Every year we ask: What more could there be to say? What could be new in the 25th anniversary edition of Best of Detroit, that hasn't been said before. But then we print up the readers' ballot and put a version online, and watch as the returns begin. Then we start free associating, opening our eyes to what's around us, letting our ears perk up when someone tells us about a new shop, a new club, a new insight. By the end, this year, we were checking with the production department to see where we might pry loose a little more space. By the end the ideas were flowing. We have to get in the Detroit Party Marching Band, right? And Autotune Karaoke. Got to get that. Tom's Tavern hasn't fallen down yet? Gotta get that. Meanwhile, we're harvesting what 1,000-plus readers have said in our ballots, reminding us of great places, interesting people, important ideas. When we asked for a new slogan for the city, one response was: "A great place to visit, even when you live here." If that makes sense to you, hold on to this as your visitor's guide until we bring you a newer one a year from now.
Contributors: Todd Abrams, Jeff Broder, Curt Guyette. Evan Hansen. W. Kim Heron, Patrick Higgins, Michael Jackman, Jim McFarlin, Megan O'Neil, Marvin Shaouni, Dennis Shea, Jane Slaughter, Brian Smith, Sandra Svoboda, Travis R. Wright
Plus: Detroit Derby Girls & 1,000-plus Metro Times readers
Photos of the Detroit Derby Girls by Marvin Shaouni
with thanks to Eastern Market, Showtime Clothing, Iridescence, Roast, and the Detroit Princess
The Hamtramck Blowout
This coveted award has seesawed in recent years from Movement to Blowout. Both create a weekend festival community at once hip and inviting. After this year's Blowout, your head was spinning from the Hard Lessons' passionate farewell (for now) show, the sonic sprawl of JSB Squad, the Yardbirds-at-Chess vibe of Jeecy and the Jungle, Prussia's odd pop propulsions, the frenetic antics of Carjack, the digable debut of electro-pop duo Phantasmagoria, hip-hop conglomerate Cold Men Young and more.
Uptown Palladium 12
250 N. Old Woodward Ave., Birmingham; 248-723-6240; palladium12.com
When there's a blockbuster release, metro Detroiters flock here for the contour-hugging seats and other amenities (Starbucks, Little Caesars, etc.) that make worshipping at the big screen a big event. Here you behold a cinema that delivers the shock and awe that the latest generation of high-tech movies require. This is a temple to the cinema of today as much as, say, the Fox Theatre, 17 miles south on Woodward Avenue, was in its cinematic heyday.
Main Art Theatre
118 N. Main St., Royal Oak; 248-263-2111; landmarktheaters.com
As downtown Royal Oak has revolved around it these past 14 years, this remains a cinematic oasis, not a relic frozen in the past, but a place with a sense of memory — and cinematic mission. It all fits the kind of big screen flicks that are the stock-in-trade on their three screens here — the slightly off-kilter, where the explosions are emotional more often than literal. (And there's even some free parking.)
Ann Arbor Film Festival
As our award-winning film writer Jeff Meyers wrote of the 2011 festival: "Ultimately, AAFF is both an experience and a scene; '40 programs over six days with 188 films, videos and live performances.' Whether it's the after-hours parties or crazed installations or interactive displays, the festival does a damn good job of transforming a corner of downtown Ann Arbor into a celebration of independent cinematic expression. Good or bad, at the very least, it'll be a hell of a lot more interesting than most of the stuff you'll find at the multiplex." And chances are it will be grander-than-usual next year, which will mark the 50th festival for this vital-as-ever institution.
Who Wants Cake? Company's Ringwald Theatre
22742 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-545-5545; whowantscaketheatre.com
Fans flock here to to take in the absurd, surreal and sarcastic productions. Most recently, Mercury Fur, starring Jon and Nico Ager, was talk of the town. The company is again taking submissions for their groundbreaking Gay Play Series, which last year featured work by playwrights from across the nation, a reading of Valley of the Dolls and the first Motown MisCast Cabaret. To be or not to be ... there for their next production?
4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700; majesticdetroit.com/garden-bowl
Sure, it's got history as part of the entertainment complex built just before World War I. While it's got that historic vibe, it's totally up-to-date with 16 recent vintage lanes — compared to the original 10. And where else does sonorous rawk from nearby music mingle with the roll of balls and the clatter of the pins?
Drag Queen Bingo at Five15 Media Mojo & More
515 S. Washington Ave., Royal Oak; 248-515-2551; five15.net
The bingo experience transcended: Bingo in the company of lovely drag queens draped in vibrant coloraturas at Five15 — a cafe and "media shop" located in Royal Oak — the first and last Friday of every month as well as every Saturday. It's essentially a comedy show, with a drag queen reading out the bingo balls. And prizes: usually a mug, T-shirt and a little gift from the drag queen's box. Depending on the night, games are at 8 p.m. or at 7:30 and 10 p.m. — check the website for info (and to see a video clip of what you're in for).
