Art opens, sells, imitates life 


With the first true cold snap of October comes the inevitable Niagara opening at C-Pop, and the art lovers, freeloaders and minimum-wage celebrities alike turned out in full force for this annual autumnal art ritual.

It was truly a rollicking night in the Drunken Village Triangle (Majestic, Union Street and C-Pop), with the Gutterfest roaring into its second garage rock-fueled night at the Magic Stick, the bar scene at Union Street bringing back memories of the good ol’ days and, of course, the trendinistas flooding into C-Pop for the see-and-be-seen portion of the evening.

Niagara, as always the döppelganger diva of the vamping late-night art set, was elegantly bedecked in a tiara, no doubt a self-coronating occasion for one who has been almost omnipresent in the print media over the past few weeks, including the Metro Times“Gang of 20,” a glowing puff piece in last week’s Windsor Star, and a by-the-numbers essay in one of those gratuitous advertising/entertainment leaflets published in the suburbs with the word “Detroit” in the title.

As a bonus, this was a dual artist show, with Rico Africa exhibiting his expansive works upstairs. By the time I made it upstairs, however, the freeloaders had pretty much scarfed down the edibles, leaving a few decorative autumn gourds on the table (a think I saw bite marks on one), and the beverages were reduced to a premixed, straight-from-the-bottle margarita, sans ice.

“But, hey, man” you sayeth, “it’s about the art!”

Speaking of which, spotted admiring the artwork upstairs was GM designer Joel Piaskowski and his German frequent companion Eva Fischer, along with fellow designer Christos Roustemis, who last week confirmed an oft-rumored engagement to Pellayia Lazaris. I also chatted with Dan Banda of the Padded Cell in Royal Oak, which was displaying a few of those pricey, custom-designed, one-of-a-kind Niagara purses.

The soothing ambiance of the upstairs was a welcome relief from the blazing klieg lights downstairs, where it was literally possible to scrutinize and chart out people’s pores while engaging in superficial art-opening chatter. The surgical-strength lighting, as well as the ever-present popping of paparazzi camera flashes, no doubt contributed to the rather bronzed self-tanning facial hue of aspiring middle-aged male model and beat poet Vic Toledo (né Jerry Peterson-Vile), who acted as the ostensible entertainment for the evening, backed up by Greasy Carlisi and Bootsy X on bongos.

Toledo was attempting to shill a few copies of his laminated DIY poetry manifesto for the absurd price of $19.95. Even more absurd, he reportedly sold one.

Not so absurd, however, was that Niagara’s paintings were selling like the proverbial hotcakes. Although the standard line among old-school hipsters is that “jeez, look at those prices, I bought mine for $150 back when they were hanging over at Union Street,” the prices reflect what the market will bear. Evidence of that was borne out by art lovers John and Lorraine Kenyon of Rochester Hills. The Kenyons bought two uplifting pieces, entitled “It’s My Party and I’ll Die if I Want To,” and the more succinct “Drop Dead.”

The Kenyons were emblematic of a demographic not always common at these openings, i.e. “Damn the torpedoes (or Toledos, as it were) and loosen the purse strings, we’ve got some greenbacks and we’re gonna spend ’em.”


Local scenesters should take note; one day your life could end up on Broadway, or at least way-off-off Broadway, or so it would seem since former Detroiter (and former MT Pitch'd columnist), Mixer Mag contributor and aspiring New York playwright Hobey Echlin had a segment in a three-act play entitled Nightclubbing.

Echlin’s act had four characters, and was set at what appeared to be the Monday-night parties at The Warehouse in Rivertown circa 1988 or so. The characters, which some who saw the play ascribed to real-life inspiration, included an over-the-top bartender named Marla, a promoter by the name of Stirling, Marla’s junkie “boyfriend” and fellow bartender, and a character by the name of Vince. The play was set in a car parked outside the club, wherein two of the highly fictitious characters were shooting up cocaine.

Spotted in the audience at the lower east side Flamboyan Theater was former Echlin bandmate and current law student Odell Nails, and former Ritual promo-person and current NEXT modeling assistant Maureen McCurdy.


Word is that Amir Daiza and his partners are angling to buy the lease for the Royal Oak Music Theatre, currently in bankruptcy liquidation proceedings. The home of the old Fourth Street club nights was a victim of too many late-night brawls on the sidewalk (as well as a slew of subsequent lawsuits). The building’s owners are looking for more live music programming.

Also in the rumor mill, Pure Barroom co-owner Chris Bidigere is said to be involved in reopening the old Times Square club in downtown Detroit behind the Parker-Webb Building (on Times Square, natch), which recently received a new exterior coat of silver paint on the triangular-shaped building. I briefly checked out the interior, which looked almost ready to go.

Also ready is the new downtown Tom’s Oyster Bar on Jefferson in the former Galligan’s/Eruptions, etc. building. Owner Tom Brandell indicated that they poured “more than a half-million but less than three-quarters” into renovating the place, and it shows. All they need now is the requisite liquor-license transfer.

Casey Coston writes about development in Detroit. E-mail him at

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