http://www.rockhall.com/
www.flickr.com/photos/rockhall/

Cleveland, OH - The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum will launch the new year celebrating the golden anniversary of Motown’s contribution to the world with its newest exhibit MOTOWN: The Sound of Young America Turns 50. The Motown exhibit will open January 1, 2009, in the Museum’s Ahmet M. Ertegun Main Exhibit Hall.

In an incredibly short amount of time, the Motown label produced 14 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees (list appears below).
The Motown exhibit features instruments, clothing, programs, posters, sheet music, original music scores, contracts, recordings and more. Items from Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, the Four Tops, the Temptations, the Jackson 5, Rick James, Martha and the Vandellas and many others will be featured.

“While Motown was lauded as ‘The Sound of Young America,’ it was actually the sound of all of America and a good portion of the world,” said Howard Kramer, director of curatorial affairs for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Featured collections pieces include:

• Stevie Wonder’s glasses and Superbowl 1999 “African American” outfit
• “Red Hot,” an outfit worn by Mary Wilson of the Supremes on the Ed Sullivan Show
• James Jamerson’s upright bass played on all of his Motown recording sessions until 1963
• A graphic representation of all of the Motown family of labels
Berry Gordy founded and presided over the Motown musical empire. As a young African-American man working in a challenging environment, Gordy reached across the racial divide with music that touched all people, regardless of the color of their skin.
Motown became a model of black capitalism, pride and self-expression and a repository for some of the greatest talent ever assembled at one company. The list of artists who were discovered and thrived at Motown includes the Supremes, Jr. Walker & the All-Stars, the Temptations, the Four Tops, the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5 and Martha and the Vandellas. But the artists alone were not the whole story by any means.

Motown’s staff songwriting and production teams (e.g., Holland-Dozier-Holland) and in-house musicians (including Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Benny Benjamin (drummer) and James Jamerson (bassist) as well as bandleader/keyboardist Earl Van Dyke) contributed immeasurably to the Motown sound. The idea of a self-contained operation exuding soul from its every pore was all part of Gordy’s grand design.

The rags-to-riches story began in Detroit’s inner city, where Gordy, born in 1929 as the son of a plastering contractor, dreamed of making his mark on the world. Stints in the army, as a boxer and a record-store manager preceded his entree into the creative and entrepreneurial side of the music business.
In the mid-Fifties, Gordy began writing songs for local R&B acts and quickly acquired a local reputation as a songwriter, producer and hustler. His first break came in 1957, when Brunswick Records purchased his composition “Reet Petite” for Jackie Wilson.
In 1959, Gordy ventured into independent production with singer Marv Johnson, enjoying a few modest hits such as “Come to Me.”
In 1960, Gordy leased another hit single - “Money,” by Barrett Strong - to Anna Records, a label owned by his sister. He then launched his own company: Tammie Records, which was changed to Tamla and eventually joined by the Gordy, Soul and Motown imprints.
He ran his business from a house at 2648 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit that Gordy dubbed “Hitsville U.S.A.”

The first hit of any size for the fledgling company belonged to the Miracles, a vocal group led by Smokey Robinson. “Way Over There,” released on Tamla in 1960, sold a respectable 60,000 copies. Its followup, “Shop Around,” reached Number Two on the pop charts and launched Motown into the national market.
Overseeing the whole operation from its founding in 1959 to its sale in 1988 was Berry, who insured that Motown’s stable of singers, songwriters, producers and musicians took the concept of simple, catchy pop songs to a whole new level of sophistication and, thanks to the music’s roots in gospel and blues, visceral intensity.
At Motown, notions of “formula” were transformed into works of art in the hands of singers like Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells, Smokey Robinson, Levi Stubbs (of the Four Tops), David Ruffin, Dennis Edwards and Eddie Kendricks (of the Temptations), Diana Ross, Martha Reeves and Stevie Wonder.

Gordy touted Motown as “the Sound of Young America.” Its roots may have been in gospel and blues, but its image was one of upward mobility and good, clean fun. At Gordy’s insistence, Motown’s men and women of soul attended in-house finishing school, where they learned how to comport themselves onstage and in social situations.
Gordy, by all accounts a stern taskmaster, instituted an internal program of “quality control,” including weekly product evaluation meetings, that he modeled after Detroit’s auto-making plants. At the same time, the working environment was sufficiently loose and freewheeling to foster creativity. In Gordy’s words, “Hitsville had an atmosphere that allowed people to experiment creatively and gave them the courage not to be afraid to make mistakes.”
Motown generated literally hundreds of hit singles, but one statistic bears especially eloquent testimony to Motown’s success. In 1966, the company’s “hit ratio” - the percentage of records released that made the national charts - was 75%, an awesome figure.
In its Sixties heyday, Motown’s parade of hits revolutionized American popular music. After Motown, black popular music would never again be dismissed as a minority taste. For more than a decade, Berry Gordy and his talented team translated a black idiom into the Sound of Young America. Aesthetically and commercially, Motown’s achievements will likely remain unrivaled.
About the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is the nonprofit organization that exists to educate visitors, fans and scholars from around the world about the history and continuing significance of rock and roll music. It carries out this mission both through its operation of a world-class museum that collects, preserves, exhibits and interprets this art form and through its library and archives as well as its educational programs.

The Museum is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. On Wednesdays the Museum is open until 9 p.m.
Museum admission is $22 for adults, $17 for seniors (60+), $13 for children (9-12) and children under 8 and Museum members are free.
When you become a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, the world of rock and roll becomes yours to explore.
Call 216.515.1939 for information on becoming a member.
For general inquiries, please call 216.781.ROCK.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees Produced by the Motown Record Label
PERFORMERS
The Four Tops
Marvin Gaye
The Jackson Five
Michael Jackson
Gladys Knight and the Pips Smokey Robinson
The Supremes
The Temptations
Martha and the Vandellas
Stevie Wonder

NON-PERFORMERS
Berry Gordy, Jr.
Holland-Dozier-Holland

SIDEMEN
James Jamerson
Benny Benjamin
by Scott Thorn
MLive.com

Berry Gordy, Jr. created the record label that brought Detroit soul into the spotlight.

