Cancel my subscription.

The Grosse Pointe News was sold last year, its longtime family ownership getting out while the lifeboats were still above the waterline. It wasn’t a very good paper when they owned it. It’s safe to say they set a pretty low bar. Our friend JohnC stopped subscribing when he couldn’t figure out what was happening at a big economic redevelopment project three blocks away from his house — they just couldn’t seem to explain it in a way he could understand. This was par for the course.

They also had lots of eccentric touches. There was a column on the editorial page, called Offering From the Loft. It was written in the first person. But there was no byline. Ever. It was the mystery column.

Needless to say, they honored the traditions of small-town journalism, the three Bs — boosterism, b.s. and bad writing. They sent one of their best guys to write about the Annie Leibovitz photography show at the Detroit Institute of Arts. This was his lead:

Sho’ as grits ain’t groceries theys doins t’night at Po’ Monkey’s Lounge.

Huh? Eight paragraphs of apostrophes later, here’s the nut:

Po’ Monkey’s place is among 70 of Leibovitz’s photographs gathered as “Annie Leibovitz: American Music” at the Detroit Institute of Arts through Jan. 7.

I’m being a little unfair. In the triple-A minors, they really don’t have the editors to rein in the writers who want to do stuff like this. But it isn’t too much to expect an editor who knows what the main issues are in a cluster of five municipalities encompassing 50,000 souls. I don’t expect a multi-part series on racism, but I do want them to stand up to the police departments once in a while. In return for their cooperation in sharing public documents, the police require that no names be attached to their reports. This isn’t entirely unjustified — there are many times when it would only cause more trouble for the involved parties, and there needs to be some sort of policy — but in the pages of this paper, it gets ridiculous. Last week’s police briefs contained a reference to police being called to “a high school on Vernier Road.” There is only one high school on Vernier Road. Like that.

After the paper was sold to a local businessman, I hoped a little fresh blood might enliven it a bit. Not a chance. It’s even worse. The Offering From the Loft might have been a puzzle, but at least it was written by (I think) a soul residing somewhere in this zip code. Now the editorial pages are full of syndicated material and canned op-eds from the Mackinac Institute for Public Policy, a conservative propaganda outfit. Local news coverage is weaker than ever; the police briefs are frequently the only real “news” in the paper, and yes, they’re still not identifying public buildings.

This was the lead on yesterday’s guest editorial, headlined “Broadcasting Rights Applied.” It’s by James H. Quello, a former FCC commissioner:

The recent Federal Communications Commission Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on localism released with the report and order regarding revised Form 355 — mandating more detailed programming and ascertainment than ever required before — represents a grossly untimely and blatant government mandated violations of the First Amendment.

Huh. It goes on:

The excessive burdensome additional governmental FCC requirements are counter to the urgent need to update regulatory and ownership rules of the past.

I read the whole thing twice. I have no idea what he’s talking about, or why I should care.

But there was still room for more suckitude, and it came in a King Features syndicated column from National Review editor Rich Lowry, who in 500 words or so tells us what Detroit’s problems are. In the interest of brevity, I’ll boil it down to one. Ready? “Liberalism.”

OK. The decline and fall of Detroit is a big, big story, an epic, encompassing so many titanic themes Cecil B. DeMille couldn’t get his arms around them. Economics, race, class, hubris, fear, greed — I could go on. It has defeated greater storytellers than Rich Lowry, but few have dismissed it with such a casual wave of the hand. I’m all for vigorous commentary on Detroit’s problems, especially by one of its closest neighbors. But is it too much to ask that it not be by a syndicated scold who, I’d be willing to bet, has never even set foot here? (It wouldn’t be a big bet; Detroit does a fair amount of convention business, and there’s a good chance Lowry overnighted at the RenCen at some point in the past. But the guy grew up in D.C., went to college in Virginia and lives in New York. So much for boots on the ground.)

But wait! Here’s a local column about Detroit’s problems. The writer objects to the mayor’s friends collecting money for his legal defense. She tries that “humor” thing all the blogs are about:

People who know me well, know I am a good cook and I enjoy it, so I deserve that $150,000 kitchen. I’m creating a “Karen’s Kitchen Kache Fund.” Anyone who wants to donate can.

