Exclusive: Touring the Detroit Institute of Art’s Research Library & Archives with Director MARIA KETCHAM!

Exclusive: Touring the Detroit Institute of Art’s Research Library & Archives with Director MARIA KETCHAM!

Detroit Institute of Arts (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is a 134-year old Detroit institution.

Founded in 1885, the DIA relocated to its present location in 1927.

Over 65,000 works of art, subdivided into 100 galleries, are spread throughout the 3-story, 658,000-square foot building, which, being made of white Montclair Danby marble streaked with gray veins from Vermont, exudes a very regal vibe.

Attached to the rear of the DIA is a beautiful 1,100-seat theater called the Detroit Film Theatre (DFT).

I’ve watched dozens of great films here over the years: Breathless, The Killing, Sweet Sweetback, Dolemite, Gimme Danger, etc.

Also behind the DIA, is the best place to park your car, the John R parking lot (5290 John R Street) where you can park all day for only $7.00 per car.

DIA Rodin (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Walking around to the front, you’re greeted by a version of Rodin’s The Thinker, a 12,000-lb. bronze sculpture of a contemplating man lost in rapturous thought, which beautifully sets the tone for your DIA visit.

Once inside, you check in and pay the fee or, thanks to the tri-county millage (property tax), if you live in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb Counties, you can enter for free any time you want.

As you pour yourself into the uniquely shaped cup of the DIA with its vaulted ceilings and mesmerizing sweeps of grandeur, you are immediately absorbed into a quasi-alternate dimension of one of the greatest art museums in the United States.

DIA Detroit (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Being at the DIA is very inspiring. You’re surrounded by gorgeous art and this immersion does something positive to your mood, attitude and thoughts.

Waltzing through grand hallways and great rooms, you encounter Egyptian mummies, Hindu sculptures, ancient Sumerian statues made of diorite, William Randolph Hearst’s collection of suits of armor, Diego Rivera’s entire room of Detroit Industry murals, and thousands upon thousands of paintings.

The paintings include Van Gogh’s 1887 Self-Portrait, the first Van Gogh painting ever purchased by an American museum, which the DIA smartly acquired at auction in 1922.

Van Gogh-Self Portrait (1887) DIA

 

DIA Research Library & Archives: 191,000 Volumes on Tap

Maria Ketcham @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

In the North Wing, on the 3rd floor, the Kirby Street side, lays one of the hidden gems of the museum, the DIA Research Library & Archives.

I myself was unaware of the existence of this incredible resource until a recent BCD tour, thanks to Frank Castronova, DIA functionary and president of The Book Club of Detroit.

The library is open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. by appointment-only.

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

It consists of the lovely Reading Room (open to the public) with its row of skylights and book elevator (aka: 1970’s-era dumbwaiter) & the Mezzanine Stacks (closed to the public), a secret sub-level between floors 2 and 3 where thousands of books are held. People can discover and request materials from the stacks via the online catalog.

I’m here meeting with Maria Ketcham.

She is the Research Library, Archives & Collection Information Director and has graciously agreed to subject herself to a kaleidoscope of questions and give yet another tour.

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Maria explains:

“Here at the DIA Research Library & Archives, we have 191,000 volumes, 100 journal subscriptions, thousands of bound periodicals and auction catalogs, and 7,000 cubic feet of archival materials.”

“In comparison to other libraries worldwide, about 30% of our collection is considered rare or unique to our institution.”

“Some of our archival holdings include thousands of photographs, blueprints, slides, color transparencies, oral histories, recorded lectures dating back to the 1970s, the business papers of former directors & curators, and an amazing collection of reel to reel recordings of our LINES poetry series (1980-1991) and our Jazz at the Institute series (1977-1987).”

“Our most popular requests are for information on the Diego Rivera Detroit Industry murals, the For Modern Living (1949) Exhibition, and Dragged Mass (1971) Michael Heizer.”

“We also have thousands of Artist Files, which are manila file folders containing news articles, ephemera, small exhibition catalogs, anything less than 30 pages long, about a particular artist and are especially useful for research on local artists. These are in our online catalogue as well as in WorldCat, the world’s largest online network of libraries.”

