Best Of 2011

Best candlelight creepy-crawly that connects Southfield to Charles Manson, Hollywood and the death of the '60s

Jay Sebring Gravesite
Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, 25800 W. 10 Mile Rd., Southfield; 248-350-1900

It was America's crime of the century, one that absolutely horrified the country, killed its innocence and any idea of peace-and-love utopia. It said: You're not safe, not even in your own home. The murders also terrified Hollywood's music and acting elite, many of whom thought they were next.

Early morning on Aug. 9, 1969, at the behest of the 5-foot-2 Charles Manson, four fucked-up all-American kids — Susan Adkins, Charles "Tex" Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel and Linda Kasabian — scaled the fence at Roman Polanski's rented Beverly Hills house and remorselessly murdered Southfield's Jay Sebring, along with Polanski's pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, socialite coffee heiress Abigail Folger and her beau, and supposed drug dealer, Wojciech Frykowski, plus a teenager, Steven Parent, who happened to be leaving after visiting the groundskeeper.

Doris Day's son, Byrds producer Terry Melcher, had recently moved out of the house and has long been rumored to be the Manson family's original target. Melcher, at one point, offered to help Manson's budding music career at the behest of Beach Boy Dennis Wilson, but had pulled out.

Born in Birmingham, Ala., Oct. 9, 1933, Sebring (real name: Thomas John Kummer) grew up in Southfield with his parents, two sisters and a brother, and graduated from Southfield High. After a Navy stint in the Korean War, Sebring moved to L.A. His hairstyling skills soon transformed how people looked at the barber shop, and Sebring became the first male to ever open his own men's salon, which quickly expanded to Sebring International, with hair care boutiques in San Francisco, New York, London and West Hollywood.

Sebring set male coif standards, which became high-art in his hands, and he singlehandedly invented the idea of the hairstylist as international Playboy (he lived in Jean Harlow's old mansion, where Harlow's hubby Paul Bern had committed suicide), while fashioning the dos of Hollywood's who's who, including Warren Beatty, Kirk Douglas, Paul Newman, Frank Sinatra, Cliff Robertson and myriad others. He's the one who shaped Jim Morrison's mane into total rock-star perfection.

Sebring worked hair on film sets (including Spartacus) and helped launch Bruce Lee's career (Sebring introduced the unknown martial arts expert to TV producer William Dozier, who then cast him to star in TV's Green Hornet). Sebring even played himself once (as Mr. Oceanbring) on a Batman episode.

He married and divorced once (Cami, a model), and was later engaged to Tate, until she met Polanski on a Euro film shoot (The Fearless Vampire Killers). Sebring and Tate stayed close — it's said she was the love of his life.

During the murders, Sebring pleaded vainly with Watkins and Adkins to be gentle with Tate, who was 8-1/2 months pregnant, before he was shot, kicked in the face and stabbed seven times and had a rope tied around his neck (that connected to Tate's neck) while his ex-fiance could only watch in absolute horror. She then begged for her own life and that of her unborn child.

Sebring was buried at Holy Sepulchre in Southfield on Aug. 13, 1969. A fearful and gun-toting Steve McQueen eulogized the star-studded crowd. —Brian Smith


Best New Night in Royal Oak

Exchange Bureau Presents at Goodnite Gracie
222 S. Sherman Dr., Royal Oak;

Joshua Adams has held a Wednesday Night residency at this intimate cocktail club for a hot minute now, but he's breathing new air into the evening by showcasing his internationally recognized record label, Exchange Bureau Music. The evening is now a showcase of revolving musicians from the label's stable, with Adams himself on hand to lend two when needed. They've already featured DJ Godfather, DIAL81, Andy Toth and Brian Gillespie. In the coming weeks and months they'll feature none other than Piranha Head and Sinistarr. And we're keeping our fingers crossed for some SelfSays, Quest MCODY and Guilty Simpson. Hey, EXB, that sounds like a pretty dope set, come to think of it. ...


Best Rock 'n' Roll Venue for '80s Reminiscence

14238 Harper Ave., Detroit; 313-824-1700;

In the last 12 months, Faster Pussycat, LA Guns, Ratt, Stryper, Trixter and others of similar vintage and ilk have passed through the long-standing, tough-as-power-chords Harpos. Not exactly up-to-the-moment shows, are they? But so what? The club doesn't give a shit. Besides, Harpos knows you can't argue that their aging followers are steadfast in their undying loyalty and agree that it's far too lazy (and easy) to pick on '80s bands (and their retreating hairlines). And this venue — with it's arena-like sound, lights and killer sightlines — is so delightfully uncool that it's gone completely full circle and is now cool again. It's a proper rock 'n' roll venue. It's heaven for some, hell for others, but it is, as old Rob Halford would say, heaven and hell.


