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THE LANDMARK DINER

"Painting: The art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather
and exposing them to the critic." --  Ambrose Bierce

In 2004 I was into production of a documentary about my art and life that was being filmed by students for the Atlanta College of Art for class room credit.

Whenever I'd get the opportunity I'd show an edit (25 minutes to 45 minutes) in order to get feedback, as a means of self-promotion and for the entertainment and edification of others.

While stalking Kelly Hall at the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club in Little Five Points I got to know Tim Cordier, who occasionally served me my drinks.  Besides slinging poison Tim was an aspirant comedian.  Every summer he was the host of "Alive in Little Five", a monthly late-night talk show on stage.  Tim was the host, performed a monologue and sat at a desk.  He had a wacky sidekick and every guest was escorted on stage by a long legged young woman in a Playboy Bunny costume.  He was like Steve Allen with a healthy dose of Pee Wee Herman reshaped for modern youth.

His guests were political types, Atlanta sports heroes, burnt out ancient rock and roll guys, local tv weathermen, and civil rights icons.

Tim asked me if I'd like to be a guest on "Alive in Little Five".  I said sure.  He could interview me and I could show the movie. 

We did it and it was fun, the girl -- in the skimpy bunny costume -- who escorted me onstage was nine months pregnant.  Afterwards me and my friends all went back to the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club and tanked up until the wee hours.

In Spring of 2005 Tim had the opportunity to expand his comic base.

The Landmark Diner is a chrome and neon 24-hour eatery at the corner of Piedmont and Roswell Road in Atlanta, in the heart of the reprehensible Buckhead neighborhood.  The menu is vast, the food is mediocre and overpriced.  It has a reputation as an after-hours hangout for local celerbities.  Elton John has been spotted there.  As has Jeff Foxworthy.  And lots of creaky old Italian and Greek guys with pinky rings chomping on cigar stubs, their gold chain neckware entwining into graying chest hair as it trails into open-necked hawaiian print shirts.  Hunched over a plate of Herring at 4 am.

Attached to the Diner (in back) was the Landmark Lounge, a nightclub that had been designed by Johnny Esposito a Sicialian club owner and entrepreneur.  (He was known for Johnny's Hideaway, a dance club for the middle aged.) The Landmark Lounge was dark, the walls were black and red hung with a few Art Deco paintings of women in slinky gowns and smoking cigarettes. The room had lots of chrome trim and mirrored walls.  There was a small stage, a dance floor, tables around the the perimeter and -- in the back -- a horse-shoe shaped bar.  A cozy little dive where Frank and the Rat Pack would have felt comfortable ringa-ding-dinging.

The Landmark Diner owners (the Lambrous) were looking to have the Lounge area produce cash.  They had been booking comedy, and the occasional controversial speaker.  Tom Bernheim, a German club manager fresh from Munich had been charged with revitalizing the venue. 

Tom Bernhiem asked Tim Cordier if he'd like to present his live talk show act at the Landmark Lounge.  Tim asked me if I'd be one of the guests (another would be Johnny Esposito).  I said "sure".  I show the movie edit again.  Tim introduced me to Tom Bernheim.  Tom asked if I'd like to hang some of my art in the club the night of the performance.  "I can do that" I said. 

So March 26th, the day of the show, I pulled into the Landmark parkinglot, their marquee proclaimed "Live at the Landmark Lounge Tonite! Skip Williamson, Johnny Esposito".

I carefully removed the art deco paintings of women and stored them in a closet.  I hung eight of my pieces on the walls.

The show went well enough.  Not as amusing as the original "Live in Little Five" thing.  But ok.

Afterwards I told Tom Bernheim I'd be back in the morning to pick up my artwork.  Tom said there were comedians performing at the Lounge tomorrow.  Could I leave up my art for their show?  I said I guess so.

Came the light of day I'd changed my mind and decided that I wanted to go ahead and reclaim my paintings.  I called Tom Bernheim and told him I was headed over to the Landmark Lounge to pick up my art.

I walked into the Landmark Diner.  The Greeter-- Carolyne Lambrou, the owner's wife-- smiled and asked me how many in my party.  "No" I said.  "I'm here to pick up the paintings and artwork in the Lounge area.  I'm the artist."

Carolyne Lambrou's gaze went glassy and she gulped an "Okay..." 

I headed toward the back.

