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30 years of the good, the bad and the weird-as-hell

A special feature to celebrate CL's 30th birthday


Thirty years ago, metro Atlanta moviegoers could choose between a dozen drive-in theaters. Midtown was known as home to massage parlors, head shops and aging hippies.

The mayor was young, Jewish and a honky. And a drive along the 3-year-old I-285 allowed one to count the evening stars and breathe fresh country air.

The point is, a lot can change in three decades.

In 1972, when Creative Loafing was born in a Midtown basement, a popular counterculture mantra warned, "Don't trust anyone over 30." At the time, we probably agreed. Now, well ... we just don't think that old adage makes much sense anymore. Instead, we find ourselves in the "those-who-do-not-know-their-history-are-doomed-to-repeat-it" brigade.

With that in mind, we've come up with a few chapters of history that actually might be kind of fun to repeat -- and a lot more that we'd be pretty happy to forget about. So, in our proud, now 30-year-old tradition of letting it all hang out -- the good, the bad and the weird-as-hell -- here's CL's draft of our slice of Atlanta history.

I love the nightlife
Limelight/Rupert's -- Launched by New York club czar Peter Gatien, the Limelight was the home of '70s disco decadence in Atlanta and the reason old-timers still refer to the supermarket next door as the "Disco Kroger." Who can forget "Bare as you dare" night? In the late '80s, Rupert's picked up without missing a beat as the famed Rupert's Orchestra confided, "I Just Died in Your Arms (Tonight)" and took us "Up Where We Belong."

Petrus/Axys -- Also started by Gatien, Midtown's Petrus was the hippest, hottest dance club in town for gay and straight alike right up until its owner went to the slammer for tax evasion in the early '90s. Axys briefly carried on in similar fashion until it burned. The former theater space has been gloriously resurrected as eleven50.

L5P Community Pub -- When it opened in 1977, it was a symbol of L5P's revival from intown slum to cool cultural melting pot. By the time it closed a decade later, the neighborhood was squarely on its feet and the folk-oriented Pub had helped nurture the Indigo Girls. Now the 9 Lives Saloon.

The Point -- If you loathed the very idea of Buckhead, this divey L5P watering hole and music venue -- specializing in punk and indie rock -- was likely where you'd end up on a Saturday night in the '90s. Arguably, it had the best bathroom graffiti in town.

The Beer Mug -- One of the city's first sports bars, the Beer Mug expanded over its 31 years, eventually becoming a Midtown landmark. Until its 1999 demise, it remained a popular destination, but its plot of real estate overlooking the Brookwood split simply became too tempting to builders.

Yin Yang Cafe -- A stone's throw from the Varsity, Yin Yang felt like a real New York jazz speakeasy, with tables packed in so close together you had to come armed with a strong bladder, and free-wheeling jam sessions that lasted into the wee, wee hours.

Aunt Charley's -- For 20 years, this casual bar at the nexus of Peachtree and Roswell roads served as the unofficial headquarters of the Buckhead Village. Owner Warren Bruno, who also has Va-Hi's Atkins Park, closed it about the time the area was becoming a no-holds-barred meat market.

Stein Club -- Smoky, grubby and utterly without pretension, the tiny Peachtree Street bar provided a cozy refuge from trendiness and posers for nearly 40 years before the walls came down to developers in 2000.

Twelfth Gate Coffee House -- It represented relaxed bohemia in Midtown; Wet Willie played free on Wednesdays. In an old house on 10th Street (now a Domino's), it had a gift shop upstairs for all your counter-cultural needs.

Gene & Gabe's -- For more than 25 years, G&G's weathered the fickle nature of the club business, outlasting contemporaries and competitors with popular cabaret shows -- many starring Libby Whittemore -- and such hits as Della's Diner and Big Hair and Other Teases until the Midtown dinner theater finally was defeated by changing tastes and the IRS. Its space is now occupied by Smith's Olde Bar.

National recognition
Oprah comes to Forsyth -- In the very first show to take place outside her Chicago soundstage, Oprah's "Live from Forsyth County" showed the nation what kind of redneck, racist peckerwoods could still be found in Atlanta's northern suburbs in 1987. Thanks, Op.

Nation's murder capital -- We're No. 1! We nabbed the top spot in 1973 when a record 263 Atlantans got offed, and came back in 1979, bookending a decade in which the ATL edged out the D.C. to hold the title of the country's volume dealer in violent crime. In 1989, the "city too busy to reload" was back on top again; we nearly repeated in '90, but someone else had a particularly bloody year. Lucky stiffs.

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