Best Place to Get Thrown Into (Not out Of)

3736 Third St., Detroit; 313-831-8949

The drinks are either weak or strong and it's advisable to gulp a series of shots down before venturing through Jumbo's doors (let's not even talk about the poopers), but there's certain charm that not even the cantankerous glass-empty day drunks, Wayne State "chill" hipsters and nightly regulars can argue doesn't exist. The bar staff is wink-wink friendly enough without being exactly warm, and like many heady Detroit neighborhood taverns — even those deep in Cass Corridor's bowels — the juke box is killer, as is the karaoke. We live in a city that has its priorities right, now don't we? For the record, this place has long been an MT fave.


Best Dive Bar

The Painted Lady
2930 Jacob St., Hamtramck, 313-874-2991;

Do you remember what bars used to be like? Dusty, dirty, dark places where shifty characters gave you the fish-eye as you walked in? Places where any decent person would about-face and walk out? Where illicit behavior was warranted and winked at? Don't remember? Then you should stay as far away from the Painted Lady as possible. But if you want to join the ranks of the down and out, the losers, the screamers, the whiskey-soaked crowd mulling over failed dreams and washing the bullshit down, you couldn't do better than this venerable Hamtramck watering hole. Best of all are the oddball groups of crust punks, hipsters and, heck, even full-on Zen Buddhists who seem to enjoy crashing the fun. No yuppies allowed. Use the side door.


Best Low-Key Bar Night

Tuesdays in the Forest at the Loving Touch
22634 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-546-3696

For the last few years, champion bar manager and community energizer Carey Gustafson has invited musicians, music writers and certain music scenesters to haul their music collection to the Loving Touch — your best bet to find a drunk musician any day of the week — and play DJ in "the forest" for a night. The thing is, no matter who's designing the night's playlist, the atmosphere is perfectly rounded out by conversations that swell mostly around music — good music — by chatty folk into what they're talking about.


Best Way To Have Concert-Quality Sound In Your Home

Pay musicians to play there

Andrew Rothman gives concerts under the banner of the Detroit Groove Society with his wife, Diane, in their West Bloomfield home; Danilo Perez, Cedar Walton, Michael Weiss are a few of the 20 or so artists they've presented in the last six or seven years. He shared a few pieces of advice for the prospective home-concert promoter when we contacted him the other day. He's a jazz fan, but the advice works regardless of genre. First, realize "the Internet is always your friend" for contacting artists. Second, figure out who is already booked to perform in the area so that their major travel is already paid for; the idea of staying in town an extra day to play in a relaxed enviroment for an attentive audience may be enticing for an affordable fee. The Rothmans charge $40 for adults, $15 for students, and get 35-45 attendees per concert, which more or less breaks even other than food and refreshments for the party. The most important thing, he said, is to remember it's a labor of love. Get on DGS e-mail list by contacting [email protected]


Best Fire Guild

Detroit Fire Guild

OK, so there aren't any other "fire guilds," but that doesn't mean this troupe of outlaw circus and fire performers hasn't earned this honor. Rising from the ashes of the former Fire Fabulon group, this group of 20 to 30 Burning Man alums has been playing everywhere from Theatre Bizarre to Hustler Club, surprising people everywhere they go. Lately, they've upped their game, putting on the Winter Ball at the Crofoot's Eagle Theater in Pontiac, a full-on circus with fire dancers, gypsies, clowns and pagan revelry. Don't miss their upcoming show at the Crofoot (9 p.m. on April 30), The Fires of Beltane, a pagan-themed springtime spectacular with trapeze acts and a "human sacrifice." Their goal is to create an immersive experience where the audience wonders where the hell they are, or may even join the out-of-control fun.


Best Place to Understand What "garage-ist theater" Means

Planet Ant
2357 Caniff St., Hamtramck; 313-365-4948

Despite Hamtown's dire fiscal straits, the local amateur theater has managed to stay afloat with eye-widening spirit and plenty of blue-collar sweat equity. Kudos to them for that, to be sure, considering the local failure rate of indie enterprises. Located on Caniff — which is, you'll note, Hamtramck's Broadway — where it's still kinda Detroit, the theater's like any other art that manages to thrive in the city; it's gritty and hard-won, but this one's blessed with performers who trade in authenticity. Besides, what are the options?


