Detroit City Council has had some very entertaining members over the years. Some have been corrupt, some have had behavior problems, some have shown bizarre style, and some have had a propensity to burst into song, but, collectively, they've been at least 50 percent more interesting than Warren City Council, on average.
If you were to pick a Most Valuable Player when it comes to keeping all eyes on City Council for the wrong reasons, you'd have to select Monica Conyers, who, fittingly, celebrates her 50th birthday today. Feuding with eighth-graders, screaming at fellow councilmembers while in session, punching women in bar fights, using a city car to chauffeur her children to out-of-town schools, flipping out and screaming and making national headlines over a trifling matter like a hotel room, and finally being sunk in a scandal and sentenced to Camp Cupcake, Conyers's antics, now more than five years in the past, mark a dark time in the City Council's history, one that provided Metro Times with plenty to jaw over back then. These days, Detroit's press corps has to sustain itself with the occasional traffic stop, whether anything was wrong or not.
How times change. It all came to a head in 2009, when we mentioned Conyers' antics the most. In that year, Conyers had her own TV talk show, and MT's resident media critic Jim McFarlin chimed in: "As reality TV goes, you want a celebrity whose life is littered with enough juicy subplots to keep eyeballs glued to the tube, and who in Detroit fits that description better than our City Council president? From her now world-famous comparison between Mayor Ken Cockrel and a certain animated character to the hotel fracas in Denver, the Cobo flap, the reported jobs for relatives and calls for her censure, Conyers never seems to be far from the eye of a public hurricane." McFarlin saved his strongest punch for the end, declaring that most Detroiters realize Conyers is "an ignorant, self-aggrandizing, tempestuous jerk, an embarrassment to the city."
That happened just a month after Jack Lessenberry, in his weekly column, opened fire on Conyers, calling her "ignorant, nasty, ill-informed and hungry for power and ego gratification, in office only as a result of her famous name." A month later, Lessenberry topped that remark, writing: "She is doing more harm to the image of blacks in power than Birth of a Nation did a century ago."
In fact, 2009 was such a huge year for Conyers that she was name-checked in a comedy show called Kwame a River 2: The Wrath of Conyers.
It all led up to a very exciting election year, one Conyers had to sit out after pleading guilty to a bribery charge. Which prompted us to say in our Best of Detroit issue, "Mess up and you could be her cellmate. Sort of like prison in a prison."
These days, Conyers keeps a low profile and, last we heard, the only thing she was punching was a time clock at a Corktown collision shop. How the mighty are laid low. Here's hoping you have a peaceful, fuss-free birthday, Monica. Thanks for the memories and … um … keep your head down.