PB & Jenny

A twist to a favorite American standard. My thoughts on new adventures, also with a twist.

Berry Gordy & the Detroit Motown Museum January 20, 2008

I’ve always liked identifying famous people and products that have a Michigan connection, as well as interesting trivia about my home state.   I have a small sampling listed below.      

  • Food & drink = Faygo (the rock & rye truly rocks), Sanders (mmmm, best hot fudge), Better made potato chips, Mucky duck mustard, Kellogg’s cereal, Jiffy muffins, VRUIT juice, Vernor’s ginger ale (still the best for upset tummies)

  • Nicknames = The Motor City, Detroit Rock City, the Cars & Stars City, the Motown City, the Great Lakes State

  • Musicians = Bob Seger, Iggy Pop, Aretha Franklin, Madonna, Eminem, Kid Rock, many Motown musicians
  • Actors = Tim Allen, Gilda Radner, James Earl Jones, Pam Dawber, Tom Skerritt, Marlo Thomas, Lily Tomlin, Selma Blair, Kristen Bell 
  • Business execs = Jon De Lorean, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Oscar Mayer, Tom Monaghan
  • Born in Detroit = Francis Ford Coppola, Charles Lindbergh, Ed McMahon
  • Movies set in Detroit = Beverly Hills Cop, Out of Sight, Grosse Point Blank, True Romance, 8 Mile
  • Fun trivia =
    • Only state that can claim to be north of Canada
    • We have more miles of shoreline than any other state
    • The Great Lakes hold one-fifth of the world’s supply of fresh water
    • Only state made of 2 peninsulas, an upper and lower (and we know what trolls and yoopers refer to)
      • The Mackinac Bridge connecting the upper and lower peninsulas is one of the longest suspension bridges in the world
    • We can use the palm of our right hand to point out where we live in MI (for lower peninsula), and left palm perpendicular to the right for the upper
    • We get to experience the 4 seasons in all their glory (though I could do with a shorter winter)
    • We have incredibly long summer days. It doesn’t get dark until really late because we’re a westernmost state in the Eastern time zone.

    And, of course, we’re internationally known for the MOTOWN SOUND! 

    I’m behind on my newspaper reading, but just saw an article from last week that indicated Motown Records founder Berry Gordy will be honored after the 50th Grammy Awards on Feb 10th with the Recording Academy’s “Grammy Salute to Industry Icons.”  You know he’s hoping that the WGA strike doesn’t cancel the show.  He was previously inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

    I recently went to the Motown Museum for the first time.  I used one of the free museum passes sponsored by Macy’s which are good for admittance to about 30 museums in Michigan.  Before I went, I knew very little about the history of Motown or Berry Gordy.  I just knew I liked the music.   I am listening to some now to inspire me, and I can’t help but do the white girl head bop as well as groove in my seat while I’m typing.     

    I learned that Berry started Motown Records in 1959 when he was in his 20s on an $800 loan from his family.  He based his business on an assembly line approach that he learned from the auto companies.  Each of his buildings was compartmentalized for a specific purpose – – this building for recording, that one for finance/payroll, this other one for etiquette training, etc. He nurtured the careers of Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, and The Jackson 5 among many others.  

    He also founded a movie production company called Motown Productions.  Their first feature film was Lady Sings the Blues, a film based on Billie Holliday’s life starring Diana Ross.  It was well received and earned Diana an Academy Award nomination, as well as 4 others for the film.  Such success wasn’t enjoyed by one of their later films, The Wiz.  I don’t know how well The Last Dragon did either, but it looked campy cool from a poster displayed at the museum.  

    The special Motown Sound came courtesy of the Funk Brothers musicians.  They played on more number one hits than the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, Elvis and the Beatles combined(!!!), but they were virtually unknown.  A documentary film called Standing in the Shadows of Motown was made about the Funk Brothers in 2003 which gave them a chance to bask in the limelight for the first time in their lives.  While their talent is phenomenal, and their back stories are interesting (I think I gleaned most of that from bonus features on the DVD), the movie was not so great.  I’m glad though that it was made, since it was a tribute to these musicians, and gave them the opportunity to get some fiercely deserved credit. 

    The Motown museum isn’t very large, but contains Berry Gordy’s private apartment, the recording studio, and lots of memorabilia (pictures, clothing, records).  Michael Jackson’s thriller glove* is in the museum!  Seeing that was my biggest thrill (bad pun intended). 

    I used to worship Michael Jackson.  In 6th grade, his Thriller album was THE GIFT to give at every birthday sleepover.  We would listen to his record, imitate the dances in his videos, and actually kiss the cover!**  He was seriously cute on that album cover.  Until at least 8th grade I loved Michael Jackson.  One of my most memorable concerts was going to see Michael Jackson that year.  The number one most memorable concert for me is definitely my first concert ever – The J. Geils band for my birthday in 5th grade.  Just ask me sometime for the story behind that one.  

    Anyway, I even dressed like Michael in 8th grade.  I had a favorite outfit of black parachute pants***, along with a red leather jacket with tons of zippered details.  It was a knock off of Michael’s jacket from the “Beat It” video.  Remember that?  I just needed that one white sequined glove to complete the look.  

    Amazingly, that same year I also wore the Madonna getup.****  The short skirt over leggings, with millions of rubber bracelets on my arm, long layered strands of beads, and oversized, knotted headbands.  I never wore the fingerless lace gloves though.  I wonder why I decided to go gloveless in both of my iconic fashion outfits?  Could 8th grade also be the same year that I wore lots of NEON?    

