Best of Detroit 2011
Public Square - Readers' Choice
Our local riches, from media to politics to business and more, as judged by our readers
Published: April 27, 2011
Best Local Newscaster
Huel Perkins at FOX 2
Impeccably dressed with his hometown Dominic Pangborn ties, earnest and good-humored, Huel Perkins greets Detroit's FOX 2 viewers throughout the evening newscasts. He's on at 5, 6 and 10 p.m., not only anchoring the regular news segments but then leading "The Edge" at 11 p.m. In his 13 years at the station, he's won an Emmy and been nominated four times for best anchor. We like Huel's stylish-but-not-too-slick looks, his willingness to tackle prickly news issues, his passionate commitment to metro Detroit and his consistent excellence as the enduring face of news at Channel 2.
Best Morning Show Personality
Rhonda Walker at WDIV-TV 4 and clickondetroit.com
"Perky" sometimes isn't the most complimentary adjective, but it's one of 100 sincere compliments we could pay to Rhonda Walker. Professional, pretty, sincere, she's a face we're happy to see in the morning on Channel Four and throughout the year around metro Detroit at the hundreds of appearances she makes for charity and children's advocacy. And she's got her own Rhonda Walker Foundation that focuses on empowering Detroit's teen girls. Now that's good news for Detroit too!
Best Golf Course
Oakland Hills Country Club
3951 W. Maple Rd., Bloomfield Hills; 248-644-2500; oaklandhillscc.com
Oakland Hills hosted the 2002 U.S. Amateur, the 2004 Ryder Cup and the 2008 PGA Championship. Founded in 1916, the club features two courses, north and south, the latter, dubbed "The Monster" and the site of national attention. Among the big names to have played it are Ben Hogan, Tiger Woods. Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player.
Best Radio Music Show
Modern Music with John Moshier
WDET-FM (101.9); wdetfm.org
Call it the comeback of the year! Friday nights (9-11) and Sunday afternoons (2-4), Detroiters tune into 101.9 WDET to hear musicologist Jon Moshier spin contemporary indie, electro, experimental and pop tunes for two hours. The man (and he is "the man") not only hits on the newest of the new international (Smith Westerns, Radiohead, the Kills) and local bands (Mirrortwin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.) but he ties their sounds to the past (the Pixies, Gary Numan); it's an audible education without the diatribe because, after all, it's about the music.
Best Radio Morning Show
Dave and Chuck "The Freak"
CIMX-FM (88.7), 89xradio.com
Dave Hunter and Chuck "The Freak" Urquhart have been at it for a decade this month at 89X, serving up such memorable fare as the "Hairiest Man Contest," where men were invited to the studio to display the full manly glory of their bodily hair. Of course, there was an appropriate prize: The winner had his upper body shaved live in the studio. Their everyday talk routine, however, is not wanting for wit or observational perceptiveness. It's true they've stirred up no controversy of late to match their "Operation Dark Stall" exposé of co-workers bathroom habits or their classic "It's Friday B!#ches" billboards. But we've yet to hear anyone accuse them of good taste, the kiss of death in their game.
Best Radio Personality
The Craig Fahle Show, WDET-FM (101.9); wdetfm.org
We held our breath when the station renamed the Detroit Today show after its host — would that be too much for the guy? But Fahle and crew made his show the place to be for guests and listeners. Broadcast live weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon, the show is repeated during the evening (Monday through Thursday, 7-9). Fahle cultivates forthright discussions about issues and events; he skillfully and insightfully manages the area's politicians, community activists, issue advocates, artists and the occasional combative caller. (Full disclosure: He gets a shot at a Metro Times writer on Wednesdays, when we discuss our cover stories.)
Best Radio News
101.9 FM; wdetfm.org
Radio news comes in two basic varieties, the quick-hit, cover-the-town, on-the-spot AM style and the NPR-FM approach of fewer stories and more depth. This year marks an upset with the latter knocking off the former in the form of the WWJ-AM team, the winner every time we've asked the radio news question back at least to 2002. What does it mean? The muscle-flexing of liberal, do-gooder intellectuals who are stereotypical NPR listeners? The sympathy vote mobilized by the threat to yank NPR funding? The pay-off for the decision to boost news back in 2002 (though, for the record, the last few years has more music restored, as in the Moshier show noted above)? Now can they hold the title?
Best Cause to Support
Breast cancer awareness
The showing of breast cancer awareness in this category is one measure of the success of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October and the pink ribbon campaign and events that continue year-round. The fact that breast cancer still kills and maims so many is the reason why the awareness. After skin cancer, it is the most common form of cancer. After lung cancer, it is the second most common killer. Many voters pointed not just to the cause but to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a major voice — arguably the major voice — in bringing awareness to cause of breast cancer since its formation in 1982.
