Pretty Southern

What does it mean to be a Southerner in the 21st century?

December 2012 archive

Top 12 of 2012

Here’s to…well…365 days of anything goes. Perhaps all of America can agree: 2012 was a year of uncertainty. What would happen if the Republicans win the Presidency? How bad will the economy plummet if President Obama is re-elected? Why did Miley do that to her hair? And who is this Skrillex and how does his so-called music win awards?

Thank you, Jesus, the world did not end! We as a nation have a renewed sense of hope for the coming year. The country isn’t going to plummet off some fiscal cliff (at least not tonight) so we can all go out and party. Although 2012 was filled with its trials, we were privileged to attend a lot of neat events celebrating the simple art of having fun. For those who are ready to say “buh-bye” to this crazy year, these are our Top 12 moments of 2012.

1. This spring, Zoo Atlanta opened its own behind-the-scenes tour appropriately named Wild Encounters where guests have the rare opportunity to pet an elephant, outstretch lettuce leaves to giraffes, and even feed a Komodo dragon

This little gent was thrilled to check out an elephant up close.

2. Taste of Atlanta rocked the palettes of thousands of foodies from near-and-far for its 11th year in a row. For three days full of culinary delights, chefs from the city’s premier restaurants brought their A-game to citizens of the A-town. Our favorite part of the long-food-coma-of-a weekend was The Big Grill kick off on Friday night. Which brings us into more foodie fun with…

3. Ecco – a lovely establishment – got the gumption to build its own rooftop garden in the heart of Midtown Atlanta. They recently installed eight new cedar beds with “cold frame” structures on the roof allowing a larger variety of produce to be grown…even in the winter time. All year-round, this restaurant celebrates the art of Italian cuisine while adding in its own unique Southern flavor. Whether it was locally grown squash blossoms (picked fresh then fried to perfection), homemade pastas prepared daily, or using herbs grown on their own roof, Ecco was truly a Garden of Eatin’.

4. Czar Ice Bar opened its doors to quickly become the coolest hot spot in the Buckhead Bar Triangle. With more than 300 different house-infused vodkas (even Krispy Kreme donuts and Skittle flavors) and the tastiest sushi this side of the Mason Dixon line from renowned Master Sushi Chef Saito Saito. His newest seafood creation is the Mango Roll with shrimp tempura and crab, flash fried then topped with fresh mango and drizzled with a sweet and sour sauce…yum!

5. Bantam + Biddy opened its doors for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Midtown. Chef Shaun Doty (of Shaun’s and Yeah Burger) and his partner Lance Gummere (formerly of The Shed @ Glenwood) presented Atlantans with a new fast-casual concept featuring locally pastured and all-natural poultry plus tons of other fresh Southern flavors. And they’re open tomorrow for New Year’s Day. A Bee’s Knees cocktail (featured left) is sure to kill that post NYE hangover along with a generous helping of pimento cheese and savory chicken livers on toasted French baguette.

Special thanks also goes to Melissa Libby PR (especially Miss Mandy Betts!), The Rosen Group, and Eskimo Advertising for the opportunity to feature these incredible restaurants. We look forward to future collaboration in 2013.

6.. While we’re fat and happy after eating our way through 2012, we also discovered even more amazing local businesses along the way. A few of our favorites were the 20-something Carolina gents handcrafting their own pens, the Mississippi Gift Company shipping Southern sweet treats ’round the nation, Cathead Vodka’s amazing honeysuckle libation, and of course The Rowdy Gentleman was there to provide “polite” party gear.

Entrepreneurs Bart Creasman and Cass Baltz relax over pints

7. Pretty Southern gained a bevvy of new contributors including Jennifer Eubanks – who covered the Southeastern Soup Challenge with Souper Jenny herself plus enjoyed the delicious flavors of Alpine Bakery & Trattoria - and rising journalism star Adam Carlson who sat down with Linda Gray and Josh Henderson to discuss their remake of DALLAS. We also enjoyed the work of Karen Hatchett who braved the masses of DragonCon, watched the Margaret Mitchell Square gain a new monument, and helped promote the Atlanta Jazz Festival then shared her lovely stories with Pretty Southern.