Divorced, unemployed and broke, Berry Gordy, Jr. borrowed $800 from his family to start a record label, Motown Records. 15 years later, it became the largest and most successful business owned by an African-American in the United States, despite the roadblocks of racism and pre-civil rights.

Now, 50 years later, Gordy and Universal Motown records will celebrate the iconic Deroit record label with a 50th anniversary party Monday at the Motown Historical Museum when it will be declared "Motown Day" by city and state officials.

When interviewed, surviving member of the Four Tops, Duke Fakir, had this to say about Hitsville U.S.A.

January 09, 2009: Cleveland.com: "When we would go out on the road, as soon as we'd come back, they had tracks cut by the wonderful Funk Brothers," said Fakir, 73. "We would always say, 'Wow - it's another carpet to ride on!'

"It was so easy to sing to those wonderful tracks. All you had to do was just get into the groove of that track and sail on."
Gordy "wasn't just selling records," Fakir said. "He was really creating stars.

Other surviving member of The Four Tops, Otis Williams, remembers Gordy's strict work ethic and meetings that started at 9 a.m. sharp; after that you were locked out the room, no matter who you were.
But Williams also remembers a socially progressive side of Berry Gordy as well.
January 09, 2009: Cleveland.com:In other ways, business at Motown was anything but usual, particularly Gordy's equal-opportunity hiring practices.

"I would hear a lot of guys say, 'Hey, man, being a black guy, I would hire nothing but blacks, 'cause it's a black company,' " Williams said. "Berry didn't think that way. He would hire whomever was able to do the job. Berry had Hispanics working for him, whites, Jewish people.
According to Gordy, it was all about the music and a blind passion to put out the best artists and entertainment in the area. He was wholly unaware about the risky business venture he was undertaking.

January 9, 2009: The Detroit News: "I didn't know enough about economics to know," Gordy said. "I was involved in my stuff, and I took very little interest in anything other than my creative activities and the artists I worked with. I know the times were what they were, but I guess in those days I was more concerned about the whole social situation and the racial tensions. Now I'm a lot more aware of economics and how the whole thing works."

Although Gordy sold Motown in 1988 for $61 million, this septuagenarian is far from finished in the music business and industry.

January 9, 2009: The Detroit News: Along with launching Motown 50, he's overseeing a Broadway musical based on his life and a multi-part documentary film on what he did "and how I did it" at Motown, using extensive footage filmed during Motown's heyday. He's also emerging from retirement to manage a new singer, "one of the greatest I've ever met," whom he isn't ready to reveal just yet.

This is quite a statement from the person who brought us the likes of Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, The Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson, Martha & the Vandellas, the Four Tops, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye and countless others.

But perhaps one of the longer lasting and least focused upon aspect of his career was his influence on the civil rights movement in American, whether overtly or covertly, along with the courage of his artists.

January 9, 2009: The Detroit News: "Gordy also praises the courage of his artists who traveled by bus through the South with the Motortown Revue in the middle of the volatile Civil Rights era. "They were shot at; they were the unsung heroes," Gordy said. "All I'm doing now is what I've done for the past 50 years, protect the legacy because people were trying to rewrite Motown history."

It was Motown Records that released Dr. Martin Luther King's key Civil Rights speeches on records. It was Motown groups like the Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas and the Temptations who insisted that the rope dividing their Southern audiences into black and white be taken down.

This sentiment is also echoed by Duke Fakir, one of the last surviving Four Tops, who sees even greater reason and perspective in this 50th anniversary, and why it is important that it is happening at this moment in time.

January 8, 2009: USA Today: As America prepares to inaugurate its first black president, Fakir heralds Motown's role in the long process that brought the country there. Motown's crossover success, he says, prompted white Americans to "begin to look at black America a little differently."

"It's one of the steps that took us up that ladder," he says. "Motown music was an integral part of softening the blow, little by little. And that's the part I'm really proud of."

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Motown, a week's worth of festivities and experiences have been planned by the city and special artists. Among the events are:

January 09, 2009: Cleveland.com: "Motown: The Sound of Young America Turns 50," a new exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, showcases Wonder's harmonica and glittering sunglasses, a chic red dress from Mary Wilson of the Supremes and an upright bass once played by James Jamerson of Motown's legendary in-house band, the Funk Brothers, among other artifacts; A new boxed set, "Motown: The Complete No. 1's," contains every chart-topping single issued by the company, lavishly packaged in a reproduction of the Hitsville facility.
The Detroit Free Press also has a listing of the week's scheduled events, including half price admission, reminiscing of the old days by Motown stars, and a two-hour documentary, produced by Berry Gordy Jr.

Billionaire donates 4,000 hats to Detroit needy


The Associated Press

Reclusive billionaire businessman and Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun says he is donating 4,000 winter hats to needy Detroiters.

Moroun says in a release that his Detroit International Bridge Co.'s donation to the Hispanic Business Alliance and several other community organizations is in response the city's harsh economic crisis and recent weeks of severe winter weather.

Moroun has a number of business interests on Detroit's southwest side. He plans to build a second span from that area across the Detroit River to Windsor in Canada.

His company says the aging Ambassador Bridge costs too much to maintain. Moroun wants to close it to daily car and truck traffic.
Bill McGraw
Detroit Free Press

Paris? No.

Milan? No.

New York? No.

Detroit? Yes!

Aretha Franklin's bow-tied, gift-wrapped, jewel-studded, $179 inaugural hat was designed, produced and sold to the Queen of Soul by Mr. Song Millinery, a family-owned business on Woodward Avenue just south of West Grand Boulevard.

