I didn't Earnhardt 

But this week's column is still shit hot

Defying popular wisdom to prove that alcohol and fast-moving automobiles can, in fact, be combined for the greater good, last Saturday's 2002 Miller Lite Charity Grand Prix at Road Atlanta benefiting United Cerebral Palsy of Georgia was lots of fun and went off without a problem. It was actually pretty exciting for me because not only did I cover it, but I also got to drive in it. From now on, I encourage everyone who invites me to cover an event to also let me participate. Paul McCartney at Philips Arena? No problem. Just let me sing the Stevie Wonder parts in "Ebony & Ivory," and I'm there. You say that the opera is performing Rossini's Barber of Seville? Gimme some scissors and call me Figaro, and I'll cover it. It's about time I started exploiting this job more.

The Grand Prix was actually a series of races. The part I participated in was the Earth Tech Media/VIP Race. Before pitting their own drivers against one another, the racing teams graciously lent their cars to media representatives and some local corporate bigwigs. Because we weren't wearing nametags, the only other racers I recognized were some Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders. (I only recognized them because people kept pointing at them and saying, "They're Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders.")

The cars were 1/3-scale versions of Indy Cars that went about 35 miles per hour. Not exactly high-speed, but with your butt an inch off the ground and your unprotected torso sticking out of the car, that's fast enough. I drove Outback Steakhouse car No. 46 and was in third place for the first 10 seconds of the race before just about everyone else started passing me. Because we were kindly asked not to wreck the cars, and my girlfriend asked me not to "Earnhardt," I was hesitant to push too hard. That's not an excuse for losing. I would've lost to the better drivers no matter what -- but had I felt free to race harder, I could've at least taken out some media rivals.

Hip: Along with wearing the same jacket over and over again, my biggest social weakness is my inability to dance properly. I'm not entirely without rhythm -- I am beige after all. But when it comes to dancing that involves actual coordination with a partner, I'm useless. As a result, I admire good dancers and loved the Great Atlanta Dance Off last Monday at Johnny's Hideaway in Buckhead. If you've never been there, Johnny's Hideaway attracts an older crowd. A third of the bar is dedicated to Frank Sinatra memorabilia and labeled "the Sinatra Room" with a big green sign -- obviously they're not overly concerned with luring the Gen-Xers. To be perfectly frank (awkward Sinatra pun intended), the place is better off for it. There are no poseurs too cool to act like they're having fun. Besides, where else in town are you gonna hear a DJ tell a Borscht Belt classic like, "Does anyone know why the Siamese Twins went to England? So the other one could drive."

I only saw a semi-final round (the finals are March 18). There was tango, salsa and a variety of non-Latin dances I don't know the names of. The dancers ranged in age from mid-20s to one man who looked to be in his 80s. His partner was a gorgeous woman at least 50 years his junior. You go, boy. There was no Lambada in the competition -- as that, of course, is the forbidden dance.

What's your function?: Photographer Clay Miller held a small show at his studio, the aptly named Clay Miller Studio. It featured work by Miller, photographer Gayla Rominger and painter Daphne Covington. Miller is a great photographer, but what awes me most about his work is his skill at black-and-white printing.

He's got a series of photos taken at Spaghetti Junction featuring only ramps with clear sky in the background. From the angles he shot, no cars are visible, only the graceful curves of the giant ramps. In the hands of a less-skilled printer, they would've been simple studies of curving shapes, but Miller's prints brought out deep, rich gray tones -- particularly in the sky -- that made the photos almost brood. I've driven under those ramps countless times, but I've never seen what he saw.

One of the show's highlights was the third-hand dirty rumors I heard about Kenny Rogers. I can't write about them here because I don't want to get sued.

No affiliation with the Unification Church: I discovered The Mooney Suzuki when I saw them open for make-believe-cult rockers The Causey Way. So it's only appropriate that I'd discover another great band opening for The Mooney Suzuki last Sunday. The band is called The Hiss, and they sound like a Stonesy Velvet Underground (or a Velvety Stones, depending on your outlook). Their singer looks like a mod Joaquin Phoenix. They inspired a woman standing up front to yell, "Shit hot!" after every song.

The Mooney Suzuki was fantastic as always. Their lead guitarist is so exciting he even sounds great tuning up. The guitarist, the singer and the bassist have the three best noses in music (sorry, Barbra). If America had more of a stomach for The Mooney's goonish bounciness, they'd be bigger than The Strokes.



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