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

The Archives serves the museum as a repository for anything DIA-related that has enduring historic value. We’ve begun digitizing some of our archival materials and early DIA Bulletins, exhibition catalogues and finding aids, which can also be found in the DIA Research Library online catalog.”

Some university professors bring their classes here on tours and we also represent at conferences and events.”

“On average, we get about 1,200-1,500 requests per year, mostly via phone or email from all over the world. Many researchers find us via WorldCat. And since this is a noncirculating reference collection, depending on the size of their request, we can often help researchers remotely, such as emailing them scans of relevant materials for their reference.”

“We get visitors from all over the world. We even hosted Japanese royalty when Princess Akiko from Japan visited last summer.  We were very honored that she chose to spend some of her time at the DIA with us in the library.”

Our library is in the top 10 largest museum libraries in the USA. The largest is the Getty Research Institute, which is the Getty Museum library. They have over 1 million books and 100 librarians. Some other large ones are The Met, Philadelphia, and Nelson Atkins.”

 

Quick Biography

Maria Ketcham @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“I’m a native Detroiter. I grew up on the Northwest side near Joy and Southfield. A product of the Detroit Public School system, I attended Renaissance High School, then graduated from Wayne State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography and later a Masters in Library and Information Science with a concentration in Archives.”

“Before coming to the DIA, I was an Archivist for Ford Motor Company. I used to live in the Alden Park Towers on the riverfront for several years. The “new Detroit” has changed drastically since I’ve lived here. It’s exhilarating.”

DIA Detroit

I have a library family. My husband is a librarian at a local public library. My two sisters are also librarians. One is a children’s librarian in California. The other is a senior medical informationist at a university medical school.”

I started working at the DIA in 2001 as the reference librarian. In 2003, I was laid off. Came back in 2005 and I’ve been here ever since.”

“I’m the only full-time employee overseeing the Research Library & Archives. James Hanks is our part-time archivist. We have 2-3 interns at a time, usually grad students in the process of earning their Masters of Information Science.”

The DIA Library is a True Community Resource

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Being a Librarian and Archivist is all about connecting people with information and being able to manage that information in a way to make it as accessible as possible. We acquire materials, provide access to the public, create indexes and inventories and more. Our mission is preservation for future exploration.”

The DIA has 7 curatorial departments. We support museum staff including curators, conservators, and educators, helping them obtain the research materials they need for their respective research projects.”

“We interface with a lot of people. We get information requests from institutions, artists foundations, big auction houses (Christies and Sotheby’s) about things like exhibition installation photos, fact-checking, etc. We assist where we can with research on artists, exhibition history, and provenance, which is tracing the ownership history of artwork.”

“We frequently get questions from people who have a piece of art they’ve inherited. We might be able to help them with biographical information on the artist and sometimes exhibition history, but we are unable to do valuations. The Appraisers Association of America can direct you to a qualified appraiser near you. There’s also DuMouchelles auction house in Downtown Detroit. These are just a couple of suggestions from the list on our FAQ page

Maria Ketcham @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“Not many people know this but the DIA has about 700 puppets, it’s one of the largest puppet collections in the United States and one of our special collections here at the library is the papers and books of legendary local puppeteer, Paul McPharlin.”

“We also have a collection of Albert Kahn’s personal books. Lawrence Tech has the larger part, which is housed in its own dedicated room at their library.”

“In terms of new acquisitions, we acquire roughly 700-1,000 books per year.”

“We purchase books from a restricted fund. On average, I purchase 10-15% of the books, which are usually recommendations from the curators. The others are donated to us by institutions, private owners, galleries, and other museums.”

“Our older books are still catalogued in Dewey. Everything else is Library of Congress style classification. Our interns help update access to these older books in our collection by conversion cataloging to LoC.”

Maria Ketcham @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“As an example of our books, we have Verdute di Roma (Views of Rome) from the Venetian engraver, Piranesi.”

“Published in 1835, this is a beautiful 29-volume set of over-sized folios, featuring etchings produced from his original plates, including his Imaginary Prisons series (La Carceri d’Invenzione). This was gifted to the DIA by the estate of former Michigan senator James McMillan in 1905.”

