Originally posted Saturday, November 2, 2019 by RODNEY HOfirstname.lastname@example.org on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Since tonight is supposed to be EltonJohn’s final night ever performing in Atlanta, I decided to dig through the AJC coffers to see how our erstwhile part-time resident has been covered largely through what was our print Peach Buzz column.
For more than 25 years, Peach Buzz served as our local gossip home, operating in a much lighter and less salacious vein than, say, the New York Post’s Page Six or TMZ. The focus was on Atlanta-based celebrities such as Ted Turner, Jane Fonda, Hank Aaron, Usher, Jeff Foxworthy and the like.
Then there was the “Rocket Man” himself. He was already an international star of epic proportions. Yet in April, 1991, he chose to plant roots in Atlanta, buying a 5,000 square-foot penthouse at Park Place in Buckhead.
He made Atlanta his American home base shortly after a stint in drug and alcohol rehab in 1990. Doctors and therapists told him if he remained in the celebrity-and-cocaine-soaked world of Los Angeles, he would die. His then Atlanta boyfriend Hugh Williams introduced him to the city.
So John settled in and Atlanta embraced him. In his early years, he drove around himself without security and enjoyed that most locals did not bother him while he was in public dining or shopping.
He noshed at Buckhead Diner with Elizabeth Taylor. He purchased high-priced photography art from Fay Gold Gallery. He rode Thunder River at Six Flags. He made weekly appearances every Tuesday by himself at Tower Records to buy the latest CD releases. He visited batting practice at an Atlanta Braves game the year they won the World Series in 1995. He stopped by Star 94’s Steve and Vikki morning show multiple times. He premiered his musical “Aida” at the Alliance Theatre in 1998. He named an album he penned here “Peachtree Road” in 2004.
He showed up at parties and charity events all over town, including Jermaine Dupri’s 26th birthday party in 1998 and the Atlanta Smash Hits World TeamTennis charity event in 2008 with Billie Jean King at Kennesaw State University. He created his Elton John AIDS Foundation in Atlanta, raising hundreds of millions of dollars, and walked the city’s first AIDS Walk in 1991.
“People always ask me, ‘Why do you have a place in Atlanta?'” John said in a 1998 interview with the AJC. “It’s because people here have always been that nice to me… I’ve always been welcomed. I feel at home.”
In 2004, he added: "My life here in Atlanta is as normal a life as I can lead anywhere in the world."
By 2007, that feeling had only deepened:
"I can hear and I can breathe and I can write here," John told the AJC at the time. "But if I want, with the choice of venues here, I can go out and see any type of music that I want. Whether it's the Braves, the Hawks or the Thrashers, no matter where I am in the world, I have to find out if we've won or not. I'm an Atlanta person through and through."
He told us he would even start uttering “y’all” when he spends enough time in the South. “I start to get the twang,” he said. “You can't help it. It's in the air."
Though the man still owns his Buckhead penthouse today (which he expanded to more than 12,000 square feet by buying more condos on multiple floors), he has taken most of his non-work time the past few years in Windsor, England with his husband David Furnish and his two young boys.
So let’s go back nearly three decades.
The first time Peach Buzz noticed his presence was April 11, 1991. Writer Norman Arey noted: “Regardless of what local reports say, Elton John has not purchased the top two floors of Park Place condominiums. John has purchased a model, which is 1 1/2 times the size of a regular condo at the Peachtree Street high-rise, says friend Ann Titleman of Capitol City Plaza.”
My friend Richard Eldredge, who was the longest chief writer and curator of the popular daily Peach Buzz column, carried the torch as our primary Elton John Watcher for much of John’s primary time in town. In fact, most of the quotes above come from Eldredge’s interviews with John.
Eldredge was first a Buzz contributor from 1993 to 1997, when he took over full time until 2009. During that span of time, he mentioned the “I’m Still Standing” singer at least 500 times in the column, most of it during his 12-year run in the driver’s seat. (He wasn’t the only one to notice John’s presence. Back in 2001, when I was working at the Wall Street Journal, my then colleague Ann Carrns out of the Atlanta bureau wrote a page one piece about John’s unusual allegiance to Atlanta and vice versa, with a Buzz reference to boot.)
For many years, Eldredge during a year-end round-up would count up how many times he mentioned John himself. Here’s a sample:
Number of times Elton John's name appeared in Buzz in 2002: 51, up from 2001's astonishingly low 35. The British-born knight and part-time Atlantan's quip of the year came after an interviewer asked him what gift he would give newlywed Liza Minnelli. John's reply: "A heterosexual husband."
