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  • Once-controversial Diego Rivera murals now national landmark

    Oh, the irony — initially criticized as Marxist propaganda when Mexican muralist Diego Rivera painted them for the Detroit Institute of Arts in the early 1930s, Detroit Industry has now been designated as a a national landmark. The announcement was made Wednesday, according to the Detroit News by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis as part of National Park Week. The designation does not change the ownership status of the murals or grant any new protections or rights, leaving its place among the rest of the DIA’s art in possible bankruptcy negotiations in question. The work is considered the best of Rivera’s work in the United States (another mural Rivera had done in New York was destroyed by orders of Nelson Rockefeller). Rivera himself regarded Detroit Industries paintings as his finest work. In the midst of the McCarthy era, the DIA posted this sign outside the court: Rivera’s politics and his publicity seeking are detestable. But let’s get the record straight on what he did here. He came from Mexico to Detroit, thought our mass production industries and our technology wonderful and very exciting, painted them as one of the great achievements of the twentieth century. This came […]

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  • Detroit area code 313 may be phased out

    Hey, everybody from the 313, start thinking of new numbers to rally around– the longstanding Detroit area code may be phased out. Our friends over at the Detroit News report that pending a revised estimate next week, the North American Numbering Plan Administration will stop handing out 313 telephone prefixes on new phone numbers. Detroiters with existing cell phone lines would be able to keep their current area codes, while those with land lines would change. via Detroit News: The venerable 313 will ultimately become overtaxed. Even as Detroit’s population has fallen, cellphone usage has accelerated like one of those smoldering SRT Vipers that Dodge has been bolting together at Conner Avenue Assembly — which is, of course, comfortably within the confines of 313. … When the first five dozen area codes were assigned nearly 70 years ago, says NANPA’s Tom Foley, “that was expected basically to last forever.” Instead, somebody invented fax machines, and then somebody else came up with cellphones, and lots of somebody elses decided to give them to 10-year-olds, and meantime the population grew to 300 million. Now every telephone carrier is required to submit twice-yearly forecasts of its needs in each area code, factoring in […]

    The post Detroit area code 313 may be phased out appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Final members selected for Red Wings arena Neighborhood Advisory Council

    Unfortunately, we were unable to attend last night’s Neighborhood Advisory Council, which, in case you were unaware, is a 16-member board established to weigh in on the new Red Wings arena near downtown. About three dozen residents and property owners cast ballots by the 8 p.m. deadline on Wednesday inside the Block at Cass Park, The Detroit News reports. It’s the culmination of a handful of community meetings which began weeks ago. Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda Lopez facilitated the meetings, but emphasized at previous meetings that it’s up to the community to conduct business. According to the News, the 12 candidates selected include: Michael Boettcher, Richard Etue, Jason Gapa, Francis Grunow, Steve Guether, Paul Hughes, Ray Litt, Warner Doyle McBryde, Karen McLeod, Delphia Simmons, Melissa Thomas and Anthony Zander. Joel Landy, a land owner in the area, lost his bid. The City Council appointed four candidates last month. As we reported in this week’s issue, the Neighborhood Advisory Committee was negotiated after Olympia Development of Michigan, Detroit Red Wing’s owner Mike Ilitch’s real estate arm, balked on a proposed community benefits agreement.  The committee is charged with the task of offering input on the arena’s design, parking security and more.

    The post Final members selected for Red Wings arena Neighborhood Advisory Council appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • James McMurtry and The Bottle Rockets coming to the Magic Bag

    The Magic Bag in Ferndale will host James McMurtry and The Bottle Rockets on Thursday, May 28, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. A press release reads, “James McMurtry recently signed with the bourgeoning Los Angeles record label Complicated Game. The legendary songwriter will enter the studio later this month to start working on his first album in six years. “I’ve got a new batch of songs, organic and with no added sulfites, aged in oak for several years,” he says. “Francois Moret at Complicated Game seems to like these songs and (producer) C.C. Adcock thinks he can turn them into a record. Good times fixing to roll.” Label head Moret agrees. “In March 2013, when C.C. Adcock told me we were going to see James McMurtry at the Continental Club in Austin, I expected to see a good show,” he says, “but what I saw left me mesmerized! I immediately knew I wanted to sign him. As a European, it is an amazing opportunity to work with one of the most talented American singer-songwriters.” Evidence: McMurtry’s Just Us Kids (2008) and Childish Things (2005). The former earned his highest Billboard 200 chart position in nearly two decades and notched […]

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  • City Slang: Dead Kennedys to have a holiday in Detroit

    The Dead Kennedys, still with local boy Klaus Flouride in the ranks, will play St. Andrew’s Hall on Tuesday, June 24. Alongside Flouride and fellow original members East Bay Ray and DH Peligro, the current lineup includes singer Ron “Skip” Greer, taking the place of Jello Biafra. Downtown Brown will open that show, which starts at 7 p.m., with tickets priced $20-$25. Give Klaus a hero’s hometown welcome. Just over a week before that, strangely enough, Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo School of Medicine will play at the Magic Stick. It’s a weird coincidence, but one that DK fans should be happy to embrace. That show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $17-$19. Local hardcore vets Negative Approach play before Jello, with the Crashdollz opening the show. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Dead Kennedys to have a holiday in Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Planet Ant presents A Steady Rain

