Web Site's Funny Texts Lead to App, TV Show

Stephanie Goldberg

When some people find out that Lauren Leto quit law school at Wayne State University after her first year to focus on her Web site, they lecture her about responsibility and planning for her future.

And then they find out that little Web site of hers averages about 4.5 million hits a day.

Leto, along with her college friend Ben Bator, who also passed on law school to concentrate on the business, launched TextsFromLastNight.com in February 2009.

The site, which features funny and often shocking text messages submitted from area codes worldwide, has spun off into multiplatform ventures including personalized T-shirts, a book, an iPhone app and talk of a Fox sitcom to be produced by Adam Sandler's production company, Happy Madison.

Some of the more popular Texts From Last Night include, "I was just told by a cop that my party was the most epic party they ever crashed," "This is a mass text. Does anyone know where I am?" and "Rather than putting your name in guys phones, you just texted 90999 to donate $10 to Haiti and then gave it back to them."

But Leto says that even after a development deal and an app that's been downloaded by more than 300,000 people in 230 countries and territories, her parents can't help but worry about their daughter.

"They're nervous that one day I'm going to wake up and no one will want to look at my Web site anymore," she said with a laugh.

Another site that has succeeded by making strangers' stories available to the public is FML, which launched in French in 2008 and became accessible to English speakers in January 2009.

FML, otherwise known as FMyLife.com, is composed of the funny, self-deprecating tales. For example, on March 8, user what434 wrote, "Today, I learned that you don't put your diamond earrings on over your bathroom sink. FML."

"It gives people an outlet to post whatever screwed up their day," said Alan Holding, community manager at FML. "We're just trying to provide a fun Web site where people can share their funny secrets."
The site receives about 5,000 submissions and averages 3 million hits a day.

Like their counterparts at FML, Bator and Leto had no idea what they were in store for when they started Texts From Last Night as a blog to keep in touch with friends after graduating from Michigan State University in 2008.

But it wasn't until the book contract came along, almost one year after the site launched, that Leto realized the potential of Texts From Last Night.

"After the book deal, we knew it was OK to deplete our savings and put money into the site," Bator said. "It's really fun the way we've been able to cross mediums like this. ... [How] late-night exploits can be inspiration for a book and a TV series to be enjoyed by millions."

With about 15,000 text messages submitted to the site every day, Leto, Bator and his brother Philip -- a senior at Michigan State who helps weed through the submissions -- keep busy.

"Everyone texts," Bator said. "They'll send a text before they'll call. [Cell phones] are like little confessionals you bring out with you at night, and we get to read everyone's diary."

Leto said her friends still message her when they see a 313 (Detroit, Michigan, metro) area code pop up on the site.

"They'll say, 'Oh, my God, that was totally you,' " she said. It's not.

"It gets annoying getting texts from people hoping I'll put them up on the site. ... They think I can't tell. Like, why are you writing me about vomiting in your hair?" she laughed. "I hate text messaging now."

Check out Panasonic’s Full HD 3D home theatre system and new product line next week from Monday to Wednesday at the Detroit Opera House.

Panasonic has begun a nationwide tour to bring the experience of Full HD 3D TV home entertainment directly to consumers in 15 major markets. The tour will have 3 caravans simultaneously traveling on the East and West Coasts and Central U.S., beginning in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

What will be available at the event:

·         Enter to win a Panasonic Full HD 3D Home Theater System; one winner will be selected from all visitors who enter during the three-day period

·         Learn tips and techniques from photography experts from the Digital Photo Academy on Panasonic’s newest line of LUMIX cutting-edge digital still cameras and camcorders

·         Try out Panasonic’s newest consumer electronics products, including gaming in Full HD 3D

·         See demos of Skype, DirecTV 3D content, and more

·         Learn more about Panasonic’s commitment to developing eco-conscious  technology

·         Interview Panasonic executives


·         Monday, March 22, 2010 – 11:00AM-6:00PM

·         Tuesday, March 23, 2010 – 11:00AM-6:00PM

·         Wednesday, March 24, 2010 – 11:00AM-4:00PM


Detroit Opera House

1526 Broadway

Detroit, MI 48226
Experience the wonder and magic under the “Big Top” of the Shrine Circus from March 18 – 21, 2010 at their brand new location, the Hazel Park Raceway.

The 102nd Shrine Circus will feature dazzling and breathtaking performances by acclaimed international acts that promises to be more marvelous, more astonishing than ever before.

Join us under the big top for an action-packed experience, featuring mischievous elephants, prancing horses, flame-throwing gaucho dancers and the high-flying, death-defying Sun Chinese acrobats.

Show times are as follows:

Thursday, March 18, Friday, March 19 & Saturday, March 20:

10:00 am, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm

Sunday, March 21: 1:00 pm, 5:30 pm

“We are proud to be able to continue the tradition of the Shrine Circus in Metro Detroit, the home of the first Shrine Circus in the world,” said Chuck Baer, Shrine Circus Director. “The Big Top tent will offer a more intimate experience and give children and adults alike, an up-close and personal access to the acts that they’ve never had before.”  

Children of all ages are welcome to marvel at the magnificent big top performances, and lose themselves in the whimsical sideline entertainment that includes cheery clowns, exotic elephant rides, face painting and moon bouncing.  Concessions are available throughout the performance.

The new location at Hazel Park Raceway will include fenced, secured and lighted parking, a huge petting zoo, carnival attractions, and of course, the big show. Tents will be heated, handicap accessible and have first class amenities. The Detroit Shrine Circus dates back to 1908 when it was held at the Light Guard Armory, located at Larned and Lafayette in downtown Detroit.

Tickets are on sale now at www.detroitshrinecircus.com. Prices range from $15 - $30 when purchased online and the box office.

Discounted tickets are available at select local retailers, including Hungry Howie’s.

For more information please visit www.detroitshrinecircus.com. Hazel Park Raceway is located on the corner of 10 Mile Road and Dequindre and accessible from area freeways.

Associated Press

Saab Spyker Automobiles NV may announce that it is locating its U.S. headquarters in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak.

Bill Mullan, a spokesman for Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, tells The Associated Press that a tax incentive for Saab is on the agenda for the Michigan Economic Growth Authority's Tuesday meeting.

Mullan said he could neither confirm nor deny that Saab has chosen Royal Oak as the site of its North American headquarters. But Royal Oak Mayor Jim Ellison told WJBK-TV that he expected Gov. Jennifer Granholm to make the announcement at a Tuesday news conference.

General Motors Co. in January sold Saab to Dutch carmaker Spyker Cars NV in a $74 million deal.

Daniel Duggan
Crain's Detroit

After four years of preparation, the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau has secured a conference that it expects to generate close to $3 billion in economic impact over five years.

Dubbed by insiders the “Super Bowl of all conferences,” the 5,000-person American Society of Association Executives event will draw roughly 3,500 people in leadership roles of associations — people empowered to decide where their own conferences will be held.

“Any businessperson can imagine the idea of having all of their best clients or prospects in one place at one time,” said Larry Alexander, president and CEO of the visitors bureau.

Detroit won the 2015 conference of the Washington, D.C.-based ASAE, held for the leaders of trade groups and associations from around the country.

Though the conference is still five years away, Alexander said planning has already started. And while this event won't have the same level of media attention as the Super Bowl or the Final Four, Alexander said the hospitality industry is planning the same level of attention.

“We'll be naming a host committee, we'll be figuring out how many volunteers we need, decorations at the airport,” Alexander said. “And we're working on specific strategy for how to use this as a way to market the entire region.”

Alexander said the visitors bureau went after the ASAE conference three years ago and lost.

Since then, he and the entire staff have made securing the conference a priority. The visitors bureau has become very involved with the group, sponsoring other events and programs; Alexander even took a spot on its board of directors.

