Published by the Times-Georgian–April 23, 2017
by Joe Garrett
I followed the rules.
It was my first time to enter such hallowed ground in this historic nightclub in the ATL. By the way, ATL is the cool way to refer to Atlanta if you’re under the age of 40. Since I’m 47, I will go back to calling the South’s largest city by its real name—Atlanta.
The rules outside this famous Atlanta disco spot addressed a strict dress code for men as one enters (it said nothing about women):
- Gentlemen must remove their hats after 8 p.m.
- No ripped or soiled jeans.
- Dress shorts only. No denim shorts.
- No flip-flops or sandals.
- No logo or printed shirts.
- No sweats or sweat pants.
I passed the dress code wearing a button-down shirt, slacks and a sports coat as I looked more like I was going to work than John Travolta entering a club wearing a leisure suit and sporting a few gold chains. And for the next two hours, my wife and I, along with a group of friends, danced the night away at Johnny’s Hideaway.
My dance moves as I’ve grown older no longer resemble a young Travolta in his prime (they never did). Instead, the rhythm I lack when I cut a rug resembles Steve Martin in his first movie The Jerk or perhaps it’s more like Forrest Gump.
Any attempt at coolness is long gone, but on this Friday night in the ATL (oops, I meant to say Atlanta)—I didn’t care. Besides, about a third of our group were Baptists and attend Steve Davis’s church.
My guess is they all repented for dancing to the Bee Gees music long before Preacher Steve started his children’s sermon on Easter Sunday. As an Episcopalian, my crowd welcomed me with open arms on Sunday morning and many asked—“What time did y’all finally leave?”
“I gave my flock who went with you to Johnny’s Hideaway a free pass and told them to ‘go sin no more,’” said Preacher Steve. “As for you, Second Timothy says to run away from ‘the evil desires of youth.’ It’s obvious if you were trying to recapture your youth, you would have picked somewhere other than Johnny’s.”
A fixture of the Atlanta nightlife since 1979, Johnny’s Hideaway has a reputation for people who are long past their prime but still want to dance and have a good time. However, on this Friday night, the crowd ranged in ages 21 to folks in their 80s.
Upon entering one clearly sees a room dedicated to Frank Sinatra, another corner of a room as a shrine to the King (Elvis not Jerry Lee) and group of cougars on the prowl standing around the bar (I’m not talking about animals).
Yet it’s the smell I’ll forever remember about Johnny’s Hideaway. The nightclub still allows smoking. I’m not a smoker, but I don’t mind every now and then walking in a joint that reeks of Camel’s, Doral’s and Winston’s. These non-pretentious, iconic places just seem real with real people. And now that the legendary Millie’s on the Highway in Carrollton has closed its doors, Johnny’s Hideaway may be the last remaining place on earth to retain such a whiff.
Thankfully, my crowd left a few minutes after midnight because as my dad always said—“Nothing good goes on after 12 o’clock.” I plan to return one day although it probably won’t be any time soon. In the meantime, I’ll smile when I think of Johnny’s Hideaway and perfect a few new moves for the dance floor.
I may not possess the moves of Travolta, but these legs aren’t dead yet. I’m “staying alive.”