Blast from the Past:


While Googling any information I could find regarding an Alexander Calder mobile that used to hang in Atlanta's Colony Square building on West Peachtree (Hey! Got any info on it? If so, email me...) I ran across this blog from another artistic Calder: Jeff Calder, guitarist/vocalist with the Swimming Pool Q's, (a band that married  eloquent lyrics with elegant albeit esoteric album covers) who does a great job in retelling the history of Atlanta's New Wave music scene of the late 1970s through the 1990s.

My role in the Atlanta music scene at the time was infintisimal at best: in my late teens, I  worked at some of the local radio stations. So of course I saw the Q's perform, as well as  Daryl Rhodes and the HaHavishnu Orchestra. And let's not forget Thermos Greenwood and the Colored People (they painted their faces in rainbow hues…trust me, you had to be there…) 

Oh! And then there's the B-52s….

Jeff lived it so much harder than me, and has certainly written about it this well-played piece of Atlanta history in a way that does it justice. You can read it here.

Just goes to show you that there's always more to Atlanta than moonlight and magnolias.  Like, a rockin' downbeat.

— Josie


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The Help: does the movie’s portrayal of racism ring true?

I was (as we say there) born and raised in Atlanta. I grew up in the Atlanta of the 1960s. Back then, the mayor, a progressive-minded man named William Hartsfield (and back then, "progressive" wasn't a dirty word) made our slogan, "The city too busy to hate."

Keep in mind that Atlanta was also the home of Martin Luther King, Jr

I was a child of the sixties. I remember segregation and integration, which happened while I was in elementary school. I also remember Dr. King's assassination, in Memphis. At my school in DeKalb County, as we watched the funeral on television, I remember our teacher's prediction: "You will always remember this day."

She was right, although we were too young to understand what it meant.

At one time, it had also been the home of the Klu Klux Klan. In fact, it once stood on what is now the grounds of one of the three elegant churches that grace Peachtree Street at the southern apex of Buckhead known as "Christ Curve." The biggest irony is that the church is a Catholic congregation: a religion that the KKK hated. That the priests decided to invited the Klan's Imperial Wizard to the dedication is proof positive that any piece of land can be sanctified.

Which brings me to the questions being raised by the movie based on Kathryn Stockett's runaway bestselling book, The Help:

First, does it vilify its Caucasian characters? And secondly, does it correctly represent the African-American dialects of the time? And finally, do the African-American experiences ring true?

My own opinion: I loved the book. And my personal take on the first is that Ms. Stockett has been true to the South we both grew up in (albeit a few years, and miles, apart).

Before integration, there was a difinitive separation of classes. Whereas some of it was based on "breeding." (Who was your daddy's daddy, and your mama's people?).

Certainly religion played into it. But mostly, it was based on color.

Integration was resented by most of the Caucasian population. No one who lived through it can deny that.

In many ways Hartfield's Atlanta was a bubble of positive race relations, but no one who lived there during those tulmultious times cannot deny that it had its fair share of racial violence. The 1958 bombing of the Jewish Temple on Peachtree Street in Atlanta's Brookwood neighborhood was one very sad example.

My parents had moved to Atlanta in the mid-fifties, from Manhattan, because of a transfer that my father had agreed to. My maiden name is Martinez, and both my parents had been born in Puerto Rico, albeit raised stateside. Like them–and unlike my older sister–I had thick, curly dark hair and an olive complexion, but also light eyes. I remember a little boy in my class asking me, "What are you?" The question stumped me. I didn't know how to answer! I mean, I was a girl, of course. Wasn't that obvious?

His next question shamed me, because I interpreted it as a slur: "Are you a nigger?"

That was a word we never used in my house. Ever. I had no right to feel ashamed.

I wonder if there was a time, even later in life, where he grew to regret his own use of it.

Had I grown up in the North, I'm sure I'd have heard another taunt: "Spic." But since we weren't the predominant minority in Atlanta, that word wasn't as well known back then. I guess we skirted by. Sure, our name was inevitably mispronounced ("Mart-TEEN-ez" became "Martin-EZZ"). That is a small price to pay for the privilege of being allowed to "pass."

To answer the second question: yes, the South has many dialects, for both the predominant races. When I lived there, I could tell if the person speaking to me was from Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina or Texas by his or her "twang." Then again, I could also tell an Aussie from a Kiwi. I guess I have an ear for dialects. It got me into radio. (The need for sanity got me out of it.)