It goes on from there. It doesn’t get better.

It’s unfortunate that this week’s issue arrived with the annual subscription-renewal mailing. It’s not expensive. I hate to cancel any newspaper subscription; they’re all struggling. But at some point, you have to make a statement about what you’re willing to pay for, and I’m drawing the line. I might reconsider if an editor can explain to me, in two concise sentences, what that FCC editorial was about and why they ran it. Otherwise, we’re letting it lapse here.

ADDED: No writer tackling Detroit should have to make weak jokes when reality is so much funnier. Note the photo. Note the caption. Note the goddamn TIARA.

OK. While we’re on the subject, a little more media bloggage:

I didn’t flip Wednesday night’s debate on until more than halfway through, so I missed the fun part. Thank God for Jon Stewart, because if he hadn’t had video I never would have believed it:

I mean, not even. I am ashamed for Charles Gibson. George Stephanopoulos isn’t really a journalist, but Gibson has no excuse. (And he’s a Michigan fellow! Argh.)

OK, time’s a-wasting. It’s a gorgeous day, and I’d like to enjoy it, even though it’s now Leaf Blower Season. My neighbors two doors down employ a lawn service that does every task with extra-loud leaf blowers. Seriously. They’ve been down there for a solid hour, drowning out the birds. Think I’ll ride by and glare at them.

Have a great weekend, all.

Posted at 10:14 am in Media |

37 responses to “Cancel my subscription.”

  1. Crabby said on April 18, 2008 at 10:34 am

    FL Senate panel says nuts to ‘truck nutz’ proposal

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  2. alex said on April 18, 2008 at 10:46 am

    So you can display fake balls on Florida highways, but not fake breasts on Florida beaches. Go figure.

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  3. John c said on April 18, 2008 at 11:05 am

    Actually, the GP News has descended from merely bad to shameless. Front page stories routinely shill for pet issues of the publisher. Recently a Page oner ridiculed local bureaucrats for fighting with the vaunted Country Club of Detroit in a tax assessment dispute, the obvious and unabashed argument – and this was a “news” story – being that it’s a waste of our precious tax money to be spending so much on legal fees. Hmmm. I wonder what country club the publisher belongs to? Never mind that the obvious message is this: Large taxpayers who have deep pockets and expensive lawyers should not be argued with. If they say they should pay less taxes, just let them pay less taxes. Fight the little guys, who don’t have lawyers. I canceled my paper long ago. I’m approaching the angry letter phase.

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  4. Jolene said on April 18, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Matt Yglesias had a quick, sharp observation on Tuesday night’s debate, which was, indeed, truly awful. Here’s most of what he said:

    There’s been something a bit odd about scanning the news all day and seeing all these accounts of media people lecturing the audience that, contrary to the opinions of the people who watched the debate last night, that the performance of the debate moderators was, in fact, very good. If voters don’t think the debate focused on important, interesting topics, then too bad for them! If voters don’t think the debate was informative, then too bad for them! The press, once again, gives itself a standing ovation and that’s what matters.


    There was, indeed, a lot of wagon-circling, but the ever incisive Tom Shales, WaPo TV critic, had this (and lots more) to say on the terribleness of the moderators’ performance:

    When Barack Obama met Hillary Clinton for another televised Democratic candidates’ debate last night, it was more than a step forward in the 2008 presidential election. It was another step downward for network news — in particular ABC News, which hosted the debate from Philadelphia and whose usually dependable anchors, Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, turned in shoddy, despicable performances.

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  5. nancy said on April 18, 2008 at 11:17 am

    John, I forgot about the tax-assessment story. I tend to notice things like the way the owner’s entry in local parades always gets a big picture. BTW, a little Googling suggests Mr. Quello, the former FCC commish, is now 93 years old. And, most likely, an old pal of the owner.

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  6. Kirk said on April 18, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Any chance that Eugene Rosenstock-Hussey wrote that editorial the first time around?

