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Ghosts of Cabbagetown come back to play 

Atlanta music icons, real and imagined, come to life on the big screen

Some of Cabbagetown's most storied characters, both real and imagined, are getting some marquee time over the next couple of weeks. First up, the tenants of Atlanta's old-school post-punk scene of the late '80s/early '90s will descend upon the Plaza Theatre on Sat., Jan. 28, to pay homage to two of the city's fallen heroes: Benjamin (born Robert Dickerson), the cross-dressing Southern firebrand that fronted the bands Smoke and the Opal Foxx Quartet, and street poet, construction worker, and performance artist Deacon Lunchbox (Timothy Tyson Ruttenber). Benjamin died in January of 1999 due to complications related to Hepatitis C. Deacon Lunchbox died in a car accident that also claimed the lives of the Jody Grind drummer Rob Clayton and bassist Robert Hayes after a gig in April 1992.

The show at Plaza Theatre this weekend is billed as "a celebration of the lives, loves, music, and friends" of Benjamin and Deacon Lunchbox, and reunites several of their old bandmates and musical cohorts. Scheduled performers include: Kelly Hogan, Smoke That City, Debbey Richardson, Slim Chance, and Jim Stacy — who will play a handful of Deacon Lunchbox numbers, including "Omni Beer" and "Lewis Grizzard, I'm Calling You Out!"

"It's important to remember these two folks for different reasons for different folks," says Jim Stacy, former Star Bar owner and ex-vocalist for Grease Paint, LaBrea Stompers, and the Star Wars-themed rock opera Grand Moff Tarkin. "Benjamin was this weird voice at a strange point in time. For me he was like being friends with an abandoned, derelict church that all the kids partied at. He was sacred, profane, messed up, and screwed down tight all at once."

"Deacon was an Uncle for me," Stacy adds. "He was the specific bridge between redneck underground, punk rock, artsy fartsy performance, and Dada stage persona. All of these connections can be found in my everyday work. Deacon Lunchbox is directly responsible for that."

The night will also feature a screening of Neil Fried's short film, Lawrence of Lawrenceville Highway, starring Deacon Lunchbox, and a screening of Jem Cohen and Pete Sillen's 2000 documentary film, Benjamin Smoke.

The following Saturday, Feb. 4., director Raymond Carr hosts the premiere screening of Old Man Cabbage, a 15-minute short film that he created around the ragtime rock 'n' roll stylings of Blair Crimmins & the Hookers' single, "Old Man Cabbage." The film is Carr's version of a silent film-style video that mixes live action and miniature sets, recreating the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s for its backdrop. "I wanted to make something that was really visually dynamic," Carr says. "One night I saw the Imperial Opa Circus at the Goat Farm, and was inspired by them and the place, and I really wanted to put together something that would make people want to dance. I've been a fan of Blair for years, so we started talking."

The only dialogue heard throughout the film are the lyrics to the song "Old Man Cabbage," which is a number that Crimmins wrote as an homage to a spirit/persona that possessed him after he moved into a 100-year-old house in Cabbagetown. Here, he stretches out the song's themes and concepts, and allows Old Man Cabbage to take on a life of his own.

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