The Southside Bar & Grill in Helen


This is a new installment in my series of posts over the years about by experiences on the movie Black Dog, which shot in Georgia and North Carolina. The lead photo was originally posted by user Python423 over on back in 2007.

Second unit turned into a fighting unit once we made a company move to Helen to shoot some big truck stunts. Suddenly we were all out-of-towners and while we tried out all the local restaurants, a bar called The Southside Bar & Grill became our crew’s main hangout.

“The Southside Bar and Grill on the southern end of Main St. offers karaoke and live bands during the week and entices with big-screen TVs and pool tables (not to mention a tasty, casual menu).” –

“Tasty, casual menu” my ass – we shot there almost five years before TripAdvisor even existed, and that place was a honky-tonk, pure and simple.

At that point I was in my early 30s and any location shoot with the entire crew was a big adventure. This place had pool tables, video games, karaoke, and lots and lots of booze.

I can still hear our prop truck driver Blackie growling out an order for a round of Hot Damns for all of us sitting around the bar. I would have never ordered one on my own, but it would have been rude to have turned it down, and it was pretty awesome being included in the celebration. I don’t know if I reciprocated, but I sure hope I did.

One night our traveling mechanic Pete spotted a sneaky stranger pilfering the purse of one of our hair and makeup girls. Pete alerted her boyfriend Dean and together the men personally escorted the purse pilferer outside and invited him to leave. I was really glad those guys were on my side.

Another night a couple of single guys from our crew disappeared for a few hours. When they showed back up they let me know that they’d met an adventurous mountain lady who took them on a tour of their hotel room, at the same time, if you know what I mean. People in the mountains seemed to be extremely friendly.

“And in one afternoon at the courthouse, three divorce cases pivoted on acts of adultery committed in the parking lot of the Southside Tavern.” – Candice Dyer, Atlanta Magazine

That bar was a magnet for crazy bad decisions.

When I wasn’t sitting at the bar talking to people from the crew I played video games over by the door. One night when I was on my way to get some more quarters from the change machine I heard a girl say “There he is!” – I turned around and found it was the pretty bartender who had waited on me the night before.

She was there on her night off hanging out with a girl friend. I spent the next several hours getting to know them better and I have to say it seemed to have been going pretty good for a while.

These girls were cute and it all seemed to be building up to something BIG if I played my cards right. The bartender’s friend told me that she and the bartender sometimes pretended they were girlfriends.

I had read about stuff like this before but never dreamed that I might be cool enough for it to happen to me!

Just before closing some random dude showed up to join the girls and the three of them suggested I meet them at a nearby breakfast spot for some food before…. well, before something.

I knew that I had not been cool enough for any of this to be happening in the first place, and now that there was some random guy in the picture I was convinced it was time to start thinking more clearly because this seemed like one of those situations where the narrator of a true crime show would later say “they eventually found Drew’s left ear lying next to a woodchipper.”

I did NOT want to get dismembered.

So as their car turned left out of the parking lot I whipped my steering wheel to the right and beat it back to my hotel room to count my ears and all my other bits. The Southside Bar & Grill played for keeps – (“Man Stabbed to Death“).

The Mountain Race

The stunts team on the Georgia portion of the movie behaved like any group of stunt men hired to do dangerously “manly” things: they were in a constant battle to be cooler and tougher than each other. When we had been shooting back around Atlanta I had overheard some of them bragging to some of the others about going to Buckhead to pick fights with drunks, “just for the fun of it” (because some of them were essentially professional fighters).

I instinctively understood that this bravado helped them to find the nerve to do the kinds of crazy stunts they were there in Helen to do, like driving a truck off the side of a mountain, so I just ignored the tough guy talk. In a way they were the “stars” of our second unit so it wasn’t really any of my business what they did in their off time.

Except for the morning when I encountered assistant stunt coordinator Keii Johnston on my way to set, on the other side of the mountain north of town. I had spent many mornings enjoying the heck out of that drive in my little Honda Civic hatchback, trying to run all the switchbacks as fast as I could. And now I had a stunt guy in a big white truck racing me along the route. It was a whole lot of fun and I’m sure that he smoked me at some point, but I do not remember that happening (!!), so maybe I actually beat him!

Blackdog Mountain Switchbacks

Why Not Me?

One morning our crew stood along a ridgeline preparing to listen to our 2nd unit director / stunt coordinator Gary Hymes discuss the day’s work. I was near the stunt guys and overheard them making fun of a girl they’d run into at karaoke at The Southside Bar & Grill the night before – her big song had been “Why Not Me?” by the Judds (a song I did not know).

Judging by their screechy, nasal renditions of the poor girl’s performance I was convinced that I had dodged a bullet at the Southside Bar & Grill and probably ought to dodge as many more as I could if I wanted to make it out of Helen alive!


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