Friday, April 14, 2017

Apple Pie-A Rite of Passage

~Doc Lawrence~

The stage as a teaching vehicle dates as far back to ancient Greece as playwrights have plucked the family tree for comedy and tragedy. Early Christians used it to spread the Gospel by portraying the sacred stories in Greek amphitheaters. Much of what we know about each other and different cultures is owed to theater. Comedy is the kissing cousin of drama. Pie in the Sky, Art Station’s world premiere production once again makes the case that the arts-inexplicably always under threat-is the core of a civilized society. Diminish the arts even slightly and norms of civility decline.

Where else but the live stage can you examine the complexity of a family while baking a fresh apple pie?

Lawrence Thelen’s Pie In The Sky is a comedy about what happens when the “nesting instinct” is applied to the end of one’s life. Dory, brilliantly performed by Karen Howell lives with her mother Margaret, hilariously portrayed by Barbara Bradshaw. Both are widows sharing a modest home in Abilene, Texas. It’s Dory’s birthday and Mama arises at 4:10 am to start the process of making her recipe apple pie, her gift for Dory. Mama is noisy and very funny.

Dory wakes up and helps Mama, who has her own ways of using ingredients and kitchen implements. At times, there isn’t room for two cooks in the small kitchen. Through razor sharp lines, humor intensifies but is never cruel.

Mother (85) and daughter (65) are widows. Aging and the specter of limited days ahead is a backdrop. There are some family secrets and as the clock (and the oven timer) wind down, the opportunity for transparency is at hand.

Pie in the Sky is the anthesisis of those silly productions commonly named Della. Comedy-the real deal-is challenging and falls flat absent imaginative, creative writing and advanced acting. Thelen’s script as interpreted by these two gifted stage veterans pulls the audience into the kitchen. We revisit our mothers for a few precious moments, remembering that while they were set in their ways, they loved us and made few if any excuses for their slips along the way. They taught us how to be human.

Pie in the Sky is tightly directed by David Thomas, one of the real giants of theater in Georgia. Chad Fenimore’s stage management allowed the genuine aroma of a pie baking in the oven to waft around the audience, leaving them fully entertained, yearning for a slice of homemade apple pie.

Running through April 30. (770) 469.1105; 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Stone Mountain Strong: Evil Loses

-By Doc Lawrence-

Good triumphs over evil. It’s a story you look for and one just manifested in the historic Village of Stone Mountain, the lovely town beside the mighty granite monolith in one of the country’s most visited parks.

Restoration Team Declares Victory
Mindless vandals defaced a magnificent mural hovering protectively above the lovely town since its dedication in late summer of 2012. Yes, the filth and venom painted over the positive images of the city, its churches, cemetery, theater, ancient homes and memorials at first served the intended purpose: revulsion, sadness and deeply felt outrage. There were two choices: paint over the mural and hide the destruction, or, restore it.

One choice would obviously award evil a trophy.

The mural rests along a large wall of a pavilion on one of the most magnificent tracts of greenspace anywhere. The facility and land is owned and maintained by Stone Mountain First Baptist Church, one of Georgia’s oldest congregations. Over the years, the pavilion has hosted dinners, Christmas pageants, free movies for the public and will again be the site of a giant Easter egg hunt for children. The mural chronicles the city’s heritage and is a testament to the power of community.

The Work Begins
The idea for the mural originated with two local leaders who engaged Georgia artist Olivia Thomason, also a city resident, to lead and design the project. Over a period of sweltering summer weeks the mural took shape, with initial painting done by school children throughout the Atlanta region, local citizens, church members with Ms. Thomason always helping and working, often on a scaffold with paints and brushes at her side.

The entire project was a volunteer effort.

The finished mural incorporated the profound humanity of the village. “The painting,” said Ms. Thomason, “was a gift to the city.” In 2012, on a brilliant late summer Sunday, the mural was dedicated with dinner on the grounds, choir music and a speech and prayer by Dr. Dan Parker, an author, revered Baptist minister and close friend of Ms. Thomason. The diverse audience exemplified the majesty of inclusion. Frank Spence, a retired PR executive with the Atlanta Braves and the Atlanta Falcons attended and remembered the mural and dedication ceremony “as the South at its very best.”
2012 Dedication Ceremony

Five years after the dedication, on an early spring day in the Deep South, evil struck out. Sadly, the dark forces will be back somewhere, tossing bricks into a storefront window or a windshield, breaking into homes or desecrating a cemetery. But these good citizens demonstrated how to combat vandalism. You never allow a travesty to prevail. Doing nothing fertilizes evil.

The team of volunteers, David Thomas, Bill Leavell, Michael Hidalgo, City Council member Susan Coletti, Danny Ergle and Olivia Thomason completed the successful restoration and said they enjoyed doing it.

