10 Things About Detroit That May Surprise You

Once one of the largest, richest and most prosperous cities in the US, Detroit has fallen on hard times.  But reports of its death are greatly exaggerated.  It remains a city with a talented workforce (it has more engineers per capita than any other city), huge manufacturing capacity, rich history, amazing culture and a downtown that is striving for rejuvenation.  Don't believe me?  Here are ten things you might not know about The Motor City.

1. The Greening of Detroit. Detroit had a peak population of around 1.8 million people. Now, however, the population is just a little over 800,000. The mortgage and automotive crises, coupled with huge rates of unemployment, caused a massive exodus that's left the city with large swathes of unused land. One group, The Greening Of Detroit, is using that land to create inspiration, beautification, teaching opportunities and sustainable sources of food.

In 2002, The Greening created an Empowerment Zone, an intense clean-up and restoration project that restored 1,370 vacant lots in Detroit. They also run an Urban Farm at Romanowski Park, a 26-acre park located in southwest Detroit with a two-acre farm plot, teaching pavilion, playgrounds, orchards and athletic fields. They are one of several organizations with some fantastic ideas on how to revitalize Detroit.

2. Hollywood of the Midwest. Another interesting plan to simulate the downtrodden economy is to entice movie producers to the state. Michigan is currently offering huge tax incentives to bring in the movie business and Detroit's landscape and architecture provide a wide array backdrops, as well as a knowledgeable and dedicated workforce. Movies filmed in Detroit include Transformers, The Island, Dreamgirls, Semi-Pro, Road To Perdition, 8 Mile, Gran Torino and Up In The Air, which was party filmed at the Detroit Metro Airport. In fact, despite the 2008 opening of a brand new, state-of-the-art facility at the airport, Detroit plans to keep the older Berry Terminal for movies and commercials.

3. Roads? Where We're Going, We Need Roads. In 1909, Detroit built the first mile of paved concrete road, just outside of Henry Ford's Model T plant, on Woodward Avenue. Detroit was also the first city to create an urban freeway, the Davison, which opened in 1942. The Davison was slated to take to more than a decade to finish, but the looming threat of WWII sped up its creation, as it was a vital artery to several local plants manufacturing parts for the war. Speaking of WWII...

4. 10. That was the number of automobiles produced by Ford in 1944. The manufacturing capacity of Detroit was almost entirely converted to help create the "Arsenal of Democracy". By 1944, Ford was producing close to 80% of all B-24 Liberator bombers, each of which contained over one million parts held together by hundreds of thousands of rivets. At the end of the war, Ford was producing 540 planes a month. Many pilots would sleep on cots outside Ford's Willow Run facility, waiting for planes to roll off the line.

5. Candy Is Dandy, But Liquor Is Quicker. Prohibition may have been the law of the US from 1920-1933, but our neighbors to the north suffered no such restrictions. In the wake of the 18th amendment, hundreds of distilleries opened in Canada and Detroit became a huge corridor for illegal booze heading into the states. It's estimated that at the height of prohibition, 75% of all illegal alcohol in the US came through Detroit, which was controlled by the infamous and bloody Purple Gang. Their power and influence was so great, notorious Chicago gangster Al Capone brought the Gang into his empire as suppliers for Canadian Whiskey rather than fight a war with them.

6. Can You Breathe Underwater? The Detroit Free Press Marathon holds the distinction of being the only international marathon that begins in the United States. Marathoners cross the Ambassador Bridge into Canada, then return via the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, which runs under the Detroit River, meaning the race is also the only marathon with an official underwater mile.

7. Famous Faces. You would recognize a ton of famous celebrities and music groups that call Detroit their home, including Francis Ford Coppola, Tim Allen, David Alan Grier, Christie Brinkley, Elizabeth Berkely, James Lipton, Tim Meadows, Tom Selleck, Insane Clown Posse, Eminem, Aretha Franklin, Madonna, Ted Nugent, Marth Reeves, Smokey Robinson, Bob Seger, Sufjan Stevens, The White Stripes, John Sinclair and of course Casey Kasem. Now on with the countdown…

8. Native American Idol. The first recorded mention of Detroit comes from the diary of a French priest. In 1670, while traveling to Sault St. Marie, a pair of missionaries came across a stone idol being worshiped by the natives of the area. One of these priests grabbed an axe, destroyed the idol, dropped the pieces into the Detroit River, then wrote about it in his journal.

9. Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Belgian. The Cadieux Cafe in Detroit is the only place in North America where you can play Feather Bowling, a game created in Flanders, Belgium, in the 13th century. Teams roll wooden balls shaped like wheels of cheese down an alley, attempting to stop them close to a feather at the other end. It can be described as a combination of bocce and curling.

10. Lions and Tigers and Red Wings, Oh My. Despite the historic ineptitude of the Lions, Detroit is still one of the more successful sports cities. In fact, it is one of the only cities to have its baseball, basketball and hockey teams all win titles in the past 30 years. If you include the nearby universities of Michigan in football (although they have had a few rough years) and Tom Izzo's basketball team in E. Lansing, the non-Lions sport success becomes even more impressive.

Today is October 10, 2010—10.10.10! To celebrate, we've got all our writers working on 10 lists, which we'll be posting throughout the day and night. To see all the lists we've published so far, click here.

