Gotta Keep Dreamin

Detroit's 21st Century Renaissance

The Washington Post

michael-bolton-singer

THE WASHINGTON POST:

On a recent afternoon, Michael Bolton — yes, that Michael Bolton — walks down Michigan Avenue showing off the city he has grown to love. A cameraman tails him, which might be why the singer, without the nuclear hair of his “When a Man Loves a Woman” heyday, can’t avoid being noticed.

A fan leans in for a hug. A cop on a horse invites him to visit the stable. A bald man who sings in a Bolton tribute band asks for a selfie.

“It’s $22.50,” Bolton says, smiling. “You got PayPal?”

He walks on. The stroll is not meant for autograph seekers. Bolton is in Detroit for his latest project, and it’s a doozy. The pop singer, whose booming voice has kept the mom-jeans intelligentsia mesmerized since roughly 1987, is making a documentary about the city’s attempt to dig itself out of disaster. Bolton has spent three years and $250,000 of his own money in the hopes of recasting how the public views Detroit.

“This,” he says, “is one of the greatest comeback stories in American history.”

Michael Bolton making a documentary about Detroit?

“He’s probably one of the last people I would have expected to do it,” says Aaron Foley, a local writer and Detroit native.

The Web site Deadline Detroit was less polite. Another “parachute celebrity,” it bristled, mocking the project through a series of snide links to glossy 1980s Bolton videos.

But the still-untitled documentary, which Bolton is hosting and directing with his manager, Christina Kline, will premiere Oct. 2 at the city’s historic Fox Theatre and then hit the film festival circuit. The project has sparked considerable interest since Bolton began conducting interviews with everyone from Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson to Mayor Mike Duggan and Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert.

Charlie LeDuff, the author of “Detroit: An American Autopsy” and no pushover, doesn’t snicker.

“I’ll reserve judgment until I see it,” he says. “Come on in. Do your thing. What have you got, brother?”

Gilbert, the billionaire Detroit native who also owns the Cleveland Cavaliers, goes further. He’s impressed by Bolton’s approach.

“Look, to have somebody of his stature reach out and tell the story, the way it is and not just tell ruin porn, showing the same six burned-out shops, I like that,” says Gilbert. “He’s going to show what happened, where this city was and then all the great things happening.”

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