The ’70’s and the ’80’s were wild times in the city of Atlanta. It was emerging from a sleepy southern town to an international city. Robert Edward ‘Outrageous Ted’ Turner was on the field, running CNN and the Atlanta Braves baseball team. As Outrageous Ted, he decided he could manage the Braves better than the current manager, so he fired him and took over the team, causing quite a stir in the traditional bourgeois baseball world. He had a way of staying in the news. He would say things like, “My son is now an ‘entrepreneur.’ That’s what you’re called when you don’t have a job.”
We also had Maynard Jackson, serving as Atlanta’s first African-American Mayor, and then there was our Peanut Farmer, Jimmy Carter, up in D.C. running our country, I guess.
Behind the scenes, we had a couple of local celebrities, journalists, one of whom was about to break on the national arena as a great humorist along the same lines as Mark Twain and I was growing old right smack dab in the middle of all this.
It was during this time that a group of us middle agers were desperately attempting to hang onto our youth. We formed softball and basketball teams and joined metro Atlanta “Adult” leagues to stay in shape, attempting, and failing, to compete with the younger bucks. That was okay, it was really about having an opportunity to get together and have a few drinks and burn off a little pent-up steam.
Some of us even carried it over to meet once a week, I believe it was a Wednesday, at a local watering hole on Peachtree Street in Buckhead. Today, for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you the name of the bar.
We would arrive around 4:00 p.m. and most of the bar stools were already taken. There was a group of local celebrities that hung out there; two being hard-drinking journalists, Ron Hudspeth who wrote for the Atlanta Journal, and Lewis Grizzard, who wrote for the Atlanta Constitution, two different newspapers that happened to be owned by the same corporation, Cox Enterprises. This was before these two guys became “Big” celebrities and authored books, chronicling their lives and times on Peachtree Street but they kept us laughing so hard, it hurt.
Hudspeth started a rag called The Hudspeth Report, one of those free papers you can pick up around the city. It’s filled with advertisements hawking everything and anything imaginable. Hudspeth would critique local restaurants and watering holes. This was a smart maneuver by him, as he was comped more than a few drinks and meals. I heard from an old friend that Hudspeth is still publishing this rag but now he lives in Costa Rica. I can only imagine why he is living down there.
Ron Hudspeth was fired in 1987 by the AJC for starting The Hudspeth Report, prompting his pal and drinking buddy, Lewis Grizzard, to resign in protest. Grizzard resigned on a Saturday and rescinded his resignation three days later. He said at the time, “I’ve quit four times, and this is the fourth time I’ve come back.”
I mean, why wouldn’t he come back? He was only writing four columns a week. What was not to like about that job? He was also syndicated in close to 500 newspapers around the country.
As they say in the rural South, Lewis Grizzard “dog up and died” in 1994. Wow, that long ago? Grizzard said one of his big worries was that “somewhere there is a great party going on, and I’m missing it.”
Well, the world is missing you, pal. He didn’t make it to 50. He was only 47 years old.
Here is the clip that brought back old memories and the many laughs we shared: