Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Saving Detroit II

DETROIT AREA leaders seem frozen in the face of impending disaster, unwilling to take bold measures, relying on the same old tried-and-failed incremental steps to rescue them. They count on the survival of the auto companies, or on continued sports team success, or window dressing like the Jazz Festival and Hoedown to see them through. Newsflash: The Hoedown will not save Detroit! All economic and psychological arrows remain pointing down.

What's required is a bold move that will put the area on the offensive; new projects that will of themselves signal and enable a sea change in p.r. climate. Projects, moreover, that will be ridiculously affordable and easy to set up. They will work by utilizing leverage this area has RIGHT NOW which it isn't properly using.
Glance at my Wikipedia entry (see link on this page) and you'll see a portion of the noise I made on the east coast, including entries in "Page Six," America's number one gossip column, which many of Manhattan's highest-paid publicists can't get their clients in. I obtained press with a handful of rag-tag writers and a nonexistent budget-- through publicity skill alone.

Publicity: Detroit needs exciting writers and most of all it needs exciting publicity; a new face and new ways to market itself to the world.

Are you paying attention yet?

No? Have you given up? Don't believe I can back up my talk?

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Saving Detroit


(The Goal: People moving into Detroit from other cities, drawn by the magic of the Detroit name.)

Until the beginning of this year I was Publicity Director for the Underground Literary Alliance, the #1 underground writers group in America. Last year, England's The Guardian, in an overview of literature, "Surfing the New Literary Wave," by Sam Jordison, named the upstart ULA as one of three major literary movements on this side of the Atlantic. Though centered in Philadelphia, the ULA was founded by expat Detroiters.

I returned to Detroit late last year to visit family and take care of personal business. I decided to stick around. My first week back I stayed at the Leland Hotel. The Leland is a metaphor for Detroit: a great seedy beautiful magnificent empty place waiting to be filled.

Compare Detroit's downtown to Philly's. Detroit has the infrastructure to be as vibrant as Philadelphia: the street layout; the buildings (like the Leland); the condos, bars, and restaurants. What it needs is people!

How to accomplish that?

The tops-down approach of stadiums, People Mover, and other big-money projects is fine, but can do only so much. This should be supplemented with activity from the ground-up, which would be quicker and cheaper. The process of gentrification taking place now on a large scale in New York City and Philadelphia begins with writers and artists. (See Williamsburg in Brooklyn; Fishtown in Philly.) If Detroit became NATIONALLY known as the home of a kick-ass underground arts movement, attention and people would follow.

New York City-- including traditional writers havens like the East Village-- has become too expensive for bohemians. Through its success, New York is destroying its roots.

Where are writers and artists going? Where will they go?

Many are moving to Philadelphia. The ULA has a foundation in its hippest neighborhood. Last year I was a guest on the city's #1 public radio show. BUT, the problem with the east coast is competing with extremely well-funded New Yorkers. There are more possibilities here.

(Next-- STAGE TWO: The Boldest Move.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Key Quote

"I lived downtown, in the East Village. . . . It was very funky. New York was going through a recession. It had a bankruptcy crisis that was bad for the city but great for the arts scene. Everything was cheap, and there were a lot of abandoned buildings. The punk independent film scene arose out of that. It was very atmospheric."
-Quote from director Susan Seidelman in the book Madonna by Lucy O'Brien.
This quote is a big part of the reason why I've remained in Detroit upon my visit back. No city so perfectly fits this quote NOW.

Unless we get into a more severe recession, money and artists will continue flowing into Philadelphia and that town will become a mirror image of New York. Rents have been climbing. The New York Times recently did a big profile on hip working class Philly neighborhood Fishtown, where the Underground Literary Alliance has a base of sorts centered around cool bookstore Germ Books. Action is happening-- people, money, and business following.

An even better candidate, however, is Detroit. No American city can match Detroit's atmosphere, its tough rep and street cred-- most crucial of all, its cheap rents.

The trick is not just to spotlight, nationally, this town's artists and writers, but to get the nation's best to move here. Particularly writers.

Why writers? Because, unlike (with exceptions) rock musicians, painters, and actors, WRITERS WRITE about what they're doing. They're walking publicity machines. They bring more artistic p.r. value, which Detroit needs. And, they write not only about themselves, but about other kinds of artists. (See the Lost Generation of Paris in the 1920's.)

Gentrification is sparked by artists-- it's the easiest way to make an area "cool" and get people moving full-time into the city-- making Detroit the coolest place to live., which I assume is a goal.

The objective of course would be not just to get writers here from overpriced Philly and New York, but to convert other artists across the board into writers, as we were doing in Philadelphia-- and thereby spark a full-scale internationally known literary movement.

Does Detroit want this? Let me know.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Why Detroit. . .


In downtown Detroit, a working class city with a collapsed educational system, at Borders bookstore in the Compuware building has stood for a week near the entrance a large display called "The Clique," for stacks of New York-produced books which celebrate not the values of Detroit, but of caste-based Manhattan, a city of extreme wealth, snobbery, and unprecedented inequality.