Our 1st Year In Review: Jeff Dauler’s bombshell, Ed Roland’s guitars, Diamond Lil’s Exit And One Amazing Prince Photo
A Note Of Thanks From Rich: At 6 a.m., August 24, 2015, when Eldredge ATL went live, unlike Ray Kinsella, the guy in “Field of Dreams” who erects a ball park in his cornfield after a mysterious spirit tells him, “If you build it, they will come,” I had no idea if anyone would read this new digital magazine. With a zillion online options, would people still care about hyper-local reporting without click-bait headlines? Would anyone want to read a 2,000-word profile on an emerging actor, bar hop via video with an Athens musical icon or read an in-depth conversation with actors performing edgy, authentic art, leaving their sweat on stage each night?
The answer is a resounding yes! Hundreds of thousands of you have actively engaged with the content posted on Eldredge ATL over the past 12 months, with stories being read across the globe and shared across social media platforms. With every comment, page view, email, text, hand shake and hug I’ve received over the past year, Eldredge ATL readers have let me know this content is important to you. As we embark together on Year Two, I’m more excited than ever to report this city’s stories for an audience who cares passionately about this content. I am deeply grateful to each one of you.
Here are some of the highlights and some of the most-read stories from Eldredge ATL’s first year. Thank you!
Best Inaugural Class: It’s easy to convince people to talk to you once a media outlet has launched. For starters, there’s a URL and there’s, well, content. But last summer, a group of talented Atlantans (including two complete strangers!) took a chance and said yes to being interviewed for a digital magazine that didn’t yet exist (that is, outside the imagination of the overly caffeinated, excited guy on the other end of a phone call, email or text). Thanks to media pals Steve McCoy, Vikki Locke, Tom Sullivan, Georgia Tech’s Madison Cario, actor Jeremiah Parker Hobbs, tea tippler Doria Roberts and artist James Burns for saying yes and believing in Eldredge ATL, even before it launched. And thanks to Jenny Nicol Costantino and Nick Wolaver for the invaluable help in convincing clients to discuss their careers with a brand-new digital magazine, sight unseen.
Best Guitar Collection: In October, inaugural Eldredge ATL Guest Editor and Collective Soul frontman Ed Roland gave us a tour of his massive 150-ax collection, including a worn acoustic with two strings hanging off of it. Roland explained: “When I was 14, I wanted to learn how to play guitar but I didn’t know how. A friend of mine at school gave me his guitar. It’s even lasted through a flood. This is where it all started.”
Best Exit Line From a Queer Trailblazer: For the world premiere of directors Heather Provoncha and Leo Hollen Jr.’s Atlanta doc “Queer Moxie” at Out on Film in October, many of the film’s drag queens, kings and spoken word artists were in attendance, including Atlanta drag trailblazer Diamond Lil, who began performing in this city when there were anti cross-dressing ordinances in effect.
During the film’s post-screening Q&A, I asked Lil’s thoughts on living through that era and seeing a film like “Queer Moxie” being made and being able to witness time marching on. Lil smiled and said: I didn’t ever care about the time. I just did my own thing. What would I care about time? I’m timeless.” The event would serve as one of Lil’s final public appearances. The performer died this month at age 80.
Best Intergenerational R&B Conversation: When November guest editor Keisha Jackson got her trailblazing R&B mama Millie Jackson on the phone, I had no idea what to expect. Our 45-minute conversation was hysterical, poignant and educational. Like when Millie recounted catching her baby girl walking around the house singing her hit record “[Phuck U] Symphony.”
Recalled Millie: “I remember yelling, “What are you singing?!” And she said, “Nothing. I just like the music.” Added Keisha: “You’re going to pick up things from your environment. It’s what I heard everyday because that was her new song and it was everywhere. It was inevitable that it would get stuck in my head.” So did the performer who broke barriers to become one of the most explicit R&B artists to ever grace a stage, have rules about words that couldn’t be spoken in her house? Jackson replied with a laugh: Not for me!”
Best Scrooge Off!: The Ebenezer Scrooges of Christmas Past and Present David De Vries and Chris Kayser agreed to a joint interview between rehearsals for the Alliance Theatre’s annual holiday treat “A Christmas Carol.” The two old friends discussed the most challenging scenes to play as the Dickens miser: Explained De Vries: The hardest part for me is not capitulating too early. When I encounter my horrific past with the first ghost, David De Vries wants to go, “Oh God! OK, I’ll change now!” Added Kayser: “Right! And the lines in the script don’t help that either. You have to fight through those.” Said De Vries: Right. It’s all germinating with this guy. But he’s got a very defined patina of defense he uses constantly and slowly those walls of denial begin to crack.”