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  7. Harl Delos said on April 18, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    I might reconsider if an editor can explain to me, in two concise sentences, what that FCC editorial was about and why they ran it.

    I googled, to find out what it was about.

    If they can explain it in two sentences, it’ll be like something like this:

    1. We think that radio stations own the public airwaves, so if someone wants to know how we’re using those airwaves, they can compile their own damned statistics, which can be disputed if they’re used to try to keep the station from renewing their license.

    2. We compete with broadcasters for advertising, and a burdensome requirement for them would otherwise be great for us, so either the boss (or a friend of his) owns a broadcasting station or expect to buy one in the near future.

    And even that doesn’t meet your “concise” requirement.

    You know, this might be a good time to buy some small attractive stickers that say “gross point today . com” to go on merchants’ doors, and to hire someone to sell advertising to local merchants.

    And six months from now, when the new owner decides to stop the bleeding, you might be pick up the paper for a song. After all, if he doesn’t get someone to take it off his hands, he’ll have to pay out refunds to subscribers.

    I wouldn’t buy a daily newspaper these days on a bet, but a local weekly could do OK with an 8-page tab, running legal ads, carrying grocery ads as an insert. Run a religion page, maybe even a double-truck, with a guest sermon from rotating list of local ministers, and local businesses will run business-card ads to sponsor the page. And if you do good obits, people will subscribe just for those.

    BTW, 4dbirds has a great post on her blog this morning:

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  8. nancy said on April 18, 2008 at 12:02 pm


    If only.

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  9. coozledad said on April 18, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    We used to subscribe to the Warren Record here in NC, until the paper became wall to wall Republican astroturf. They had an opinion columnist who insisted that his experience as an auto mechanic? desk jockey? in the National Guard during the Vietnam War qualified him to dismiss Kerry’s war record as specious. They have an online page now, and the old fart says the Dems need to lower gas prices, because they, and only they can do it.
    I do miss the memorial poems on the obituary page. My wife and I often considered submitting some for our deceased pets, using the meter and syntax of the poems for dead humans

    For Spackle, a Good Boy (1986-2004)

    When the Father above called Spackle, my kitty
    I was at work in the bustling city
    If I’d of known I’d have been at his bedside
    when he took that “for the worse” slide…

    You get the idea. I also miss the crone who wrote wistfully about the signs of spring in the form of birds appearing at her window feeder and then going on to discuss an infestation of sparrows in the local branch of the library, which she managed, by the grace of God, to crush with an unabridged dictionary.

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  10. Kirk said on April 18, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    The newspaper where I started my career at age 13 was part of a small, cheap but honest group of six papers. Several years ago, it was purchased by Brown Publishing, which was founded by Congressman Clarence Brown, from somewhere in western Ohio. The papers have become even cheaper, and the same kind of disgrace that the Grosse Pointe paper sounds like. The congressman’s son, or nephew, or whoever is in charge now ran for Congress or the Statehouse or something important a few years ago, and the papers were under orders not to run anything at all about his opponent (unless he was arrested, of course). There’s your freedom of the press.

    My favorite feature of the Brown papers was the predictably idiotic column, which had to run in all the papers, written by the congressman’s old bag wife/widow. It was called, no shit, “The Brown Bag.”

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  11. Scout said on April 18, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    Thanks for the Jon Stewart clip – as usual, he boils the BS down to a nice manageable brick and throws it squarely through the MSM’s glass house.

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  12. Jeff said on April 18, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    ‘Scuse me, but did the lame joke “Karen’s Kitchen Kache Fund” include the initials “KKK(f)” consciously, or unconsciously?

    Dr. Freud, your witness.

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  13. Sue said on April 18, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Coozledad, you are right on the money with your poetry. It’s a shame that I laugh at the poems, because they are so sincere. They are not in our weekly, but they do appear in the local shopper, which is in many ways a better paper. What always gets me are the anniversary notes to the deceased: “you’ve been gone for five years, we miss you so much, you’re still in our hearts” etc. Does heaven get The Booster? Or hell, for that matter? Our local paper does have a few standard letter writers who are always amusing, especially the lady who writes “friends are always telling me to speak out on (fill in the blank for this week’s letter)”. Either she is making that up or her friends are having a little fun with her. We also had a letter writer who got so bad with his rants (long, rambling, maybe slanderous, etc) that the paper refused to print them, so he paid for space in the shopper, and the paper became another one of his targets.

