Mezzanine & Dress Circle Lobbies
As we leave the Lobby area, we ascend one of the two great staricases
that lead up to the Mezzanine level. One of the first things I did when
I first volunteered my services to the Fox was to repaint the handrails
on the main staircase. In later years during my tenure with Friends of
the Fox, I returned to the handrails for another session of
restoration. When I first "restored" the hand rails, I was instructed
by Bruce Sutka to use a thick black paint to cover up the indentations
left on the old paint from people sliding down the banisters. The
painting was done "in place" with the bannisters mounted on
poles or mount points. The second time around Rick Flinn had the
bannisters removed and relocated to the downstairs non-public area. We
removed the all the old paint, revealing beautiful wood
surfaces. The wood was so beautiful, we anticipated the
bannisters had been painted to conceal severe damage on at least one of
the bannisters. To make everything look uniform, all the the bannisters
were then painted.
To our surprise, not only did we discover the banisters were made from
beautiful wood, we didn't find a single damaged rail! Once
bannisters were stripped, it was decided to use a stain and seal the
bannisters to reveal and showcase the beautiful wood. The
bannisters were stained, given a protective coating, and replaced on
their also-renovated posts and mounts for a totally new look!
The first level above the Lobby is called the Mezzanine. This
level's main features are the beautiful faux wood beams overhead and
the "courtyard" balcony between the staircases that give it a Moorish
flavor. On the wall facing the balcony is a faded mural that is one of
the few items which has not had some form of restoration. If you squint
real hard, you can make out what is supposed to be the proverbial "Blue
Bird of Happiness in Paradise". Above the mural is the only original
real cloth awning in the building that now is showing its age.
Above that is a small example of the nighttime sky very similar to what
awaits us in the Auditorium. Unlike its bigger brother, there are no
stars, nor are there any cloud effects.
To my surprise, to the naked eye, the mural appears to be very faded,
but as you can see in the photo below, you can actually make out a lot
of detail in the mural thanks to digital photography. Digital
photo programs such as Adobe's Photoshop are able to extract
detail than common film would show. I simply used the PhotoShop's
saturation controls that could tell there was color content in the
photograph, then is was able to add more of the faded colors back into
the digital image. Truly remarkable!!!
One the ceiling of the Mezzanine, you see the beautiful wooden beams.
In this world of illusion, these beams are not what they seem to be. In
actuality they are plaster, just like every other surface in the public
areas of the Fox. The legend has it that they were created by
Swedish immigrants who lived in St.Louis Ohio that were
Atlanta to specifically work on the wood beam deatil in the Fox/Mosque
complex. They poured plasted into molds that sat on the mezzanine
floor. Once the plaster was ready, they were lifted to the ceiling
where they were mounted and then painted and decorated to look
like wood. This process was done in all of the rooms that use the faux
While the Fox operated as a movie theater, the patronage very rarely
reached full capacity and in the later years, the balcony was routinely
closed to patrons in order to take less time to clean between and after
performances. Since most of the traffic in the Fox remained on
main floor, there was no need to place concessions on the upper two
floors. When the Fox became a omnibus or performing arts theater in
1975, that all changed as it routinely sells out nearly every event
held at the Fox. The center lobby concession stand created a huge
traffic congestion area. One of the first attempts to solve
problems was to build a second concession stand on the
in 1978. It stood between the two entrances to the Balcony but it did
take up precious floor space and it could cause traffic congestion
around it. In the 1990s, the Mezzanine concession stand was rebuilt.
This time the area the workspace for the concession stand was
back into the area behind the wall inside the auditorium's
balcony. This returned about three or four feet of walkway back on the
Mezzanine floor. Later on, two additional service bars were added to
either side of the main concession stand and an additional concession
area was built-in under the right hand side staircase going up to the
Dress Circle, next to the elevators.
The black slate countertops used on the concession stands were taken
from the classrooms of Agnes Scott College in Decatur. When the college
underwent rennovation, the black slate boards were replaced with the
more modern green chalkboards. They were refinished and re-purposed for
their current use.
On the northern end of the Mezzanine is the second Men's Lounge. The
lounge takes on a cozy Moorish theme with a faux fireplace and amber
tinted lights. The effect was to emulate a Moorish home with a
rounded wood-beamed ceiling, fireplace, and a floor composed of colored
tiles. There are 2 built-in sofas to either side of the faux fireplace.
In a Morrish home, there would be used as sleeping spaces. Like all the
fireplaces in the Fox, none of them are real. This is my favorite
lounge in the Fox. Once again, tile was used instead of carpeting and
the furniture is more basic and simplistic than that of the women's
lounges. It's been speculated that when the complex was designed, it
was felt men would be more apt to throw cigarettes to the ground and
crush them with their shoes than women who would act more "lady-like".
For that concern, the men's lounges received durable tile
the gentile and refined ladies got carpet in their lounges.