The mural looks even better. A sweet victory.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Nina's Musical Spell On Atlanta-Simply Simone Shines

-By Doc Lawrence-

I came close to meeting Nina Simone who performed in Atlanta for the Atlanta Jazz festival, at Morehouse College and at Chastain three years before her death. That emptiness was finally filled while I, along with a packed house, was immersed in the timely and powerful musical, Simply Simone at Atlanta’s Theatrical Outfit. With 32 songs performed by four very gifted women portraying Nina Simone from her childhood in Tryon, North Carolina to her performances in Carnegie Hall, foreign countries, jazz clubs and the Newport Jazz Festival, we were treated to a tour de force of much of America’s greatest music.

A complex and passionate Nina told the world that she was not a diva, but The Diva. There are four talented actresses portraying Ms. Simone at different stages of her life: Marliss Amiea, Tina Fears, Chani Maisonet and Chelsea Reynolds. The musical review kicks off with the double entrendre-loaded I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl followed by My Baby Just Cares for Me, and then Simone’s best-known song and her first hit recording, the heart-wrenching I Loves You Porgy from Porgy and Bess. And the show was just beginning.
Chani Maisonet as Nina

Nina Simone’s skills as a pianist helped propel her journey from a North Carolina high school to the Julliard School of Music in New York City and later to an audition for the prestigious Curtis Institute where she was rejected for displaying too much emotion, stinging words of prejudice that inflicted emotional injury to the 17 year-old prodigy. Always defiant, Ms. Simone’s Young, Gifted and Black, another hit recording addresses self-confidence despite rejection and ensuing pain, and stirringly introduces a showcase of her determined plunge into music, singing and playing the blues, jazz, gospel and her signature protest songs.

The 1963 bombing of a black church that killed four girls in Birmingham, Alabama, an event that placed Ms. Simone’s voice and star power behind the civil rights movement is described in agonizing detail. The bone-chilling and very provocative Mississippi Goddam, Simone’s response to Birmingham and the murder of Medgar Evers that same year, explodes just before intermission, allowing time to catch a breath and recover some needed equilibrium.

Love me or Leave Me wasn’t composed for Ms. Simone, but when she performed it at the Newport Jazz Festive with a never-to-be equaled piano solo incorporating Mozart and Bach-style counterpoint, the recording stands today as a testament of her capacity to love deeply and never forgive an injury. There is pain on the stage but there triumphant moments of joy as well. Nina Simone was a versatile, virtuoso musician, an American original and a ferociously independent woman.

Beyond the music (the band is flawless), Simply Simone makes the case for the arts in Atlanta, particularly outstanding companies like Theatrical Outfit. On this day, the audience through the auspices of song and dance visited a little girl and a magnificent woman named Nina who expanded the reach of jazz and much of popular music, never hesitating to use her voice as a vehicle for change.

The show leaves the audience dancing and clapping. Nina could express hurt, but she also knew how to stir the spirit.

Created by Robert Neblett and David Grapes, Simply Simone: The Music of Nina Simone is directed and choreographed by Patdro Harris with musical direction by Chika Ma'atunde. Through April 15, 2017 at the Balzer Theater at Herren’s.

Artwork by BreeAnne Clowdus
Photography by Christopher Bartelski

Friday, March 24, 2017

Folk Art In The Sunshine State-Jeanine Taylor Celebrates 20 Years-

 By Doc Lawrence

Original Florida is easy to find. It’s in that vast green prairie with occasional rolling hills interspersed with wetlands, lakes and streams comfortably away from crowded beaches and theme parks. It’s a gentle land where wildlife thrives, coexisting alongside people in picturesque towns with almost endless outdoor recreational opportunities. Here is a unique, deeply embedded culture closely tied to nature featuring big skies, subterranean aquifers, wildlife, literature, music and art.

For those looking for cultural wonders, Florida offers a trove. Art, in particular folk art, symbolically tells so much about the Sunshine State and the Deep South. Jeanine Taylor, a Miami native, was educated at FSU and transitioned from a career in education to owning and managing a successful gallery in Sanford, a lovely town not far from Orlando, but light years away when measured by quiet elegance and charm. Jeanine Taylor Folk Art Gallery occupies a beautiful 100 year-old building and is celebrating a milestone of 20 years. Works by artists who visually tell the world what Florida and the South represent are omnipresent, covering walls, filling display tables, rising from floors and hanging from above. Collectively, they become an indoor rainbow of colors with powerfully positive energy.
"Louie" Guards Thomason's Paintings

Paintings by Atlanta folk artist Olivia Thomason just joined the works of others in Ms. Taylor’s gallery. Some like Missionary Mary Proctor, Ab the Flagman and Eric Legee are also Ms. Thomason’s friends from her days as a gallery owner. An accomplished artist, Thomason has a display case filled with awards including Atlanta’s artist of the year and gallery of the year. Coming to Jeanine Taylor’s gallery in Sanford, she says, “is an exciting opportunity. I want to be around Florida’s authenticity and have a lifelong love of so much of its core culture including legendary authors like Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Zora Neale Hurston.” She added that “knowing and admiring Jeanine Taylor drew me here like a magnet.” 

