Looking Back at 300 Issues of ‘Hour Detroit’

Stroll down memory lane with us this month as we celebrate 300 issues of insight, style, and fun
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Three hundred is a lot of months. A quarter-century. We’ve had four Michigan governors, five Detroit mayors, eight presidential elections, one NBA championship, and four Stanley Cups since the first issue of Hour Detroit appeared in the summer of 1996. Heck, Chrysler became Daimler Chrysler, then Chrysler LLC, then Chrysler Group LLC, then Fiat Chrysler, and now Stellantis in that span.

Back when Hour Detroit launched, skeptics doubted anyone here would read an aspirational, glossy city magazine. Who, they wondered, would buy into a version of Detroit that delved lovingly into fashion, culture, and food, that made it feel glamorous and substantive. Never mind that all of that exists in abundance; before Hour, the sense was that writing about much beyond urban decay was indulgent or vacuous.

Fortunately, publishers John Balardo and Thomas Hartle, editor Veronica Pasfield, and designers Shayne Bowman and Chris Willis didn’t care. That first issue had all the hallmarks of what was to come — a cover featuring an up-and-coming local actress, tips on celebrating the auto industry’s 100th anniversary, a look at Dearborn’s Lebanese restaurant scene, a profile of Red Wings star Steve Yzerman accompanied by what we’d now refer to as “thirsty” photos of him, and a no-punches-pulled profile of Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer.

That’s long been Hour Detroit’s secret sauce — sweet and savory, mingled and as tantalizing as Himalayan sea salt on a cube of fine caramel. The lighter fare, presented alluringly with high-quality color photos and lively writing, stands alongside insightful, serious journalism covering politics, crime, development, business, and health. It’s easy to dismiss Hour as more style than substance, but a careful read proves we’ve always worked to address and explain important issues, too.

Two cases in point. Our first issue to go to press after 9/11 had a sumptuous Thanksgiving food cover. Inside, though, readers found a story about the late World Trade Center architect Minoru Yamasaki, a Detroiter whose work also dots our own region, and a prescient feature on how the then-new terrorism era would dwindle our rights to electronic privacy. Nineteen years later, we ripped up our May 2020 issue days before going to print to document the traumatic and surprising ways our lives were changing as COVID-19 took hold.

In those first pages in 1996, the hope, the team wrote then, was to “gather people who wanted the same things: fun and challenging edit, a sophisticated voice, smart visuals. In short, a magazine that is a treat.” Challenge accepted — as the 10 issues on these pages prove. 

#3 – Winter 1996-97

hour detroit jeff daniels

Cover: Jeff Daniels, a Chelsea native best known then for Dumb and Dumber. Now he’s a two-time Emmy winner and has three Tony Award nominations.

Daniels on going to Red Wings games with friends: “I tell them, ‘Hang onto my coattails; we’re going in to talk to Stevie [Yzerman].’ We all know how we got in. As I tell them, this fame is meant to be exploited.”

Also in the issue: Garland Lodge in Lewiston; Royal Oak art gallery owner Barbara Bunting; U.S. Attorney Saul Green; a recipe for Hutch Rabbit Stew.

Sign-of-the-times ad: Q95.5 hypes former Partridge Family star Danny Bonaduce as a morning-rush DJ.

#14 – May 1998

hour detroit elmore leonardCover: Elmore Leonard, a Bloomfield Hills resident dubbed “The Dickens of Detroit” by Time magazine, for bestsellers that would inspire Get Shorty and Justified, among numerous other TV shows and movies. Leonard died in 2013.

Leonard on what he was doing during the interview: “I’ve just spent two hours with Clint Eastwood; now we’re way in the back of a place at a bad table lookin’ to see who’s comin’ in.”

Also in the issue: The Detroit Science Center reopens; a metro Detroit housing boom; the Beef Jerky Outlet in Chesterfield Township; the Detroit Boat Club; the (now closed) Golden Mushroom in Southfield.

Sign-of-the-times ads: Lexus of Southfield “introducing the first luxury SUV that doesn’t ride like a truck”; a Northwest Airlines ad features Bo Schembechler.