    When we were thinking of retiring to beautiful northwestern lower MI, I did what any reasonable person would do and subscribed to a local paper for a year (Benzie County Patriot, I think). I wanted to get a feel for the area, and I wanted to know what the community supported in the way of schools, government etc. Apparently a strong Republican area and too many things seemed to get shot down or frighteningly underfunded (like law enforcement). I don’t think it’s the place for me. Still beautiful, though.

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  14. nancy said on April 18, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    Sue, Benzie County is also home of the Michigan Land Use Institute, a progressive environmental-protection group, so it’s not all bad.

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  15. nancy said on April 18, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Jeff, for casual racism in this paper — besides the endless police-beat references to “a Detroit man,” that is — you’d have to see last week’s column, where a writer told about adopting a new puppy. If it chews up my couch, she warned, “I’m sending it off to Korea.” Charming!

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  16. Jeff said on April 18, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    [spews Earl Grey Tea across monitor]

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  17. Dorothy said on April 18, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    [made Earl Grey iced tea yesterday at home]

    You know, Jeff, that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Can you STAND how gorgeous this weather is today?!

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  18. nancy said on April 18, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    This was my favorite story in this week’s edition, although it made me slap my forehead:

    Police arrested a 40-year-old Detroit man after confronting him at a restaurant on Kercheval at 9:56 p.m. Thursday, April 10.

    Police responded to the parking lot behind the restaurant after receiving reports of a strong smell of marijuana in the vicinity. The smell was traced to an unoccupied parked vehicle where police observed a marijuana cigarette in the ashtray. Police traced the vehicle to the suspect who worked at the restaurant.

    The man admitted to smoking the drug and a LEIN check revealed he was wanted on two warrants out of Wayne County.

    He was held for pick up.

    The guy probably works as a busboy or dishwasher, and liked to step outside on his breaks and take a few hits to get through the next hour. And some busybody smells it, calls the damn police, and he gets to go to jail. If I were a dishwasher, I’d want — yea, need — to be high for my whole shift, too.

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  19. nancy said on April 18, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    Oh, and Kirk — Alan worked for the Brown publishing empire for a time, in Urbana. We talk about it whenever we see Clancy in a movie. I think he’s on the board, so it wasn’t hard to Alan to buy his performance as The Personification of All the Evil in the World in “Carnivale.”

    Or, needless to say, as the tightfisted Mr. Krabs on SpongeBob SquarePants.

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  20. moe99 said on April 18, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    Loved this Jon Stewart video from earlier in the week:

    And OT: Looks like the OH AG is in a bit of hot water:

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  21. John c said on April 18, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Sue: As someone who spends a great deal of time in Benzie County every summer, I can tell you that the newspaper sucks.

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  22. Sue said on April 18, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    John C: does that mean I should reconsider moving there? Because I really do love the area. The paper seemed to have the usual stories about budget cuts and letters to the editor about high taxes, but I remember being pretty shocked at a story regarding a sheriff’s department being shut down because of lack of funds. Someone had made a calculation mistake in the budget, and there wasn’t enough money. They had to take it to the voters for more money, and the voters said no even though it appeared that everyone was aware of what the consequences of a no vote would be. I’m not sure if I’m remembering this correctly, but I believe that was the gist of it.

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  23. Kirk said on April 18, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    moe99, the comments on the Ohio AG’s problems are much funnier at Wonkette:

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  24. John c said on April 18, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    Sue … I don’t know anything about that story. But I would suggest that sort of thing could happen in just about any rural community going through hard times, which means any rural community. I can’t vouch for Benzie County as a place to live. Methinks that in the winter, when the summer folk aren’t around, pickings are pretty slim. There are a few small manufacturing outfits, and a lot of cherry and apple farms, etc. Little towns like Frankfort and Beulah are wonderful, though. And most of the year-rounders I’ve met seem like nice enough people. For what it’s worth, it’s one of the most beautiful places in the Midwest. The Charlevoix-Petosky area to the north may be better, but it’s also overrun with high-priced second McMansion types.