From 2001 to 2011, I contributed to Peach Buzz myself multiple times a week and from 2004 to 2007, I was the sole person handling Monday Buzz.(I enjoyed it!) So I did maybe 150 columns or so by myself. And I’m guilty of mentioning John at least 17 times, according to our archives.
Other Buzz writers over the years included Martha Woodham, Norman Arey, Maureen Downey (who now writes our education “Get Schooled” blog), Glenn Sheely and Jennifer Brett. In total, from 1991 to 2015, John was referenced in Buzz more than 700 times. In recent years, Melissa Ruggieri will still drop a few John bon mots in her AJC Music Scene blog.
Here are some Buzz highlights from over the years:
From January 16, 1992:
Obviously, it's good news for LaGrotta, one of the city's finer Italian restaurants, that Elton John's a regular visitor.
There's a common rule of thumb among waiters: People with multimillion-dollar retainers to appear in Coke commercials are normally pretty good tippers.
But in this case it's bad news for the hat-check person.
Chef Antonio Abizanda says that John makes no special requests at the restaurant, conveniently located across the street from his Park Place condominium, but he's not your average customer. And we're not merely talking superstar status here.
"He does always wear a hat," said Abizanda, who's also a part owner. "And no matter what, he never takes it off."
From November 10, 1992:
Elton John has established an AIDS foundation - to be based in Atlanta, where he now lives part time-to fund AIDS-related causes in America. The Elton John AIDS Foundation, he said Monday, will deal with all aspects of the fight against AIDS - from direct care to education and research, with the primary emphasis on direct patient care. John recently announced that, beginning with the release of "The Last Song," all proceeds from his single sales in America will be donated to AIDS organizations in America.
From August 8, 1994:
Just days after part-time Atlantan Elton John was spotted cleaning the shelves at Lenox Square's Waldenbooks, the rocker and companion were seen struggling to manage an armload of CDs fresh out of Around Lenox's Tower Records. The cash register receipt was $970.27 (charged) for one, and in many instances two, copies of such albums as Crystal Waters' "100 Percent Pure Love," "The Best of the Gap Band" and the latest from Crash Test Dummies and Jeffrey Gaines. "That was really low for him," said Tower salesperson Joi Chestnutt, who rang up the "always nice" John's purchases. "He comes in here a lot. And spends a couple of thousand easily." And we thought all that playing on his ongoing tour with piano man Billy Joel was enough for his fingers. He's doing some aerobics pulling that credit card in and out of his wallet. (This is the 98th mention of Elton in Peach Buzz for those of you keeping track.)
From August 9, 1995:
Singer/songwriter Elton John learned something while holding the first arts auction to benefit his AIDS foundation Tuesday night at the Georgian Terrace. "It's my first chance to come downtown," joked John, who lives in the exclusive Park Place residence in Buckhead. "I didn't know this was here." Speaking to about 300 guests who'd paid $350 each just for the privilege of bidding on art, drinking and dining in his presence, John said: "Thank you Atlanta for giving more than 100 percent to this event and this cause." Buckhead art gallery owner Faye Gold, who organized the event, said: "We're not just supporting the fact that [John's] here, we're supporting the fact that he's devoted his life to raising money for AIDS."
From October 2, 1997:
Elton vs. Keith
Singer Elton John caught reporters off guard at a Ritz-Carlton Buckhead news conference for foreign journalists Tuesday with a scathing attack on fellow rocker Keith Richards. The Rolling Stones guitarist started the slinging match a few weeks ago when he slammed John's rewrite of his Marilyn Monroe tribute "Candle in the Wind" for Princess Diana, accusing John of merely "writing songs for dead blondes." Speaking at the news conference about how his life has changed since giving up drugs and alcohol, John said, "I'm glad, because it would be awful to be someone like Keith Richards a God forbid. I mean, he's so pathetic, poor thing a you know? It's like a monkey with arthritis, trying to go on stage and look young. I have great respect for Mick Jagger, Charlie Watts and the Rolling Stones as a group. I just think if they'd have thrown Keith Richards out of the band 10, 15 years ago, they would have made better records, because he's held them back."
