Monday, October 31, 2011




By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA--Mark St. Germain’s play Freud’s Last Session, the longest-running Off-Broadway show was inspired by the book The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud Debate God, Love, Sex and The Meaning of Life by Armand M. Nicholi, Jr. On this magnificent downtown Atlanta stage, two of the world’s most brilliant men, legendary psychoanalyst Dr. Sigmund Freud and rising Oxford professor C.S. Lewis address the greatest questions of all time and clash about love, sex, the existence of God, and the meaning of life, just weeks before Freud ends his own.

On the day of this imaginary 1939 meeting, Hitler has just invaded Poland, Neville Chamberlain is on BBC radio and Freud is dying of cancer. Two of the western world’s most renowned intellectuals face off in a debate (friendly, witty and tasteful) about their respective works and exactly where God fits in. The weighty issues are skillfully argued between 80-year-old Sigmund Freud and his guest, a younger intellectual C.S. Lewis.

Directed by Jessica Phelps West and starring Andrew Benator as C. S. Lewis and David De Vries as Sigmund Freud, the story is fast-paced, highly entertaining and propelled with exceptional visual authenticity by the magnificent set, a replication of Freud’s office in London.

Theatrical Outfit is not the place to find the ordinary. Under Tom Key’s visionary management, each season radiates with a rich mixture of the best plays presented anywhere in the South and Freud’s Last Session only enhances the company’s already stellar reputation.

The only regret-and a mild one- was watching someone other than Key portray C. S. Lewis. Since 1977, Tom Key has presented his one-man show C.S. Lewis On Stage to golbal acclaim.  It’s still the best view we have of C. S. Lewis.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011





By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA, GA- They made journalism as exciting as space exploration. Long ago, two unknown reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein broke the Watergate story for the Washington Post and they are making a limited number of appearances in commemoration of 40th anniversary the Watergate break-in. I will be there with them to share their remembrances of the tumultuous times that they, in part, set in motion culminating in the resignation of Richard Nixon and the criminal convictions of myriad Nixon subordinates including the Attorney General of the United States.

Their work set the standard for modern investigative reporting, for which they and the Post were awarded the Pulitzer Prize. Together, Woodward and Bernstein wrote two classic best sellers: “All the President’s Men,” about their experience covering the Watergate story and “The Final Days,” about the denouement of Richard Nixon’s presidency.

Forever enshrined in the classic Hollywood movie, “All the President’s Men, “ starring Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein and Robert Redford as Woodward, the onc-time beat reporters in Washington now occupy a prominent place in American history.

I’ll tell you all about them later, hopefully sharing a few facts heretofore kept secret.

NOTE: Here’s the first Civil War story from my recent Kentucky journey:

Plus fine dining in Louisville:

Thursday, October 20, 2011




By Doc Lawrence

SUMMERVILLE, GA- The Rev. Howard Finster, a folk artist who gained global fame with his divinely inspired works, departed this earth 10 years ago on October 22. Attention spans are short these days and Georgia, like the entire art world, suffers irreparably should the legacy of this messenger of things noble and worthy find a place in the scrap heap of history and heritage.

Thanks greatly to the unselfish efforts of Chicago’s David Leonardis, Finster’s magnificently powerful art survives. Much like Atlanta’s High Museum of Art which has an impressive collection of Finster originals, Leonardis, who was with his close friend Finster just hours prior to his death, displays these works and has events incorporating all facets of this ostensibly simple man who was in truth as complicated and mysterious as any scientist or philosopher I’ve met.

Leonardis created the Howard Finster Vision House in Summerville where Howard once lived. Despite a poor economy, his plans to have a living art center including a bed and breakfast are progressing impressively. Like his artist hero, Mr. Leonardis doesn’t buy into despair or quitting.

While Finster spent the better part of his life as a country preacher, when he was 59, he received a vision which he interpreted as a message from God instructing him to begin painting sacred art. Thousands of paintings later, Finster’s artwork is in the Smithsonian, the American Folk Art Museum in NYC, the Library of Congress and major museums and collections around the world. Howard Finster painted album covers like R.E.M.'s Reckoning and Talking Heads' Little Creatures, which Rolling Stone named “Album Cover of the Year.”

More than any person I have known, Rev. Howard Finster remained true to his core beliefs. There was never the slightest doubt when I was with him that God was there. Heaven was in his eyes and his voice. There was  comfort and a peace. My own demons were silenced.