Leading up to the city's pitch for the conference, Detroit-based public relations firm Starrconstand prepared a bid packet, which included a DVD player that played a four-minute movie about Detroit starring Kid Rock.

For the 20-minute pitch in Washington, D.C., Waterford Township-based staging company Corporate Optics was hired to arrange and control three televisions, each showing different images while Edsel Ford II and Alexander spoke to the selecting panel.

Part of the pitch is the host city's vision for the three parties held at an ASAE convention: opening ceremonies, the food-and-wine party and the closing ceremony.

Detroit pitched an opening ceremony on Belle Isle with fireworks and a laser light show; a “culinary throw down” at The Henry Ford and a “concert of wild proportions” at the Fox Theatre to end the event.

The presentation was one of the best given to the board for the current round of bidding, said John Graham, president of the ASAE.

“I've seen some good presentations in the past, and that ranks up there as one of them,” he said.

Graham served on the board of the American Diabetes Association with Ford, so having him as part of the pitch was a nice touch, Graham said, “and Larry knew that I'd think it was a nice touch.”

Though Graham added that the presentation is the icing — the city's hotels, facilities and venues are the cake.

“You can have a great presentation, but you have to have a package to offer,” he said. “The city deserves a lot of credit for developing into a destination that will be attractive to a lot of meetings.”

Will the event really be worth it? Not even a question, Alexander said.

According to the ASAE, 20 percent to 25 percent of the executives who attend a conference will book an event in that city within five years.

For an average year with an attendance of 5,000 people, Alexander said 3,500 attendees represent conventions. So, based on the ASAE's analysis, Detroit could expect 700 to 875 conventions in five years.

Alexander said direct spending on a convention in Detroit can range from $2 million to $25 million on the high end.

Considering an average of $3.5 million per event, for 800 new conventions, the region would get $2.8 billion in direct spending.

Nashville earned new conferences after hosting the event in 1998 and 2005, said Butch Spyridon, Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau president and CEO, though the exact number wasn't available.

He said that while the event is time-consuming and expensive, it has a tremendous return on investment. The city has been selected for 2014.

“There is a certain segment of the (meeting and convention) market that has a comfort level about where they will go,” he said. “When you can get clients out of that comfort area, you can demonstrate what you can do in your city.

“We've found that when we can get the client base into our city, the closing rate increases dramatically.”

For Detroit, the meeting will be a chance to show off the facilities, hotels and the region, said Tim McCarthy, visitors bureau chairman.

“We'll be showing off the city,” said McCarthy, also president and COO of Detroit-based Checker Cab. “But we'll have a great plan put together to encourage those in attendance to bring their business back to the region.”

The Gov Monitor

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today announced that seven projects supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) have been recognized in the fifth annual Trade & Industry Development magazine economic development awards competition.

These are seven of the key projects that propelled Michigan to third place in Site Selection magazine’s annual Governor’s Cup competition for major new corporate investments in 2009 announced last week.

“For the second week in a row, our economic development efforts have been recognized by a global site selection publication,” Granholm said.  “We will continue going anywhere and doing anything to further diversify the state’s economy and create new jobs in Michigan.”

The CiCi Awards competition recognizes the top 30 projects in North America for 2009 in two categories: Corporate Investment and Community Impact, honoring the company investing in the community as well as the economic developers who played a role in securing those investments.

In the Corporate Investment category, Michigan led the field with six awards out of a possible 15, four of them in the clean energy sector.

The projects recognized were:

Xtreme Power and Clairvoyant Energy anchoring what will be the nation’s largest renewable energy center on the site of the former Ford Motor Wixom assembly plant.

Advanced-battery development and manufacturing firms A123 Systems (Livonia) and Johnson Controls-Saft Advanced Power Solutions (Holland), and solar manufacturer Suniva (Thomas Township, Saginaw).

Nexteer Automotive, the former steering division of Delphi Corporation, now focused on development of advanced steering and driveline systems technology.

Quicken Loans, the nation’s largest online lender, undertaking a $240 million expansion and headquarters relocation to Detroit.

The Community Impact award honored MEDC’s success in winning the new General Electric advanced technology and training center in Van Buren Township (western Wayne County) which will become GE’s largest single-site IT operation.  It is based in large part on Michigan’s roster of engineering and technology professionals.

“These awards pay tribute to the economic development talent and professionalism available in communities around the state,” MEDC President and CEO Greg Main said.  “Perfecting these deals requires the highest degree of collaboration and cooperation in generating new investment from inside and outside of the state.  Our local partners are a major reason Michigan is a leader in attracting and nurturing growing companies, based on our aggressive initiatives, strong business climate and hard-working and talented workforce.”

Describing itself as the only vertical market publication dedicated to site selection, Trade & Industry Development has a circulation of 25,000.

David Murray

Road trips demand a rare breed.

For many the road trip consists of nothing more than the mundane transportation from point A to B. Stopping along the way to gather the useless trinkets or pecan roll.  The highwayman’s last export.

This trip was different. There would be no relaxing pleasure cruise. No poetic moments of insight while gazing  through the pastoral scenery. Instead this would be nothing more than a mad dash through the gritty turnpike of America. All the way pushing the limits of personal endurance and technological limitations.  This would be a true adventure.

My companions consisted of a short Pilipino, a Ryan Seacrest look alike, and the girl. Good people. We all would embrace the madness.

Our trip started in earnest on Monday morning, March 8th. Together we would set out to prove that Detroit still meant something. That there was talent and drive not ready to turn over and die. This would make our home town proud, and a long the way we would indulge ourselves in the energy that would ensue. Living the true Detroit experience.

The vehicle chosen for our travels, was the Chevy Traverse. A beast of a machine full of buttons, dials, and gadgets that no human should ever have access to. We had already packed enough technology with us to maintain our attention level at a relatively safe point. Any additional distractions would surely take us over the edge. Regardless we pressed on.

Stopping at some local haunts, it became immediately apparent that this project was much bigger than ourselves.

Most people were willing to extend their hand and help in any activity that was required of us. Only in a few instances were we asked to not enter. This helpful attitude was shared throughout our trip. Many would stare in wonder, but always with a small smile of curiosity. One could sense that people, regardless of race, gender, or geographic locations, where ready for some levity after the heavy steel blanket they had been wearing for the past few years.

We wouldn’t be alone on this trip. Seven other groups of individuals were also on the same mission. Along the way communications and activities would be shared online. The general attitude of the other teams was that we had set the bar high right out of the gate. It would then become their mission to take us down. The target was painted, and we knew we were in the firing line. Nothing to do now, but push “Hustle Dragon” to the edge.

This was my 1st experience having wifi in an automobile, and like the distant relative you loathe to visit. It wasn’t always functioning. At times it ceased to exist. Even our back up devices would fail to deliver.

Regardless of these setbacks, our troupe pushed on.

Endless hours of video editing, posting content, and car sickness would not bring us to our knees. But the true source of energy for our trip, was the community back home. You could feel their excitement as we inched closer to the finish line. The support was amazing, and it was the deciding factor of our victory.

Finally, we made it to our destination.

With a large sigh of relief we all took a moment to silently congratulate ourselves for a job well done. We had dodged all the bullets, beat all the odds, ignored the doubters and the swine, represented our home town, and made it in time for the next party. There would be little time to rest. Duty would call to represent Detroit once more.

It was time for South by Southwest.

*Important Note*

Team Detroit  is the official winners the first Chevy SXSW Road Trip Challenge!  Congrats!

Trailer 'Grown in Detroit' from Mascha Poppenk on Vimeo.

Dutch filmmakers Mascha and Manfred Poppenk have captured the interests of educators, community organizers and social activists around the world. Their recent documentary Grown in Detroit shines light on an incredible effort that is currently taking place in a city often discredited as one of decay and despair. For this, they received the Community Empowerment Film Award from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. Reverend Jesse Jackson presented the award to Mascha Poppenk during the annual NCRC conference on Friday, March 12 in Washington D.C.

