On Friday, March 13th I saw Iggy and The Stooges perform at the Fox Theater in Detroit. I road-tripped up there with my friend Jeremy, who, of all the people I know, is the closest to being a superhero. By day he wears long sleeve button downs and reads Clifford the Big Red Dog to four year-olds; by night he goes shirtless, exposing all seventeen of his tattoos, and screams violent lyrics into a microphone while throngs of mohawked psychopaths slam-dance to the sounds of his most recent music project, a raucous ensemble called Night of The Hunter. He’s a Gulf War veteran who proudly votes straight-ticket Democrat. His favorite animal is the giraffe. He can do handstands on a moving skateboard. He is Chicago’s premier punk rock children’s librarian, and he’s one of my closest friends.
And he’s from Detroit.
He’s from here.
When I picked him up, Jeremy bolted out to the car wearing a pair of skin-tight white jeans and a green t-shirt with a moose on it.
“Are you ready for some Stooges!?!” he yelled, forming his hands into a pair of rock ‘n roll devil-horns. I laughed. Five hours and three-hundred miles before we got there, and Jeremy was already making fun of our fellow concert-goers. He made it very clear that most of the people at the show would be thirty-something married dudes, all of them getting blotto drunk, trying in vain to recapture the feeling of freedom, possibility and recklessness that Iggy had once given them – before they got hired by GM, before they had a mortgage, before they grew up. In Jeremy’s words, there would be “a bunch of suits paying $85 to sit in a box at a punk show. Douchebags!”
Jeremy, the tour guy.
Jeremy’s attitude begs the question, why were we going? Let me start with some analogies:
Iggy Pop is to Punk as Mick Jagger is to Rock.
The Stooges are to Punk as Run DMC is to Hip Hop.
Iggy & The Stooges are to Punk as Ron Jeremy is to Porn.
Iggy and The Stooges helped spawn the punk movement in the early 70’s, and Iggy invented “stage-diving. He was a notoriously riotous performer, often rolling around in shards of glass, then wiping peanut butter all over his bloody torso. Aside from paying homage to his musical legacy, Jeremy and I just wanted to see what Iggy—now almost 60 years old—was still capable of. Was he perpetrating a ridiculous charade of himself? Or did he still have some gas in the tank? That’s why we were going.
We took the Skyway out of Chicago, enjoying the soundtrack to Nick Cave’s savage film, “The Proposition”. At one point or another I told Jeremy I’d never been to Detroit and asked what it was like. He looked at me with his most serious expression, probably the same face he uses when warning kids at the library about the dangers of unprotected sex.
“Downtown Detroit is a bombed-out ghetto filled with murderers.” I was driving so I couldn’t hold his stare very long, but his eyes were burning a hole into the side of my head. Feeling the need to assert my own bad-assishness, I piped up in defense of my own hometown,
“Can’t be worse than Philly.”
Jeremy wasn’t impressed, “Get off here. Cigarettes are only three dollars in Indiana.”
We pulled off in a little town called Chesterton. Everyone in Chesterton had a mustache, even the women. Jeremy was right, smokes (and gas) were ridiculously cheap compared to Chicago prices. For fun, I bought some scratch tickets and a Red Bull. The ticket was a dud, but the Red Bull gave me wings. We hit the road and didn’t stop until we reached our destination, Jeremy’s childhood home.
Jeremy grew up in a nice three-bedroom home on a quiet suburban street. It’s the sort of place where all the kids play Little League and belong to the Boy Scouts of America. He pointed to a Cadillac Escalade parked in his parents’ driveway.
“My brother, that’s who.”
“It’s an abomination.”
I pulled up next to the abomination and let my car—a nondescript Volvo sedan—idle as we finished our cigarettes.
“I’m quitting smoking after this weekend,” Jeremy said.
“Me too,” I replied.
“Let’s make a bet.”
“A hundred dollars.”
“That’s a lot of money.”
“And whoever loses has to clean the other guy’s apartment.”
“In a skirt.”
“Now you’re talking.”
It was decided, we would quit as soon as we got back to Chicago. We sealed the deal with a firm handshake and a long moment of awkward eye contact. Then we went inside to eat dinner with the ‘rents.
Jeremy’s Mom and Dad were sweet people with giant smiles. They hugged me hello. I kept staring at them, wondering how they’d raised someone like Jeremy. We went into the kitchen for pizza and were greeted by a middle-aged man wearing Wrangler jeans and a tucked-in Polo. There was no doubt in my mind that this was Dale. I introduced myself.
“What did you drive up here in?” he asked.
“It’s not GM. But at least you don’t drive one of them Japanese monstrosities.”
Jeremy walked over and patted Dale on the shoulder. “Good to see you.”
Dale narrowed his eyes. “Why didn’t we see you over Easter?”
“I’m not a Christian, Dale.”
“You were baptized Lutheran.”
“I meditate at the Buddhist temple. I worship idols.”
Dale winced. “You’re saved whether you like it or not. Now hurry up and eat. We gotta get the hell outta here if we wanna make it on time.”
WHAT? Dale was going with us??
After we ate, Jeremy and I stepped outside for a quick smoke. He explained that Dale, a VP at General Motors, had just gone through a nasty divorce and was having a bit of a midlife crisis. Dale didn’t even know who Iggy and The Stooges were, he just wanted to tag along and “meet some ladies.” Jeremy stepped out his cigarette and said,
“What do you care anyway?”
“Just take notes. Dale’s your story.”
“I’m not writing any story.”
“Sure, and I’ve got a twelve-foot cock.”