Jeanine Taylor
Jeanine Taylor says her love of the arts of the region enamored her “with southern art and culture,” leading to the successful establishment of her gallery specializing in contemporary folk art from the Deep South. Ms. Taylor garners praise from high places. GO Inflight, Air Tran’s passenger publication, selected her gallery as one of the “twenty essential galleries in the country” alongside prestigious urban galleries in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Santa Fe and Chicago.

Ms. Thomason, in addition to her awards, has painted poet Carl Sandburg’s home, “Connemara,” a national historic shrine in Flat Rock, NC. Other notable paintings include the billboard greeting Atlanta’s Stone Mountain Park’s 8 million annual visitors. “I’ll always be at heart a country girl and my favorite paintings are based on precious memories from childhood.”

Her memory paintings adorn a lively wall in Jeanine Taylor Folk Art Gallery.

More information: .

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Atlanta's Irish Hero-Father Thomas O'Reilly

By Doc Lawrence

Since childhood days, I’ve known about the incident. Every word is true and remains one of the most fascinating stories I know about the Civil War and St. Patrick’s Day.

Father Thomas O'Reilly
This wasn’t about battlefield courage, a strategy that resulted in a monumental victory, or a stirring, inspirational speech. No, it was about how an Irish immigrant priest acting alone on behalf of God and innocent civilians, confronted a mighty warrior, faced threats of execution squarely in the eye and peacefully won a victory that somehow escaped history books.

A native of County Cavan, Ireland, Thomas O’Reilly, appointed as pastor of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, arrived in Atlanta in 1861. Atlanta was a strategic transportation center for the Confederacy, and in 1864, the Union army, commanded by Gen. William T. Sherman, held Atlanta under siege with intense artillery bombardment. During the horror of Sherman’s extended assault, Father O’Reilly ministered to the wounded and dying of both armies, along
with civilian casualties.

Church of the Immaculate Conception
After the Battle of Atlanta, the city fell and was occupied by Sherman’s army. The decision was made to destroy Georgia’s infrastructure as part of Sherman’s well-known “March to the Sea.” Sherman issued the order for Atlanta to be burned, including all homes and churches. Enraged, O’Reilly gained an audience with Sherman at his headquarters, now the site of the Carter Center and Presidential Library.

The confrontation was unpleasant. O’Reilly, failing in his efforts to persuade Sherman to spare the city, was told by Sherman that he was pondering whether to have the priest summarily executed by firing squad. Undeterred, O’Reilly reminded Sherman that his army was substantially Irish Catholic conscripts who would likely mutiny before burning a Catholic church. O’Reilly also informed Sherman that, in the event of the destruction of churches, he would take official measures to have every Irish Catholic soldier in Sherman’s army excommunicated.

Sherman relented. Although over 5,000 were destroyed, five Atlanta churches were spared: Immaculate Conception, St. Phillips Episcopal, Second Baptist, Trinity Methodist and Central Presbyterian.

Father O'Reilly Memorial
O’Reilly was not executed. Upon his death in 1872 at age 41, he was buried in the basement of his church. A few possessions are on display. His resting place, which may be viewed by appointment, has the feel of a sacred shrine. I have visited there regularly over the years.
Each year, at the end of Atlanta’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, the Hibernian Benevolent Society of Atlanta places a wreath at the memorial for Thomas O’Reilly, which stands on the corner of Atlanta’s city hall. The congregations of the churches he saved erected it long ago.

The courage and tenacity of Father Thomas O’Reilly embody the ecumenical spirit
that continues to define Atlanta an international beacon for human rights.

                                      Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

An Evening At Sassy's-A Gem In a Historic Village-

By Doc Lawrence

Joan Monroe With Her New Works
STONE MOUNTAIN, GA-Sassy’s is one of those welcoming places where you want to hang out. Joan Sharpe’s highly regarded creation is housed in a stately historic building made with granite from nearby Stone Mountain. Entering on this lovely late winter evening was a step into a fairyland of happy people literally surrounded by paintings, good books, jewelry, designer dresses and most anything else that stimulates the imagination.

Olivia Thomason (L), Joan Sharpe and Aalaia Foreman
This was Sassy’s sneak preview, a festive celebration that included the unveiling of new paintings by the accomplished artist Joan Monroe whose works adorn a red wall in one of Sassy’s rooms. “This is art you can use,” Ms. Monroe explained, noting that the clocks with brightly colored animals represented a new challenge beyond her popular paintings on silk. “I am very pleased with the results.”

