Murder, He Wrote
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- Published on October 26, 2023
- Last Updated November 3, 2023
- In Culture
Ron Stodghill, DETOUR founder and author of true crime novel "Redbone: Money, Malice and Murder in Atlanta," reflects on the real-life "Black Gatsby" and what it means to have Taye Diggs portray the lavish character in the BET+ Original two-part movie.
I’ve been a Taye Diggs fan for a long time. From Winston, the Jamaican boytoy in How Stella Got Her Groove Back, to kiss-and-tell scribe Harper Stewart in Best Man, to Billy Baker, the ethically-challenged high school football coach and family man in All-American, Diggs plays some of my favorite Big Screen characters.
That’s why I was blown away watching Diggs portray entrepreneur and socialite Lance Herndon in BET’s Atlanta Playboy, a new two-part whodunit about the mysterious murder of the Black millionaire during the city’s 1996 Olympic Games.
Atlanta Playboy is based on Redbone: Money, Malice and Murder in Atlanta, my 2007 true crime about Lance Herndon’s 1996 fatal bludgeoning and trial (Amistad/HarperCollins). If you haven’t read my book or watched Jaira Thomas and Gregory Anderson’s lushly decadent BET adaptation, I won’t spoil things.
I’ll just say that Herndon was the embodiment of Atlanta’s go-go ‘90s culture, a Black Gatsby of his era. At the time he was murdered, Herndon, 41, had built up his startup, Access Inc., a computer consulting firm, into one of the South’s fastest-growing companies (President Clinton twice cited Access as Minority Business of the Year).
Meanwhile, Herndon was hosting some of Atlanta’s hottest, most exclusive soirees. A serial womanizer, Herndon’s carousing would become pivotal to his murder investigation. Four of his mistresses, and an ex-wife, turned up as suspects in a case that captivated Black Atlanta for nearly a decade. In 2004, Dionne Baugh, a spurned lover, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter. After serving 10 years in prison, Baugh was released in July 2011.
In the end, though, Herndon’s most enduring legacy may be shaking up Atlanta’s old guard. In a city powered by fourth and fifth-generation college-educated African Americans, Lance Herndon, who grew up poor in New York City, was viewed as unrefined, street, and morally corrupt by Atlanta’s black high society. When they weren’t gossiping about Herndon, many were busy sabotaging his business deals.
Now, some three decades later, Atlanta has rebranded itself ‘Hollywood South’, and Lance Herndon is once again the talk of the town, thanks to Taye Diggs. Pop the champagne; not even Lance himself (Rest in Peace) could have planned a better revival.
Check out this Atlanta Playboy trailer, and I’ll see you soon!