I miss this great man. He transformed my life and his art remains more than a precious memory. It is alive with universal truths.

David Leonardis the country’s largest collector and dealer of Finster’s art, is founder and curator of the Howard Finster Vision House in Summerville, just south of Chattanooga and about a two-hour drive from Atlanta. The house is where Finster saw a vision of God prompting him to create sacred art.

NOTE: I will be in Lynchburg, Tennessee this weekend as a judge in the fabulous Jack Daniel’s International Barbecue Competition. It is one of North America’s greatest festivals and I hope to see you there. 
Memories of last year:

Monday, October 17, 2011



By Doc Lawrence

LYNCHBURG, TENNESSEE—It’s my favorite festival, a gala gathering of Americans and guests from other countries here in beautiful bucolic Tennessee. With the legendary Jack Daniel Whiskey Distillery next door, barbecue teams from throughout America are in their designated spaces practicing their food preparation techniques, joined in the nearby international courtyard by championship barbecue teams from many countries like Ireland, England, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany and many others.

The stakes are high here with the competitive goal to win one of the coveted awards announced late Saturday afternoon. It’s big cash along with the priceless prestige that comes with bringing home a trophy from the best event of its kind on the planet. “The Jack,” as it’s called, is the Super Bowl of championship barbecue.

Friendships just naturally come from this one-of-a-kind event. Here is where I first met the legendary Johnny Majors, the football player and coach who is held in much the same esteem here as other Tennessee greats like Andrew Jackson and Davy Crockett. Coach Majors, the quintessential Southern gentleman, is a longtime judge at “The Jack,” whose family pioneered this area where he grew up and lives.

Look around and you’ll see folks like Frank Spence, a Nashville native, former ranking executive of the Atlanta Braves and Atlanta Falcons and the nation’s top authority on Tailgatin.” Bruce Shelton, another Nashville denizen makes a frequent stop here and is one of the top folk art collectors and dealers anywhere. Olivia Thomason, one of America’s top folk artists, came to work on new paintings about the color and spirit of the event.

The countryside is bucolic and this city looks like a priceless painting by Grandma Moses. A tour of the Jack Daniel’s Distillery prompts an urge for a glass of the elixir over some ice and the Bluegrass music inspires some toe-tapping and even Tennessee-style cloggin.’

I come here because I love this place and the people. It’s Americana, Deep South, and historic but very contemporary in its own way. Here, good food, hickory smoke from the hundreds of grills and Tennessee whiskey blend perfectly with a diverse group of people from the earth’s four corners. Laughter, live music, children playing, adults devouring barbecue dominate everything. Good will abounds.

I come to perform my duties as a judge, but I am also here to interview and tell stories in my columns. For a few days each year, there is no better place to be for a curious writer.

NOTE: Read more about The Jack:

Thursday, October 13, 2011




By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA--Autumn just began, and I celebrated with some great wines from this emerging wine-producing nation. A nice afternoon tasting wines at Atlanta’s St. Regis Hotel with winemaker Simon Fell of New Zealand’s Villa Maria Estate provided an introduction into his new Riesling along with New Zealand staples like Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. One thing New Zealand wines have down to perfection is food-friendly wine.

Villa Maria was founded in 1961 and Mr. Fell continues a tradition that led Villa Maria to become a New Zealand wine icon, often pushing the boundaries of winemaking in this country.  Villa Maria was the first wine company in New Zealand sealing all wines from the 2004 vintage onwards with a screw cap and was also the first New Zealand producer to employ professional viticulturists. 

Simon Fell revealed that he sources grapes from New Zealand’s grape growing regions of Marlborough, Hawkes Bay, Gisborne and Waipara and produces wines in Auckland and Marlborough. “The Villa Maria portfolio,” he said, “consists of four wine ranges-our private bin, cellar selection, reserve and single vineyard.” We sampled glasses of wines representing each of the four, pairing them with Deep South gourmet staples including cheeses, soups, scallops and vegetables which showcased the fruit-driven New Zealand style.

Inspired by this delightful experience, and because autumn is here, I asked the accomplished Chef Derek Barnes who owns the award-winning Derek’s Culinary Casual restaurant in Sarasota, Florida to provide an October recipe that pairs with the white wines of New Zealand. From Sauvignon Blanc to newcomers like Riesling and Viognier, you will discover some taste thrills with this combination.