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  25. Sue said on April 18, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    That’s why I would take my massive pension and retire there, so I wouldn’t take anyone’s job away. I love Frankfort (yay Michigan Rag Company!) and that’s actually where I signed up for the newspaper subscription, in a little office on the main drag. I know that the locals have a tough winter and a short summer, but if I build my solarium I can pretend I’m in the tropics from October until May. Seriously, though, from what I’ve heard the area is becoming less and less affordable for people making “normal” salaries, as people from other parts of the state (I’ve heard them referred to as “yuppies from Detroit”; perhaps Nancy can enlighten us) buy up the properties and either do teardowns or put in upgrades worth hundreds of thousands. Sort of like Door County in Wisconsin, only there the yuppies are from Chicago.

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  26. Harl Delos said on April 18, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Wonkette’s version:

    Dann may have lured these two ladies over to his and Gutierrez’s condo with promises of Hawaiian pizza, and penises.

    Just shows you how dense lawyers are.

    In my experience, if a woman is interested, she’ll find a midwestern penis as satisfactory as a Hawaiian one. And if she isn’t interested, plying her with Hawaiian pizza won’t change her mind.

    Oh, that’s not what Wonkette meant? Then how come the next ‘graph starts out:

    The situation mostly involves the penis of Gutierrez, Dann’s director of general services, and how it may have been involved in terrible sex:

    and the words “terrible sex” are linked to a story that starts out “Dann’s spokesman says the probe will be thorough.” Eeeew! That’s nasty!

    Just because
    1. Lawyers tend to be pricks
    2. Lawyers have a lot of experience screwing people,

    it doesn’t necessarily follow that they’re good in bed. Or in the back seat, on the floor, atop the dinette, against the door, or at the top of a collapsing construction crane in NYC.

    Although I suspect some lawyer’s girlfriend in West Salem felt the earth move at 4:37 AM this morning, and decided that maybe her fella wasn’t totally unredeemable.

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  27. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 18, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    Dorothy, it’s the nicest day we’ve had in months, and a good day to spade the heck out of the garden.

    Johnc/Sue — i think Mario Batali has a house outside of Charlevoix/Petoskey, which told me a former dream of a cabin/cottage up thereabouts (never seriously thought through, i’ll grant) has vanished in a puff of McMansions. If you could find a spot between Traverse City and Pete to live without having to buy a set of granite countertops and jacuzzi soak tubs wrapped around a media room, there’d be some job within what would seem like no drive a’tall if you’re from the Big City.

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  28. Harl Delos said on April 18, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Anybody else see this?

    “America’s Hottest Governor”, Sarah Palin, the GILF of Alaska, gave birth today to her 5th kid, which she saddled with the horrible name of Trig Paxson Van Palin.

    “Trig is beautiful and already adored by us. We knew through early testing he would face special challenges…”

    Anybody know what the special challenges would be? Other than being named for a math subject hated by 90% of the population, that is? (Being strange, I actually enjoyed trigonometry.) She’s 44, and she already has one Down Syndrome kid. Does she have two, now?

    Blondie would like for us to adopt a Down Syndrome kid. They’re so sweet, she says. On the other hand, the average DS kid isn’t helpless by any means, but he’s going to need some assistance for his whole life.

    The life expectancy of a Down Syndrome baby today is about 55 years. That’s a tremendous improvement; in 1930, the life expectancy was about 9 years. But even if life expectancy doesn’t improve still more, when the kid’s 55, we’d have been dead for decades. The idea of letting a kid relying on us, and then suddenly we disappear on him, strikes me as terribly cruel. (As far as that goes, I still am at little POed at my parents for dying on me. There are times when I really need their advice….)

