CulturePublic Square - Readers' Picks
Best Local Music Festival
Last year's festival was a testament to the electronic vein that has run through Detroit for decades now. It was a return to form, a catapult for this May's throwdown. No other atmosphere is as authentic as Detroit for an international celebration of beats-per-minute, sound-wave tweaking and subsonic pounding. Not Berlin, not Ibiza, not New York. And if the official three-day beat bash on the Detroit River weren't already enough to make Movement Detroit's favorite music fest, the legendary afterparties that stretch well into the morning certainly are. Martha and the Vandellas sang "Dancing in the Street" in 1964. But watch as that old tune comes to life this and (hopefully) every Memorial Day weekend at Movement, Detroit's (and the world's!) premier electronic music party.
Best Place to See Local Theater
Ringwald/Who Wants Cake? Theatre
22742 Woodward Ave., Ferndale; 248-545-5545; whowantscaketheatre.com
Right now, at the Ringwald, the Who Wants Cake? Theater company is getting set to close Hurlyburly, a drama that looks at intersecting lives of B-rate Hollywood players of the '80s. It's all about the "decadent, perverted, cocaine culture as they pursue a sex-crazed, drug-addled vision of the American Dream." Coming next, Die! Mommie! Die! A dark comedy from the author of Vampire Lesbians of Sodom that features WWC's own Joe Bailey as the faded pop singer Angela Andrews. What an awesome gear change, eh? Hurlyburly was top-notch, affordable and zany; Vampire Lesbians promises to be the same. And if you missed either, you've yet to learn why the Ringwald is Detroit's favorite joint for locally produced theater.
Best Place Other Than a Bar to Meet Someone
Innumerable respondents in this category obviously have a knack for gab, the easy come-on that means they can get a phone number after a conversation about root vegetables at Kroger's or in the 612.6s of libraries organized on the Dewey Decimal system (check it out). But a certain number of you gravitate to java huts as the preferred place to strike up a conversation. Other entries span the gamut from catholicmatch.com to salsa socials to Wings games. So it's all about your attitude.
Best website for hooking up
The second-most popular website in the universe, and it's being used for hook-ups. We're shocked! Shocked!
Best Gamer Hangout
1214 S. University Ave., Ann Arbor; 734-213-2502
A perennial winner, which beats out not only the similar physical hangouts, but all the votes for "some lonely basement" and variations thereof. The latest games are one thing — the old-school, hands-on-flippers pinball machines anchor the place in tradition.
Best Way to Improve Belle Isle
Clean it up
A strong showing for charging a fee, for bringing back the aquarium or zoo, and scattered votes for everything from getting rid of tourists (now that's radical) to art installations. But for all of you who voted for a cleaner Belle Isle, you can put your gloves where your votes were: The Friends of Belle Isle have their annual spring cleanup effort 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Saturday, April 24. Bring boots, gloves and friends and meet at the casino. Snacks and refreshments are provided to finish your experience. (The Friends also sponsor regular events through the year to root out invasive plant species and preserve the island's diverse flora — and the fauna that eats it.)
Best Place for a Picnic
Especially on the afternoon of April 24 when it's at its cleanest. See above. (By the way, Belle Isle so consistently and so completely smashes all competitors that we stopped asking for the best park.)
Best Bowling Alley
4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700
Our bowling friends tell us Detroit is one of the great bowling cities in America, in fact, the bowling capital of the world, with a wealth of lanes. But the favorite or MT readers, again, is the place where the thump of a kick drum and howl of a guitar complement the clatter of pins being knocked down in the unique Majestic complex. Like the rest of the complex it has history: built in 1913, it's America's oldest active bowling center.
Metro Beach Metropark
31300 Metropolitan Parkway., Harrison Twp.; 586-463-4332
Located just east of I-94 in Harrison Township, this much-loved park is a 750-acre peninsula that juts into Lake St. Clair. Featuring more than seven miles of shoreline, 1,600 feet of boardwalk along the lake, and nature trails, there's a swimming pool as well as a beach. There are also sporting opportunities aplenty, with everything from volleyball and basketball to horseshoes, tennis, miniature golf and a par-3 golf course.