Gleaners Food Bank
2131 Beaufait St., Detroit; 866-GLEANER; gcfb.org
For more than 35 years, Gleaners has been a crucial source of comfort and nourishment for metro Detroit's hungry. And 96 cents of every dollar donated to Gleaners goes directly to food programs for the poor. The nonprofit, whose headquarters is in Detroit, has branches in Howell, Pontiac, Taylor and Warren. At a time when foreclosures and layoffs are as quotidian as each day's sunset, the reliable and steadfast work of Gleaners is all the more important.
Best Overlooked Local Story
Off the Beaten Path B ookstore and Café
23023 Orchard Lake Rd. Farmington; 248-987-2934; otbp-bookstore.com
A steampunk-themed bookstore winning this category would suggest a get-out-the-vote campaign — and that's what democracy is about. But Salathiel Palland, who calls herself the store's "captain," chalks the success up to "some loyal fans." And with a chess night, a game night, a drum night, a stitch-n-bitch night, a live music night, and coffee roasted by Carmelite monks in Wyoming, this aspires to be more than just a bookstore. They've got what Palland describes as "a huge Victorian steampunk road rally coming up June 11." Other nominees for overlooked story: Detroit Dog Rescue, Michigan film credits and jobs, Latino Community in Detroit, erotic arts scene, train station being wasted, and the new UAW fighting for social justice.
Best Statue to Commission After Robocop
Axel Foley? Axel Foley? Where had we heard that name before? Ah, yes, Eddie Murphy's smirking, wiseacre Detroit cop (and Mumford High grad) of the three 1984-1994 Beverly Hills Cop movies. We can see the statue right in front of 1300 Beaubien St., Detroit Police Headquarters, where scenes with Murphy and the real life Detroit cop Gil Hill were shot. Somebody get this going on Kickstarter. And let's get Mayor Bing opinion.
Best City Neighborhood to Find a Housing Deal
With prices seeming to be in freefall acros the region, Midtown is an exception. Condos, lofts and apartments aren't drawing New York sale and rent dollars, but you won't find blocks of $100 houses or whatever the latest low is elsewhere in the city either. What do we conclude "housing deal" means to readers? Creatively renovated spaces, neighborhood-appropriate new housing, access to cultural institutions, proximity to downtown, variety of restaurants and bars, the prospect of light rail. Another part of the deal: Check out livemidtown.org to see how new owners can receive a $20,000 forgivable loan, current homeowners can get matching funds up to $5,000 for exterior improvements and renters can get up to $2,500 in aid.
Best Suburban Neighborhood to Find a Housing Deal
While the housing crisis has been devastating for the region, Ferndale might be a bright spot. Young professionals seem to be scooping up properties in this "fashionable" suburb where $100,000 gets you a mansion, $50,000, a decent house. Even cheaper homes that need work are being renovated and refurbished. Residents tout the walkability, security they feel in the neighborhoods and the diversity of residents.
Best Advice for Gov. Rick Snyder
Keep the film incentives
Last year when he was selling himself as the "different politician" and "the nerd," readers went for Snyder as the preferred candidate in the Republican primaries. In office, his "fresh" thinking, oddly enough, reaches the same old-hack right-wing conclusions. (Now he tells us.) Hence an outpouring of comments like "find your compassion" and opposition to taxing retirees, attacks on unions, cuts to libraries, cuts to schools, etc. Those far outnumbered variations on "Don't worry about the polls, do what you were elected to do."
The strongest single anti-Snyder focus was around film tax credits. The message over and over: Keep the incentives, keep the film industry, give it a chance.
Best advice for Mayor Dave Bing
All sorts of suggestions for the mayor, including calls to not listen to Snyder, to push for light rail and spend more time with grass-roots people. But the largest number of votes began with the word keep. As in (to cite just some): "Keep at it." "Keep being honest." "Keep doing what you're doing." "Keep fighting the good fight." "Keep going." "Keep improving and consolidating Detroit." "Keep it going." "Keep on doing what you're doing." "Keep on rolling." "Keep on truckin'." "Keep plugging away." "Keep savin' Detroit." "Keep smiling." "Keep the good work." "Keep trying, Detroit is worth it." "Keep the people first." "Keep your chin up." "Keep your hands clean."
Best advice for Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson
Serving his fifth term, he's tied with the late Coleman Young, but far behind the late Orville Hubbard's nine terms in the Dearborn mayor's office, to note some of the other long-serving executives of the region. And while "retire" was the strongest single sentiment, there was also a strong showing for variations of "Keep it up." Other suggestions include working with the Woodward light rail, working with Detroit and think regional. And "fix the damn roads."
