About Erin

Deputy Editor, Southern Living Magazine. Digital and social media girl who learned everything with a pen and a reporter's notebook. Mom. Florida native celebrating all things kitsch, accidental Birminghamian. Is probably getting back from somewhere or heading somewhere. Knows: Elvis, journalism, pop culture, Southern artisans and emerging neighborhoods, vintage clothes, pugs, Yacht Rock. 

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Remembering Atlanta's Johnny "Mr. Nightlife" Esposito, A Life On The Dance Floor 

I was sad today to read that Atlanta has lost one of its most colorful characters: Johnny Esposito, founder of the legendary Johnny's Hideaway.

Johnny's Hideaway is one of the last remaining slices of a time filled with dinner and dancing. (OK, I've never had dinner there, but I have been dancing many a time on the parquet floor, with images of screen icons and 90210 stars alike flashing behind me. No, this is not a dream.)

Esposito, 79, died Monay at 79. Atlanta Magazine did this excellent story on his life -- the kind they just don't make anymore. An excerpt:

"For decades, night after night, Esposito, nattily clad in a suit and tie, positioned himself at the first table just inside the front door where he waited to greet each guest as they walked into the Hideaway. With a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other, Esposito went table to table, introducing himself to first-timers and cutting up with the regulars. The Rat Pack era raconteur married and divorced five times and lived to chronicle it. Literally."

The story also includes great details about how he was hanging out with Frank Jr. whe Frank Sr. called him to tell him he'd married Mia Farrow (two decades his junior) and how he catered to Apollo Astronauts while running Florida's Melbourne Beach Casino (oooh, waht I wouldn't do to be there for one night back in the day).

I was just at Johnny's Hideaway a few weeks ago, snagging this memento after dancing with what looked to be cast members from "Fantasy Island."

Stephanie and I snagged these vintage Johnny's champagne bottles, somewhere between dancing to Michael Jackson, watching people from their 20s to the 70s make the scene, and trying to get a table (which we never got; popular spot.)

We've celebrated a lot of things there, in part because it's a place where we feel comfortable, stepping back in time, expecting Lee Majors to walk in at any time. (Though we know better than to get the "Birthday Cake" shots we once favored at a certain point.)

To quote Johnny (from Atlanta Magazine, "I don't wanna die on the couch. I wanna die on the dance floor.") Cheers to him. May he be enjoying a martini with Frank and all the dancing he can imagine. 

Related Posts:

AJC: Johnny's Hideaway Founder Dies

AJC: Johnny's Hideaway Welcomes Younger Set

Introducing the Newest Member of The Gold Shoe Mafia; 24 Hours In Atlanta



Reader Comments (2)

I'm sad. Johnny's truly is a magical place. And, don't bring your empty bottles of faux champagne on the dance floor, ERIN! You'll get kicked off. Just sayin' ...
April 6, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterstephanie
I am a retired "road musician" who worked for Johnny Esposito when he had the Melbourne Beach Casino and later the first "Johnny's Hideaway" in Cocoa Beach, FL...(the old Satellite Motel facility).

I can tell you first hand that Johnny helped out so many struggling musicians and artists during his years owning nightclubs....he would ALWAYS knock about 50% off the drink tab for the week, and that was a good thing, because at the end of the week, when it was time to get paid, he'd usually already "advanced" us most of the money we were to be paid.

He'd also feed us for free out of the kitchen, all the while grumbling about "worthless musicians who never did a day's work in their lives". etc.

He usually did the grumbling when he was "hands-on" in the kitchen, boiling up the shrimp himself, sweating like crazy....I remember thinking "Geez, he OWNS this place, and still works this hard??!!

You never wanted to walk in "flippant", and ask Johnny a question when he had a "audience" at the bar listening in....If you did, you'd better be prepared for a blistering reply, complete with more curse words than I knew existed, and used in completely new applications (to my Gomer Pyle Tennessee ears).

However, the moment you got one-on-one with Johnny, he was one of the most caring, concerned, generous, and honest individuals I have ever encountered.

When he moved to Atlanta and had a club at Underground, I'd occasionally stop by to see him...he was more of a "celebrity" in Atlanta than I remembered in Melbourne, but still obviously had nothing but the warmest regard for folks with musical talent.

I'd call him a couple of times per year--had to run him down at the TicToc (I think that's the name) restaurant in most recent years, and then the last time I spoke with him, I traced him down to a hospital room where he was trying to recouperate from one of his major health issue bouts.

He sounded weaker than I'd ever heard him, but was still "Johnny", (thank God)....the saddest part was when I realized that I was one of the few "old musicians" who still tried to stay in touch with him.....He had helped hundreds of struggling musicians just like me, and when they either "made it" or "gave up", they didn't seem to care enough about what Johnny Esposito had done for them years ago......I cared, and I always will.

Godspeed, Johnny--you''ll look pretty damned funny with wings, but I'm SURE you got 'em.
April 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLee Solomon

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