8. For those who don’t know, Google has an office in Midtown Atlanta, and the folks there set up some cool Hangouts this year. Because of their innovation, Pretty Southern was privileged to interview Stephen Chbosky, the writer and director of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”. We connected with the New York Public Library (who hosted the event with Google) and were reminded of the fantastic line “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Remember that for 2013, folks.

Emily Giffin poses with the Southern Color and Pretty Southern bloggers

9. Also in literary news, Pretty Southern was attend our first book party! A reception in honor of Atlanta-based author Emily Giffin was hosted at The W Atlanta – Buckhead to celebrate her new book Where We Belong. The party featured cocktails from new local-favorite Vixen vodka and special thanks to Allied Public Relations for including Pretty Southern on the guest list for all their fabulous events in 2012.

10. In sad news, we can’t move on from 2012 without saying goodbye one last time. Journalists around the world lost a mentor in Professor Conrad Fink. For those students who were privileged to sit at his long conference table in the hallowed halls of The Grady College at UGA, we lost out favorite teacher. Fink’s legacy spans more than 60 years as a writer, and three decades of teaching the “rascals” of the world how to piece together a decent story.

11. We also have to mention The Red & Black walkout. As Polina Marinova (Editor of UGA’s newspaper) contributed to Pretty Southern this summer, we were shocked the evening of Aug. 15 when we read on our collective Facebook news feed that the editorial staff walked out. That’s the simple power of social media folks. Marinova had the gumption to call foul when she was informed she would no longer maintain the final editorial control of her student newspaper. She and her team of student staff writers took to the Web to let their voices be heard and they set off a media firestorm. Less than a week later, Marinova was back in her well-deserved office. Plus The Red & Black took home several Pacemaker awards (the top prizes for collegiate journalism).

The gals of Sh%t Southern Women Say

12. And finally, to round out our expression of First Amendment Right to Freedom of Speech, Sh%t Southern Women Say went viral on the Web with 3 MILLION hits! Julia Fowler and her posse of pretty Southern ladies on the West Coast recorded the best one-liners ever uttered with such a sweet drawl. They even posted Round 2 for your enjoyment. We hope to see more from the Southern Women Channel in 2013.

There’s something folks out there love about our unique vocabulary in the South. Words Only Southerners say has garnered more than 50 comments since we posted it last year. We feel another batch is coming up soon, especially if Lord-willing the Falcons make it to the Super Bowl. Speaking of which, pick up your “I AM ATL” shirts here.

Thank you to all of y’all for reading Pretty Southern this year. We promise even more fun to come in 2013.

P.S. Photo credit to The St. Regis Atlanta for the featured cocktail photo. Cheers y’all!

Bantam + Biddy

Forget Chick-Fil-A because Atlanta has a brand new option for delicious chicken…and it’s healthy for you too. Bantam and Biddy, a fast casual chicken restaurant concept from Shaun Doty (of Shaun’s and Yeah Burger fame) is now open for business in the Ansley Mall. This new Midtown establishment has the potential to be both a destination dining experience and also a neighborhood joint where families can eat or get food to go. Doty (featured above) and his partner Lance Gummere (formerly of the The Shed at Glenwood) are birds of a feather sharing passions for locally pastured and all-natural poultry, plus seasonal, organic veggies and other regional fare.

Start with the Bee’s Knees cocktail: a delightful concoction of gin and juices. It’s pink, and it tastes pink, which makes this drink about as Pretty Southern as gin can get! Along with a cool cocktail list, there’s a decent selection of wine and craft beer. For appetizers, we sampled the Pimento Cheese and Chopped Chicken Livers.