Best Eastern Market Vendor
R Hirt Jr.
2468 Market St., Detroit; 313-567-1173
From $300 wind chimes to oddball gewgaw toys, there's a lot to browse through on the third floor. The main attractions are the enormous collection of wicker baskets, etc., and the foodstuffs on the first, especially the cheeses galore, 300 or so varieties. You can ask for something obvious, but be ready to be asked, which of a myriad cheddars-bries-goat cheeses you want. We tend to try at least one item from the rotating weekly specials with each visit. We've never been disappointed.
Best Farmers' Market Other than Eastern
Royal Oak Farmers' Market
316 E. 11 Mile Rd., Royal Oak; 248-246-3276
For all you locavores, the locally grown fare comes by the bushel not far from the intersection of 11 Mile Road and Troy Street. An added bonus is that Superior Seafood is right across the street.
Best Hot Newscaster
It's the eyes, isn't it? Centofanti, the 13-year veteran FOX2 weekend anchor and health reporter, just may have the best pair of large, dark limpid pools anywhere on the small screen. Her gleaming, celebrity-straight grill, cheerful yet smoky vocal tones and lyrical, '60s-foreign-film-star name don't hurt the total package either. A trim, enthusiastic, happily married mother of three, Centofanti has perfected the process of making local news health segments, well ... hot.
Best TV News
Anchored by the well-respected duo of Carmen Harlan and Devin Scillian, and featuring seasoned crew of investigative reporters known as the "Local 4 Defenders," the newshounds at WDIV deliver the goods night after night.
Best Golf Course
Oakland Hills Country Club
3951 W. Maple Rd., Bloomfield Hills; 248-644-2500; oaklandhillscc.com
Founded in 1916, the Oakland Hills Country Club features two courses: the North and the South. Known as "The Monster," the South Course has been the site of 16 major championships. The prestigious U.S. Open has been held here six times. Among the famed players who have faced "The Monster" are Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. It is regularly lauded as one of the best courses in the country.
Best Radio Music Show
Ann Delisi's Essential Music
Last year, the longtime local radio personality had barely gone on air at WDET-FM before running away with the category. Since then she's developed her Saturday-Sunday show into a new sort of radio, trading heavily on listener involvement (is there ever a between-songs break that doesn't mention Facebook or listeners' lists of "essential songs"?) and the local scene. She's clearly the franchise player in WDET's bid to rebuild its tattered rep as a music station — at least on the weekends.
Best Radio Morning Show
Dave & Chuck "The Freak"
Did they get fired or didn't they? 89X (CIMX-FM) alt-rock Windsor wildmen Dave Hunter and Chuck "The Freak" (must be French-Canadian) and their female foil Lisa Way generated headlines last summer when their on-air prank "Operation Dark Stall," revealing the bathroom habits of station co-workers, caused them to be yanked off the air. Whether they were fired then rehired, suspended and reinstated, or masterminds of a classic promotional stunt, l'affaire toilettes combined with their outrageous freeway billboard promos ("It's Friday, B!#˘hes!" being the most recent) have helped catapult their guys-look-at-life rants into the upper tier of "Did you hear what they said today?" morning shows. Congratulations, B!#˘hes.
Best Radio Personality
Long after the rise of the shock jocks, Dick Purtan stayed in the top rungs of the morning radio game. He and his crew were all about cracking wise, but they were more about the tickle than the hook 'n' jab. And then there was the comfort thing — the guy sounded like he was born in a cardigan. After 45 years on Detroit airwaves, he called it quits last month with a great farewell show that can heard at tinyurl.com/y8y6zwd.