"We are honored that Grown in Detroit received this prestigious award from the Coalition," said Mascha Poppenk, filmmaker. "It’s a powerful, uplifting story about the rebirth of the city told by the actions of teens and their educators. The message they teach us applies to the world, not just the residents of Detroit. The award is for the people of Detroit, CFA in particular. It’s their story, we were privileged to capture it."

Grown in Detroit features urban organic farming efforts organized by the Catherine Ferguson Academy, a public school of 300, mainly African American, pregnant and parenting teenagers. In Detroit alone, there are more than 3,000 pregnant teenagers who drop out of high school each year, nationwide more than 500,000.

The passionate educators at the Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit are working to make a better future for the young women by using their natural resources. The school is one of only three like it in the United States. As part of the curriculum, pregnant teens are taught agricultural skills at the farm next to the school. The young mothers, often still children themselves, learn through organic farming to become more independent and knowledgeable about the importance of nutritious foods. Many of the teens initially dislike farm work but the aversion disappears as they see their crops growing and being sold for profit.

While Detroit may have a reputation as one of the most impoverished and dangerous cities in the U.S., this award winning documentary exposes a different side; the side about residents who are emerging by using their resource and creating unique solutions.

Ironically, after the destruction of many abandoned homes, nature has taken over and the city. Detroit is literally greening from within. Satellite images speak for themselves; more than one third of the city has become green again, just as it was before the industrial era. This new landscape is creating opportunities and hope for the city and its residents. Land that was used for farming a century ago has again been cultivated, this time by the urban farmer, out of necessity and resourcefulness.

This “back to the roots” concept is a simple, yet effective solution for a city that has to start all over again and perhaps a lesson to be learned for the rest of the world.
Katherine Yung
Gannett News Service

Decades after Motown Records put Detroit on the world's entertainment map, a little-noticed tax break could help usher in a new era of music-making in Michigan.

The state is offering tax credits of up to 42 percent for the production of music CDs and videos. The credits were designed to lure big-name artists to record in Michigan, which already is home to chart-topping performers such as Eminem, Kid Rock and Bob Seger.

The incentive is tucked away in the package of tax breaks for the movie industry. But Michigan officials have not promoted it because they have put all of their efforts into growing the state's film business.

As a result, even though the tax credit has been available since April 2008, no one has taken advantage of it, which may change as more people learn about the incentive.

"If we could market that with the labels, do you know how much business we could bring to Detroit?" asked Brian Pastoria, a partner at Harmonie Park Studios, a Detroit recording studio. "It would be an incredible thing."

Like many others, Pastoria didn't know about the tax break. When Pastoria heard about Michigan's tax breaks for recording artists, he was so excited that he quickly told his contacts at major recording labels.

"They had no idea," he said. Were they interested in the incentives? "Very much so," he said.

"This makes all the sense in the world," said Pastoria, who has worked with a number of prominent artists, including Aretha Franklin, Eminem and the Velvet Hearts. "I think it could start something. This is huge."

He's working on bringing production of a new tribute album for British music legend Frankie Miller to his studio, and the tax credits would definitely help. Making the album could easily cost $1 million because it would involve more than a dozen top performers.

To be sure, Michigan's music incentives won't help everyone. They can be claimed by only those who spend at least $50,000 in the state. Big-name artists backed by major record labels usually sink much more than $50,000 into an album. But other performers won't be able to meet the requirement.

"They are going to exclude a lot of independents," said Al Sutton, who records and mixes Kid Rock's albums and owns Rust Belt Studios in Royal Oak.

Sutton noted that if the requirement were lowered to $20,000, he could lure several out-of-state bands to record at his studio.

Ken Droz, a spokesman for the Michigan Film Office, which administers the incentives, said that artists with small budgets don't need the tax breaks. For major performers, spending $50,000 "is a song," he added.

Companies that meet the re-quirement can get up to a 42 percent tax break, the same percentage that's offered to movie and TV production companies. The law defines a sound recording as "a recording of music, poetry or spoken-word performance." It must be in a digital media format, such as a CD.

Just like with movies, companies must apply for the tax breaks in advance, and it usually takes a year before the money is paid. Anyone building a recording studio in Michigan also can qualify for the tax credit, Droz said.

While the Michigan Film Office has not marketed the tax breaks and has no plans to do so, that isn't stopping a few companies from exploring the incentive's potential benefits.

Dickinson Wright, a Detroit-based law firm, has a Nashville, Tenn., office that's looking at the tax breaks for some of its clients in that music industry hub, said Steven Enwright, one of its entertainment attorneys.

Unity Studios, which has begun building three sound stages in Allen Park, plans to operate at least one room for recording music at its facility, said Eric Cedo, the company's director of marketing.

"The music industry and film industry go hand in hand," he said. "We really need to get back to what Motown did."

Michigan isn't the only state offering tax breaks for recording artists.

In 2007, Louisiana increased its tax credit for sound recordings from 15 percent to 25 percent. Last year, it made the tax credit refundable, which means companies can get checks from the state, not just credits against their tax liabilities. The minimum spending requirement in Louisiana is only $15,000.

So far, several jazz and blues albums and movie scores have been recorded in Louisiana, as well as the Dave Matthews Band's most recent album, "Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King."

The tax credits are "just starting to get noticed," said Sherri McConnell, executive director of Louisiana's Office of Entertainment Industry Development.

In today's multimedia world, an album is often just one marketing tool for a band, so Louisiana offers several entertainment tax credits. For example, New Orleans' Imagination Movers, a hit band for children, has a Disney Channel series, albums and concert tour.

Each of these productions can qualify for tax breaks if they are filmed, recorded or performed in Louisiana.

Michigan also offers several entertainment incentives, but so far has marketed only the ones for movies. But a new company, Fantasm 3D, hopes to be among the first to take advantage of the state's tax credit for making music videos. It's preparing to film a 3-D music video for an artist from Michigan whose name it would not reveal.

"The incentive will open the door to the idea of coming here to shoot," said Ralph Watson, Fantasm's CEO and a former performer and record producer. "There's a lot of talent here, undiscovered talent."

Additional Facts

More than movies
Films and TV shows aren't the only creative productions eligible for Michigan's 42 percent refundable tax breaks.

What else qualifies for the incentives: Documentaries, music videos, interactive games, video games, movie trailers, Internet programming, Internet videos, sound recordings, videos, digital animation and interactive Web sites.

What doesn't qualify: Radio programs, weather shows, financial market reports, talk shows, game shows and awards shows.
Detroit Free Press

Free Press columnist Mitch Albom has sold more than 28 million books worldwide.

At times, it might seem as if he has won as many writing awards during his quarter-century with the Free Press. For instance, 13 times he has won the country’s most prestigious sports column-writing contest; only one other columnist has won it more than once.

This weekend, Albom was selected for the biggest prize of his journalism career: the Red Smith Award.

The award is bestowed annually for lifetime achievement by the Associated Press Sports Editors. It was started by the country’s sports editors in 1981 when it was presented to its namesake, the legendary New York columnist. In the ensuing years, it has been awarded to a who’s who of the most influential sportswriters and editors, including Jim Murray, Jimmy Cannon, Shirley Povich, Edwin Pope and Dick Schaap.

The voters are past APSE presidents and Red Smith winners, charged with identifying people who have made “major contributions to sports journalism.”

“Mitch’s work and career speak for themselves — he’s given much to Detroit, he’s a wonderful writer, he’s multi-talented, he’s earned his success and recognition,” said Paul Anger, editor and publisher of the Free Press. “And this award recognizes Mitch as among the greatest sports columnists ever.”

Anger, APSE’s president in 1994-95, spent 18 years as sports editor of the Miami Herald and saw the early days of Albom’s column-writing career in the early ’80s at the Herald’s rival, the Ft. Lauderdale News and Sun Sentinel.

