RARA-AVIS: Willeford, the Georgian Terrace Hotel & Hemingway's brother

From: Moorich2@aol.com
Date: 14 Jul 2003

In a message dated 7/13/03 4:02:14 AM Eastern Daylight Time, owner-rara-avis@icomm.ca writes:

 Date: Sat, 12 Jul 2003 22:12:12 -0400
 From: Bill Bowers < BBowers@one.net>
 Subject: RARA-AVIS: Back to Willeford
 It's probably due to Summer Drift ... or maybe the digest I receive in the
 morning will be crammed with Willeford references....
 In the meantime, those of you totally unfamiliar with Charles Willeford
 could do worse than to check out
 A 'sampler' page of excerpts from most of Willeford's books. [I,
 naturally, enjoyed the portions of "Cockfighter Journal 1989"....]
 This page is part of a site
 created by Maura McMillan back in the beginning of 2001, and apparently
 still maintained.
 There is an extensive time-line style Biography, and also a page titled:
 "Never-Before-Seen Visual Art by Willeford" ... which, considering I spent
 most of 1967-68 at the same Filipino base at which Willeford did time
 [9/36-10/38] thirty years earlier, and I was also familiar with (what was
 left of) the indigenous population, I would have enjoyed anyway.
 ...but, given where I now reside, I found it particularly delightful!
 [Also, a page and a link on the film adaptations, plus more. Go forth, and
 - --
 Bill Bowers
          [Thanks for the reference, Betsy.]

Thank you Bill for leading us back to the month's topic so gracefully and also for providing these neat links. I followed them and read the selections of Charles Willeford's diary entries made during the Georgia filming of
"Cockfighter," one of my favorite Willeford novels and a fun film which I now own in DvD.

That said I have to correct one "fact" Charles mentions in his diary entries.
 He and the rest of the "Cockfighter" cast and crew were staying at the Georgian Terrace Hotel at Peachtree Street and Ponce de Leon Avenue back in 1974. Charles says the ballroom was the location for some of the filming of "Gone With The Wind." I am 98% certain this is incorrect. As far as I know there was no Georgia location filming in the production of "Gone With The Wind." Growing up there I would have known about it. I would have stumbled over the worshipers.

The Georgia Terrace was the hotel for the Atlanta premier of the movie. It was the hotel where many of the stars, such as Clark Gable, stayed. I am certain that in the ballroom of the hotel there were dances and events but not anything filmed for the movie. I don't doubt that the staff misinformed Charles during his stay.

The Georgia Terrace Hotel location was the center of my favorite, and most visited, area of Atlanta. It was across the street from the Fox Theater, which still stands unlike the Lowes Grand Theater, which burned from arson even as activists tried to save it. The land is now the home of Georgia Pacific.

That area was also two blocks down from the Peachtree Book Store where I received the bulk of my education. There I went from Frank Buck to Lowell Thomas to T.E. Lawrence to Poul Anderson to Fred Brown to Charles Dickens to a universe of writers. It opened the world of books to me. Although it may still have been in business, my friend and educator had sold it just a few months before Charles' time there. Too bad as they would have hit it off.

And The Georgia Terrace Hotel was just a couple of blocks from the Ponce de Leon nightclub "The Blue Lantern Lounge" which for many years (until the late 1950s) my favorite blues artist Blind Willie McTell (remember "Statesboro Blues?) serenaded for tips couples in the parking lot.

It also wasn't far from The Stein Club, a watering hole mentioned more than once by Ralph Dennis.

Anyway, enough of my tribute to the area. Aside from that error, I enjoyed Willeford's comments on the filming. I was a reporter in Georgia at the time and during the filming Troy Donehue visited the state legislature and was introduced. I ended up cheek to cheek with him at the doorway and he was a bit glassy-eyed that day.

As the boys at the Pentagon say when changing the subject "Break! Break!"

Some months ago I picked up the book HUNTING WITH HEMINGWAY by Hilary Hemingway and Jeffry P. Lindsay (Riverhead Books 2000). Hilary is the daughter of Ernest Hemingway's younger brother Leicester and Jeffry is her husband. The book is presented in part as an evening's backyard conversation with several guests as Leicester tells stories (some certainly fanciful) about his brother. A participant in these "conversations" is Charles Willeford, who Hilary refers to as "Uncle Charlie." While the stories by Leicester openly stretch the truth, the portrait of Willeford rings true.

Richard Moore

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