Another One Bites the Dust

It’s St. Patrick’s Day and I’m not down the pub. What’s wrong with me?! Nothing. Much like New Year’s Eve, St. Patrick’s Day is best left to amatuers; I attained pro status far too many years ago. Marathon drinking sessions at bars and pubs tend to lead to what I like to call a “How Soon is Now?” situation. I don’t really like to use that term, it’s just how they end up. That being said, I would have liked to have gone out today, for nothing is more Irish than a sad drunk.

And humiliation is a visual medium.

The Atlanta Film Festival starts this weekend, and I won’t be attending that either. I would like to see Jef Bredemeier’s documentary about the last days of the legendary Buckhead restaurant: Dante’s Down the Hatch. I never made it to Dante’s because I didn’t go to Prom. It was the popular place to take Prom dates, since nothing says “grown up” more than fondue. Yeah, it was a fondue joint, but it was kind of awesome.

The owner, Dante Stephensen, was an ecclectic fellow, and Down the Hatch reflected that. There was a moat filled with crocodiles. Real. Live. Crocodiles. No joke. There are all sorts of legends about the place, most of them invented by Dante, but that doesn’t make them not true.

Dante’s started out in the original Underground Atlanta in the early 70s, then moved to Buckhead a few years later. Back in the day, Undergound Atlanta was the sort of place your parents warned you about. It must have been so cool. It was rebooted in the 80s as a more “family friendly shopping experience,” in one of the city’s many failed attempts to fix something that wasn’t broken. And nothing says “family friendly” more than a Koala Blue, if that helps to explain how dire things were, and still are, in the ATL.

Dante opened a second location in Underground 2.0 in the late 80s, and it closed about a decade later. By then, the damage had been done. Undergound was now nothing more than another mall with a Warner Bros. store, and was no longer a destination for drinkers, partyers, and people on their way to and from the Omni for concerts and sporting events.

I think I went into Dante’s at Underground once, but I cannot say for certain. It was the 90s. Say no more.

Downtown Atlanta moved the party North to Buckhead. And Buckhead has been trying to drive it back South ever since.

I read today that the Garden Hills Cinema is about to be demolished . . . At last. I’ve been expecting this for quite a while, since it’s been closed for almost a decade. Then there was a fire in the strip where it’s located, late in 2013. If it weren’t for the reasons I listed, I am certain that the people who run Buckhead would have found a reason to tear it down, because they love to destroy the things I enjoy.

Garden Hills Cinema was built in 1939, and was Atlanta’s home for independent, foreign, and art films. I only went there once, and have vivid memories of the place, despite the fact it was in the 90s, during the heyday of independent cinema. I am glad I went, and now I wish that I would have gone more often.

Oh. What was the film I saw at Garden Hills Cinema? The one that compelled me to drive all the way to Buckhead? The one I couldn’t wait until it came out on VHS to watch; it had to be in a theatre? That film was Clerks. Now, I’ll leave you with the final line from the movie:

“Hey! You’re closed.”


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