I moved from the South after marriage, to the San Francisco Bay Area. I married a Yankee: a nice Jewish boy from the Bronx, who had moved to Atlanta after college. As much as I loved Atlanta and had grown up around Southerners, I never got over the presumption that I might be too exotic for any man who drank rum and Cokes, had gone to UGA (University of Georgia, but pronounced "ugga," like the infamous mutt mascot for that grand institution school) and aspired to a partnership at King & Spalding. 

So, yep, I can certainly relate to The Help's heroine, Skeeter. The world is a very big place. That's a good thing for those of us who must question the local customs, or who refuse to conform to society's current norm.

I take it as a good sign that some people who have seen the movie or have read the book are truly appalled at the class divisiveness portrayed in The Help, and the cluelessness of the cruelty demonstrated by some of its Caucasian characters.

They should be. That goes for all of us. Especially those of us who lived through it. 

When my daughter was in the fourth grade and studying the Civil War, she chided me for my Southern roots. "Mom, how could you have lived in a place where Eva and I could not have been friends?" Eva, her BFF, is African-American. 

After reminding her that I was born more than a century after the Civil War, I had to agree with her, and break the news to her that some people still judge others by their skin color. 

I will always consider Atlanta my home. I am very proud of my hometown, as I am sure Ms. Stockett is of hers, Jackson, Mississippi. The reality is that neither of us can change its history. Our memories, our perceptions and our interpretations of the places we grew up — as well as those of others who also grew up in that time and those places – are ours own.If they don't reflect that of others, so be it. The South can be charming. It can also be provencial and cruel.

Then again, so can New York, Paris, and London. 

But I guess if a commonor can marry a king-in-the-wings, the world is changing for the good.

— Josie




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My Misspent Youth: It Was Only Rock ‘n’ Roll, but I LOVED it

(…Or 2 degrees of Deborah D….)

Long time no write. Well, I hope you feel this was worth the wait…

In my early twenties, I worked in radio. It was a great way to catch close-up glimpses of the hottest acts, score freebee tickets to concerts, and if I were lucky, a backstage pass, too.

My BFF was in a different part of the music industry. Deborah D worked for a record company. For sure, her bennies included all of the above, along with an album collection that rivaled the one in the radio stations I worked for. If a band she liked wasn't on her label, she'd swap demo LPs or concert tickets with grunts at other labels for the coveted vinyl.

Deb collected her boyfriends that way, too. Bass players were her favorites, but drummers ran a close second. Rarely did she date "civilians."

It was on one of those few occasions that I met my hubby: he lived next (to her revolving) door and swung in one night when she'd just traded an album or two for four free tickets to a movie. My arm charm, (believe it or not, straight) male model. Since Hubby was more into symphonies than Springsteen — they soon parted ways.

But the spark the was kindled that night, between him and me, flashed even hotter the next time we saw each other: Deborah D's New Years Eve par-tay, which was  always a who's who of music industry celebs,  pros, hangers-on, has-beens, up-and-comers . . .

And a usual galaxy of long-legged, straight-haired groupies.

To my delight, Hubby was oblivious to everyone but me.

Then again, the poor guy didn't know that the Allman Brothers were Georgia's official band. So what were the odds he'd recognize the guy whose foot he just stepped onto belonged to Cher's talented, sloe-eyed ex?

Warp speed a couple of maritally blissful decades later — 

Recently 60 Minutes was interviewing the Eagles who, now in their sixties, have reunited after more than a decade for one more album.  Despite a few sags, bags, and wrinkles, to the most part they've held onto the visages of their youths.

So successfully, in fact, that one tweaked a long-dormant brain cell. "If I remember right, Deborah D dated that dude. The one on the left there," I said to Martin.

He snorted at my quaint euphemism for balls-to-the-wall sex. "There were so many, so yeah, that could have been…"  He stopped mid-swallow. "Hey! That means I've actually made it with someone who's made it with–with  HIM."  He stared up at the screen in awe.

"Yep. Him, and about a dozen or so other guys who have hit the Billboard Rock Chart with a bullet at least once."

He stared at me as if I were speaking Greek. "Don't you get it? That's only two degrees of separation."

Which, considering the time and place, could have translated into one degree of the clap, I thought to myself as he strummed his air guitar.

Whatever he was playing, I could only imagine it was off-key.

Rock on . . .