Starting minutes after Franklin finished her distinctive rendition of "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" on Tuesday, the store's phones started ringing.

By Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Song had sold hundreds of hats. A store in Dallas had sold 500 more, and the material was running out.

"People are calling from England, asking for the hat," said Luke Song, who designed Franklin's chapeau. "I'm shocked. I had no idea. We did not expect this."

The hat has gone crazy in the media and cyberspace. Everyone from Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" to the women on "The View" talked about it Tuesday and Wednesday. Stewart poked fun at it; the women seemed more appreciative. On Wednesday's "The Ellen Show," host Ellen DeGeneres wore an exaggerated hat similar to Franklin's.

People have created dozens of Web sites devoted to the hat and have placed it on mug shots of Dick Cheney, assorted dogs and the heads of Mt. Rushmore, among many others.

On the Los Angeles Times blog page Wednesday, a poster named Sarah Hart wrote: "Loved that hat! She is the Queen and she rocked that hat and made that old staid anthem new and powerful!"

Song said Franklin, a longtime customer, came to him and wanted something to go with a coat she had picked out for the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

"She had in mind what she wanted," Song said. "She said, 'I want it altered this way.' That's what we do most of the time with the client. We meet them halfway."

The heather-gray hat was done in wool felt. The sparkly things are Swarovski crystals.

The hat Song was selling to customers Wednesday is not the custom hat Franklin wore, but it's very close.

Song, 36, of Southfield chatted Wednesday and took calls from around the globe, surrounded by about 1,000 vibrantly colored hats in the store, which sits on a stretch of Woodward that has evolved into a funky avenue of fashion.

The hat store was started in 1982 by Song's mother, Jin, an immigrant from South Korea. Luke Song, who graduated from Birmingham Seaholm High School and Parsons the New School for Design in New York, is the designer.

"It's an art form for me," Song said. "For me, hats define a culture."

Mr. Song Millinery's clientele is 90% African-American, churchgoing women, Song said. His wholesale business supplies hats to shops in other cities with large African-American communities, and the merchandise sells especially well in California, Houston and Dallas. He designs 100 hat styles every six months.

Business was good before the hat appeared on one of the most-watched spectacles in recent years. But now, Franklin's flamboyant headpiece has "taken on a life of its own."

http://blogs.cars.com/kickingtires/

The North Dakota Legislature, led by Rep. Lisa Wolf (D-Minot) wants to lend a helping hand to Detroit automakers by creating their own miniature stimulus. Wolf sponsored a bill, which quickly gained bipartisan support, that would eliminate the motor vehicle sales, excise and use taxes on new cars made by the Big Three.
The tax breaks have been billed as an “emergency measure.” They would not extend to foreign competitors and would apply only to vehicles purchased before June 30, 2010.

While the tax breaks would certainly offer car buyers a discount on new cars, North Dakota dealerships that sell non-American brands could be hurt. But we’re guessing if you live in North Dakota and you’re buying a foreign-brand car, no taxes won’t sway your purchase.

No word yet on if the bill will pass or if Republican Gov. John Hoeven will sign it, but North Dakota is planning a whole slew of tax breaks.

That’s right: While many states face unprecedented budget crises, North Dakota is deciding how to spend a $1.2 billion budget surplus.
http://detroitsynergy.org/

Detroit Synergy’s popular epicurious experience Supper Club is back for the new year with a brand-new restaurant on deck: Angelina Italian Bistro, located at 1565 Broadway.
Angelina Italian Bistro is already a hit amongst Detroit’s most trend-conscious food lovers. A great place both for the food and the socialization, Angelina offers urban chic ambiance paired with some of the most tender yet firm pastas, rich sauces, creative martinis and Michigan-made wines and brews. It was a fast favorite amongst foodies and scenesters alike from the day it opened, and with plenty good reason. Come see it for yourself!

What is Supper Club?

Supper Club is aimed to introduce diners to the fine dining restaurants of Detroit. This is achieved by offering a set meal at a low price so that guests can sample some of the foods these restaurants offer, without spending a lot of money.

January’s Supper Club will be held on Wednesday, January 28th beginning at 6pm
From 6:00-7:00PM we will have a cocktail hour so supper clubbers can meet and mingle, with dinner being served around 7:00PM.
Proprietor Tom Agosta has created a very special four-course menu for Supper Club, highlighting the restaurant’s South Italian cuisine with a Mediterranean flair, and the friendly cost of $30.00 per person, inclusive of tax and gratuity, with optional $10.00 2-glass wine flight.
Any additional items purchased will be billed upon consumption and kept on your own tab.

When: Wednesday, January 28th, 6:00PM
Where: Angelina Italian Bistro, 1565 Broadway
Cost: $30.00 per person, inclusive of tax and gratuity. An optional two-glass wine flight is also available for an additional $10.00.

Tickets: Space is limited, so reservations MUST be made in advance.
Tickets available on the DSG store http://shop.detroitsynergy.org/ + $1.00 service fee, or in cash at the door.
Tickets must be purchased by 9:00PM on Sunday, January 25th; cash reservations must be received by 3:00PM Monday, January 26th.

When making reservations, please specify which entrée options below you'd like and whether or not you will be opting for the additional wine flight.

Email supperclub@detroitsynergy.org with any questions and to make all reservations.
Menu:

Tasting Plates (served family-style at each table): Bruschetta Trio—tomato basil, marinated mushroom, toasted chick peas; Crispy Calamari with a carmelo dipping sauce; and Kalamata Pizza, made with kalamata olive tapenade, tomatoes, caramelized onion, and blended cheeses

Insalate: house salad made with organic field greens, herb vinaigrette, and red onions

Large Plates (choice of): Shrimp Risotto made with baby organic vegetables and basil; Parppardelle Bolognese made with classic meat sauce and parmesan reggiano; Carmelized Onion and Gorgonzola Strucolo made with potato hash, wild mushroom, and grilled fennel; Herb Pine Nut Crusted Lake Superior White Fish made with Italian couscous, spinach, and basil oil; and Chicken Scallopini made with Amish chicken, vermicelli rice, mushrooms, rapini, and marsala sauce. (Vegan vegetable pasta also available upon request.)

