BLINDED BY SCIENCE
The new Detroit Science Center opened this past week in glittering plasma-ball fashion, including a big-ticket stuffed-shirt dinner on Tuesday with the Guv and Mayor, as well as a members-only catered event Wednesday, all culminating in a massive Marshall Field’s sponsored 32-hour weekend free-for-all. The line to get in on Saturday morning was all the way to the Scarab Club before the robots even cut the ribbon. Indeed, when I cruised by around 1 a.m. Sunday there were still people lined up and milling about all over Warren and John R, with the requisite sleep-deprived babies getting pushed around in strollers.
Exhibiting a truly efficient expenditure of funds, the renovation of the Science Center came in at approximately one-third the cost per square foot for usual museum construction. However, such attention to bean counting was not evident from the inside. The old musty and malfunctioning facility, which was about as current and up-to-date as Bill Bonds’ 8-track collection, is now a thing of the past, replaced by a gee-whiz-bang edutainment venue that will certainly give Cranbrook a run for its well-heeled money. Indeed, François Castaing, the retired Chrysler exec who helmed the capital campaign, was ever-present all week. As one of my sons gravitated to the programmable waterfall, an excited Castaing quickly jumped in and started showing him how to push the buttons to make it spell out words. I think Castaing was more excited than the kids. Of course, everyone at the party wanted to see some chap named Bill Nye the Science Guy, a former stand-up comic who has reached some level of success explaining science on a syndicated TV show to kiddies. Obviously, they must do a lot of editing on TV, as Nye’s live show was about as interesting as watching mold grow. Most of his shtick malfunctioned, and he also blew a fuse (literally) in the process, leading me to speculate on whether the center’s low budget is reflected in the wiring. Thomas Dolby probably could have put on a better act, but, regardless, my only regret was spending 45 minutes waiting for and watching Nye when I could have been out in the museum frolicking and cavorting with exhibits. Next time.
FAIR TO MIDDLING
The fabulous 4th Street Fair took place this past Saturday, as our urban and sub-urban tapestry of bohemian bonhomie was once again spread out upon the little orphaned enclave, a small spit of a street lying just on the fringes of Wayne State University north of I-94. I arrived substantially later than in years past, as nightfall had descended upon the fair, thereby lending a slightly higher level of drunken anonymity to the bacchanal, and also providing a better backdrop for fire-eating and dancing. As I strolled from the car, arriving curiously enough in conjunction with an ambulance, the distinct aromatherapy of 4th Street began to waft toward me ... BO, beer, incense and the pungent bouquet of smoldering cannabis, “l’essence du 4th.”
Unfortunately, my late arrival meant I had missed what was apparently a wildly successful burlesque show in the home of perennial 4th Street lemon-squeezer Dan Solomon and spouse Danielle Kencik, the latter of whom, by the way, will be re-emerging from the fashion underground and holding a fashion show for her Fall D.KOY collection in the ultra-new D.Koy Salon Aug. 11. The salon is located in the lower level of Bag Lady Beads, on glorious Grand Circus Park. For more info on the show call 313-964-1813.
Getting back to the fair, there was the usual assortment of bleary-eyed vendors peddling their wares, but what caught my eye were enterprising businessmen Brian Ribb and Arthur Mellos, hawking genuine Detroit “rocks,”... essentially, a wheelbarrow of bricks, for $3 each. While Mellos extorted a dollar from me for the privilege of taking their photo, I gladly forked it over, in the same way I would fork out a dollar to take pictures of circus sideshow freaks. Apparently, they had sold 15 authentic Detroit rocks.
While this year’s fair was as wildly eclectic as those in year’s past, some in the crowd were heard muttering about a slight slide in the music lineup. That was due in no small part to the fact that numerous bands which might have played 4th Street in years past were on the road, particularly the Saturday night “Cavestomp” at the Village Underground in NYC, where the Detroit Cobras, the Dirtbombs, the Hentchmen, Bantam Rooster and the Buzzards were putting on a Detroit rock showcase. Speaking of Detroit rock in Manhattan, I later ran into the ladies of Stun Gun at the Queen Bee show in the Magic Stick. The Stunners will be playing venerable Bowery haunt CBGBs at the end of the week along with perpetually hyped local bad boys Lanternjack. Should be fun.
I received some suitably umbrageous voice and e-mail messages from the Sequoia fan base protesting some rude comments in my last column about the band’s appearance at the Thunderfest First Annual Battle of the Bands. My no doubt ill-advised attempts at wry commentary and social skewering were lost on the sensitive band manager, who resorted to questioning my childhood upbringing in a vain attempt to divine the source of my bile-induced babbling (and here I was, agonizing over my failure to work the term “mullet” into the piece). To show everyone that I’m not such a bad guy, I’m going to play it straight. Sequoia, whose influences include Humble Pie, Aerosmith and Montrose are “all very professional men with the desire to still rock and not play all that crap pissed music.” They recently played what is entitled the “Buffalo Jam” in somewhere called Jonesville, generously donating their time to fight hunger. They have a Web site (www.sequoiarocks.com), where you can purchase their latest release Big Wood, Big Rock, and they have an additional cd entitled Shaft of Brilliance.
Congratulations are in order for local show biz veteran Kathy McKee, a former mentee of Sammy Davis Jr., as she helped cast the local production for HBO films’ 61*, and received an Emmy nomination for her efforts. McKee is currently busy putting on a workshop at the Southfield Centre for the Arts entitled “The Art of Performing,” promoted as a how-to guide for anyone interested in getting started in the TV and film industry. The next six-week session begins Aug. 15. McKee also produces and hosts a local cable talk show entitled Show-Time, which is styled as a variety show for local talent, and goes back into production in September. Call 248-443-9650, or contact www.creative-artist-network.com for more info. By the by, McKee’s sister is actress Lonette McKee, who has been in more than 33 major films, including Cotton Club and Malcolm X, and co-starred most recently in Men of Honor with Bob De Niro and Cuba Gooding Jr.Casey Coston writes here every other week. Got gossip, essential factoids or party invites? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the tip line at 313-962-5281. Press * then dial