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Fox Theatre Sparks Assisted Living Controversy

The Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, has been a popular topic in the news over the past couple weeks, after they sent a letter about a new lease to long time resident and former technical director Joe Patten. He has lived at the location in a 3,640 square-foot apartment since 1979, and has been dubbed the “Phantom of the Fox.” Patten was granted a lifetime rent-free lease to the spacious apartment at the Atlanta landmark because of his ongoing work as the technical director, which began in 1974. The bottom line is that the Fox Theatre is not looking to evict Patten from his home, but the board that now oversees the property had concerns about Patten’s health, and voted to put together a new lease. On the Fox Theatre Facebook page they state that “It is their desire to have Joe remain in the apartment for as long as he is able.”

However the incident went down, it seems there was a bit of confusion and Patten thought he was going to have to find a new place to live. Currently it looks like Patten is still welcome to stay, but the new lease has still not been addressed by Patten when last checked. All of this controversy sparked debates in the region about when a senior should find an assisted living home, versus living on their own and being independent. It appears that Patten has needed more help on occasion from staff at the Fox Theatre, so the concerns revolved around his health and making sure that Patten was taken care of.

Phantom of the Fox from Too Busy To Hate on Vimeo.

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Ellen grew up on the east coast and spent 10 years working in senior homes during her 20's and 30's before taking a break to raise her 3 children. Now that her children are in college, Ellen uses her knowledge of senior care to help her write about all of the latest industry news. Ellen is a fabulous seamstress, and when not writing about the senior care industry, you can find her sewing away on her latest fashion creation. Ellen tagged this post with: , , Read 32 articles by Ellen
8 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Angie Smith says:

    While your bottom line summary is correct, it also doesn’t give the full picture.

    The Exec Board voted to change the terms of Joe’s lease so that the new lease is essentially a month-to-month lease with the Board deciding when Joe is medically required to move to assisted living facilities. This is the problem that I have had with the changing of the lease agreement. Instead of recognizing that Joe is a mentally competent man capable of making personal decisions, the Board is acting as though he is incompetent and is treating him as a child. In addition, the new lease terms prevent Joe from easily acquiring in-house care, such as from Community Nurses to monitor him when needed or including Hospice care, as ALL visitors must be approved by the Board.

    If Joe does not sign this new onerous lease, then he WILL have to leave his apartment (that he built and remodeled using his own money) within 90 days.

    Joe is physically and mentally capable of living alone and for the Board to baldly state that they feel that he should be in an ‘assisted living facility’ is an insult to the man (and to anyone in this position). Disregarding how much Joe has done for the Fox Theater, it is still insulting for the Board to have treated someone so callously.

    To qualify, I have no personal or business connections to Joe Patten, Fox Theater Atlanta, or any of the parties involved. The reason that this topic upsets me so much is that while I recognize the need for assisted living facilities and that there are many good facilities out there, it does no-one any good to be forced or manipulated into a new location like what is happening with Joe Patten. I have had a grandfather that had to be put into assisted living when his Alzheimer’s was too much for my grandma to care for. It was a hard decision to make, but the only one. My grandma has been able to stay in her house without issue, is able to drive her car, and is mentally incredibly sharp. While physically she has slowed down a little (she is 87) and now walks with a cane (b/c of chemotherapy reactions 3 years ago), the thought of insisting that she enter assisted living is mind-boggling and insulting to her.

    There are a number of documents supporting Joe Patten’s struggle with the Fox Exec Board, and the Fox Board has made a number of statements that have been shown to be misleading. Compiled documentation can be found at the Facebook page (I am not the founder of this page, just a member.)

