-Broadway production ever to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. At age 80, Tandy was the oldest winner in the Best Actress category.
Also an Atlanta-related film is Disney's The Great Locomotive Chase, starring Fess Parker as the dashing Union spy James J. Andrews. The movie tells how the story of the wild adventure known as the "Great Locomotive Chase" began. The Civil War had been underway for a year on April 12, 1862, when Andrews and a group of 21 Northern soldiers disguised as civilians boarded a locomotive called the General in Marietta, buying tickets for diverse destinations to avert suspicion. When the train made a breakfast stop at the Lacy Hotel in Big Shanty, they seized the locomotive and several boxcars and fled northward to Chattanooga. The goal of these daring raiders was to destroy tracks, telegraph wires, and bridges behind them, thus cutting off the Confederate supply route between Virginia and Mississippi.
Conductor William A. Fuller, his breakfast interrupted by the sound of the General chugging out of the station, gave chase on foot, then grabbed a platform car and poled along the tracks. With him were a railroad superintendent and the General's engineer. At the Etowah River, Fuller and crew commandeered a small locomotive called the Yonah and made better progress. Meanwhile, the raiders tore up track behind them, and when the pursuers got close, the raiders slowed them down by throwing ties and firewood onto the tracks. Andrews, a very smooth talker, managed to convince station attendants en route that he was on an emergency mission running ammunition to Confederate General Beauregard in Mississippi.
Fuller's chances of catching the General improved when he seized the southbound Texas and began running it backward toward the raiders, picking up reinforcements along the way and eventually managing to get a telegraph message through to General Danville Leadbetter, commander at Chattanooga. The chase went on, with Andrews sending uncoupled boxcars careening back toward Fuller as obstructions. Fuller, who was running in reverse, merely attached the rolling boxcars to his engine and kept on. At the covered Oostanaula Bridge, the raiders detached a boxcar and set it on fire in hopes of finally creating an impassable obstacle -- a burning bridge behind them. But the Texas was able to push the flaming car off the bridge. It soon burned out, and Fuller tossed it off the track and continued.
By this time the General was running low on fuel and water, the Texas was hot on its heels, and the raiders realized that all was lost. Andrews gave his final command: "Jump off and scatter! Every man for himself!" All were captured and imprisoned within a few days. Some escaped, others were exchanged for Confederate prisoners of war, and the rest were hanged in Atlanta, most of them at a site near Oakland Cemetery. Though the mission failed, the raiders, some of them posthumously, received the newly created Medal of Honor for their valor.
Today, Atlanta is a hopping scene in the film industry, with such homegrown film products as The Lady from Sockholm, Last Goodbye, Freez'er, The Adventures of Ociee Nash, and No Witness. Of greatest note is Last Goodbye, starring David Carradine and Faye Dunaway among others. The movie brings six very different individuals together on a hot summer day in Atlanta. Carradine, as a whacked-out Bible salesman, and Dunaway, as a film director, play the role of saviors to some needy younger people.
In addition, Tyler Perry, whose numerous stage plays continue to be reborn as movies, also lives in Atlanta, where his talent as a playwright first wowed audiences. In 2005, Perry opened at the top of the box office with his instant hit Diary of a Mad Black Woman, which he wrote, produced, and starred in. That success was followed by additional movies adapted from his plays, including Meet the Browns, Why Did I Get Married, Daddy's Little Girls, Madea's Family Reunion, The Family That Preys, and Madea Goes to Jail. Perry's latest blockbuster, For Colored Girls, opened late 2010. His Tyler Perry Studios, the first independent studio of its size to open in Georgia, is located in Atlanta.
Atlanta seems to be a magnet for talented musicians, and a long list of singers, musicians, and entire bands hail from the city. Among the most popular are Atlanta Rhythm Section, Mother's Finest, Indigo Girls, Black Crowes, Georgia Satellites, SOS Band, Heart to Heart, and Mose Davis.