If you have any additional questions, please e-mail supperclub@detroitsynergy.org.
JEFF SEIDEL
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

When Adrienne Burger enrolled at Michigan State University, she didn't want to study engineering. She had no desire to learn how to build cars.

"I was 100% sure I didn't want to go into engineering," said Burger, a 20-year-old junior from Okemos. "But I ended up taking a few science classes, and I really enjoyed it and I found out that I was good at it."

Now, she's showing off the MSU race car that she helped to build at the North American International Auto Show, which runs through Sunday at Cobo Center in Detroit.

Burger joined the MSU Formula Society of Automotive Engineers racing team in August. The student-run organization designs, builds and races a small open-wheel race car every year.
"When I joined this team, my knowledge of cars was next to none," she said.

But six months can change quite a bit. Last week, there she was, standing next to the race car, answering questions like an old pro.

"What kind of engine are you running?" somebody asked.

"It's a 600 cc from a Honda motorcycle bike," Burger said.

"How fast does it go?"

"Zero to 60 in about 3 1/2 seconds," she replied.

In all, 140 schools from 13 countries participate in Formula SAE competitions around the world.

The competitions are more than races as the teams also are evaluated on car design, cost analysis and business presentation skills.

This year, Wayne State University's 10-student program is competing with its car April 22-25 at the Virginia International Raceway, May 13-16 at the Michigan International Speedway, and June 17-20 at the Auto Club Speedway in southern California.

"It's engineering super-charged," said Rolando Moya Ferrer, the assistant captain of the WSU team. "You learn engineering, management skills, accounting and you have to find sponsors."
The 30-student MSU team plans to compete at the Michigan International Speedway and in California.

Burger said she's learned more from the team than from her classes. "It's one thing to take information out of a book and memorize it and understand it," she said. "It's an entirely different thing to go in a shop and design something and fabricate it. You learn a lot more."

In the last 10 years, about 75% of the students who completed the MSU racing program went on to get jobs in the auto industry, Zemke said.

"I have an optimistic confidence that it will bounce back," program manager Adam Zemke said of the auto industry. The MSU team goes to the auto show to raise awareness of its program, he said, and also to make industry contacts and highlight its sponsors, which include General Motors Corp.

"We haven't lost any sponsors this year," Zemke said, "and we are supported by companies who are hurting for cash."

While building the race car is a competition, Ferrer said the WSU and MSU teams are not rivals.
"It's more about the learning experience," he said. "It's more of a community."

http://www.edmunds.com/

We expect to see some pretty wild concepts at auto shows, both inside and out. But two dashboards caught our attention from the 2009 Detroit Auto Show last week. Chrysler showed a dashboard in its 200C EV Concept that borrows touch-screen technology from Apple's iPhone, while Lincoln's C concept featured a future version of Ford Sync. And it's not just the futuristic look of the dashes that are cool, but also what they could do if they ever make it into a production vehicle.

The dash in the Chrysler 200C EV Concept featured a large touch screen in place of the usual gauge cluster, and Chrysler claims that it can be reconfigured and personalized to fit individual drivers. A driver will be able to "customize images, backgrounds, mood, volume and lighting by simply touching the screen itself," as with the iPhone.



And Chrysler says that the dash will be a "portal to the outside world" and an "advanced electronic vehicle information center" for the company's next-generation of uconnect infotainment systems, which include Web access.

The dash in the Lincoln C concept is also configurable and operates via touch screen. Plus, the dash will be the platform for future generations of Sync and will include an on-board avatar that can do everything from cue up music to fit your mood to make a restaurant reservation.

Ford previewed the concept ahead of the Detroit Auto Show at the CES in Las Vegas, as part of CEO Alan Mulally's keynote address at the electronics convention. The avatar, called EVA (for Emotic Voice Activation), "lives" in the dash and "can take on a personalized visual image and personality," according to Lincoln.

Lincoln also says that EVA responds to conversational speech and manages vehicle and Sync functions and information for a driver.

EVA will even be able to sense drivers' moods through their voice and driving style and suggest a favorite song to soothe the savage commuter. And using in-car Internet access, EVA can gather a driver's favorite news and info from the Web, check e-mail or even access Facebook pages.

While we're excited about the direction these concept dashboard point to, we're not thrilled about the prospect of social networking behind the wheel -- and wonder if dashes like these will become a dangerous distraction.


http://www.greengrowthguys.com/

Vehicle models designed by students at the College For Creative Studies are on display at Cobo Hall as part of the Detroit Auto Show this year.
Fanciful and outlandish, these models give an idea of what the automobile of the future could be like.
That vehicle above, for example, is a redesigned Model T.

