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"This city has no viable future."
—Michael Casserly, executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools
Detroit, Michigan is the center of America's automotive industry. Ford, General Motors and Chrysler have headquarters there. Its most recognizable structure is the GM Marriott Renaissance Hotel. In The Eighties there were parts of town where they would shoot at anyone passing by in a Japanese car. Today the shooting is much less discriminate (for several years, it alternated back and forth with Philadelphia for the distinction of the US city with the highest murder rate).
It is geographically notable for a few reasons. Despite being separated from Windsor, Ontario by the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair, it features the busiest US-Canada border crossing -- the Ambassador Bridge. It is also the only place in the contiguous 48 States where Canada is south of the US, since Windsor juts out to the west just so. Detroit itself is surrounded by smaller independent municipalities, who form the Detroit Metro area, and whose people get kind of cheesed off when everyone just lumps them in. With both a Spanish-language Univision station in Detroit and a CBC tower in Windsor rebroadcasting the main French-language feed from Montreal, it's one of the only areas in North America where you can watch free-to-air TV in three languages, the other being Providence, Rhode Island (English, Spanish, and Portuguese).
The metro Detroit area is home to a myriad of cultures and ethnicities, including one of the largest Arab populations in North America, centered in Dearborn (with a sizable Lebanese outpost in West Bloomfield -- where they get along rather interestingly with the large Jewish population). It is also very economically-segregated but even more racially-segregated, with poorer minorities living in the city, the white working-class in the eastern suburbs, and the predominantly white and Asian-American upper-middle-class in the western suburbs and Grosse Pointe. The Detroit metro area ranks second in the nation in racial segregation, after Gary, Indiana.
Depending on who you ask, the city may be on the cusp of a rebirth, or completing the slide from Dying Town into Ghost City. The trend (unfortunately) seemed to move toward the latter, thanks mostly to the almost surreal corruption of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and the federal bailout of General Motors and Chrysler which resulted in smaller companies, with the requisite job and wage cutbacks. The new mayor, David Bing, is infinitely more competent (although that's hardly saying much), Michigan's Governor Rick Snyder has shown at least a vague interest in getting the city going again (although the methods he proposes are very, very controversial), and the Big Three have returned to profitability and (more importantly) actually make good cars again, so things might get better. Maybe. Perhaps.
Films set in Detroit or its nearby communities:
- Dreamgirls, following the famous "Motown" music label and genre (the play is based in Chicago, but the movie places it in Detroit to make it closer its inspiration).
- Four Brothers
- 8 Mile
- Detroit Rock City
- Grosse Pointe Blank (Grosse Pointe)
- Out Of Sight (based on the novel by beloved Detroit resident Elmore Leonard)
- The Upside of Anger (Bloomfield Hills)
- Gran Torino (Highland Park)
- The Crow
TV shows set in Detroit:
- Detroit 1-8-7
- Freaks and Geeks (faked-up Clinton Township)
- 8 Simple Rules
- Home Improvement (Royal Oak)
- RoboCop again
- Transformers Animated
- Sister Sister
- Hung (Shot in West Bloomfield; set wherever rich women live in Metro Detroit, meaning mostly Oakland County)
Musical acts from Detroit:
- Alice Cooper
- Aretha Franklin
- The "Belleville Three", Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson, considered the founders of techno music
- The Black Dahlia Murder
- Bob Seger
- The Dirtbombs
- Eminem (Born in Saint Joseph, Missouri, though he spent most of his life in nearby Warren)
- Esham (born in New York City; formed the Detroit-based rap label, Reel Life Productions)
- Kid Rock
- The MC5
- Madonna (born in Bay City [116 miles to the north], but raised in Rochester Hills, a suburb in Oakland County)
- Most of the Motown Records artists in the 1960s and '70s, including but not limited to the Four Tops, the Temptations, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas.
- Ted Nugent
- Iggy Pop and The Stooges
- Psychopathic Records artists Insane Clown Posse, ABK, Blaze Ya Dead Homie and Twiztid.
- Mitch Ryder
- Uncle Kracker
- The White Stripes
- Anita Baker (born in Toledo, Ohio but raised in Detroit, started her music career there, and currently lives in Grosse Pointe)
Celebrities from Detroit:
- Nerds Are Sexy poster girl Judy Greer (Livonia)
- Bruce Campbell (Royal Oak)
- Sam Raimi (Royal Oak)
- Tim Allen (Birmingham)
- Man of a Thousand Voices Rob Paulsen (Livonia)
- S. Epatha Merkerson, a.k.a. Lt. Anita Van Buren
- Although frequent death threat recipient Michael Moore isn't from Detroit, he's from Davison, a suburb of Flint, which is 66 miles from Detroit. It's only a part of the Motor City if you inflate Metro Detroit or use "Detroit" as a metonym for the auto industry.
- Kristen Bell (Huntington Woods)
- Lily Tomlin
- David Alan Grier
- "Dr. Death", Jack Kevorkian, famously portrayed by Al Pacino in HBO's You Don't Know Jack.
- Mitch Albom, sportswriter for the Detroit Free Press who moonlights as an author, most notably Tuesdays With Morrie.
- Actually born in New York state, but has since made Detroit his home. Which is cool, because most people get famous then move away.
- Robin Williams spent about half his youth in Bloomfield Hills (his dad was an exec at Ford) and half in New Age Retro Hippie country, Marin County, California. That may or may not explain how he turned out.
- Gilda Radner
- Butch Hartman (Highland Park)
- Jim Benton, creator of "It's Happy Bunny" (Bloomfield Township)
- He may not sound like it, but James Lipton, host of Inside The Actors Studio was born and raised in Detroit.
- Tom Hulce (Plymouth). Famous for playing Pinto, Mozart, and Quasimodo.