Jerry Vile's Sale of the Century

Aug 13, 2013 at 11:46 pm
It's fair to say that we Detroiters have been slightly roughed up over the last few weeks, months, years, decades. However, one thing nobody can accuse us of is losing our sense of humor.

Days after the city filed for bankruptcy protection, a mysterious — and HUGE — can of Crisco appeared in front of Robert Graham’s bronze statue of Joe Louis’ fist along Jefferson Avenue. The inference was pretty obvious. The artist behind the gag wasn’t — at first anyway.

“I don't know what you think of when you see a fist, but I think of things that make me think of Crisco,” says Jerry Vile, Detroit’s venerable provocateur and founder of the annual Dirty Show, one of the nation's largest exhibitions of erotic art.  “There is a history of Crisco — and that blue, I love that blue. It happened to be the right time.”

When asked what gave him the idea for the installation, Vile offers up: “I pretty much pulled it out of my ass.”

If New York has Al Goldstein, irrepressible former publisher of Screw, then Detroit’s equivalent is undoubtedly Vile. While not nearly as much of an asshole as Goldstein, Vile is every bit as funny.

As publisher of the now-defunct Orbit, an alt-monthly even more irreverent than this rag, Vile was lauded for publishing a magazine that poked fun at near-everything and everyone. The pinnacle of Orbit’s exposure was most likely when director Quentin Tarantino sported an Orby tee in his sleeper hit Pulp Fiction. Before Orbit, there was the punk fanzine White Noise and Fun Magazine.

Having sold Orbit to what would become (ahem) Real Detroit, the artist and funnyman has kept busy with his annual Dirty Show and other forays. In fact, turning to page 3 of the August 14-20, 2013, issue of Metro Times, readers will notice an ad that seems outrageous and completely plausible.

Titled, "Motor City Going Out of Business Sale,” the ad is designed like any other huckster display, touting rock-bottom prices for a limited time. On closer look, though, it’s (hopefully) clear to the reader that this ad is a parody.

“A friend, who happens to be the best graphic person I have ever known in my life, more or less made [the ad] perfect and not only added to the design, but also to the writing,” Vile says of the joke ad. “We sat down together and had what I consider a really fun day — and most of a night — and that made it good because the layout inspired new ideas. (It's not easy to look that shabby),” Vile says. “The layout makes it much funnier and visually, well, it's so good I think people may ignore it.”