#35 – February 2000

hour detroit ROYCover: Restaurant of the Year The Rugby Grille, our second ROY selection and the first to be featured on the cover. It remains a Birmingham staple, although the average dinner entree price is now about $48, significantly higher than the $31 listed in the 2000 write-up. 

Praise for The Rugby: “It’s pricey, true, but that is certainly no guarantee of this kind of quality. It has all the trappings of snootiness yet manages to avoid even a trace of it.” 

Also in the issue: One year after the deadly 1999 explosion at a Ford River Rouge power plant; GQ magazine insults Detroit; Apple’s iMovie; Detroit native, Duke basketball star, and soon-to-be No. 1 NBA draft pick Shane Battier.

Sign-of-the-times ads: Whole Foods Market spotlights the grand opening of its West Bloomfield location; Verio pushes DSL for internet service as “a giant leap for your business,” while also including its AOL keyword.

#112 – July 2006

hour detroit michael mooreCover: Michael Moore of Flint, then riding high on his 2002 Oscar win and the $119 million box-office take of the anti-Bush film Fahrenheit 9/11 in 2004, still the highest-grossing documentary ever.

Moore on making friends with Republicans in northern Michigan: “They’ve gotten to know me as Michael Moore the human being, not as Michael Moore the fictional character created by the Fox News Channel. That’s a bad thing for Fox, actually, because once people truly discover who you are, they realize that we might not think so differently from each other.”

Also in the issue: A new Detroit ordinance requiring hands-free cellphone use while driving; then-Dateline NBC reporter Chris Hansen of Bloomfield Township; WDIV Local 4 journalist Rhonda Walker’s favorite shoes; an all-male lineup of Detroiters of the Year.

Sign-of-the-times ad: A special advertising section from the Building Industry Association of Southeastern Michigan insists — just before the start of the Great Recession — “there’s no dispute that buying a home is still one of the most solid and best investments anyone could make.”

#142 – January 2009

hour detroit autoCover: Detroit Institute of Arts CEO Graham Beal with a 1953 Riley, which was “similar to his first car,” for a feature on prominent Detroiters remembering their first set of wheels. Cars appeared on January covers beginning in 2000; the last one was in 2019.

Oakland County executive L. Brooks Patterson on his first ride: “A 1954 two-door Ford with ‘Miss Pig’ painted on the side, which should have served as a warning. I hated it, but it was all I could afford while in college. It cost $400.”

Also in the issue: Fad diets and obesity in Michigan; Motown Records hits 50; a recipe for a jalapeno bloody mary; the mansions of early auto industry giants. 

Sign-of-the-times ads: MGM Grand Detroit announces the opening of a Wolfgang Puck eatery; Mercedes acknowledges the miserable economic period is a time “when even the most affluent motorists are rethinking their priorities.” 

#148 – July 2009

hour detroit kid rockCover: Kid Rock, aka Robert Ritchie of Romeo, Michigan, was our Detroiter of the Year, an annual feature that premiered in 2003. He was riding high after selling some 20 million records and performing at the 2006 Super Bowl. More recently, he’s best known for his conservative, pro-Trump politics and teasing a 2018 run for U.S. Senate as a Republican.

Rock on his local profile: “One of the things I’m proudest of is that I don’t have to drive around town in some tinted-down foreign car, hiding from people. I can go anywhere locally, anywhere I want. People just say, ‘What’s up, Rock,’ maybe want a picture or just to say hello.”

Also in the issue: Indie band The Hard Lessons; the 48 Hour Film Project; the failed effort in 1927 of Detroit pilots to circumnavigate the planet in a monoplane; a recipe for campfire pecan trout.

Sign-of-the-times ads: Todd’s Room, a Birmingham cosmetics shop, promotes a “bad girl” look, showing a model in black leather with a gun dangling from her hand; a Mercedes ad promotes Sirius Satellite Radio with “over 130 channels.”

#200 – November 2013

hour detroit torii hunterCover: Our annual Best Dressed issue, featuring Torii Hunter, a Detroit Tigers outfielder who hit his 300th career home run five months earlier. The first Best Dressed issue was in 2008.