Olivia Thomason, another well-known artist, said the works by Joan Monroe reminded her of a legendary artist: “I thought of Andy Warhol and the use of colors in some of his best known works like Marilyn Monroe. I love Joan’s new works.”

Andy Warhol's Marilyn Monroe
The visitors browsed through the rooms examining jewelry, books, and a potpourri of interesting items including eye-catching clothing for women, costume jewelry, shelves of collectible books and a cornucopia of unusual items that would make memorable gifts. The festive atmosphere was boosted by servings of wines and sangria, a prelude to the longer and more relaxed days of springtime just ahead.

Sassy’s is impossible to miss. Located at 975 Main Street in the Historic Village of Stone Mountain, you’ll find Joan Sharpe to be the accomplished hostess who immediately makes strangers feel like close friends. The selections are vast, varied and interesting. Prices are very reasonable (I am a happy customer) and when you see that glorious red wall with the colorful works by Joan Monroe, you will want to stay a little longer.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dr. King-Requiem for a Wine Taster

 By Doc Lawrence

It’s one of the most fascinating stories about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Imagine a chance meeting between a global champion of human rights, and a racist former governor of Georgia at a wine store near the state capital building in Atlanta. And all this during the heyday of segregation on the eve of the civil rights revolution. Add the presence of a Pulitzer-Prize winning newspaper editor and the host, a progressive, well-educated wine shop owner who would become the father of fine wines in the South.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. walked into Sanders Wines to buy a good bottle of wine to celebrate his marriage anniversary dinner at home. Already there was former governor Marvin Griffin, a highly public adversary and outspoken critic of King and Ralph McGill, editor of The Atlanta Constitution (now AJC). Jim Sanders preserved the story in a copyrighted manuscript he gave me just prior to his death in 1999.

Sanders, who earned a Master’s in English from Emory University, had a small room in the rear of his wine shop where a select few would be invited to sit, talk, sip and eat, a tradition Sanders maintained without interruption until his death.

Dr. King would soon join in the wine enjoyment and conversation. After a glass or two of fine French Burgundy, tensions dissolved, replaced with good-humored storytelling.

Here is my radio broadcast and podcast based entirely on Sanders’ spellbinding manuscript, “Requiem for Three Wine Tasters” which you can enjoy:

Listen and feel the earth tremble.

Monday, February 20, 2017

What Would George Do?

A President’s Day Observance

By Doc Lawrence
It’s the perfect day to ponder the life and times of George Washington, the undisputed Father of America. A fascinating man: Soldier, gentleman, leader and whiskey maker. Your trip to Washington’s Mount Vernon home just outside the nation’s capital is culturally enriching. Tour and relive vicariously daily life at the farm and distillery. You can even purchase a bottle of George Washington Rye Whiskey for around $100 dollars, made, of course, in accordance with our first president’s formula.

Nan Marshall and Helen Broder’s What Would George Do? Advice from our Founding Father (Pelican Publishing 2013) is my trusted guide for daily behavior. Inspired by Washington’s use of 110 Rules and Decent Behavior copied during his school days from a Jesuit publication, the formidable mother-daughter pair of steel magnolias provided me with a reference when I need reminding (almost daily) of how to conduct myself and the respect others are due from me no matter the situation or circumstance.

This authors apply easy to use wisdom to common situations where guidance is often quite handy.

Several presidents have left a legacy of culture, daring and even a little romance. Those who have visited Monticello in Charlottesville learned that Jefferson was more than the author of the Declaration of Independence. Add farmer, college founder, entertainer and wine collector to his accomplishments. FDR’s favorite picnic location, Dowdell’s Knob on Georgia’s Pine Mountain has a spectacular view and it’s easy to visualize Roosevelt enjoying martinis and food which he regularly shared with friends. Each visit to the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach inspires a vision of an evening in Camelot admiring Jack and Jackie on the dance floor.

Today, I will uncork that bottle of Washington’s Rye Whiskey, pour a couple of jiggers in an Old Fashioned glass, and toast to our first president in gratitude for his devotion to good manners, love of country, excellent whiskey, generosity and dignity.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Judy Garland and Bette Midler On Stage-

Somewhere Over The Rose Sparkles

                                   Reviewed by Doc Lawrence

Music has the transcendent power to stimulate emotions. Love is more than a word when part of a song that is totally associated with a particularly accomplished singer. Judy Garland’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and Bette Midler’s “The Rose,” forever belong to them as extensions of their everlasting souls. Kathy Halenda’s performance of the show she created, Somewhere Over The Rose, at Stone Mountain’s heralded ART Station Theatre brings the timeless songs of these two legends to the stage and for two hours, Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz,” and Janis from “The Rose” were there in spirit, serenading a very receptive audience.