December 3, 1997:
Elton vs. Keith, again
It seems that the snit between legendary rockers Elton John and Rolling Stone Keith Richards continues. For those with short-term memory deficiency syndrome, Richards started the ball rolling in late summer when he jabbed at John in an interview, declaring that the Rocket Man's greatest gift is writing "songs for dead blondes" (e.g., Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana). John's response ---heard round the world and, incidentally, first reported here ---was that Richards is "pathetic" and "like a monkey with arthritis" on stage. When we caught up with Richards the other night prior to a Stones show in Minneapolis, he was in a decidedly saucy mood. "The only reason Elton spoke out like that was in response to something I said," explained Richards. "And I guess the truth must have hurt." Buzz strongly suspects that it could be a while before John has time to respond to Richards' latest verbal volley. For starters, there are all those box office receipts to count from the smash opening of "The Lion King" stage show in New York.
From October 1, 1998:
Part-time Atlantan Elton John turned up with Ryan Cameron on Hot 107.9 during the first of a two-part interview. After opening with frank talk about his homosexuality ("I was the Mariah Carey of the gay world," quipped Sir Elton) and why he thinks it's important to be open about it, he went on to discuss:
His "Elaborate Lives: The Legend of Aida" soundtrack, due in early 1999: He's recording a duet next Thursday with Janet Jackson. Called "I Know the Truth," it'll be produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. And he's hoping Jermaine Dupri will produce a track called "Enchantment Passing Through," with Atlanta's Usher on vocals.
Usher and other "urban" talents: "I'm a big Usher fan. Usher's huge in Europe too. I like Mase. . . . He's so young. . . . I really felt like a grandfather when I met him. But I think Mase is the most talented rapper out there. Oh, and Master P. I love Master P."
What may make him perform "Candle in the Wind '97" again: "If (Cameron will) sleep with me, I might do it." Cameron's reply --- "That ain't gonna happen."
From April 26, 1999:
Remember those plans for an Elton John-Tina Turner arena tour this fall? Forget about it. The tour is history.
It seems the claws came out during a rehearsal for the recent VH1 "Divas Live '99" concert. During a run-through of "Proud Mary," as John accompanied Turner on piano, she began criticizing his performance --- in front of his band. A jet-lagged John stormed off the stage.
According to John spokesperson Sarah McMullen, who was there, Turner leaned into her microphone and joked, "Oops, there goes the tour." Rehearsal eventually resumed, as did Turner's criticisms. Result: a private hallway conversation among the two divas and McMullen, in which John told Turner, "You really have your nerve!"
Upon his return to the piano, John apologized to everyone and finished the rehearsal. The John-Turner numbers during the concert went off without incident.
McMullen tells us it was Turner who initiated scrapping the tour, and John agreed. "She prefers very rigid band arrangements, and Elton is more of an improviser on the piano," says McMullen. "He's not used to anyone criticizing his playing. It just became obvious to everyone they have two very different musical styles. It's better that everyone found this out now before we put together a 22-city tour."
From December 30, 2000:
Party of the year: Elton John's pricey World AIDS Day benefit soiree this month at the High Museum of Art. John stood for hours in the center of the room happily introducing patrons to his photography collection. Attendees were so riveted to the pop star that three members of R.E.M. went completely unnoticed.
How many times Elton John's name appeared in Buzz this year: Including the above, 47 times.
How many times Elton John's name appeared in Buzz this year, according to some Buzz (and Vent) readers: 2,000,047.
From January 14, 2001:
Cobb County students curious about Elton John's collection of photos at the High Museum of Art will have to get their parents to take them. The school system has declared the exhibit off-limits for school field trips.
Jay Dillon, a spokesman for Cobb schools, said principals were asked in late November to avoid the exhibit after the school system's director of arts programs, Arlene Hocking, found some of the photos inappropriate for students. Hocking toured the exhibit with her husband in November.
"There were just two or three questionable photographs, but the school system felt it was better to not take students to the exhibit," Dillon said Saturday.
The exhibit of 316 of John's privately collected photos opened Nov. 4 to rave reviews. It closes Jan. 28.
From September 27, 2001:
Before he performed songs from his upcoming album, "Songs From the West Coast," in a darkened, candlelit Star 94 radio conference room in Buckhead on Wednesday, Elton John had a question for the 20 fans standing in front of him.
Off the air, during a commercial break, John, clad in a blue warm-up suit and red hat and matching glasses, quietly asked, "How are you guys holding up? The events of Sept. 11 have left me speechless. The U.S. has great resolve, though, and us British love you."
The singer-songwriter was in England at the time of the terrorist attacks and said he and partner David Furnish were up until 3 a.m. trying to contact friends in New York. They finally got through.
The part-time Atlantan then informed the hushed listeners about a Sept. 14 prayer service he attended at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. "The only time I've ever seen the queen cry was when they opened the service with the U.S. national anthem that day," the pop superstar said.