Most of these flights of fancy have a green message, which shouldn’t be a surprise. There’s a biodiesel race car, for example.
Check out a video after the break and you can see more futuristic vehicle ideas in the Design Challenge Motorsports 2025 from the LA Auto Show.
http://www.autobloggreen.com/

After hinting at on the teaser site that was launched for the Ford Fiesta a couple of months ago, the Dearborn automaker has confirmed that it will launch the PowerShift dual clutch gearbox for 2010. This will be the first North American market application of the technology for Ford. The 6-speed unit will is a dry clutch setup that will go into the Fiesta first when it launches at the end of this year. Ford's first DCT application in Europe is a wet-clutch setup on the diesel Focus.
Compared to existing four speed automatics, the PowerShift will yield a 9 percent improvement in fuel efficiency as well as facilitating extra features. During coast down, both clutches are automatically disengaged, reducing drag. The control of the clutches is also integrated with the brake system to provide hill-hold and launch assist. The dry-clutch PowerShift is 30 lbs lighter than the existing four speed automatic on the U.S. Focus. This gearbox already appeared in the Lincoln Concept C and Volvo S60 concepts in Detroit last week and will make its way into other smaller Fords in the next couple of years.
http://diningindetroit.blogspot.com/

Now open: The Fort Shelby Doubletree Suites. Another salvaged historic hotel, significantly less buzz. This guy likes it. With this new hotel comes a new restaurant, Finn & Porter, which offers contemporary surf & turf as well as a sushi bar and the trendy "Round Bar Lounge" (it's a bar that's round; Park Bar regulars are familiar).

Now open: The Next Level Martini Bar & Grill, a new martini bar on Larned across from Opus One. Will it or won't it? Well, considering the only website I've seen any talk of it so far has been, well, mine, it's not looking very hopeful for this place to beat out those 95-in-5 odds (95% of new businesses fail within 5 years). But it might be pretty cool; do try to check it out.

Re-Opening: Bookie's Tavern. They had to move out of the Book Building--'cuz, you know, it's getting repoed or condemned or abandoned or something--so know they are relocating to Cass at Columbia by the long-ago-abandoned Chin Tiki. Which means: more annoying sports people in even closer proximity to Fox Town. They will be reopening in February. Local boozehounds breathe a sigh of relief.

Almost Open But Not Quite: The new kitchen inside Cliff Bells. Personally, I can't wait to see what kind of menu they create for one of the coolest venues in Detroit. I pray it extends beyond classic bar fare and goes for more of a hip, jazzy jazz club vibe. I don't really know what that means, either, but maybe they do.

That's it for now. Toodles.
By Patricia Montemurri
Detroit Free Press

ROYAL OAK, Mich. — As Barack Obama finished his inauguration speech, a dozen artists at the 323 East Art Boutique here erupted into applause and cheers as they stood near their collected portraits of the new president.

"It was empowering and inspirational," said Mike Mac-Kool, 25, of Detroit, one of the gallery owners. "He's a man of majestic nature. It makes me feel pretty hopeful."

The noonday sun pouring into the narrow studio reflected on portraits of Obama in many moods: smiling, pensive, jubilant, somber.

His profile was evoked in bright neon hues or muted shades.

The artists, whose work is displayed on the website, http://www.323east.com/, said they were influenced by the times.

A sturdy rectangle of cardboard was Andrew Alexander's canvas to depict a thoughtful Obama. The president's name is written on the work in a graffiti style.

"I'm using what we can to make the best of the times," said Alexander, 25, of Highland, referring to his use of a mundane medium like cardboard. He called Obama's speech inspiring.

"I liked the explanation of intentions of what he wants to do," Alexander said. "You know that you're in a bad time, but why let that stop you? That's when the most influential things have been forged in our country."

MacKool said art and history have always gone hand-in-hand.

"Embrace this moment," he urged, "through the eyes of artists."

The Courage of Detroit


By Mitch Albom

This was Christmas night. In the basement of a church off an icy street in downtown Detroit, four dozen homeless men and women sat at tables.

The smell of cooked ham wafted from the kitchen. The pastor, Henry Covington, a man the size of two middle linebackers, exhorted the people with a familiar chant.

"I am somebody," he yelled.
"I am somebody!" they repeated.
"Because God loves me!"
"Because God loves me!"

They clapped. They nodded.

A toddler slept on a woman's shoulder. Another woman, holding a boy who looked to be about four, said she was lucky to have found this place open because "I been to three shelters, and they turned me away. They were all filled."

As she spoke, a few blocks to the south, cars pulled up to the Motor City Casino, one of three downtown gambling palaces whose neon flashes in stark contrast to the area's otherwise empty darkness. Sometimes, on a winter night, all that seems to be open around here is the casino, a liquor store and the pastor's kitchen, in the basement of this church. It used to be a famous church, home to the largest Presbyterian congregation in the upper Midwest. That was a long time ago -- before a stained-glass window was stolen and the roof developed a huge hole. Now, on Sundays, the mostly African-American churchgoers of the I Am My Brother's Keeper Ministries huddle in a small section of the sanctuary that is enclosed in plastic sheeting, because they can't afford to heat the rest.

As food was served to the line of homeless people, I watched from a rickety balcony above. My line of work is writing, partly sportswriting, but I come here now and then to help out a little. This church needs help. It leaks everywhere. Melted snow drips into the vestibule.
"Hey," someone yelled, "who the Lions gonna draft?"
I looked down. A thin man with a scraggly black beard was looking back. He scratched his face. "A quarterback, you think?"

Probably, I answered.

"Whatchu think about a defensive end?"
That would be nice.

"Yeah." He bounced on his feet. "That'd be nice."

He waited for his plate of food. In an hour, he would yank a vinyl mattress from a pile and line it up next to dozens of others. Then the lights would dim and, as snow fell outside, he and the other men would pull up wool blankets and try to sleep on the church floor.

This is my city.

"Them Lions gotta do somethin', man," he yelled. "Can't go on the way they are."
*****
And yet...

And yet Detroit was once a vibrant place, the fourth-largest city in the country, and it lives in the hope that those days, against all logic, will somehow return. We are downtrodden, perhaps, but the most downtrodden optimists you will ever meet. We cling to our ways, no matter how provincial they seem on the coasts. We get excited about the Auto Show. We celebrate Sweetest Day. We eat Coney dogs all year and we cruise classic cars down Woodward Avenue every August and we bake punchki donuts the week before Lent. We don't talk about whether Detroit will be fixed but when Detroit will be fixed.