“And yes, in addition to digital offerings, we also still have the old index card catalogs.”

Piranesi’s Views of Rome @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Piranesi’s Views of Rome @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Maria’s Final Thoughts for Now

Maria Ketcham @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

“I really enjoy working with all the different people, the curators, researchers, general public, giving tours, etc. As much as I think I know as a librarian & archivist, I find there’s always more to learn.”

“The challenges are coming up with creative ways to use what resources we have. There’s also so many hidden parts of the collection. I’d like to make them more well-known and help people discover something new, something they didn’t even know they might be interested in.”

“For about 90 years, the DIA used to have an annual Michigan Artists Exhibition. It stopped in the early 90’s due to financial difficulties. I wish the DIA would bring it back.”

“At some point, we might start a Friends Group for the DIA Research Library & Archives. I would like that very much.”

“This work keeps me busy. I still have about 200 boxes of books to sort through and catalog. This work is thoroughly enjoyable, I love it. Come visit us sometime and explore the collection.”

Detroit Museum of Art, aka: the original DIA Building (image courtesy of DIA Research Library and Archives)

Donate your books

 

The DIA selectively accepts donations of art and art history books & associated materials.

Contact

libraryadmin@dia.org

 

DIA Research Library & Archives

3rd floor

Monday-Friday (9 a.m.-5 p.m.)

Open by appointment-only

(313) 833-3460

libraryadmin@dia.org

 

Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry Murals @ DIA (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

 

Homepage

https://www.dia.org/art/research-library

 

WorldCat

https://www.worldcat.org/libraries/46836

 

ArchiveGrid

https://researchworks.oclc.org/archivegrid/?q=contributor:7141&sort=title_sort+asc&limit=100

 

Map of the DIA

https://www.dia.org/sites/default/files/map-dia.pdf

 

Become a member of DIA

https://www.dia.org/membership

 

When visiting the DIA, what eateries are within walking distance?

 

Kresge Court (inside the DIA)

Located on Level 1, this beautiful eatery is designed like an open-air Italian medieval palace courtyard. They have coffee, wine, beer, liquor, sandwiches, salads, etc.

Try the Woodward Avenue Sandwich.

Hours: Tues-Thurs 9am-3:30pm, Fri 9am-9:30pm, Sat-Sun 10am-4:30pm

 

Kresge Court inside the DIA (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Kresge Court inside the DIA (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Kresge Court inside the DIA (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Outside of the DIA are:

 

Wasabi (15 E. Kirby, ste E) This Japanese-Korean spot is one of Maria’s personal favorites. Try the sushi and bibimbab.

Chartreuse (15 E. Kirby, ste D) Try the Cap steak and Madagascar vanilla pudding. Make sure you check the hours before coming.

Shields Pizza (5057 Woodward Ave) Try any of the pizzas and the dry rub wings.

Tony V’s Tavern (5756 Cass Ave) Try the pesto artichoke pizza and Tony V’s club sandwich.

Socratea (71 Garfield St, ste 50) Try the Moroccan mint tea.

Common Pub (5440 Cass Ave) Try the duck fat fries and the fried chicken.

Seva (66 E. Forest Ave) try the yam fries and the sweet potato quesadilla.

 

Bruegel the Elder-The Wedding Dance (1566) DIA Detroit

Copley-Watson and the Shark (1782) DIA Detroit

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Piranesi’s Views of Rome @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Piranesi’s Views of Rome @ DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

view from 3rd floor, DIA Research Library & Archives (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Exclusive Interview: LARRY MONGO the Legendary Owner of Café D’Mongo’s Speakeasy in Detroit Celebrates Café D’Mongo’s 10-Year Anniversary!

Exclusive Interview: LARRY MONGO the Legendary Owner of Café D’Mongo’s Speakeasy in Detroit Celebrates Café D’Mongo’s 10-Year Anniversary!

Larry Mongo, owner of Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy

 

Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy 10-year Anniversary Party

Thursday, June 29, 2017

5:30pm-11pm

 

Café D’Mongo’s Speakeasy is the Rick’s Café of Detroit. Humphrey Bogart ran Rick’s Café in Casablanca and his equally dapper counterpart Larry Mongo runs Café D’Mongo’s in Detroit.

