Lost Cultural Venues of Detroit: More Photographs of the Exhibition

September 23, 2016
The first showcase, assembling outdoor events from Bob-Lo, to the Goose Lake Music Festival and back to Detroit again.

The first showcase, assembled outdoor events from Bob-Lo, to the Goose Lake Music Festival and back to Detroit again.


This is also from the first "mostly outdoors" case.  It includes matrchbooks, ticket stubs and material on the Jefferson-Chalmers "Concerts by the River" series.

This was also from the first “mostly outdoors” case. It included matchbooks, ticket stubs and material on the Jefferson-Chalmers “Concerts by the River” series.


These first five cases have been taken down.  These photos are just for the record.  Whether you saw the show or not, they’re worth a look.

These photographs were taken by Jennifer Gariepy, unless otherwise noted.  Thanks to Detroit Mercy, Lutz Bacher and Dave Toorogian for their support and contributions.

This second showcase included material on Detroit's Black Bottom neighborhood and on early jazz clubs.

This second showcase included material on Detroit’s Black Bottom neighborhood and on early jazz clubs.


This photo, also of the second showcase, included material on early Detroit jazz and blues.

This photo, also from the second showcase, included material on early Detroit jazz and blues.


The exhibit went well.  We had more people than usual coming through to see it.  It was great to have people in who remembered going to the old spots, back fifty years ago or more.


The third showcase focused on theatre and poetry.


The third showcase also included material deal with music performances and various restaurants and bars.


The smaller exhibition will continue until October 12th or so.  I’m doing a condensed/ greatest hits version in the two showcases on the far side of the first floor of the Detroit Mercy library.


The fourth case dealt primarily with alternative film series and lost movie houses. This photo is an overview of the entire case.



This was also in the fourth showcase/ The scroll on the left was a long list of 1940’s Detroit movie theatres. Various film series are represented here including Zoots and Naked Eye Cinema.



The show will continue in the digital realm both through these blog posts and through a facebook page.  In 2017 sometime, I hope to do at least two related blog posts.  First will be a rough history of the Lost Cultural Venues of Detroit.  I’ll mainly detail the years 1915 to 2015, around a hundred years.

The second post will explore various sites.  Some buildings have been torn down.  Some are being used for other things or are occupied by new businesses.  Others just sit there empty and abandoned.  Which is which?  Where are they now.


The fifth case included a variety of music venues including the Grande and the Flame Show Bar.  Photo by Maurice Greenia, Jr.



Photo by Maurice Greenia, Jr.





Lost Cultural Venues of Detroit: Photographs of the 2016 Exhibition

August 31, 2016

Around three months ago, I started organizing an exhibit called Lost Cultural Venues of Detroit: Social Spaces and Playgrounds.   Putting it together has been a lot of fun and a lot of work.

It’s gone well enough.  I think that a lot of people have seen it.  This post attempts to document the display.  It will give an idea of what it was like for those who couldn’t get by to see it in person.

At this writing, you have about three more weeks.  The full exhibit should be on display until Thursday September 15.  After that, it will be up a bit longer, yet keep getting smaller, until it’s down to just 2 cases. That “greatest hits” configuration should still be up until October 1st.

New hours: http://research.udmercy.edu/about/hours/mcn.php

I never really put out a sign-in sheet or guest book.  So if you did see it, I’d appreciate it if you’d email me at mgreemaugre@gmail.com or else just leave a comment here.

The first display case (below) featured events which took place outdoors.  These included the Michigan State Fair (at Detroit’s State Fairgrounds), the Festival of the Arts, the Fourth Street Fair, the Bob-Lo Boat, New Center’s Taste Fest and several more.

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Material connected with the “Fourth Street Fair”

The second case (below) celebrates Detroit’s early jazz scenes. There’s also material connected with Detroit’s lost Hastings Street/ Black Bottom neighborhood. The Graystone was one of the best known late, great jazz spots.  Thanks to Lutz Bacher for loaning the material on the Minor Key and the Drome Lounge.


The third case (below) features material on poetry and theatre venues. Included as an original flyer for an early performance by Lily Tomlin at the Unstabled Coffee House.  There’s also material on the Concept Theatre, the Catacombs Coffee House, the Horizons in Poetry series and much more.

