Monday, May 30, 2011

Gone With The Wind-75th Anniversary

Margaret Mitchell-A New Play 

ATLANTA--In commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Gone With The Wind’s publication, Mrs. John Marsh – The World Knew Her as Margaret Mitchell, a one woman play about the author is presented at Atlanta’s acclaimed Ansley Park Playhouse June 2 to19.

Kandace Christian as Margaret Mitchell
This original play tells the story of the reclusive author’s life before and after she became a publishing sensation. It stars Kandace Christian, a Tennessee based actress and former Miss Mississippi. The one-woman play includes an audio visual component of rarely published photographs and newsreel footage from the movie’s Atlanta premiere.

A number of special events celebrating  the 75th anniversary of Gone With The Wind’s publication are scheduled during the run of the play include a champagne and dessert reception on opening night, a costume contest and promenade for “Windies,” hat contests and several “Talk Back” sessions with the author and actress following performances.

“Hat contests during matinee performances seemed perfect for a play about Margaret Mitchell,” said Melita Easters, playwright and producer. ”She was frequently photographed in hats and they were an important part of any woman’s closet for her generation. And, who can forget the hat Scarlett wore to the Twelve Oaks barbecue in the movie’s opening scenes or the green velvet and feathered number Rhett smuggled through blockades for Scarlett during the war. Our actress wears several vintage hats during the play.”

Easters said she was inspired to add extra “Talk Back” sessions after giving a speech to residents at an Atlanta retirement home and asking how many had attended the premiere or Junior League ball during 1949.  “So many residents had met Margaret Mitchell or had special memories associated with the book or movie that I wanted a forum for the rest of us to learn from and share their experiences,” she said. “When I mentioned Margaret Mitchell’s experience selling war bonds or working as a Red Cross volunteer during World War II, many heads nodded with acknowledgement of that particular shared experience.”

Easters added that there are many amusing anecdotes about Mitchell and the book which simply did not fit the format of the play which are perfect for sharing during a talk back session.

 The play tells the story of the reclusive author’s life before and after she became a publishing sensation, and includes an audio visual component of rarely published photographs and newsreel footage from the movie’s Atlanta premiere.

Largely in Mitchell’s own words, the play is based on the author’s articles, letters and the one hour radio interview she gave in 1936. Additionally, Easters incorporated her research to construct an engaging and historically accurate picture of Mitchell’s life.

“Proving it is possible for aura to emanate from words, the presence of Margaret Mitchell has been wonderfully resurrected in Melita Easters’ compelling one-woman theater piece. Easters masterfully celebrates one of America’s most famous literary figures by giving her the spirit of life that gave us the book — Gone With the Wind,” said noted Georgia author Terry Kay.

“Have you ever wished you could have met Margaret Mitchell? Here’s your chance! Kandace Christian brings the author of Gone With the Wind to life,” said John Wiley, Jr., co-author of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind: A Bestseller’s Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood.

A former newspaper reporter and GPTV producer, Easters has been a political and community activist in Atlanta for more than 30 years. Kandace Christian has a long list of stage credits in Nashville and has twice won recognition as Regional Best Actress there for her work. She is featured as a vocalist on several Disney albums.

Saturday, May 28, 2011




By Doc Lawrence

CHICKAMAUGA, GA--I recently began my four-year journey along the Civil War trails, a combination of history and tourism and early on learned that barbecue was an integral part of the story. The Civil War Sesquicentennial, a four-year commemorative, has started and savvy tourism officials from various states anticipate huge numbers of visitors. To date, I’ve scratched the surface in Virginia and just completed the first leg of Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign, the Battle of Atlanta and the March to the Sea.


My Georgia journey included Civil War sites in Dalton, Cartersville, Marietta, Atlanta, Madison, Milledgeville and Macon. Outstanding barbecue-was everywhere, adding credence to the late columnist Lewis Grizzard’s claim that Georgia has the country’s best.

Chickamauga is just south of Chattanooga in Northwest Georgia. In 1863, Union and Confederate forces battled for two days in one of history’s bloodiest encounters. A walk through the Chickamauga National Battlefield Park confirms the horror of war. Here on the lovely fields, you feel the spirits of the dead. Florida forces played a significant part in this Confederate victory and the memorial erected here by the Sunshine State is impressive.

Built in 1847, the antebellum Gordon-Lee plantation house served as the Union Army headquarters prior to the Battle of Chickamauga. After the battle it was a Confederate hospital. In 1889, 14,000 veterans came together here for a Blue and Gray reunion, a rare event for any country injured by war.

25 years after this bloody battle, Chickamauga veterans from the North and South arrived here for a friendly reunion, a barbecue, perhaps the largest one ever at that time. Former enemies, once engaged in combat, gathered on the lovely grounds of the Gordon Lee plantation to enjoy pork, slow-cooked over open pits, served with sweet iced tea, Brunswick Stew, Cole Saw and bread, a gesture of goodwill wrapped in Georgia hospitality. More than just a barbeque, it was a seminal healing event for the nation’s deep wounds.

Memorial Day weekend means barbecue for millions. Here’s the classic side dish, a gift for all those who gather to honor America.