And we are modest. In truth, we battle an inferiority complex. We gave the world the automobile. Now the world wants to scold us for it. We gave the world Motown music. Motown moved its offices to L.A. When I arrived 24 years ago, to be a sports columnist at the Detroit Free Press, I discovered several letters waiting for me at the office. Mind you, I had not written a word. My hiring had been announced, that's all. But there were already letters. Handwritten. And they all said, in effect, "Welcome to Detroit. We know you won't stay long, because nobody good stays for long, but we hope you like it while you're here."

Nobody good stays for long.

We hope you like it while you're here.

How could you not stay in a city like that?
*****
And yet...

And yet to live in Detroit these days is to want to scream. But where do you begin? Our doors are being shuttered. Our walls are falling down. Our daily bread, the auto industry, is reduced to morsels. Our schools are in turmoil. Our mayor went to jail. Our two biggest newspapers announced they will soon cut home delivery to three days a week. Our most common lawn sign is FOR SALE. And our NFL team lost every week this season. A perfect 0-16. Even the homeless guys are sick of it.

We want to scream, but we don't scream, because this is not a screaming place, this is a swallow-hard-and-deal-with-it place. So workers rise in darkness and rev their engines against the winter cold and drive to the plant and punch in and spend hours doing the work that America doesn't want to do any more, the kind that makes something real and hard to the touch. Manufacturing. Remember manufacturing? They do that here. And then they punch out and drive home (three o'clock is rush hour in these parts, the end of a shift) and wash up and touch the kids under the chin and sit down for dinner and flip on the news.

And then they really want to scream.

Because what they see -- what all Detroit sees -- is a nation that appears ready to flick us away like lint. We see senators voting our death sentence. We see bankers clucking their tongues at our business model (as if we invented the credit default swap!). We see Californians knock our cars for ruining the environment (as if their endless driving has nothing to do with it). We see sports announcers call our football team "ridiculous." Heck, during the Lions' annual Thanksgiving game, CBS's Shannon Sharpe actually wore a bag over his head.

It hurts us. We may not show it, but it does. You can say, "Aw, that's the car business" or "That's the Lions," but we are the car business, we are the Lions. Our veins are right up under the city's skin -- you cut Detroit, its citizens bleed.

We want to scream, but we don't scream. Still, enough people declare you passé, a dinosaur, a dying town, out of touch with the free-market global economic machine, and pretty soon you wonder if they're right. You wonder if you should join the exodus.
*****
And yet...

And yet I had an idea once for a sports column: Get the four biggest stars from Detroit's four major sports together in one place, for a night out. The consensus cast at the time (1990) was clear. Barry Sanders was the brightest light on the Lions. Steve Yzerman was Captain Heartthrob for the Red Wings. Joe Dumars was the most popular of the Pistons. And Cecil Fielder was the big bat for the Tigers.

All four agreed to meet at Tiger Stadium, before a game. I picked up Dumars at his house. He was alone. No entourage. Next we went for Sanders, who waited in the Silverdome parking lot, by himself, hands in pockets. When he got in, the two future Hall of Famers nodded at each other shyly. "Hey, man," Barry said.



"Hey, man," Joe answered.

At the stadium Yzerman, who drove himself, joined us, hands also dug in his pockets. As conversations go, it was like the first day of school. Awkwardness prevailed. Later -- after we chatted with Fielder -- we sat in the stands. The hot dog guy came by, and we passed them down: Lion to Red Wing to Piston. And when Yzerman put his elbow in front of Sanders, he quickly said, "Excuse me."

Somehow I can't see that being duplicated in Los Angeles. ("Kobe, pass this hot dog to Manny") or New York City ("Hey, A-Rod, Stephon wants some mustard"). But it worked in Detroit. The guys actually thanked me afterward.

Stardom is a funny thing here. You don't achieve it by talking loud or dating a supermodel. You achieve it by shyly lowering your head when they introduce you or by tossing the ball to the refs after scoring a touchdown. Humility, in Detroit, is on a par with heroism. Even Dennis Rodman didn't get really crazy until he left.
*****
And yet...
And yet we live among ghosts. Over there, on Woodward Avenue, was Hudson's, once America's second-largest department store; it was demolished a decade ago. Over there, on Michigan and Trumbull, stood Tiger Stadium, home to Ty Cobb and Hank Greenberg and Al Kaline and Kirk Gibson; it lasted nearly a century, until the wrecking ball got to it last year. Over there, on Bagley, is the United Artists Theater, which used to seat more than 2,000 people; it hasn't shown movies since the 1970s. The famous Packard plant on East Grand Boulevard -- the birthplace of the auto assembly line -- used to hum with activity, but now its halls are empty, its windows are broken, and its floors gather pools of water. On Lafayette Avenue you can still see the old Free Press building, where I was hired, where those letters once arrived in a mail slot. It used to house a newspaper. It doesn't anymore.

Any mature city has its echoes, but most are drowned out by the chirping of new enterprise. In Detroit the echoes roll on and on, filling the empty blocks because little else does. There is not a department store left downtown. Those three casinos hover like giant cranes, ready to scoop up your last desperate dollar. We have all heard the catchphrases about Detroit: A city of ruins. A Third World metropolis. A carcass. Last person to leave, turn out the lights.

For years, we took those insults as a challenge. We wore a cloak of defiance. But now that cloak feels wet and heavy. It has been cold here before, but this year seems colder. Skies have grayed before, but this year they're like charcoal. We've been unemployed before, but now the lines seem longer; we hear figures like 16% of the labor force not working, Depression numbers. I read one estimate that more than 40,000 houses in our city are now abandoned. Ghosts everywhere.
*****
And yet...
And yet we remember when the streets were stuffed, a million people downtown at a parade, as our hockey team was given a royal reception; every car carrying a player was cheered. This was 1997, and the Red Wings, after a 42-year drought, had once again won the Stanley Cup. Players and coaches stepped to the microphone and heard their words bounce back in waves of sound and thundering applause. Yzerman. Brendan Shanahan. Scotty Bowman. A hockey team? Who does this for a hockey team? Hockey is an afterthought in most American cities. Here, we wear it as a nickname. Hockeytown. We know the rules. We know the good and the bad officials. We sneak octopuses in our pants legs and throw them onto the ice at Joe Louis Arena.