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The fourth case (below) pays tribute to Detroit’s underground and repertory cinema scene.  Venues include the Tele-Arts Theatre and Zoot’s Coffee House.  Lost film series include the Cass City Cinema (held at the Unitarian Church at Cass & Forest) and the long running film program at the Main Branch Library.  It also includes a tribute to Detroit’s 1940’s movie theatres.


The fifth case (below) is a mixture of Detroit venues and events, mostly musical ones.  It includes material on the Grande, Bookies and various jazz spots.  There’s a photo of Smokey Robinson performing at Kennedy Square.

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The sixth case (below) is across the room, toward Livernois.  It’s the sole “flat case.”  A lot of the best and rarest things are here: a table drumstick from the Club El Sino, an ashtray from the Chin Tiki, material on the Detroit Artist’s Workshop, more on the Unstabled, an original ad for the Graystone ballroom and much more.

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The seventh and final case (below, two photos) also has a lot of interesting things.  It’s mostly posters, flyers and copies of old advertisements.

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A detail of the final showcase including material on the Palms-State Theatre, Bookies, the Zeitgeist, Alvin’s, the Freezer Theatre, the Poison Apple and others.  There are some copies of old ads for bars, restaurants and nightclubs in Detroit circa 1960-1961.

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Lost Cultural Venues of Detroit: Naming Names

July 29, 2016


Jazz Ballrooms and Clubs: The  Graystone Ballroom, the New Arcadia Ballroom, the Vanity Ballroom, Danceland, the Eastwood Ballroom, Club Paradise, the Club Plantation, the Brown Bomber Chicken Shack, the Blue Bird Inn, Foster’s House of Jazz, the Frolic Bar, the Club Three Sixes, the Harlem Cave, Odum’s Cave, Cafe Bohemia, the Jazz Lab, the Mirror Ballroom, the Minor Key, Club Alamo, Club Basin Street, Club El Sino, Foster’s House of Jazz, the World Stage, the New World Stage, the Rappa House, Entropy Studios, the Serengeti Ballroom, the Detroit Art Space, the Bohemian National Home and more.

Specializing in the Blues: The Koppin Theatre, the Ebony Club, the Swamp Room (in the Mark Twain Hotel), the Forest Club, the Soup Kitchen and the Music Menu.

Taxi Dancing: Hollywood Ballroom, the Moulin Rouge, the Peppermint Lounge and more.

From the Collection of Lutz Bacher.

From the Collection of Lutz Bacher.

Nightclubs: Mr. Kelly’s, the Cedars, Club 509, Joe Bathey Club, the Falcon Dining Lounge, the Club Zombie, Duke’s Supper Club, the Harem Lounge, the Twenty Grand, the Book Show Bar, the Rhinocerous Club, the Poison Apple and the Willis Show Club.

Rock n’ Roll: the Grande, the Eastown, the Michigan Theatre, Olympia Stadium, the Ford Auditorium, Cobo Hall (still there but no more concerts), the Motor City Roller Skating Rink (formerly a movie theatre), Bookie’s Club 870 aka Bookie’s, Traxx, Todd’s (with two locations?), the Neon Pit, the Gold Dollar and more.

Some Detroit spots of renown: the Flame Show Bar, Club Alamo, the Chessmate, the Strata Concert Gallery (on Michigan Avenue), Cobb’s Corner, Alvin’s, the Catacombs Coffee House, the Women’s City Club, Zoot’s Coffee House, the Cup of Socrates Coffee House, the Bittersweet Coffee House, the Art Center Music School, 404 West Willis, the Hoe Hoe Inn aka the Grinning Duck Club, Watts Club Mozambique, the Freezer Theatre, the Park Avenue Club Ballroom and more.

Theatres: The Cass Theatre, the New Cass Theatre, the Riviera Theatre, the Wilson Theatre (it later became the Music Hall), the Shubert Lafayette, the Concept Theatre Club, the Un-Stabled, the Vest Pocket Theatre, the Walk & Squawk Performance Project and many more.

Alternative Movie Programs and a few select Theatres: Cass City Cinema, the Tele-Arts Theatre, the Studio 78, the Studio North, the Studio New Center, WSU’s Wayne Cinema Guild, the Concept East II, Naked Eye Cinema and the DFC/ Detroit Filmmaker’s Coalition.  From a bit out of town Kinotek and the Windsor Theatre in Canada, the Punch and Judy in Grosse Pointe and the Royal Oak Cinema Society. There are too many great lost “regular movie theatres” to mention here. We’re down from 150 of them to just 1 or 2.


