Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Third installment of the 'Hostel' horror-flick series filming in Detroit

'Hostel 3' is filming in Detroit.
The parade of movie production companies paying a visit to Detroit in recent months continued today as crews from 'Hostel 3' set up their base camp in a lot down the street from old Tiger Stadium.

Their cleverly disguised signs hanging at various points downtown steered crew members to a lot on Rosa Parks Boulevard at the I-75 service drive, once upon a time a great tailgate zone before Tigers games.

Most of the signs featured only an arrow and the word "SIX", presumably a reference to Sony's Stage 6 Films, which is producing the bloody three-quel. That's not me using Old English profanity; the 'Hostel' movies, for those unfamiliar, are apparently disgustingly gory tales of dismemberment, bloodshed, and death. Great date movies!

In the photo, that's the old Michigan Central Station in the background, where crews from 'Transformers 3' are still setting up for the third installment of that series as well. No word on where 'Hostel' is going to actually film, but it's somewhere nearby the lot on Rosa Parks, according to someone working the lot.

Monday, August 30, 2010

'Detroit 1-8-7' spends a day filming on Michigan Avenue in Corktown

As the countdown to the debut of the new ABC cop drama 'Detroit 1-8-7' continues, we spotted crews filming the new show last week on Michigan Avenue just off the Lodge freeway.

Michael Imperioli, John Michael Hill and Natalie Martinez were all on location at a car wash, just a few blocks from where the old Tiger Stadium once stood.

Among the props brought in, which caught the attention of Corktown passers-by, were a flock of Detroit cop cars and a black van that read "Wayne County Coroner" on the side. Behind the car wash, a two-story house was also being used in the scene, and a crane held a cameraman up near a second-story window.

Here's hoping '1-8-7' gets the ratings it needs to keep production in the city!

(Have you seen crews from 'Detroit 1-8-7' around town? Let us know what you've seen by posting it on the comment board.)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Welcome to Ernie Harwell Park. You might remember it as Tiger Stadium

The infield's footprint is still intact at Michigan & Trumbull.

It was almost a year ago exactly that we watched Tiger Stadium tumble to the ground, and I made the note then that I'd check in on the old place occasionally to see what the city had planned in terms of a monument to mark the location.

So I rode over to Michigan and Trumbull yesterday, and while there are no signs of an official marker, fans and residents have taken it upon themselves to commemorate the place. Some even went so far as to name it; what was once known as Navin Field, Briggs Stadium and Tiger Stadium now wears a sign declaring it to be Ernie Harwell Park.

A fitting name 

Beyond the fence, past the high weeds that line the perimeter of the property, the infield of what was Tiger Stadium still exists. It's no longer immaculate, but it's there, baths paths and all. People have been gathering every Sunday to maintain the grounds with some lawn-mowing and weed-whacking, just enough to make the field playable. And then they play a little sandlot ball.

When I stopped by, another guy had also visited, and he was standing at home plate with a bucket of baseballs, tossing them up and ripping them into what used to be the outfield. A couple of his bigger hits found their way into weeds more than 300 feet away. When his bucket ran empty, I helped him roam the outfield and collect the balls, and when he returned to home plate to blast them all over again, I offered to pitch him a few.

And so I took the mound at what used to be Tiger Stadium. It was a pretty good lunch hour.

Click here to see Tiger Stadium in its final days.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

WCSX brings rock downtown with Workforce Wednesdays lunch concerts

Banned From Earth plays Campus Martius
Live bands playing to lunchtime crowds at Campus Martius Park is pretty common stuff throughout the summer.

But typically jazz fills the air. Maybe some R&B. So it caught my attention when yesterday, still nearly two blocks away from the Quicken Loans Stage at Campus Martius, I heard the guitar grinding of Black Sabbath tunes cutting between the buildings downtown.

As part of WCSX's Workforce Wednesdays Concert Lunch Series, a Sabbath tribute group called Banned From Earth was working the stage. And unlike much of the summer, the Campus Martius lawn was fairly crowded, thanks in large part (I assume) to the new flock of Quicken Loans workers who recently transferred to office space in the nearby Compuware Building.