Best Soap Dish: I’ve been interviewing “General Hospital” actress Nancy Lee Grahn for the better part of 20 years. After her infamous Emmys tweets last year, Grahn worked quietly behind the scenes with the King Center to educate herself on white privilege. On the eve of her visit to Atlanta to serve as a panelist on the “Beloved Community Talk: The Race Factor & Rights vs. Responsibilities” at the King Center in January, Grahn felt ready to talk. Until our interview, Grahn had not spoken to the press about the incident. I’m grateful she trusted me with the story. “The experiences I’ve had at The King Center bring me to tears,” Grahn explained. “It’s embarrassing that I never saw my privilege. It’s embarrassing that I’ve never spoken about my privilege. It was never a part of my education. If my story can be a cautionary tale for someone else, if it can be a teachable moment for other white people like me who are living in a bubble? Let’s do it. My goal is to turn this around and create something positive.”
Best Comeback: Atlanta architect and developer John Portman’s brilliant re-imagining of Peachtree Center’s 230 Peachtree, 50 years after he first made downtown Atlanta a destination for conventioneers and visitors, dotted with his legendary structures, including his sprawling AmericasMart, Hyatt Regency, Marriott Marquis and Westin Peachtree Plaza. The building now houses the Hotel Indigo and a namesake restaurant, JP Atlanta. “Yes, I’m in love with this city,” Portman, 90, conceded in January as tears filled his eyes. “As I get older, I find I get more emotional.”
Best Dynamic Duo: From the moment Terry Henry and Stephen Ruffin hit the stage in “Beyond Reasonable Doubt: The Troy Davis Project” playing grandmother and grandson in the envelope-pushing Synchronicity Theatre world premiere play in April, the electricity crackled. With their characters on opposite ends of the polarizing Georgia death penalty case, Henry and Ruffin swung for the fences each night.
When Ruffin’s Morehouse student tells his grandma who marched with MLK, “Racism is over, the world has changed,” Henry’s character responds with wisdom for the ages: “Racism still exists. It just found better places to hide.” In a year littered with police involved shootings, cop killings, Black Lives Matter marches and a Trump presidential run, it was a dialogue we all needed to hear.
Best Road Trip: Pylon vocalist and July Guest Editor Vanessa Briscoe Hay’s month-long guided tour of all things Athens was the perfect summer get-away. She raised the bar for all future guest editors, too, with her dedication to detail, down to art directing photos and video shoots, supplying photo credits and reaching out to famous friends to serve as contributors, all while rehearsing with Pylon Reenactment Society for a pair of “Pylon Live” record release gigs.
Photo of the Year: In the span of two shutter snaps on his camera phone, music fan and Atlanta photographer Evan Carter inadvertently launched his photography career globally when he captured what became the final image of Prince live in concert as the pop icon played the Fox Theatre, just one week before his April 21 death.
The only thing more captivating than Carter’s photo of the regal performer victoriously thrusting his scepter in the air as he said goodbye to fans for what turned out to be the last time? The story behind the image.
Eldredge ATL MVP: Whether serving as December Guest Editor and interviewing Atlanta theater icon Tom Key for us, granting us exclusive access to his video shoot (and “Designing Women” creator Linda Bloodworth Thomason!) when he filmed the first new Bloodworth Thomason-penned Julia Sugarbaker monologue in a quarter-century or talking about his very funny debut as a Hallmark movie screenwriter, Atlanta playwright Topher Payne took readers along on his many exciting adventures. And we’re grateful.
Story of the Year: Before signing onto Star 94’s airwaves for a fresh stint as morning drive guy with Jenn Hobby Rivera on Feb 1, former Q100 Bert Show member and January Guest Editor Jeff Dauler granted Eldredge ATL his first media interview since resigning his job as Bert Show executive producer and co-host last fall. The interview revealed for the first time that the Q100 fixture had worked for most of 2015 without a contract as he quietly attempted to negotiate a new deal there. Explained Dauler: “The bottom line is this: if they had been truly serious about keeping me, the time to make me aware of that was before my contract ran out on January 31 of last year, or during the nine months I worked without any deal in place.” This city’s love for Dauler is apparent to us. When the story first posted, traffic was so heavy on the Eldredge ATL website, it threatened to crash our server. As of this week, people are still commenting on it and to date, the interview remains the most-read story on our fledgling site with more than 52,000 page views and counting.