Jerry Lee Lewis played here in 1966 and 1967.

Restaurants and Bars which included  some live entertainment: Backstage, Baja’s, the Brass Rail, the Tropicana Bar, Chin Tiki, the Club 12 Show Bar, the Empire, Nance’s Bar, Trent’s Lounge, the Music Bar, Sportree’s Music Bar (two different places?), the Empire Bar, the Grand Duchess, 1/2 Pints, the Mermaid’s Cave, Chesterfield Lounge, the Aquarium Seafood Restaurant, the Drumbeat Club, the Diplomat Cocktail Lounge, the Dream Bar, the Comet Bar and more.

Other restaurants of note: Little Harry’s, Victor Lim’s, the 2-Way Inn, the Thai House, Stanley Hong’s Mannia Cafe and more.

Art Galleries which featured live performances: the Willis Gallery, Urban Park in Trapper’s Alley (in Greektown), the Detroit Focus Gallery, the Zeitgeist, the Johanson Charles gallery, 2-South, the Redd Apple Gallery and more.

Outdoor Festivals and Annual Event’s: The Festival of the Arts, the Detroit version of the Michigan State Fair, New Center’s Taste Fest, the Fourth Street Fair, Casa de Unidad’s Unity in the Community Concert Series, Jefferson-Chalmer’s Concerts by the River, the Detroit Rock & Roll Revival, the Belle Isle Kite-In and the Goose Lake International Music Festival.

Noted: the Cass Corridor Food, Co-op, the  Campus Treasure Shop, Bird Town Pet Shop, the Odd Shop and Showcase Collectibles.



I might start a separate category for spots that were destroyed as part of the 1960’s destruction of the Black Bottom neighborhood. I might start a category for coffee houses. It’s good that I can go back into this and edit it and add things.

I’m not sure that I have everything here fitted into the proper category.  Some bars might be better described as nightclubs and vice versa.  Then I’m sure that there are great spots that I’ve missed or overlooked.  Any suggestions or observations would be appreciated.




As I said, Am I forgetting anything important?  Please Let me know.  I’ll keep adding to this.

Lost Spaces and Quiet Places

June 17, 2016

Two promos for The Mermaid’s Cave, an ad and a matchbook cover.


I’m currently organizing and installing an exhibition called Lost Cultural Venues of Detroit: Social Spaces and Playgrounds.

This has me thinking, poetically, about lost spaces and quiet places.  Many of the buildings which housed them have been torn down or are sitting empty.  Others are inhabited by other businesses.

The Tele-Arts Theatre is now a nightclub.  The Michigan Theatre is now a parking garage. The church in which the Catacombs Coffee House was held sits empty and may end up being demolished.

I’m thinking about Detroit, but not just Detroit.  There are lost and missing places all over the United States and all over the world.  Ghosts and history both linger in the rubble.


I think about all the old joints.  They’d get pretty noisy and lively.  Sometimes they’d be jam-packed.

You used to be able to smoke.  Some people had comments wondering “how can the horn players play without gas masks?”

Bars specialized in beer, wine and liquor.  Coffee Houses served coffee, tea and snacks. Restaurants or Supper Clubs would offer both of these, plus meals.  You could usually get snacks or meals in the taverns too.

The music was often sublime.  Great figures in jazz, soul, blues, rock and more performed. They played and sang, spinning magic.  It was pure gold.

There would be dancing.  Sometimes they were dance clubs.  Other times “discreet dancing” would be allowed in normal bars.  With some music you had to dance.

There was sweat, a lot of sweat, especially in the Summer.  In the Winter you could find a spot and get out  of the cold.

People fell in love.  They got together and they broke up.  Some stayed together.

Lovers, friends and acquaintances rubbed shoulders or elbows and shot the bull.  Largely, everyone got along.  Yet sometimes there’d be fights or arguments.  When these got out of hand it could lead to shootings, stabbings and murders.

Some places were safer than others.  Yet some of those with the greatest music were often a little risky.  Sometimes you’d want a quiet, low-key space.  Sometimes you’d want something lively and even rowdy.

Leaving home and going out “on the town” was always an adventure. For some it was a regular thing.  Others went out less regularly or just on special occasions.

It all comes back to love.  People thrive in friendly, magical and conducive spaces.  They go to spots that they connect with.  There’s something in the air.  People love good music, poetry, cinema and theatre.  They love good company.  Great spaces breed great culture.