Somewhere Over the Rose is described as a celebration of the songs, styles and stories of these two incredible yet completely different American icons. Judy Garland, whose life and career was plagued with tragedy, is long gone while Bette Midler is, to say the least, still with us, outrageously entertaining and refreshingly unpredictable. Bejeweled Kathy Halenda, dressed in sequined costumes, asks the question: what could these two stars possibly have in common? Her answers include timeless songs propelled by her amazing mezzo voice, fascinating stories, similarities and a few coincidences that take you on a sophisticated and sassy adventure.

Opening with a Judy Garland classic, “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart,” from the movie “Listen, Darling” (1938), the lyrics introduce with a little irony, the singer/actress:

Never could carry a tune, never knew where to start
You came along when everything was wrong and put a song in my heart
Dear when you smiled at me, I heard a melody
It haunted me from the start
Something inside of me started a symphony
Zing! Went the strings of my heart.

 Bette Midler is seamlessly juxtaposed with Ms. Garland. To this day, Ms. Midler excels on the screen, belts out classic recordings like “From A Distance,” and leaves concert audiences breathless. There are heartless demons around both and in Ms. Garland’s case, they overwhelmed her at the tender age of 47. Midler, who eschews boundaries, has dealt with hers and remains as irreverent and gloriously independent as any superstar around today.

As the first verse of  “The Rose” began, there was a measurable sigh from the audience:

Its the heart afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance
Its the dream afraid of waking, that never takes the chance
Its the one who won't be taking, who cannot seem to give
And the soul afraid of dying, that never learns to live.

Many remember ART Station’s raucous production of Sophie Tucker: Last of the Red Hot Mama’s also starring Kathy Halenda. Somewhere Over The Rose is equally entertaining and more nostalgic. There are moments of hilarity, but the songs take us back to special memories indelibly fixed in American culture. To no one’s surprise, Patrick Hutchcison’s rich piano accompaniment is flawless.

Kathy Halenda took a moment during her performance to ask that we reflect an important message in “From a Distance,” a Bette Midler signature song: “God is watching us.” Indeed.

Continuing through February 22. 770-469-1105;

Monday, February 13, 2017

LOST IN THE COSMOS-The Last Self Help Seminar

Reviewed by Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA-Walker Percy remains one of the influential voices of Southern literature. One of his important books, Lost in the Cosmos was adapted for the stage by Tom Key and is now being performed at the amazing Balzer Theatre at Herren’s, home to Theatrical Outfit, which continues its mission of presenting the best stories from the South.

In partnership with Dad’s Garage Theatrical Company, Key’s adaptation, a consolidation of his strengths as a playwright, stays true to Percy, asking us to imagine earthlings transported to a faraway planet with intelligent life: Would they be accepted or banned as a threat to a more evolved universe?

To know Walker Percy’s works is to plunge into the adventure of existentialism, a literary and philosophical world commonly associated with the likes of Jean-Paul Satre and Simone de Beauvoir. Percy who spend a good deal of his youth in Athens, Georgia, has been described as a “Dixie Kierkegaard,” and until his death in 1990, was widely admired for the success of his novels that embodied one of the major tenants of existentialism as a driving concern for human freedom and the consequences that accompany efforts to attain it.

The last self-help seminar begins with the cast searching the audience for a subject. After elimination, one person is selected and the process begins. It takes a while to get on board, but the script is generally light hearted and liberally salted with bon mots and hilarity. The second half is a journey into the greater universe and a closer look at our planet; an exploration for a better society. Ultimately, there are two simple choices, but like all tomorrows, there are perceived risks.

Don’t we face choices almost daily that include unknowns? Are we to be cosigned to a status quo based on fear? Have we allowed current events to undermine our faith and self-confidence?

Ultimately, we will make choices and even the most insignificant may alter everything. A move from Atlanta to rural Tennessee is loaded with unknowns. Relocating to Mars with Elon Musk’s project to establish a colony would surely mean no return.

Tightly directed by Kevin Gillese, the performances are at times spellbinding. Bart Hansard as Derek, the seminar maestro, leads the tour de force. With cameo appearances from imaginary TV hosts and one mindless tweet from a buffoon, there’s more than enough to demonstrate how well humor and irony fit seamlessly into Southern storytelling. It’s part of the fabric that makes us so darn mysterious.

Running through February 26.

Images by Christopher Bartelski and BreeAnne Clowdus Photography. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Valentine's Day Chocolates

FREDERICKSBURG, Texas-- Located in this lovely town deep in the heart of Texas’ fabled Hill Country, Quintessential Chocolates is keeping pace with the Valentine’s Day gift demand for the handcrafted liquid center chocolates that have won accolades throughout North America. For the uninitiated, the company founded and operated by Lecia Duke remains the only chocolatiér in America to use the centuries-old process known as Liqueur Praliné.