The Fox Theater looks like something out of a Disney movie. Originally built in 1928, it was the second largest Theater in the world. According to the State of Michigan’s official website, “The Detroit Fox is the largest and most exotic eclectic Hindu-Siamese-Byzantine theater of the golden age of the movie palace (1925-1930).” What does that mean? Who cares, it looks cool as hell!
In its prime, the Fox was home to performers like Elvis and Benny Goodman, but by the 1970’s it was on the verge of demolition, having become nothing more than a campy playhouse for kung fu films and gratuitous thrasher flicks. Enter the Ilitches, proud owners of Little Caesers Pizza, the Detroit Red Wings, and the Detroit Tigers. In 1987 the Ilitches bought the Fox Detroit and spent $12.5 million in renovations. In 1988 the fully restored Fox reopened with a performance featuring Smokey Robinson and the Count Basie Orchestra. Today the walls and ceilings are dripping with gold, and everywhere you turn there’s a giant pharaoh or some sinister-looking Persian warrior towering above your head. It’s an honest-to-god feast for the eyes—ornate columns, crystal chandeliers, red rugs winding up curved staircases, 12-foot organs, 20-foot thrones—and it’s where Iggy and The Stooges were playing.
Our seats were on the mezzanine, so Jeremy and I looked out over the crowd and tried our best to digest everything. Jeremy was right, it was as if everyone who was “cool” in the 70’s had gotten decked out in their hippest diggs, messed up their hair, ingested all sorts of drugs for one final hoorah. Never before have so many skullets, fake-breasts and needlessly-tight leather outfits been on display at once. Jeremy snapped photos with his camera and smoked about a million cigarettes. Dale, completely incapable of hiding his disdain, shouted to Jeremy, “This would be like if I took you deer hunting!”
Turns out we got there late and missed the opening band.
“Big deal,” Jeremy said, “It was just some local cock-rock act. I gotta piss.” He left me there with Dale, who had now downed a few beers and was starting to loosen up a bit.
“Been to any good shows lately?”
“I haven’t been to a concert since 1978!”
“Holy shit is right! Van Halen with David Lee Roth. Before Sammy Hagar stepped in and fucked everything up.”
“And you haven’t seen anything since?”
“Garth Brooks, but that doesn’t count because I went with the Ex.” He rolled his eyes. “What a crazy bitch. HA HA HA HA!”
Okay, so Dale was loose. But where was Jeremy? And when were The Stooges gonna hit the stage? I began to worry: My Dad’s as old as Iggy Pop, and 18-holes of golf can leave him paralyzed on the couch for days. By the time he’d gotten to Detroit, Iggy had already been on tour for a week, playing 4 different shows in four different cities. What if it was more than he could handle? What if the paragon iconoclast had finally caved? More importantly, what if I had driven to Detroit for no fuckin’ reason at all????
Just as my paranoia was about to overwhelm and consume me, the lights dimmed and thousands upon thousands of middle-aged wannabes erupted in a cacophony of applause. Dale sighed heavily, “This better be good.” I felt a hand slap my back and I knew Jeremy had finally returned from the pisser. He leaned over and shouted, “I bet you $10 he opens with ‘Loose.’ Deal?” We shook, and sure enough, the set opened with Iggy belting out the words to “Loose” with as much bravado as a drug-addled, twenty year-old punk-rock sensation. “I’ll stick it deep inside!!!”
If you’ve never seen Iggy Pop, here’s how I would describe him: drag a rake across a caveman’s face, stick that face on a California surfer boy’s body, pump that body full of speed and then let it loose on stage in front of a thousand screaming fans, all of them slamming into one another, some of them seeking connection, some of them seeking catharsis, and some of them seeking to incite a mutha-fuckin’ RIOT! He’s Jim Morrison’s ugly younger brother. He’s Andy Dick on steroids.
Despite his age, Iggy was electric. He performed the entire set shirtless, constantly flexing and stretching his sinewy sixty-year-old torso in ways that seemed impossible. At one point during “Loose” he climbed the bass speaker and humped it like a teenage boy humping a pillow. He threw his body into the crowd multiple times, and, later, ignoring a blatant lack of security around him, he invited the first five rows on stage to slam-dance and join him in singing the chorus to “No Fun” – No Fun To Be Alone, It’s No Fun To Be Alone!
Jeremy grinned from ear to ear, “He’s sober, just like us. Does Yoga!”
Dale looked like someone had just told him that GM had declared bankruptcy. He tugged my arm and pointed at the stage, “That man is a sex offender waiting to happen.” He spit over the balcony and went out to the bar, never bothering to return. Jeremy and I stayed out on the mezzanine, absorbing Iggy’s kinetic energy like a pair of greedy Gollums, screaming at the top of our lungs, And Now I Wanna Be Your Dog!
After the show we found Dale out by the bar, cuddled up on a wooden bench with a very drunk, thick-bodied blond. She had lipstick smeared all over teeth. Dale grinned widely,
“You boys have fun?”
Jeremy looked like he was about to vomit. He pointed at the drunk woman, who, it appeared, had a glass eye.
Dale massaged her shoulder, “This is Tammy, calls herself the Queen of Detroit.”
Jeremy asked her, “You a Stooges fan, Tammy?”
She perked up and ran her fingers through her hair. “I want Iggy Pop all over me.”
But as gross as that image was – Iggy Pop’s naked body thrusting itself into the Queen of Detroit’s royal unmentionables – one thing was clear: The Stooges’ front-man hasn’t lost a step. He just has to be careful where he puts his, uhh, feet?