Best Old Speakeasy

Tom's Tavern
10093 W. Seven Mile Rd., Detroit; 313-862-9768

Founder Tom Lucas bought the building in 1928, when Prohibition was law, and when Seven Mile was a dirt road. An astonishing 83 years later, Tom's survives, despite problems. In the last 10 years they've dealt with failed city lighting, a half-dozen break-ins, stolen power hookups, cut gas and water lines and, a few years ago, a car crash that caved in the front of the tavern and killed a woman on the sidewalk. How does it go on living? It's because the tavern's loyal patrons step into the breach whenever the bar is endangered, as volunteers and benefactors. It helps that the tavern has always attracted interesting people, and celeb news anchor Bill Bonds and pizza baron Mike Ilitch have been past patrons and supporters. Owner Ron Gurdjian, who purchased the place from Lucas in 2001, has overseen some radical effort to keep the building safe, and says, after almost a decade of work, it's "almost ready for bad weather." Open mostly on weekends, it's most crowded around Babe Ruth's birthday, when the walls are decked out with Ruth-related quotes and history.


Best Karaoke

Auto Tune Karaoke

Every Monday night at the Majestic Complex's Garden Bowl and Thursday nights at the River Place Bar, karaoke innovator Adam Pressley hosts Auto Tune Karaoke, where, as he puts it, "We can all be just like Kanye!" Kanye's too cool to have this much fun. The thrills here are cheap and true. Take your best shot at MJ, ABBA or Morris Day, all natural fits for the Auto-Tune treatment — hey, just like radio stars! — or digitize your voice to create playful contrasts and redo Bobby Brown, Björk or the Beatles.


Best Random Act of Kindness

Detroit Party Marching Band

You never know when they'll strike, but the second they do, you'll know it. Since literally crashing the scene a little more than a year ago, the Detroit Party Marching Band has quickly become somewhat of a Detroit institution. The only group of their kind in Michigan, DPMB is actually among other renegade marching bands across the country. Founded by Molly, Rachel Harkai and John Notarianni, the band is made up of a rotating cast of players who show up, unannounced, when they can. They crash bars, parades, concerts and music festivals, and we hear they do weddings too! Really, it's a blast.


Best Reason to Wait in Line

The Moth at Cliff Bell's
2030 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-961-2543;

The Moth StorySLAM — which happens monthly in New York, Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles — is a communal throwdown of hopefully artful orators. The gist is this: Participants drop their names in a hat and 10 are chosen at random. Judged by audience members, storytellers have five minutes to tell a true tale that somehow relates to the evening's theme. WDET's Alex Trajano starts the show at Cliff Bell's around 7 p.m., but people — and this is how it's been since Day One — start lining up around 4:30 p.m. Call it a public confessional or some booze-fueled group therapy session, there really isn't anything like the Moth. And it's worth the wait.


Best Bar to Take Your Parents

Dakota Inn
17324 John R St., Detroit; 313-867-9722;

The Dakota Inn is no secret to Detroit faithful, who've been coming to this family-owned German rathskeller for 78 years for traditional hearty fare, heavy brews and festive German music and dancing. But for many metro Detroiters, this diamond in the rough remains a hidden gem — one whose long history and distinct character deserves recognition from both young and old. Billed as Detroit's only authentic German bar, Dakota Inn was opened in 1933 by German immigrant Karl Kurz. Now run by the third generation of the family, the place hasn't altered much in the intervening years — creamy potato salad, potato pancakes, spaetzle and pork are still on the menu; heavy wooden tables are still crowded with large glass mugs of seasonal German beers; and tipsy revelers still chicken dance, waltz, polka and sing the traditional Schnitzelbank drinking song. Many of the patrons are old-timers who've been coming to Oktoberfests and holiday sing-alongs in the obligatory chicken hat for years, which makes it the perfect spot for new Detroit boosters — hipsters, young professionals, artistic transplants — to bring their parents to show off some tradition in a place that's survived the city's ups and downs. Not to mention giving moms and pops an old-school, foot-stomping, waltz of a time.


Best Drunken Secret


Maybe we're exposing somewhat of a secret here, maybe we're not, but, hey, Metro Times is all about transparency. So, check it: There are a few bars around the city (we won't out 'em) in which you might overhear someone order a beer "C.O.D." — a password that pays. What they're implying is that they're a resident of the city, have the I.D. to prove it, and would kindly accept the bar's offer of taking a cool buck off that drink. And people say there aren't perks to living in the city. But it's also pass code for "I dig your establishment and come here often" and "I give a shit about my community." If it weren't free already, we'd totally offer MT, C.O.D.