Easily accessible from I-75, I-375 and Gratiot and Mack, and about a 10-minute walk from Ford Field, it's got space to throw a football. If it's too cold, rainy, windy or snowy to be outside, Vivio's and Roma Café offer shelter, grub, drinks and shuttles to the game. For prices and a map of parking locations, see the website. For the best time before and after the game, see you at the market.
Metro Beach Metro Park
31300 Metropolitan Parkway, Harrison Township; 586-463-4332; metroparks.com
It's actually a peninsula, 750 acres jutting into Lake St. Clair. It's got a pool with waterslides, a white-sand beach, shaded bike paths, a par-three golf course, miniature golf, picnic areas, boat docks, volleyball, a nature center, a wooded trail and a pond where turtles sun on wooden rafts. It's got 1,600 feet of boardwalk. And the cross-section of metro Detroiters it attracts makes it equally interesting as a place to observe the parade of humanity. Gaze south to see the RenCen through the haze.
In case you were wondering about renting one of the 20 picnic shelters for a large group event, the number to call is the Belle Isle Special Events Office at 313-628-2081. But there are plenty of spots for spreading a blanket and uncorking your jug throughout the 1.5-square-mile island. This Saturday (April 30) you can even help make the island attractive by pitching in with the Friends of Belle Isle's annual cleanup. Meet at the casino at 9 a.m., bring boots and gloves and be prepared to work until noon when there'll be refreshments. Call 313-331-7760 or e-mail [email protected]
R. Hirt Jr.
2468 Market St., Detroit; 313-567-1173
Dating back to 1887, the store actually predates by four years Eastern Market's move from Cadillac Square to its present location. Pay attention to the space, with its wide aisles and high ceilings, and with a little imagination, you can get a feel of that earlier era here. Of course, folks come here first and foremost for the 300 or so varieties of cheese and a knowledgeable a staff to go with it. (Watch for the weekly specials.) There are pantry items galore: oils, coffees, teas, spices, pastas, chocolates, etc., etc. And the third floor has wicker items and a hard-to-describe assortment of things from oddball gewgaw toys to soaps and lotions to $300 wind chimes.
At 43 acres, it is reputedly the nations's largest public market, and we've yet to take an out-of-towner who hasn't been impressed on a fair-weather Saturday when the place bustles with life, from the breakfast line snaking out of Russell Street Deli to the engaging buskers, from just-off-the-vine vegetables to specialty vendors like mushroom man extraordinaire Don Schneider. In recent years, there've been physical improvements and an influx of new vendors bringing all-natural and organic options, and more specialty items. But has it lost its character? If anything, it's been enhanced.
Royal Oak Farmers Market
316 E. 11 Mile Rd., Royal Oak; 248-246-3276
Located in the Civic Center of Royal Oak (near the library and the 44th District Court), the Royal Oak Farmers Market is itself a civic operation, put on by the City of Royal Oak itself. The selection here is outstanding, and the event makes for a great way to spend a Saturday (especially a sunny one). Among the variety of products that are sold are breads, pies, flowers, fruits, veggies and soaps.
Clinton Township Farmers Market
37685 S. Gratiot Ave., Clinton Twp.; 586-469-2525
Quality imbues every product here, from the veggies to the meats. It has everything one desires in a farmer's market, namely the sight of fresh produce stacked ceiling-high: scattered towers of melons, apples, oranges, tomatoes, green beans, etc.
Ann Arbor Farmers Market
315 Detroit, St., Ann Arbor; 734-794-6255
Located in the Kerrytown District of Ann Arbor, the A2 Farmers Market is, of course, full of fresh and voluptuous fruits and veggies, but is also full of delicious sweet treats, such as sweet potato pecan pies. The market is producers-only (to those interested in becoming vendors), and serves at the moment as a base for more than 100 producers.
Local television is notoriously competitive, never more so than in our "Best of Detroit" contest. But Fox 2 narrowly "edged" the others this year. Was it, we wonder, the addition of former Detroit News writer Charlie LeDuff, who brought his quirky, renegade investigative style to the Problem Solver team? Is it Fox 2 Morning, the only fully local morning show available after 7 a.m.? Or could it be the fast-paced evening newscasts that include such segments as "The Edge" and "Let it Rip," all-too-rare volleys of lively discussion and spirited debate on local TV news?
Huel Perkins at FOX 2
Impeccably dressed with his hometown Dominic Pangborn ties, earnest and good-humored, Huel Perkins greets Detroit's FOX 2 viewers throughout the evening newscasts. He's on at 5, 6 and 10 p.m., not only anchoring the regular news segments but then leading "The Edge" at 11 p.m. In his 13 years at the station, he's won an Emmy and been nominated four times for best anchor. We like Huel's stylish-but-not-too-slick looks, his willingness to tackle prickly news issues, his passionate commitment to metro Detroit and his consistent excellence as the enduring face of news at Channel 2.
