Sitting at the restaurant bar of the Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta, a longtime favorite dinner and nightspot downtown, I nudged my friend Richard. “I think that’s Robert Goulet at that table over there.”
“No way,” he said.
We were watching my girlfriend, Atlanta-based jazz chanteuse Nicole Chillemi, perform. Richard leaned in to the bartender to ask if it was Goulet. Sure enough, the bartender confirmed, it was the legendary crooner and actor. Before the night was over, he would accept an invitation from my girlfriend to grace the microphone. He belted out the classic “On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever)” before exiting with his entourage to enthusiastic applause, waving and smiling to a room full of people surprised to learn that a legend was in their presence. Later that year, Goulet passed away and theater marquees across North America, including in Atlanta, were dimmed in his honor.
In Atlanta, such celebrity encounters are most likely to occur in downtown and midtown hotels, as well as the surrounding neighborhoods. Here, up-and-comers easily mingle with legends. It’s the Southern crossroads of glamour and grit. The best hotels are the ones where the locals hang out too, places where Southern hospitality rules the day and natives and out-of-towners happily co-exist in the common areas of Atlanta’s coolest hotels.