Best Bar For Pressing Flesh

Roast's Happy Hour
1128 Washington Blvd., Detroit; 313-961-2500;

Readers voted Roast the Best Happy Hour in Detroit this year, but we felt the need to dually note that between the hours of 4:30 and 6:30 p.m., its bar offers absolutely exceptional networking opportunities, professionally and socially. Detroiters from a bevy of mostly interesting working backgrounds meet there in small groups Monday through Friday. Conversations bounce among friends and strangers as fast as the beer, wine and tacos can flow. You'll see smiles and business cards swapping amid the crowd. City initiatives are discussed, debated or flat-out dissed behind the polite clank of bourbon shots. Behind the bar, you'll meet your host, director of wine and service Joseph Allerton. He's a courteous chap and a seasoned pro with a sick palate and a sturdy handshake. His wine list is calculated, but his beer list is tastefully ambitious, featuring the Midwest's best brewery, Jolly Pumpkin.


Best Bar for Michigan Beer

Grand Trunk Pub
612 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-3043;

We hear there's actually a group that's petitioning Lansing to riff on our Great Lakes State title and promote itself, via billboards, license plates and some sort of media campaign, as the Great Beer State. Amen! You name the style and we can point you to a bar that carries 14 Michigan Beers on tap and a whole slew of top-shelf farmhouse ales and I.P.A. and E.S.B., stouts and porters, wheats, reds, pilsners and Belgians by the bottle. The famed former ticket office that serviced the Grand Trunk Railroad, the space has gone by a few different names (Foran's, Eph's). Its current body, so very Detroit, is a little bigger but totally beautiful. Having absorbed the deli next door, there's now also a slimmer food menu and more room to drink beer. And they have an incredibly eccentric crew of people there: Brian, Amy, Pauly, Susan and Melissa are all awesome. New upstairs neighbor Motor City Wine is the froth on Grand Trunk's Pure Michigan pint.


Best Alt Venues - 3 way Tie

The Bakery Loft
4304 W. Vernor Hwy., Detroit; 248-379-0194

The Park Bar
2040 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-962-2933;

Northend Studios, 2937 E. Grand Blvd., Detroit

This past year saw a resurgence of popularity in awesome programming from alternative venues. Mexicantown's Bakery Loft, Foxtown's Park Bar and New Center's Sparklewood haven't only carved out places for themselves in our sprawling and, um, always-splendorous community, but each houses other artful events and enterprises, as well, and maintains certain charms and milieu.


Best New Music Venue

The Bakery Loft
Above Mexicantown Bakery, 4304 W. Vernor, Detroit

Home of the Detroit SOUP phenomenon (monthly dinners that provide mini-grant funding to worthy projects happening in Detroit), the Bakery Loft has also become the sweet under-the-radar spot to catch shows from both local and touring up-and-coming indie acts. The high-ceilings and exposed brick walls make the small space feel roomy but still intimate, cozy but not stifling. Chandeliers provide appropriately dim lighting, while a smattering of small tables add to the homey vibe. Tucked in a corner and decked out with sparkling lights, the stage provides ample room for both performer and spectator to shimmy and shake. At a recent Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas show, a packed house nearly busted through the wood floors thanks to their fervent dance moves (and despite being pleasantly stuffed on complimentary Mexican grub). Other acts that have performed at the Bakery Loft include the Growlers, Dark Dark Dark, DOM, Dolphins into the Future, Zoos of Berlin and Child Bite.


Best Hope for a Jazz Temple

New owners at Baker's Keyboard Lounge
20510 Livernois Ave., Detroit; 313-345-6300

Jazz fans and followers watched with dismay the sinking fortunes of Baker's Keyboard Lounge. Begun in 1934, it had seen see-saw ups and downs at least since the late '70s, undergone a major revival in the late '90s with owner John Colbert, then slowly let its musical mojo ebb away in the '00s. Came the recession and other woes, and the club ended up on the bankruptcy block last year. But Hugh Smith and Eric Whitaker have said their aim is to preserve their $395,000 January purchase as a jazz spot. They've yet to give the club a physical makeover, or, more important, put the sizzle into the lineup that the club needs to get noticed again and make itself consistently competitive with Cliff Bell's, for instance. But besides nostalgia, Baker's has sight lines and acoustics that makes it a first-rate listening room (and a romantic one at that with its cozy wall booths). After their big investment, the challenge for Smith and Whitaker will be closing a new deal with the jazz audience as well.


Best House Bar

Atlas Bar
2363 Yemans St., Hamtramck

Hamtramck is the densest city in Michigan, and you don't get that way with late 20th century zoning rules. Houses are jammed together, people live on top of each other, and bars — well, sometimes a bar will be in a house ... in the middle of a neighborhood. One of the last survivors in this regard is the fixture at the corner of Brombach and Yemans, formerly Roadrunner's Raft, and, before that, Joe and Carol's Bar. Under new management for more than a year now, some of the blue-collar atmo has given way to a lounge feel, and the schedule of weekend entertainment has certainly picked up. But, on a late night in Hamtramck, it's still one of the best places to go around closing time, if only to meet some characters before moseying on — to your own "house bar."