The only difference is that Larry is a real-life character. And a real character, indeed! He’s one of a kind. Larry Mongo is a living piece of Detroit history and we are honored and thankful to have The Mongo family here helping to electrify the fabric of Detroit.

Detroit author & journalist Charlie LeDuff & Larry Mongo (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Widely regarded as one of the top bars in the United States, Café D’Mongo’s Speakeasy officially opened in June 2007 and over the past ten years, has morphed into one of Downtown Detroit’s premier iconic bars. Almost every major visiting celebrity who comes into town drops by D’Mongo’s and the place absorbs a veritable ton of local and international visitors every weekend who overflow the bar.

A timeless quality distinguishes all great things and Café D’Mongo’s offers the world a certain Detroitness which cannot be duplicated, something timeless and classic. Perhaps it’s the interior, the live music, the phenomenal drinks, the outstanding service, the great people you meet there, the fact that Larry is a hands-on owner who leads from the frontlines and is always at the bar with a friendly smile.

History of Café D’Mongo’s Speakeasy

Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy (photo by: Ryan M. Place)

Squeezed between a concrete parking structure and a circa 1937 shul, the building currently housing Café D’Mongo’s Speakeasy used to be owned by the Greek Seros family. It was the Seros Chili Restaurant from 1918-1980’s.

Seros Chili Company (1439 Griswold, Detroit) c. 1920

Seros Lunch originally opened here in 1918 then it was the Seros Chili Company in 1920. The owner was James Seros and his spot was nationally famous for their chili con carne. It was a Seros place until the 1980’s.”

Cafe D’Mongo’s used to be occupied by Seros Lunch

“In 1985, I purchased the restaurant and on June 4th, 1987, opened ‘Cafe Joseph’. In the early 90’s, Cafe Joseph was transformed by my son Jerome Mongo, into an after-hours club called the ‘Wax Fruit Rhythm Café’.”

“At the time, seldom known rappers like Eminem, Kid Rock, Esham and others used to perform here. In December 1993, Jerome opened the famous rap music spot ‘The Hip Hop Shop’ on 7 Mile Road with Maurice Malone and eventually closed Wax Fruit.”

Larry’s son Jerome Mongo

The current incarnation of Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy was opened in June 2007 by me and my lovely wife Dianne. Some local nearby residents of Capitol Park, Sarah Kubik and Margaret Cassetto talked me into re-opening. They lived in some lofts nearby and finally convinced me. I’m glad they did.”

Café D’Mongo’s Speakeasy’s Internationally Famous Drinks

Larry Mongo & Quentin Tarantino hanging out at Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy

Café D’Mongo’s Speakeasy is famous for inventing two hugely popular drinks:

the 1439 (Captain Morgan’s rum and Faygo’s Rock N’ Rye) and The Detroit Brown (Crown Royal, splash of bitters and Vernors Ginger Ale).

Quentin Tarantino has publicly stated that Café D’Mongo’s 1439 Griswold drink is his favorite drink of all-time. We introduced Quentin to Faygo Rock N’ Rye and sent him home with a case of it.”

Faygo Detroit!

“And just recently, Afar Magazine voted Café D’Mongo’s Detroit Brown the #1 cocktail in the world.”

“In 2014, Esquire TV featured us on ‘Best Bars in America’ and we’ve had a number of television shows in here.”

Café D’Mongo’s Speakeasy’s Internationally Famous Food

Andrew Zimmern and Larry Mongo at Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy

“Our food is real popular too. We’ve got unique food but it’s a limited rotating menu. Andrew Zimmern featured us on his show ‘Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern’ on the Travel Channel. He had our peking duck on there. Sometimes I’ll even get in the kitchen and make Sloppy Larry’s and other stuff.”

“We used to have Esteban Castro making his famous guacamole at Esto’s Garage, a pop-up kitchen here.  Now we have Eugene on the grill and Sanford “Rembrandt” Nelson making some delicious and unique grilled cheese creations. Eugene is the chef and Rembrandt creates the menu.”