                                        ROASTED PUMPKIN BISQUE
                                           Derek’s Culinary Casual, Sarasota, Florida

3# pie pumpkin, halved, seeded and roasted
4 c. vegetable stock
2 T. aged sherry vinegar
5 T. butter
1 small onion, small dice
5 garlic cloves, minced
¼ t. cloves, ground
¼ t. mace, ground
¼ t. ginger, ground
¼ t. allspice berry, ground
kosher salt & white pepper to taste
1 c. heavy cream
In a medium size soup pot, sauté the onion and garlic cloves in the butter until translucent, about four minutes.  Deglaze the pan with the vegetable stock and the vinegar and add the roasted pumpkin.  Add the spices and simmer for 1 hour.  Take off the stove, purée and add the cream.  Season and enjoy.

NOTE: I will be at the incredible Jack Daniel’s International Barbecue Competition in Lynchburg, TN on Oct. 22, serving as a judge. Stop by and say hello and I’ll introduce you to some of the BBQ champions from Switzerland, Ireland, Canada and the good old USA.
Also, check out

Thursday, October 6, 2011



By Doc Lawrence

LAWRENCEBURG, KENTUCKY—It’s an industry like no other anywhere with roots that predate the Declaration of Independence. Whiskey is in the equation that defines us, right alongside baseball and apple pie. And in the Bluegrass state, Bourbon whiskey is a staple, a popular cultural icon  that rivals Bill Monroe and Bluegrass music and even native son, George Clooney.


 My trip to the great Kentucky distilleries began at Wild Turkey, a colossal operation along the Kentucky River. I sat down for a chat with perhaps the most renowned Bourbon maker on this planet and during some sipping of his different brands of Bourbon, learned enough to keep my spirits and cocktail columns loaded with anecdotes for a long time.

Master Distiller Jimmy Russell has been making Bourbon in Lawrenceburg for 54 years. Growing up just five miles from the distillery, Jimmy followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, learning time-honored traditions and techniques uniquely suited to the heart of bourbon country. He trained under Bill Hughes, Wild Turkey Bourbon’s second master distiller, and Ernest W. Ripy, Jr., the son of the original owners. It’s a small community of men who have mastered bourbon, and within this brotherhood, Jimmy Russell has gained a reputation as “the master distillers’ master distiller.”  From the first selection of grains through the entire distillation and aging process, he has fused experience and wisdom to create the finest examples of America’s spirit.

Loaded with whiskey pedigree, Jimmy Russell  rebuilt George Washington's Mount Vernon
Distillery the way it was in the in the 18th century. Washington had the largest whiskey distillery in the country and under the guidance of Jimmy Russell, the operation is back in business making great rye whiskey. 

A visit with Jimmy Russell at Wild Turkey will, in the words of the old Bluegrass Gospel song, “set your fields on fire.”

Read more about my trip through Kentucky’s Civil War sites at and the story about Florida’s own vodka at

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Mighty Mullet Maritime Festival


By Doc Lawrence

PANACEA, FLORIDA. The Mighty Mullet Maritime Festival is coming up on Saturday, October 29, and it remains one of my favorites. Kids learn how to build a boat, adults gather oysters, and enjoy a seafood cooking demonstration by Florida’s Top Chef John Minas, who heads the culinary program for the governor.

Panacea is just down the road from the Wakulla Springs resort and a short drive from lovely Tallahassee. The purpose of the event is purely beneficial, raising money for a maritime center in this ancient community by the bay while showcasing the very best fresh saltwater fish, Florida mullet, for seafood lovers,. For the uninitiated, mullet is the preferred fish of many great chefs familiar with the best choices from the sea. This fish is a vegetarian and when fried, baked, grilled or smoked, it is truly delicious.

This action-packed day has it all:  maritime history reenactors, displays and presentations, arts and crafts vendors, toe-tapping live music, the crowning of a Festival King and Queen, and (for children) toy boat building, white boot races, live sea encounters, rides, and much more.  Mullet and other great local seafood will be served up by some of the best area restaurants and food vendors.

The all-day Festival begins at 10 a.m. at Panacea's Woolley Park, just off coastal highway 98 on beautiful Dickerson Bay. The event is perfect for families and you will not meet friendlier people or eat more delicious seafood anywhere in the Sunshine State.

I'll be there and can't wait to make new friends.
For further information, visit
For festivals, great restaurants and autumn travel, go to