WCSX Workforce Wednesdays will bring more hard rock downtown when local band Fifth Way plays Sept. 1. The Roy Orbison tribute act The Orbitsuns (Sept. 8) and Rod Stewart tribute artist Danny D (Sept. 15) will wrap up the season.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Crews for 'LOL: Laughing Out Loud' take over American Coney Island

'LOL' films at American Coney Island
Once known as great places to get an original coney island hotdog, American Coney Island and Lafayette Coney Island are fast earning a new reputation: great places to film scenes in which people eat coney island hotdogs.

'Hung', the HBO series about a high school basketball coach in Detroit, filmed at Lafayette last year. In recent months, the Food Network seems to have made regular visits to Detroit's famous coney island restaurants. And when the 'Red Dawn' folks were in town, the cast pretty much camped out in the tip of the American Coney Island, although I don't think any filming happened inside.

Now come the cast and crew from 'LOL', the Demi Moore/Miley Cyrus film that's been shooting around the city for much of the past month. Crew tents and equipment surrounded the place on Lafayette Boulevard and on Michigan Avenue earlier today, and trailers occupied much of the area where the Lafayette Building once stood. According to signs, the 'LOL' crews will be back tomorrow for more filming.

Around the corner on Griswold Street, Alicia Silverstone, Sigourney Weaver and the gang filming 'Vamps' were still busy earlier today. New York City cabs were brought in to shoot scenes, many of which took place in the dark alley between the Ford Building and the Penobscot Building. No  word on how long 'Vamps' will be around, but 'LOL' is scheduled to wrap up filming by the end of the week, according to a guy securing the coney island set.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

St. Mary's Church in Greektown remains one of Detroit's religious wonders

St. Mary's Church in Greektown
Standing alongside newly built structures such as the Greektown Casino hotel, St. Mary's Church in Detroit's Greektown neighborhood is, even to a person who struggles to build a birdhouse, an architectural gem.

Amazing brick and tile work. Beautifully arched doorways. Incredible detail everywhere, made even more incredible when you notice the Michigan Historical Marker and read that the church was built nearly 200 years ago.

And then you peruse the church's website and discover that, despite being built in 1884, it is referred to as "The New Church". That's because the original one was built in 1835 (and still the parish is only the third oldest Catholic church in Detroit.)

All these years later, St. Mary's has become a downtown Detroit landmark. A look from St. Antoine Street is stunning enough; just wait until you get a glimpse inside. Trust me, the picture at the top of the church's homepage is worth a click.

Monday, August 23, 2010

'Transformers 3' setting up at Michigan Central Station?

The Michigan Central Station in Corktown
The old Michigan Central Station might be one of the most photographed buildings in Detroit. Thanks to director Michael Bay, it's becoming one of the most-filmed, too.

The MCS - that vacant, broken-windowed concrete monster that towers over Corktown - is rumored to be the location for scenes in 'Transformers 3', a film directed by Bay, who you may recall also used the MCS during filming of the original 'Transformers' movie in 2005 and during filming of 'The Island' in 2006. Maybe he just really likes the food at Slow's Bar B-Q.

Taping didn't appear to have started when I drove past earlier this morning, but there were a few guys hanging around outside. One politely informed me that they were "working on a project", but he couldn't elaborate when I asked him which movie was being filmed.

If nothing else, the detour on my way downtown gave me a first-ever chance to get up close with the old train station. Trust me, the decay gets more remarkable the closer you get to the barbed wire fence.

Wanna see more of the MCS? Click here to revisit a previous Times post and take a 360-degree tour of the building's lobby. It's awesome.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Finding a remnant from Detroit's 'CarTunes on Parade' collection

The 'CarTunes on Parade' exhibit that planted miniature car sculptures throughout downtown Detroit back in 2005 is, for the most part, a memory.

The sculptures, each uniquely decorated by area artists, were placed on sidewalks all along the Woodward Corridor and throughout much of downtown, all as part of a national effort to raise money for charity and local artists.

The cars were later auctioned off, but Meg came across this leftover not far from Comerica Park during a recent Tigers game trip.

We in Detroit should feel grateful, incidentally. This national fundraiser brought car sculptures to the streets of Detroit and Windsor, but similar campaigns put different types of sculptures in cities throughout the country. Chicago got cows; Cincinnati got pigs. I, for one, am glad the "cars-and-music" motif made it here.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Atwater Block Brewery expanding into Foxtown

I hadn't thought of 'Laverne & Shirley' for years. But a ride into Rivertown recently took me (for the first time, I admit) into the famed Atwater Block Brewery bottling warehouse, which now also houses a small bartop and stools that serve as the company's Rivertown brew pub.

