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Motor City visit

So we had a great visit with my relatives in the Detroit area over the weekend. We stayed with Mary, who was married to my mother's older brother, Ed, from 1955 until he died a couple of years ago. She is the hostess with the mostest. Saturday morning, my cousin Andy (Mary's youngest son) took us on his Eminem 8 Mile Tour, which totally lived up to or even surpassed my expectations. I'm copying his narrative script below. At the end of the tour we stopped at Srodek's in Hamtramck, where I bought four dozen pierogi. After lunch at Aunt Mary's, we drove to the house of my Uncle Denny (my mother's younger brother) to visit him, his wife, Cindy, Cindy's mother, Irene, and my cousin, Justin. They live right on a lake. There's no better time than drinking Michigan microbrews on their deck, looking over the lake, and talking about life. The next morning I got up early to read my grandfather's autobiography. At age 20 he had left Poland to spend 10 years in Canada and the US, after which he returned to Poland, got married, and then returned to spend the rest of his life in Hamtramck. What a life he led. Mary and her eldest son, Ed, promised to get a copy of his autobiography to me. In the afternoon we visited with my cousin Kathy (Mary's daughter), her husband, Jim Sullivan, their two kids, and Mary, Ed, and Andy. They live in Livonia, a pretty nice-looking suburb of Detroit. How lucky Mary is to have all of her children living within such a short distance of her.

Andy, BTW, drums for a band by the name of Footlong. Check our their music at http://www.footlongrocks.com/ . Here is the narrative for his Eminem tour:

The Eminem 8-Mile tour of Detroit.

Our tour begins in the Detroit suburb of Oak Park, one of the Metro Detroit suburbs bordering the city at 8 Mile road.

We travel east up 8-Mile through the other boarder cities of Ferndale, Hazel Park, and into the city of Warren

Our first stop is
The trailer park 20785 Schultes, Warren
A neon sign added for the film calls it 8 Mile Mobile Court, but the place where Jimmy goes home to live with his mother (Kim Basinger) and little sister (Chloe Greenfield) is actually Continental Mobile Village, off 8 Mile between Ryan and Dequindre. Filming took place in the renters' section of the park off and on for nearly three months and caused controversy when set dressers added rusty cars, barrels and propane tanks and removed the skirting from the bottom of trailers. "This is where we live and we were worried that it was going to look like a slum," says Jerry Harper, a machinist who lives with his wife and 12-year-old son in a tidy blue-and-white trailer in the owners' section.
Harper's mother-in-law, who lives in the rental section, tripped on some equipment and has a suit pending against Universal Studios. Other residents were bothered by intrusive lighting because technicians rewired almost every streetlight in the park with high-intensity lamps. An exact replica of the trailer set was built in a Chene Street warehouse for interior night scenes, which greatly impressed 7-year-old Southfield actress Greenfield. She says they reproduced every detail, including a tree that could be seen from the window. On the side unseen by the camera, they painted a funny grandpa face with a big mustache, she says.

Leaving the trailer park we head south towards Detroit but first stopping in Highland Park for

The burning house 122 Beresford, Highland Park
In a key scene, Jimmy (Eminem) and his friends torch the house where a little girl was molested. A photograph he finds of a previous resident shows Jimmy how transient life and happiness can be. The idea came from a casual conversation director Curtis Hanson had with the owners of another location about a half-burned house across the street. "It was a nuisance house in the neighborhood, a drug house," remembers Hanson. "They said they had already torched it twice because the rule of thumb was that if a house caught fire three times, the city would come and tear it down."
When Detroit declined to have the scene shot within its limits, the filmmakers went next door to cash-strapped Highland Park, offering not only to pay for the demolition of the house to be filmed, but another in the neighborhood as well.

Universal paid the neighbors most inconvenienced, even relocating some to nearby hotels for the night. But then, according to Hanson, some came back, wanting a better deal -- a typical location nightmare. Meanwhile, activists from the neighborhood said the filming was bad for the image of Highland Park.
From a technical standpoint, the scene was trickier than simply setting the place ablaze. Says production designer Philip Messina: "We had to build this metal skin inside so that they could light it on fire for the interior scenes. When it was actually burned, it went down in something like 12 minutes, and we just kept the cameras rolling." On this last major scene of the production, four crew members sustained first-degree burns.

Leaving the burning house and continuing toward the city we stop at

The stamping plant 950 E. Milwaukee (at Hastings), Detroit
There was a lot of discussion about where Jimmy should work. The Detroit Yacht Club was considered before the production ended up at a stamping plant -- one of the first locations shot. Designed in the 1920s by Albert Kahn and operated by General Motors until 1989, New Center Stamping Inc. (called New Detroit Stamping plant in the film) reopened in 1991 as a producer of car replacement parts. "I basically sold them eight days of shifts, from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.," says financial controller William O'Connor.

Eminem actually learned to work the heavy machines, many of them three stories tall. O'Connor believes the filmmakers "liked the place because it's not heavily automated, but very labor-intensive."
The scene with an impromptu rap competition at a lunch wagon outside the plant took nearly three days to shoot. Though the temperature changed dramatically day to day, the extras (most of them stamping plant employees) had to wear the same heavy jackets for continuity.
The stamping plant was also the site of the steamy scene where Jimmy and girlfriend Alex (Brittany Murphy) engage in their own pressing among the machines. Could such a thing happen? "Sure it can," laughs plant employee (and extra) Eddie Ricketts, "but you have to find the right girl."