    The Planet Ant Theatre in Hamtramck will present a police drama called A Steady Rain May 2 through 24. Planet Ant veterans Ryan Carlson and York Griffith will star in the play, written by House of Cards and Mad Men co-writer Keith Huff. Tickets ($10-$20) are on sale now at According to the press release, “A Steady Rain by Keith Huff focuses on Joey and Denny, best friends since kindergarten and partners on the police force whose loyalty to each other is tested by domestic affairs, violence and the rough streets of Chicago. Joey helps Denny with his family and Denny helps Joey stay off the bottle. But when a routine disturbance call takes a turn for the worse their loyalty is put to the ultimate test.First produced at Chicago Dramatists, A Steady Rain appeared on Broadway featuring Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig. The Planet Ant production of A Steady Rain is directed by York Griffith featuring Ryan Carlson and Andy Huff. This marks the return of two of Planet Ant’s founding members. Carlson and Griffith. Griffith has served as the theatre’s Artistic Director where he directed the critically-acclaimed productions The Adding Machine and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? […]

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Brush with fate

Robert Watson pulled himself up by the hair follicles — for real

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Robert Watson with his brushes in his home barbershop.

"I'm a black manufacturer from Detroit ..." Watson begins, pulling out his brush. The leery old barber, trimming a customer's hair, cuts to the point. "How much are they?" Watson announces today's $10 deal. "Ten dollars? With the way the economy is?" the barber shoots back, eyebrows arched in an expression that says, "Are you kidding?" A cheap brush usually cost about $3, he notes. "All you got to do is put it on somebody's head," Watson tells him, handing him one. 

The no-frills barber runs it across his customer's scalp. The customer winces. "You're tearin' the skin off my head!" he yells with a laugh. 

Watson grabs the brush and runs it along the customer's hair in a gentle sweep. "How's that feel?" Watson asks him. "Feel good, don't it?" The man nods and smiles.

No sale, though. "Well, check me out," Watson says, politely, and he steps back out to the street after handing fliers to the few here. Those fliers, he's discovered, are the real source of future business. "Once people get the flier, once they get the word about it, then that's cool." Watson says. "But don't nothin' come easy, that's for sure."


Dishes are stacked in the sink. A scorched pot sits on the stove. And in this small kitchen is a barbershop.

"I always cut hair, since I was 13 years old," Watson says, standing inside his old Midtown apartment, the kind with tight turns and small rooms. "My family has always been in it. My great grandmother had a beauty shop, my cousin cuts hair. I would go to barbershops and watch barbers cut."

Soon after he cleaned up his life, his grandmother offered him an old barber chair that was sitting in her basement. He hauled it home, put it by the kitchen window and started a home business.

He advertised this new hidden barbershop by pasting advertising stickers all over Midtown's light poles. "Robert the Barber" it read, giving no address, only a phone number. Slowly he built up a clientele, customers he hopes to bring with him someday soon to a real shop in a retail space.

Then one day the idea of that curved hairbrush came to him in a flash. "I always said there could be a better hairbrush for black males in particular," he says. He prayed, he says, and a voice told him to go for it. 

So he got a two-by-four, chiseled out a shape, sawed it down to size, drilled holes for bristles, pulled the bristles from other brushes with his soon-calloused fingers, and painstakingly glued them into his new prototype. He found a company to mass-produce them, and named his new business Crown Quality Products. Since then he's traveled the country in a minivan full of brushes, selling to barbershops in 14 states so far, and walking local streets like Gratiot, going from shop to shop, trying to build a future $10 at a time.

While he waits for the brushes to catch on, he cuts hair at his home shop. Jazz and old soul play on the living room stereo. Uplifting self-help slogans on the walls are granted importance by the frames around them. A hand-painted wood sign lists prices for everything from a simple haircut and a shave to eyebrow trimming. Another gives the price for the DVDs and mix CDs that he sells. And a placard written in different magic marker colors posts the simple shop rules: No profanity and no alcohol. 

Once people discovered it, the shop grew to be like other barbershops — a gathering place, a hangout where friends meet friends and fathers bring their kids. "Oh, we get serious debates in here, especially on a Friday night or a Saturday night," Watson says. "One interesting thing is I cut whites' hair, blacks', so that's when the best energy is, and so that's what I envision having a barbershop down here, having a shop like that, that's mixed. That starts the conversation, and shows the toddlers that we're all the same."


J-Rock stands bewildered on the sunny sidewalk, frantically dialing on his cellphone. He's a barber, mid-20s, gangly and agitated, and somehow he's locked out of his own shop, Luxury Kuts, on Gratiot near Conner. And into his baffled world comes Robert the Barber.

"My man's on his way," J-Rock announces to explain his haplessness. "Damn, I wish he was here right now. He's coming to open up the door."

As he waits for his man to come with a key, J-Rock takes a brush and rubs it his head, and it's like an epiphany. "These motherfuckers cold!" the stranded barber says, speaking not of temperature but of wonderfulness. "I like these motherfuckers. Oh, yeah, yeah! I like the curve."

"I want you to have one!" Watson says, matching his enthusiasm like a good salesman. He means buy one. But J-Rock is broke because his money is locked in the shop. 

This might seem another sigh-worthy moment in a long day of slow sales, but a guy like J-Rock might be immensely helpful in the future. Buzz can generate a lot of sales down the road, and someone as enthusiastic as he is about this brush could sell them fast. He too gets a flier. Another seed is planted.

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