When Star 94 co-hosts Steve McCoy and Vikki Locke filtered into the room, the mood lightened as John performed his new single, "I Want Love," and "West Coast's" closing ballad, "This Train Don't Stop There Anymore." The album will be released Tuesday. John has two new animated movie projects in the works with Disney as well.
A listener asked John whether he planned to write a song to "help us heal like you did when Princess Diana died." He replied, "I think the American people are healing themselves. I'm sure someone will write a song about this. I'm not sure it will be me."
From October 3, 2002:
Alt-country-rocker Ryan Adams warned the sold-out crowd at the Tabernacle downtown Tuesday night, "I'm not much of a piano player." To remedy the situation, Adams brought out friend and fan Elton John, who had the night off from his tour with Billy Joel. As shocked fans screamed and furiously dialed friends on cellphones, the pair performed the Adams ballad "La Cienega Just Smiled." John was also spotted hanging on the songwriter's tour bus and catching the rest of the set from the venue's wings. Several readers reported Wednesday on John's black leather jacket, which one called "incredibly fierce!
From September 23, 2003:
Atlanta's favorite knighted resident is back in town. And judging by the locals who have been dropping dimes to Buzz Central to report Sir Elton John sightings, the international pop icon hasn't exactly spent a lot of time chilling at home.
John is in town writing and recording demos of songs for his upcoming Broadway musical co-written with Bernie Taupin and based on Anne Rice's vampire characters. Between bursts of creativity, John has been spotted at his fave table at Bluepointe. Server Allen Crosby reports that the singer enjoyed the calamari pasta and tangerine-marinated pork loin with pals. A strategically placed hulking bodyguard inspired John's normally respective Atlanta fans to be even less inclined to rubberneck.
The singer has also been seen around town on local courts, engaging in his usual early morning routine of a vigorous tennis workout. Yes, we were provided the precise location, but fearful of having a tennis racket lodged in our cranium (we've watched the John documentary "Tantrums and Tiaras" multiple times, after all), we're opting not to publish it.
From October 8, 2004:
Since he hasn't "taken the nick out" of anyone in at least 48 hours, let's hope a little dose of home cheered Elton John during a brief stay in Atlanta this week. The Buckhead Life Group informed Buzz that prior to Sir Elton's trans-Atlantic flight back across the pond Wednesday, he requested one heck of a to-go order from one of his fave eateries, the Buckhead Diner.
General Manager Jill Pipes and a chef rose early to prepare a feast of Maytag blue cheese potato chips, sweet and sour calamari, beef tenderloin BLT sandwiches, chicken Cobb salads, hazelnut-crusted grouper and a variety of desserts for the six-hour flight. Each item was painstakingly packed so it could be properly reheated in flight. And possibly to prevent a future acidic attack on Queen Elizabeth, Hilary Duff or the country of Sweden.
From October 11, 2004:
Elton John is paying homage to his adopted U.S. hometown by titling his latest studio recording, due out Nov. 9, "Peachtree Road."
The album's cover image, however, doesn't exactly resemble the bustling, condominium-crammed commercial thoroughfare most Atlantans are familiar with. The striking cover photograph depicts a rural landscape with a desolate field and a railroad crossing.
Internationally renowned London photographer Sam Taylor-Wood, one of the pop star's favorite shutterbugs, shot the image "just outside Douglasville" this summer during a road trip through the state.
"When Elton rang me up to ask if I would shoot the images for 'Peachtree Road,' I knew I'd have to go to Georgia since he's always talking so fondly about the place," Taylor-Wood said from London.
The artist said she was so taken with the American South, she ended up shooting thousands of pictures during the week she worked on the assignment. She visited Forsyth, Unadilla, Douglasville and other picturesque places she felt lent themselves visually to the "more earthy, roots-oriented" songs on "Peachtree Road."
From November 2, 2004:
Quote of the day
"I don't seem to have anger --- I have rage. There are still times, especially when I'm tired, when the bad temper and the irrationality come out. And I hate that. Because I'm trying to change it." --- Sir Elton John on his recent bouts of crankiness (which, incidentally, has Buzz Central contemplating a hormone replacement therapy-themed Christmas present for our favorite knight) in Britain's Sunday Times.
From September 7, 2005:
Peachtree Road resident Elton John had some familiar faces from his U.S. hometown in the crowd during his free concert outside the ancient Colosseum in Rome on Saturday night.
