An article from the "Raise the Bar" feature in Real Detroit weekly--August 6-13, Volume 5 Issue 26

THE OLD MIAMI
by Amanda Hanlin

TOUGHER THAN THOU

Within seconds of sliding onto my stool, Eddy Trudo proposes a shot and a quip. Never one to slap an open hand I accepted the pour, returned the jibe and sat back for a history lesson. A 10-year patron and occasional bartender of Cass Corridor's legendary Old Miami, Trudo is clearly enamored by the bar's rougher digs. "I mean, Iggy Pop got his ass beat here. How cool is that?" he says, laughing.


Eddy Trudo

It's difficult to imagine Detroit's sinewy son being trounced, but if it really happened, it probably happened at The Old Miami. Like Iggy, The Old Miami is revered as one of the city's trashiest, toughest and most beloved institutions. The swarthy haunt, in several incarnations, has occupied the same space in the Corridor since the early 1940's, and has become one of the most steadfast shacks in Detroit.

The bar originally opened as The Miami Lounge, a classier joint catering to Detroit's auto set. From there it changed hands several times amid allegations of bar-back prostitution, murder and all other manner of mayhem. Finally it was bought and fixed up as The New Miami in the mid-'70s by Corridor incumbent Michael Roper. Afer just a few years, The New Miami fell prey to arsonists, and it remained dormant until taken under the auspices of current owner Danny Overstreet in 1979.

Overstreet opened The Old Miami as a gathering place for fellow Vietnam veterans. He took Miami as an acronym for Missing In Action Michigan, and he decorated the walls with donated patches, clippings and other military paraphernalia. Overstreet became a friend to the Cass Corridor, and The Old Miami maintained the gritty camaraderie found among neighborhood locals.

Tha Old Miami has alwalys felt a bit lewd, and many of its patrons look like they could pound a man to the ground in a Saigon second. But the cohesiveness of the bar's eclectic clientele and the endearing protectiveness The Old Miami holds over its patrons are rare in today's nightlife scene. "Here you get the vets, indie kids, punks, hippies, artists and everyone gets along." Trudo says. "Stupid shit just doesn't happen here. Hell, even the bikers come here and don't get shitty. I think it's because there's always a room full of people here that are tougher than you."

The bar's interior is akin to a crazy uncle's rumpus room. Among the pictures, flags and even some guns and ammo, random artifacts humanize the decore. An Igloo sports cooler sits under a mounted elk across from a quirky plastic pelican. And, of course, the infamous Old Miami neon palm tree still stands watch over the door of the (women's) latrine. But, perhapse the best-kept secret of the Cass Corridor is The Old Miami's sprawling backyard. Host to bands and small daytime festivals in the summer months, the near half-acre space is replete with more hand-me-down lawn furniture than a NASCAR track on Sunday. Out in the sun, you may also find Blue -- a mammoth Great Dane who belongs to the bar's manager, and the bar's most agreeable regular -- searching for a pat.

Aside from The Old Miami's lively social history, the bar has always had its own elusive musical society. The small stage has been graced by the likes of Iggy Pop, MC5 and more recently The White Stripes. Imagine walking in to see Rob Tyner and Patti Smith drinking beer with Tiger baseball players and local TV anchors during a Mitch Ryder show back in the day. Yes, things like that happen here, and yet the bar maintains no pretension and offers everyone the same treatment.

Since 1986, Julie Flynn has managed The Old Miami and handled all band booking. "I love promoting local and original bands," she says, "I'll give just about anyone a chance." The Old Miami has always leaned toward punk and harder rock, but Flynn has a knack for featuring bands from other genres that have candid, grainy personas. The Detroit Coberas are an Old Miami favorite, and a recent show from Germany's Dumbell proves the bar remains wise to the worldlier underbelly of punk rock. Thursday appearances by Haward Glazer and The Harmonica Sha keep the blues moving, and the deep-cut jukebox is free on Monday nights.

Should the cheap booze fail to even you out, the surroundings will deliver. "I don't care who you are," Trudo says with a wry smile and another tip of his bottle. "You'll fit in here."

Napkin Notes

Vitals: 3930 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313.831.3830

Prices: Tits

Food?: Only when Overstreet decides to sling burgs and dogs for the backyard peeps.

Dancing?: Depending on the band, you just might shake it on the teeny dance floor.

Why?: No frills, no spills. You're safe here friends.