Arts, burlesque and eats

Our city’s fair Cultural Center lived up to its billing this past Friday as a cornucopia of art events were staged within virtual spittin’ distance of each other (provided, of course, your spitting skills are on a par with those of, say, a state fair champ). Regardless, the DIA, and the surrounding satellites of the Scarab Club and the Center Galleries at CCS generated more than enough buzz to satisfy the art world aficionados, both highbrow and low. The Center Galleries spotlighted the opening of Cass Corridorian Bradley Jones’ exhibit, “Blue.” Even the most marginal follower of the local art scene will have realized by now that the old Cass Corridor artists have now become de rigueur in our local art lexicon, as evidenced by the coven of scenester cognoscenti that descended upon the show last Friday night, primarily for the “Blue” show, but also for the new works being shown in the Alumni & Faculty Hall by CCS alums Matthew Blake and Jerome Ferretti, the latter of whom also had the honor of designing this year’s Dally in the Alley poster. The “Blue” exhibit room was a sardine can of humanity, covering the social spectrum from stuffed-shirt art snoids to hirsute old-school Corridorians waxing rhapsodic about the good ol’ days, as well as everyone in between (literally as well as figuratively).

Escaping the sardines, I ran into Fisher Theatre ticketrix Amy Yokin, as well as Small World Café’s Rita Ahluwaila, who was heading over to the DIA’s First Friday after the “Blue” show. The DIA, of course, also had a noted Cass Corridor art exhibit, featuring Gordon Newton, which has been up and running since July 15 and will be wrapping up Nov. 4. While making crayon drawings in the children’s workshop at the DIA, I ran into room monitor-construction paper-dispenser Eugene Strobe, also of the Sights, the Witches and the Alphabet, among other bands. Strobe indicated that the Alphabet would be playing an intimate “living-room session” down at the Garden Bowl that Sunday. I thanked him for use of the crayons and quickly moved on, as there was still more cultural terrain to traverse before the impending thunderstorm clouds of fate made their assault on my weekend plans. Last stop, the Scarab Club, the venerable artist’s colony and gallery behind the DIA. Upstairs, the artist known as Slaw (aka Kevin Stanislawski) was once again presenting his own peculiar vision of our jet-setting Technicolor 1950s with his latest show “Burlesk.” Evoking images of fez-clad conventioneers piling into the old Burlesk theater on Woodward, Slaw had the Scarab Club hopping with scantily clad ersatz burlesque performers, as well as actual veterans of Detroit’s former burlesque stages. As an added twist, a hotdog cart was onsite, providing sustenance for those who felt the urge. Ah, yes … hot dogs and burlesque … go together like, um … corndogs and carnies. The old Burlesk was located across from what is now the Brush Park townhouses. In later years, it flamed out as a decrepit porn palace, however I’ll always remember its light-bulb deficient marquee proclaiming “URLESK,” and eventually “URL,” in a prescient nod to the impending cyber-porn revolution that would eventually turn titillation into a virtual experience. Those who missed out on last weekend’s art festivities are advised to head over to the gala opening of the Museum of New Art (MONA) this Saturday from 6 to 10, featuring works by more than a thousand artists from 35 different countries. The MONA is located in the fabulous Book Building in beautiful downtown Detroit. For more info, call 248-210-7560.

Soggy Sundays

As Saturday rolled around, nonentertainment obligations compelled me to schedule my annual Dally in the Alley sojourn for the early evening hours, conveniently timed to coincide with a thunderous deluge of biblical proportions (or at least DEMF proportions). Given that my ark was in dry dock, I eschewed the opportunity to motor down the I-75 log flume, and instead retrenched for the evening. In any event, for those needing a fix, my archived columns from Dally’s past could pretty much be plugged in with the dates changed. That said, however, a soggy Sunday was still on tap, and an impending Loose Lips deadline was looming over my typewriter, poking and prodding at me to get off my arse and start muckraking. Heeding the call, I found myself at the Woodward Avenue Brewery (WAB), a bar whose immensely multitalented staff decided to put their collective musical talents together for the evening of live music. Upon my arrival, a duo known as the Totally were entertaining the crowd with a fast-paced set which at times seemed to mine some influences from old punk standards (I believe I heard strains of a Misfits cover in there). Totally consists of Abbey Taylor on guitar and Jason Vivona on drums, two individuals who arrived in the area about six months ago from Oregon by way of Boston. Next up, WAB-ster Masha Marjieh took the stage with Octopus, which also featured former Sponge Bob Squarepant Vinnie Dombrowski on drums. Although I missed the closing set by 12 Angry Steps, it being a school night and all, I did stick around long enough for Radium, if only to see whether towering lead singer Tabitha Predovich would hit her head on the ceiling when she got up on the elevated stage. Radium had a ready fan base in the audience, including Noir Leather kingpin Keith Howarth, who was hovering near the restrooms chatting with Lisa Valentine. Also in the crowd was a rabble-rousing Wendy Case (sans appendix) as well as my neighbor Scott Hamilton of Small Stone Records, which has recently absorbed the “stoner rock” Man’s Ruin record label formerly run by artist Frank Kozik.

Fame and mis-Fortune

Speaking of ruins and records, yet another local but classic ruin is on the endangered list, that being none other than the famed former HQ of Fortune Records located at 3942 Third St. in Detroit, which reportedly went on the city’s demolition list in June. Started in 1947, Fortune Records was an indispensable component of our pre-Motown R&B soundscape, and one of the biggest local indie labels of its era, featuring artists such as Nolan Strong and the still-hip Andre “Bacon Fat” Williams. Fortune also issued rockabilly and country music on its subsidiary labels, Hi-Q and Strate-8. The front of the Third Street locale was reportedly a record shop, with the studio located in the back. Although it is now little more than four walls and a caved-in roof, the front sign is still legible, and it would be a shame to see it demolished in a city which has done more than its share to bulldoze history in the name of a parking lot. Somebody better call Andre and get a benefit organized but quick.

Casey Coston writes here every other week. Got gossip, essential factoids or party invites? E-mail [email protected], or call the tip line at 313-962-5281. Press * then dial
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