When my eyes got used to the dark the first thing I noticed was... No Art.  The walls were bare.  I figured Tom had someone take down the art for me.  I looked in the closet.  The art deco women smoking cigarettes were there but not my art.  I poked around behind the bar.  Even in the liquor storage area.  Nothing. 

I called Tom Berheim and asked "Were's my art?"  "It's there" he said "hanging on the wall."  "No it's not" I said.  "I'll be right over" he said.

While I was waiting for Tom I continued looking for my art.  I ended up outside and in an empty lot behind the Lounge I found two of my paintings tossed and damaged.  Six were still missing.

Tom showed up and decided that there had been a robbery.  "But why would someone sneak in the Lounge and steal my paintings?" I asked.  "Especially with the Diner area open 24 hours! Did anybody see anything?  And why were two paintings thrown out back?" 

I called the police and reported a robbery while Tom went over and talked with Mrs. Lambrou, a waiter and a couple of busboys.

Carolyn Lambrou had arrived at the Landmark Diner bright-and-early around 6am Sunday morning.  She gave the place a once over and set a fire under the wait staff, got the busboys bussing and, before she assumed her greeter post she wandered toward the back.

The art hanging on the walls were an immediate offense.  These were clearly products of a black and twisted soul.  The unnatural color, the Mephistophelian glitter and the unpropitous imagery seared her retinas and scarred her brain.  She went apoplectic, frozen by icy nausea.  Repulsion washed over her like raw sewage.    She had been flagrantly provoked on her home turf.  Her province had been violated and would not be tolerated.   

She peered at a painting.  Her eyes bugged out. In the painting there was an automobile with a bumper sticker that said "Don't Blame Me, I Voted for Hitler." Clearly anti-Semitic she thought .  After all, the hated "Hitler" name had been used.  What could be more anti-Semitic than that?  This could be bad for business, anti-Semtic art hanging at the Landmark.

Then there was a 3-D construction.  An iniquitous red-glittered triangular windowbox with a golden Statue of Liberty that had morphed into a Ginch-like monster.  A golden Mantis and ebony spiders adorn.  Gold chains and gewgaws drape malevolently.  She decoded this as Satanic Arab propaganda specifically designed to drive off her customer base. 

Another painting was of a woman riding a bike.  The bike's seat is another woman's head, tongue extended.  It was titled "Byke."  This one offended her sense of Sisterhood!  As a woman she could not permit such blatant objectification of women to hang on the walls. Offended women customers would spend their husband's money elsewwhere and she wasn't about to sit still for that!

"This is just like my husband", she thought to herself. It enraged her that her Pig of a Spouse had purchased (in her mind) these offensive items to hang in the lounge area.  And she wasn't about to let him get away with it!  She would take it upon herself to be the arbiter of good taste.  She had a Bottom Line to protect.  And a husband to set straight.

With the help of a busboy she ripped the art from the walls and tossed them  in the trunk of her Mercedes.  Two of the largest pieces wouldn't fit in her car so she had them discarded behind the building.  She tore off up Roswell Road about three miles to a Kroger food market.  She pulled around back and pitched six pieces of my art into the Kroger dumpster.  Then she drove back to the Landmark Diner, plastered on her meretricious smile and started her day as greeter at the restaurant.

After his wife had finished her shift and left the restaurant. Tom Lambrough had me sit at a table with him.

"I know what happened to your art." he said.  He explained to me that his wife had confessed to junking my paintings into a dumpster up the road.  "She thought I'd bought them for the Lounge and took it upon herself to dispose of them"  He said she was on the way back to the diner in order to go with me to the Kroger dumpster to see if anything could be salvaged.  I agreed to call off the police investigation until we had a chance to recover my work.

When Carolyn arrived we drove to the dumpster and she climbed in and dug through the day's grocery store garbage, all the while sobbing that she was a lover of the arts but complaining about how offensive my art is.  The dumpster had been emptied at least a couple of times since she'd delivered my art there.  There was nothing to be found.  But it gave me some satisfaction that this woman had to climb and dig through rotten lettuce and spoiled chicken parts because of her own hubris.

Late that night I went to the Buckhead precinct and filed a criminal complaint against Carolyne Lambrou.

In order to avoid arrest she had to pony up full-boat for the paintings.  And she did so without blinking an eye.  She presented me with a check accompanied by a note complaining about the repugnant nature of my art.