For an entree, the pesto penne topped with roasted chicken is sure to please. Other fantastic menu options include a Meat & Three combination. We recommend the half-rotisserie chicken served with sides such as duck fat fries, Brussell sprouts, and creamy mac & cheese. Some other favorite items on the old Shaun’s menu have also made an appearance, including the schnitzel. Bantam + Biddy is also now serving breakfast!

But don’t forget dessert! There’s a lovely case proffering mini pies in a variety of flavors including Cherry, Lemon Meringue and the Banoffee (banana caramel toffee). Bantam + Biddy is already so good there are even rumors of a second location at Atlantic Station (eta to open in early 2013). For more information on Bantam + Biddy, Like them on Facebook PLUS claim their offer for a free chocolate chip pecan OR gluten free chocolate chip while supplies last.

Perks of Being a Wallflower

In the fall of 2012, Pretty Southern was privileged to interview Stephen Chbosky, author of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”. This best-selling novel was translated to film this year, which the author was also able to adapt to screenplay and direct himself. “Perks” is a story of three friends coming into their own starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller. After 15-year-old Charlie (Lerman) is taken under the wings of two seniors, Sam (Watson) and Patrick (Miller), who help guide him to “the real world”, Charlie ends up falling in love with Sam. Simultaneously, he is struggling to cope after the suicide of his best friend, (plus his own mental illness) while fighting the unrequited battle in high school of finding true friends. The introvert freshman is perhaps the mouthpiece of Chbosky’s own quest to discover meaning in a cruel world, as the author describes penning his first novel after a terrible breakup. Click here and fast forward to minute 3:30 to see our interview with “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” writer & director Stephen Chbosky.

Chbosky also wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation of Rent, and was co-creator, executive producer, and writer of the CBS television series Jericho, which began airing in 2006. He is currently working to finish his second novel while raising a baby girl, Maccie Margaret, with his lovely wife, Liz. Follow him on Twitter to keep up with this brilliant author. Thanks again to the New York Public Library and Google for hosting this great hangout.

Southern Ladies Take L.A.

The South has turned into a modern entertainment mecca. Television shows such as Hart of Dixie, Nashville, True Blood, and yes, even Honey Boo Boo herself have drawn the eyes of the world to focus on Southern women in a new light. As it’s the mission of Pretty Southern to question what it means to be Southerner in the 21st century, we’re always on the lookout for the next emerging trend in our culture South of the Mason Dixon line. Now, there’s an even bigger movement (started by a Southern lady) rocking on the West Coast. Pretty Southern was privileged to interview Julia Fowler – writer, actor and director of the viral video sensation Sh%t Southern Women Say. Since Fowler posted her video on Oct. 31, 2012, it’s garnered 2.7 MILLION hits! That’s an average of more than 500,000 hits each week since the Southern Women Channel launched on YouTube. Here are our questions Miss Julia was kind enough to answer:

Where are you originally from? Gaffney, South Carolina

Why did you pick U. of South Carolina for school? Why’d you choose to rush and pledge Chi Omega?

I received an academic scholarship from USC  and really enjoyed my time at the University. Columbia is a lovely city. I wanted to rush because I was an only child from a very small town and was overwhelmed by the size of USC and the city of Columbia. I thought it would be a good way to meet people and do community service. I pledged Chi-O because of the amazing women I met in that sorority. I am still in touch with many of those gals and will forever be grateful for their friendships.

Julia Fowler behind the camera filming her first episode.

How long have you been out in Los Angeles?

I have lived in LA for 12 years. Prior to LA, I lived in NYC for seven years. I would have never left the South if I had not been pursuing show business. In NYC, I was a Broadway performer. In LA, I work mostly in film and TV.

What’s it like to be living so far from home? What do you miss most about the South?

There are so many things I miss about the South but mostly I miss the spirit of the people. Folks in the South are just plain special. I admire their humor, kindness, passion and thoughtfulness. The women are strong yet feminine and the men are strong yet sweet. I miss my Mama and Daddy, my best girlfriends, sweet tea, good fried chicken, the sounds of all the bugs at night…all those beautiful trees. And Cracker Barrel. I love Cracker Barrel.

Are there any “Southern Comforts” you’ve found on the West Coast?

My West Coast “Southern Comforts” include making my Granny Fowler’s  famous pecan pie, although it never tastes as good as hers. And my best friends who are in the video, Sheila Hawkins, Delaine Yates, and Katherine Bailess…all fabulous Southern belles living in LA.

How’d you come up with the concept for the video? I have been writing for the last few years and always from a Southern perspective. After watching a video that was sent to me, “Shit People in LA Say” I was inspired to write one for Southern women. I did it simply for fun.

How long did it take you to write the script? I wrote it in two days but I had no idea if anyone would think it was funny. My husband was out of town so I asked my friend, Sheila Hawkins, to come over. I read it to her and she cried she laughed so hard. I knew then I had to actually shoot it. I then called my other girlfriends and told them I had written something with each of them in mind. I was very particular about which gal said which line because they all have distinct personalities and Southern backgrounds.

Katherine Bailess is a Mississippi Southern Belle.

Where was the video filmed? I filmed it all in LA.  We had ZERO budget so I begged friends to let me shoot at their houses or apartments. The restaurant is Hostaria Piccolo, the owner is a friend of mine. He was very generous and kind to let me shoot there.

Who was responsible for the camera? What equipment did you use? We used an HD digital camera. My husband and I took turns shooting. We also used four local film school students to help us with all areas of the production.

How do you know Katherine Bailess, Sheila Hawkins and Delaine Yates?
Katherine is an actress, singer and dancer from Mississippi. I met her at Bodyline Pilates studio in Beverly Hills. I have been teaching Pilates for 6 years. Kat came through our teacher training program and I fell in love with her immediately. She is sort of like my little sister. Kat has a show coming out on VH1 next year called “Bounce.”  She is going to be terrific in the show.

Delaine Yates is from New Orleans. I met her in acting class several years ago in LA and she is one of my very best friends. We bonded of course because we are both Southern.

Sheila Hawkins is from Spartanburg, S.C.  I have known her since I was 12 years old.  She was a hair stylist who did me and my Mama’s hair forever. Sheila came to LA to be a bridesmaid in my wedding. She fell in love with California and decided she needed a life change so she moved out here. Sheila now works as a coordinating producer in television. She has never acted before or had any acting classes. I made her do the video because she is so authentic and proud of her accent. Sheila is like a big sister to me. I love all these gals and sometimes when we’re all together I forget I’m not in the South!

The line, “She didn’t use Duke’s mayonnaise.” is perfection. What’s your favorite Duke’s recipe? Glad you like that line. Everyone told me it was not that funny but I insisted on using it. So glad I went with my gut because the response has been great. I like Duke’s mayo on my tomato sandwiches and you simply cannot make potato salad without it!

Sheila Hawkins and Delaine Yates look fabulous on set!

How many takes did y’all need for each line? What were some of the trickiest ones? I did several takes of each line because I was exploring the tone. I wasn’t exactly sure what I would need in the edit so I overshot to be safe. Truthfully they were all tricky because it is extremely hard to truthfully deliver one liners. It’s one of the toughest things you can ask of an actor.

What are your favorite moments from your video? “Dern, Damn, Shiiit”. “He’s a goober.” The church segment and “you don’t need another boat.”

How long did it take to film? What was your favorite part of the process? I shot everything in four very long days. The gals were about to kill me. My favorite part of the process was the actual process itself. This is the first time I have written, directed and acted in the same project.

What’s the reaction been like from your friends & family back home? What have your L.A. pals had to say? I was stunned by the reaction. I never dreamed this little video would go viral. People have loved it from all over the country as well as internationally. I am most proud that Southern folks overall seem to understand that I am laughing with them and not at them. I did it as a love letter to the South. Every script I have ever written has been a love letter to the South. I am very proud to be Southern and make no effort to cover or change my accent unless it is required for an acting job.  People in NY and LA give me a hard time about my accent…but they all got a real kick out of watching me work in my native tongue.