  2. James Carlen says:

    Hello Ellen, what the Fox states in in the press or on their Facebook does not square with the facts that they put in writing and are available for you or anyone to look at. Please look at the new lease Joe is being asked to sign. They voted to terminate his old lifetime lease and substitute a tenancy at will in it’s place. No one in their right mind would sign such a document (please see the new agreement) as it is designed to make Joe fail. Please get your facts correct before you assume that the Fox is genuinely interested in his health. They are not since they could have used a provision in the old lease whereby 3 doctors could have been consulted to determine his ability to stay. Did you read Woody Whites letter of August 11th? His requests of Joe’s doctor to provide confidential information and personally call him certainly violate the HIPPA provisions at the least. they did none of this because Joe does not need this level of care at this time so Woody White used other means to get the board to rubber stamp his decision to get Joe out. Many seniors do very well at home with some services in place. Joe’s sister was even told that she could not stay in his residence while he was recuperating. The board is in fact going to evict him and will be sending a formal notice to him on or around the 15th of September so Joe is definitely going to have to find a new place to stay. The board gets his 1 million dollar apartment that he paid for and Joe gets a big fat zero. As for the staff Joe has not asked for staff’s help, but many of them have asked to assist him. I can only think of one staff member who would have complained and this is more than likely the source for these allegations. It is very sad that the Fox want to throw out a senior citizen and claim that they are concerned for him. I hope you will investigate this further and in more depth and look at this from the senior citizens point of view ie.Joe’s.

  3. Lu says:

    Ellen, I believe you have your facts wrong. This is no issue about Joe needing assisted living. He is doing just fine as always, living on his own. Please get all of your facts before you write an article on the issue.

  4. Kathy White says:

    Ellen, I thank you for calling attention to assisted living as an option for Joe Patten-however, if you read the documents posted on the “Save Joe The Phantom of the The Fox” Facebook page (under photos) you’ll soon see that merely looking after Joe’s interests was not what Atlanta Landmarks was about. Please go to the Facebook page and re-read what’s there to find out what was truly communicated to him in writing. If they meant something different, then they need to rewrite the documents.

  5. Marcia Killingsworth says:

    I can’t believe this article. It sounds like you just swallowed the Fox’s Facebook statements whole and didn’t even bother to see what the letters and documents from the Fox/Atlanta Landmarks said. If you’re not going to research an issue properly, please don’t write about.

    Your piece is inaccurate. It states one very self-interested side of a very complex story. Since it’s on the Internet, unless it’s corrected, it will stand as fact forever.

    As written, this piece requires several retractions, corrections and clarifications, including:
    1) You said: “Patten was granted a lifetime rent-free lease to the spacious apartment at the Atlanta landmark because of his ongoing work as the technical director, which began in 1974.”
    NOT TRUE. This is why Joe was given the apartment, which he built with $50K of his own money: When the Fox Theatre was facing demolition in the early ’70s, Joe Patten, Robert Foreman Jr., Nancy Gordy Sims and others saved it from demolition by launching a grassroots campaign that triumphed over Atlanta’s power structure. Mr. Patten also completely restored, without compensation, the magnificent Moeller pipe organ over the course of 10 months. When he started, it barely played any note. When he was finished, “Mighty Mo” was one of the biggest draws to the Fox. Finally, he saved the theatre a second time from fire in 1996. Ed Neiss, general manager at the time, told the media “Joe has saved the Fox twice.”

    2. You said: “It appears that Patten has needed more help on occasion from staff at the Fox Theatre, so the concerns revolved around his health and making sure that Patten was taken care of.”
    NOT TRUE. Mr. Patten never asked for any assistance from any of the Fox staff. Having lived and worked there over 30 years, he has made friends with staff members along the way. When Fox staff “checked up” on Joe, it was their own decision made from their own fondness of Mr. Patten, not at his request.

    3. You said: “However the incident went down, it seems there was a bit of confusion and Patten thought he was going to have to find a new place to live. Currently it looks like Patten is still welcome to stay, but the new lease has still not been addressed by Patten when last checked.”
    (The last part of this statement is probably as close to the truth as this piece gets, but maybe it was after your deadline. Mr. Patten - through his lawyer - has refused to sign the new “occupancy agreement” - let’s be clear, it is NOT a lease. But let me start at the beginning.)
    NOT TRUE: Read the proposed “occupancy agreement” and you won’t be confused as to why Joe, his lawyers, and the community believe that the Fox and Atlanta Landmarks want him out. The Fox says that they want him to stay “as long as he is able,” on the same day Mr. Patten is hand-delivered a letter from the Fox giving him two weeks to negotiate a compromise agreement or sign the one they’ve proposed.