    You can understand then why I was excited to see Michael’s glove.  It was in a glass case, and I swear a golden light was shining down on it, and I heard angels singing.  I found out that it was behind glass since it had been stolen previously in 1991 and is now heavily guarded.  It didn’t take much to find the thief.  After it was reported in the press as missing, M.C. Hammer offered a $50,000 reward for its return.  The person who tried to claim the reward money happened to be the only guest at the museum the day it was stolen, and he had signed the guest book! 

    My visit to the museum was enhanced by the knowledge and personality of our guide.  She’s a Diana Ross impersonator in Vegas when she’s not in Detroit.  She told a lot of stories and gave background details that I would never have known otherwise, even if I read every placard in the place.  At the end of our tour, she got a group of female and then male volunteers to sing in the recording studio.  She taught the women the “Stop!  In the Name of Love” dance, and the guys the famous “Temptation Shuffle.”  Let’s just say that the 2 step/arm swinging shuffle, then change direction and repeat is harder than it appears.  

    It was probably due to this visit that I paid extra special attention to the article about Berry, though I would have honed in on the Michigan connection regardless.  Because I’m into that, as you now know about me.  

    I’d like to extend my congratulations to Berry Gordy for bringing so many wonderful artists, musicians, and musical memories our way.  I can only hope he’ll give a shout out to the Funk Brothers! 

    * Detroit Fox TV reporter Lee Thomas is battling vitiligo.  He’s written a book and has been doing the interview circuit about his experience “turning white on television.”  In one interview, he referenced the fact that Michael Jackson also has this disease, and it was the reason why he started wearing the one glove.  Michael’s skin color change supposedly first showed up on his hands. 

    ** I have to admit that I had quite the fetish for kissing album covers/posters.  It all started with my Star Wars obsession.  First movie I ever remember seeing, turned me on to science fiction, and I was Princess Leia three Halloweens in a row!  I had a Star Wars poster on my wall, and I’d kiss the dimple (cleft?) in Luke Skywalker’s chin each night.  In my adult years, I realized that Hans Solo was the man, but as a kid, I had a thing for Luke.  In 1st grade I added Shaun Cassidy to the rotation (Da Doo Ron Ron).  John Travolta from Grease quickly followed.  I’d even kiss the BeeGees album my parents had from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack by virtue of their connection to John since he was in the movie.  I had a few dry years (or I’ve blocked the memory) and then moved on to Michael. 

      • In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit that I was kissing obsessed in general.  I had a boyfriend the entire year of kindergarten, <<waving hand>> “Hi Barry!”  We would hold hands, peck kiss, and play together all the time.  He moved after that year and I was heartbroken.  Our relationship was the basis for my parents meeting his mom, and she’s a close family friend to this day.
      • 1st grade also involved another year-long boyfriend, and we would peck kiss every day at recess.   His name was Steven, and he thought he was Fonzi.  He wore a leather jacket, and when he’d snap his fingers à la Fonzi style, that was the signal for us to kiss.  My best friend Margot that year also liked him at one point, and so we kind of all hung out for a bit.  Kiddy 3-way.  Wow, so much of my life is odd-ish.  One time she and I decided (go girl power!) to not respond to his snap for a kiss.  It was kind of comical seeing the disbelief on his face, and the insistent snaps that followed.  Anyway, both Margot and Steven moved after that year.  Spot a trend?  My kissing is lethal.  Just like with Barry, my parents became very close friends with Margot’s mom, and she is also another close family friend to this day.  I don’t know what happened to Steven though. 

      *** A great assortment of parachute pants can be found at http://www.parachutepants.com/, or you can find many stores where new styles have been reissued under the name “para-pants.”  HA!  Us 80s fans know better!  

      ****I was too young & innocent to wear a bustier as outerwear or a boytoy belt, as Madonna also popularized.  Even if I hadn’t been, so not my style

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    13 Responses to “Berry Gordy & the Detroit Motown Museum”

    1. […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptI used to worship Michael Jackson. In 6th grade, his Thriller album was THE GIFT to give at every birthday sleepover. We would listen to his record, imitate the dances in his videos, and actually kiss the cover! … […]

    2. […] Berry Gordy & the Detroit Motown Museum He’s written a book and has been doing the interview circuit about his experience “turning white on television.” In one interview, he referenced the fact that Michael Jackson also has this disease, and it was the reason why he started … […]

    3. […] Read the rest of this great post here […]

    4. H. Says:

      I just went there yesterday and really enjoyed it! It was neat to stand in Studio A, just knowing all the music that was recorded there.

      I also saw Michael Jackson’s glove and hat it was really cool also! The apartment was very interesting I wish it was possible to look at more of it though.

      If you live in the Detroit area you should really go, and if you are from out of town, make time to go to Hitsville while you are here!

      We also had a great tour guide who had a lot of interesting things to say that I never knew.

      Great Article!
      http://www.mypetsays.com

    5. Dean Calvert Says:

      Good info. and read. Will be back soon to read more of your information.
      Thanks,
      Dean

    6. asseskAvece Says:

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    7. V.E.G. Says:

      No joke, Berry Gordy is the distant cousin of Navy author, Dewey Whitley Lambdin, Jr! Lambdin has a Gordy ancestor.

    8. V.E.G. Says:

      I found another ancestor of Gordy! Brent Christopher Doonan is the distant cousin of Berry Gordy! Doonan is the name of the trucking company in Wichita, Kansas!

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