Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The D is Totally Happening

STP Rocking the Fox with Noise and Fury!
I spent the back half of last week hanging in mucho-maligned-o Detroit, Michigan for work and have to say that despite the preparatory comments by nearly everyone who heard I was going there, I was impressed by the D. Not only because it didn't live up to my gloomy previsions of urban blightedness (if you live in Philly, the D ain't no thang when it comes to bombed-out acreage of post-industrial wasteland) but because it felt like it was actually happening.

Now most of this was because Miley Cyrus was also staying in my hotel, the improbably ritzy Westin Book Cadillac. But a lot of it was also just the general feeling of unexpected energy and the degree to which my co-workers and I took advantage of our situation and sucked the morrow out of Michigan's mightiest city.

Thursday night we started out at the amazing Slow's Bar BQ for the best dry-rub ribs and chicken I've ever had - a must do in Detroit. From there we walked by the old Detroit Tigers stadium, now-razed and ghostly empty save for the original entrance fence and in-field where a few local dudes were playing sandlot style ball.
The Old Detroit Tigers Stadium in Nuclear Winter
From there we proceeded to the obligatory stop at the MGM Grand where I played craps next to a couple of exotic-looking hookers who were having an improbable, slow-burning heater putting $10 chips down on the Field. The Siamese sister hit like 10 of these in a row. Crazy. So we went up a couple hundred quickly ourselves playing the come line and the points until their Pimp showed up and started telling his girls to 'earn yo' money,' in an unconventional twist on hooker productivity management. He started putting bets down on the 'Don't Pass' line, effectively betting against the rest of the table. Then whatever voodoo spells his ladies we're casting started paying off as the Pimp hit 5-6 of Don't Pass bets and I lost $300 in a head-spinning flash. This was a sure sign that our luck had run out.

Or had it? Back at the Westin Book Cadillac we reaped the rewards of suffering through a morning power-outage by claiming a free round of fancy hotel bar cocktails and wondered how we'd cap the evening when I suddenly remembered that the Stone Temple Pilots were playing around the corner at the Fox Theatre. 

Off we went, hiking through the quiet abandoned city-scape of Detroit past the new Tigers Stadium and Ford Field to the Fox. It was about 930 at this point and the show began at 7 with an opening-act, so I reasoned that we'd arrived early in the second STP set. Lame folks were already leaving the show and we bummed 3 stubs in exchange for $15 and breezed in through the side, smokers entrance just in time to catch the crescendo of the show in which STP played their standard hits from the '90s. Scott Weiland I noticed, has grown a bit of a paunch and I think this a good sign considering his traditional skeletal looks were the surface evidence of a life and death struggle with heroin. Very rock and roll, that, but it's probably better in the long term that he's eating solid foods now.

After getting rocked to the follicles we strolled back to the hotel past the set of Amy Heckerling's new movie 'Vamps' starring Alicia Silverstone and caught them shooting a night-time scene in a park which is supposedly passing for New York City.
Detroit set of 'Vamps.' I was asked not to take this picture.

What bears commentary here is that there were 4-5 different shoots (at least) going in Detroit while we were there. That's why Miley was in town and I also shared an elevator and a free joke with Richard Lewis and saw Malcolm McDowell (the white-haired British guy who plays Terence in Entourage) in the lobby. Supposedly Transformers 3 and a remake of classic '80s Swayze beefcake takes on communism flick, Red Dawn, were also shooting in or around town. 

Word from people in the know is that Michigan is heavily subsidizing film production in state by dint of generous tax breaks and a 20% discount on anything purchased in Michigan to support the production and suddenly Detroit is Hollywood MidWest. I can't see how Jennifer Granholm's budget makes money on the transaction, but I guess when unemployment is at 13.1%, you're more worried about cash flow and putting people to work than balancing the budget. Why should Michigan act any different than the Federal Government in this regard?

Anyway, it's definitely contributing to a sense of energy in Detroit that I hadn't expected and very much enjoyed on a couple of hot nights in the D.