The big question hovering over those who really embrace the meaning of Valentine’s Day is what to give a friend or lover that is original and coveys deep feelings of affection? Begin with red roses and Champagne. Add a gift box of hand crafted chocolates embraced in stunning packaging and you have it: A unique troika that symbolizes everlasting love.

Ordering is easy. Just go to the website pick out a romantic item and place your order. Tell them Doc sent you.  

Coming soon, The Chocolate Queen of Texas, a delicious biography. Fall 2017.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Michael David Winery Supports Wildlife Sanctuary

Michael David Winery, one of my favorites, donated $25,000 to PAWS (The Performing Animal Welfare Society) to bring awareness and education to this great organization.  As part of their marketing efforts, Michael David Winery has tied two of their more eye-catching labels, Freakshow and Petite Petit, to help promote the program nationally.                

"As animal lovers, it's a great opportunity to team up with PAWS and help them in their crusade to rescue and provide a voice for these animals that are treated unfairly.  Since our early years as a winery we have supported PAWS, and I'm glad to see that continue to this day," says winery spokesperson Melissa Phillips Stroud. For more than 30 years, PAWS has been at the forefront of efforts to rescue and provide humane sanctuary for retired or abandoned performing animals.  They provide these animals the space, natural habitat and quality of care which they deserve. 
"We have valued our long-standing community relationship with the Phillips family.  The generous support from Michael David Winery will be put to work immediately at our ARK 2000 caring for our rescued elephants, tigers, bears, and other animals," says Ed Stewart, PAWS co-founder and President.

Owned by brothers Michael and David Phillips, they have built their Lodi winery into one of the fastest growing wineries in the United States.  They pride themselves on their meticulous farming practices and sustainable wine grape growing, which result in superior quality in the bottle.

You’ll find their wines in countless restaurants and wine shops throughout the South. Never poured any bottle with their label that wasn’t terrific with good food.

                                                     By Doc Lawrence

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Chef Lara Lyn Carter's Superbowl Recipes-

 Dirty Bird Favorites & Hot Julio Cocktails

Houston is one of my favorite cities. A major arts center, international leader in advanced medical research and so friendly (as is all of Texas). There’s good food and fabulous music: Bob Wills is still the king.

It’s my birthday weekend and instead of being in Houston, I’m having family and friends over to celebrate the Atlanta  Falcons and their successful quest for the vaunted Lombardi Trophy.

We eat and drink in the spirit of the spectacle and grandeur. Sometime the game becomes a backdrop for fabulous food, spectacular cocktails and wonderful wines. This is the day Americans throw a big party.

Chef Lara Lyn Carter has been dubbed by Canadian media as “Georgia’s Golden Girl,” and she is also a devoted Falcons fan. Who else would I turn to for Superbowl food?

Matty Ice Gourmet Crab Dip

Chef Lara Lyn Carter

2 cups sweet onion chopped
½ cup red pepper chopped
½ cup green pepper chopped
2 cups of grated Swiss cheese
2 cups of mayonnaise
1 lb. lump crabmeat
1 tbsp. fresh limejuice
1 tsp. fresh dill chopped finely

Mix all of the ingredients together and pour into a buttered baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.
I use Vidalia onions when they are available for this recipe. However, you may use any sweet onion available.

Jack Daniel’s Dirty Bird Baked Beans 

Chef Lara Lyn Carter

1 lb. dry kidney beans
1 sweet onion quartered
4 quarts of water divided
Soak beans in 2 quarts of water overnight. Drain beans and discard the water. In a large pot, cook beans and onion in 2 quarts of water over medium-high heat for 45 minutes. Remove beans from heat, cover and allow beans to rest for 30 minutes.
1/2 cup sorghum
1/2 cup ketchup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground clove
3 tbsp. Jack Daniel’s Whiskey
In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sorghum, ketchup, brown sugar, salt, ginger, clove, and whiskey. Stir constantly until all of the ingredients have blended well and the sugar has dissolved. Pour beans with the water in a Dutch oven and pour sauce over beans and stir well. Cover beans and bake at 325 degrees for 3 hours.

Victory Shrimp Tacos & Spicy Slaw

           Chef Lara Lyn Carter
6 pounds of medium wild Georgia shrimp peeled and deveined
2 tbsp. olive oil2 tsp. salt
8 small soft flour tortillas
1 bag of premade slaw
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp. garlic minced
1⁄2 cup chopped scallions
2 tbsp. Creole mustard
1 tbsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. lemon juice
Toss shrimp with olive oil and salt and pour on baking sheet. Roast at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes until just done.
Combine mayonnaise, garlic, scallions, mustard, lemon zest and juice together. Pour over slaw and toss to combine.
Warm tortillas and fill with shrimp and slaw mixture. You can add hot sauce if you like. 