Rhonda Walker at WDIV-TV 4 and clickondetroit.com
"Perky" sometimes isn't the most complimentary adjective, but it's one of 100 sincere compliments we could pay to Rhonda Walker. Professional, pretty, sincere, she's a face we're happy to see in the morning on Channel Four and throughout the year around metro Detroit at the hundreds of appearances she makes for charity and children's advocacy. And she's got her own Rhonda Walker Foundation that focuses on empowering Detroit's teen girls. Now that's good news for Detroit too!
Oakland Hills Country Club
3951 W. Maple Rd., Bloomfield Hills; 248-644-2500; oaklandhillscc.com
Oakland Hills hosted the 2002 U.S. Amateur, the 2004 Ryder Cup and the 2008 PGA Championship. Founded in 1916, the club features two courses, north and south, the latter, dubbed "The Monster" and the site of national attention. Among the big names to have played it are Ben Hogan, Tiger Woods. Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.
Modern Music with John Moshier
WDET-FM (101.9); wdetfm.org
Call it the comeback of the year! Friday nights (9-11) and Sunday afternoons (2-4), Detroiters tune into 101.9 WDET to hear musicologist Jon Moshier spin contemporary indie, electro, experimental and pop tunes for two hours. The man (and he is "the man") not only hits on the newest of the new international (Smith Westerns, Radiohead, the Kills) and local bands (Mirrortwin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.) but he ties their sounds to the past (the Pixies, Gary Numan); it's an audible education without the diatribe because, after all, it's about the music.
Dave and Chuck "The Freak"
CIMX-FM (88.7), 89xradio.com
Dave Hunter and Chuck "The Freak" Urquhart have been at it for a decade this month at 89X, serving up such memorable fare as the "Hairiest Man Contest," where men were invited to the studio to display the full manly glory of their bodily hair. Of course, there was an appropriate prize: The winner had his upper body shaved live in the studio. Their everyday talk routine, however, is not wanting for wit or observational perceptiveness. It's true they've stirred up no controversy of late to match their "Operation Dark Stall" exposé of co-workers bathroom habits or their classic "It's Friday B!#ches" billboards. But we've yet to hear anyone accuse them of good taste, the kiss of death in their game.
The Craig Fahle Show, WDET-FM (101.9); wdetfm.org
We held our breath when the station renamed the Detroit Today show after its host — would that be too much for the guy? But Fahle and crew made his show the place to be for guests and listeners. Broadcast live weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon, the show is repeated during the evening (Monday through Thursday, 7-9). Fahle cultivates forthright discussions about issues and events; he skillfully and insightfully manages the area's politicians, community activists, issue advocates, artists and the occasional combative caller. (Full disclosure: He gets a shot at a Metro Times writer on Wednesdays, when we discuss our cover stories.)
101.9 FM; wdetfm.org
Radio news comes in two basic varieties, the quick-hit, cover-the-town, on-the-spot AM style and the NPR-FM approach of fewer stories and more depth. This year marks an upset with the latter knocking off the former in the form of the WWJ-AM team, the winner every time we've asked the radio news question back at least to 2002. What does it mean? The muscle-flexing of liberal, do-gooder intellectuals who are stereotypical NPR listeners? The sympathy vote mobilized by the threat to yank NPR funding? The pay-off for the decision to boost news back in 2002 (though, for the record, the last few years has more music restored, as in the Moshier show noted above)? Now can they hold the title?
Breast cancer awareness
The showing of breast cancer awareness in this category is one measure of the success of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October and the pink ribbon campaign and events that continue year-round. The fact that breast cancer still kills and maims so many is the reason why the awareness. After skin cancer, it is the most common form of cancer. After lung cancer, it is the second most common killer. Many voters pointed not just to the cause but to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a major voice — arguably the major voice — in bringing awareness to cause of breast cancer since its formation in 1982.
Gleaners Food Bank
2131 Beaufait St., Detroit; 866-GLEANER; gcfb.org
For more than 35 years, Gleaners has been a crucial source of comfort and nourishment for metro Detroit's hungry. And 96 cents of every dollar donated to Gleaners goes directly to food programs for the poor. The nonprofit, whose headquarters is in Detroit, has branches in Howell, Pontiac, Taylor and Warren. At a time when foreclosures and layoffs are as quotidian as each day's sunset, the reliable and steadfast work of Gleaners is all the more important.
Off the Beaten Path B ookstore and Café
23023 Orchard Lake Rd. Farmington; 248-987-2934; otbp-bookstore.com
A steampunk-themed bookstore winning this category would suggest a get-out-the-vote campaign — and that's what democracy is about. But Salathiel Palland, who calls herself the store's "captain," chalks the success up to "some loyal fans." And with a chess night, a game night, a drum night, a stitch-n-bitch night, a live music night, and coffee roasted by Carmelite monks in Wyoming, this aspires to be more than just a bookstore. They've got what Palland describes as "a huge Victorian steampunk road rally coming up June 11." Other nominees for overlooked story: Detroit Dog Rescue, Michigan film credits and jobs, Latino Community in Detroit, erotic arts scene, train station being wasted, and the new UAW fighting for social justice.