Albom joined the Free Press in 1985. And the rest, as the awards prove, is remarkable history.

He will receive the Red Smith Award at the APSE’s June convention in Salt Lake City.

Mike Householder
Associated Press

Iggy Pop was starting to feel like the Susan Lucci of rock 'n' roll.

Just as the veteran soap actress believed she might never win a Daytime Emmy, the godfather of punk was certain his groundbreaking band The Stooges wouldn't ever earn a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Well, as it turns out, Lucci got her gold statue on the 19th try. And Iggy and the boys finally are getting their shot to search and destroy at Monday's induction ceremony, on their eighth attempt.

"At least I won't be nominated anymore," Pop said, laughing.

He believed The Stooges never would get into the Rock Hall "right up until the day before somebody called me."

"I kept telling the guys over and over: 'We're not gonna get in, guys.' Yeah. I was absolutely sure of that," Pop said in an interview.

It's hard to say exactly what turned the tide in voter sentiment, but Pop points to three possibilities: the band's long streak of Rock Hall futility, the January 2009 death of founding member Ron Asheton and ... Madonna.
The Stooges honored their fellow Michigan native by performing rocking versions of two of her hits - "Burning Up" and "Ray of Light" - on the night of the 2008 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Pop says the gig helped provide some much-needed exposure for a band that wasn't really heard from for 30 years - the result of numerous band breakups and lineup changes that current members blame on drugs and fights over money.

"I thought, 'Well, some of the people there will see that we don't have horns. We're not gonna breathe fire on the tables or anything,"' he said. "I knew the thing would be televised, and 15 to 20 percent of the viewers wouldn't be able to differentiate. If they see you on TV, they'll think you've been inducted anyway."

Whatever the reason, the guys will be on stage at New York's Waldorf Astoria Hotel, but this time they'll be performing their own tunes.

They selected "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and "Search and Destroy," two songs Stooges guitarist James Williamson says are "the most representative" of the band's work.

The latter was on the 1973 album "Raw Power," which rates No. 125 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The magazine called it a "proto-punk-rock classic" that featured a certain "hellbent ferocity."

Fans love and critics appreciate "Search and Destroy" for its searing guitar riff and signature Iggy Pop lyrics. It kicks off with the singer's guttural snarl: "I'm a street-walkin' cheetah with a heart full of napalm."

The song also served as the soundtrack for a Nike ad that memorably featured athletes bleeding and vomiting during competition. The song more recently popped up in an episode of ABC's "Lost" - it was blasted through a record player while a distraught Sawyer (Josh Holloway) drowned his sorrows following the death of his girlfriend.

Pop, whose solo effort "Lust For Life" also has enjoyed a second life in movies and commercials, sees the usage as an alternate means of exposing people to the music.

"(The Stooges) didn't get the radio airplay," he said. "We were shut out of the goodies of the industry."

When he hears "Search and Destroy" and other songs from the "Raw Power" era, Pop says the music doesn't sound dated to him.

"Every usage again and again I notice that, and I also notice that the stuff always sounds kind of rippin'," he said of the album, which is being re-released next month.

After that comes a host of European dates for the band, which currently consists of Williamson (guitar), Ron Asheton's brother, Scott "Rock Action" Asheton (drums), and former Minutemen member Mike Watt (bass).
Back on lead vocals is the inimitable Pop, who Williamson says simply is "one of the best there ever was."
"The thing that Iggy did that was all his own was to confront the audience - not just act out on stage like a Mick Jagger does or something like that - but Iggy got in your face," the guitarist said. "He got out in the audience and was right there with you. And nobody else had ever done that before. He was fearless about that."

Williamson remembers one show in which Pop egged on the wrong guy - a biker - and got punched in the face.

"I think that was a turning point for the band," Williamson said. "That was pretty much the beginning of the end."

Pop went on to a successful solo career, the Ashetons joined other bands and Williamson spent the past 30 years in the business world.

But Ron Asheton's death and the Rock Hall induction have brought them back together, more than 40 years since they exploded out of Ann Arbor, Mich., with a unique, primal sound that paved the way for the punk, grunge and garage rock movements that sprang up in their wake.

Pop says he and Williamson have been kicking around song ideas, and he's also looking over some demos the Asheton brothers recorded prior to Ron's death.

"We're just kind of seeing where that goes - whether we'll sneak out a single on the Internet or an EP or try to make a whole album. We're not sure," Pop said.

Before all of that gets going, though, the guys will be introduced by Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day and enter the Rock Hall alongside fellow inductees ABBA, Genesis, Jimmy Cliff and The Hollies.
"I am the world's forgotten boy," Pop screeches in "Search and Destroy."

Not anymore.

52nd Annual Detroit St. Patrick’s Parade

3/14/2010 2:00 pm.
Parade assembles at 1:00 pm on 6th Street and Michigan Ave.  Starting promptly at 2:00 pm.  The Parade, which includes marching and pipe & drum bands, color guard units, floats, clowns, novelty groups and marching units, moves West on Michigan Ave., passes the reviewing stand and disperses at 14th Street, approximately 2 hours later.

3/14/2010 11:30 am
Kids Run and Noon 5km Walk/Run. Registration at Roosevelt Park – Old Central Depot, Michigan and Vernor. Out and back course along parade route. New: All participants receive commemorative technical fabric shirt.

Click here for the race map
Pewabic Pottery is hosting its 107th birthday celebration on Saturday, March 13. Birthday cake and refreshments will be served throughout the event which is free and open to the public.

During the festivities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., guests can tour the historic facilities. Hourly tours will be given from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. where visitors can view tile pressing and wheel throwing demonstrations. Visitors will also be eligible for hourly door prizes.

As part of the celebration, Pewabic Pottery is honoring the achievements of artist and Pewabic founder Mary Chase Perry Stratton, with “A Journey of the Pioneering Spirit,” a new permanent exhibit highlighting her life.

“A Journey of the Pioneering Spirit” provides a special opportunity to discover and celebrate Stratton’s contribution to Michigan history. Exhibit highlights include: Awakening a Passion – The Early Artistic Environment of Mary Chase Perry Stratton; China Painting – The Craze Sweeps the Country; Achieving Artistic Influence – The Studio Pottery Movement; and Painting with Fire – The Art of Glaze Chemistry.

An important figure in Detroit’s artistic and cultural life, Stratton was a founding member of the Detroit Arts & Crafts Society and later served as a trustee of what is now the Detroit Institute of Arts. She established the ceramics department at the University of Michigan, taught students in Wayne State University’s ceramics program and was given honorary degrees from both schools in recognition of her accomplishments. In 1947, she received the coveted Charles Fergus Binns Medal, the nation’s highest award in the field of ceramics. Stratton was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame in 1986.

Pewabic Pottery is a non-profit arts and cultural organization and National Historic Landmark dedicated to ceramic education and advancing contemporary ceramic arts while honoring Arts & Crafts ideals.

To learn more about Pewabic Pottery call (313) 822-0954 or visit www.pewabic.org. Pewabic Pottery can be found at 10125 E. Jefferson Ave. in Detroit across the street from Waterworks Park.
The Salvation Army Warren Corps Community Center is currently accepting applications for its 14th Annual Dress an Angel Program for residents of southern Macomb County, including Warren, Roseville, Eastpointe and additional areas. Applications will be accepted now through March 11.
The Dress an Angel Program provides children age 11 or younger with a new Easter outfit. The clothes are distributed on April 2 and each child is able to choose a dress, skirt or pant outfit. They also receive socks, underwear, t-shirts, bras, belts, tights and other items.
This program is reserved for families with children. Children whose parents meet income requirements will shop for a brand new Easter outfit with the assistance of a volunteer. Applicants must bring a picture ID for all household adults, birth certificates for household children and proof of household income and expenses.
Families in need of assistance should contact The Salvation Army’s Warren Corps Community Center located on 24140 Mound Rd. at (586) 754-7400.
For more information about The Salvation Army, please call 877-SAL-MICH, or visit us at www.salmich.org.