10 Stars Who Appeared on Saved by the Bell

While the main cast of Saved by the Bell had varied success in their post-Bayside lives, many of the show's guests star went on to achieve Hollywood success. Here's 10 appearances by now-notable performers.

1. Christine Taylor
The former fake Marcia Brady and current Mrs. Ben Stiller appeared in a 1991 episode of the series (titled "S.A.T.s") where goof-off Zack Morris miraculously scored higher on his SATs than over-achiever Jessie Spano. When Christine's character Heather learned of Zack's great score, she begged him to help her study.

2. Soleil Moon Frye

The Punky Brewster actress appeared in a season four episode of the show during which Screech "invents" a new kind of spaghetti sauce and gets rich quick (using the tag line, "The sauce-a you can have, but the secret? She's-a mine!") But, when it turns out that the geek's recipe isn't legit and he loses it all, Frye ditches him.

3. Scott Wolf
Though he later became a teen heartthrob with his role on Party of Five, Scott Wolf paid his dues as an unnamed extra on Saved by the Bell. He appeared as a waiter at the Max, a movie patron, and as a member of the chorus in various episodes. You can see him in the green sweater standing next to Jessi Spano in this clip.

4. Leah Remini
The queen of Queens is one of the best-known guest stars of Saved by the Bell. She played Stacey Carosi, daughter of the Malibu Sands Beach Club owner Leon Carosi (played by Ernie Sabella aka the voice of Pumbaa in The Lion King). Her role lasted seven episodes and included her signature New York accent.

5. Eric Dane
Now better known as McSteamy from Grey's Anatomy, Eric Dane popped up in a summer episode of Saved by the Bell, while the gang was working at the Malibu Sands Beach Club. He played a former boyfriend of Stacey Carosi and an opponent in an annual volleyball competition. Sneak a peek of him here, in the neon orange shirt.

6. Tori Spelling
After years of chasing Lisa Turtle, Screech finally finds love in Violet Bickerstaff. She appeared in three episodes, including an episode called "House Party," where the gang takes over Screech's house while his parents' are away for the weekend. There is an infamous scene featuring Zack, Slater, and Screech lip syncing to "Barbara Ann."

7. Denise Richards
In the final episode filmed at the Malibu Sands Beach Club, Slater is pursued by Denise Richards, who has some unusual tactics for getting attention, including pretending to drown so he'll have to rescue her.

8. Bridgette Wilson
In 1992, Wilson (who you know from all sorts of movies, including I Know What You Did Last Summer and Billy Madison) appeared in five episodes of Saved by the Bell as Ginger, a ditsy blond. Wilson was not always credited for this role

9. Rena Sofer
Best known for roles on 24 (Marilyn Bauer), NCIS (Margaret Allison Hart), and Melrose Place (Eve Cleary), Sofer appeared as a single mom (and Zack's love interest, naturally) in 1992's made-for-TV Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style movie.

10. Casey Kasem
Playing himself, the well-known radio personality (and voice of Shaggy on Scooby-Doo), appeared twice on Saved by the Bell — first as the host of a dance contest at the Max and the second as the narrator of the episode titled "Rockumentary," during which Zack dreams of the gang (sans Jessi) as Zack Attack, a popular band that rises and falls.

And with this post, our 10.10.10 celebration (that spilled into 10.11.10) comes to an end. Let's do this again November 11, 2011! To see all our 10 lists from the last two days, click here.

10 Awkward Speeches, Interviews and Rants

Pass the mic and prepare for the worst. Here we have 10 awkward speeches, broken interviews, and impromptu rants by celebrities and public officials.

1. In this 1992 Hangin' With MTV interview with Faith No More, vocalist Mike Patton is too busy picking his nose to even listen to the questions.

2. A young Henry Rollins, way back in 1985, turns the tables on the interviewer. Intimidating? Just a little?

3. Sometimes an interview goes smoothly, like this one from 1980 with Dead Kennedys singer, Jello Biafra. Until the final question is asked. Huh?

4. Or, maybe the subject has just had a bad day in the studio, like Mark Motherbaugh of Devo did.

5. And you can't expect a trained killing machine to be coherent after beating someone up, as Mike Tyson demonstrates, in this video from 2000.

6. In 1986, Frank Zappa appeared on CNN's Crossfire... and let the other guest know what he can kiss.

7. At the 2004 Toronto Film Festival, actor Ed Harris demonstrates what the movie, A History of Violence, is about. Yikes.

8. Nardwuar, The Human Serviette is a brutal and obnoxious interviewer from Canada. Most celebrities run from him. But he is no match for Andrew WK, who slices open his own forehead on camera.

9. The late Harvey Pekar made many appearances on David Letterman's show. Unfortunately, he never started his own.

10. Finally, we arrive at what could be a new reality TV show called Bureacracy... starring the Vancouver City, WA City Council.

So, what did we learn about speaking into a mic? Don't stress. It's best when everything goes wrong.

Yesterday was October 10, 2010—10.10.10! To celebrate, we planned a bunch of 10 lists, and the mass listeria has spilled into 10.11.10. To see all the lists we've published so far, click here.


More from mental floss studios