Jim Sanders Georgia Brunswick Stew

1 four-pound baking chicken
4 pounds ground pork
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1-tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoons cayenne pepper
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup red wine, preferably Rhone style
3 to 4 tablespoons bacon drippings 
36 ounces tomato juice
4 ounce tomato catsup
3 cups cut corn
Kosher salt and black pepper

Boil the chicken until it is very tender, cool, de-bone and chop the meat finely. In a large pot over medium heat, braise the pork until half done. Add half the chopped onions, one chopped garlic clove, chili powder, thyme, cayenne pepper and a generous sprinkling of kosher salt and black pepper. Continue to braise until the meat is well browned, stirring every few minutes to break up any lumps and combine with chicken. Add the tomato juice and catsup and simmer for 11/2 hours. Add the rest of the chopped onions, another chopped garlic clove and simmer for another 30 minutes. Taste for salt and spoon off the fat before serving.

Beaujolais goes well with Brunswick stew. It does not fight the spices and it has a lot of refreshment value. Otherwise, fairly heavy red wines like Cotes du Rhone complement the spice and flavors nicely as do several Italian reds like Chianti, Bardolino and Montepulciano.

Jim Sanders taught thousands over decades in his wine classes in Atlanta. Each Memorial Day and Fourth of July at his wine store, Sanders served  this traditional Southern dish along with countless bottles of perfectly paired wines. There was no charge. This recipe came from an old Civil War-era note found in his grandmother’s Bible.

(This article appears in my column Southwind, published in South Florida: .)

Thursday, May 19, 2011



 By Doc Lawrence

GAINESVILLE, FL-- The Sunshine State never fails to add a new surprise with each visit. Since I have been in and out of Florida for nearly 40 years, you’d think I know every nook by now. But, over the years I learned to peel back the veneer of obvious tourism and start looking for those things more subtle than theme parks, high-rise condos and crowded beaches.


Welcome to Gainesville. Here’s a medium-size city with a major university that can keep you occupied for many days, particularly if you like the live theater, zoos, beautiful homes, great restaurants and nice, luxurious lodging.

And Gainesville is the perfect jump off location to kayak wild rivers like the Santa Fe, hike in totally wild nature preservers like Payne’s Prairie and immerse yourself in the Cracker Culture of Cross Creek, the little paradise made known to the world by Pulitzer Prize winner Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings in her book, “The Yearling.”

The modern and the primitive are juxtaposed in this region, literally Florida’s Eden. Wildlife is near college campuses; classical music is stones throw from rock, country and jazz. An evening of gourmet dining at Leonardo’s 706 featured Mile Davis’ classic jazz music playing in the background. I thought after a glass of a terrific Provencal that the “king of cool” was in the room with my hosts.

Gainesville and environs offers everything from butterflies to fishing and the food ranging from a fried grouper sandwich to Chicken Marsala is fine any time of year.

A trove of vacation information is available at, or you can contact me for more on Facebook, or Look for some major magazine features very soon.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011



The Irish BBQ Team at Jack Daniel's

By Doc Lawrence

Each year for about a decade I’ve shared barbecue experiences with readers and listeners, often daring to whisper an occasional opinion or recommendation about what I truly believe is the All-American food, dear, delicious and smoky barbecue. Down here outside Atlanta, pork reigns. It’s the meat of choice with no close second, although plenty of places do chicken and beef right.

The history of barbecue and its preparation isn’t what I’m particularly interested in at the moment. Rather, finding the best places-restaurants, cafĂ©’s, shacks-where you can drop in knowing that everything is prepared with a whole lotta love is my chore for the moment. I’ll stick my neck out and say that no state really has a corner on barbecue. The style, spicing, wood, pit, sauces and preparation just doesn’t begin and end at state boundaries. However, there are pockets of cooking methods that harken to tradition, and have been preserved by good cooks over many decades.

And, therein lies the mystery. Who are the ones that keep local traditions alive? What keeps everything original? What causes good people to come back year after year?

Most of all, where can we find these talented cooks and their food?

For years now, I’ve served as a judge at some remarkable barbecue competitions. None is finer than the Jack Daniel’s International Barbeque Competition in Lynchburg, Tennessee held each October adjacent to America’s most famous distillery. Here, cooks from all states and many foreign countries gather for cash prizes and the prestige that comes from winning a top prize.

What they have in common is a commitment to quality barbecue. It’ s an art form, one of the few collaborations that really makes people happy.

Frank Spence, the great barbecue critic and former Atlanta Braves executive, speaks glowingly of Harold’s in Atlanta, as did the late humorist Lewis Grizzard. But what about The Pit in Raleigh or Backyard BBQ in Durham? Who can overlook Alabama’s Dreamland or Big Bob Gibson’s? Memphis has wall-to wall BBQ including Silky O’Sullivan’s on Beale Street. Virginia, Florida and South Carolina have favorites as does Mississippi.

And did Brunswick Stew originate in Virginia or Georgia?

Your experiences and conclusions are needed and welcomed. You’ll read about them here, in, Southwind,, and many other places in print and online.

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