Your Business Should Be Like A Jazz Combo

Josh Linkner, Founder of Pleasant Ridge MI based E-Prize

With only four measures left before my solo starts, I feel an overwhelming rush of adrenaline. The club is packed at this late hour with local jazz fans. The bandleader finishes his scorching trumpet solo, and the crowd erupts with applause. The attention turns to me. It's my time to improvise.

With less than 1% of the notes we play written down, we jazz musicians have to make it up as we go. It's art in real time--no going back to correct mistakes or rethink a passage. Years of practice and experience, as well my reputation, are on the line. The pressure is huge, but so is the excitement. It's time to bring everything I have to this moment and deliver something that is both technically right and infused with creativity. Passion and skill must connect to form something new that satisfies both me as an artist and the hypercritical audience.

Change the musical references to corporate ones, and I've described the daily life of nearly all businesspeople. Like jazz, business success is most often determined by creativity and original thought, not just technical mastery. Jazz and business legends are both remembered by what they create, by how they change the world.

Companies that win in the future will function more like jazz bands. They will constantly reinvent their work and seek fresh, new approaches. They will reward risk taking and originality. And while leaders will still exist, they will ensure that everyone has a voice. Jazz groups--and business success--demand it.

At my company, ePrize, we improvised our way from a raw idea to domination of the 100-year-old sweepstakes industry in under a decade. We didn't follow any written rules, the business equivalent of a musician's notes on a page; we discovered our own new ground each step of the way. The sweepstakes world was old-fashioned and fear-based. We took a jazz approach and attacked it differently.

We blended the agency world with the software world to offer a completely new solution for our customers, which in time came to include 74 of the top 100 brands in the world. Along the way, we constantly tried new things. Some worked; some failed miserably. But as we took more risks, we enjoyed more successes. Like jazz musicians, we created something new almost every day.

We also took turns letting one another shine. The company quickly grew into much more than just me, the founder. It became a place where talented people could come to express themselves and make a difference, a place that empowered our team to reach its highest potential. Like Miles Davis' ensemble in the 1950s, we attracted the best and brightest talent by providing a place where gifted people could showcase their brilliance.

With the business world radically changed, a jazz combo is an effective metaphor for what it takes to win in the postrecession global economy. Here are four ways to make your company more like a jazz group:

Encourage risk taking. Jazz musicians who play it safe rarely find gigs. The same can be said about you and your company. If you're not making mistakes at least 10% of the time, you're not risking enough.

Be remarkable. Audiences don't remember technical competence. They remember the musician who dares to be different. Our world is full of sameness, and no customer of yours needs another me-too solution.

Let each individual shine. Bandleaders aren't the only people who solo at a jazz gig. Every musician takes a turn in the spotlight. That allows the best ideas to flow and makes for a highly engaged team. Grant each person in your group autonomy and room for creative expression and you'll build a stronger, more innovative team.

Mix it up and keep it fresh. Jazz musicians are known for exploring the never-been-done-before. One night they'll play a ballad as an up-tempo swing. The next night they'll do the song with just saxophone and upright bass. They're constantly trying new things and new combinations. This prevents us from getting into ruts and keeps everyone in the group in their creative zone. In your world, move desks around. Try a job-swap program and give people new projects to develop. Arrange a field trip to get people out of the office for inspiration. Mixing it up is a great source of creativity.

As commoditization, cost-cutting, and a global workforce continue to erode competitive advantage, you have to create to win. Original thought and innovation have become the currency of success, the only sustainable competitive advantage. The jazz musician's ability to improvise, take risks, adapt to change and forge new ground are skills we all need to develop in our current economy of bureaucratic sameness. To make a real difference in your company, think of your business tools as instruments for creative expression. Rally your team, show up fully and don't forget to jam.

Josh Linkner is the founder and chairman of ePrize, and is a jazz guitarist who has played professionally for 25 years. He blogs at CreativityGeneration.com 

Three Ways To Take It 

Excerpt from Detroit: A True American City

If you follow me on Twitter (shameless plug) you know that I was on a corporate tour that had me in a couple Midwest towns these past two days. While I’m setting the stage, shout out to Right Coast Lex Steele for subbing in for me last minute yesterday while I was in Detroit. Visiting that city kind of inspired me. Sure we’ve all cracked jokes about how messed up it is. Everything from the old Detroit Lions stadium going for $583, 000 to the “It’s So Cold in the D” phenomenon have made the Motor City a constant punch line. I know I’ve told my fair share as well. But, after actually walking and driving around that city I realized a few things.

We Need to Start Taking Care of Our Own

While I was driving around I wondered – why aren’t there any fundraisers or infomercials for these kinds of cities? I understand that we should reach out and help Third World countries in their time of need. I’m all about being humanitarian. However, there comes a point where we need to use those funds to help ourselves. There were places in Detroit that were as impoverished as some of the lands we send money to help. I talked to a teenage kid who could barely put sentences together. We’re so quick to send cash or volunteer in various nations who need our help when there are many who could use that help right here. Detroit is far from alone.

Through Out It All, The Pride Is Still There

Underneath it all, there is still a lot of pride. My coworkers and I wandered into a BBQ spot named Slows within one of the many downtrodden neighborhoods. The outside of the restaurant looked as war torn as the rest of the locale, but the inside was totally refurbished and revitalized. Not only was the building refreshed, it seemed like the attitudes of the people inside were as well. That’s the happiest I’ve ever seen anyone that lived in Detroit and I have to admit I forgot about where we were as well.

The weird thing is, being in Detroit made me proud to be an American. It’s a true American city and my heart felt for the residents there. It was evident that there is still a lot of happiness and reverence for Detroit, but it’s buried deep below a lot of poverty and rubble.

This may seem like old news to you, but I will confidently tell you there’s a big difference between watching it on CNN and looking at it with your own eyes.

Seattle – …Yes, It Was Cold in the D – Washington

Eric Asimov
New York Times

A Delicious Free-for-All

A GOOD selection of Belgian-style ales is like the very best kind of buffet, offering an assortment of flavors, aromas, styles, strengths and types. You want strong ale, sour ale, sweet ale, dry ale, golden, dark, wheat, fruity and malty. When we set out to draw a stylistic standard for a planned tasting of Belgian golden ales, it seemed as if we’d taken on an impossible task. But glory does not come to those who quit easily.

So we forged ahead. We gathered Belgian golden ales and their foreign relatives as if they were snowflakes, aware that each was so unusual, and often so beautiful in a singular way, that it would resist any but the roughest categorization.

The blind tasting of these 20 Belgian-style ales was truly glorious, beer at its highest level. For the tasting Florence Fabricant and I were joined by Christian Pappanicholas, the owner of Resto, a Belgian restaurant in the Murray Hill section of Manhattan, and Richard Scholz, an owner of Bierkraft in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Our efforts to categorize the beers withered in the face of diversity. Ostensibly, we sought strong golden ales, which at least suggests beers with a lot of alcohol and of a certain color, right? Well, not exactly. Of the 20 we ended up with, most were golden, but some tended toward amber and brown. And while some of the beers were strong, with alcohol levels of 9 to 13 percent, a handful were in the 6 percent range, about the strength of a typical pilsner.

But most were so good that we lost interest in whether they conformed to our parameters. We had beers that tasted of spices, like coriander and cloves, and those that tasted like fruit. Some were aged in oak barrels. One beer resembled the most exotic sort of lambic, a type of beer that is brewed using wild yeasts rather than those selected by brewers to produce predictable results. It had a sour funkiness that is a taste well worth acquiring. Another was so bitterly hoppy and dry that the beer seemed to have the texture of cotton, which was actually not unpleasant.

