Coursing with a pumped-up beat, gay Atlanta was the South’s mecca—a beacon for gays and lesbians growing up in its homophobic towns and cities. There, the Sweet Gum Head was the club for achieving drag stardom.
Martin Padgett evokes the fantabulous disco decade by going deep into the lives of two men who shaped and were shaped by this city: John Greenwell, an Alabama runaway who found himself and his avocation performing as the exquisite Rachel Wells; and Bill Smith, who took to the streets and city hall to change antigay laws. Against this optimism for visibility and rights, gay people lived with daily police harassment and drug dealing and murder in their discos and drag clubs. Conducting interviews with many of the major figures and reading through deteriorating gay archives, Padgett expertly re-creates Atlanta from a time when a vibrant, new queer culture of drag and pride came into being.