Re-Union, low lights, high hopes

Oct 10, 2001 at 12:00 am


The searchlights were panning the sky on Woodward Avenue in front of CPOP Saturday night, as zero hour approached in the well-documented Niagara-vs.-CPOP contract imbroglio. Local observers were unsure as to the purpose of the searchlights, unless the CPOP folks were looking for their wayward doppelgänger diva of the late-night art set, who had packed up her prints and set up shop across the way at Union Street. For those who have been living under a rock for the past week, I will give a quick recap:

A little less than a week before Niagara’s scheduled CPOP opening, the gallery powers that be delivered to her an unprecedented 13-page contract, along with a casual ultimatum that it be signed before any invites go out for the opening. Niagara, not one to deliberate over contract minutiae, punted to local entertainment attorney Mike Novak, who, after a quick read, deemed it “onerous” (among other things). Negotiations ensued over the next few days, as accusations flew back and forth, and the situation spiraled out of control. The stalemate quickly reached a point of no return, with little hope for mailing out the invites in time, and little movement in the contract negotiations. Sensing the legal wolves at the gate, Niagara handler/appendage/ex-race car driver Colonel Galaxy launched a “special ops” strike on CPOP, accompanied by Showtime’s Dan Tartarian, and reclaimed Niagara’s paintings that were to be shown at Saturday’s opening. CPOP, to its plucky credit, put together a last-minute show consisting of works by Glenn Barr, Matt Gordon, Camilo Pardo, Bask, Angie Baan, Anna Cangialosi, Mark Dancey, Ron Zakrin, Davin Brainard and others. Meanwhile, Niagara set up show in the Michigan Room at Union Street, where she previously held her openings back in the dark (i.e. pre-CPOP) ages. Unfortunately, while art aficionados (as well as her vociferous critics) were deprived of the opportunity to see Niagara’s latest paintings, they were able to peruse some of her classic and still-affordable prints of the past. What remains unanswered in all of this is why CPOP would insist on such a brazen last-minute power play, particularly with the most successful and financially lucrative artist by far in its stable. While both sides remained hopeful that this would be worked out, a sense of unease from some insiders was still evident the following Monday as this story went to press. Niagara, in the meantime, moves forward with a major show in Hollywood early next year.

That’s enough on the skirmishes, however, let’s get down to the debauchery. Niagara’s opening had a decidedly punk bent to it, with moldy-oldie punks and downtown hipsteratti coming out of the Woodward woodwork for the party (i.e. the “usual suspects”). As I made my way through the throngs, I spotted Tony Romeo of the Trash Brats, who was on his way to their show at Lili’s, along with companion Debbie Sipes of the Cranbrook Art Museum, who noted the Museum is having a big shindig this Friday night which is open to all. Also in the mix, and speaking of Lili’s, were local scribe/barkeep Art Lyzak, as well as Greasy Carlisi, and a baby-photo-lugging Jerry Peterson.

Lurking about, and spotted on both sides of Woodward Avenue, were folks like Billy Hunter, artist Sacha Eckes of San Francisco (who just opened a show at the MoNA), Glenn Barr, T.M. Caldwell, former chrome-domed CPOP Svengali and perpetual Lanternjack booster Rick Manore, and an unidentified neighborhood dweller in a madras sport coat whom we dubbed Chukky Cheese, as he was spied at both art openings loading prodigious quantities of cheese cubes onto his distressed paper plate prior to being booted out of both CPOP and Union Street (twice). Speaking of the Caldwell, I chatted with Jeff Richards and wife Christi of Royal Oak’s Padded Cell, the hip custom metal and jewelry design studio (, who collaborated on a table with Niagara, and noted that Caldwell and frequent confederate Giles Rosbury will be having a show at the store entitled “A Conjoined Atrocity Exhibition,” opening this Saturday at 7 p.m. Other notable memories from the evening were no less than five spinnings by DJ Shortround aka Vince Patricola of “God Save the Queen,” in honor of Niagara, a late-night 3 a.m. topless dance party by a group of whirling dervish females (later broken up by Union Street management), and live music/spoken word by a group called the Farleys, whose lead shouter Rastafarley at one point in a diatribe proclaimed, “How am I going to support my country when Wal-Mart is all out of flags?” While nobody had a ready answer to Mr., um, Rastafarley’s harangue, they were eagerly buying the Niagara prints, with around 20 sold by the wee hours of Sunday morning. Those who missed the party can stop by throughout the month while the show remains up at Union Street, barring any injunctions or other court-ordered actions.


In other news, Saturday morning saw your intrepid columnist warming a chair in the lobby of downtown’s Crowne Plaza Pontchartrain hotel, awaiting an audition for the “Weakest Link” game show, a schadenfreude-style quiz fest headed up by some pseudo-barbed English host. While I thought such an experience would provide good pabulum for the column, I didn’t anticipate that we would be forced to endure the eventual videotaped testimonials and mock game show which followed hours later. Contest handlers advised us to be energetic, while not being afraid to be mean and insulting. Second nature to me, I thought. We were winnowed down to eight finalists, and included in the group was Scott Sellers, a former pro wrestler who claimed that he was once ranked No. 495 (and who was supposedly killed off by a wicked pile driver at the State Fairgrounds back in ‘91), along with financial consultant Dewey Steffen, who confessed that he used a fake name (“T.J. O’Malley”) while roaming local bars. I quickly made friends when I articulated my reasons for voting off a clueless woman who made two glaring wrong answers, including her response that Einstein wrote the Brandenburg Concerto. “Um ... yeah, right.” When asked who she hoped would be voted off next, she quickly and unhesitatingly pointed in my direction and hissed “that guy.” Unfortunately, our mock game ended there, as I was about to ask the ex-wrestler for some tips on executing a pile driver-coco butt combo move. Stay tuned for future call-backs.


Finally, and speaking of Greasy Carlisi, who’s had the benefit of many benefits, a benefit will be held this Friday beginning at 9 p.m. at the Royal Oak Theater for Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise drummer Jeff “Shakey” Fowlkes, who, while on tour with the band in Colorado, had the grisly misfortune to hit a deer while driving his motorcycle on the highway. Fowlkes has since been discharged from the hospital, with the usual slew of unsightly medical bills. Performing at the benefit, among others, will be the Howling Diablos, the Reefermen, 8 Ohm Apple and Give front man Ferris George. Your hosts will be Robert Bradley and Bobby East, and the cover charge is whatever you wish to donate.

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