The morning rain wasn’t why we changed our plans of sunny patio fajitas to early afternoon drinks indoors. Anita Rae Strange was. Or maybe it was her alter ego Blondie, a stripper most famously known for crushing beer cans with her breasts at the city’s notorious Clermont Lounge.
At the entrance of the extended living apartments on North Avenue where she lives, the 55-year-old African-American exits the building and steps into the sun at the exact minute we agreed to meet, wearing a conservative green dress, pink peep-toe heels, brightly colored makeup, and, of course, her signature blond hair (now a wig).
“Hi, honey,” she says sweetly before kissing me on the cheek. “Can we stop by Walgreens first? I need to pick up some lashes.” She then reaches into her purse and pulls out two “thank you” cards. “My mother taught me right,” she says.
Walking into Walgreens, she picks up the store’s deals circular and greets the women behind the counter with a wave. They wave back.
“They have nice jewelry here. And perfume, too.” She wonders if the store still carries the dark chocolate-covered pretzels she likes. “Dark chocolate is healthier,” she says.
As she sorts through the selection of false lashes, she describes a green pair she owns with long feathers that she plans to wear as a peacock on Halloween. “I’m a woman of many feathers.”
Beyond stripping, she is also a poet whose work has been published in Creative Loafing, as well as two books, one that she says is archived at the National Library of Congress. She credits Charles Bukowski, Maya Angelou, and Allen Ginsberg among her favorite poets.
“I write a lot like Bukowski because he was so visual. You didn’t even have to be there. You could just close your eyes and see. But he didn’t rhyme, and that’s what I liked. He had cadence. I have cadence.”
At the counter, the woman asks how she’s been. “My movie comes out this month at the Atlanta Film Festival,” she says enthusiastically. “You’re going to be a movie star,” the woman responds. She smiles and thanks her before exiting.
One shot down and beer in hand, we now sit at her gay bar of choice just down the street from the lounge talking about AKA Blondie, the locally produced documentary about her life premiering March 25 at this year’s Atlanta Film Festival, a venture she anticipates will act as a catalyst for a new beginning.