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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Ben Affleck, Ben Stiller and the tale of two Buckheads

A sign on this vacant building identifies it as Buckhead's town hall, circa 1910.

A sign on this vacant building identifies it as Buckhead's town hall, circa 1910.

BUCKHEAD, GA. – Chances are, Ben Affleck has not spent much time here. Ben Stiller, either.

But this tiny Morgan County town 90 minutes east of Atlanta is basking a bit in the Bens’ misdirected glow.

This summer, a New Yorker article about Stiller said the comic actor rented a home “high on a hill in Buckhead, Ga.,” while in Atlanta filming the movie “The Watch.”

If Ben Stiller had indeed rented a house in Buckhead, Ga., as The New Yorker reported, these would have been some of his neighbors.

If Ben Stiller had indeed rented a house in Buckhead, Ga., as The New Yorker reported, these would have been some of his neighbors.

The town gets another inadvertent shoutout in Affleck’s “Argo,” in theaters now. In one scene in the movie about Americans escaping Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis, CIA operatives desperate to reach a reluctant Hamilton Jordan, who was the president’s chief of staff, lure him out of a meeting by pretending someone from his kids’ school — Pace Academy, in “Buckhead, Ga.” — was on the line.

Atlanta native Margaret McDaniel, amused by the gaffe, emailed to alert us. “I’m sure the folks out in the ‘real’ town of Buckhead would chuckle,” she said.

 Hollywood, meet filmmaker Janet Willis. She produced a documentary about Buckhead in 1993 after researching the town.

Hollywood, meet filmmaker Janet Willis. She produced a documentary about Buckhead in 1993 after researching the town.

We headed east to find out.

From her crowded counter at Buckhead Groceries, Janet Willis sells lottery tickets, food, drinks and cookies she bakes in a little kitchen off to the side. She also serves as unofficial historian to the town, which the Georgia Municipal Association said had 171 residents in 2011.

“People will tell you: I am Buckhead,” she said with no hubris in her voice. When we explained our mission to straighten out Hollywood regarding Buckhead the town and Buckhead the community, she offered some filmmaking of her own.

“Hang tight,” she said, and directed us to a small television with a DVD slot. Wouldn’t you know it? The dern thing wouldn’t play, so she had to tell us about the documentary she produced in 1993 after researching the town. A hunting party that included town founders killed a deer and mounted its head on a tree when they were casing the place in the early 1800s. “Buckhead” stuck and the town took off.

Thanks to Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell's efforts, letters that accidentally end up here get redirected to his community instead of returned to senders.

Thanks to Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell's efforts, letters that accidentally end up here get redirected to his community instead of returned to senders.

“We had a big hotel. We had a bank. We had a restaurant, a tavern, a cotton gin,” said Willis, whose shop is across the street from two vacant buildings and around the corner from a few more. “It was big. It was really a boom town.”

Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell

Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell

But the good times didn’t last. Unlike in Atlanta’s Buckhead, where the commercial real estate market cooled during the recession but has since warmed back up, things in Morgan County’s Buckhead never turned around.

“Between Sherman coming through, the boll weevil and the Depression, people went other places,” Willis said. She bucked the trend in 1984, moving from Covington when “Covington got too much like Atlanta.”

She would love to see some growth, although she cherishes the small town where her customers are regulars she calls by name or nickname and sometimes runs a tab for. While we were talking, a guy walked in, took a Mountain Dew out of the cooler and simply nodded on his way out. “That’s Tea Pot,” Willis explained.

Dana Howe, with her sons Eli, 5, and Fletcher, 3, says proudly that "there's only one Buckhead."

Dana Howe, with her sons Eli, 5, and Fletcher, 3, says proudly that "there's only one Buckhead."

Up the road, Dana Howe and her sons Eli, 5, and Fletcher, 3, were swinging in the sun. At 3 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon, they had the entire park next to the Buckhead Fire Department, in the shadow of the Buckhead water tower, to themselves.

Growing up, Howe looked forward every year to the Wagon Train, where folks would clomp from Madison, the Morgan County seat, to Buckhead in their mule- or horse-drawn buggies and then have a big picnic. Her grandfather was among the founders of the annual event, which withered a decade ago when the roads got too busy.

Still, Howe wouldn’t live anywhere else. Certainly not any other Buckhead.

Ben Affleck's movie "Argo," in theaters now, gives the town of Buckhead an inadvertent shout-out.

Ben Affleck's movie "Argo," in theaters now, gives the town of Buckhead an inadvertent shout-out.

“This is the only Buckhead,” she said proudly. She can’t really compare the two, since she’s only driven through the other one. “I grew up on a farm. I can’t imagine dealing with the traffic.”

If she decides to leave Buckhead the town to visit Buckhead the community again, Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell will be there to welcome her. Known colloquially as the “mayor of Buckhead,” the former mayor of Atlanta clucked through a list of Buckhead mix-ups over the years.

“We’ve encountered, with pride, a number of national firms advertising, with pride, a new opening in Buckhead, Ga.,” he said. He also worked with U.S. Postal Service officials to ensure that letters accidentally delivered to the town instead of the neighborhood get rerouted to Fulton County rather than returned to senders.

“We are on good terms with the city of Buckhead, but not to the degree they would give up their post office,” he noted dryly. As for his counterparts to the east, Massell said, they “are welcome here to the shopping mecca of the Southeast, the dining room of Georgia, the art gallery of the metro area, and the nightclub of Atlanta!”

10 comments Add your comment

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

[...] in the Bens' misdirected glow. This summer, a New Yorker article about Stiller said … Go to Source Posted in News [...]

Kristin

October 30th, 2012
11:20 am

One of the girls on The Amazing Race needs to read this. Her official CBS bio lists her as living in Atlanta, but her twitter profile says she lives in Buckhead, GA. https://twitter.com/CaitKing7

astro

October 30th, 2012
11:24 am

The Buckhead Motto: OOOH…..ME ME ME ME ME

Pepe Le Pew

October 30th, 2012
3:10 pm

Buckhead is waaaaaaaaaaaaay overrated.

El Mongol

October 30th, 2012
4:49 pm

It’s sad to admit, but Buckhead is over and not nearly the place it once was. The last twenty years have not been kind to the old gal as someone left the gate open and the riff raff just walked on in.

30305 or 30327

October 30th, 2012
7:01 pm

It ain’t what it used to be…I remember going to the Sears Store in Buckhead and the Buckhead Men’s shop and then the Arby’s next to the Jeep Dealership where the Peach Shopping Center is now….All gone now.

missit

October 30th, 2012
10:27 pm

Buckhead is NO FUN nor or a place you want to hang out or live in. The taxes are too damn high for no real reason. I agree with the last post; the Buckhead Mens’ shop……. the old hardware store. I will even say the clubs in the “graner” times of Buckhead were fun and inviting. Then the traffice took over and the folks with the brught idea to “cleam up Buckhead. Bring back Peachtree Cafe and Ottos….. or World Bar with the $2 drinks and countless others that were born and died in the same area………………… Buckhead will NEVER be what it once was.

30327

October 31st, 2012
5:58 am

Buckhead Atlanta is fine with me…just keep the police patrols and the crime down.

globeflyer

October 31st, 2012
6:39 am

I suspect there’s a good reason it is (still) referred to as “Butt-Head”.