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  29. Deborah said on April 18, 2008 at 8:27 pm

    My sister is a “journalist” for a small (tiny) town paper in Minnesota. It is now part of a conglomerate of small (teeny tiny) town papers. She also writes an opinion column. She is a raving right winger. I read her columns on-line and it makes me crazy. I love her, she’s my family, but it is excrutiating to get through her columns. Facts mean nothing to her. She must peruse all the right wing blog nuts before she starts to write one of her columns, because they are always in-line with the echo machine. Is this how the GOP stole my country?

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  30. Connie said on April 18, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    Mario Batali lives outside of Northport in Leelanau County, the next county north of Beulah, my long time vacation stomping grounds. My dad bought a small cottage on Glen Lake there when I was a kid, and has since expanded it some. It’s value today is ridiculous, and when he dies a new assessment value will kick in. We wonder if we will be able to afford to keep it.

    I know this about Batali because he did an interview in the weekly newspaper the Leelanau Enterprise last summer. He loves Northport and the Peninsula, and was interviewed because he had donated a dinner for eight cooked and served in your home to the Leelanau Art Center’s fundraising auction..

    I love the Leelanau Enterprise, very local little weekly.

    And those up North locals work their buns off all summer hoping to make enough money while they can to make it through the winter.

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  31. Jolene said on April 18, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Harl, as you probably know, DS varies a lot in severity, as well as in whether there are other medical disorders. Given good care and education, some people with DS can be relatively independent as adults. I have a cousin w/ DS who is about 60, and he is doing OK. His mother did the best she could for him, but he didn’t have access to any of the special education available now. Besides, if you are talking about an adopted child, the question is not only whether the child will be alone when you die, but also whether the child is alone now.

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  32. coozledad said on April 18, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    This site reminds me of when I was tending bar at Val’s Upstairs in Durham, NC, and all the old hands from The Durham Morning Herald and the Herald-Sun (the evening paper) would stop in for an evening drink. The woman who ran the bar was a divinity student at Duke. The journalists helped her purchase the place from the old “Ivy Room” which had been a local fixture since WWII. My wife and her ex also bought stock in the enterprise. Tim Tyson, the author of “Blood Done Sign My Name”, worked there about the time I was looking for new job.
    I was always a crappy bartender, but people were mostly forgiving, especially since I compensated by adding non-state -sanctioned amounts of spirits to the drinks.
    You guys must have had a place like this. It’s all gone now, isn’t it?

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  33. Dexter said on April 19, 2008 at 2:47 am

    Here’sa link to a Lynn Henning story in The Detroit News about some colorful characters, not all of them sports people, who visited or hung out in the bars near Tiger Stadium.
    My favorite story is the classic about the time Dick The Bruiser fought Alex Karras at the Lindell AC, on Cass.
    Gawd, Detroit had so many great bars , so rich with stories. Coozledad, are they all gone? I doubt it. They’re out there. Just a couple decades ago I walked into The Phoenix in Cincinnati … 50 cent beers and 90 cent shots and a piss-trough started at the entrance to the bar and tilted all along the bar to a drain at the far end. I asked …”Do guys still use that ?”

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  34. Dexter said on April 19, 2008 at 2:59 am

    …and I know most of you folks know about this place, but I am posting this because of the stories I read over the many years of Ryoko’s reign as Chicago’s most famous journalist—he frequently mentioned this place as a fave watering hole of both Sun-Times and Tribune employees.
    I have been to all the places mentioned in these two posts and they were all FUN joints.

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  35. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 19, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    And . . . i’ve actually had a good cheeseburger there. (Billy Goat’s, that is.)

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  36. Ricardo said on April 19, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Newspapers are bad. Even worse are the airheads on local television “news” shows in early morning and other non-prime time slots. They, along with their cable news counterparts will just opine any crazy idea that pops into their heads, whether or not it is true or makes any sense. Sports, politics, and celebrities all get the same inane treatment.

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  37. alex said on April 20, 2008 at 8:40 am

    I love the town of Beulah, particularly the warm, shallow, beautiful lake there. No better place in the world to float around on an air raft and contemplate your navel.

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