Huddled in the VIP section: 99X's Jimmy Baron with wife and Ralph Reed spokeswoman/ Sunday Paper columnist Lisa Baron and Q100's Jeff Dauler with wife and "Bert Show" shopping correspondent Jessica Dauler.
Fans of all ages had started lining up at dawn to grab good spots for the celebration on the Via dei Fori Imperial, the large boulevard that leads to the Colosseum and is lined with Roman relics.
"We cannot put into words how incredible it was seeing Elton with the Roman ruins in the background. We had to remind ourselves that we weren't watching Elton at some Vegas or Epcot-type 'set,' " Dauler e-mailed into Buzz Central on Monday.
When John jumped offstage to change outfits, he gave the Atlantans quick hugs and handshakes. Atlantan Adam McKnight and the Voice of Atlanta gospel choir, who recorded vocals for John's latest studio album, "Peachtree Road," were also on hand for the concert.
Later, as the vacationing Atlanta radio types were touring the Pantheon, Dauler reports hearing 99X listeners Andrew Noble and Shelly Bridwell yell through the echoing space, "Hey, aren't you Jimmy Baron from 99X?!"
Quipped Dauler: "Jess and I were pretty bummed because we left the country to escape the masses, but we didn't realize we were in the presence of an international mega-star."
From October 12, 2008:
For Sir Elton John, hosting his 16th annual Advanta World Team Tennis Smash Hits event back in his U.S. hometown meant a great deal more to him than just the luxury of not having to board a plane to attend the "tennis chic" affair.
"All of the money raised here today will stay here in the Atlanta market and in Georgia," John told the AJC Sunday morning before picking up his racket at the fund-raiser at Kennesaw State University Sunday morning. "Forty six percent of AIDS cases are now being reported in the South. We are distinctly aware of the problems here and the South will continue to be a priority for the foundation."
John was joined by his co-host and old friend Billie Jean King and pro tennis pals Anna Kournikova, Andy Roddick and Martina Navratilova, along with rising players and Smash Hits first-timers Jesse Levine and local gal Melanie Oudin.
From March 9, 2009:
We're always gratified to hear from a satisfied AJC subscriber. It's even better when it's a seven-day-a-week diehard celebrity subscriber with scoop.
After thumbing through Monday's editions of the AJC, USA Today and The New York Times and finishing his morning tennis match, part-time Buckhead resident Sir Elton John rang the BuzzBerry to thank us for mentioning the woman who oversees his Atlanta household.
"Lucy's over the moon that her name was in the paper this morning," John told us, laughing.
The singer said he's having as much fun on his current tour with Billy Joel as the ticket-holders (to read some of the glowing comments from fans who attended Saturday night's Philips Arena show, go to our new Peach Buzz blog at blogs.ajc.com/peachbuzz/).
From July 26, 2015:
Sir Elton John and his excellent band delighted fans with a 21-song set list during his Music Midtown performance.
Earlier that day, he brought life-giving sustenance to a very special Atlanta resident.
Craig Gustafson of Midtown had been a little worried that traffic associated with last weekend's Music Midtown might keep volunteers with Open Hand Atlanta from bringing his meal. So he was not only relieved but absolutely delighted when John himself rang the doorbell.
"What an honor," Gustafson said. "He's been fighting for this cause for years and he's beyond a celebrity. He's an icon to us. For him to have even 10 minutes to honor me with his time, I'm just blown away."
The Rocket Man's surprise delivery marked the 25 millionth meal served by Open Hand Atlanta, which operates a food pantry and provides a host of services including meal delivery to needy seniors, children and the chronically ill.
"I'm glad you're doing well," John told Gustafson.
John, a part-time Atlanta resident and passionate HIV/AIDS advocate, was originally drawn to Open Hand Atlanta's mission as a volunteer in the early '90s, and he has remained an avid supporter, delivering the agency's 1 millionth meal, granting funds through the Elton John AIDS Foundation, and personally contributing to Open Hand's recent capital expansion project.
John said he was glad to be back in his "American home" over the weekend and was pleased to spend part of his time volunteering with Open Hand Atlanta. Naturally, the organization was thrilled to welcome the superstar into their ranks for the day.
From March 23, 2016
It’s no secret that Elton John has admirably eclectic musical taste.
So the surprise here isn’t so much that John and Atlanta rapper Young Thug hung out Wednesday at John’s Atlanta penthouse, but that John still visits his Atlanta pad!
Young Thug posted photos on his Instagram account that show him happily posing with the music legend, who is holding up a Young Thug sweatshirt.
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