From the stamping plant we continue into the city and take a break from the Eminem tour to see Wayne State University, educator of numerous members of the Ura family. Although this is not an official part of the Eminem tour, there is one scene where Jimmy looks from the street at old girlfriend Janeane (Taryn Manning) in the window of her blond brick apartment building which is near the campus, maybe we can find it.

Leaving WSU we return to our Eminem tour and head South, through the infamous Cass Corridor to

Chin Tiki 2121 Cass, Detroit
Twenty years ago, Marvin Chin turned the key at his Polynesian-themed Chin Tiki restaurant and lounge and hasn't reopened since. The building, a couple of blocks behind the Fox Theatre, is a Detroit time capsule. Meal orders still hang in the kitchen and opened bottles of liquor sit behind the bar. So when the script called for Jimmy and his friends to go to a Chinese restaurant late one night, Chin Tiki was the spot filmed both inside and out. "They used my upstairs banquet room," says Chin. "They moved the 5-foot tikis, anything of an art nature up there."
For local rigging electrician Spike Simms, lighting the place proved a challenge because electrical wires had to snake through crumbling vents and ceilings. Chin, who first opened Chin Tiki in 1967 and still plans to reopen someday, says he was paid $20,000 for the use of the building over two weeks. Now he is seeking additional money because stainless steel kitchen fixtures disappeared from his alley. "Anything removed from the building was supposed to be stored in a trailer," Chin contends, "but then the guard said someone from the city hauled it all away."
From the Chinese restaurant we continue south, towards the downtown area to,

The parking structure 220 Bagley, Detroit
Director Curtis Hanson had seen it in a magazine of urban architectural photography -- a modern parking structure jammed into the gutted remains of one of Detroit's famed movie palaces, the Michigan Theatre. For Hanson and production designer Philip Messina, this was the key example of the movie's urban recycling theme. Viewers will see it doubling for the parking area outside Chin Tiki, where Jimmy (Eminem) almost gets into a fight with rival rappers.
Owner Tony Pieroni says that when the 1926 structure was turned into a parking garage in 1977, its historical flourishes -- like fancy plaster work and red satin curtains -- were left intact more to save money than for historic preservation. Today, the place gets pilgrimages from photographers and groups like Preservation Wayne. While it's usually open only to tenants of the adjoining office building, you can park in the lower level during Lions games.

From here it is just a short hop to,

WJLB radio Interiors The lobby: The Penobscot building, 633-645 Griswold
Director Curtis Hanson says that the use of radio station WJLB-FM (97.9) was key to the film. "It's this thing that these guys aspire to -- getting their tunes played on 'JLB. It's like a beacon, the Wizard of Oz," he says. Shooting in the real studios proved impossible because so much has changed in the last seven years. Hanson used the lobby of the Penobscot Building (where the actual station is housed) and constructed fake studios in the Book Building. The scene shows an interview taking place in one studio, the participants oblivious to the fight Jimmy (Eminem) is engaged in next door.

From the radio station we go to

St. Andrews Hall/The Shelter 431 E. Congress, near Greektown.
This Detroit concert hall and nightclub is one of the hottest venues in Detroit. St. Andrews regularly features national touring bands (not quite the Stones or Aerosmith although you never know, they may show up one night if they are in town) along with the biggest local acts. The Shelter is the basement of St. Andrews and it regularly hosts local bands and rap performers. The rap competitions in the beginning and ending of the film were depicted as being held in the Shelter although they were not actually filmed there (see below). When he was coming up Eminem (as well as fellow Detroiter Kid Rock) regularly performed here

From St. Andrews we go to

Intermezzo 1435 Randolph, Detroit
The upscale Italian restaurant in Harmonie Park mostly ended up on the cutting room floor. You still see Jimmy's girlfriend leaving work there, but gone is an exchange in front where he talks about the injury of his friend Cheddar Bob (Evan Jones). "It hurt the flow, it missed a beat," says director Curtis Hanson, "so we thought it best to remove it."

After Intermezzo we go to

The Shelter Exteriors constructed: 30 Clifford, Detroit
The film opens and closes with rap competitions at the Shelter, a real Detroit performance space in the basement of St. Andrew's Hall at 431 E. Congress, near Greektown. So why didn't they shoot there? "The movie is set in 1995 and a lot had changed since then," says location scout Eric Jackson. Instead, the filmmakers took over a warehouse to give the set more of a church basement feel.
The 10,000-square-foot space also was used by technicians to store equipment and construct sets. For exterior shots, they constructed a brick facade, with an emphasis on crosses, on a building downtown. According to director Curtis Hanson, "Our idea was that this used to be a church, but like everything else, it's been reinvented, and now in a sense it's a church of hip-hop, where these kids go for the same thing that people go to church for -- a sense of community, spirituality, hope, all of that. In order to get that across, we needed a cross." Jackson says the construction and teardown cost was nearly $300,000.

The scenes filmed there also are a nod to the Hip Hop Shop, the legendary 7 Mile storefront run by Maurice Mallone, who offered his space and clothing designs to young rappers back in the day. You'll see some of his clothes in these scenes.
The V-shaped alleys outside also worked well for the scene where Jimmy removes his trash bag full of clothes from behind a Dumpster.
The opening shots at the Shelter, with Jimmy in front of a bathroom mirror and then walking down a long hallway, were filmed at 1120 Griswold, the site of a former Rite Aid.


This concludes our Eminem 8-Mile tour.
From here we will head into Hamtramck and stop at Srodeks to get Pierogi and then head home.