It’s New to Me: A night out at Detroit’s Fox Theatre

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I need to get out more often. And by that, I don’t mean dinner at the Outback and a movie at the local suburban multiplex.

I am going to put this blog post into a new I-know-you’ve-lived-here-all-your-life-but-ya’ll-it’s-all-new-to-me category. Because, I know all of you Detroiters know all about the Fox Theatre like I know about Radio City Music Hall (but hey, real New Yorkers  know a trip to Radio City is just for TOURISTS).

But for me – the New Yawker newbie, a babe in the urban D woods –  I am loving discovering my new city.

Last night, I had my first nighttime visit into Downtown Detroit. We were invited out by the same very interesting new friends (the ones who press their own apple cider) to a benefit to support the Jewish Association for Residential Care.  The featured act: The Rascals.

You know, the Rascals:

My husband and I still don’t know how to get around downtown. ( I really don’t understand how to traverse a metropolis  without a subway system.) They offered to drive. We happily accepted the ride.

Driving down highway 10 at night to downtown Detroit, you really get an understanding of just how blighted some sections have become. As you leave suburbia for downtown, the highway submerges, and what’s left of neighborhoods peek out from concrete walls that rise to the right and the left. Every now and again you get a glimpse of houses. Completely dark. What’s left of houses. What’s left of churches. And stores. And housing projects. Empty shells. Dark and lonely.

And then, reaching downtown, the lights, and life, emerges again.  If just for a dozen or so square blocks that house the city’s businesses, theaters Detroit nightlife post baseball season is still trying to go on.

Though Comerica Park now stands quiet, it is lit up. Giant stone tigers roar into a post-season sky and roar into a mostly vacant parking lot. I make nice to them and promise I will come cheer for the Tigers (because they don’t play against the NY Mets) come the spring.

credit: DetroitDerek Photography

Across the street stands the glorious  Fox Theatre:

20131114_190536Built in the grand style of the 1920′s, when auto manufacturing was in high swing, it has a 3,600 square foot lobby and a grand auditorium that seats 5,000. And every square inch drips with restored opulence snatched from the mouths of the Blight and Decay demons that caused many of Detroit’s architectural treasures to crumble or lay in waste.

Though I wasn’t that excited to see this 60′s band, it was the venue itself – plus a fundraiser supporting independent lifestyles for adults with disabilities –  that made me plunk down the cash for the tickets.

“I bet you have been craving for a night like this in the city,” my friend said as we crossed Woodward – a main thoroughfare in Detroit that is far wider than any avenue in Manhattan.  Outside the theatre, a small crowd gathered and a ragged group of street musicians played and asked for change.

Oh yeah, I miss going out into a city for some nightlife. I miss packed sidewalks and even further packed subway cars.  Even little Rochester had some hopping areas, some beautiful theaters, jazz spots and restaurants for entertainment.

I stepped inside the lobby.  I knew I had to make my way to will call to get our tickets. I knew I should have been more friendly and engaged in conversation  with new friends in the community who made their way over to say hi. But they had already been in the Fox theatre. They had lived here most of their lives. This was all new to me.  And I was having trouble keeping my jaw from hanging to the floor:

The grandeur of the Fox Theater lobby made me happy and sad all at once. Happy that this gem has been restored and saved from blight and stands as a reminder of what Detroit could be again. Sad to think of all the other architectural treasures of the city – other theatres, the Central Train Station, hotels, schools, mansions, homes – that just lay in waste, I thought of the Heidelberg Art project that arsonists just burned to the ground. Again. Before I got to set eyes on it.

We spent the night listening to the Rascals play with new friends and some JARC residents, who quickly befriended us and were happy to sing and dance the evening away, even though I thought the Rascals depended very much upon their multimedia show than pandering to the crowd:

After the show, the city was dark. No bars open. No restaurants to spend our money in. Just a few lingering panhandlers and straggling musicians. So, back to suburbia we went for a late night bite to eat.

We really wanted to spend more money downtown. But there was nowhere open to spend it.

This is not the city that Never Sleeps. Not even by a long shot.

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About stacylynngittleman

I have been a public relations professional and reporter -- and always thought I would live in the New York Metro area - before my husband took a job in Rochester, New York. Most in Metro New York can't find Rochester on a map,and neither could I before we moved. I am now a columnist and a freelance writer for Rochester's only daily newspaper, the Democrat & Chronicle. I also am passionate about gardening, fitness and most of all, Jewish education and Israel Advocacy. Here's my perspective on Western New York living - the good, the bad, and the snowy.

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