Axel Foley? Axel Foley? Where had we heard that name before? Ah, yes, Eddie Murphy's smirking, wiseacre Detroit cop (and Mumford High grad) of the three 1984-1994 Beverly Hills Cop movies. We can see the statue right in front of 1300 Beaubien St., Detroit Police Headquarters, where scenes with Murphy and the real life Detroit cop Gil Hill were shot. Somebody get this going on Kickstarter. And let's get Mayor Bing opinion.
With prices seeming to be in freefall acros the region, Midtown is an exception. Condos, lofts and apartments aren't drawing New York sale and rent dollars, but you won't find blocks of $100 houses or whatever the latest low is elsewhere in the city either. What do we conclude "housing deal" means to readers? Creatively renovated spaces, neighborhood-appropriate new housing, access to cultural institutions, proximity to downtown, variety of restaurants and bars, the prospect of light rail. Another part of the deal: Check out livemidtown.org to see how new owners can receive a $20,000 forgivable loan, current homeowners can get matching funds up to $5,000 for exterior improvements and renters can get up to $2,500 in aid.
While the housing crisis has been devastating for the region, Ferndale might be a bright spot. Young professionals seem to be scooping up properties in this "fashionable" suburb where $100,000 gets you a mansion, $50,000, a decent house. Even cheaper homes that need work are being renovated and refurbished. Residents tout the walkability, security they feel in the neighborhoods and the diversity of residents.
Keep the film incentives
Last year when he was selling himself as the "different politician" and "the nerd," readers went for Snyder as the preferred candidate in the Republican primaries. In office, his "fresh" thinking, oddly enough, reaches the same old-hack right-wing conclusions. (Now he tells us.) Hence an outpouring of comments like "find your compassion" and opposition to taxing retirees, attacks on unions, cuts to libraries, cuts to schools, etc. Those far outnumbered variations on "Don't worry about the polls, do what you were elected to do."
The strongest single anti-Snyder focus was around film tax credits. The message over and over: Keep the incentives, keep the film industry, give it a chance.
All sorts of suggestions for the mayor, including calls to not listen to Snyder, to push for light rail and spend more time with grass-roots people. But the largest number of votes began with the word keep. As in (to cite just some): "Keep at it." "Keep being honest." "Keep doing what you're doing." "Keep fighting the good fight." "Keep going." "Keep improving and consolidating Detroit." "Keep it going." "Keep on doing what you're doing." "Keep on rolling." "Keep on truckin'." "Keep plugging away." "Keep savin' Detroit." "Keep smiling." "Keep the good work." "Keep trying, Detroit is worth it." "Keep the people first." "Keep your chin up." "Keep your hands clean."
Serving his fifth term, he's tied with the late Coleman Young, but far behind the late Orville Hubbard's nine terms in the Dearborn mayor's office, to note some of the other long-serving executives of the region. And while "retire" was the strongest single sentiment, there was also a strong showing for variations of "Keep it up." Other suggestions include working with the Woodward light rail, working with Detroit and think regional. And "fix the damn roads."
Among the suggestions: "Be more arrogant." "Cut corruption." "Dave Bing needs help!" "Do more to help Bing in Detroit." "Embrace regional governance." "Establish a green belt while nobody's building." "Fund arts and culture, make this an interesting place to live." "Invest in infrastructure." "Make friends with Brooks and Dave." "Stop take foreclosures on the homes of the economically distressed." "Think regional." "Work on the image of Downriver."
Among the suggestions: "Be fair." "Build the casino? Why?" "Don't Get Caught." "Make Lake St. Clair to Detroit What Lake Michigan is to Chicago." "No casino." "Read a Cornel West book." "Work for regionalism." "Please stick to your guns."
Eminem & Jay Z at Comerica Park, Sept. 2-3
Take the biggest two names in all of rap music, toss in a veritable list of special guests — Dr. Dre, Jeezy, Drake, Trick Trick and 50 Cent — throw them all on the largest outdoor stage in downtown Detroit, and you have the makings of true spectacle. That's what it took to create the best concert of the year, which means 2011 has some real work cut out for it. How can we top that, Detroit?
Mack Avenue Records
In its 12th year, Mack Avenue has become a heavy-hitter in jazz with discs by more than 30 artists. That includes established names like the Yellow Jackets, Gary Burton, Christian McBride and Gerald Wilson, and newer ones like Sean Jones, Tia Fuller and Sachal Vasandani. Detroiters and former Detroiters Hot Club of Detroit, Rodney Whitaker, Johnny Bassett and Kenny Garrett have had releases, and a new initiative for Detroit artists, we hear, is in the works. A project of Carhartt heiress and businesswoman Gretchen Valade and businessman Tom Robinson, it overlaps with Valade's Dirty Dog jazz club and her role as chief benefactor (savior, to be frank; thanks) of the Detroit Jazz Festival.