Best advice for Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano
Among the suggestions: "Be more arrogant." "Cut corruption." "Dave Bing needs help!" "Do more to help Bing in Detroit." "Embrace regional governance." "Establish a green belt while nobody's building." "Fund arts and culture, make this an interesting place to live." "Invest in infrastructure." "Make friends with Brooks and Dave." "Stop take foreclosures on the homes of the economically distressed." "Think regional." "Work on the image of Downriver."
Best advice for Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel
Among the suggestions: "Be fair." "Build the casino? Why?" "Don't Get Caught." "Make Lake St. Clair to Detroit What Lake Michigan is to Chicago." "No casino." "Read a Cornel West book." "Work for regionalism." "Please stick to your guns."
Best Concert of 2010
Eminem & Jay Z at Comerica Park, Sept. 2-3
Take the biggest two names in all of rap music, toss in a veritable list of special guests — Dr. Dre, Jeezy, Drake, Trick Trick and 50 Cent — throw them all on the largest outdoor stage in downtown Detroit, and you have the makings of true spectacle. That's what it took to create the best concert of the year, which means 2011 has some real work cut out for it. How can we top that, Detroit?
Best Local Record Label
Mack Avenue Records
In its 12th year, Mack Avenue has become a heavy-hitter in jazz with discs by more than 30 artists. That includes established names like the Yellow Jackets, Gary Burton, Christian McBride and Gerald Wilson, and newer ones like Sean Jones, Tia Fuller and Sachal Vasandani. Detroiters and former Detroiters Hot Club of Detroit, Rodney Whitaker, Johnny Bassett and Kenny Garrett have had releases, and a new initiative for Detroit artists, we hear, is in the works. A project of Carhartt heiress and businesswoman Gretchen Valade and businessman Tom Robinson, it overlaps with Valade's Dirty Dog jazz club and her role as chief benefactor (savior, to be frank; thanks) of the Detroit Jazz Festival.
Best Local Athlete
Rookie Ndamukong Suh was just what the Lions — and the city — needed. Not to take anything away from his teammates. They all worked to lift the Lions from that 0-16 record in 2008 to a 6-10 season that included that December win over the eventual Super Bowl champion Packers. But Suh, well, the 6-foot-4, 307-pounder was the spark and the fire of the defense. The second overall pick in the draft, Suh ended up the Associated Press defensive rookie of the year, became the first rookie defensive tackle named to the AP All-Pro Team since it was designated by offense and defense in 1951, and was voted a starter for the NFC squad in the Pro Bowl. The defensive tackle, son of a Cameroonian father and Jamaican mother, started every game, made 66 tackles and a team-high 10 sacks. Hopefully there will be a 2011 season for his encore.
By the time Miguel Cabrera hit a pair of two-run homers in the Tigers' first 2011 win — April 3 in New York, their third game — the voting for Best of Detroit had wrapped up. He didn't need that effort to land in the hearts and minds of our readers, who judge him best at what he does on the team. Now in his fourth season in Detroit, Cabrera hit .328 last year with 38 homers. Arguably one of the top three hitters in the game today, Cabrera is also recognized for his steady play at first base. We're just hoping he can be as decisive in the battle with the bottle as he was in that April 3 game.
Best Red Wing
The object of man-crushes from here to Sweden, his calm, steady, dependable play saves a lot of games and kills a lot of beer sales. "With two minutes to go and the game on the line, I know we can depend on him," one fan writes us. The six-time Norris Trophy winner for top NHL defensive player has also won the Stanley Cup, Olympic gold and a world championship. In his hometown in Sweden, they gush over him to foreign visitors from Detroit. Think that happens for LeBron James in Cleveland? Now?
Sometimes sports fans reward flash, in this case, consistency and commitment. In nine years with the Pistons, Prince has averaged 13.2-14.7 points, 4.2-5.8 rebounds and 2.3-3.3 assists a game. A major reason the Pistons made it to the Eastern Conference finals those six consecutive seasons — and won the NBA title in 2004 — Prince has admitted being disappointed with the team of late. The unrestricted free agent is sure to have some options this off-season. Hopefully he'll return under new ownership to lead a new era.
Best Piston to Trade
Last year he was the readers' fave, this year. ... You decide whether that's fickleness, impatience or brutal honesty. Word of his then-imminent trade trickled around town during summer 2009. When it didn't happen, it was thought to be because of the intervention of owner Karen Davidson, who took over control of the team after husband Bill's death in March of that year and kept the masked man here. But the shooting guard has seen points per game sink from a high of 20.1 in the 2005-2006 season to "just" 14.1 this year. He's got two years and a little more than $20 million on his Detroit contract. Will MT readers next year name him "Best Piston to Get Back"?