Are there plans for more videos? Episode 2 is now live (scroll down below to see it) although, I lay awake at night worried folks won’t like it as much as the first one. Sequels are always tough. I am also beginning to formulate new ideas for the Southern Women’s channel.  In addition, I have a Southern screenplay I am trying to get made. It was originally optioned by New Line Cinema but they decided not to make it so we are now looking for indie financing.

Editor’s Note, check out Episode 1 of Sh%t Southern Women Say here. Play Episode 2 below and let us know what your favorite moments in the Comments section!

Joseph Conrad Loved an Atlanta lady

The other day, my mother-in-law presented me with a news clipping from 1991. Keep in mind y’all, this was back when The AJC was still The Atlanta Journal in the morning and The Atlanta Constitution in the afternoon. “This seemed like something Pretty Southern,” my Momma J told me when she presented me with the yellowed page.

And indeed it was. The headline from this article read “Conrad’s lover from Atlanta”. This story turned out to be a book review on “Joseph Conrad: A Biography” by Jeffrey Meyers. The book critic who penned the story was S. Keith Graham, for whom Google did not turn up any search results. Well, my mother-in-law found him worthy of historical preservation. I am glad she did.

The British author who penned “Heart of Darkness” was actually in love with a Southern woman. Jane Anderson, an Atlanta native, was the fabulously gregarious daughter of Ellen Luckie (a.k.a. the family for whom Luckie Street is named). While this was supposed to be a book review about Conrad’s biography, the the critic did a fantastic job of digging deeper into the story.

From Goodman’s review: “When Conrad, 58, met her during World War I, she was a beautiful war correspondent for British papers, just 28 years old (and probably the mistress of Lord Northcliffe, the British newspaper magnate). Her Georgian accent and fun-loving manner thoroughly charmed not only Conrad (whom she called ‘the greatest writer in the world’) but also his gluttonous (and devoted) lump of a wife Jessie and their two sons.”

The journalist goes on to cite the biographer (Meyers) who informs the reader, “Jane was Conrad’s last (and perhaps first) chance to sleep with a beautiful well-born woman…He knew this and seized the opportunity.” Meyers cites in his work that the Georgia-girl-journalist later went on to marry a Spanish count (which she served prison time for her loyalty to the fascists during the Spanish Civil War). In the 1940s, she was indicted “along with poet Ezra Pound” on a charge of “treason for broadcasting Nazi propagande (in her case from Germany) against America and its allies. And, though she was arrested following World War II, she subsequently disappeared, perhaps under the protection of Spain’s Franco.”

A letter which Anderson herself wrote to Conrad appears in the biography. “[Joseph Conrad's] voice is very clear and fine in tone, but there is an accent which I never heard before…And his verbs are never right…His head is extraordinarily fine in the modeling, although the forehead is not high. There are certain planes about the eyes, however. It is the pose of the head, which is a little shrunken into his shoulders, which gives the impression of strength. His mouth…is full but sensitive. But is is his eyes which are the eyes of genius. They are dark…And in them is a curious hypnotic quality. ‘I would show you,” he said, “ze spire of ze cathedral as you would see it from ze hills – but my car is broken, and we do not go. Zis will be for anuzzer time.”

There’s a lost art to penning reviews. Back in my glory days at UGA, I was privileged to take Valerie Boyd’s critical writing class. Professor Boyd, the former arts editor from The AJC, taught us that all good journalistic principles apply to critiquing another artist’s work. A writer must be fair and balanced in telling the public the true story. This review by S. Keith Graham is a pretty fine example of an excellent critique and one I will transfer from my mother-in-law’s files to my very own.

To purchase the biography, click here to Amazon.