Best Comedy Club Mark Ridley's Comedy Castle
America's got talent. Detroit is in America. Ergo, Detroit has talent – and a great deal of the city's talent is directed straight at the funny bone. That's a syllogism (a pretty good one too!) and it's also the formula Mark Ridley follows every week. For years, this Royal Oak palace of mirth has gifted customers with an incredible roster of national and local names – Tim Allen, Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Ted Alexandro, Kevin Lepine, Dennis Miller, Dave Attell, Coleen Parsons-Novak, Jon Stewart, Jeff Caldwell, Justin McKinney, Heywood Banks and yes, you get the idea. Something else worth mentioning: If providing laughter is a charitable remedy for any and all hard times in this vicinity, then Ridley has our vote for Humanitarian of the Year too.
BEST BURLESQUE - Dizzy Dames
Lushes! Sadie! Polly! You and all the other sizzling sisters who make up Detroit's favorite lineup of gorgeous gyration! How can we possibly find the right words to salute your devotion and your consummate skills? Well, this is a pretty good start. Here's the good word, babes. Once again our readers are sending you a well-earned backstage bouquet of love for everything you do and continue to do everywhere in our city. Kisses from Gypsy, Val and Lottie as well!
BEST COMMUNITY THEATRE - Stagecrafters
Comedy, drama, music, dance – the Baldwin Theatre in the RO has seen it all during the last decade, and all of it was provided by Stagecrafters. An ensemble dedicated to the best traditions of show business and to the time-honored standards of professionalism, it's also been an invaluable asset to young performers honing the skills of their chosen profession. So keep those programs when you go. Odds are more than a few of the names on them will be heard from again.
BEST DANCE COMPANY - Eisenhower
Eisenhower's hard work and focus results in admirably being singled out here and abroad for its magnificent productions and its innovative approach to choreography. If she has the time, Laurie Eisenhower will gladly illuminate you. Since 1991, she and her colleagues have given metro Detroit wave after wave of fiery movement – an achievement all the more remarkable when one realizes that over 50 similar troupes have folded in cities across the nation during this same period of time. Thanks for looking out for us, Terpsichore!
BEST MOVIE THEATRE - Uptown Palladium
During the Great Depression, the only place the average Joe or Jill could feel somewhat akin to royalty was at the movie house. Yesterday's Bijou is a trifle bigger now and you usually get more than one screen, but the people at Uptown still think you're worthy of a little extra pampering. The seats are plush, the concession stand rocks, the elevator ascent is a pleasant interlude of ease, and the movies ALWAYS start on time.
BEST MUSEUM - The Detroit Institute of Arts
The average Detroiter would sooner see the Manoogian turned into a bed and breakfast than witness a single painting or sculpture leave the DIA. The municipal muse temple that has stayed true to its mission – to cultivate an appreciation for works of beauty and to bring shared distinction to every person in our city – for decades. We love the fact that every one of your ballots mentioned a particular work – the Rivera Court, the Van Gogh portraits, the Native American artifacts and more. In fact, one fan letter summed up the whole matter with this observation: "I have ten ready answers whenever anyone asks me why I'm crazy enough to live here. Nine of them mention the Institute of Arts. Makes the tenth answer almost redundant, don't you think?"
BEST FILM SERIES - The Detroit Film Theatre
Guided by Elliot Wilhelm and an incredible staff of DIA associates, the DFT has become Detroit's most acclaimed cinemateque – a place where foreign and domestic movies that are seldom (if ever) shown elsewhere may be accorded a dignified forum in which to be screened and discussed. That dignified forum, we hasten to add, is never pretentious or snobbish. A rediscovered Godard work is shown the same day as a W.C. Fields classic, and film noir manages to retain its menacing angst even after a two-hour round of European animation. Celluloid is a universal language and a thoroughly democratic one.
BEST ART EXHIBIT - Rembrandt & The Face of Jesus
They're already calling it "the miraculous draught of visitors" down at the DIA; the seemingly endless tide that swept into the museum between November and February for Rembrandt & The Face of Jesus. The numbers certainly are impressive! Over 110,000 tickets sold and a veritable library of books and videos purchased by the throng. But success is rated differently by the people who run our museum. What most impressed them was the astonishing mix of people who showed up. Believers strolled amicably alongside atheists. The very old were unperturbed by the very young – and vice versa. Native Detroiters who had never been to the DIA before chatted quietly with Grosse Pointe matrons who practically founded the Founders Society decades ago.
BEST LOCAL ART FILM THEATRE - Main Art Theatre
The Maple in Birmingham is scheduled to be closed, but The Main in Royal Oak will remain open. In our opinion, that's more than ample cause for rejoicing. The folks at The Main judiciously select the best in foreign and indie productions, allow their premises to be used for events like the Mitten Movie Project, and display great art in the lobby!