Best New Coach for the Pistons
It's not just sentimentality about Bill Laimbeer, his Pistons career (1982-1993) and his NBA championships (1989, 1990) behind voters giving him top nod as a new Pistons coach, should new owner Tom Gores be looking for one (ha ha). It's that they've seen him get it done. Mid-season in 2002, Laimbeer returned to the Palace as the coach of the Shock, who were then 0-10. He led them to a 9-23 finish that year — a serious improvement, but still last place. Then, in 2003, the Shock took the WNBA championship. Coach Laimbeer (and the ladies) did it with new players, communication with the front office and that same terse energy that Laimbeer had on the court. An assistant with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he's built the résumé. Will he come rebuild the team?
Best Local Comic - Tie
Andy Beningo and Tim Allen
Tim Allen, long gone from hereabouts, has been the perennial winner of this category, so hats off to Andy Beningo. This curly haired son of Milford, who still calls it home, has been making national comedy rounds, working with names like Jim Breuer and the late Greg Giraldo, addressing technology and dating with an endearing self-deprecation. "Tim Allen is a Detroit legend, so it's pretty humbling to be mentioned with him," Beningo said in an e-mail. His busy schedule brings him back this way on May 7, for a gig at the Comedy Room in Wyandotte.
Best Artist from Detroit Who Best Represents Us to the World
Why not? Like the city, Marshall Mathers experienced a unprecedented ascent followed by an infamously ugly and public demise — and now finds himself in the midst of transition or, to get real for a second, rehabilitation. Not that he wasn't representing the city already, but the Super Bowl debut of the Chrysler commercial had people talking about Em and Detroit from coast to coast.
Best Local College
Wayne State University
Midtown Detroit campus and six extension centers; wayne.edu
Wayne State used to be the place you drove to, went to class and drove home. But it's worked hard for the last couple decades to make a place for students, employees and its neighbors in the city. That means improvements not just in the classrooms but on and around it. That means safer streets in the area, attractive student housing, and retailers and restaurants helping to create community. Way to make the grade.
Best Completed Building Renovation Project
Westin Book Cadillac
1114 Washington Blvd., Detroit; 313-442-1600; westin.com/detroit
Said to be the largest hotel in the world when it opened in 1924, the 31-story building closed in 1984 and loomed empty for two decades-plus as one our ruins of Detroit. Finally, Cleveland-based Ferchill Group entered the picture, opening a renovated hotel-condo building (455 rooms, 67 units) against the odds in 2008. No small part of its renown can be attributed to having the restaurant Roast as one of the ground-floor tenants, a veritable magnet for attention.
Best Reuse of Tiger Stadium
What kind of baseball? No consensus there. But some sort of baseball: Little League, community, softball, pick up, AAA baseball. Maybe a baseball museum. Or a "beautiful park" with a diamond. Or a combination ballpark and concert venue. Other popular suggestions included homeless shelters, housing, a shopping mall, entertainment complex, concert venue, BMX or other race track. Thankfully, nuclear bomb test site and nuclear dump were one-vote propositions each.
Best Film Shot in Detroit
Gran Torino (still)
Director Clint Eastwood shot his drama around town in 2008 as one of the first films taking advantage of the now-threatened industry tax credits. The movie — we guess in plenty of our DVD collections by now — has endured as an MT reader fave among the dozens of flicks that have since used our fair city as a backdrop. None, though, have addressed the issues of racism, aging, neighborhood transition and the symbolism of the auto like Gran Torino. Shot in Detroit, it also feels of Detroit.
Best TV Show Shot in Detroit
Like living here, the show had ups and downs. The pilot? Painful. But then, that episode was shot in Atlanta and before the writers knew it's "pop," not "soda." Like any newcomers who spend time here, the show learned. Characters, plots and local references improved. Let's remember, it's not a documentary, so when it got a little fanciful, well, that's entertainment. What was real was the crazy shit that sometimes goes down here, the characters' gritty determination and commitment, that grabbing a Coney is a great way to unwind and an Avalon basket of treats is a fabulous gift. That's Detroit 24-7-365. Fingers crossed for Season 2.
Best New Slogan for Detroit
Imported from Detroit
The Eminem Super Bowl ad for Chrysler struck a chord. Other suggestions were not without interest: "713,777 Detroiters can't be wrong." "Now that the whiners have gone." "Paris of the Midwest." "We saved the free world, now save us." "We're No. 14." "Big city culture, small town community." "Detroit hustles harder." "25 percent more exclusive." "A great place to visit, even when you live here."
Best reasons for inviting me to the Metro Times Best of Detroit party
5. "I'd bring a lemur?"
4. "I'll wear a steam-punk inspired costume."
3. "Hot librarians never get invited to hot parties."
2. "You can't have too many cougars."
1. "Because without 'me' it's just 'aweso.'"
We'll see all you winners at the shindig.
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