Best Radio News
Another year in a row for the team that includes Joe Donovan, he of the glib segue, and his longtime morning foil, the delightful Roberta Jacina. The likes of Vicki Thomas, Jeff Gilbert, Murray Feldman, Tim Skubick and Sonny Eliot round out the team. If Sonny Eliot were writing this, he'd finish off with a grating but ingratiating portmanteau. But we won't even try to match his knack.
Best Local Activist
Grace Lee Boggs
Superlatives fail when it comes to describing the venerable Grace Lee Boggs. At the age of 94, the progressive writer, activist and political philosopher has taken part in virtually every major American social movement that occurred during the 20th century, from civil rights and the labor movement to women's rights and environmental justice. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she and her late husband, James Boggs, founded the nonprofit Boggs Center in 1995 to "help grassroots activists develop themselves into visionary leaders and critical thinkers who can devise proactive strategies for rebuilding and respiriting our cities and rural communities from the ground up. ..." More than Detroit's premier local activist, she is a national treasure.
Best Newcomer to Detroit City Council
It didn't matter that the city's two daily newspapers withdrew their endorsements of Pugh before last November's election after learning the depths of his financial problems. And it didn't matter that he was the first openly gay man seeking public office in Detroit. Voters embraced him, easily giving him enough votes to become the council's president. Since taking the gavel, he has been credited with helping lay to rest the embarrassment of the previous council by working with the other members to usher in a new era of civility and professionalism.
Best Dem for Governor
A 1980 grad of Detroit Catholic Central High School, Andy Dillon went on to earn degrees in law and accounting from the University of Notre Dame. After pursuing a career in law and then business, he entered politics in 2004, when he won election to the Michigan House. Elevated to the position of House speaker by his peers, the Redford resident is seen as an intellectual centrist. Handsome and charismatic, he bills himself as a candidate who can bridge the partisan divide.
Best Republican for Governor
Building the foundation of his campaign on the claim that he's "one tough nerd," the former president and chief operating officer of Gateway computers has all the credentials of a certified geek, including three degrees from the University of Michigan. A wealthy venture capitalist, he kicked off his campaign by spending more than $1 million of his own money on a 60-second Super Bowl commercial that served as his introduction to voters. Along with banking on the hope voters will embrace the whole nerd thing, Snyder is also portraying himself as the candidate best prepared to create jobs in a state wracked by unemployment.
Best Issue for Detroit's Leaders to Focus On
Our readers nailed this one. With 10,000 people a year continuing to flee Detroit, one sure way to help reverse that trend and attract people with families — or want to start families — is to establish a world-class school system. To paraphrase a line from the movie Field of Dreams: Make it better, and they will come. Beyond that, as cliché as it may sound, our kids really are the future, and for it to have any chance of being a bright one, a good education is key.
Best Way to Improve Detroit Public Schools
KEEP ROBERT BOBB
He may be making lots of enemies as he tries to bring financial stability and sound academics to the struggling district, but our readers gave a thumbs up to Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb and his efforts to root out the corruption that has long plagued DPS and put the schools on a sound footing.
Best City Neighborhood to Find a Housing Deal
According to one online site, the median sale price for a home in this lovely historic district not far from the city's cultural center is about $85,000. Featuring a number of stately brick Victorian homes, the triangle-shaped Woodbridge neighborhood has largely avoided the blight and abandonment that have plagued many other parts of the city. If you are looking to be a part of Detroit's (hoped-for) resurgence, our readers say this is a neighborhood that's definitely worth checking out.
Best Suburban Neighborhood to Find a Housing Deal
After reaching a high of nearly $140,000 in early 2006, the median sales price for a home in this inner-ring suburb dropped to nearly $60,000 last year. Prices have been climbing in recent months, but they are still below what they were a decade ago. With a lively downtown, a relatively young population, and an open attitude towards gays and lesbians (a gay mayor was elected in 2007), Ferndale has become hip and affordable.
