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Culture

David and Matt Lee

 

Published 9/17/2003

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Identical twins David (front) and Matt Lee are often mistaken for each other, yet they’re polar opposites in many ways. They both “represent.” David is a criminal defense attorney; Matt is a publicist. They graduated from Southfield High in 1976. David went to the University of Detroit on a tennis scholarship. Matt jammed on his guitar.

“While I was at U of D, I became very aware of the social justice movement,” David says. “I don’t want to say I was radicalized, but it struck a deep chord within me. It just opened my whole life up. It made me aware of things I could get involved in that could make a difference.”

He tried the pro tennis circuit, got “beat like a drum,” and promptly enrolled in law school at Wayne State University. He’s been in practice for 18 years. He waxes about “the incredible ability of the 20 or 30 or so lawyers that I get to work with every day.

“My favorite place in Detroit is probably the Indian Village Tennis Club. It’s a jewel that most Detroiters don’t even know about. Other than that, 80 percent of the places I’m hanging out are downtown. I love the Majestic and the Magic Stick, the Music Menu. We go over to Grosse Pointe to Tom’s Oyster Bar, where John Montgomery isn’t just a bartender, he’s an institution. I like old-style Detroit joints. I love the Caucus Club in the Penobscot; John Laffery’s, on Seven Mile and Telegraph; Sindbad’s, especially in the summertime. They‘re all pretty much family-run businesses.”

Matt, asked about his education, quotes John Hiatt: “I did not go to college. I did not have the luck.” He was smitten with R&B and spent the years after high school in a band known as the Suspects.

“We toured around the country and took it as far as we could. We had 10 members, so we never made any money,” he says through a signature chortle that’s indistinguishable from his brother’s. “We opened for the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Joe Walsh and the Four Tops.”

After eight years of performing, he moved to New York and got a gig in music merchandising. “I mostly got stoned and walked around the Village and ate real good food,” he says.

He returned to Detroit and formally launched his career as publicist — the enterprise is called Drumbeaters — six years ago. “My business is an outgrowth of my passion for rhythm and blues music,” he says. “Detroit’s a great media

town, I feel happy to do what I do. I represent a widerange of clients — Alberta Adams, Thornetta Davis, Tangerine Trousers, Johnnie Bassett, John Sinclair, Twistin’ Tarantulas, and I used to represent the Four Tops and the great Barrett Strong. I handle TasteFest, the Ford International Jazz Fest, the Hamtramck Festival, and I have business clients like George & Harry’s, the Music Menu and Sweet Georgia Brown.

“I wonder if people in Detroit really understand how great some of their entertainers are. I think Thornetta Davis is really a modern-day continuum of great women singers who’ve come from Detroit. She and people like her are really Detroit treasurers. I wonder if people who see Thornetta or Bassett realize what world-class talent they’re listening to in some little club that night. … Look at the hundreds great entertainers that have come out of Detroit — and how many can you name from Cleveland, which is only a couple of hundred miles away?”

Some distinctly Detroit favorites are Vernor’s and Vikki’s Ribs on Warren.

Matt’s wife of three years, Tamara, is a yoga instructor. She sweetly tolerates his obsession with antique radios — he owns hundreds of them — and arcade games.

Back to main index of Best of Detroit — A character study

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