Attention, dear loyal readers, it’s time once again for your perfunctory dose of superficially frivolous fluff and puff with just a soupçon of snarkiness. But before we get to that, this just in: Rumors are running rampant that the powers that be are once again setting the stage to demolish one of the crowning glories of our fair city’s diminishing skyline, none other than the majestic copper-topped edifice, the Book-Cadillac Hotel. Clearly, when you hear reports along the lines of “well, it would cost at least $100 million to renovate, but only $6 million to take down,” you know you’re being set up with some pre-emptive PR spin for a Hobson’s choice (i.e., an apparently free choice where there is really no alternative). Around here, we call that a “Hudson’s choice,” and it’s quite popular with the “tear-down-history-so-we-can-have-a-parking-lot” advocates, of which there are many in downtown’s power circles. Unfortunately, the numbers are highly speculative and have little bearing on reality.
Moreover, those that wish to preserve Detroit’s history in this tercentennial year should avoid getting boxed into a no-win argument like that, as the debate is not about an imaginary developer with $100 million versus demolition for a fraction of that amount. That’s what the Hudson’s debate eventually evolved into; however, the landscape downtown has changed considerably since then, and what bears repeating is this: MGM spent at least $242 million turning a former IRS computing center into a fairly run-of-the-mill temporary casino which was not intended to last more than six years or so. They spent an additional $35 million on a parking lot. Put in that context, does $100 million to renovate an irreplaceable, circa 1924 structure such as the Book-Cadillac seem like a lot? Moreover, MGM, in the past, has made it abundantly clear that it doesn’t want to renovate an existing structure like the Book-Cadillac or the Statler Hilton, but would prefer instead to locate its permanent casino on the riverfront and adhere to the “isolation fortress” theory. Tough. To paraphrase Don Corleone, give MGM an offer they can’t refuse. Sell them the Book-Cadillac for one penny, build a tube over to the abandoned Lafayette Building for more space, give them the deed to the Manoogian Mansion and its renovated hot tub and Pewabic-tiled pool. I don’t care, just get the deal done. The Detroit casino has consistently been one of the most profitable operations in Kirk Kerkorian’s far-flung empire, and, to paraphrase H. Ross Perot, a large sucking sound on the west side of downtown. Other than some median landscaping however, the cityscape in and around MGM has remained virtually unchanged. Moving just a few blocks down the street to the Book-Cadillac would change everything, and give the casino a glittering showpiece for its Detroit operations, while also preserving one of our historic downtown structures for generations to come. Somebody needs to step forward, and while MGM is an obvious candidate, it isn’t the only one. This debate is just getting started, but for those looking to help save the Book-Cadillac and get in on the ground floor, an organizational meeting will be held on Nov. 10, at 1 p.m., at downtown’s American Coney Island, 114 W. Lafayette, Detroit. As I write this, out-of-town skyscraper advocates are already booking their travel plans. For more information on what you can do to help, as well as history, photos and a mailing list, go to www.book-cadillac.org.
Now that the call to arms is out of the way, let’s get down to the party. Saturday night saw your wayward reporter embark on a journey which found him spelunking through various venues on the Detroit nightlife scene. First, a quick subterranean pit stop at the Shelter to catch an opening slot by the Sights, one of Detroit’s finest (and youngest) protopop trios, churning out their unique blend of rock und roll for the masses. While originally adhering to the mod school of the Jam/Kinks et al, the band has evolved into more of a power pop Big Star/bluesy style, according to singer/guitarist Eddie Baranek, whom I ran into later on at the Majestic Café. The band’s original label is now defunct, and they were picked up by Detroit-happy Fall of Rome Records, out of LA, which also has on its roster They Come in Threes and the Witches. Fall of Rome is headed up by supreme emperor Mark Rome, who is also a GM at Del-Fi Records in his spare time. For more info on the Sights and others, go to www.fallofrome.com.
Next up, a stop into the Cavern Club, located in the State Bar adjacent to the State Theatre. Apparently, the name may not be the “Cavern Club” for long, as there are grumblings from a similarly named venue in Ann Arbor.
Regardless, whatever the name, I’m sure DJ Lem Payne will continue to spin his favorite tunes a la the Damned, the La’s, the New York Dolls and the House of Love (at least that’s what I heard when I was there). While at times the smoke machine from next door seemed to encroach on my fine pint of Harp, I have to admit, the great selection of beer, coupled with the beautiful decor and artifacts culled from some of Detroit’s historic buildings (such as the panels rescued from the Hudson’s building), make this one damn fine watering hole. Check it out the next time things are overcrowded at the Town Pump (such as Saturday night, when several party buses of Halloweenies made the bar pretty much impassable). The next stop, the photo-op-friendly detroit contemporary gallery, where clothiers Dolly Rockers, Dragonfly, Danielle Kensick’s D koy, Mother Fletcher’s, Highway Press and Padded Cell paraded their many wares on the makeshift runway. The theme was (yet again) “glam,” with DJ Top Kat topping it off with a grand finale “Ballroom Blitz,” as the multitudes of models scattered glitter and cavorted about in various stages of dress and undress. Among the many models were quite a few rockers, including members of the Dollrod famille (Margaret and Daniel), Trash Brat Tony Romeo, Joelle of Stun Gun, and others. Posing for the prerequisite “beer line” photo were Gwen Joy, who modeled for the Padded Cell, and comrade Kristen Peplinski. Also spotted outside by the camera crew were Mr. “Golden-Buddha-Lounge-Bartender-Dean” and former Orbit editrix Katy McNerney.
THE WELCOME WAGON
In a final note, as many have heard, Aussie director Curtis Hanson is currently in town filming the Eminem biopic (current title: Untitled Detroit Project), with location shoots at places such as the Grand Duchess off Eight Mile, and the incomparable abandoned Polynesian time capsule, Chin Tiki on Cass. (Is Marshall planning on doing some Martin Denny rap covers?) While I didn’t see any activity at Chin Tiki, I did notice, in true “welcome to the neighborhood” style, that someone spray-painted “Slim Anus” on the front of the building, no doubt a scatological reference to Mr. Mathers’ alter ego. Cheers, mates.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