Today, Atlanta is a mecca for rap and hip-hop artists, with major recording studios based here, such as Jermaine Dupri's So So Def. Among the artists hailing from Atlanta or now calling the city home are Lil Jon, Usher, Outkast, Ludacris, T.I., Ying Yang Twins, Young Jeezy, and Jermaine Dupri.
The country music scene is also well tied to Atlanta, including Trisha Yearwood, who frequents the city but wasn't born here, and Sugarland, the darling duo of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush, both of whom now call the city home. In 2008, they recorded their number-one album, Love on the Inside, here at Southern Tracks, a studio with a long Atlanta history and an even longer client list of all the top musicians, from the '50s through today. Musicians of all genres have recorded here at one time or another, including Pearl Jam, Aerosmith, Creed, Third Day, Newsong, Gladys Knight, Collective Soul, Keith Sweat, and Bruce Springsteen. The original studio was founded by music producer Bill Lowery in the mid-1950s. He's best known for producing such jewels as "Be Bop a Lula," "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden," and "Games People Play."
Atlanta Gets Crunk -- East Coast, West Coast, or Dirty South, the multibillion-dollar hip-hop music scene is as strong as ever, and Atlanta is respectfully recognized as a major player in this genre.
Home to high-profile record labels such as So So Def Records, established by producer Jermaine Dupri in 1992, Atlanta, called "Motown of the South," is a huge draw for hip-hop and rap artists. Twenty years ago, Dupri signed Kris Kross as his first act and soon established himself as a key player in the industry, putting Atlanta on the hip-hop map. Other acts followed Dupri's first success, including Bow Wow, Dem Franchise Boyz, and J-Kwon.
Through the years, Dupri's label has been affiliated with multiple larger record labels through the years, as Dupri has aligned himself and then parted ways with labels including Columbia, Arista (where he was named president of Black Music), Sony, BMG, and Virgin. Yet another label, Grand Hustle Records, is owned by Atlanta native rapper T.I. and is a subsidiary of Warner Music Group and distributed by Atlantic Records.
Atlanta producers and artists even coined a signature style called Dirty South hip-hop, made popular by Outkast, Goodie Mob, and others. A rapper and producer in his own right, Lil Jon is the force behind a party-style hip-hop variety known as "crunk," which fuses hip-hop music with the Memphis-born electro genre. Crunk has also come to be used as an all-inclusive term for southern hip-hop music. Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz, with the Ying Yang Twins, brought the national spotlight to crunk music with their song "Get Low."
Whether they were born and raised in "Hotlanta" or came here to be part of a growing hip-hop scene, many multiplatinum rappers call this city home. Among them are Ludacris, Young Jeezy, B.o.B., Lloyd, Gorilla Zoe, Big Boi, Andre 3000, Young Dr., Pastor Troy, Crime Mob, Lil Scrappy, Ying Yang Twins, D4L, Yung Joc, Usher, Ciara, and Cee-lo Green.
Hip-hop celebrity sightings are frequent in Atlanta, whether it's Andre 3000 enjoying a Braves baseball game (we sat next to him a couple of years ago and he graciously signed autographs with one hand while eating with the other) or any number of other hip-hop icons shopping at high-end malls at Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza.
You can even spot a famous face or two -- especially on Sunday nights -- at 300 Atlanta, an upscale bowling alley featuring lounge-style lane-side seating in a classy bar-type atmosphere. The Castelberry Hill district is a celebrity draw, as is Eight, Young Jeezy's clothing store on the historic Auburn Avenue.
Atlanta venues hosting hip-hop artists and related events include Bankhead area's Club Crucial, owned by rapper T.I.; Magic City, a popular strip club where Snoop Dogg held his latest CD release party; Straits, a Midtown restaurant owned by Ludacris; and the Velvet Room, previously Vision nightclub, where celebrities go to party en masse.
Because of its high-profile standing in the music industry, Atlanta is also home to the annual BET Hip-Hop Awards show each October and hosted by such big names as comedian Katt Williams, rapper T-Pain, and the multi-talented performer Mike Epps. Like peers in other hip-hop music scene cities, Atlanta's hip-hop industry has expanded into other ventures, including branded fragrance and clothing lines.
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