HIGH FREQUENCIES: You'll never walk alone
Dallas Austin opens up his home for AMC's 'The Walking Dead' — and to kick off Super Bowl LIII weekend in the ATL
It was just like a scene out of The Walking Dead. A group of about a dozen walkers were roaming through the woods, staggering towards a house that resembled more a spaceship from another time and dimension than some residential domain, when they came to a clearing. But the walkers weren’t raging in anger or in some post-death agony, and seemed contemplative as they decided which path to follow out of the brush of pine trees. Luckily, they didn’t appear to be hungry, either, as they got their bearings just as the sun began to set. Before they sensed the living beings not far away, a couple of handlers appeared from a rear port of the house and herded the walkers inside.
Such was the beginning of the party Dallas Austin threw at his Sandy Springs home, secluded in the woods northwest of Atlanta, the Thursday before Super Bowl LIII. The music producer, a long-time fan of AMC’s series The Walking Dead, along with Walking Dead stars Norman Reedus (“Daryl Dixon”) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (“Negan”), DeAngelo Williams (former NFL Player), DeSean Jackson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver) and Tarik Cohen (Chicago Bears running back) hosted a party celebrating the show’s season nine mid-season premiere, which will broadcast this Sunday, February 10. As guests arrived, they were escorted to the red carpet for photo ops, then grabbed by 11Alive The A Team's Francesca Amiker for quick interviews.
The walkers, however, were unimpressed with the celebrities that crossed the red carpet. They were on their best behavior, so it seemed. Were these not the undead walkers at all, but the mysterious Whisperers introduced at the end of season nine’s first half? It was hard to tell, at first. They were everywhere. And they weren’t talking. They would, however, get all up in your face, as if they were about to attack. The walkers would lunge for your skull or a limb; the Whisperers would quickly stop before making body contact, putting their index finger close to their mouth, as if cautioning you not to breathe a word.
One couldn’t escape them. They were everywhere. Try wandering down one of the curving hallways of Austin’s home to get to a circular sitting room, and the walkers would be blocking your way. Getting to the screening room was no simple task, either. If you made it without incident, a large-screen television warned of the evil coming to The Walking Dead in the second half of season nine. Order a drink from the bar, and the window behind it allowed an underwater view of the second-floor outdoor swimming pool, where the severed heads of those who weren’t so lucky in their encounters with the walkers floated in the deep end.
Taking the elevator upstairs to the main living and dining areas — think of the groovy space pad the Jetsons called home — you would have to hurry to make sure the steel doors closed behind you, lest you be trapped inside the glowing orange pod with one of the living dead.
The many guests, including other football players, rappers, celebrities, models, and musicians — Eddie Drummond, former American football wide receiver and return specialist; Isaac Asiata, guard for the Miami Dolphins; Storm Norton, Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle; the Vikings' Trae Waynes; Cooper Andrews, who plays “Jerry” in The Walking Dead; his girlfriend, motion picture sound specialist Abin Shim; film producer and Georgia Entertainment Gala founder Autumn Essie Bailey-Ford; Phaedra Parks, formerly of "Real Housewives of Atlanta;" Quad Lunceford, "Married to Medicine;" rappers Waka Flocka Flame; and F.L.Y. (who sang "Swag Surfin'" to everyone's delight), among them — filled the upstairs areas. And none of them, like The Walking Dead executive producer Greg Nicotero, could hide in a corner, because in Austin’s house there are none. Every wall, ceiling, and floor curves into one another, creating the impression you are in a time-warp, trapped in a prehistoric cave turned interstellar space ship rather than the living quarters of a 21st-century man.
Austin appeared to be having a great time, easily grooving with everyone who wanted to say “hello” or snap a selfie. Still, he kept a watchful eye on the goings-on, sometimes adjusting the lighting as he moved from room to room, always making sure people were relaxed and enjoying the vibe.
While much of his home’s decor was switched out with images from the horror series for the event, there were certain touches that remained his: Covering one wall, a multitude of James Brown photographs honored the Godfather of Soul. A large portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. seated, in a suit and tie, taken during his first arrest in 1956, adorned another in the entrance hall. An early black-and-white photograph of a young, smiling Jimi Hendrix, displaying the innocence of the guitarist yet to realize his dreams and forever change the world through his Experience, hung across from MLK.
There was also music, sweet music rockin’ the house, from a deejay that controlled the beats no matter where you were, inside or out. And there was food. And cocktails. Specially crafted cocktails, created specifically for the Walking Dead evening. You had your choice: the Zombie Zinger (Martell Blue Swift, cranberry juice, pineapple juice, ginger ale with lime wedge), the Lucille Skull Crusher (Avion Silver tequila, apple juice, lemon juice, and simple syrup) or the Dead Doozie (Absolut Elyx vodka, Lillet Blanc, jasmine tea, lemon juice, and orange blossom honey served in the prerequisite copper coupe).
With things heating up inside the house — the party was more than getting started — it was hard to venture outdoors into the cold to watch even more guests making their entrance on the red carpet. One eager Walking Dead fan, hoping to catch a glimpse of any of the cast she could, unknowingly backed into actors Reedus and Morgan as they had just gotten out of an SUV. She turned around and, shocked, cried out their TV character names, Daryl and Negan, over and over in disbelief. Laughing, the two — who are nemeses onscreen but appeared to get along quite well off — posed for a quick photo with her. It was well after the actors finished being photographed with others on the red carpet before the woman regained her composure.
It was a fun night — and a great kick-off for Super Bowl LIII weekend in Atlanta. Luckily, despite so many walkers — who were actually the same walkers featured in the AMC series — lurking everywhere, all the guests made it out alive.