TV love and vacant space

Surviving “Survivor”

Pop-culture update: Last Wednesday eve saw your intrepid columnist teasing the hair, selecting a bandana, capping the teeth and breaking out the Spandex, as, lo and behold, an invitation to “Survivor” at the Royal Oak Music Theater arrived in the mailbox. Survivor, right, they had that hit in Rocky 3, “Eye of the Tiger.” Flash pots, schlock rock, feathered roach clips, IROCs, and wailing guitar solos. Check. This should be good for some schadenfreude-style column fodder. Unfortunately, however, some alert newsroom sharpies informed me that it’s not Survivor, the band, but rather “Survivor” the reality-based TV show. Crestfallen at the thought of not being able to draw upon that reservoir of resentment and outsider punk angst from my early ‘80’s high-school days, I quickly retooled. Fortunately, CBS was showing some sort of rehash of the TV show that night, which served as a primer for a quick study (CBS must stand for the Coasters Broadcasting Service, as this hodgepodge show of outtakes and recaps was an example of network television coasting at its highest art form).

Unfortunately, when I arrived at the ROMT, local celebrity chef and “Survivor” contestant Keith Famie was hopping into a limo with friends and family. If I’m not mistaken, I thought I heard him mumble “Durango Grill, driver,” as they sped off. Missing out on such a happenstance encounter with local celebrityhood, I quickly shrugged it off and headed inside. The interior was decked out in a big thatch-roofed tropical style, but with lots of leather couches and chairs off to the sides facing large-screen plasma TV screens. Sort of like “Gilligan’s Island”-meets-high-tech-corporate lounge. Apparently, the party was sponsored by TV Guide, which would explain the omnipresent TV screens as well as the stacks of said periodical scattered hither and yon.

Looking around, there was some sort of gleeful banter and high-spirited high jinks taking place on stage, with contestants from this year’s and last years’ TV shows, including infamous layabout Gervase as well as truck driving pinup gal Susan Hawk yukking it up with members of the audience. Also on the dais was White Lake’s Michael Skupin, who was apparently sent home from the outback MASH unit after an unfortunate swan dive into the campfire. His hands, however, looked to be in fine form given the number of autographs he was signing for the eager crowd. Speaking of the crowd, this was obviously an ad agency party, given the clusters of freshly scrubbed 20- and 30-somethings wandering cheerfully about. Naturally, the Loose Lips camera crew was there to document the event, capturing the aforementioned Gervase signing a T-shirt on the back of Shannon Knappen with assistance from Holly Sumera. Moving through the rapidly thinning crowd, the camera then spied J. Walter Thompson employee Justin Pharmer accompanied by a pigtailed Jennifer Taylor, who was one of those rare party-goers who did not work in an ad-related field. Also posing for posterity was the amiable Hawk, taking a break from regaling Pentacom employees Sharon Carrier, Tracy Adragna and Amy Elisei with stories about her 15 minutes of fame, and peppering her conversation with the type of stevedore-style colloquialisms that no doubt catapulted her to stardom. A few examples: (on last year’s show) “we kicked their ass!” ... (on morning radio babbler Mancow) “he’s fuckin’ hot ...“ (on proper grammar) ... “and he says to me ...“

By the end of the evening, I found that my cup runneth over with TV pop-trends-of-the-moment and longshoreman lexicon, and I bid the ROMT adieu, picking up a goodie bag replete with ceremonial “Survivor” shot glass and a bandanna signed by Gervase, with the inscription “rat tastes just like chicken.” Living in Detroit, however, we already knew that.

Hello Starbucks

Back in the fall of ’99, your humble columnist announced in this space that a new Starbucks would be opening soon in downtown Detroit in the Millender Center. Now, approximately a year and a half later, it has finally opened, thereby doubling the number of Starbucks in Detroit city proper. Not that this is necessarily the sign of a good thing, but, like it or not, a proliferation of Starbucks is generally symptomatic these days of a thriving urban fabric. Just for some comparative shopping purposes, according to the company Web site, the city of Chicago alone has about 78 stores, give or take a few beans. We now have two. Speaking of omnipotent corporate chains in the city core, downtown denizens will recall that the last Taco Bell to operate in the downtown environs (not counting the RenCen food court) was on Michigan and Griswold, just across from coney island ground zero. The old T-Bell was shuttered in ’94 or so, however the old Kinsel’s/Colton building (named after Kinsel’s Drugs, once a 24-hour drug store in downtown Detroit ... imagine that) that housed the franchise, remained as an intriguing old brick structure just ripe with potential for small-scale loft/retail redevelopment. Well, it is now ripe with potential as a hole in the ground, as it was recently razed to make way for a parking structure. Transforming memorable structures into holes and subsequent parking area is a popular two-step in downtown Detroit redevelopment. Ah, progress. Bonus note: this particular corner was also the site of the old Garrick Theater, where Harry Houdini had his final performance before returning to his room at the Statler Hotel, and then being shuttled to Grace Hospital where he died of peritonitis. To debunk a popular local myth, Houdini’s last performance was not at the Majestic, but rather right here at Garrick Theater, a location which now exists in the form of a large hole in the ground, and will soon hold parked cars. History in the making, to be sure.


Confused in my coverage of the Blowout and Mid by Midwest music fests, and the 9,800 bands playing at more than 4,000 venues, I mistakenly mentioned catching Fletcher Pratt at the Gold Dollar when what I really meant was They Come in Threes (they were in consecutive slots). Also, the Girlee Show’s “Herstory” exhibit at the Maniscalco Gallery runs through April 27 (not through the end of March as I originally stated, although there is a salon-style event on March 31). My sincere apologies for any minuscule confusion or mortification this may have caused.

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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