Swan song of summer


As our summer season enters the stretch run, the prime events seem to reach a frenzied pace, desperately seeking to snatch and grab at everyone’s attention before the impending end of summer effectively shuts us down. While the Ford Detroit Jazz Festival as well as the relatively new Arts, Beats & Eats have established a solid foothold in people’s Labor Day-weekend plans, a nascent salsa-tinged event in Pontiac seems well on its way to cementing its stats as a stalwart party on the summer swan song circuit. This past Friday, the Fanclub Foundation for the Arts held its third-annual Latin dance party “Caliente Tres” in the cavernous-yet-majestic interior of a 1920’s-era bank lobby in downtown Pontiac. The party featured live music by La Sensacional, a Latin jazz band which at times seemed to have 17 or more people on stage. There was also a silent auction, artwork from local galleries including the Girlee Collective, and an abundant array of food which was substantially superior to what I’ve observed at other more high-ticket events about town this past summer. Among the assortment of vendors whose food I sampled, Royal Oak taco peddler Tim Castaneda of Zumba was on hand with delicious Mexican street tacos and guacamole, Sangria provided the paella, Rack of Bones offered up ribs and chicken, and even downtown Ferndale’s Grill Room weighed in with a tasty chicken-and-apricot salad. Prior to the band’s first set, Elaine Marerro of Troy Dance Studios instructed an army of willing participants in the fundamentals of Latin dance, followed up by an exhibition by Adam Phan and Jenny Hicks which, unlike the featured dancers at last year’s party, did not end with the female partner’s face being unintentionally shmushed on the marble floor. Included among those roaming the party’s various floors and rooms was noted Detroit shutterbug Joe Vaughn, who will be joining local reality-TV celeb Keith Famie on an African safari sponsored by the Food Network. Famie, seeking an extension on his fading 15 minutes since “Survivor” ended, will be filming 26 sub-Saharan episodes for the Food Network, while Vaughn will tag along to capture the still shots. While obtaining a sangria at the bar, the Loose Lips camera crew captured Jill Brust, along with Ben Snedeker of Shades Optical in Birmingham, which was sponsoring a lounge replete with DJ up in the oak-paneled third-floor office overlooking the main lobby. Suffice to say, despite all the distractions, including a sword fight courtesy of the Renaissance Festival, the sizzling sounds of La Sensacional essentially stole the show. Hopefully, they’ll be playing out in the area more often, so we don’t have to wait another year to hear them again.


Never has city fuckitupness come to the fore more recently than the casinos-on-the-waterfront debacle, aka Archer’s folly/legacy. As has been well-documented over time, Lame Duck Denny initially opposed casino gambling in Detroit, changed his mind after moistening his index finger and poking it in the air to see which way the prevailing winds were blowing, and eventually agreed to three casinos (“and that’s where we draw the line”). At some point in all this, the idea reluctantly stuck in the Mayor’s craw that they had to be on the waterfront, a curious choice in a city notorious for its wide expanses of abandoned property (“clustering” became the mantra). The Warehouse-Rivertown district immediately had a huge bull’s eye on it, while many (but not all) landowners (and their respective condemnation attorneys) had the cha-ching of dollar signs spinning in their slot-machine eyes. Archer has since waffled off point a bit due to land acquisition “complications” (i.e. the failure of the landowners to essentially “bend over” for the city); MGM Grand is now his only waterfront casino; the City Council, as is its wont, has retrenched into its typical obstructionist mode; and we have an effective stalemate. The end result of all this is a minimum $140-million bill to Detroit for the cost of doing absolutely nothing more than essentially driving a bunch of viable entities out of business in Rivertown and having a clearance sale for scavengers and an open house for arsonists. As Mayor Den-Nero fiddled, Rivertown burned (witness the recent fires at both the Woodbridge Tavern and the Rhinoceros), and the sizable state funding component for a park has been put at risk. A popular position among the mayoral candidates, as well as many City Council mushheads, is to use the area as a waterfront park, and then add mixed-use residential and retail-biz development. That’s all fine and good, in theory, but where the hell was all this high-minded potential while the riverfront rotted and rusted for the past 30 years as an industrial eyesore? Yeah, talk about a no-brainer ... let’s make all of Detroit a recreational park with mixed-use residential and retail-business development. Takes a lot of thought to come up with that position. But answer me this, if this was such a peachy development prospect, why hasn’t anyone but the casinos stepped forward to do it? And if we, as most agree, tell the casinos to take a flying leap away from the water, who, pray tell, is prepared to come forward with the appropriate megaproject and requisite financing to replace it? Just curious, I guess ... as the riverfront between the RenCen and Stroh River Place has been quite the urban wasteland, with a few sprinkled oases of entertainment venues, for some time now.


Speaking of blights on the waterfront, a persistent rumor over the past five years has resurfaced once again: that the Ilitch folks are building a new ice arena to replace the aging, prematurely outdated blight on the water known as Joe Louis Arena, thereby allowing for the much-needed Cobo Hall expansion. Much of the speculation on where this new arena will be located has centered on the west of Woodward area behind the Fox et al, due in large part to the fact that Ilitch has amassed a considerable cache of property back there. But he also owns the old, decaying but once splendiferous United Artists theater, just off Grand Circus Park. The latest rumor has Ilitch tearing down the UA to build a new ersatz Olympia arena for the Red Wings, with possible involvement from GM (naming rights, anyone?). Well let me just put this rumor to bed ... for now at least ... as Al Sebastian of Ilitch Holdings has informed me, straight from Denise’s mouth, that there is “no truth at all” to the rumor, and they have no intention of building a new arena on the UA site “or anywhere else.” Forgive me if I’m a bit skeptical however ... it’s fairly common knowledge that the Red Wings are not staying put in JLA forever, so let’s just see how this all plays out. This just in: One rumor that does appear to be nailed down, however, is that the hotly secretive new downtown location of Motor will be... (tah dah), the fabulous former Moose Hall on Cass back in the area west of Woodward behind the Town Pump (one of the few west-of-Woodward parcels that Ilitch has not gobbled up). This space, adjacent to the late lamented Chin Tiki, had been in the hands of Ritual-cum-SFX-cum-Clear Channel functionaries Blair McGowan and Amir Daiza for some time now, and was once considered a possible replacement for St Andrew’s Hall. Neither Dan Sordyl of Motor or Daiza returned my near-deadline calls, but a source with inside information calls this a “done deal.” More details to follow.

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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