Hunter on getting bespoke: “When I was coming up, I had nothing. … As soon as I was able, I started shopping. That was in 1993 when I got a signing bonus with the [Minnesota] Twins. I went out and bought a bunch of outfits by Girbaud and a bunch of Jordans.”

Also in the issue: 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination; polar bears mating at the Detroit Zoo; Bistro Joe’s in Birmingham; a recipe for venison sweet potato meatballs.

Sign-of-the-times ad: Volvo flaunts its factories’ ability to run on hydropower.

#242 – May 2017

hour detroit 1967Cover: 50th anniversary of the 1967 Detroit Rebellion, with 18 pages of reports on the racial violence that shook and destroyed the city. 

Eyewitness Anita Gibbs remembers: “A cherry bomb lit up the pawn shop on the corner of 12th and Taylor. We could feel the heat from it all the way past the diner by the alley. … Leaving your home in the middle of the evening with the rage and mayhem of buildings on fire around you — imagine that at 7.”

Also in the issue: A documentary on ex-Pistons coach Earl Lloyd; a road trip across the Mitten on M-72; great brunch options; a fashion feature with Detroit City Football Club players.

Sign-of-the-times ads: Native Stem Cell of Bloomfield Hills promotes stem-cell therapy to heal arthritis; Little Caesars Arena touts availability for private event bookings.

#266 – June 2019

hour detroit aretha franklinCover: Aretha Franklin, rendered by Best Fine Artist Kim Frank Fujiwara for the 2019 Best of Detroit issue, featuring our 20th list of the best offerings in the metro area.

Key passage about Franklin’s August 2018 death: “The world mourned the superstar’s death, but in Detroit, her presence lives on. In May 2019, Chene Park was renamed Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre, and that June, the Senate passed a bill to rename a stretch of M-10 Aretha L. Franklin Memorial Highway.”

Also in the issue: Bob Seger’s final tour; Motown Records’ 60th anniversary; CBD-infused face moisturizer; a debate over adoptions by LGBTQ parents; a recipe for a Dadhattan cocktail. 

Sign-of-the-times ad: Hub Stadium in Auburn Hills offers axe-throwing and “bombowling” at “your next event.”

#287 – February 2021

hour detroit gov whitmerCover: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, recapping a year in which she gave the State of the Union response, contended with COVID-19, had a murder plot against her foiled, and was short-listed for the Democratic vice presidential nomination. 

Whitmer on seeing herself hung in effigy at an anti-lockdown rally: “I wasn’t mad. Was I fearful? I was not afraid. Was I sad? That was the emotion I felt. It was sad because we’re working so hard to try to keep people alive, to try to keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed.”

Also in the issue: Updates on Michigan Central Station and Packard Plant restoration; COVID-era matchmaker Lisa Chaben; autonomous vehicles; a recipe for Bad Brads BBQ’s banana cream pie.

Sign-of-the-times ad: Future Grow Solutions, a cannabis wholesale grower, touts space-age-looking grow towers.


By the Numbers…

hour detroit first issue $3

Newsstand price of Hour’s first issue (left) in 1996. It’s now $3.95.

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Full-time Editors. They are Veronica Pasfield, Ric Bohy, Dave Manney, Michelle Solomon, Rebecca Powers, Steve Wilke, Dan Caccavaro, and Kate Walsh. In addition, managing editors George Bulanda and Lyndsay Green were in charge when the magazine was
in between Editors.

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People who graced the cover more than once. That would be later-disgraced Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, solo in February 2003 and in September 2005 with opponent Freman Hendrix.

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Pro athletes who appeared on the Hour Detroit cover, beginning in April 1999 with Tigers outfielder Bobby Higginson. This also includes Red Wings great Steve Yzerman (November 2005) and former Lions wide receiver Golden Tate (November 2018).

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Covers that featured or showed cars. Sixteen were January covers to correspond with our auto issues tied to the North American International Auto Show.


This story is part of the March 2022 issue of Hour Detroit. Read more in our digital edition

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