On the southern end of the Mezzanine is the second Ladies Lounge. The
Mezzanine level ladies lounge is once again much more opulent than its
men's counterpart with an anti-chamber that gives the feeling of an
Egyptian courtyard at dawn or dusk. It is a dramatic room and
even been used as the setting for a wedding. In this room sits a pair
of chairs that are copies of throne chairs that were recovered from
King Tut's tomb. These two chairs have been loaned to museums for
exhibit and during the 2000s, were valued at approximately $32,000
The tile around the faux fireplace is based on authentic Egyptian
designs. While some speculate what I'm referring to as a fireplace was
actually meant to be a representation of a traditional appointment of a
space placed in Egyptian tombs that is meant to be the doorway from the
Land of the Living to the Land of the Dead. These "doorways" do look a
lot like what we have come to know as set back area that in modern days
are used as faux fireplaces. I for one, do not believe that was ever
intended for this space as during that time, the architects did not
know nearly as much as we do today about ancient traditions. The Fox is
a uniquely magical building and all sorts of legends and speculations
about things and appointments have been made in order to further
dramatize and sensationalize the special bearing the Fox Theater has.
That continues to this day and in my humble opinion, in this case, it's
a fake fireplace!
To further prove my opion, in 2005 two members of the Atlanta
Preservation Society's Fox Tour Guide Group, Dr. Hugh Keenan and Kohen
White, met with Dr. Betsey Teasley-Trope, associate curator of Ancient
Art and co-curator of their current special exhibit Excavating Egypt,
Michael C. Carlos Museum, at Emory University. Dr. Teasley-Trope
is a Professor of Egyptology and an expert in Egyptian Art and
Hieroglyphics that was asked to give her expert opinion about
the Egyptian themed art and hieroglyphics within the Fox Complex.
She reported that while there were accurate representations of Egyptian
artwork and symbols, there were no hieroglyphs in the complex that
composed complete phrases or coherent sentences. Some of the
hieroglyphs in the Fox are isolated prepositions or adjectives; others
are single nouns. In real Egyptian hieroglyphics, only proper
nouns (the names of persons or gods) should have cartouches; but this
principal is violated frequently in the Fox by having cartouches around
common nouns. Obviously the hieroglyphs were used for decoration with
no regard to actual meaning.
The winged scarab where it appears here in the Ladies Mezzanine
lounge as well as elsewhere, is the god "Khepri", the Sun God in his
manifestation as the rising sun who was seen to ascend through the
morning sky pushing the sun before him as the beetle pushes the ball of
dung. The eye of Horus appears on either side of the sun
symbol. Horus had only one eye; the other being put out by Seth,
his brother. This eye was a powerful amulet, also called the
"Healing" or "Healed Eye”: It also represented the "Whole"
and was divided into parts to represent particular fractions: 1/8, 1/2,
1/64, etc. Interestingly, when all the fractions are added up
they amount to 63/64, just missed by an eyelash. The heavy
markings of the eye are taken from the falcon, which is a symbol for
On each side of the fireplace are bas reliefs of a Pharoh and his
Queen. It's been said the couple are believed to be the parents of King
Tut, but Rick Flinn informed me the two reliefs as I previously
commented on the relief in the lower Men's Lounge, are generic catalog
items and to this day they are still available in catalogs that supply
The courtyard antechamber leads into the main upper Ladies
Lounge that was once outfitted with sofas and chairs along
several mirrored vanities like those in the lower Ladies Lounge. If you
will notice down on one of the walls is an odd round shaped metal
fitment. It is the connection point for the theater's central vaccum
system. The Fox was a cutting edge building when it was erected. It was
the first commercial building in Atlanta to have a central vaccum
system as well as a intergrated air conditioning system.
The Mezzanine Women's Lounge has the only real balcony at the Fox. The
balcony is on the Ponce DeLeon Ave side of the building and looks out
to Downtown Atlanta. The reason for a balcony was solely to
provide a place for women to smoke. While it was permissible and common
for men to smoke in public, the sensibilities of the period
it to where "women of society" should not be see smoking at all. The
balcony was designed to allow women who desired to smoke a place to go
where they would not be seen. The balcony was
such a way that unless a woman stood directly at or leaned over the
railing, she could not be seen from the street. Surprisingly, even in
the early years of the Fox, women commonly threw debris off the balcony
and it would fall down on the passer-bys on the sidewalk below. Because
of that, the balcony was closed early in the life of the Fox.
It has mostly sat vacant, but it's some times now used to
things not effected by being outside such as
soda canisters, or beer kegs.
Returning to the Mezzanine, on the southern side of the
Mezzanine, is an stairway entrance to the Grand Salon and
that you can access the Egyptian Ballroom. Continuing up the stairs,
you will wind up on the Dress Circle. On the northern side, there are
the patron elevators and the other staircase that leads up to the Dress
The Dress Circle lobby is the main access way to the upper
of the auditorium balcony, called First and Second Dress Circles. The
Dress Circle is one of my favorite spots in the theater as it is
the most quiet and a good place to stop, rest, and reflect. It is the
most simply decorated of the three lobbies, even when the Fox was new.
The Dress Circle Lobby is essentially a wide corridor with
archways. Between the arches, there once were plush sofas and chairs.
There are no concessions or lounges on the Dress Circle. This has
puzzled me as the Dress Circle provides access to a good number of
seats in the auditorium and by providing concessions in this space, it
could certainly have an impact in reducing the amount of traffic and
congestion at the other lobby levels.
The Dress Circle lobby is also the main interior access way to
upper most level of the Balcony, the Gallery. I will talk more about the Gallery area
when we tour the Auditorium, Which is coming up next!
the Tour main page.