Fashion, fame and film 

Birmingham by storm

Thunder and windstorms rolled in fast and scared the bejesus out of everyone last Friday night, forcing Birmingham Jazz Fest ’99 to start an hour or so late. A Rolls-Royce here, a cigar smoker there – add a few hundred pairs of Bermuda shorts, Oxford shirts and penny loafers and you have a good picture of the summer Birmingham fashion scene, or at least the one in front of Ellie’s restaurant, where Birminghamites gathered to hear the sidewalk soul of trio Rachel & Kapp.

The police decided to block off Pierce Street motor traffic, making this into a real streetfest. Bicycle police Michael Albrecht and Terry Kiernan were on call, but didn’t have much trouble maintaining order among the not-so-wild-and-crazy toe-tappers, finger-snappers and head-bobbers.

According to Albrecht, who moved from rural Kingston, Mich., to the mean streets of B’ham, "It’s hard to get this detail." Understandable.

Spectators kept their composure, despite the deep groove being laid down. Might have had something to do with the penny loafers and Oxford shirts.

Birmingham clothing designer Beth Groesbeck, who in years past designed stage clothes for Bob Seger, was wearing clothes designed by someone else. She left with friend Paul Hurdsley for the cooler pasture of Shain Park, and headliner Tim Weisberg’s magic flute.

At the park, Good Humor man Austin Milne, a physics student at U-M Dearborn, was all smiles, maybe because he got to put his hand in the truck’s ice cream freezer all night.

Tony Townsend

Over at the very upscale Townsend Hotel, Cher spotting was fruitless, although she was performing at the Palace that night. Thought I’d check, as that’s where visiting performers sometimes rest their weary post-Palace heads. Alas, no tour bus was parked nearby, and there were few other hopeful signs. If there was anyone who looked connected with Cher, it was the mysterious short-haired woman in a white pantsuit with multiple flaps.

A sedate group in the lobby listened to sedate jazz duo Kurt Kunzat and Keith Malinowski. In the bar, water goblets came dressed in thoughtfully designed daisy-patterned paper footies. We ordered two glasses each from the verbal wine menu, and found out only as we were leaving that it rang up as $8 a glass. The Chateau Hangover and horsie paintings on the bar’s wood-paneled walls reminded me of the very expensive hobbies of the rich and famous.

Molly Brauer, Royal Oaker and ex-Freep business reporter, enjoyed being chatted up by Barney Paderewsky ("If that’s his real name," she said) of Savannah, Ga., who was in B’ham for a wedding. But she had to shoo him off with her cane, when he leaned in dangerously close to her bandaged, sprained ankle, which she’d hurt the week before at another highbrow event at the Whitney.

Cutting up

At Detroit’s 298th Birthday Party, kids seemed unaffected by Saturday’s 93-degree temperatures. They ran around the grounds of the Detroit Public Library and Detroit Historical Museum in balloon hats, slurping hopelessly melting ice cream cones. One can only assume that if the weather had been more temperate, then more families would have made the trek. Only a few hundred people stayed around until the bitter end.

(FYI: Detroit’s Tercentenary – not a misprint! – comes in 2001. The city was founded on July 24, 1701, by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac. Tony the Moth? Did they have casinos back then?)

On the hot steps of the DPL, magician J.R. McAtee was the picture of enthusiasm and broad gestures, trying his darnedest to smoothly slide 15 scary-from-a-distance knives into the head of audience member Veronica, his "victim-uh-volunteer," whose head was propped inside a purple wooden box. She lived to tell the tale, but the real magic was that she didn’t seem to break a sweat.

Hamtown bell-ringing

It was also hot and sweaty in that old kielbasa of a town, Hamtramck, which hosted its annual Hamtramck Art Festival over the weekend. There was the usual smattering of booths: art, crafts, Eastern European ethnic stuff. A convent sister selling Polish religious icons shared a sun cover with the antique Transylvanian aprons lady. Also available: jewelry, paintings and good ceramic tiles, as Hamtramck has its share of ceramic tile artists.

Mayor Gary Zych and wife Donna Szatkowski-Zych staffed one of the art booths, and seemed in fine spirits despite recent mayoral troubles.

"Listen to the church bells – it’s actually an installation," the mayor noted as tape-recorded bells played over a loudspeaker. He explained that there are so many church bells anyway, people don’t know the difference.

Donna chimed in: "Here’s a scoop: Gordie Howe will be our Polish Day Parade (Labor Day) grand marshal. He likes Hamtramck because he met his wife here."

Local filmmakers Chuck Cirgenski and Janine Menlove were upbeat after recent good news about their independent film Stardust , which they co-produced, wrote and directed (he) and did cinematography for (she). The film has been getting an excellent reception at LA screenings, and is being handled by big name indie film influencers, namely Jeff Dowd (LA rep) and John Sloss (attorney). Shot in Hamtramck, the film should make it to TV or video by early 2000.

Speaking of Loose Lips

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