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 their 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 the 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 Mezzanine

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 more 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 brought to 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 beams.

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 the 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 those problems was to build a second concession stand on the Mezzanine 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 set 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.

Mezzanine Lounges

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 while 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 has 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 each.

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 Horus.
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 such things!

The courtyard antechamber leads into the main upper Ladies Lounge that was once outfitted with sofas and chairs along with 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 made 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 designed in 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 store things not effected by being outside such as scaffolding, spent soda canisters, or beer kegs.

Dress Circle

Returning to the Mezzanine, on the southern side of the Mezzanine, is an stairway entrance to the Grand Salon and through 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 Circle.

The Dress Circle lobby is the main access way to the upper levels 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 onion dome-shaped 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 the 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! 

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