Best New Outdoor Concert Venue

New Center Park
Second Avenue and West Grand Boulevard in Detroit;

While the demise of City Fest was and is lamented by those of us who enjoyed gorging ourselves on samosa and quesadillas while watching free show after free show, New Center Park is no small consolation. Located in the shadow of the towering Fisher Building, the brand-new green space — complete with an outdoor stage, concession venue and full bar — opened last Fourth of July weekend with a four-day mini-fest of local music and continued providing free, kick-ass entertainment for the next 14 weeks. The spot hosted weekly weekend rock shows, a jazz and blues happy hour every Thursday, Saturday kids activities, reggae lunchtime concerts, a fashion show, a fall music fest, dance parties and picnics. And did we mention that it's all free? And that the shows featured stellar local bands? When the weather (finally) turns warm, expect more of the same, as well as a Wednesday night film series and a harvest market.


Best Combo of Sights & Sounds

Hott Lava
Held at various Ann Arbor locations; visit

At its core, Hott Lava is a film event showcasing new and old experimental, avant-garde and obscure offerings. But really, it defies easy definition thanks to the myriad elements a Hott Lava happening always involves. Usually, the odd sights are matched with intriguing live soundtracks provided by experimental and avant-garde musicians — past performers have included Jesus Lizard bassist David Wm. Sims, ambient duo Mountains, jazz experimentalists Chicago Underground Duo, psychedelic group Moon Duo and multimedia musician Flying Lotus. Then, after the screening, the audience can shake off the brain-bending visuals with some visceral body-bending at dance parties featuring some of Detroit's and Ann Arbor's worthiest DJs. But refusing to be boxed into the film-plus-music-plus-dance-party formula, the tastemaking provocateurs of Hott Lava have also hosted midnight movies, concert afterparties, touring film festivals and multimedia installations.


Best Antidote to a Beer Belly

Roller Races

There's nothing like working on your beer gut and working it off at the same time. The new trend that popped up in the last year of racing on stationary bikes in bars allows for just such a thing — drink, race, drink some more. Bikers who usually hibernate during fall rains and winter snows can stay in shape, maintain their skills and show-off in front of bar flies and curious first-timers. It's a new way to pick up chicks, settle scores and challenge friends and strangers for free beers. The Hub bike shop hosts races — Hubsprints — every first and third Thursday at Third Street Bar in Detroit. It's $5 to race for prizes, and $2 to restore your pride with a grudge match. They've even introduced tandem races so teams of two can pedal hard and fast against each other. And in a run up to this July's Criterium Detroit City — a USAC sanctioned bike race through the streets of downtown — the organizers of the CDC have been hosting roller races timed to coincide with Detroit's monthly Critical Mass bike rides at various bars and restaurants in Detroit. Next up is this Friday at Foran's Grand Trunk Pub. Race to nowhere, beer in hand.


Best introduction to opera

Dr. Wallace Peace's pre-performance lectures at Michigan Opera Theater

Show up one hour early for the free Opera Talk by Dr. Wallace Peace, aka Dr. Opera. You get the historical and musicological context for each opera — which is to say you get all that high-art stuff. But Peace underlines the real reasons that opera was a popular entertainment in its heyday: glorious, soaring melodies in the service of over-the-top, improbable stories of love, lust, betrayal, mistaken identities and mayhem. Playing his examples on a boombox cassette machine (so populist), Peace delivers excerpts of the operatic greats. But even here his inveterate sense of humor can come in — for instance, playing the trio of Joan Sutherland, Dinah Shore and Ella Fitzgerald to illustrate The Mikado's "Three Little Maids from School." The next MOT production — the last for the spring season — is Verdi's Rigoletto, May 14-22. Details at


Best Venue Idea for 2011

Quarantine the "Patients"

An open letter to bars and venues with semi-discrete patios, decks, back yards, and the like:

Please consider subtly designating a space where those carrying proper credentials can huddle up and pass a couple joints around. What if DTE Music Theatre, Meadowbrook Amphitheater, Hart Plaza or even New Center Park had designated areas for card-carrying tokers? Would people put up with such a public cloud of weed smoke? Alley Deck? Hockeytown Cafe? Old Miami? Crofoot? Charge extra to smoke in peace upstairs in the horseshoe at St. Andrew's? Get in on the green economy, ya'll. Find a way. You're missing out. — Times High Council