This relates to the idea of the cafe too.  The Paris model is hard to replicate. There was a lively cafe scene in Vienna as well.  There was a golden age of culture in New York too, in its way.  People talk, get together and connections are made.

It usually happens accidentally and often doesn’t last for long.  Yet some of us keep searching for it and hoping for it.  There a sense of a lost Utopia. You can practically taste it, but it’s just out of reach.

A vibrant and powerful cultural scene can change and uplift human lives. It can also help and revive cities and neighborhoods.

I’ve experienced several such scenes in Detroit.  I’ve lived in the magic and dwelled in autonomous zones.

They’re long gone now.  I keep trying to find something similar.  I haven’t much luck. Detroit has a lively arts and music presence.  Yet it seems to be divided into cliques.  Some of these work better than others.  Everyone has their own tastes and preferences.  The little pockets of life and energy sometimes take on a life of their own.

There are two are three spots around here which intrigue me.  They’re already good.  They have, at least, the possibility of mutating into something truly special.  Hopefully there are others as well.


From the collection of Lutz Bacher.  Early 1960’s.

Post Script:

It would be great to have a time machine.  You could go see people like John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Sun Ra, Cannonball Adderly, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Art Blakey, Horace Silver, Mary Lou Williams, Andrew Hill, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Holly, Sam Cooke, the Velvet Underground, Griot Galaxy, the MC5 and on and on.

We have to settle for audio recording of films of concerts.  Some of us have our memories.  If we could replay our memories so clearly as if we were reliving them, than it would be like a real time machine.


Thanks to Dave Toorongian for the images here from matchbooks and old ads.

Thanks to Dave Toorongian and Lutz Bacher for loaning items for this exhibit.  

Thank you to library at the University of Detroit Mercy for continuing support of this and other exhibitions.





More information is on this accompanying facebook page, more images and related material:


Books That I’ve Read Recently/ Number 3

May 31, 2016


Morning Glory: A Biography of Mary Lou Williams by Linda Dahl c1999 463 pages

Soul on Soul: The life and Music of Mary Lou Williams  by Tammy L Kernodle c2004 328 pages.

My Ears Are Bent by Joseph Mitchell c1938 320 pages  Mitchell’ early writings.

Up In the Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell  c1993 736 pages


Moondog: The Viking of 6th Avenue by Robert Scotto c2013 320pages

The Crazy Years: Paris in the Twenties by William Wiser c1983 266 pages

The Twilight Years: Paris in the 1930’s by William Wiser c2000 292 pages

The Surrealist Movement in England by Paul C. Rey c1971 331 pages

Novels in Three Lines by Felix Feneon. Translation and Introduction by Luc Sante, written 1906, translation 2007 174 pages

Paris Vagabond by Jean-Paul Clébert c1952, 1981, 2016 315 pages

The Other Paris by Luc Sante c2015 306 pages

The Factory of Facts by Luc Sante  c1998 306 pages

Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York by Luc Sante c1991  414 pages


Citizen Kane: A Filmmaker’s Journey by Harlan Lebo c2016 262 pages


Focus on Citizen Kane edited by Ronald Gottesman c1971 178 pages  This includes essays, reviews and a very good 1966 interview with Orson Welles

The Big Con by David W. Maurer c1940, 1968 315 pages

Whiz Mob by David W. Maurer c1964 216 pages

Kentucky Moonshine by David W. Maurer c1974 140 pages

The Comic Worlds of Peter Arno, William Steig, Charles Addams and Saul Steinberg by Iain Topliss c2005 325 pages

Notes to Make the Sound Come Right: Four Innovators of Jazz Poetry by T.J. Anderson III c2004 217 pages.  This focuses on favorites Jayne Cortez and Bob Kaufman (also Stephen Jonas and Nathanael Mackey).

The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor by Gabriel García Márquez c1986 106 pages

Conversations with William S. Burroughs Edited by Allen Hibbard c1999 234 pages  Interviews with Burroughs from 1961 to 1996.

It’s been nearly a year and a half since my last book round-up. I’m sure that there are plenty that I’ve missed or forgotten. These are some of the more memorable books that I’ve been reading. It’s always surrealism, movies, music, poetry, comic strips, visual art and the occasional “classic novel.”  I’ve been enjoying browsing through a slang dictionary too.

1940’s Magazine Ads, Part Two

March 28, 2016
From a Cigarette Ad, 1930's.

From a Cigarette Ad, 1930’s.