Best Reason to Move to Detroit
Our guess is that no other major city in America has as much affordable housing as Detroit. Having been hit hard by the foreclosure crisis, there are some neighborhoods where banks are practically giving places away. At one point last year, 1,800 homes in the city ere on the market with an asking price below $10,000. Hell, a new car will set you back more than that. Some money and even more time might need to be invested to fix the places up, but as far as housing deals go, we've never seen a market like this.
Best New Industry for Southeastern Michigan
The overall economic benefits associated with the significant tax breaks the Michigan Legislature gave filmmakers in 2008 may be debatable, but our readers appear to have made up their minds: They'd like to see this region become the new Hollywood. Other top ideas included capitalizing on the legalization of medical marijuana and tapping into the growing need for environmentally friendly technologies. Or maybe somebody combines all three and comes here to start filming Harold & Kumar Open A Cass Corridor Wind Farm.
Best Local Athlete & Best Tiger
Winning 19 games last year, Verlander had the league's fastest pitch, averaging an intense 95.5 mph. Oh, yeah, he's also the only pitcher in baseball history to toss a no-hitter, start a World Series game, be a Rookie of the Year and an All-Star in his first two full seasons. And Detroit has him.
Best Red Wing
So the Frank J. Selke Trophy is awarded annually to the National Hockey League forward who "demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game." Last year, as the year before, that man was none other than Red Wings all-star wunderkind Pavel Datsyuk. Ridiculous on a pair of skates, he's everything a complete forward should be — fast, tough, smart. Perhaps even more telling, Datsyuk has also been the recipient of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy — "awarded to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability" — four years running, equaling the league record.
Richard "Rip" Hamilton
He's the masked avenger, the veteran guard, the three-time all-star team captain, a player regarded as the most conditioned player in the league. When healthy, he's one of the most reliable players the Pistons have. And he's your favorite Piston for 2010 (Sorry, Jerebko, maybe next year). Many think he'll be traded this off-season, but Detroit will never forget the tenacity, consistency and champion spirit that Rip brought to the team, including the 2004 national championship squad. No matter what, he'll always be a Piston.
It isn't just that Matt Stafford beat out his teammates. What's most significant is that he edged out last year's winner, which would be variations on "LOL" and "none of them" and "you've got to be kidding me." Could it be a sign that better days are ahead? The 22-year-old stud rookie quarterback from Georgia was the first overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft, and though his touchdown-to-interception ratio his first year in the league was 13-20, though he only threw for 2,267 yards and posted a QB rating of 61, he showed promise of what's to come. On Nov. 22, 2009, Stafford threw five touchdowns in a 38-37 win over the Cleveland Browns, becoming the youngest quarterback ever to do so, being more than a year younger than the former record holder Dan Marino. Throwing a rookie record 422 yards, Stafford's most memorable throw to date, the one he stole our hearts with, came when Stafford threw a touchdown pass as time expired with a shoulder he had separated on the previous play. That's badass.
Best Local Comic
Not sure how "local" Tim can be considered these days, but the former Home Improvement star (grew up largely in Birmingham; WMU graduate) did first make his mark doing standup in the Detroit comedy clubs back in the day. True, he's been the voice of Michigan tourism in the Midwest. Maybe the new film-making incentives will get him back here for a hot minute. (See Best New Industry for Southeastern Michigan.)
Best Local Rock Artist or Group & Artist from Detroit Who Best Represents Us to the World
He fills stadiums. Sells tons of records. But, really?
Best Local Hip-Hop Artist or Group
United States of Mind
New York has Wu-Tang Clan. Detroit has United States of Mind. The 10-man collective of serious hip-hop heads boasts some premier microphone maniacs, such as D. Allie, Metasyons and Asylum 7, as well as some of the city's more interesting underground producers, like Crate Digga and Sleepy Biggs. On May 7 USM leaves for its first North American tour to promote what Detroit hip-hop is all about. The group's homecoming show is June 18, and you'll be there, right? Right.
Best Local Jazz Artist or Group
A smooth jazz, old-school jazz R&B man to most of the straight-up jazz fans who voted for Hot Club of Detroit, Faruq Z. Bey and others, Kem outpolled 'em all. Upfront about his back story — overcoming homeless and addiction, making it against long odds — Kem's motivational speaking makes him more than just a musician.