Rookie Ndamukong Suh was just what the Lions — and the city — needed. Not to take anything away from his teammates. They all worked to lift the Lions from that 0-16 record in 2008 to a 6-10 season that included that December win over the eventual Super Bowl champion Packers. But Suh, well, the 6-foot-4, 307-pounder was the spark and the fire of the defense. The second overall pick in the draft, Suh ended up the Associated Press defensive rookie of the year, became the first rookie defensive tackle named to the AP All-Pro Team since it was designated by offense and defense in 1951, and was voted a starter for the NFC squad in the Pro Bowl. The defensive tackle, son of a Cameroonian father and Jamaican mother, started every game, made 66 tackles and a team-high 10 sacks. Hopefully there will be a 2011 season for his encore.
By the time Miguel Cabrera hit a pair of two-run homers in the Tigers' first 2011 win — April 3 in New York, their third game — the voting for Best of Detroit had wrapped up. He didn't need that effort to land in the hearts and minds of our readers, who judge him best at what he does on the team. Now in his fourth season in Detroit, Cabrera hit .328 last year with 38 homers. Arguably one of the top three hitters in the game today, Cabrera is also recognized for his steady play at first base. We're just hoping he can be as decisive in the battle with the bottle as he was in that April 3 game.
The object of man-crushes from here to Sweden, his calm, steady, dependable play saves a lot of games and kills a lot of beer sales. "With two minutes to go and the game on the line, I know we can depend on him," one fan writes us. The six-time Norris Trophy winner for top NHL defensive player has also won the Stanley Cup, Olympic gold and a world championship. In his hometown in Sweden, they gush over him to foreign visitors from Detroit. Think that happens for LeBron James in Cleveland? Now?
Sometimes sports fans reward flash, in this case, consistency and commitment. In nine years with the Pistons, Prince has averaged 13.2-14.7 points, 4.2-5.8 rebounds and 2.3-3.3 assists a game. A major reason the Pistons made it to the Eastern Conference finals those six consecutive seasons — and won the NBA title in 2004 — Prince has admitted being disappointed with the team of late. The unrestricted free agent is sure to have some options this off-season. Hopefully he'll return under new ownership to lead a new era.
Last year he was the readers' fave, this year. ... You decide whether that's fickleness, impatience or brutal honesty. Word of his then-imminent trade trickled around town during summer 2009. When it didn't happen, it was thought to be because of the intervention of owner Karen Davidson, who took over control of the team after husband Bill's death in March of that year and kept the masked man here. But the shooting guard has seen points per game sink from a high of 20.1 in the 2005-2006 season to "just" 14.1 this year. He's got two years and a little more than $20 million on his Detroit contract. Will MT readers next year name him "Best Piston to Get Back"?
It's not just sentimentality about Bill Laimbeer, his Pistons career (1982-1993) and his NBA championships (1989, 1990) behind voters giving him top nod as a new Pistons coach, should new owner Tom Gores be looking for one (ha ha). It's that they've seen him get it done. Mid-season in 2002, Laimbeer returned to the Palace as the coach of the Shock, who were then 0-10. He led them to a 9-23 finish that year — a serious improvement, but still last place. Then, in 2003, the Shock took the WNBA championship. Coach Laimbeer (and the ladies) did it with new players, communication with the front office and that same terse energy that Laimbeer had on the court. An assistant with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he's built the résumé. Will he come rebuild the team?
Andy Beningo and Tim Allen
Tim Allen, long gone from hereabouts, has been the perennial winner of this category, so hats off to Andy Beningo. This curly haired son of Milford, who still calls it home, has been making national comedy rounds, working with names like Jim Breuer and the late Greg Giraldo, addressing technology and dating with an endearing self-deprecation. "Tim Allen is a Detroit legend, so it's pretty humbling to be mentioned with him," Beningo said in an e-mail. His busy schedule brings him back this way on May 7, for a gig at the Comedy Room in Wyandotte.
Why not? Like the city, Marshall Mathers experienced a unprecedented ascent followed by an infamously ugly and public demise — and now finds himself in the midst of transition or, to get real for a second, rehabilitation. Not that he wasn't representing the city already, but the Super Bowl debut of the Chrysler commercial had people talking about Em and Detroit from coast to coast.
Wayne State University
Midtown Detroit campus and six extension centers; wayne.edu
Wayne State used to be the place you drove to, went to class and drove home. But it's worked hard for the last couple decades to make a place for students, employees and its neighbors in the city. That means improvements not just in the classrooms but on and around it. That means safer streets in the area, attractive student housing, and retailers and restaurants helping to create community. Way to make the grade.