Who loves hockey like this? What other American city comes to a collective roar when the blue light flashes? And what other American city goes into collective mourning when two of its players and a team masseur are seriously injured in a limo crash? People in Detroit can still tell you where they were when they heard about that limo smashing into a tree in suburban Birmingham six days after the Cup win of '97, forever changing the lives of Vladimir Konstantinov, Slava Fetisov and Sergei Mnatsakanov. Vigils were held outside the hospital. Flowers were stacked at the crash site. The TV and radio news broke in with updates all day long. How critical? Would they skate again? Would they walk again?

Remember, these were two hockey players and a masseur, Russians to boot; none of them did much talking in English. Didn't matter. They were ours, and they were wounded. It felt as if there was no other news for weeks in Detroit. "You hear anything?" people would say. "Any updates?"

When people ask what kind of sports town Detroit is, I say the best in the nation. I say our newspapers will carry front-page stories on almost any sports tick, from Ernie Harwell's retirement to the Detroit Shock's winning the WNBA. I say sports is sometimes all we have, it relieves us, distracts us, at times even saves us. But what I really want to tell them about is that stretch in 1997, when the whole city seemed to be nervously pacing around a hospital waiting room. I can't do it justice. It's not that we watch more, or pay more, or cheer louder than other cities. But I will bet you my last dollar that, when it comes to sports, nobody cares as much as Detroit cares.
*****
And yet...

And yet the gods toy with us. They give us the Lions. Our football team puts the less in hopeless. Its owner, William Clay Ford, has been in charge for 45 years. He's seen one playoff win. One playoff win in nearly half a century? Meanwhile, the backstory on Lions failure could fill a library. Blown games. Blown trades. Some of the most pathetic drafting in history, much of it orchestrated by Matt Millen, a former player who was hired out of the TV booth. Honestly, how many teams can use first-round draft picks on a quarterback, a receiver, a running back and two more receivers, as the Lions did from 2002 through '05, and not have a single one of them on the team just a few years later? And two of them out of the NFL altogether?

Wait. Here's a better one. In the last 45 years -- or since Ford took over -- the Lions have had 13 non-interim head coaches, and not a single one was ever a head coach in the NFL again. Not one. Rick Forzano. Tommy Hudspeth. Monte Clark. Darryl Rogers. Wayne Fontes. The list goes on. Nobody wanted them after Detroit. The Lions don't just hurt your reputation, they permanently flatten your tires.

Joey Harrington, a star college quarterback of unflagging optimism who foundered after the Lions drafted him with the No. 3 pick in 2002, once told me of a fog that seems to settle over inhabitants of the Lions locker room -- an evil, heavy cloud of historic disappointment that becomes self-perpetuating. Maybe it's the curse that Bobby Layne supposedly cast on this team after it traded him, saying it wouldn't win for 50 years.

That was 51 years ago.

No wonder Bobby Ross, who once coached San Diego to a Super Bowl, turned in his whistle and walked out of Detroit in the middle of a season. No wonder Sanders, the best running back Detroit ever had, quit the game at age 30. He actually gave money back rather than continue to play for the Lions.

Against this awful tapestry, in an economic crisis, in the darkest of days, came the 2008 season. What cruel fate could conjure such timing? After going 4--0 in the preseason (how's that for irony?), the Lions fell behind in their first regular-season game 21-0, in their second 21-3, in their third 21-3 and in their fourth 17-0 -- all before halftime. Their fifth game was the closest all year. They lost by two points. The margin of defeat? Our quarterback du jour, Dan Orlovsky, lost track of where he was and ran out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

Stop laughing. Do you think this has been easy? Do you think it's fun watching four guys miss tackles on a single play? Do you think it's fun watching Daunte Culpepper arrive, fresh off coaching his son's Pee Wee games, and get the nod as starting quarterback? There were days when it seemed as if all you needed to be on the Lions roster was a driver's license.

Week after week, as our businesses suffocated, as our houses were foreclosed and handed over to the banks, our football team lost -- to Jacksonville by 24 points, to Carolina by 9, to Tampa Bay by 18. And then, on Thanksgiving, the Tennessee Titans came to town with a 10-1 record. In front of the only national TV audience we would have all year, our Lions fumbled on their second play from scrimmage. A few plays later, Tennessee's Chris Johnson ran six yards untouched into the end zone -- the beer vendors were closer to him than the Lions defenders -- and before you could check the turkey in the oven, the Lions were down 35-3.

At halftime Sharpe wore that bag over his head and joined his colleagues in loudly suggesting that the NFL take the annual tradition away from the Motor City. "We have kids watching this," Sharpe said. "And they have to watch the Detroit Lions. This is ridiculous. The Detroit Lions every single year. This is what we have to go through."
No, Shannon. This is what we have to go through.
*****
And yet...
And yet it's our misery to endure. There's a little too much glee in the Detroit jokes these days. A little too much flip in the wrist that tosses dirt on our coffins. We hear a Tennessee player tell the media that the Thanksgiving win didn't mean much because "it was just Detroit." We hear Jay Leno rip our scandalous former mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, by saying, "The bad news is, he could be forced out of office. The good news is, any time you get a chance to get out of Detroit, take it."
We hear Congress tongue-lash our auto executives for not matching the cheaper wages of foreign car companies. We hear South Carolina senator Jim DeMint tell NPR that "the barnacles of unionism" must be destroyed at GM, Ford and Chrysler. Barnacles? Barnacles are parasites without a conscience. Sounds more like politicians to us.

