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PostMike Bonnie, Della Reese, Detroit (David Duggan, USA, 11/28/17 7:47 am)
I too fondly remember Mike Bonnie from our 2013 conference in Adrian, in the lee of Detroit, which has also been the subject of cities qualifying as hellholes. 2013 also happens to be the year that Detroit filed for bankruptcy, the largest municipality to do so. But from the ashes can arise a new creation, and Detroit shows signs of doing that.
Though the number of days that I have spent in Detroit proper can be counted on the fingers of one hand, I think that the city gets a bad rap. One measure of a great city is its artistic culture and, though I am not a critic, I think a respectable argument can be made that Detroit's contributions to the American scene are second to none in the United States. Though heavily weighted toward music, Detroit's original creations include not only Motown and the '57 Chevrolet, but generations of Corvettes and Cadillacs. If beauty can be found in speed, functionality, comfort, and feel-goodness, Detroit rules the world.
Consider what the world would be like without a dual-quad, four-speed posi-traction 409, a hemi-headed Charger, a Deuce Coupe, or a woodie, without the Spinners, the Temptations, the Supremes, the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, the Miracles, Aretha Franklin, and Stevie Wonder. And here's the thing: there was nothing like them before in the world. Big-block engines with 10-1 compression ratios burning 98 octane leaded fuel, blowing the doors off anything produced in Stuttgart or Maranello, and you could actually afford to buy one. And music that revved you up: "I Never Knew Love Before," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "What's Going On," "Tears of a Clown." Yes, New Orleans has its jazz, Chicago its blues, and New York its musical theater, but these were born elsewhere: the Caribbean for jazz, the Mississippi Delta for Blues, and London for musical theater. The beat, keyboard and bass combinations yielding the Motown sound had no predecessor.
Sadly, the world has lost one of the original acts of the Detroit scene, the Rev. Della Reese, perhaps better known as the acerbic Tess, in the CBS Sunday-night drama, Touched by an Angel. She played a supervising angel sent on rescue missions to mortals in the moral peril of losing their souls because of some decision or circumstance needing divine intervention; Roma Downey played Monica, who delivered the message of God's grace amidst the chaos; and Andrew Dye (also no longer with us) played the angel of death, who ushered people to the other side. Years ago, I wrote a script for the show, but couldn't get it to the right people who could see if it could get produced. Maybe Netflix can bring the show back. Della Reese and Mike Bonnie, rest in peace.
Back to Detroit. It is reviving American craftsmanship with its Shinola brand, producing the only American-made mechanical watches in two generations (Elgin, named after the city 45 miles northwest of Chicago, closed down in 1968), along with a line of steel-framed bicycles, and leather goods. It may not be the next River Rouge, but the vestiges of the creative culture persist.
Now, if only Michigan could beat Ohio State.
JE comments: We have several Ohioans in WAISworld, but I know of no Ohio State alums. (The bumper sticker reads, "Oh, how I hate Ohio State.") So Michigan prevails in WAISer hearts (WAISers Mears, Mears, Sawyer, Whealey, Wong-Díaz, Eipper...), if not on the gridiron. At least the U-M coach, Jim Harbaugh, gets paid more than OSU's Urban Meyer ($9 million vs a paltry $6 million).
Bravo, David, on Detroit's contributions to US culture. Detroit didn't invent the automobile, but it made it a fundamental part of the American experience.
RIP, Della Reese. I just learned that her birth name was Delloreese Patricia Early. Hers is an interesting way to coin a stage name.