Café D’Mongo’s Speakeasy is a Hot Spot of Celebrity Sightings

Larry Mongo and Ryan Gosling hanging out at Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy

Café D’Mongo’s Speakeasy is a popular hangout spot for celebrities such as:

Quentin Tarantino, Ryan Gosling, Michael Bay, Sir Richard Branson, Sam Raimi, Charlie LeDuff, Anthony Kiedis, Bruce Campbell, Sixto Rodriguez, Marcus Samuelsson, Seth Ferranti (author of 20+ books, co-producer, co-writer of the White Boy Rick documentary) and hundreds of others.

Café D’Mongo’s Slate of Annual Parties

Dianne & Larry Mongo, husband and wife team of Cafe D’Mongo’s

Café D’Mongo’s Speakeasy hosts some famous annual events:

“Our best know annual parties are: Brazilian Carnival, the Jewish Purim, Detroit Tigers Opening Day Party the first Friday in April, Dia de los Muertos, Halloween and New Year’s Eve.”

Live Music

Carl the Human Jukebox, leader of Carlo & Company, the Cafe D’Mongo’s house band

“We have live classic rock and soul music from Carl & Company, the Cafe D’Mongo’s house band. The group is fronted by Carl the Human Jukebox. When he plays stuff like James Brown-I Got The Feeling, the whole place starts jumping, everyone laughing and grooving, in-the-seat dancing, banging on glasses with spoons. It’s a fun time.”

The Interior

Cafe D’Mongo’s artifacts

The interior of Cafe D’Mongo’s is famous for being a one-of-a-kind Detroit history museum. The walls are adorned with rare vintage photographs and ephemera and odd trinkets. Michael Jackson’s jumpsuit hangs from the ceiling. The Detroit artifacts and memorabilia are rare, historical museum-worthy pieces. We are installing The Place Case curio cabinets full of rarities donated by Ryan Place soon above the bar, so stay tuned for more good stuff.”

The Mongo Family History

old Detroit map

“My family used to be slaves a long time ago. In 1906, the Mongo family moved from Kershaw, South Carolina to Detroit. The four Mongo men came here after one of them murdered someone. Sonny Boy was able to escape after Grandma dressed him as a little white girl in black mourning clothes. She told Sonny Boy to tell everyone he was a girl and that he was going up north to claim a dead body for burial.”

Kershaw, South Carolina

“Sonny Boy was my Grandpa’s brother. My Grandpa was Benjamin Mongo and they had to come to Detroit after they had to use capital punishment to fight an injustice that was used against them in the South. We also bought all the land we were slaves on.”

Dianne’s ancestor Mary Ann Shadd

“Now, my wife Dianne, she’s Canadian. She comes from the first settlement for black runaway slaves called North Buxton. Her great grandparents have a statue on the other side of the tunnel, George and Alice Shreve.”

“Dianne is also a descendant of Mary Ann Shadd. Her family were free blacks in 1850 and went to Canada. Dianne can trace her bloodline back to the 1700’s. During the Revolutionary times, one of the soldiers came from England. He was 14 years old and wounded. Dianne’s family took him in, took care of him, nursed him back to health. He ended up staying and marrying one of the girls.”

Dianne’s ancestor George Shreve

“Dianne’s aunt is Artis Lane, a famous sculptor from North Buxton. Artis did a bronze portrait of Rosa Parks, sculptures of many U.S. Presidents and more. I’m very proud of my wife and her heritage.”

How Café D’Mongo’s Speakeasy Started

Larry’s happy birthday cake

“Café D’Mongo’s started as a chain of hair salons called D’Mongo’s Hairstyling. We used to cut Coleman Young’s hair, too. His barber chair is here at the bar on display.”

“When I got married in 1968, my wife Dianne wanted me to take her last name. We were both rebel kids, our families were close for generations. I kept my name but we decided to make our own family name. So we decided we needed a new shared name. We took the ‘D’ from Dianne and my last name ‘Mongo’ and created ‘D’Mongo’s. It was a private joke for years until I named the bar after it.”

“Dianne is British Methodist, she prays for me every day! Here’s another fun fact: Dianne made me get baptized before she married me. I took my friends, eight of us went and got baptized. After I told her we went and got baptized for her, she said ‘Lord, if they die now, at least there’s a chance!’”