Westin Book Cadillac
1114 Washington Blvd., Detroit; 313-442-1600; westin.com/detroit
Said to be the largest hotel in the world when it opened in 1924, the 31-story building closed in 1984 and loomed empty for two decades-plus as one our ruins of Detroit. Finally, Cleveland-based Ferchill Group entered the picture, opening a renovated hotel-condo building (455 rooms, 67 units) against the odds in 2008. No small part of its renown can be attributed to having the restaurant Roast as one of the ground-floor tenants, a veritable magnet for attention.
What kind of baseball? No consensus there. But some sort of baseball: Little League, community, softball, pick up, AAA baseball. Maybe a baseball museum. Or a "beautiful park" with a diamond. Or a combination ballpark and concert venue. Other popular suggestions included homeless shelters, housing, a shopping mall, entertainment complex, concert venue, BMX or other race track. Thankfully, nuclear bomb test site and nuclear dump were one-vote propositions each.
Gran Torino (still)
Director Clint Eastwood shot his drama around town in 2008 as one of the first films taking advantage of the now-threatened industry tax credits. The movie — we guess in plenty of our DVD collections by now — has endured as an MT reader fave among the dozens of flicks that have since used our fair city as a backdrop. None, though, have addressed the issues of racism, aging, neighborhood transition and the symbolism of the auto like Gran Torino. Shot in Detroit, it also feels of Detroit.
Like living here, the show had ups and downs. The pilot? Painful. But then, that episode was shot in Atlanta and before the writers knew it's "pop," not "soda." Like any newcomers who spend time here, the show learned. Characters, plots and local references improved. Let's remember, it's not a documentary, so when it got a little fanciful, well, that's entertainment. What was real was the crazy shit that sometimes goes down here, the characters' gritty determination and commitment, that grabbing a Coney is a great way to unwind and an Avalon basket of treats is a fabulous gift. That's Detroit 24-7-365. Fingers crossed for Season 2.
Imported from Detroit
The Eminem Super Bowl ad for Chrysler struck a chord. Other suggestions were not without interest: "713,777 Detroiters can't be wrong." "Now that the whiners have gone." "Paris of the Midwest." "We saved the free world, now save us." "We're No. 14." "Big city culture, small town community." "Detroit hustles harder." "25 percent more exclusive." "A great place to visit, even when you live here."
5. "I'd bring a lemur?"
4. "I'll wear a steam-punk inspired costume."
3. "Hot librarians never get invited to hot parties."
2. "You can't have too many cougars."
1. "Because without 'me' it's just 'aweso.'"
We'll see all you winners at the shindig.
"The Incredible Shrinking City"
Monthly Detroit, July 1979
Some 32 years ago, writer Kirk Cheyfitz laid out the then-vexing problems of a city whose revenues and political clout mirrored a population decline "from a high of 1.85 million to less than 1.3 million today." The article reminded readers that the city, in its time of largesse, had built the burbs, from supplying water and sewer lines, to for a time busing in and educating "at Detroit's expense" students from Harper Woods, East Detroit and parts of Grosse Pointe. Already in 1979, the concept was emerging of two Detroits, "a small private city and the larger public city," the former then epitomized by the Renaissance Center and the then-new New Center. Mayor Coleman Young may be remembered by some as divisiveness embodied, but his final words from the piece still resonate: "I think there is recognition in the area that the area cannot survive and prosper if Detroit does not survive and prosper. But we in Detroit must recognize that the surrounding suburbs have a key role to play and we must between us define those roles so we strengthen each other and don't tear each other apart."
Detroit Orientation Institute
3075 Faculty/Administration Bldg., 656 W. Kirby Detroit; 313-577-0171; doi.wayne.edu
There's no way to "get" Detroit in a day or two. But there is one intensive program to get any newcomer started and prod all but the most knowledgeable long-timer. Directed by Detroitist Ann Cuddohy Slawnik in conjunction with Wayne State University and Inside Detroit, the three-day Detroit Orientation Institute unpacks our epochs, delving into the history of the city, tracking how we got to where we are, while ferrying participants around town to talk to some of the most involved and informed folks around.
There are no supermarkets in Detroit
It's true that there are no major chain grocery stores in Detroit, but in the national media that fact has sometimes been simplified to no grocery stores in Detroit. Oops. And even the accurate "no major chain supermarkets" exaggerates the importance of major chains in a city with Eastern Market and independent grocers like Honey Bee La Colmena, not to mention affiliates of Spartan distributors and of the Aldi stores (a chain operated by the owners of Trader Joe's), etc. Detroit author James Griffioen laid it all out in detail at the Urbanophile website (urbanophile.com or tinyurl.com/4nb5o94 to go directly to Griffioen's piece). That's not to say that access to healthy food isn't a problem for many in this city without real mass transit. But let's keep things in perspective.