Best Local country Artist or Group
Whitey Morgan & the 78's
At the forefront of the D-Town country-rock renaissance, MT has said that Whitey and his crew — who released an album on the mostly metal Small Stone last year — and their modern take on country are "as emotion-stirring and wildly exciting as anything heard in rock 'n' roll lately."
Best Local Folk Artist or Group
This traditional Irish quartet performs everything from sea shanties and lively jigs to some of Ireland's best contemporary songs. For years, they were a fixture on J.P. McCarthy's annual St. Patrick's Day show on WJR radio — and they continue that tradition these days on The Paul W. Smith Show.
Local Artist or Group with Best Chance of Going National
Although the name sounds like metal all the way, this Harper Woods band — which takes its name from the Ojibwe name for "heart" — describes its music as both "progressive" and "alternative" ... an interesting combination.
Best Local College
Wayne State University
Apropos this well-deserved award, we're renewing our contest of last year. A Grizzly, a Titan, a Warrior and Wolverine walk into a bar. The best punch line sent to email@example.com by Thursday at 5 p.m. gets a pair of tickets to the Best of Detroit party. Put "local college punch line" in the subject field. And remember, this year, the Warrior has to come out on top.
Best Abandoned Building to save
MICHIGAN CENTRAL TRAIN STATION
Actually, the place hasn't been abvandoned. It may be a vacant eyesore, but it still has an owner. His name is Manuel "Matty" Moroun, one of the richest men in the world. So here's the message Matty: Our readers want you to put some of your billions to good use and fix up the property that you own.
Best abandoned building to demolish
MICHIGAN CENTRAL STATION
And if you aren't going to fix it up (like we hope) then at least have the decency to tear it down so that we don't have this empty hulk standing as a monument to urban decay.
Best Film Shot in Detroit
Ostensibly set in Detroit, most of this movie that Clint Eastwood produced, directed and starred in was actually filmed in Highland Park. We say that's close enough. Other area locales included Center Line, Warren, Grosse Pointe Park, Royal Oak — and the D itself. Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a retired Ford assembly line worker who is recently widowed. He's having a hard time adjusting to the influx of Hmong immigrants that has changed the nature of his neighborhood, formerly a white enclave. The New York Times called it a "a sleek, muscle car of a movie made in the U.S.A., in that industrial graveyard called Detroit." Thanks for the boost there, NYT.
Best book about Detroit
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
There's a burgeoning shelf of quality history, sociology and all about the city, plenty of poetry, and a tsunami of music. But novels? Outside of our powerful genre fiction — Donald Goines to Elmore Leonard — not an awful lot. Maybe that's part of our problem, we haven't sufficiently imagined ourselves yet. Which brings us to Jeffrey Eugenides' two imaginistic gems, The Virgin Suicides (1993) and, moreover, Middlesex (2002). A multi-generational, gender-bending comic epic, with the D as a main backdrop, Middlesex has been been hailed as one of the novels of the decade by critics, book clubbed by Oprah, and now endorsed by a landslide in the MT readers poll.
Best Source of Under-the-Table Cash While Unemployed
Apparently, with the way things are in this economy, watching other people's kids isn't just for teenage girls anymore. Other popular ideas floated by our readers included: selling weed (just don't combine that with the babysitting, please), and selling anything of value you still have on e-bay or Craigslist. You can also get yourself a mower and start cutting lawns, or keep a sharp eye out for pop cans and bottles alongside the road. And that extra blood flowing through your veins — sell it now.
Best Theme Song for Detroit
"Hello, Detroit," Sammy Davis Jr.
Motown met the Rat Packer in 1984 and gave us our answer to "New York, New York." Everybody sing along: "On a stroll through Belle Isle Park / Greektown after dark / You instill in the young, the will to become / stars and champions." Sing it, Sammy!