The former brew pub next door has been closed, and the Atwater will soon introduce its new retail home in the space once occupied by Johnny Rocket's next to the Fox Theater in Foxtown. This, according to a guy who worked in warehouse during my recent visit.

He said the new place should be open sometime later this summer, which would be a great addition to folks heading down to catch a Lions game this fall. As for the warehouse and bottling plant, that's staying put in Rivertown. It's a fascinating operation to watch, if ever you get the chance. And I defy anyone (at least anyone over 35) who sees those bottles swinging around the track to keep from quietly humming "Schlemiel, schlimazel, hasenpfeffer incorporated..."

Click here for more on the Atwater.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Honoring former Detroit mayor 'Potato Patch Pingree'

A monument to Pingree in Grand Circus Park
Long before Detroit's political scene enjoyed tales of text messages and Manoogian parties, there was Mayor Hazen S. Pingree. But when you compare his time in office in the late 1800s with the current challenges that face Mayor Dave Bing, it turns out not a lot has changed in Detroit.

Pingree, a Civil War veteran and founder of the largest shoe manufacturer in the West, was elected Mayor in 1889 on a campaign platform that centered on ending corruption in city paving contracts, sewer contracts, and the school board. He also fought hard to create a municipally owned streetcar system in Detroit. 

If you think those sound like news bits of today, none is as remarkably Bing-esque as Pingree's 'potato patch plan' during the Depression of 1893. Pingree, seeing some 25,000 Detroit men unemployed and large chunks of land sitting vacant in preparation for a forecasted real estate boom, initiated a plan that called for the planting of vegetables throughout the city to help feed Detroit's hungry. The plan was heralded nationwide as a huge success, which is perhaps a good omen for Bing's 'urban farming' model.

The 'potato patch plan' helped Pingree become Governor of Michigan in 1896, helped build his 'Idol to the People' reputation, and probably went a long way toward having a statue of him created and placed on Woodward in Grand Circus Park.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

'Vamps', 'Street King 2: Motor City' filming in downtown Detroit

'Vamp' crews set up in front of the Parker-Webb Building on Grand River.
Grand River Avenue in downtown Detroit was buzzing this afternoon as film crews working on two different projects were setting up across the street from one another.

Alicia Silverstone and the 'Vamps' crew were filming in the Parker-Webb Building on Grand River near Bagley. About 100 feet away, Ray Liotta and company were using the Times Square Station of the Detroit People Mover to film scenes for the sequel to 'Street King'. Liotta, who takes the lead from original 'Street Kings' star Keanu Reaves, plays a Detroit cop in the new movie, 'Street Kings 2: Motor City'.

If you hope to catch some of the filming, you best hurry. No word on how long the 'Vamps' gang will be in town, but pedestrian signs announced that the Times Square Station - which is closed all day Tuesday - will reopen on Wednesday, Aug. 11.

New rib joint/pub called Rub opens in Grand Circus Park

By its name, you might suspect a place called Rub would be operating somewhere else. Maybe up on Eight Mile.

Turns out, though, that Rub is actually the newest entry on downtown Detroit's restaurant/bar menu, a BBQ rib joint located just down the street from Comerica Park, across Adams from Grand Circus Park. The name, I suspect, is a reference to their method of preparing ribs. According to the menu, "Ribs are rubbed with our secret blend of spices." 

It's a great place, and despite the terrible timing - Rub opened in early July, right about the time the Tigers stopped winning - they've been doing decent business so far. That, according to the owner, who personally asked how I enjoyed my lunch (I went with The Kid Rock, an excellent burger). Other celebs-turned-sandwiches at Rub include The Nugent, The Kaline, Jack White, The Verlander and The Harwell.

There's also The Belle Isle and The Ren Cen, all of which are Rub's way of paying homage to the locals. In case you're wondering, I looked: there's no The Eight Mile.  

Monday, August 9, 2010

'Vamps' to start filming in Detroit's Times Square

See the young woman in the red shirt sitting in a chair on the sidewalk outside the Parker-Webb Building?