“The diversity is what makes them amazing,” Richard said. “Belgians go out of their way to make unique beers, different from the guy two blocks away.”

One thing that brings together what the beer writer Randy Mosher has called “all this joyful chaos” is the use of highly distinctive yeasts. While the choice of yeast is important for any brewer, it is crucial for the producers of Belgian beers, who look to yeasts for many of the idiosyncratic flavors in their brews.

“The yeast is what’s different,” Richard added. “It’s the underlying flavor component.”

The diversity of these beers also makes their appeal very personal. I mentioned a beer that reminded me of a lambic — that was the No. 4 beer of our top 10, the Good Harbor Golden Ale from Leelanau, brewed in Dexter, Mich. We loved this beer, but it has an unusual flavor that some may find off-putting at first. I recommend sticking with it, though, because once you begin to like these sorts of beers you can’t help but seek them out.

Of the 20 beers we tasted, 10 were from Belgium, nine from the United States and one from Canada. It says something about the skill and ambition of American brewers that three of our top four were from the United States.

Our No. 1 beer was the Oro de Calabaza from Jolly Pumpkin, which, like the Good Harbor Ale, is from Dexter, Mich., a small town near Ann Arbor. A cabal of Belgian beer lovers in Dexter?

Perhaps, but these two beers were brewed by the same man, Ron Jeffries, the founder of Jolly Pumpkin, who also finds time to do the brewing for Leelanau. Both of these beers were unfiltered, giving them a hazy appearance, and aged in barrels, but beyond that they are completely different. While the Good Harbor was funky, the Oro de Calabaza was spicy, fruity and floral, with soft carbonation and fresh, vibrant flavors. Same man, different yeasts, at the least.

Our No. 2 beer was the Valeir Divers from Contreras, a small brewery in the East Flanders region of Belgium. Once again, a totally different beer, with an aroma that reminded me of fresh corn, and complex flavors. The beer also had a touch of sweetness, but it was so well balanced that it seemed to be dry.

Another Contreras beer, the Valeir Extra, also made our top 10, coming in at No. 7. The Extra seemed less complex than the Divers, with more bitterness from hops. The Web site of the Contreras importer, 12 Percent, categorizes the Extra as a Belgian India pale ale, and the Divers as a Tripel, a style of golden beer modeled on Trappist beers. We’re simply going to call them Belgian golden ales.

The tasting panel’s top American beer not from Dexter, Mich., was AleSmith’s Horny Devil, from San Diego, a bright, spicy, beautifully balanced brew that wears its 11 percent alcohol very lightly. We also very much liked the Canadian entry, the Unibroue Maudite, which had a balance of spicy and fruity flavors that we found refreshing.

One surprise in our tasting was that Duvel, the classic example of a strong golden ale, did not make our top 10. This especially surprised me as I loved its spicy, flowery flavors, which lingered in the mouth, but my colleagues felt the example we tasted was not as fresh as it ought to be, so they voted it out.

Freshness is always an issue when dealing with imported beers, which have to travel a long way in not-always-ideal conditions. This was not a problem, naturally, with Local 1 from Brooklyn Brewery, which was spicy and tart, punctuated with a refreshing bitterness.

While hoppy bitterness is not often considered a trademark of Belgian brewers, our No. 10 beer, the XX Bitter from De Ranke, was replete with it. It was perhaps the hoppiest Belgian beer I have ever tasted, and the driest, a strange but compelling combination that we indeed liked.

Among the many unusual qualities of these beers is the pricing. They are not cheap. The Het Anker Lucifer, from Belgium, for example, cost $6 for an 11.2-ounce bottle.

Our No. 1, Jolly Pumpkin, cost $18 for a cork-topped 750-milliliter bottle. Yes, it’s a lot more than a six-pack of Pabst. But these are not industrial beers. They are hand-brewed by artisans. I think you’ll taste the difference, in all their confounding glory.

Tasting Report: Belgian in Attitude, if Not in Origin

Jolly Pumpkin Oro de Calabaza


★★★ ½ (Three and a Half Stars) Dexter, Mich. 750 milliliters

Fresh, lively and softly carbonated with complex spicy, floral, fruity aromas and flavors.

Contreras Valeir Divers


★★★ ½ (Three and a Half Stars)

Gavere, Belgium 11.2 ounces

Dry and beautifully balanced, with toasty, complex flavors and a refreshing bitterness. (12 Percent, Brooklyn, N.Y.)

AleSmith Horny Devil


★★★ ½ (Three and a Half Stars)

San Diego 750 milliliters

Breezy, spicy flavor with lots of coriander balanced by crisp hops bitterness.

Leelanau Good Harbor Golden Ale


★★★ (Three Stars) Dexter, Mich. 750 milliliters

Tart, sour and beautifully funky with wild, vibrant citrus flavors and subtle sweetness.

Unibroue Maudite


★★★ (Three Stars)

Chambly, Quebec 12 ounces

Balanced and refreshing with spicy, fruity flavors. (Unibrew U.S.A., Shelburne, Vt.)

Het Anker Lucifer


★★★ (Three Stars)

Mechelen, Belgium 11.2 ounces

Complex and bright with aromas and flavors of flowers, spices and citrus. (Wetten Importers, Sterling, Va.)

Contreras Valeir Extra


★★ ½ (Two and a Half Stars)

Gavere, Belgium 11.2 ounces

Flavors of spices and citrus; not complex but refreshing and balanced. (12 Percent, Brooklyn, N.Y.)

’T Gaverhopke Singing Blond


★★ ½ (Two and a Half Stars)

Harelbeke, Belgium 11.2 ounces

Funky flavors of spice and citrus with a touch of sweetness. (12 Percent, Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Brooklyn Local 1


★★ ½ (Two and a Half Stars)

Brooklyn, N.Y. 750 milliliters

Spicy and tart with a pleasing hoppy bitterness.

De Ranke XX Bitter


★★ ½ (Two and a Half Stars)

Wevelgem, Belgium 11.2 ounces

Ultra dry, ultra hoppy and very bitter, yet strangely refreshing. (Shelton Brothers, Belchertown, Mass.)

World-renowned figure skaters are set to take the ice in a benefit exhibition to support CARE House of Oakland County on Saturday, March 6 at Detroit Skating Club in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.

Skaters will perform various ice dancing routines and children    currently undergoing treatment at CARE House will have a chance    to skate with the professionals at the end of the night.
A guest appearance by 2010 Winter Olympics ice dancing silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White is also scheduled.

The event is open to the public and admission cost is donation- only, with all proceeds benefiting CARE House of Oakland County,    an organization that serves the immediate needs of neglected and abused children in Oakland County.

Scheduled to skate include:

Jeremy Abbott, 2009 & 2010 US Men’s Champion and 2010 United States Winter Olympic Team member

Alissa Czisny, 2009 Ladies Champion

Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje, 2010 Canadian Ice Dance Bronze Medalists

Saturday, March 6, 2009

Exhibition scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

Detroit Skating Club
888 Denison Ct., Bloomfield Hills

CARE House recently announced a capital campaign that will raise funds to build a new facility for the 33 year-old organization. The CARE House Campaign For Kids will raise $4 million to build a 14,000 square-foot building and replace the existing 6,500 square foot building in Pontiac, Mich.

CARE House needs a new facility to match the demand for its services in the community, which is growing at a steady rate, creating an urgent need for increased intervention and therapeutic services, as well as advocacy and prevention programs.
Associated Press

The state's popular Pure Michigan tourism campaign would get a short-term boost through legislation approved Wednesday by the state Senate.

A bill approved 37-1 directs the state to add $9.5 million in use taxes to a fund for the promotion this budget year. The bill, which now advances to the House, would raise the total funding for the advertising campaign this budget year to about $15 million.