This is part two of my exploration of vintage magazine advertisements.

In this detail, above, a yellow “devil figure” pokes an arrow toward a nervous hand.  The whole point of the ad is that smoking will calm you if you’re wound up or agitated.  The beneficial effects of tobacco, liquor and perfume are often proclaimed.

crowAnimals and cartoon characters are sometimes present.  Above, we see the gloomy-looking bird hawking cheap bourbon whiskey.  Below, two cheerful cartoon birds prepare to start a drinking party with a bottle of Schenley’s “Light-bodied whiskies.”  The ad includes the copy: SCHENLEY “SWALLOWS” SING: “A Highball Tastes up to the Minute; When You Put Better Spirits In It.”

schenleytoThen there’s this beer ad, featuring a cat.  Back in the 1940’s, people didn’t seem too concerned that ads featuring cartoons could sell adult products to children.

Purity, Body and Flavor.

Purity, Body and Flavor.

It’s interesting to compare the style and approach of these old ads with the ads of today.  Magazines aren’t the important force that they were 60 or 70 years ago.  Television and computers have changed things a lot.  In the 1930’s and 1940’s radio, the movies and the printed publications held wide interest and influence.  There were less distractions and (some would say) better distractions.

From an ad for Le Jon Brandy.

From an ad for Le Jon Brandy.

Some of the art in these ads is interesting.  The painting style in these last two examples ended up being parodied in MAD magazine by Bill Elder.

From a Whiskey Ad.

From a Whiskey Ad.

I prefer a lot of the old ads to the ones of today.  Partly, they’re just a reflection of their times.  Yet what seemed innocent or normal then, can seem to be a bit odd or twisted today.


1940’s Magazine Ads, Part One

February 29, 2016
From a "Sky Chief Luggage Ad.

From a “Sky Chief Luggage Ad.

I’ve been doing a study of magazine advertising from 1938 to 1946 or so.   Most of these are from the New Yorker.  I’ve also looked at LIFE, Saturday Evening Post and others.  Some of the details are really interesting.  I’ve been posting some scans on my facebook page.  I’ll share some here as well.  This is the first of two parts.  I may revisit this topic again in the future as well.  Ads of the 1950’s?


Some of the products and places being sold are no longer with us.  Do they still make  Allen’s toffee?

There was an ad for tourism in Cuba, back before the revolution. Then there’s this ad, making money out of misery:


It’s definitely strange and seems to be in poor taste, at the least. Then there’s this one.  A late World War Two airline ad seems to espouse a sense of a “One World” utopia:

Late 1944.

Late 1944.

There was a strange series of Elsie the Cow cheese ads.  Some ads were drawn by well-known cartoonists such as William Steig and Virgil Partch aka VIP.  Here’s a trio of aristocratic tomatoes:


I like the unusual design elements in many of these advertisements. By comparison, many of today’s print ads seem to be ugly or out-of-date even when they’re new.  Is the future here yet?


From a Sylvania Electronics Ad, circa mid 1940’s.

Watch the Skies, Part One

January 31, 2016

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I’ve been taking a lot of photos when I’m looking up.  The patterns of light, clouds and sky fascinate me.  Only a few seem to make an interesting photograph.   Yet I’m keep trying.  I keep looking and keep shooting.

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When walking,  I often watch the ground.  That way, I don’t trip or stumble.  Sometimes I find things too: debris, money and so on.  Yet the skies!  The air is wild.

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The first three here are from 2014.  The final image is from 2013.  All were shot in Detroit.

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Searching for Shadows

December 31, 2015


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New York City

I search for shapes in the shadows.

I love to see the silhouette of a tree projected onto the side of a building.

My own shadow is usually a friendly presence.

Photography is a method for capturing shadows, among other things.


Detroit, 2013.


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New York City.

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Detroit, 2014.



The World, As Reflected in Puddles

November 30, 2015

fo PICT0071In my photography, I’m always on the lookout for images reflected in puddles.  The still, standing water serves as a mirror which faces up. These are like small lakes.

This neighborhood parking lot was treacherous to drive through or to walk through.  They’ve since filled some of the holes with dirt and gravel.  It’s better now but still pretty bad.  Erosion does its work.

I’ve done a series of these puddle photos.  It’s hard to find any that are worth shooting but I keep looking for them.

These were all taken in Detroit in 2015.

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This one was in the rain under streetlight. It was raining, and the lights in the water looked like strange eyes.