“Then in 1975, Dianne become a master barber and in 1977 the very first D’Mongo’s Hair Salon opened (19985 Livernois, Detroit). I was a journeyman tool & die maker at the time but helped run the business of the hair salon.”

Café D’Mongo’s Speakeasy Was Originally Called Café Joseph

Dianne and Larry c. 1987

“Back in the day, there was this gay guy named Joseph and he belonged to a political group. He was the secretary, the gopher, and so forth until a new regime took over and they kicked him out just for being gay. But what they didn’t know is that he grew up with me in the old neighborhood. He was a neighborhood kid and we grew up together, I owed him a loyalty. He came to me, told me what happened and I sat down with him and said that I didn’t have a name for my new club that I was about to open. And I told him that I was gonna name the club Café Joseph in honor of him but I told him ‘you gotta go gangster.’”

“He was the host at the door, he’d look at me and get all fragile when the same people who kicked him out of their club showed up at my bar. They kicked him out, so I kicked them out of mine. I had the connections they needed, so they kept trying to come back. So about 1-2 years pass, the club is getting a bigger reputation and Joseph asks me if we can start letting them in. I say ‘tell all your friends they can’t get in unless they Mother with them’. So these guys actually brought their Mom’s down with them and we let them in. Then life changed for Joseph.”

“As straight guys, we never disrespected gay guys, we just let them do they thang. But when the straight square guys saw Joseph being hugged and shaking hands by street guys, his prestige rose to the top and he was grateful and a changed man.”

The Mongo’s & The Purple Gang Connection

The Purple Gang (Detroit) c. 1930

“The real money was in bootleg whiskey. My family used to run liquor with Abe Bernstein and The Purple Gang and the Bronfman family of Montreal. My grandpa and the underworld side of Dianne’s family worked with Abe in the bootleg business.”

“My family made a fortune. The code word in all the Mongo clubs was ‘Black and Tan’. Prohibition ironically created radical integration. It was hardcore right-wing Christians against all the people who drank alcohol. So, all the different types of people who loved liquor banded together and became friends.”

Larry Mongo & DeVon Cunningham

“85-year old DeVon Cunningham is a local Detroit artist and a very good friend of mine and he comes in here frequently. He was also personal friends with Abe Bernstein, boss of the Purple Gang. He has some of his art at the Smithsonian and he did many of the art pieces you see hanging in Café D’Mongo’s.”

Larry is Proud to Be Jewish

Larry Mongo

I was a Jew before I knew I was a Jew. The Jewish culture had me. I really knew I was a Jew when I moved to Detroit! My value system, my beliefs, everything about me is Jewish. I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood in Oak Park and when I moved to Detroit, some of the old gangsters used to laugh but they kept me around to learn and told the young guys to stick with me.”

“It’s not an accident that I’m next to the Isaac Agree Synagogue. We’re glad to be here and if I see anybody else try to spray paint the synagogue like when I caught those kids on the roof, there’s going to be hell to pay.”

The Dan Gilbertification of Downtown Detroit

Detroit is great!

“I’ve seen the Dan Gilbert effect. It is a positive business-generating effect and it’s also good for the spirit of the people of Detroit. Quietly among the black people, I call Dan Gilbert “Moses”. He’s leading us out of the darkness in terms of encouraging us to invest in Detroit. Chuck Forbes saved Detroit’s Theater district and Dan Gilbert is saving Downtown. People are in better moods, they’re moving into downtown, Midtown, Corktown, etc.”

The millennial pollinators, the creative class, showed the world that people can live in Detroit. It started with gay women moving into illegal lofts. They paved the way, then gay men who partied, then straight men and women followed suit. Now it’s a good mix of everybody down here. Creative pollinators made it possible for people to feel safe again in Detroit.”

Larry’s Greatest Happiness: Boosting Other People’s Standings in Life

Christine Passerini (Cafe D’Mongo’s Manager) and Chris Krsteski (Cafe D’Mongo’s bartender)

My greatest happiness is helping boost other people up to a greater potential in life. I’m a big believer in innate human potential.”