That's roughly half the level of last fiscal year. Tourism officials want more money, and Democrats argue the promotion needs at least $30 million to run a solid national campaign. But Republicans rejected an amendment that would have raised more money for the program through fees added to some rental cars.
Republican Sen. Jason Allen of Traverse City said the Senate-approved bill is a first step but work must continue on a long-term funding plan.

Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm had proposed adding a fee to rental cars at airports to raise money for the campaign in the next fiscal year. Granholm said Wednesday the campaign needs "a more robust flow of money."
By Marc Hertz

The team's third annual Pistons Care Telethon will benefit the Food Bank Council of Michigan.

I'm a lifelong Detroit Pistons fan. I was born in Detroit and even though I grew up in Hawaii, I religiously followed the Pistons. Like many teams, they've had their struggles for periods of time, but unlike fans of many teams, I've also been rewarded with three NBA championships. And while the team seems to be on another downswing, I can still take an immense amount of pride in the fact that the team's generosity is on a major upswing.

Throughout the day Tuesday, the team is throwing a telethon to benefit the Food Bank Council of Michigan. Every dollar given will help provide five meals for those people facing hunger, while a donation as generous as $200 will feed a senior citizen for an entire year. The telethon began at 6 a.m. in Detroit, with live TV and radio broadcasts from The Palace (where the Pistons play their home games). In addition, there's an auction going on through March 8 at NBA Auctions, and all the proceeds from the auction will benefit the telethon. Fans can bid on a chance to go bowling with former Pistons great Rick Mahorn, the opportunity to play a game of H.O.R.S.E. with Pistons player Ben Gordon, or a gourmet dinner prepared by Piston Richard Hamilton's personal chef, among others.

The day will be capped off by the Pistons game against the Boston Celtics at 7:30 p.m., and the team is selling tickets that will provide meals to Michigan families, with a $20 ticket translating to 50 meals and a $50 ticket meaning 125 meals.

This is the third annual Pistons Care Telethon. The first one in 2008 was the first time an NBA team presented a home game as a charitable fundraiser. Last year's fundraiser, which benefited Feed the Children, raised $450,000 in pledges and helped 25,000 families across the state of Michigan.

Even if you're not in Michigan, you can still help. Go to pistons.com to donate or call 877-499-2010. And according to the Detroit News, any donations of $5 or more will be entered into a raffle that will be held during tonight's game, with prizes including team memorabilia and a grand prize where two fans get to travel on the Pistons team plane to a road game.

Image courtesy of the Detroit Pistons.

A Prairie Home Companion 

February 27, 2010 // Show #1242

This week on A Prairie Home Companion, it's a soulful live broadcast performance from the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan. With soul writing and performing legend "Sir" Mack Rice, the Great Lady of Soul, Bettye LaVette, and sisters Jearlyn and Jevetta Steele. Also with us, organist John Lauter; The Guy's All-Star Shoe Band; Richard Dworsky, Pat Donohue, Gary Raynor, Andy Stein, and Peter Johnson, The Royal Academy of Radio Actors; Tim Russell, Sue Scott, and Fred Newman, and the latest News from Lake Wobegon.

Siri Agrell
The Globe and Mail

The corner of Brush Street and General Motors Boulevard is not the place you expect to see something beautiful. A row of abandoned houses droop in the snow, their windows broken and doors boarded up. Empty lots are overgrown with weeds and a fleet of police cars lines a fenced-in lot, ready for action in a neighbourhood where crime is the main inhabitant. There are no snowy footprints on the sidewalk, and a dingy gas station goes unvisited. But on the side of a nine-storey warehouse a huge mural cuts through the palpable gloom, more than 10,000 square feet of sky blue streaming drips of red, purple, orange and yellow down the building's western wall.

The Illuminated Mural was painted last August by artist Katie Craig, part of a citywide initiative that allowed six Detroit communities to commission large-scale works of art for their neighbourhoods.

Years of decay and decline have turned Detroit's downtown core into a ghost town, miles of crumbling houses, empty lots and boarded-up businesses creating an apocalyptic zone of nothingness between the central business district and the still-vibrant suburbs.

But a community of artists has moved into the void, drawn by the promise of cheap real estate and free rein.

Some of their projects are done in partnership with local businesses and cultural institutions, desperate to put a more attractive face on their blighted city, but others have adopted a guerrilla approach, taking over decrepit spaces only an artist could love. Together, the work is redefining a city best known for its dying automotive industry and Eminem's 8 Mile, and suggests that it may just be possible for a city to save itself with art.

The most visible of Detroit's artistic makeovers have utilized the city's most abundant found material: abandoned buildings.

Recently, two New York transplants covered a deserted house with water, transforming it into a glittering monument to decay called The Ice House. The work follows in the footsteps of Object Orange, in which a group of anonymous art students painted abandoned properties in bright orange paint, highlighting empty properties that had been left to rot, and expediting the demolition of many buildings by city authorities.

Another nameless crew draped blue flags from the windows of an empty building that was once Michigan Central Station. And when Olayame Dabls bought an empty building next to his store, the African Bead Museum, he responded to a city order to board it up by covering the exterior with a mosaic of mirrored glass, iron and wood.

“There's guerrilla art going on here. It's quite amazing,” said Richard Rogers, president of the College for Creative Studies, a college of art and design. “Artists are moving in from other parts of the world to experience this energy that seems to be developing.”

He moved from New York City 10 years ago, much to the surprise of his friends. People think of Detroit as decayed, destroyed, post-apocalyptic, he said, and largely beyond repair. “Artists don't really look at things that way,” he said. “Artists go into places that other people aren't interested in and transform them.”

The artistic vision for Detroit can be traced back to Heidelberg Street, where Tyree Guyton began an installation nearly 25 years ago transforming his childhood neighbourhood into a walkable museum.

His work exists in the midst of a huge residential wasteland, where more than 90 per cent of homes are abandoned. He has turned the street into some sort of Disney park gone wrong, with trees hung with shopping carts and a rowboat stacked with rotting stuffed toys. One home is covered in brightly coloured numbers, to help local children learn to count, and a residence known as the Dotty Wotty House is covered in bright circles of colour.

In the 1990s, the city twice attempted to demolish the work, but Mr. Guyton has since registered the Heidelberg Project as a non-profit, one that now employs three full-time and two part-time staff. They have 30 volunteers, a swarm of interns and a lead designer on loan from the University of Michigan. What once was seen as an eyesore is now viewed as a template for revival. Executive director Jenenne Whitfield, Mr. Guyton's wife, says the project draws 250,000 visitors a year, making it Detroit's third-largest tourist destination. Last summer, a group of European tourists held a picnic in the middle of the street.

But the aim is not just to become an outdoor gallery. Ms. Whitfield says they want to rebuild the community around the art. Already, two artists have moved onto the street, and Ms. Whitfield hopes that more will follow, and signs of life will spread outward from the project. “As far as I'm concerned, Detroit is a blank canvas,” she said. “We're infusing energy into a community that has lost hope.”

Artist Mitch Cope did not think of his hometown as a worthy palette when he was growing up, but during a brief western sojourn for graduate school, he could think only of projects that would improve Detroit.

In 2005, he and his wife, Gina Reichert, bought a home in the city for less than $2,000 and transformed the ramshackle property into a brightly coloured artist studio that is completely off the grid, powered by solar panels. The couple now own three houses and two additional lots, and have been recruiting artists from Germany, Chicago and San Francisco with the promise of homes as cheap as $100 and the ability to work outside the system.

“They come here because they see those cities as being unmovable,” he said of his friends. “You have to have a normal job in order to survive and you can't do anything a little more creative or offline.”