    How can you not check these documents before writing about this issue?

    The Fox is saying one thing to the press and media and something completely different in the legal documents. Check out ALL of the pertinent documents on my website under “Media and Sponsor Resources: Documents and Statements” or just click on the “Just the Facts, Ma’am: All the Documents You Need.”

    And for someone who writes about assisted living, you didn’t catch the “as long as he is able” red flag?
    ‘On the Fox Theatre Facebook page they state that “It is their desire to have Joe remain in the apartment for as long *as he is able*.”’

    Who decides if Joe Patten is “able”? His doctors, his family, Joe himself, a combination of the three? No, Atlanta Landmarks will make the ultimate decision. In fact, in the initial letter to Mr. Patten about the proposed new arrangement, Atlanta Landmarks President Woody White wrote: “We must also insist that, prior to providing this confirmation (from Joe’s doctors re: his ability to live alone) your physician speak with me, reviewing his decision and his understanding of the physical limitations of your apartment.”

    That’s an outrageous request and an unprecedented invasion of Joe Patten’s privacy.

    And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Read the documents for yourself, the letters from the Fox, the new “occupancy agreement,” which - again - is NOT a lease, but a tenancy-at-will that allows the Fox to end the agreement (i.e. evict Mr. Patten) “for any reason or no reason” with 60 days written notice.

    I look forward to hearing about your planned retraction and corrections, and much needed apology to Mr. Patten for so misrepresenting his plight.

  6. admin says:

    Thanks for all the GREAT comments everyone! It’s definitely important to get both sides of the story and I will try to do a follow up on this to show your side as well. That said, keep the comments coming because they help to shed light on every side of the story.


  7. Susanne Pesterfield says:

    Ellen you can find copies of original documents and correspondence here:

    If you look at Woody White’s letter of August 11, 2010, notice he says:

    “We…then need to reorder our priorities and utilize [your apartment] for sorely needed expansion.”

    Further, if you read the original lease referenced on that site, beginning on pp. 16, Article IX, 9.1.a, you’ll see that medical issues were addressed back in 1979 ~ if Mr. Patten was medically incapacitated for 180 days, and three physicians deemed him unable to care for himself, the Board had the right to terminate the lease. Now apparently they fancy themselves the equivalent of a panel of trained physicians? And no prior health incapacitation is required ~ just their own arbitrary decisions.

  8. Gordon Dyker says:

    Ellen, while I appreciate you bringing up the topic of elder care, I simply cannot believe how one-sided your article is posted.

    I meet & spoke with Joe Patten on Thursday (9/9/10), and from what the Fox Theatre has claimed, I would see a senile, immobile, feeble old man. Joe is exactly the opposite of the false claims being tossed about from Atlanta Landmarks, the non-profit which actually owns the Fox.

    Joe is true Southern gentlemen, born & raised when people had manners, a handshake or promise was valued, and when we respected one another.

    He is witty, kind, bright, alert, knowledgeable, an amazing story-teller, mobile and quite capable to live on his own. Joe was instrumental in saving of this historical jewel in Atlanta, twice - one in the 1970s from demolition, and again in the 1990s from a raging fire. He can be credited to the historic preservation movement in Atlanta.

    His supporters, more than 7,000 as of 9/10/10 and steadily growing in force, are not ‘social media misfits’, who are uninformed. Read the documents when have been placed before Joe, and you’ll discover a very different message. No one in their right mind would sign them.

    Woody White, Fox Board of Trustees chairman, is on a crusade to give Joe the boot as soon as possible.

    I’m disappointed your story is heavily one-sided, and expect an updated article to correct your previous (incorrect) statements.

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