Courtney Henriette who now owns the Katoi restaurant, created the Detroit Brown drink here at Cafe D’Mongo’s around 2008. She didn’t know how to make drinks at the time and she made it for a customer on a whim. The man said ‘this isn’t what I ordered but I like it. I’d like another.’ Suddenly, that very night, other people started ordering it and we had a runaway hit on our hands.”

Esteban Castro has his own food truck now. Esteban came in as a customer and we let him run his pop-up kitchen Esto’s Garage in the back here. I let him do it for free until he got enough money together to get his own truck.”

Carl & Company, the Cafe D’Mongo’s house band

Carl the Human Jukebox was down on his luck. He was homeless and singing Beatles songs outside of Grand Trunk Pub. I offered him a job. Then a dentist gave him a free set of false teeth. And now he lives in his own place, man!”

Chris Krsteski the bartender got hired thru Chucky Patch, a local entertainer with a guitar. We love Chris, he always works hard.”

Sheila Edwards, the retired Cafe D’Mongo’s gatekeeper

Sheila Edwards, the white-haired guardian at the gate of entry, retired recently. She was great and we now have her doppelganger at the door.”

Christine Passerini the manager of Café D’Mongo’s Speakeasy

Larry Mongo and Christine Passerini

I met Christine in 1990. She just moved to Detroit from Sharon, Pennsylvania. She came to sell me some candles in this very club. I got a big order. Then, two days later I got shot in my stomach, long story.”

“Two months later, I’m out of the hospital and looking thru my notes and one says Christine delivery. So I called her and apologized. She offered to pay for the candles after I told her I got shot. I told her I would pay for them and asked her to meet me in my office at the Himmelhoch building. First thing she asked me was ‘how does it feel to be shot?’ I said ‘you don’t want to be shot’ and we quickly became good friends.”

“I had a chain of eight hair salons at the time and she became a contractor for us. There’s a lot of money in black hair care and manicures so Christine became a licensed manicurist. We had an opening at the Millender Center, she took over there and runs it to this day. She started at Café D’Mongo’s because we were short of help one day. Christine came to the rescue and has been helping out ever since. She’s amazing, she does everything, a true Jill of all trades. We are very fortunate to have her.”

4 Fun Tales from Larry

Larry is a fascinating storyteller and the essence of Larry and Café D’Mongo’s are best illustrated in a series of four anecdotes and tales from The Life of Larry. He has many, many more amazing stories. This is just a small sampling.

Tale # 1: Larry Once Had an Opportunity to Bankroll Eminem

Eminem when he opened up for Wu-Tang Clan (c. 1997)

“Back in the day, my son Jerome and his son Claudio were friends with Proof and Eminem. Proof was cool, always called me Mr. Mongo. Eminem used to rap at Wax Fruit sometimes and one day Jerome brought Marshall to me. He said ‘Dad, this guy’s gonna be the next Elvis’. I took one look up and down at that little white boy and didn’t think that his rapping career was ever going to be a moneymaker. Man was I wrong!”

Eminem during his Lincoln High School years in Warren, Michigan (c. 1987)

“We had the original rapper anyway, back in 1964. His name was Butterball, he was a DJ on Inkster 1440 AM radio. Butterball was the first rapper I ever heard. Wade Briggs was Butterball Jr, it was a guy before him even.”

Tale # 2: Michael Jackson’s Jumpsuit is Hanging in D’Mongo’s

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson was the kindest, warmest human spirit I ever met, an angel. He wasn’t a child molester but he was a fool for trying to be a good guy to devilish people. I knew him thru the Berry Gordy family when I was living at Indian Village Manor and we became friends when we were trying to do a casino with Don Barton. He gave me his jumpsuit as a gift.”

Tale # 3: Larry took Henry Marzette to DuMouchelle’s

Henry Marzette

The film ‘American Gangster’ is based on the life of Detroit cop & drug kingpin, Henry Marzette.

“I took Henry Marzette to DuMouchelle’s auction house in downtown Detroit once and it changed the black underworld when it came down to furniture. When they realized that furniture and lamps had names like Tiffany and Hunzinger and that it was worth millions, they listened.”