Enough, we want to say. The Lions stink. We know they stink. You don't have to tell us. Enough. The car business is in trouble. We know it's in trouble. We drive past the deserted parking lots of empty auto plants every day.

Enough. We don't need more lofty national newspaper laments on the decay of a Rust Belt city. Or the obligatory network news piece, "Can Detroit Be Saved?" For too long we have been the Place to Go to Chronicle the Ugly. Example: For years, we had a rash of fires the night before Halloween -- Devil's Night. And like clockwork, you could count on TV crews to fly in from out of town in hopes of catching Detroit burning. Whoomf. There we were in flames, on network TV.
But when we got the problem under control, when city-sponsored neighborhood programs helped douse it, you never heard about that. The TV crews just shrugged and left.

Same goes for the favorite Detroit cliché of so many pundits: the image of a burning police car in 1984, after the Tigers won the World Series. Yes, some folks went stupid that night, and an eighth-grade dropout nicknamed Bubba held up a Tigers pennant in front of that burning vehicle, and -- snap-snap -- that was the only photo anyone seemed to need.

Never mind that in the years since, many cities have done as badly or worse after championships -- Boston and Chicago come to mind -- and weren't labeled for it. Never mind that through three NBA titles, four Stanley Cups, Michigan's national championships in college basketball and football, and even another World Series, nothing of that nature has occurred again in Detroit. Never mind. You still hear people, when we play for a title, uncork the old "Let's hope they don't burn the city down when it's over."

Look, we're the first to say we've got problems. But there's something disturbing when American reporters keep deliciously recording our demise but nobody wants to do anything about it. We're not your pity party. You want to chronicle us? We've been chronicled enough. As they say when a basketball rolls away at the playground, Yo, little help?

This is why our recent beatdown in Congress was so painfully felt. To watch our Big Three execs humiliated as if they never did a right thing in their lives, to watch U.S. senators from Southern states -- where billions in tax breaks were handed out to foreign car companies -- tear apart the U.S. auto industry as undeserving of aid, well, that was the last straw.

Enough. We're not gum on the bottom of America's shoe. We're not grime to be wiped off with a towel. Detroit and Michigan are part of the backbone of this country, the manufacturing spine, the heart of the middle class -- heck, we invented the middle class, we invented the idea that a factory worker can put in 40 hours a week and actually buy a house and send a kid to college. What? You have a problem with that? You think only lawyers and hedge-fund kings deserve to live decently?

To watch these lawmakers hand out, with barely a whisper, hundreds of billions to the financial firms that helped cause this current disaster, then make the Big Three beg like dogs and slap them with nothing? Honestly. There are times out here we feel like orphans.
*****
And yet...
And yet we go on. The Tigers were supposed to win big last season; they finished last in their division. Michigan got a new football coach with a spread offense and an eye on a national championship; the Wolverines had their first losing season since 1967.

But we will be back for the Tigers and back for Michigan and -- might as well admit it -- we will be back for the Lions come September, as red-faced as they make us, as pathetic as 0-16 is.
And maybe you ask why? Maybe you ask, as I get asked all the time, "Why do you stay there? Why don't you leave?"

Maybe because we like it here. Maybe because this is what we know: snow and concrete underfoot, hardhats, soul music, lakes, hockey sticks. Maybe because we don't see just the burned-out houses; we also see the Fox Theater, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Whitney restaurant, the riverfront that looks out to Canada. Maybe because we still have seniors who call the auto giant "Ford's", like a shop that's owned by a real human being. Maybe because some of us subscribe to Pastor Covington's words, We are somebody because God loves us, no matter how cold the night or hard the mattress.

Maybe because when our kids finish college and take that first job in some sexy faraway city and a year later we see them back home and we ask what happened, they say, "I missed my friends and family." And we nod and say we understand.

Or maybe because we're smarter than you think. Every country flogs a corner of itself on the whipping post. English Canada rips French Canada, and vice versa. Swedes make lame jokes about Laplanders.

But it's time to untie Detroit. Because we may be a few steps behind the rest of the country, but we're a few steps ahead of it too. And what's happening to us may happen to you.

Do you think if your main industry sails away to foreign countries, if the tax base of your city dries up, you won't have crumbling houses and men sleeping on church floors too? Do you think if we become a country that makes nothing, that builds nothing, that only services and outsources, that we will hold our place on the economic totem pole? Detroit may be suffering the worst from this semi-Depression, but we sure didn't invent it. And we can't stop it from spreading. We can only do what we do. Survive.

And yet we're better at that than most places.
*****

Here is the end of the story. This was back on Christmas night. After the visit to the church, I drove to a suburb with an old friend and we saw a movie. Gran Torino. It starred and was directed by Clint Eastwood, and it was filmed in metro Detroit, which was a big deal. Last year the state passed tax incentives to lure the movie business, an effort to climb out of our one-industry stranglehold, and Eastwood was the first big name to take advantage of it.

He shot in our neighborhoods. He used a bar and a hardware store. He reportedly fit in well, he liked the people, and no one hassled him with scripts or résumés.

The film was good, I thought, and familiar. The story of a craggy old man who loves his old car and stubbornly clings to the way he feels the world should behave. He defends his home. He defends his neighbors' honor. He goes out on his own terms.

When the film finished, the audience stayed in its seats waiting, through the closing music, through the credits, until the very last scroll, where, above a camera shot of automobiles rolling down Jefferson Avenue along the banks of Lake St. Clair, three words appeared.

MADE IN MICHIGAN.

And the whole place clapped. Just stood up and clapped.

To hell with Depression. We're gonna have a good year.

Mitch Albom (http://mitchalbom.com/) is a columnist for the Detroit Free Press and the author of For One More Day, among other books.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
top