She's wearing what has quickly become one of the most commonly seen garments in downtown Detroit these days (aside from anything with the Olde English D on it, of course.)

The red golf shirt is the official uniform of RSIG Security, the firm that nearly every movie production company has hired to keep the crowds away while they make their movies in Detroit. In fact, it's typically an RSIG employee who tells me to stop taking pictures on a movie set, at which point I walk 20 feet and take more.

After I spotted her, I deduced in very sleuth-like fashion that another film was getting underway in Detroit, this time in the Parker-Webb, which by the way is a beautifully restored old building in an otherwise forgotten part of downtown occasionally referred to as Times Square. (It's on Grand River near Bagley, just across from Nick's Gaslight, if that helps.)

According to Red Shirt, crews are currently inside the building setting up for a movie called 'Vamps', starring Alicia Silverstone, Sigourney Weaver and others. Reportedly, the movie tells the story of two young vampire girls who live in New York. Filming could begin as early as tomorrow.

Friday, August 6, 2010

'LOL: Laughing Out Loud' begins filming in Detroit

The Garden Court Condos: 65 rooms with a view.
The latest movie production crew to set up shop in Detroit is here to film 'LOL: Laughing Out Loud', a film starring Demi Moore and Miley Cyrus. I'm not so much interested  in the movie (by the way, it's a remake of a French film that was made a few years ago), but I did find a pretty cool little note about the building in which the movie is being filmed.

The Garden Court Condominiums building is a newly renovated, nine-story building on Detroit's eastside, at E. Jefferson and Joseph Compeau, just down the block from Atwater Block Brewery. In recent years, it served as the fictional home of Detroit D.J. Martin on the TV show 'Martin'.

Like seemingly every building in the city, Garden Court was designed by Albert Kahn back in the early 1900s. Legend tells that Kahn designed the building for J. Harrington Walker, son of whiskey magnate Hiram Walker. According to the tale, Garden Court was built to offer J. Harrington a place from which he could see out over the Detroit River to his deceased father's distilleries in Canada during Prohibition.

I've no idea what 'LOL' is about, although I'm sure it'll involve a lot of text messaging. But if you ask me, a Prohibition-era film about a whiskey industrialist who builds a tower on an international boundary to keep on eye on booze runners sounds like a better plot base.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Knuckle-touching the Joe Louis fist sculpture

The Joe Louis fist is even cooler up close.
In becoming one of the most famous images of Detroit, the 'Fist of a Champion' sculpture was controversial from the minute it was set in place at Woodward and Jefferson in 1987.

The 24-foot long, 8-ton fist, a tribute to boxer Joe Louis (whose family lived in Detroit), was interpreted by some as a symbol of black power. Otherwise, why no boxing glove?

Maybe they're right (at least in part) because our crack research team did dig up this little tidbit about the fist. Because of Joe Louis' well-documented efforts to fight Jim Crow Laws, the fist symbolically points to the South. If that's true, it's kind of a cool touch.

Thankfully, two decades have passed and there doesn't seem to be any lingering controversy surrounding the fist. We're glad for that, because no matter what, a Joe Louis tribute in Detroit is deserving, and the future of the city's other tribute to him (that arena down the street) isn't looking too bright.

Monday, August 2, 2010

On the set of 'A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas'

It was obvious Hollywood was in town earlier today because there was a subway station in downtown Detroit. Ah, the magic of the movies!

For filming of 'A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas', crews have a block of Congress Street all gussied up in its Manhattan-at-Christmas-time best. Street signs that once said "Griswold" now read "Wall St." The Jimmy John's restaurant at Griswold and Congress transformed into Bull & Bear Market. And crowds of on-lookers - a couple of whom might even keep a silly blog - watched as scenes were prepared for and rehearsed. 

We even caught John Cho step out of the Buhl Building, perform a 15-second scene, and then disappear again for another take. 

Word has it the 'Harold and Kumar' people will be back tomorrow for another round of filming, before packing their stuff for another locale. So far they've shot scenes at an old Budweiser warehouse on Detroit's eastside, Eastern Market, and numerous locations in Oakland County.

Around the corner from the 'Harold and Kumar' downtown set, it looks as if 'Real Steel' is wrapped up filming at the old fire house on Washington across from Cobo Hall.