The new marquee for the Fillmore Detroit draws strong opinions


  • Will Feuer
Through Shadow Parrish’s 23 years as a stagehand at the Fillmore, he has seen the legendary theatre swap owners, change names, host iconic performers, and lay off staff. But now he has witnessed the theatre’s historic marquee come down, and a new one hoisted up.

“I’m the kind of guy who thought it was a tragedy when the State letters came down,” he says on a smoke break he took to check out the new marquee, which went up Monday. “So yeah, I was pretty bummed to see the marquee come down.”

The new marquee, which replaces one that had been a presence on Woodward Ave. since the 1950s, features a big slanted ‘F’ for Fillmore smack in the middle. And inside the ‘F’ is a puzzling red apple, a nod to the original San Francisco Fillmore’s practice of leaving out a bucket of free apples for concert attendees, Parrish slowly explains.

“Looks like shit to me, but I’ve only been here 27 years - what the fuck do I know?” interjects another stagehand.

“Somebody told me they thought it looked like a sign for Chuck E. Cheese,” says Parrish, who doesn’t agree nor disagree with the comparison. “It looks a little low to the ground right now, but it’s not finished yet, so we’ll have to wait and see.”

No one from the Fillmore was available to comment on the renovations and plans for the rest of the marquee remain unclear but will include an electronic announcement board, according to building staff.

“I’m hoping they plan to bring back the announcement panels so they can get those messages out. I remember learning about Aretha Franklin’s death from the Fillmore,” says Marcel Humphrey as he walks by. “If they take that function away, it’s gonna’ suck.”

“I wonder if they’re gonna’ build it up more to make it more extravagant like the Fox’s,” says another passerby Matt Niemi. The Fox Theatre renovated their marquee in 2015 to include nearly a mile of neon lighting. “The Fox is the Fox. It has always stood out more than the Fillmore,” Niemi says.

Detroit photographer ACRONYM posted a photo of the new marquee Monday night, and Detroiters voiced their opinions.

"Yikes. They updated all the way to 1997," wrote Gregory Graham.
Jason Bernal put it bluntly: “Just no.”

Others expressed mixed feelings. “Looks like it belongs on a funhouse. No disrespect to the artist. It's cool just have to get used to it,” wrote Yvonne Myers.

Parrish has not seen the plans for the rest of the sign but expects it to be completed in the next few weeks.

Will Feuer is an editorial intern for Metro Times.

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