He may have gone all Karl Rove on us as a "conservative political commentator," but J.J. has owned the best radio pipes in the city since he captained "The Morning Crew" on the old WWWW in the '70s. When he and Lynne Woodison were dumped by WCSX in 2008, it looked like he might go off to form his own Tea Party, but you can't keep a good voice down. While Johnson seemed like an obvious frontrunner to replace Dick Purtan last year when the morning legend laid down his headphones at oldies-rock WOMC-FM (along with fellow Detroit airwave faves Chris Edmonds and Kevin O'Neill), WOMC did the next best thing, installing him as its 10 a.m.-3 p.m. weekday host. Rock on, J.J.
"The Great Voice of the Great Lakes" has passed through more hands than Lindsay Lohan in recent years, but the latest WJR-AM (760) ownership change may be the most menacing. In February, WJR, as well as Detroit FM stations WDVD (96.3) and WDRQ (93.1), were sold by Citadel Broadcasting as part of a multibillion-dollar merger with Cumulus Media. Atlanta-based Cumulus, which built its fortune with broadcast properties in medium-sized Southern and Midwest markets, has a reputation for not valuing on-air talent, and the feeble economy could be an excuse for downsizing and cost-cutting. WJR morning monarch Paul W. Smith has discussed the sale and transition openly on his show. If he and the station's other high-priced personages are concerned, we may have reason to be.
Lauren Podell, WDIV
Who are we to argue with the opinion of experts? Earlier this year, David Humphries (aka "Hump the Grinder"), impresario of Detroit's "Hair Wars" stylist competitions, conducted an online poll to determine who possessed the most luscious locks among our city's TV heads. After the voting, mostly from hair care professionals, Podell, Local 4's blond traffic reporter, was judged a cut above the rest — by a mere .5 percent over her WDIV airmate, Rhonda Walker. At least for this year, blondes had more fun.
The stated goal, says author Todd Scott, is to promote safe and convenient bicycling in metro Detroit. Whether it's announcements of community forums, analyses of master plans and their inclusion (or exclusion) of cycling, collections of media reports about cycling events and policies or just plain funny cycling tidbits, find it here.
On a freighter
And not necessarily as a stowaway. The freighters are normally only certified to carry customers and family members. But it turns out that various nonprofits raffle off tickets for cruise slots donated by the shipping companies. You can still get in on a raffle closing May 1 for a seven-day, six-night trip for two on one of the Great Lakes Fleet Inc. ships out of Duluth; $10 a ticket, three for $25. Check for details on that and other raffles at boatnerd.com, a source for followers of the big ships on the Great Lakes.
The $1 million and other resources that Kresge Arts in Detroit has been using to prime the pump of the tri-county arts community went public earlier this month with 40 events over five days. They showcased the work of the two eminent artists (Charles McGee and Marcus Belgrave) and 36 fellows KAID has given grants to from 2008 to 2010. It was a stunning display of the vitality of arts in this community for an audience that topped 10,000, filling spaces from MOCAD to the Science Center. The audience response raises a question of whether what was intended as a biennial event might in fact need an annual component. The year 2013 seems a long time to wait for more.
N'Namdi Center for Contemporary Art
52 E. Forest Ave., Detroit; 313-831-8700
We started writing about this project in 2001, and last October a former auto repair shop finally celebrated a grand opening as a major addition to the city's artistic, cultural and social landscape. How big? Well, 16,000 square feet in all, including four exhibition spaces, indoor and outdoor performance spaces, an outdoor sculpture garden, and a movement/yoga center. Some of these are still in progress (the sculpture garden, for instance), and more elements, a restaurant-wine bar, notably, are to come. But the major spaces are open, and the current exhibition — New Departures and Transitions curated by Michael Stone-Richards — is the local must-see of the moment.
Costumed dancers, burlesquers, circus-style performers and other unusual folks model for sketchers of all skill and professional levels, sometimes in bars with lots of booze and music keeping everyone happy, as well as informal contests and artsy prizes. It started in New York, and the Detroit branch, founded in 2006, was among the first dozen or so; there are hundreds around the world now. It's currently run by Lushes LaMoan of the Detroit Dizzy Dames troupe (Readers' Award winners for Best Burlesque Troupe), with regular third-Thursday sessions set for the Scarab Club and additional sessions elsewhere (watch the website and Facebook for details).
jessica Care moore
Her dozen years in New York made jessica Care moore a rarity in the poetry world: a star thanks to her prominence in Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam on HBO. Back in Detroit these last four years, the poet-performer-publisher keeps adding new roles to her hyphenated descriptor. She's exhibited as a visual artist (including collaborations with photographer Piper Martine Carter) and, perhaps most provocatively, she's put on two tributes to Betty Davis and other black women rockers, firing an Afro-distaff cannon at the white guys' club-of-rock canon. We're avidly waiting to hear her own debut rock album Black Tea, slated for release, "when it's finished."