“About six months later, all of them were subscribing to Architecture Digest and buying high-end stuff. They started using the word Henredon. They learned what a Patek Phillipe watch was. Their eyes opened and their world changed. Oriental and Persian rugs started going in their houses. They learned that investments come in different forms, not just money. White culture is white art. Their art is their culture.”

Tale # 4: Larry’s friend George Murphy once had an Opportunity to Bankroll prince

Prince

“Around about 1976 or 1977, Quentin Perry who ran Taurus Productions, brought Prince to the Palms Theatre in downtown Detroit, the place is now called the Fillmore. We had a private session with Prince because they wanted us to invest money in him and bankroll his breakthrough.”

“Now at the time, you gotta understand that Prince was a nobody, none of us had ever heard of him or seen him or knew anyone who knew anything about him. Prince comes out on-stage in pantyhose, high heels, bouncing around. We laughed like idiots and walked out like idiots too. We all told Quentin he was crazy and thought Quentin might have been down low gay himself for suggesting this guy. We thought Prince would never make money. We thought wrong and regret it to this day.”

A Tribute to Benjamin “Benji” Mongo (1948-1982)

Benji was my big brother who I love very much. We were completely loyal brothers to each other. He was a big influence on me growing up. He was an Original, the Miles Davis of the underworld, a rare person. He was like no one else.”

The Future of Café D’Mongo’s Speakeasy

Michelle Waters, Larry Mongo, Ryan M. Place

There’s a Jean-Paul Sartre quote scrawled on the tiny bathroom wall here, “Existence precedes essence”. Only at Café D’Mongo’s would you find such an existential proposition in the bathroom. And as you can surmise, Larry is a wild fascinating character with a big heart and a lot of true friends. Go to  Café D’Mongo’s and if you’re lucky, he might regale you with tales of his life.

The future of Café D’Mongo’s includes:

  • Installation of a series of display cases colloquially referred to as ‘The Place Case’ that will feature many rare Detroit artifacts donated by curator Ryan Place.
  • Rooftop patio dining sometime in 2018.
  • Possibly applying for a State of Michigan historical marker for the building.
  • Possibly installing an old school neon sign on the front exterior of Café D’Mongo’s.

Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy

What I love about this club is that from the very beginning, we opened up with a fun crowd of oddballs, people who are not a part of normal society, you know, creative misfits, the entertainment types.”

“People should know that Café D’Mongo’s Speakeasy is the Toronto of the USA in terms of diversity. The love for diversity here is tremendous. We welcome all kinds of people through our doors every week. We tell people, if you have prejudices, leave them at the door because you will be mixing and having fun with all types of people here.”

We’re a bunch of misfits that fit together,” says Christine Passerini, “And we were the first bar Downtown to stock Faygo Rock n’ Rye and the first ones to have mismatched glasses.”

“My wife Dianne and I love Detroit. We are lifetime members of the Detroit Yacht Club and members of the Detroit Athletic Club. We love everyone down here and hope you can come check out Café D’Mongo’s Speakeasy. Thank You to everyone!”

Larry Mongo on the cover of Grand Circus Magazine

D’Mongo’s Speakeasy

1439 Griswold Street

Detroit, MI 48226

Eugene in the kitchen @ Cafe D’Mongo’s

Hours

Thursday 5:30pm-11pm

Friday 5pm-1:30am

Saturday 5pm-1:30am

Larry Mongo honored with a mural inside the Fisher Building

Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/Cafe-dMongos-Speakeasy-261696076791/

 

Quentin Tarantino at D’Mongo’s in Detroit

http://www.mlive.com/entertainment/detroit/index.ssf/2014/05/quentin_tarantino_visits_anoth.html

 

Esquire TV names D’Mongo’s one of the best bars in America

http://tv.esquire.com/videos/71862-best-bars-in-america-detroit-cafe-dmongos-speakeasy

 

Andrew Zimmern features D’Mongo’s on Bizarre Foods

http://www.travelchannel.com/shows/bizarre-foods/travel-guides/detroit-travel-guide

Seros Lunch Detroit

Larry and Dianne (c. 1991)

Seth Ferranti (author of 20+ books and co-writer/co-producer of the White Boy Rick documentary) and Larry Mongo at Cafe D’Mongo’s Speakeasy

Boston George Jung (center) and Larry Mongo (right)