Staying Power


It’s a mainstay of metro Detroit media: Write about someone famous who used to live here.

You know that actress on Grey’s Anatomy? a staffer will ask. She’s from here. Cool. Let’s profile her. That’s how the conversation goes in editorial offices of newspapers, magazines, and TV and radio stations.

Our local version of People magazine could be “Ex People” with Jack White on the cover of the premiere issue.

When someone makes it big and decides to stay put, even part time, we notice. Jeff Daniels is one such rarity. So are Aretha Franklin and Bob Seger.

If stay-home vacations are “staycations,” we might call famous natives who maintain a hometown address “staytives.” Our exclusive clutch of staytives includes Hour Detroit’s 2009 Detroiter of the Year, a performer who goes beyond just keeping a metro Detroit pied-à-terre. He has paid it forward by investing here — lending his name and money to the creation of products and jobs — and by being generous to local institutions.

He’s a bad boy, you say. Yes. But don’t rush to give this metro Detroiter a Roger Maris-type asterisk that hedges his worthiness. Speaking of homers, being here, investing here, and giving here — by choice — is no small matter when Michigan is suffering a drain of youth, talent, and I.Q.

People who toil here day in and day out, who put dinner on the table daily, and join the armies of volunteers who man cleanup drives and the like, are the foundation of a city.

But metro Detroit also needs a sugar daddy — even one who’s a “Kid.”

We certainly have our benevolent full-timers. Their names are etched and engraved on the edifices and plaques of museums, concert halls, universities, and hospitals.

But there’s something about a celebrity, someone with the star power to be photographed internationally displaying an Old English “D” and Detroit T-shirt, someone to put us on the charts, in the lights, and on big screens. A little pop-culture PR never hurts.

It matters now. And it mattered in the 1920s, when feats of aviation daring focused international attention on Detroit.

Pilots remind us that it’s human nature to test the ties that bind. Like babies preparing to leave the nest from the moment they take their first steps, people pull up stakes for fame and fortune, and mankind defies the pull of gravity, as Americans did most notably 40 years ago this month with the first steps on the moon.

With that feat as the backdrop, it seems almost funny that many of us are shelving our wanderlust and opting for the aforementioned “staycations.”

Right now, our cash-strapped parks can certainly put your price of admission to good use. If camping is part of the park plan, our entertaining story offers gourmet camp-cooking tips. For visual entertainment around the campfire, there’s always the moon.

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