Although Mr. Cope and his wife go about most of their work unbothered by bureaucracy, they have been given the tacit support of a city with nothing to lose. One official from the mayor's office said he could not provide funding, but would take care of any local crime. Mr. Cope sent the man a list of nearby drug houses, which were raided by police the very next day.

Having hit rock bottom, Detroit is game to try something new, and there is a willingness to partner with artists that does not exist in other cities.

For years, the maze of buildings that make up the Russell Industrial Center sat empty, more than a million square feet of industrial space that once housed an auto-body supplier owned by Henry and Leona Helmsley. In the early 2000s, a new owner tried to find a manufacturer to move in, before realizing he could fill the space by renting individual studios to local artists. The centre is now home to photographers and musicians, film studios and architects, glassblowers and graphic designers.

Individual artists are not the only ones who see creativity as a means to improve Detroit's lot. Large-scale cultural projects have also been drawing attention to the city, and helping to establish its reputation on the international art scene.

The Detroit Institute of Art was renovated in 2007, receiving an additional 77,000 square feet to house its billion-dollar collection. The Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit opened in 2006 in a former car dealership, and the Kresge Foundation, a local philanthropic force, has begun issuing grants to 18 individual artists each year. A group called Detroit Renaissance has poured $50-million into the Creative Corridor project, which will fund artistic endeavours down Woodward Avenue, the city's downtown thoroughfare.

And last year, the College for Creative Studies took over General Motors' former engineering and design building, giving it a $145-million renovation to create a secondary campus, which houses undergraduate design programs as well as an art-focused charter school. In 2009, the college experienced its highest enrolment numbers to date.

“I think there's a very strong recognition of the role of art in moving the transformation along,” said Mr. Rogers.

He believes Detroit is following in the footsteps of places such as the SoHo neighbourhood of New York and Berlin, where artists moved into the void left by industry and created vibrant communities.

But, for the transformation to flourish, Mr. Rogers warns that artists cannot feel co-opted by the redevelopment movement. “To some extent, artists prefer to operate outside,” he said. “As soon as the mainstream recognizes them, it's over and they move on elsewhere.”

The city's pull shows no sign of waning. Mr. Cope says he receives daily correspondence from artists around the world inquiring about the city, and how they can buy a house for less than $1,000. He encourages them all to come, but he takes a skeptical view of those who arrive without a community-improvement angle. He views The Ice House and Object Orange as dilettante excursions into the city by artists with no real message or motive. And he hopes Detroit draws creative minds who want to improve the city's portfolio, as well as their own.

“Instead of doing something that results in getting a house torn down, why don't you do something that results in a house being fixed up?” he said. “It's an end not a beginning.”

And he is sure to warn his friends that Detroit is not an easy place to live. Yes, you can take over whole neighbourhoods as a canvas for your work, but finding a decent cup of coffee is not so easy. That said, he is glad Detroit is now being seen as an artistic draw.

“It's okay to be romantic about it,” he said. “For a long time, people just wanted to get away from here.”
Each spring, the young professionals group of the Michigan Opera Theatre Volunteer Association (MOTVA) plans and executes one of the most successful and highly anticipated cultural events of the year. BravoBravo! brings together the very best of Detroit.

The event highlights the city's top restaurants, showcases its best live musical acts and brings together thousands of revelers all in support of Michigan Opera Theatre (MOT). This year BravoBravo!, presented by Bank of America, will run from 7:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Friday, June 4, 2010 at the Detroit Opera House, 1526 Broadway, in Detroit.

In its 11th year, BravoBravo! takes on a fashion theme, showcasing an artistic industry that has long lived under the radar in Detroit. Experience Haute Couture with a Detroit edge as it moves off the runway and inside the corridors of the opulent Detroit Opera House.  This year's event is co-chaired by three of Detroit's most involved young professionals: Jerrid Mooney, Jen Knapp, and Rich Rice.

Events like BravoBravo! are crucial to the continued success and daily operation of Michigan Opera Theatre.  In 2009, BravoBravo! drew a record crowd of over 2,000 young professionals and raised over $180,000 to support MOT.

This year organizers hope to surpass those efforts and reach a goal of $250,000 to support MOT's artistic and educational programs. Since its inception, BravoBravo! has raised more than $833,000 and is considered a crucial fundraising effort for Michigan Opera Theatre.

Tickets for this year's event are $85 in advance and will go on sale April 1, 2010.  VIP tickets are available for $125 and include valet parking and early admission at 6:30 p.m.  Purchase tickets at the Detroit Opera House box office, by phone at (313) 237-SING, or online at www.MichiganOpera.org. The event is expected to sell out.

Media interested in covering the event should request credentials no later than Tuesday, June 1, 2010 by contacting Rebekah Johnson at rjohnson@motopera.org.

BravoBravo! attendees must be 21 or older. Sponsorship opportunities are available; please contact Michelle DeLand for sponsorship information at (313) 237-3402 or mdeland@motopera.org.

More information, including participating restaurants and entertainment details, will be announced as the event draws closer.  For a video preview, photos, and more information on BravoBravo! please visit www.bravobravo.org.

Snowbirds Come Home to Roost

Toby Barlow
New York Times

Ron and Patty Cooley met and fell in love 42 years ago as students at Eastern Michigan University. After a stint at Ford in the early ’70s, they left Detroit behind, taking over her family’s modest real estate business upstate. The company prospered: for 30 years the two worked together, helping to finance, build and sell more than 1,000 homes.

With their two sons grown, Ron and Patty sold the business and semi-retired down to Naples, Fla. Ron took up golf, sometimes seven days a week, occasionally 36 holes in a day. Patty gardened. Their lives in the Sunshine State were relaxed and tranquil, the sort of serene ending that retirement brochures promise to us all. But, unsurprisingly, the collapse of the housing market had a serious impact on a couple with a nest egg tied up in real estate.

Ron and Patty looked around and did the math. Florida’s economy seemed to be declining even more steeply than the Motor City’s. In Detroit, they had roots, their sons had moved into the city and started a barbecue restaurant, grandchildren had arrived. So, weighing their options, they came back. They moved into a downtown loft, just a few blocks from the empty lot where Tiger Stadium once stood.

I first encountered Ron and Patty at an early morning fund-raiser for a neighborhood charity. Talking to them, I found that just like other new arrivals — the artists and recent college graduates coming here from other towns — they spoke of Detroit’s potential with an almost exalted optimism. Instead of depressing or slowing them down, the move has been a thrilling one and they shared examples of how exhilarating their life is downtown.

Being at the center of things means they can walk to the Avalon bakery on Saturday mornings and to the new Comerica Park for baseball games in the spring. Instead of endless golf, they now go to events like the fund-raiser where we met or lectures on design and sustainable development.

Talking about Florida, Ron sounds like someone who made it onto the lifeboat in the nick of time. Yes, they had to sell their home down there at a loss, but a former neighbor in Naples recently sold a similar house for less than half of what the Cooleys got. Ron estimates that with the nation’s battered 401(k) accounts, it could take decades before Florida returns to any sort of substantial growth.

Meanwhile, Patty and Ron are helping their sons expand their restaurant to a new location. Patty is involved in the local school system’s literacy program. Ron enjoys walking down the street to spend time with his grandchildren, the kind of time that, in his ambitious, younger days, he didn’t get to have with his own boys.

In the nation’s shared imagination, Detroit continues to be worse than a punch line — it’s an apocalyptic wasteland teetering right at the edge of the end of the world. When people hear that I live downtown, they ask, “Where do you get your groceries?” and “Where do you get your dry cleaning done?” and when I answer “Well, at the grocery store and the dry cleaners,” they simply look confused. In fact, few can imagine living a life here.

The truth is that my Detroit — and Ron and Patty’s Detroit — might no longer be a city where dreams come true the way they once did. But this story still demonstrates some important things: how lives and businesses can thrive here, how rewarding it can be to have family close and, at the very least, how nice it is that we’re not in Florida.