You can get there by bus
Surprise! There is mass transit from downtown Detroit to Metro Airport — but not rapid transit. For instance, 90 minutes (if it keeps to schedule) from downtown to the airport (daily), and comparable times to Fairlane, Romulus and Garden City (weekdays). Primarily servicing airport employees, these SMART lines aren't widely advertised, apparently so as to not raise unwarranted expectations among travelers. Still, given the costs and hassles of getting to the airport and parking, it could be an option (especially if you're coming home, not counting on making a flight). Stops are at the lower level, "International Arrivals" curb of the McNamara Terminal and at the far end of the arrivals curb — past the last terminal baggage claim exit door — of the North Terminal. The schedules are complex: Read closely.
Plastic streetlamp bases
Those pitiful plastic "shrouds" former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick spent $1.2 million in tax money on were ostensibly intended to keep metal scrappers at bay, but they were a useless waste of money from the get-go. Now, if they have survived at all, many of those that remain are smashed and jagged, much more of an eyesore than what it was they were supposed to be covering. Thanks, Kwame.
It's part of Detroit the outside world rarely sees. Varied communities — geographic, political, cultural, spiritual, intellectual — strive to make this a better place. From urban gardeners to community patrols to recycling activists, they continue despite it all. It will be these folks, and not our leaders, who will save us.
Grace Lee Boggs
At 95 years old, Grace Lee Boggs has just published The Next American Revolution, written with U-M prof Scott Kurashige. As someone who has taken part of just about every major progressive movement that occurred in the past 80 years, she continues to help show us the way forward.
The Color of Law: Ernie Goodman, Detroit, and the Struggle for Labor and Civil Rights
An essential document of another Detroiter's long life, well lived. Authors Steve Babson, David Riddle and David Elsila retell the city's and nation's progressive struggles through the life of attorney Goodman, who died at age 90 in 1997. Legal dramas unfold in courts from the Motor City, to the Jim Crow South, to the U.S. Supreme Court, to the upstate New York courtroom where the Attica uprising defendants were tried.
Working Words: Punching the Clock and Kicking Out the Jams
Punching Out: One Year in a Closing Auto Plant
We could claim Words as a Detroit work simply because anthologist M.L. Liebler is one of ours. But from Alvin Aubert to Al Young (OK, we couldn't get "Z"), Michael Moore to Dudley Randall, Lolita Hernandez to Eminem, Melba Boyd to Philip Levine, etc., Detroiters are more than amply represented in this massive testament to the poetry and prose of toil. And in this tense post-industrial time of transition, what better subject for us to ponder? Which is what former Paul Clemens also does in exploring the up-close reality and social ramifications of the dismantling of a Budd Company stamping plant on the east side.
Medical marijuana cases
Two years after the state began issuing ID cards to patients and caregivers, issues surrounding the state's medical marijuana law are still being sorted out. The Michigan ACLU is suing three cities that are trying to curtail medical marijuana-related activity. The DEA and other authorities have made a number of high-profile busts. And the whole question of whether so-called "compassion clubs" can legally sell marijuana to patients remains unsettled. The courts are going to be kept busy with all this for some time to come.
Film industry lobbyist
Oh, wait. He already has that gig. Has anyone at the Freep ever heard the term "conflict of interest?"
Last year, the British government's chief scientist warned that water shortages will be the world's most pressing problem in the next decade. "Population growth, an increase in wealth, urbanization, and ... climate change, all of those are going to present really big problems to humanity," John Beddington said during the Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit in London. From agriculture to biofuels to the manufacturing of silicone computer chips, access to clean, fresh water is going to become more precious as shortages worsen in states from Florida to Arizona to California. And here we are in "the Saudi Arabia of water." All we have to do now is ensure that this most vital of resources remains protected — and under the public trust.
Dick Purtan may be off Detroit's morning airwaves for more than a year now, but he's still in the air. He's maintaining a presence in cyberspace, and a connection with his thousands of radio fans, through his website. An early "Breaking News" post: "Radio retiree Dick Purtan shocked not only his wife, Gail, but also himself last night by sleeping an astounding 10 hours and 12 minutes in a row." After President Obama's recent deficit speech, he observed: "I missed Joe Biden's nap ... I'd nodded off about five minutes earlier in the speech than he did." We assume that with enough clicks we could get to the video of the last 10 minutes of his final broadcast on WOMC (104.3) March 26, 2010.
Grosse Pointe's tool checkout
In this era of DIY — sorry contractors — home improvement projects are part of a lot of weekend to-do lists. But who wants to spend big bucks on a tool that will be used once? There are even better rental rates than Home Depot et al. With a Grosse Pointe library card, you can choose from a list of dozens of tools: monkey wrenches, carpet knee kickers, bolt cutters and hammers. Some are standbys, some are more exotic. The collection — a list and photos of the tools are online at gp.lib.mi.us — is provided and maintained by the Grosse Pointe Rotary Club. What you won't find is a drain snake, the health department won't allow that, or chain saws, common sense takes over there.