Stay tuned for the introduction of a signature libation, the Hot Julio. Serve with a napkin imprinted with the warning that some will  find this too hot to handle.

An array of white and red with the centerpiece selection the 2012 North by Northwest Syrah, a winning wine for the victorious Atlanta Falcons.


Sunday, January 29, 2017


Fans will be relieved to learn that next Sunday’s championship showdown popularly known as the Superbowl will lack the suspense of waiting for an outcome. I’ve done a survey of trusted sources and the consensus, not surprisingly, favors the Atlanta Falcons by a comfortable margin.

Coach Curley Burnell, long retired but still closely observing the game he loves, serves as a source for many sports interests who make it their business to know as much as possible about the skills and realistic potential of top teams. “I’m going with Julio Jones and Matt Ryan,” says the jovial retiree. “Having them paired with that impressive running game makes them way too formidable.”

“New England,” adds Wade Steefel, a longtime sports writer now retired in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, “is a little old now and I don’t think they can keep up with Atlanta to the end.” Steefel is a Patriots fan, but cautions that he is also “a realist.”

The most reliable prediction comes from Foster, my grandson, a sports fanatic and devotee of the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Falcons. Over the years, he’s called out the winners with eerily accurate score predictions. His crystal ball reading for next Sunday's big game: Atlanta 42, New England 33.

Count on it.

                     By Doc Lawrence 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

RISE UP-Championship Football, Nat King Cole, Lewis Grizzard & Atlanta Dining Adventures

Atlanta, for all the growth and diversity, still places Southern hospitality at the top of how we welcome guests. We’re friendly & generous, always willing to provide guidance and reliable suggestions. Our town is a major arts center, unchallenged as the South’s leader and the restaurants here attract international acclaim. Before the big game is played Sunday afternoon, there’s time to really enjoy a sample of what makes Atlanta such a terrific place to visit.

Just a short distance from the Georgia Dome, the Rialto Center for the Performing Arts presents a tribute Saturday evening to Nat King Cole by Ramsay Lewis and John Pizzarella. During the day, you can visit the College Football Hall of Fame, the memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and tour the National Center for Human and Civil Rights.

Dining choices are staggering. Go to Amazon and get your copy of Culinary Atlanta, produced by Malika Bowling our resident food authority. It’s loaded with reliable and very current descriptions of the best of the best including Ponce City Market along with hundreds of others. Ponce is a showcase of urban preservation and restoration with dozens of restaurants, shops, interesting locals; an experience you’ll take back home with pleasant memories.

Lewis Grizzard, a native son, left us in the 90’s, but Hollywood actor Bill Oberst, Jr. brilliantly revives his legacy of humor and solid Southern storytelling on the stage of Art Station Theatre, adjacent to Georgia’s top tourist attraction, Stone Mountain Park. Tickets available at A visit there includes a tour of the stunning exhibition of folk art, “My Southern Memories,” the paintings of Olivia Thomason.

Bill Oberst, Jr. as Lewis Grizzard
“Rise Up” was introduced to the world in Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. We’ve adopted it here in many ways. One includes the cheering on our Atlanta Falcons. We invite you to join in as we chant this on Sunday afternoon before, during and after the championship game.

Enjoy Atlanta. Welcome to the South’s Renaissance City.

 By Doc Lawrence

Folk Art by Olivia Thomason

Monday, January 16, 2017

Dr. King's Gethsemane: "The Mountaintop."

By Doc Lawrence

LAWRENCEVILLE, GA-The stunningly powerful production at the Aurora Theatre of Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop is set in Memphis on the final night of Dr. Martin Luther King’s life. Can a civil right’s icon accept the inevitability of his ending the next day? How far will faith carry a man about to enter the valley of the shadow? Will death’s blow be painful? Is fear fairly allowed for a man who has encouraged his followers to rise up against injustice and confront danger?

It’s the night of April 3, 1968. The stage is a duplicate of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis and the door to the balcony that will soon become the platform for Dr. King’s fatally wounded body is eerily authentic.

Prior to calling his wife in Atlanta, Dr. King searches his room for FBI surveillance bugs, and then orders coffee from room service. The maid, Camae, dutifully enters with a fresh pot. For an hour and a half, the colloquy between Camae and Dr. King covers the past and present events in King’s dangerous confrontations with established power. The future for him, however, will be witnessed from heaven, the fulfillment of his speech where he revealed his vision of the mountaintop where he saw the Promised Land.

While everyone will face death, few who are otherwise vibrant and healthy would be spared the fear of life ending. Joan of Arc in Bernard Shaw’s Saint Joan knows she will be executed but is afraid of fire. Dr. King, who is working on a speech that he will not be able to deliver, understandably wants to complete his work. But, there will be no more marches or even the opportunity for a final embrace of his wife and children. In The Mountaintop, Memphis almost becomes a version of the New Testament story of Gethsemane. 

