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I was standing outside the press
box elevator at Iowa's Kinnick
Stadium last year, waiting for the
woman to give me my press pass.
"Who are you with again?" she
asked, fishing through the box of
"The Michigan Daily," I said.
A voice called out from behind me.
"Don't give it to him!" yelled Bo
Schembechler, laughing. Then he
looked at me. "You from the Daily?"
"You look sharp," he said, and then
got on the elevator.
- I bring this story up because it has
no relevance to anything, yet every
time I tell someone, they are im-
pressed, as though having met Bo
Schembechler for 30 seconds makes
me infinitely cooler.
We are always like that with
famous people. Any encounter with a
celebrity is seen as something of a
revelation. It doesn't matter who it is
- Eddie Vedder, Willie Mays, Jim
"Wow!" we think. "We live on the
And then we go tell our friends, as
if to say, "Hey, Jim Belushi and I live
on the same planet. You jealous?"
And then the friend will search
desperately -for someone they
randomly met for 30 seconds who is
cooler than Jim Belushi (which, quite
frankly, is not that hard.)
People tend to remember every-
thing about celebrities when they see
them. Their clothes are important. If
you tell your friends what clothes the
famous person was wearing when you
saw them;-it gives you credibility.
You can find out a lot about a
person by whom they think it's cool
to meet. For example, if you tell them
you saw Paul Simon in the grocery
store once, and they say "No way!
You met a real senator?" then you
know it is time to find some new
It happens on campus, too. If you
run into anybody on campus who is
well-known at the University, it is
your obligation to tell people.
This results in inane conversations
"I saw Biakabutuka today."
"Near the MLB. I see him there
every Thursday, after 'History of the
"Man, I'm switching into that
- The coolness of the encounter
depends upon the person. For
example, seeing David Letterman is
cooler than seeing Jay Leno. And if
you actually talk to the person, it's
cooler still. I saw Jerry Seinfeld on
the street in New York City once, and
I said, "I just want you to know, I
think you're hilarious."
"Thank you," he said, with as much
sincerity as he could fake.
It also depends on your relationship
with the famous person. Seeing
Letterman once is not as cool as being
Leno's third cousin, which is not as
cool as being the nephew of Paul
Shaffer, who, incidentally, I saw five
years ago at some museum in Paris.
He was wearing a weird multicolored
These are just a few of the ways we
prioritize celebrities. Some people
say there should be an official scale
of who is cool and who is not, so we
know how to measure our encounters
with famous people. In fact, Congress
is currently considering a bill which
will provide us with such a scale.
(Unfortunately, Barbra Streisand is
second-coolest on their scale, just
behind Anna Nicole Smith. Perhaps
some things are best left to the state
This must make it pretty difficult
for celebrities. Everything they do in
public is going to be remembered by
someone, even though it may mean
nothing at all to them. I mean, let's
face it: Jerry Seinfeld doesn't go to
dinner parties and say, "You know, I
saw Michael Rosenberg on Fifth
Ti-7L TRAIrlN'(0i- 'I ie
By A. Gnatt
Daily Music Editor
uring the '50s and '60s, Detroit
was an amazing city. With a boom
ing auto industry, powerful labor
unions and a healthy economy, it was a model
for the entire country.
Aside from building the country's cars,
Detroit was also influencing the country's
music. The city's rhythm and blues scene
flourished throughoutthe'60s, making amark
for "the motor city" in arts as well as in
In January of 1959, an ambitious Detroit
music enthusiast and professional boxer
named Barry Gordy Jr. borrowed $800 from
his family to begin what would eventually
become one of the most successful hit facto-
ries in American musical history - Motown
Gordy purchased a house at 2648 W. Grand
Blvd. in Detroit with the $800, and hung a
white sign out front with "Hitsville U.S.A."
painted in blue cursive lettering. With dreams
of producing some of Rhythm & Blues' big-
gest stars, Gordy had no idea of the gold mine
he had just begun to chisel away at.
While living with his family on the upstairs
floor of the West Grand Boulevard house,
Gordy set up a recording studio on the main
level. In 1959, Marv Johnson recorded and
released the label's first single, "Come to
Me," on Tamla Records, an early incarnation
From the time of the company's first re-
lease until Motown moved from Michigan to
Los Angeles in 1972, "Hitsville U.S.A." was
home to a hotbed of young local talent.
In 1960, Gordy named the company
"Motown"by condensing "motor" and "town"
because he wanted the studio to reflect De-
troit and its popular Motor City image. Over
the next 12 years, Detroit and Motown would
change the face of music across the world.
The music careers of Smokey Robinson
and the Miracles, The Supremes, Marvin
Gaye, Martha.and the Vandellas, Four Tops,
Temptations, Al Green, The Jackson Five,
Little Stevie Wonder, and many, many more
all began in the little house on Detroit's West
The success of Motown was phenomenal.
The label's gospel soul began as an outlet for
young black talent in the Detroit area, and
ended up with songs and a sound that was the
craze of the '60s, crossing economic, racial
and continental boundaries. Early classics
like the Marvelettes' "Please Mr. Postman"
and the Miracles'""Shop Around" were in-
stant hits for both black and white radio.
Motown threw open the doors for mass ap-
peal of R&B, as Hitsville U.S.A. began to
crank out its classic recordings and tap into
Detroit's local talents.
"I don't think they'll ever be another
Motown," said Martha Reeves, lead singer of
the Motown supergroup Martha and the
Vandellas in a recent interview with the Daily.
"You've got people who are making good
music, writing teams who have been success-
ful at getting hit after hit, but no one has ever
taken a lot of artists like Barry did and make
them all famous."
. "God must have planned it because no where
else in the world did it happen where you
collected all the top performers in the city and
housed them all in one place and everybody
succeeded," she said. "Sometimes you do get
one or two top artists out of that, but Motown
produced star after star, hit after hit. Every-
body was known and everybody became fa-
mous, and the music is still lasting."
Reeves, who was inducted into the Rock
and Roll Hall of Fame this year, recently
performed with the original Vandellas and
two of her sisters at a Legends of Motown
charity benefit for Detroit's Think Twice or-
ganization. All the proceeds from the concert
went to Think Twice, which rebuilds low-
income housing for families in the city. The
Temptations and the Spinners joined Reeves
on the bill at the Fox Theatre for an evening of
Motown's finest music. Martha Reeves and
the Vandellas filled the Fox with classic '60s
hits like "Heat Wave," "Nowhere to Run" and
"Dancing in the Streets."
Reeves attributes her longevity to the train-
ing all Motown artists were required to go
through during their recording careers. She
said Barry Gordy had the artists go through a
series of classes including choreography, mu-
sic theory, poise and etiquette, which taught
the stars how to present themselves to the
press and the public.
"They taught us things that would last and
enhance our career and give us longevity,"
Reeves said. "I think that's the reason we're
still around. Because we asserted ourselves to
the lessons and instructions that we were
given at the Motown University, as I like to
refer to it."
"A lot of kids get records and they're stuck
see MOTOWN p.5B