Of elves and Vez


Hark! ‘Tis upon us at last, dear readers. That’s right, the dreaded seasonal moment when each and every columnist and freelancer worth his or her laptop begins to slaver and dribble endlessly with odes to gingerbread, jingle balls, rampant consumerism and the true meaning of something-or-other. As we speak and breathe, ink-stained wretches are contorting their feeble, year-ending, shopworn brains in a desperate effort to mold and spawn yet another original yet timely holiday-themed column. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs — Kwame-zaa, RamadaInnadon, Christmasochism or Chicanukah — there’s something for everyone.

Bowing to such steeped tradition (I believe I covered the Rockettes show last year), I will once again proselytize at the altar of the lazy-hack-tired-metaphor column-gods, and, yea, shall come forth unto this column with a ... uh ... ah ... trip to the Magic Stick for the annual El Vez Christmas aka Mex-Mas Show! (Talk about originality — Loose Lips writing about a show at the Stick? No way!) Such trivialities aside, the Mexican Elvis was in town once again, El Vettes in tow, for this year’s installment of what has no doubt become a cherished holiday tradition for this and many generations of families to come. Well, maybe not families per se, but adults who perhaps are, um, part of families, or once were. Regardless, Thursday night at the Majestic complex was the place to be, with bon vivant Camilo Pardo having an art opening in the café and El Vez upstairs, you could pretty much take care of all your cultural needs, while also sating any nicotine addiction by walking through the Garden Bowl and inhaling secondhand smoke.

El Vez, who also answers to the name Robert Lopez, is not an Elvis impersonator in the strictest sense, but rather a “Cultural Caped Crusader for truth, justice and the Mexican-American way.” Given that this was a Christmas show, El Vez initially marched on stage in an ersatz Nutcracker outfit, stiffly greeting his two El Vettes in a wind-up-toy manner while the thumping sounds of the Memphis Mariachis pounded out an intro. Kind of a Gary Glitter meets B-52’s meets Wayne Newton’s Holiday Spectacular. El Vez noted in some side banter that one of the El Vettes (“Lisa Maria”), was studying Judaism, ergo El Vez’ use of the term “Chicanukah,” which I shamefully sampled earlier in this column. Throw in a few current events spoofs (“O Taliban” to the tune of “O Tannenbaum”, which El Vez justified with a “Bono did it” explanation), a Tony Basil melody, a piñata in the form of a customized cruiser, a Virgin Mary smoking jacket, a giant inflatable Santa for the grand finale, and, by golly, you’ve got yourself a holiday extravaganza.

As the gentle sounds of El Vez crooning “Like a Rhinestone Cholo” morphed into a “Feliz Navidad” with the Public Image bass line intro, it was clear that, on this night, while not finding the coveted “true meaning” of something-or-other, I did find solid fodder for the Loose Lips grist mill and photo series. Spotted posing for photos with Mr. Vez were Eric Estrada, who no doubt has had to endure an endless parade of comments since “CHiPs” went off the air (my own experiences of “Casey at the Bat” and “Casey Jones” simply pale in comparison), as well as former Golden Buddha Lounge karaoke star Jeff Bond. Also entertaining the troops at the bar was bartendress Cheryl Laarson, who apparently has an advanced degree in fire-breathing (great way to earn extra tips).


In other notable news … I’m not one to pile on to the public humiliation bandwagon of it all, but it bears mentioning when the recently elected mayor of Royal Oak — a city where the most booze is consumed in the smallest radius (excluding sporting arenas) — has the ignominious distinction of getting pinched for drunken driving. In the meantime, the Royal Oak powers-that-be maintain their unending crusade to drive out one of the city’s founding modern-age retailers (e.g. Noir Leather), to be replaced by, one would guess, more bars. Simultaneously, the loyal, revered Royal Oak institution Inn Season gets told to take a hike by the city when its owners ask for a liquor license. What, was Inn Season planning on building four more levels and a reggae party roof deck? I suspect not.

In any event, the weird thing about this was the way that Mayor Bill Urich, within a week of being sworn in, is nabbed by the guards at Selfridge Air National Guard Base at 2:43 a.m. Selfridge? Perhaps, on the heels of the inauguration, awash in (among other things) the opportunity for public service, Mr. Mayor was swept up in a fervor of civil-servant patriotism and decided to enlist to fight the Taliban. Add to all this the fact that Urich is the drummer for a band known as the Calcutta Rugs (who?), and, well, I don’t really know where I’m going with any of this. The world may never know. I just want to know if Bill Urich is related to Bob Urich (also known as Dan Tanna, on ABC’s late-70’s hit “VEGA$”).

Nevertheless, ‘tis the season of forgiveness, and all that. Just get Inn Season a liquor license and all is forgotten. To his credit, not one to duck and cover, I saw the well-coiffed Urich on Saturday a.m. at Starbucks going over the master plan for Royal Oak. I resisted the urge to ask directions to Selfridge.


In what would truly be a Christmas present for all of Detroit, the Michigan Central Station (“MCS”), perhaps the holy grail for international aficionados of abandoned ruins, is apparently on the verge of getting a new lease on life as an “International Trade Processing Center.” The sign is up (no guarantee, I know), and head honcho Manny Maroun and his Bridge Company cohorts have submitted site plans and are seeking to shore up support from the city. Those involved in presentations to affected communities have observed that this is a complete change in the way the erstwhile bridge trolls typically do business, as they previously had a reputation for deceit and bulldozing their way through the community.

Kelli Kavanaugh of the Corktown Citizens District Council recently completed a book on the MCS, and had an opening last week at the nearby Zeitgeist Gallery. Scenesterati and other interested parties turned out in droves for the delicious free vittles and beverages, including photographers Randa Haurani, Mark Powell and Allan Barnes, whose photos were on display and also used in the book. Also on hand were Doug McIntosh and Luis Antonio Uribe, architects for the restoration of MCS; Lowell Boileau of the Fabulous Ruins of Detroit (detroityes.com); Alan Oldham, aka DJ T-1000; sister-of-author Kati Kavanaugh from Foran’s Irish Pub; Greening of Detroit’s Katie Armstrong and a host of others too numerous to mention. The book, which covers the history and potential future of the train station, can be purchased at Pure Detroit, Cost Plus Wine Shop in Eastern Market, Foran’s Irish Pub, Posterity in Grosse Pointe, and many other fine local establishments. It would make a great stocking stuffer for anyone who cares about Detroit.

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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