Neal Ghant’s powerful interpretation of Martin Luther King, Jr. is balanced brilliantly with the spellbinding performance of Cynthia D. Barker’s Camae. Throughout the exchanges with King, she adds extra energy and more than a little hilarity in the motel room during her first day of a new job. Both have their own mission dramatically revealed as the audience witnesses the tour de force of a journey along a preordained path.

Playwright Katori Hall presents Dr. King as a man no different than others. “The scars of his humanity,” he explains, “are what makes his achievements all the more remarkable. It lets us off the hook to deify him. There is greatness in all of us. We can carry on his dream.’

The Mountaintop is more than a masterful blending of acting, direction and production. It takes the bloodstained baton of the unfinished struggle for justice, dropping it on the battleground. We are free to embrace it and make it our own if we dare assume the risk.

Through February 12. . (678) 226.6222 

Sunday, January 8, 2017


By Doc Lawrence

ATLANTA-I saw him perform twice, both times just before he took off like a Rocket 88. On one fine day before his show in Atlanta’s Fabulous Fox Theatre, I actually met Elvis in the lobby of the regal Georgian Terrace Hotel as he was talking to the most beautiful girl I ever saw. Very approachable and friendly, Elvis asked me my name and introduced me to his friend, Carole Joyner, who I later learned was part of the duo that composed a mega-hit, “Young Love.”

When I heard his sing “Mystery Train,” and “Baby Let’s Play House,” I proudly admit that I lost my innocence. Paul McCartney, John Lennon and Bob Dylan pretty much said that Elvis had this same effect on them.  I still believe that Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Hank Williams and Merle Haggard came in on a spaceship, did their duty magnificently, and returned to their home in a faraway paradise.

My image of Elvis is frozen into those moments just before fame and fortune: A supremely gifted young man blessed with Hollywood good looks who, on stage, electrified an audience. It was totally unimportant that some thought he was too sexy. I wanted him to be wilder and more uncontrolled.
Elvis at the Fabulous Fox

Elvis was a music man. His early recordings on Sun Records have, in my opinion, no genuine counterpart. The songs are real, rugged and raw and oh, so Southern.

Along with millions of fans, I understood then and now the power of rock and roll. For those baby days of unbridled joy, I feel a debt to Elvis. He didn’t invent rock, but he sure brought in into my Atlanta home before I could drive a car, join the army or vote.

Happy Birthday to the King.

Thursday, January 5, 2017


By Doc Lawrence

Bill Oberst, Jr. as Lewis Grizzard

STONE MOUNTAIN, GA-The grand Southern humor writer would be 70. After his death in 1994, few newspapers have humor columns. The exception would be the splendid Miami Herald with Carl Hiassen and Dave Barry. For a few years, we had Georgia’s homegrown Lewis Grizzard, who had readers and live audiences howling with laughter as he told good stories, pausing occasionally to stick a hairpin in a bloated politician. Lewis was irreverent, loaded with one-liners, a worthy descendant of Southern humorists like Brother Dave Gardner.

Bill Oberst, Jr., the distinguished Hollywood actor, has taken the role of Lewis Grizzard to the live stage for two decades with performances throughout the country and here at the Fabulous Fox Theatre and Art Station, the cultural treasure in
Historic Stone Mountain Village. The South Carolina native reprises his stage performance as Lewis, “In His Own Words,” on January 21, 22 and 23 at Art Station.

Lewis Grizzard literally took fried green tomatoes to another level after the hit movie of the same name, declaring in a column that the best tasting version was served at Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle, Georgia. Almost instantly, the number of diners expanded exponentially. Ever provocative, he advised his audience to avoid eating barbecue in North Carolina, described Clemson as Auburn with a lake and tormented the wonderful girls of Alabama with stories about beehive hairdos.

Bill Oberst’s portrayal conveys Grizzard’s deep loyalty to the University of Georgia, Lewis’ alma mater, the Atlanta Braves and most things Southern. For those who relocated to Atlanta and gratuitously complained that things were better in cities they hailed from, particularly Chicago, he advised, “Delta is ready when you are.”

Lewis often said that “there is no such thing as being too Southern,” and that the only way Coca-Cola could be improved is to “put rum or bourbon in it.” One of Lewis top tales was Sherman’s unsuccessful attempt to remove a Confederate soldier positioned high up on Stone Mountain.

 Bill Oberst, Jr. will take you back to those halcyon days when we opened the newspaper at first light to the column that made us laugh, often at ourselves.

Humor is in the DNA of Southern daughters and sons. Lewis will help cure those winter blues. Count on it.

For tickets, contact Art Station at; (770) 469.1105