BEST PLACE TO BUY ART - 323East
For four consecutive years, 323East has enjoyed an accolade of recognition from RDW, starting with Best New Gallery in 2009, and once again being singled out by our readers as the perfect location to purchase paintings, prints, photos and objets. Many of you mentioned that 323 embraces eclecticism with hearty enthusiasm. THIS is the place you go to for works by Glenn Barr and Audrey Pongracz; for a retrospective of pieces created by MALT, BASK, FEL3000FT, or The Silent Giants; to peruse the past or current efforts of Mark Heggie, Matt Eaton, DeEtta Harris, Julia Cohl, Michael Segal, Dennis Jacobs and a host of others.
Best NOVELTY PERFORMANCE TROUPE
The Weird Sisters You will find The Weird Sisters described as "a circus troupe" or "an aerial act" on most websites, but those labels are more categorical than descriptive - and they fall far short of the mark. What Cheryl Willard, Irina Laura and Sarah Morgan do on those silken ropes is nothing less than a sublime balance of poetry and magic; three disciplined bodies amplifying the festive mood of a public event or three ethereal forms defying gravity before a rapt audience. We suggest the Seraphim now look to their laurels - and their wings too, for that matter.
BEST OVERLOOKED GALLERY - Start Gallery
But why is it still only known (for the most part) by the lucky few? Why did you and scores of other readers vote it a resounding huzzah regardless? Well, since it opened, the Start Gallery has devoted more time to its exhibits (and to its artists) than to its PR. It wanted a reputation based firmly on hard work and public approval rather than a plethora of broadsides on Facebook. It was too busy pounding nails and putting up works by Ron Zakrin, Candy Drapper, TEAD, Kristina Bennett, Josh Barg, Monique Pettway and others.
BEST Local Photographer - Joe Gall
You've not only seen his work grace the pages (and several covers) of our esteemed weekly – you've likely seen it around town as well. Who are we kidding? Those of you who took the time to cast your ballots recognize Mr. Gall's live concert photography, fashion spreads and party documentation (in addition to his not-as-often-seen stellar videography skills) everywhere your eye strays. From EDM dance parties to skateboarding with Lil Wayne to backstage shenanigans with local music studs, this wondrous talent seems to be everywhere – and for that, we all salute him!
BEST THEATRICAL ENSEMBLE - Who Wants Cake?
They do it all at the Ringwald Theatre – from sidesplitting Yuletide comedies to dystopian dramas like Mercury Fur. They also do it with a spirit that reminds one of the "Hey, kids! Let's put on a show!" enthusiasm of Mickey and Judy ... or Gomez & Morticia. It's hard to tell at times. What isn't difficult to understand is your continued enthusiasm for this Ferndale troupe and the two way-above-average Joes (Plambeck and Bailey) who guide it to excellence year after year.
BEST THEATRE COMPANY - Purple Rose
Jeff Daniels never forgot where he came from. After achieving success as an actor, he returned to his hometown of Chelsea in 1991 and started The Purple Rose Theatre – its very name an allusion to the film that first brought him to notice six years before. Two decades later, the Rose is still blooming, still staging first-rate productions, and still encouraging you and others to devote a precious tank of gas to something other than a football game.
BEST STREET ART - Dequindre Cut Greenway
Ever notice that brilliant ideas are frequently simple ones – and vice versa? The Dequindre Cut Greenway is merely a below-street level walkway that runs parallel to St. Aubin between Mack Avenue and Woodbridge Street. It's also a running thread of colorful urban scenes and graffiti murals fashioned by a modest army of Detroit artists. No oversight, no red tape, no trouble. It will be three years old come this May and so far it's proven to be one of the most successful and least expensive projects the public has enjoyed in the last four decades.
BEST LOCALLY PRODUCED TV SHOW - FOX 2's Let It Rip
Sad? Happy? Outraged? PISSED? FOX 2 decided it was high time to build a soapbox big enough for Detroit and its always combative citizenry, so they came up with "Let It Rip." Under the steady hand of moderator Huel Perkins, this regular panel discussion features local newsmakers and commentators hashing it out in the best (and occasionally worst) democratic way: debating. And sometimes just yelling at each other. Well, the First Amendment was never intended for sissies.
BEST LOCAL FILMMAKER - Anthony Garth
Michigan's ongoing and quixotic quest to become a viable player on Planet Celluloid has been (brace for understatement) a rather bumpy ride of late. But the keyword is "ongoing" – and we have dedicated people like Anthony Garth to thank for that. A talented and imaginative video director, he has plans – big plans – for the future and he's not about to let pessimism or dumbass politicians get in his way. We're ready for our close-ups.
BEST LOCAL ARTIST - Kristine Diven
A renaissance talent worthy of a Renaissance City, Kristine Diven has managed to carve an admirable niche for herself since arriving in Detroit several years ago. An accomplished photographer, she reconciled the mirror images of time and beauty with her book Cathedrals of Decay. Fascinated no less by technology and the hard sciences, she refashioned a riverfront address into the aesthetic "hackerspace" now known as District VII. Building on that as a base, she curated a half-dozen art shows and proceeded to lend considerable support to Detroit's rapidly growing steampunk community of artists, performers, and enthusiasts. "Detroit is a vivid place that makes me dream," she says.