In spite of disappointingly crappy weather, the 42nd annual Freedom Festival Fireworks managed to pull through and entertain thousands of die-hard, cold, wet and cranky fans who crowded Hart Plaza and various spots in downtown Detroit. (I shall refrain from saying the event went off "with a bang.")
This year I found a new spot to enjoy the show the grassy area on Bagley directly across from the MGM Grand Casino. There I stumbled upon a full-fledged barbecue, by Darren Marshall and twins Harold and Darrold Worsham, who said they’ve picked the spot for the last three years now because it’s easily accessible from the freeways and less crowded than the riverfront.
Nearby, huddled under blankets and umbrellas was Detroit Edison employee Racquel Davis, who was entertaining her out-of-towner pals Taji and Sha Rhonda Perry.
Lucky me I was able to watch the show from the rooftop of a downtown building, the name of which shall not be revealed to protect the innocent (and, of course, the guilty, since we weren’t really supposed to be up there). I was in good company, however, with a gaggle of Detroit’s coolest club kids, proving that you’re never too hip to enjoy the fireworks.
After a harrowing trip up some rickety stairs, clutching the hand of Kelly Joseph, I settled down to enjoy the show with the green-coiffed Carrie Harper, pixielike Metro Times promotions intern Evelyn Aschenbrenner, and graphic designer Carrie Flaton. Someone even thought to bring sparklers, which were haphazardly spun about by City Club bartender Sandahl Janson, Kynda Kerr — the main squeeze of Labyrinth owner Chris Allen and Cara Sam, who was sporting the latest fashion craze of bottle-cap bindis.
Fortunately, the only injury of the evening fell upon Kerr’s purse, which was burned by an errant spark. I was fearful of more injuries, as the singularly named Lisa and I fretted over those fearless souls who perched precariously close to the ledge Heather Dali being one of them. This self-proclaimed Queen of Sins and photographer extraordinaire is getting ready to jet off to Europe for a huge photo tour, where she plans to shoot her itty bitty, usually barely covered butt off.
At one point I looked up and nearly passed out from the shock of spotting a foot-long rat’s tail hanging over the edge of the building only to discover it was just the eccentric Michael Clapp, who is rarely seen without the tail, his favorite accessory. Odd, yes, but a genuinely nice guy.
TOP OF THE PARKING STRUCTURE
Every June, Ann Arbor kicks off its annual Summer Festival part of which includes the Top of the Park series, a delightful little setup where free live music and movies are shown at the top of the Fletcher Street parking structure.
Thursday I braved the land of left-wing bumper stickers and evil student pedestrians to catch music from the Ann Arbor School for the Performing Arts Jazz Combo and Brian Lillie and the Squirrel Mountain Orchestra, followed by the classic horror flick The Bride of Frankenstein.
Always in search of free fruit and cheese, I elbowed my way into a private party for the Ann Arbor Art Fairs (as the local saying goes, it’s not art and it’s not fair). There I bumped into one of its directors, the exuberant Shary Brown a diligent organizing veteran who has worked on the past 12 fairs. Brown told me about one of the fair’s artists, Peter Dragon, whose work includes one of 73 pieces selected to appear in the White House Collection of American Crafts; the exhibit is touring right now and will make a stop at the University of Michigan Museum of Art July 1.
The highlight of my night came when I bumped into tree-town icon Shaky Jake the lovable, ever-popular old coot well-known for his colorful polyester suits and impromptu street performances. A regular celebrity, Jake has been smart enough to market his status by selling his own "I Brake for Jake" bumper stickers.
A landmark institution in the Ypsilanti nightlife has closed down; sadly, last week Cross Street Station shut its doors. A dinky but charming dive much beloved by locals and students of Eastern Michigan University, the bar regularly hosted live music and theme nights, and for years has provided an opportunity for loads of up-and-coming local bands to cut their teeth.
Owner Eric Erickson told me the bar was closed after a visit by building code inspectors revealed a massive amount of structural damage in the foundation of the bar, which has been around since the 1920s. It is rumored that EMU may be interested in the location, and several other business owners have been eyeing it too.
Located in the heart of the student ghetto, Cross Street was one of those local haunts with no pretense, loyal patrons and lots of fond memories interlaced in its woodwork with far more character than any of the new, slick and impersonal bars that pop up like Wal-Marts every other week.
The closing came as a shock to the two employees who had been at Cross Street the longest: DJ Speed E. Smith had spun there every Tuesday for the past seven years, and bartender Marcy Szabo who’s also the manager for Funktelligence has six years under her belt. Szabo said the closing has broadened her horizons both she and Smith have moved on to work for T.C.’s Speakeasy, a bar up the street but she’s also very sad to see such a huge part of her life end.Sarah Klein writes here every other week. Call the Loose Lips tip line at 313-962-5281. Press * then dial